1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest #173 Theme: "Dream Home"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Apr 11, 2015.

    Thanks for all your patience. Health issues, taxes and a busy work week caused delays once again. But there are more than two weeks left for entries and voting.

    Short Story Contest # 173
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Dream Home" courtesy of @BookLover

    Submissions will be open for ~2 more weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ, Thanks

    If you wish to enter the contest post the story here directly in the thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    This contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will link to this thread from the voting thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may also PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 26th of April, 2015 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets [xxx words] at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation). After the voting ends, posting in the thread will re-open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Thanks, and good luck!

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text.
    If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Watch those extra line spaces. Delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.
     
  2. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    Inheritance (2550 words)

    The day my sister called me I didn't recognise her voice.

    “Leah, this is Claire.”

    “Claire? Claire who?”

    “Claire…your sister, Claire.”

    “Oh. How are you?” I didn't know what else to say.

    In my defence, my sister hadn’t spoken to me in two years, and it had been five since we’d been in the same room.

    She hesitated, stopped and started countless times, talking sporadically about the weather, her poodle pedigree show dog 'Mirabelle' and her two sons- in that order. I gleaned that she had divorced the previous year from a hastily written Christmas card. Other than that, I knew nothing of her life so at first I let her talk without thinking too much about how she got my number, or how she failed to ask how I was doing.

    Finally, growing irritated and anxious I came out and asked her what she wanted. I think my bluntness threw her off balance and after a pause that lasted too long, she barked at me. I had been summoned. Not to her house, she clearly didn’t want me there, but to an office in the middle of the city.

    I thought I might not recognise her, but she hadn't changed at all. I saw the jittery woman in a fine and harshly cut business suit from across the road and I knew it was her. She still wore wide rimmed black glasses and kept her blond hair arrow straight and neatly bobbed around her cheek bones. My stomach knotted and twisted as I approached her and I clenched my fists to stop myself from fidgeting. She hated my fidgeting.

    I must have stood by her for a minute before she decided to acknowledge my presence but I could tell from the puzzled look in her eyes it was she who didn't recognise me.

    “Leah?” she looked me up and down, raising her finely plucked eyebrow. She disapproved, though I wasn't sure if it was my long, loose curly hair or the lack of make up that offended. “Well, you came. You actually came.”

    “Am I late?”

    “No, just…” she trailed off, looking down at her French manicured finger nails so she wouldn't have to look me in the eye. “I didn’t think you’d come. Let’s get this over with.” She gestured to the building but walked off before I could agree. She walked faster in stilettos than most people did in flats, and she hadn't slowed down.

    On entering, we ascended in a lift to the fifth floor. It didn’t take long, though it felt like an age of not making eye contact, wondering if I should say something.

    She led me down a grey corridor to a door which bore a golden name plate: Mr Thomas Barrows, followed by a string of letters that meant nothing to me, all except two: QC.

    I dug my heels into the carpet; panic began to flood my brain.

    “Queens Council? A lawyer? Why are we seeing a lawyer?”

    What had I done, or rather, what did she want to do to me?

    “Please don’t make a scene, Leah!” she hissed. “Grandmother died. You’re in the will. We weren’t able to settle the estate until…” again she trailed off and straightened up her navy blazer. “You’re here now, anyway.”

    I shook my head. “Wait,” I began to feel the panic shift into sorrow that cut me across my belly. “Nana is dead?” I heard my voice cracking. “When?”

    Claire sighed, she looked exasperated. I could see her nostrils flare. “About eighteen months ago. She was ninety, Leah, it can’t be such a shock. Can we please just get this over with?”

    A lump was forming in my throat. “Nobody told me.” I whispered.

    Claire pressed her lips together and gave me the angry stare down I used to receive daily as a child and it still made me feel hot and tiny. She said no more, and knocked sharply on the door.

    Inside there was a receptionist overseeing a hard looking leather sofa with a glass coffee table covered in intelligent looking books and magazines. She spoke quietly with my sister before we were let straight into the next room.

    It had floor to ceiling windows and the walls were flanked with book shelves, certificates and various tribal art, yet I noted the lack of personal items.

    The man sat at a big chestnut desk stood, his lanky frame stooped towards Claire as they shook hands. He smiled with his thin lips but his slate grey eyes were cold. His old fashioned three piece suit was impeccably smart, and just like Claire's it didn't dare wrinkle as he sat back down. And there I was in faded cropped jeans and a loose white shirt.

    “This must be Miss Logan,” he said without looking at me. “Thank you for coming.”

    I could imagine what Claire had told him, painting me out to be almost fictitious; the Bertha character in Jane Eyre wailing in a locked room hidden from view, lurking in dark corridors and sinking back into the shadows.

    I sat in one of the chairs opposite his desk and sank into it, my feet not quite touching the floor. Claire perched haughtily, and asked the receptionist for a black coffee.

    “For you, madam?” the receptionist asked. Claire cleared her throat a couple of times, her eyes bulging. I turned from the lawyer to my sister before realising the receptionist was speaking to me. My mouth dropped in the confusion.

    “Oh, um, tea with sugar and milk, please?” I said hurriedly and smiled almost apologetically.

    When the drinks came the receptionist vanished back to her desk and I waited for Mr Barrows to begin. He pulled out a number of thick folders and files from his desk and chattered about mundane things with my sister; traffic and parking, something about his house keeper going on holiday which was, apparently, a nightmare.

    Finally his gaze slipped towards me. “Now, Miss Logan, we’re here today to discuss the last will and testament of your Grandmother, Mrs Flora Foxworth-Logan.” He laid out some official looking papers with a series of flurried signatures at the bottom. I looked into my teacup. The news my grandmother was dead had left me feeling like an arm had been ripped off and I struggled to keep myself from falling apart infront of my sister. Not only was she gone, I had missed her passing and her funeral, and nobody had bothered to tell me. As far as I knew, she had just stopped calling and writing to me. I had been deeply hurt by it, but not surprised. “Your sister, Claire Fergus is representing the family,” he continued and Claire nodded curtly.

    Ah yes, I thought ruefully, ‘the family’. I pictured the five of them, Claire, our brother and three cousins pulling straws to determine who would contact and accompany me here today. What an inconvenience it must have been for her. I sipped my tea, eyeing her cautiously over the rim of the cup.

    “Your grandmother has left you some money and property.”

    Claire shuffled in her seat, making the leather loudly rub. I frowned, was it possible she was fidgeting? I turned my attention back to Mr Barrows.

    “Money and property?”

    He nodded. “Yes. You’ve been left a considerable sum of money, your grandmother bequeathed to you four hundred thousand pounds.”

    I almost violently expelled the tea in my mouth but managed to swallow it, though it was too hot. I felt the boiling liquid burn all the way down to my stomach. “Oh,” I managed to rasp.

    Claire looked angry. Her nostrils were wide and quivering.

    “Plus some stocks and bonds which we can explain to you another time,” he moved on quickly. “And the house. I have a picture here but I should warn you the house itself is rather old and crumbling and the land it’s on is quite tatty. It’s five acres, comes with a couple of tenants, though.”

    He slid a photograph over the table towards me. I held it up and looked at the Edwardian style manor with big arched windows and sweeping porch wrapped in ivy and wisteria.

    “Nobody has lived there for about twenty years. It’s covered in rot and mould and it’s out in the middle of nowhere.” Claire interjected.

    I shrugged. “I think it’s pretty.”

    “You would!” she scoffed, though she received a warning look from Mr Barrows. She took a deep breath. “Now, Leah. The house is huge and it’s attached to a large plot of land that is currently buried under brambles and heaps of rubbish,” she took the picture from me and laid it on the table. “Malcolm and I have discussed it, and we think it best we buy it from you.”

    She paused for breath; her bulging eyes locked on me though her mouth twisted into an unnatural smile. My brother and sister had planned it all out, it seemed but I still frowned. “Why do you want it if it’s so dilapidated?”

    “We’ll give you a fair price.”

    “I don’t need the money!” I said with a low chuckle. I could tell I was starting to irritate her more than I could understand. “Where is the house?” I asked Mr Barrows.

    “Pembrokeshire, Wales. Near the coast.”

    “See!” Claire said triumphantly. “The bloody thing is in Wales!”

    I looked again at the picture and the white washed walls. My mind ticked over, thinking back to stories my grandmother had told me about the magical, beautiful house by the sea she lived in as a child. “I think I’d like to see it first, before I decide.”

    We left the lawyers office in a hurry. Claire rampaged through the reception area and back through the corridor, furiously jabbing at her mobile. She raged at me in the lift. This was just typical me, away with the bloody fairies, never thinking of anyone else, how I was destructive and always such an embarrassment to the entire family. It was familiar torment and I took it in silence, like I always had.

    Our father had worked through banking and politics and into an early grave. Our mother, drunk and incapable of doing anything other than sleep till noon and put on make-up, went through a series of flings and flighty relationships that took her half way round the world. Our grandmother, who Claire had so callously waved off, had raised us. She was the only one who didn’t treat me like a leper. Though I only ever received a barrage of cruelty and mistrust from my siblings, on the darker days it was my grandmother’s soft lilting voice that always coaxed me back into the land of the living.

    The following week, I packed up my little mini and drove the long five hours down to the coast of Wales. The satnav struggled finding the area and sent me in a few circles but eventually I found the narrow dirt path that led me up to the house.

    I stopped the car and pulled out the padded envelope with the keys. The house was much like it was in the picture, but the land wasn’t as bad as Claire made it out to be. There were gnarled tangled fruit trees, brambles muddled up in hedges around the edges and long grass that needed attacking with an industrial lawn mower, but still not that bad. I walked up the steps and used a chunky old fashioned key to open up the wide door. It swung with a creak and a shudder.

    Inside was dull, with some furniture under musty blankets. Before me in the open hall way sweeping stairs with curling iron railings led to a second floor. My footsteps clicked against the hard wooden floors as I crossed the hall into the room opposite. I held my breath looking at all the dusty books packed into shelves, gazing up in amazement at the high ceiling. A few tables with old lamps and a globe packed the corners. I walked round to the large bay window and pulled the strings to the flat canvas blind.

    As I pulled it up, light flooded the room and I gasped, staggered at the view of the coastline and sparkling deep blue waters. The way the narrow lanes curved and through the convoluted directions of the satnav I had no idea I was so close to the sea. Somewhere in the distance I heard seagulls cawing, it sounded like they were laughing at each other and I smiled too.

    I made my way round the house, opening windows and curtains and casting out the stuffy dimness. Mostly the biggest problem seemed to be the dated furniture underneath a thick layer of dust. When I made my way back to the front door I kicked up an envelope that lay scattered on the doormat along with dried leaves and other leaflets.

    This one, unlike the rest that were simply printed ‘To The Occupier’, was hand written with my name on the front. I stooped to pick it up and carefully opened it.

    Inside was the pretty cursive of my grandmother.

    They got their way and put me in a nursing home and you in a ‘facility’. I’ve changed my will. They’ll only get their share of the inheritance once you’re present, well and fully discharged, although I am leaving mostly everything to you, anyway.

    I hope you can be happy here as I was.

    I stepped back into the bright light clutching the letter to her heart, but my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of ringing coming from inside my car. I checked my watch.

    Malcolm and Claire had been phoning me every afternoon to see if I’d visited the house yet. I refused to tell them when exactly I was going because no doubt they’d descend upon me and twist my arm. There had been six missed calls already- they were getting anxious.

    With a deep breath, I answered the phone. “Hello?”

    “It’s Claire,” she said abruptly. “So, have you actually seen it yet?”

    “Yes, I’m here now.”

    A stunned silence resounded at the other end of the phone. I could picture Claire stood with her phone over the speaker, mouthing frantically to Malcolm.

    “And?”

    “And I’m going to keep it. I like it.”

    I pulled the phone from my ear as Claire erupted into squawking and flustered fury. I could hear Malcolm and somebody else muttering in the background, probably a cousin.

    “What were you going to do with it? Do it up and sell it on, or were you going to develop it? Turn it into a restaurant or a hotel? Or just rip it down?” I asked softly.

    The usual insults started. I was a burden, fresh out of the loony bin and throwing everything back in their faces, after everything they did for me.

    “You managed to tell me you were divorced, but not that nana had died.” I interjected.

    Claire stopped cold in her ranting tracks.

    “What?”

    So I repeated myself louder. “You managed to tell me you were divorced, but not that nana had died.”

    She had no answer for that. “Goodbye, Claire.” I hung up the phone and turned it off, and gazed back at my beautiful new home.
     
  3. dbesim
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    dbesim Contributing Member

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    Double Life (1,948 words)

    Robert sat on the velvet couch and cushioned himself comfortably trying to pay attention to the television in front. He was, however, distracted by his three vivacious boys each play-fighting upon the carpet in front and blocking some vision of the TV screen. The aroma of freshly baked scones trailed from the kitchen.

    'Superma-an!' Screamed one of his sons as he jumped into a clumsy kick and tried to wrestle a mousy-haired boy in spectacles called Alec. Robert was too tired right now to pull his kids apart.

    'No, get off, Howie!' Alec struggles to push Howie off but he isn't strong enough. Just then, oldest brother Simon chooses his moment to jump over the two of them as they all sway their arms and legs into the air and form into a bundle of three screaming children.

    'Pack it in, kids!' Says Robert, although he's still too tired to draw any of them apart. Boys, he thinks. They're such a handful. He and his wife, Lucy, have been trying for a girl but that's how Robert ended up with these three mischief-makers. Why couldn't they be a nice quiet girl? Robert wouldn't have to endure all this trouble.



    'Robert, wake up, honey,' calls a soothing voice from beside.

    'Lucy..' Robert mumbles.

    'No, not Lucy, honey, it's Amanda, love.. You must be dreaming..'

    Robert gradually opens his eyes. 'Amanda..?' He says in a low voice. He lifts his eyelids and instantly recognises the familiar woman in front of him. Everything starts to make a new sort of sense as he realises that the whole thing has been a dream. And there was his little girl now standing there in front of him beside the bed wearing her school uniform, shoes and tightly holding on to her lunchbox.

    'Daddy, I'm going to be late,' she says in a cute and whiny voice.

    Oh God, he has to drop Carly off to school because Amanda will be heading off to work. Robert hurriedly dresses into his jog-bottoms and trainers and rushes his daughter into the Fiat, failing to shave, brush his teeth, comb his hair, straighten out or even have breakfast. He has to get Carly to her school on time.

    The drive only takes ten minutes but there is relief on Carly's face as she realises that she's not late. She hugs him gratefully and says, 'Thank you, daddy.' She gets out of the car and by his side-mirror, Robert watches her hurry off for school.

    Apart from looking after Carly, Robert did hardly anything these days. He's the one who stays home while Amanda was off to work and spent most of his time lazing and lounging around. There was never anything to do during the course of the day and so little to get up to in this suburban town.

    When Robert returns home he remembers to brush away the morning; shaving, combing his hair, cleaning his teeth and having a light breakfast. He decides he wants to take it easy and simply laze on the couch. Robert closes his eyes and without intending to, drifts off into some light dreaming.



    'Lucy, there you are!' says Robert finding her in the washroom adjoining the kitchen. 'You have to do something about your boys! They're uncontrollable.'

    'My boys? Since when did they stop being yours?' demands Lucy.

    'Since.. For God's sake! They've torn up the whole carpet!' Screams Robert. 'That's your fault! You're the one who lets them do what they like.. who lets them just run around.. wild!'

    Lucy walks into the kitchen and clinks a spoon on a glass. Robert glares at her.

    'Come on children,' she calls. 'Tea is ready!'

    'Ye-eeeeah!' Scream the children as they all run into the kitchen so that they could tuck into some scones and jam.

    'There you go,' says Lucy. 'They're not so bad.'

    Robert sits at the table so that he too can share some scones, jam and tea with his kids. They made a noisy trio and were only all between the ages of three and five. Most of the time they were ranting and Robert usually failed to catch what they were saying.

    'This is dad's dream home,' says Alec, but Robert knows when he's being referred to:

    'You talking about me, son?' Robert asks and for some reason the boys think that is remarkably funny and they erupt into laughter.

    'You'll be glad the nanny's coming round tomorrow,' remarks Lucy. Robert has just been reminded.

    'The nanny? Oh, thank God..' he says.



    Robert suddenly wakes up. He realises he has overslept. He checks his watch and sees that it is time to pick Carly up from school. How has all that time gone by so fast?

    Robert hurries into his Fiat and speedily makes his way towards the school. Carly's already there waiting for him:

    'Daddy, I'm the last one here.' Carly remarks ungratefully.

    'Oh no, love, I overslept. I'm sorry, darling.' He doesn't need Amanda scolding him for being late to pick up his little girl. 'Please don't tell your mum I was late.'

    'Ok,' says Carly.

    He hated arguments with Amanda but at least Carly was a pretty easy kid to handle. She always listened to Robert and spent much of the time either reading a book or quietly playing dolls in her bedroom. She was a good little girl.

    As Robert parks the car outside the drive he admires the white-washed walls of his two-story home. Everything about the house is so quiet. The neighbours. The streets. His family. It was such a peaceful place to be.

    As Robert and Carly enter the house, Carly runs up to her bedroom and Robert decides to head for the back garden to give it a wash and water the shrubs. Robert admires how nice and sunny the weather is. It is such a pleasant day that upon watering the garden Robert sets up a deckchair under the sun so that he could peacefully laze in the heat. He puts a hat over his face as he lies upon the deckchair and in time another nap overcomes him...



    Robert is confronting the nanny who has come to look after the boys. The nanny's name is Daniel and the training he's had with children is life-long. He has been the nanny of these kids for almost two years and he knows each and every one of the boys very well. Probably better than Robert.

    The difference is that Robert needed to stop regarding the children like they were a pack and start to give each of the boys some individual attention. The way Daniel did. Robert found it hard to regard any of his boys as individuals. Maybe that's what the problem was. But at least Daniel was here now.

    'Daniel,' says Robert. 'We're going to need your assistance in this household for more than just two days a week.' Daniel grins as if he knows just how much of a handful Robert finds his children. One would think it's a shame Daniel's not the father, Robert thinks ironically.

    'I'll try and extend my hours,' says Daniel. 'But I am somewhat busy most days.'

    'Is there anything you can do to be here?' says Robert almost desperately. 'Me and Lucy will both really appreciate it.'

    'I'll try,' says Daniel. 'But I'm not making promises.'

    What is wrong with me? Thinks Robert. Why is it this stranger can handle my kids even better than I? I'm the father aren't I? Why should I depend so much on him to sort out my sons?

    'You know you need to listen to them more carefully?' Daniel says. Robert sighs. That was virtually impossible.

    Robert looks out of the window and sees his children chasing each other around with water guns in the small garden of their one storey home. They're screaming, playing and wetting each other. Almost violently. If he did listen to them, what exactly is it the boys would have to say? Robert thinks he can hear Simon chanting:

    'It's your... dream home... dream home... dream home.' Robert wakes up.




    'Robert, I've been busy all day and all you can do is laze around in the garden,' says Amanda. Robert sits up from the deckchair.

    'Well, it was a really nice day, honey,' Robert falters.

    'I've had to cook and clean too and it's about time.' Amanda breathes in a breath of fresh air to calm down.

    'Look Robert.. I know how involved you've been in Carly's life since I've been at work most of the time.'

    'Yes, I have been,' says Robert.

    'You do know that Carly has a parents' evening at school soon? She needs one of us to meet her teacher so that we know how well she is doing in class.'

    'And you want me to go?' Asks Robert.

    'Well yes,' says Amanda. 'I was the one who went to the last parents' function and you haven't met her teacher yet. It's your turn this time.' Robert gives Amanda a kiss on the cheek.

    Yes, he thinks. That would be a great idea.

    'Thanks for letting me know, love,' he says. 'Wonderful.'

    *

    The moment of Carly's parents' day has arrived. Robert wanders the deserted halls of Carly's school searching for room number 5. Ah... Robert has found it. Robert waits outside the classroom realising he is slightly early. A voice calls from outside:

    'You may come in, Mr Morgan.'

    Robert enters the classroom and sits himself on the available chair across the teacher. He sees Carly's teacher gazing at some comments he's written on a sheet of paper. There is something familiar about this man, Robert thinks. The teacher looks up. He meets Robert's eyes and smiles at him.

    'So Carly's a somewhat quiet girl and very well behaved.'

    Where does he know this man from?

    'Academically, she is one of the brightest,' continues the teacher.

    'That's promising to know,' Robert says, his voice trailing.

    The teacher continues talking of Carly but Robert curtly interrupts him.

    'Excuse me, do I know you from somewhere?'

    Carly's teacher raises his eyes once again and meets Robert's. At that moment there is a flicker of recognition:

    'Of course!' says Roberts. 'You're Daniel from the dreams I've been having. Very vivid.'

    'The dreams you've been having?' Says Carly's teacher. Gradually the man shakes his head.

    'Yes, I am Daniel from the dreams you've been having.' He admits, confusing Robert.

    'You see, Robert, I've come here as a bit of an ultimatum.' Says Daniel. 'On the one hand you have an obedient respectful kid, who is part of your real home, and on the other hand you have a bunch of three mischievous boys in your dream-world home. Those boys will not behave, they need more attention from you!'

    'What am I supposed to do about it?' asks Robert.

    'Well you're going to have to switch the world that is your dream home with the world that is your real home. It is the only way you will be able to give your sons any attention.'

    'Switch around my worlds?' Asks Robert.

    'Yes,' says Daniel.

    'Well, I can't do that.'

    'Why not?' Asks Daniel.

    'Because I love my daughter!' Shouts Robert. 'I wouldn't change it for no dream home.'

    'That's all very well, Robert, but think about your sons,' says Daniel.

    'I can't do.. Daniel.. teacher.. please just leave me alone. I don't need to lead all this.. double existence.'

    'OK, Robert, as you wish,' says Daniel. 'Enough said about Carly. You'll be the one trying to handle your sons! See you in your dream home.'

    Robert stands up and leaves the classroom.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  4. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    Home Sweet Home (1,312 words)

    My head throbbed. I sighed and rubbed my temples. It was Friday afternoon at the office, and Allie was boasting again about her cream-colored villa in Tuscany.

    “I just expanded the polo grounds!” Allie giggled, coquettishly covering her mouth.

    I popped an aspirin into my mouth as the new office girls oohed and fawned over her. Among the gray uniforms, Allie stood out at the water cooler. Her fingernails were manicured blood orange today, and they fluttered in circles around the new medal pinned to her breast pocket. Derision burned in my stomach as they skated around the inverted crescent, but I bit my lower lip and went back to my typing. I cracked my knuckles, exhaling in relief as I flexed my out-flung elbows; they no longer touched the walls.

    According to regulations, my office cubicle had recently been enlarged two by two inches with my promotion to a Level 3 assistant. It wasn’t as big of a jump as Allie’s after the quarterly assessment, but I still had additional housing credits I could use for my workspace, maybe to expand the desk to fit another mug. I agonized, wanting to save my spending for Home. I settled on rearranging some of my family holographs to free up the counter instead, when Allie stalked over to me in her high heels.

    “Hard at work as always, Beatrice?” Her shrill tone pierced my eardrums.

    I took a deep breath. Counted to five, then rotated in my seat and raised an eyebrow. “Yes, some of us actually do what we’re paid to.”

    Most of Allie’s sycophants glared at me from behind her back, but the more recent additions to her sorority shuffled their feet nervously. We all knew she was earning extra credits between motel sheets. It was an open secret. Allie’s irritation darted from one downcast face to another. She snatched the spreadsheet out of my grasp.

    “I can’t believe you’re still using chemosheets instead of the tablet.” She turned the sheet sideways, flipped it front to back with wide-eyed guile. Then she crumpled it in her fist. “Who taught you Steno? A caveman?”

    Her goons laughed.

    “Backwards Beatie is so sawas,” said a redhead, using space slang.

    “I bet she doesn’t even know enough to program her Home,” added a brunette. The girl was still wearing the student’s blue stripe on her sleeve. She was a new travel school graduate and her face still bore deep lines, imprints from the Gear used for virtual education. In my youth, one physical location could handle the modest number of students wanting certification, but the demand for courses was Milky Way high these days and live instruction couldn’t meet it.

    “That’s right,” Allie smirked. She leaned over conspiratorially, fingering the lapels of my uniform. I hadn’t refitted it in two years. “When are you going to let us visit your Home anyway?” She pinched the fabric. “It’s been five years now and I don’t even know what parcel you’re living in anymore.”

    I grabbed her wrist and pried her fingers off my clothes. I turned back to my VidScreen. I smiled secretly at my reflection.

    “It’s in the Sahara.”

    Allie laughed, “Worthless desert?”

    “What do you do at night?” the new graduate asked. “Cuddle up to a camel in bed?”

    It was a low blow. Paul was on another salvage mission that would take him away for months. My eyes stung and my chest clenched, but I pasted on a bright, sharp grin.

    “Why don’t you find out?” I tilted my head. “I’ll host the book club tonight.”

    The brunette appeared taken back and Allie’s gang shared suspicious glances, but Allie herself remained as cool as chrome.

    “Sure, Beatie.” She pretended to dust lint off my shoulders. “Seven o’clock at the Meeting Center.”

    Allie and her group wandered away, occupying their own stations as our supervisor returned from his lunch break. Allie simpered, twirling one of her teal-dyed curls around her finger as she chatted him up. I snorted and bent back to work.


    At five o’clock, the Minister of Business and Industries came onto the loudspeaker. The brief glissando of a xylophone filled the room, and then the minister’s cheerful, announcer voice:

    “Hello workers! It is now the end of your workday. The Ministry of Business and Industries thanks you for your efficiency and dedication. Please remember to enjoy your three-day holiday, starting tonight, in honor of our Spaceport’s launch anniversary. Praise be our 30th year and don’t forget to collect your food chips!”

    I went to the payroll desk to obtain my chips while my co-workers talked, making dinner or cinema plans. I wasn’t interested and never had been. Paul was all I needed. Craving solitude, I exited the building and walked along the perimeter of the station in a circumscribed route to the Meeting Center. My breath misted as I traveled further away from the heart of the port where heat was conserved and concentrated, but the view on the outer rim was beautiful.

    Shivering, I pressed my nose against the cool viewing glass and identified the constellations –dazzling old mythos flourished with bears, rams, and gods of battle – but what I strained to find was a small marble: the Earth. I imagined I could view the Sahara on its swirling surface, although the whole world was a frigid wasteland after the fallout from the Wars. Even so, I liked to think Allie’s villa in Tuscany existed there. For half an hour, I conjured up a green, growing land that smelled of freshly cut hay. My heart swelled like the breasts of songbirds; their tunes rung sweet and clear unlike the static-filled recordings I had dug out from the library archives as a child. I stood, allowing the spell of the planet to trap and keep me until my legs tingled from numbness.

    “Goodbye,” I whispered to the blue, frost-colored sphere. I touched Earth through the glass. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”


    When I arrived at the Meeting Center, all of Allie’s girls were there and so was Allie. She tapped a visor against her right knee impatiently. Her face stiffened into a haughty expression, the shallow marks around her eyes deepening for a moment as she thrust the Gear at me.

    “Well, punch in the coordinates for your Home,” she smirked. “We’re dying to see it.”

    I smiled, still tranquil from my walk, and took the Gear from her gently. I set it aside.

    “Follow me,” I said and turned.

    The girls furrowed their brows at each another. But confusion made them docile and curiosity held them obedient; they followed.

    I ambled past other workers on their way to closet-sized domiciles. These were domiciles where they sat, put on their Gear, inputted their credits and went Home – to Tuscany for Allie, but to Paris, Tokyo, or the Alps for others until they fell asleep. All lies. But I led Allie and her girls to my domicile, a space converted from ten units.

    I disengaged the lock and the front door slid open to reveal a den, a plush red sofa, and violet posies swaying under a combination wind-and-sun lamp. My home had an electric stove with which I could cook meals for myself instead of buying them prefab from the supermarket. It turned on at my approach, and the overnight pot of cold curry warmed for my supper. I had a tea kettle which filled and began soon to whistle. I had a bookshelf brimming with real paper books which I thumbed through for the simple pleasure of their roughness against my fingertips. And I had a mattress with a bedspread big enough to fit an embracing husband and wife.

    I had a house that had no Gear.

    I sat down on my bed and smiled beatifically. “Welcome,” I smoothed the silk coverlet to their delighted, anguished expressions, “to my Home.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    A Place of Your Own

    (925 words)



    Daniel Carlsson punched the button on his comm unit as the red light flashed in front of him. “Good morning, sir, you’re through to Daniel at Central Power Utilities. How may I help you today?”

    Same old script. He must have said those words a thousand times already today, and he’d have to say them another thousand before his shift ended. Soul-destroying, that’s what it was. With half his brain – and, let’s face it, that’s all it took to deal with the morons who phoned up – he did his job, while the other half accessed his cyber-implant and put all his energies into dealing with his own business.

    He brought up his file and took a leisurely stroll through the rooms. Large and airy, plain white walls set off by large, vibrant paintings in a modern style. No doors! He loved being able to just stroll from one room to the next without that ludicrous fumbling with a handle. He glanced down, smiling as he saw the remembered kitchen, a stainless steel heaven of modern technology.

    That truly was his masterstroke, the way that the first floor was a mezzanine that overlooked the ground floor from this balcony walkway, so that the room soared from the kitchen below to the very rafters nearly thirty feet above it. And the glazed wall that matched it, reaching from floor to ceiling in one unbroken sheet of glass. It had taken the engineering brilliance of Lieutenant-Commander Montgomery Scott to come up with the equations for the transparent aluminium that was the only material strong enough to withstand the stresses involved.

    He looked up, at the view through that window. Out across the azure waters of the bay to the mountains of Snowdonia, some thirty miles distant. Yes, distant was the right word. So much more appropriate than away when you were thinking about a view like this.

    He frowned. An oil tanker? What was that doing slowly crossing the bay? If this place had been set nearer to the oil terminal in Milford Haven, he might have believed it. Believed it, but not condoned it. As it was, it had absolutely no right to be here. He changed it to a yacht, a generic triangle of white hull and white sails, and saved the image.

    He flipped open another window, and googled yachts. A Moody 346 came up. Just over 30 feet long, simple sloop rig, that would do nicely. Another slight change to his file. He was just about to close Google when he caught sight of a Severn Trow and fell in love. The glorious complications of a gaff-rigged ketch! The faded buff sails of a working boat! It was just too perfect. The contrast between his modern high-tech house, and the view of a boat from an era when sail ruled the seas, a time when life was so much less stressful, when you didn’t have to escape into your dreams to cope with how mindless your job was.


    Daniel turned the key in his front door, shouldering it open against the resistance. He’d have to speak to his landlord about getting it fixed. The damned thing was almost sagging off its hinges, for Christ’s sake! Wearily he climbed the stairs, his laboured breathing reminding him again how out of shape he was. So hard, when he was stuck at work all week, to manage to work out. He’d heard of places where there was a gym on-site for employees to use, but Central Power wasn’t a company like that, and he was just too tired when he got home.

    A rummage around in the freezer section of his small fridge produced no inspiration. He just couldn’t be arsed to go to the trouble of nuking up a microwave dinner when it was so much easier to just pop to the kebab shop around the corner.

    Food sorted, now it was time to get ready to meet up with Kate. He ordered up a crisp white shirt, short-sleeved to show off his guns, and fastened it over his toned torso. Pausing only to admire the rugged good looks that stared back at him from the mirror, he dialled her number.

    “Hello handsome,” her image mouthed at him a split-second after the actual words. Always that damned delay.

    He hesitated, half-losing courage now that the moment was here. He’d made up his mind that tonight would be the night, but when it came to it, his nervousness surfaced. When he finally spat the words out, it came out with half a stammer, and pitched an octave higher than the masculine casual he’d been aiming for. “I’d like to show you around my place.”

    “I thought you’d never ask.” She smiled as if she hadn’t noticed anything wrong. “Where is it?”

    “Abersoch.” He said, and when she showed no reaction, continued. “It’s a small town in Wales. Come on, let me show you around.”

    He opened the front door, and gestured for her to enter.

    A long pause, and then she gasped. “Wow, this is amazing.”

    She turned around, eyes widening in appreciation. Her first sight of that view across the bay had come as she stepped out onto the balcony, just after he’d let her in through the door. Through room after room he led her, his confidence growing with every sight of his creation, with every feminine squeak of admiration.

    “Well, what do you think?” His voice had recovered its normal rich timbre.

    “Daniel, it really is a dream home.”
     
  6. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make It So (1600)

    Tess watched plumes of smoke rise from her fifth or maybe sixth cigarette this morning. She wondered about the way smoke moves. How it’s always different with each cigarette, making slightly different patterns each time. Maybe cigarette smoke is like snowflakes, she thought. No bit of smoke is like any other bit of smoke. They all dance to their own little silent song.

    Unable to stay with the thought longer than it took to take another drag, she pressed the channel up button on the motel TV remote control.

    “But I’ll always love you, Diane!,” said a not at all cute middle-aged man with a horrible fake tan to a woman in tears with too much stuff in her hair.

    Channel up button.

    “That’s unbelievable, William. It can turn anything into juice, is that right? EVEN CARROTS. And for a LIMITED TIME --”

    Channel up button.

    Tofu!?” The camera zoomed in on the face of a man spitting off a cliff. “BEEF! NOW!!” An enormous cheeseburger crushed the man and words flew toward the screen.

    Channel up button.

    “Captain. The Borg are overriding our force fields with some kind of... “ Tess tossed the remote control to the other side of the bed. She glanced at the crushed cigarette butts and ash overflowing from the motel ashtray. If the door were open, a tiny gust of wind would blow the mountain of ash all over her sleeping gear in the closet. But the door was closed, and locked, and so was the window. The mountain of ash shall remain intact, she thought.

    Jean Luc Picard, Captain of the Starship Enterprise, made a passionate speech about why they must fight, or flee, or something. The camera zoomed in on his face. He said, “Make it so.” Tess inhaled her cigarette and smiled with teeth.

    “Make it so,” she said in the deepest voice she could, scrunching up her face. She wasn’t imitating the TV, she was imitating her dad, whose soul was traveling lightspeed through new frontiers of the universe, maybe. His body was buried in a military cemetery in San Bruno, California. Right here in room #11, when Tess was a little girl, she would ask her dad if it was time to brush her teeth. Make it so, he would say. She would ask if she could bring her teddy bear to school. Make it so. Hey Tess, hand me my smokes will you? Only if you say it, Daddy! -- Make it so.

    “Make it so,” she said, laughing and coughing through a smoky exhale.

    Most people would find it to be uncomfortably chilly in room #11, but Tess thought it felt like an ice cream parlor.

    Her cell phone rang. It was Scott. She tossed it into the mess of blankets in the closet then stared at the phone and decided she wanted to listen to music with it. She brought it to the bed and chose her John Frusciante playlist.

    Randomize setting.

    Skip track.

    Skip track.

    Skip lots of tracks.

    Oh fine, she thought. I’ll choose what I want to hear.

    She chose a song from John’s album “Niandra LaDes and usually a T-Shirt,” which he wrote on heroin. Tess fell back on the bed, kicking up her feet and watching them descend back to the bed. Nobody can play better than this guy, her dad said to Tess one night after his girlfriend left the motel. Can I sleep on the bed tonight instead of the closet, Daddy? she asked him. Make it so, he said.

    This guy on the guitar babe? His name is John just like your old pop. There are no coincidences, he said. Her dad John would hum John Frusciante’s guitar solos with his mouth shut, exhaling smoke through his nostrils. He would talk about the dream home they were going to live in someday. A mansion made of chocolate covered strawberries covered in sour candy sugar overlooking the Pacific ocean. Your dad’s gonna make a lot of money just like this guy on the guitar, everybody’s gonna know how great your dad is, he would say. He would say that when Tess got old enough she could help her dad get rich, but then he went to jail pretty much forever.

    Tess didn’t know what a drug addiction was until a social worker explained it to her. Yes, the woman said, it’s sad, honey. But your daddy’s drug addiction and what it makes him do makes it so you can’t live with him anymore. No, he didn’t do a bad thing. Not on purpose anyway. Yes, you’ll get to see him but not until he gets better. When he gets better you can see him, but not now. He’s sick, honey.

    She could never make out what John The Musician was saying on this album, but it wasn’t about the words. Frusciante longed for some lost and irretrievable thing or person or way of being, but it probably didn't exist. It was the kind of longing you can only drool and scream and cry about while overdosing on drugs, because your sober, rational mind won't let you realize how bad you want it. Putting words to that kind of longing had never seemed worth trying. Therapists had tried getting Tess talking since she was a kid but it never helped. She managed to stay away from drugs her whole life, mostly out of resentment toward her dad, but she appreciated how drugs sometimes helped certain people channel a deeper part of themselves.

    John The Musician screamed out to the universe how it sucks to be alive through her phone, and she could almost see John The Dad laying back on the bed next to her closing his eyes, shaking his head, looking like he was sucking on a sugary candy that never loses its flavor. Tess didn’t understand how it sucks to be alive until she was taken away from her dad. After that, she listened to John The Musician a lot more, and she felt like maybe she was learning about what it was like to be John The Dad and to be sick and bad but not on purpose.

    It’s not about the notes in the solo, it’s how you pull them off. That’s what her dad said to her when she visited him in jail one time, right before he went on and on about how when he gets out he’s going to make tons of money and build a music school for children.

    He even sent her letters from jail in her teens using John Frusciante lyrics in between empty promises. One letter went:

    Tess my favorite (and only) daughter,

    Been talking to some guys in here about starting a record label when I get out. We would only sign guys who can really rip on the guitar. I mean let it really get going. Also, guys who sound like Frusciante when they scream. Not death metal, none of that SHIT. You know what I mean. Hey, remember this:

    And you´ll learn to drive out of focus
    I'm you
    And if anything unfolds
    It's supposed to

    Gonna make up for missing your Sweet 16 by getting you a new Lamborghini when I get out. It should be next month or the month after.

    Love
    John The Dad


    Most people would find it distracting that a cell phone and a TV were turned on pretty loud and at the same time, but Tess preferred a “controlled chaos” environment as Scott liked to call it. He gave her her own office for that reason, so she could multitask and not bother everybody else.

    She looked up at the TV. The Borg, as always, had turned Jean Luc into an evil robot whose sole purpose in the vastness of space was to ruin everybody’s party for no good reason.

    Tess entertained the idea of writing a book about her dad, but not a “book” book. A “toilet” book, which was the kind of book nobody would read unless it were in their friend’s bathroom next to the toilet. It would be called Golden Nuggets Of Wisdom By John The Dad. Some of the golden nuggets would be, for example:

    -Money does grow on trees but everybody is barking up the wrong one.
    -Don’t trust ugly people or beautiful people. They both want something from you.
    -The greatest government coverup of all time is the one where they convinced us that there’s a government. Nobody is in control of this thing.

    When she cried, like now, it wasn’t out of sadness about the way things were or could have been. It was more like how John The Musician understood things to be. You just have to feel the earth spinning sometimes, and know there's no reason for why it spins. The world kinda sucks then you die, she thought. Life’s funny like that. She was curled in a ball and didn’t even realize it until her cell phone rang. It was Scott again. She rolled her eyes, then wiped them with a pillowcase.

    Hey Scott.

    Hey Tess! How’s the vacation treating you?

    It was pretty good until you called. The point is to not think about work.

    Burn! Well I’ll just make this one quick. I was just wondering if you closed the Benderman account on the 17th or not . The system says they weren’t billed but I thought you--

    I did. Talk to Rudy. He’s doing invoicing now. Tish is logistics, blah blah blah. Remember?

    Shit, you’re totally right. I totally forgot. Alright, well see you Monday.

    Make It So.

    What?

    Make It So!

    Tessie girl, are you trying to be funny? You’re not very good…

    Make It So, Number One!

    Is that the TV?

    We Are The Borg. We Have Taken Over Tessie. Tessie Has Been Assimilated.

    Is that fucking Star Trek? Hello? Tess?

    [Cackling]

    -Click.
     
  7. BeckyJean
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    BeckyJean Member

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    From Up Above (2738)


    Evelyn’s breathing was shallow. Her husband Greg was beside her in the armchair by the bed. Their two boys, Jake and Sam – men, actually, in their late thirties – were propped on little, wooden chairs that looked comically small under their large frames. They sat across from Greg. Myra, their orange tabby, was curled into a ball at her feet, sleeping soundly.

    Everything that mattered to Evelyn was in this room.

    The tracheal and feeding tubes that had kept her alive during her last hospital stay (five weeks this time) had been removed this morning. Then she was brought here, to her home. Her nurse, ironically with the last name of Ratchet, was in the kitchen – sipping tea and leafing through the latest People magazine. She was nothing like the nurse from that Cuckoo Nest movie, though. She was a sweet woman with a kind heart, even if Evelyn had never had a conversation with her. She could tell by the way she touched her, moved her limbs and said soothing things as she did.

    It wasn’t customary for the hospital to release a patient this close to death. Moving one was never done, even with hospice care in place. In fact, it could be considered by some a violation of the Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm. But her oncologist, Dr. Evans, who’d known Evelyn since childhood, wanted to respect her final wish if he could. Since there was nothing more to be done for her – there was no reason not to.

    Evelyn’s wish wasn’t something she’d mentioned in passing over cobbler and coffee on a Sunday afternoon as she and her family discussed, as they often did, life and the end of it. No; it was something she made sure they had a full understanding of, as soon as her condition became terminal. It was also something she’d whispered, vehemently and insistently, to Dr. Evans before she lost consciousness.

    Though nobody knew it, least of all Evelyn – who had been somebody else’s wife for over forty years – Dr. Evans harbored feelings, very private, never spoken of feelings for Evelyn since they were young. He wanted to do as she asked. It was the only thing he could give her. So he gave her family permission yesterday; permission to let her leave the hospital. It was clear to all by then – the end was near.

    ~~~

    Propped on goose down pillows, under her mother’s quilt in her own bedroom, Evelyn was breathing on her own – a thin, wheezy gasp… for as long as that lasted. She saw all this from a place she would never have expected; a view from above - from the upper left corner near the ceiling, by the closet, to be exact.

    She looked down at her frail, tiny body lying motionless on the mattress. The woman there looked like a kid; a young, innocent child, home from school with a flu bug or fever. Except for the areas of missing hair, that is. Thin tufts sprang forth like patches of snowy angora.

    Evelyn’s body was ravaged by a disease that’d basically hijacked every organ, every cell. On some level that wasn’t exactly physical, the cancer felt alive – much more alive than she herself was. It slinked along like snakes moving through grass. It flowed into cracks and crevices of her tissue like lava or expanding foam from a spray can, its sole intention; to replace every human molecule with it – this toxic invading force.

    Her veins felt flat, deflated, with what seemed to be only a trickle of fluid running through them. And what was moving was so laden with cancer - it was barely blood anymore. What would one call it, Evelyn wondered from her corner. Cancer sludge? That seemed appropriate.

    She had read about this kind of thing before; a person being so close to death that they floated – literally floated – between two worlds, observing their human shell below. Some might see themselves under a white sheet in a sterile hospital bed or a crowded, chaotic nursing home. For others it might be a lonely image from their basement apartment, with no one to worry or care that they were nearly gone.

    Evelyn McGillicutty was lucky, though. She was back in the house where she’d grown up. The house where she’d lived happily with Greg, her husband of forty five years. The house where they’d raised their sons. A place with flower beds and cedar trees Greg and the boys had planted, a stream running through the backyard, weeping willows draped and cascading over iridescent waters.

    Yes, Evelyn was given the gift of crossing over in her favorite place in this world; her family home.

    Since her thirteenth birthday, old enough to imagine a future with a one-day husband, she’d pictured an entire lifetime spent between these very walls. Her father had built this house, after all; much of it with his own two hands. It was extraordinary – its charm, character, and unusual touches specific to him and his talents for carpentry.

    The floors of the foyer, living room, and kitchen came from the maple trees he’d taken down when clearing the land. The bedroom and bathroom floors were from pecan trees on the south end of their property. Cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen were from the house where he’d grown up; his parent’s home. The intricate carvings and filigree work that made up the arches between the dining and living room were like English lace. Evelyn had never seen anything like it – before or since. There was stained glass, too – one of lilies and butterflies, one of an intricate spider web, and another of a sunrise over a lake surrounded by tall trees.

    Her favorite part was the three sided porch. It wrapped around the house like a great big hug. The cozy sitting areas made up of whicker and plush cushions only added to that embrace. With bird feeders and wind chimes swinging in the breeze, nothing could be quainter or more inviting.

    Yes, she loved this house. She loved it like it was a live entity with a heartbeat and lungs that breathed in and out.

    As an only child, Evelyn knew she would one day inherit the family home. She didn’t know, of course, that she would be so young when that happened. She wasn’t prepared, at the age of nineteen, for a life without her parents. Thinking back, she wasn’t sure how she’d done it, handled it all; managing the estate, running their small farm, making it somehow, miraculously more successful then Dad and Mom ever had. But she had Greg to thank for much of that. She had a sudden hope that he knew how much she appreciated him and all he’d done for her – for her parent’s legacy.

    Their dying on that rainy night on that winding road must have been how the good Lord wanted it, though. Things in life too often happen without rhyme or reason; tragedy and harmony appearing so quickly, clashing, repelling, then merging, becoming conjoined, making it impossible for anyone to plan for or discern. It’s all a mystery; like existing at the bottom of the sea – currents of circumstance pushing and pulling as the ever changing tides take control.

    How she’d become cancer ridden was a mystery, too. What began as a tiny, cellular blossom in the lower lobe of a lung silently sprouted into an jungle of disease, its complex root system reaching into every corner of her being. One such root, unbeknownst to her or her doctors, snuggled into her breast, twisting tightly around a mammary gland, imbedding in it.

    The mystery was that she had lived her entire life on this land; a clean life, a healthy life, a wholesome life – free from pollution, free of cigarettes – away from the typical causes that invite cancer into one’s life.

    It wasn’t enough.

    Once it started, it didn’t take long for things to progress. In fact, it was a runaway train. After the initial chemotherapy for her lung, and the lumpectomy that followed not long after – there was reason for hope, they were told. It was short lived. Three months later, during a check up with Dr. Evans, another tumor was discovered – this one bigger, the size of a plumb. To be safe, they took both her breasts and most of her lymph nodes, in tandem with more chemo. This time there was also a series of radiation – her least favorite of all of it. Something about the lines drawn onto her skin (“X marks the spot” she thought wryly to herself as the ink went on), and keeping as still as a terrified deer under that laser beam of light made her feel damned.

    Her doctors and therapists struggled over making her prognosis sound more promising. She knew this because their voices were strained, their faces pinched. The words they spoke didn’t connect with the tension in their shoulders, the set of their jaw. But still – she and Greg hoped for the best. What else was there?

    A few weeks later, pain in her chest revealed yet another tumor. Actually – a series of tumors that had stretched out like a clothes line through an entire lung. And now there were cells in her marrow, in her spine, and in two organs; her spleen and liver. Most recently there were tumors in her brain. She could feel them– like wild, nocturnal animals, lying in wait.

    How it was growing so rapidly, spreading so swiftly was puzzling, even to the medical staff. Lung cancer doesn’t usually travel with such intensity, such precision. Not at this accelerated pace.

    At her last appointment, when there was nothing more to be done, she was given news that she already knew. It was then that she told her family; no matter what it came to – she wanted to take her final breath in her own home. She didn’t want to die flanked by the glossy white walls of a hospital room, the smells of disinfectant and medicine permeating the air. If she was being called home, she wanted to do it from her home on earth.

    Then came the day she told Dr. Evans – Scott, as she’d called him when they dated briefly in school – of her request. Surely he would try to dissuade her; convince her that she needed to stay at the hospital, where they could handle any emergency, should it arise.

    But he did none of that. His smile, the tenderness on his face, the look in his eyes spoke a million words, revealed a lifetime of feelings. It moved her… it broke her heart. When he took her hand and nodded, they both wept quiet tears. It was a moment that’d been waiting decades to show itself, as if it had weight and shape, and had been hiding in the corner of a dark room, waiting for the perfect second to appear and say, “Here I am. See me.”

    It was several days before she fell unconscious, but they never spoke of it, Evelyn and Scott. And he never looked at her in that same way after. Whatever that moment had given them was enough. She knew his feelings, and she’d accepted them with grace. True, it was essentially on her death bed. But Scott felt better, a big part of him relieved that he hadn’t let her leave this planet without knowing.

    None of this affected his care for her as his patient. He was the consummate professional, and aside from the choice to let her leave the hospital to die at home – he gave her the best care he could provide. Until that care was done. And then he arranged for an ambulance to take her home.

    To himself he admitted; there was a pang of sorts as he watched it drive away, knowing she was out of his life forever. That pang stayed with him a long while that day. But as the night drew near, it changed, morphing into gratitude… sweet, sweet gratitude for having known her at all - even if, for the last forty or so years, it had been from a distance.

    ~~~

    Greg needed a haircut. It was a strange thing to notice while floating in the corner like an invisible moth or a bat, but it was one of the things Evelyn could see from where she was. He probably hadn’t had one in weeks… perhaps even months; since she took that turn for the worst. His shirt needed pressing, too. The days of starch and creases were long behind him, she thought. He wasn’t the kind to iron, and she wouldn’t be around to do it anymore. Something about that simple fact made her sad for a moment. But only for a moment.

    There was something odd, magical, and pure about where she was – up in the air. It felt like more than mere weightlessness, the absence of gravitational pull that hindered all that was anchored to this world. Maybe that’s what it was, though; what it came down to. This world.

    She could hear something now. It was distant and ethereal. She thought for a moment it was singing.

    Jake, her eldest, reached over and took her hand; the hand of the ‘her’ lying motionless on the bed. He was crying; big tears and heavy sobs slumping his broad shoulders. It appeared tears were contagious, because Sam began to cry as well. He laid his hand on one bony leg, his fingers completely encircling her narrow shin through the quilt.

    Nurse Ratchet arrived at the door. Her face went all ashen, matching her gray scrubs, making her look like a heap of clay. Evelyn looked at herself then; at the woman on the bed. Her chest was barely moving. There were at least nine beats of rest between breaths, which seemed to send her loved ones into an emotional panic. She could see the desperation, the alarm etched into their features. She wished she could comfort them, calm them, touch them. But she wasn’t really there. Not in a way that could do such things.

    The singing was growing louder. And there was a breeze; what felt like a breeze – like somebody had opened the window on a cool autumn day. Greg was suddenly bawling, his face buried in her chest, arms tightly around her. She looked like a rag doll being squeezed.

    And then the music was louder, as if she were standing in the middle of St. Paul’s cathedral, a mighty choir singing from the rafters. The breeze had become a wind. She felt like she was flying – zooming through the air, angled toward outer space, misty air swooshing by. Only outer space wasn’t outer space at all. It was… somewhere else – another world.

    She was no longer in the corner of her bedroom, hanging in the corner. Or rather, she was barely there. She was being swept away, that wind carrying her along with it, sweeping her into a current of angelic voices.

    Myra the cat suddenly looked up – his green eyes piercing right through her, holding her gaze. She could swear he was seeing her – actually seeing her.

    All at once Greg and her sons stopped crying. They sat up, their brows furrowed, gaping at each other, confused. They stared at Evelyn on the bed; but this time not in anguish, not in grief. They reached out toward one another, clasping hands, surprised wonder erupting across their faces. Then their eyes settled on a spot in space, as if something were dangling over her body… something she couldn’t see.

    Mesmerized, they followed it up and up, right into the corner, near the ceiling, toward her. She felt more than heard their collective gasp. She had no time to wonder why it was. She was being pulled away… the current was carrying her, the choir of angelic voices engulfing her. The sky, the universe was completely filled with it! She couldn’t wait to get there – see them, be with them.

    Evelyn glanced back for the last time, looking once more around the room of her family home, and then at the men of her life. She sent a thought; a cloud of love, of peace. And then she turned, smiling into that wind as she crossed to the other side.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I love the big reveal. :D Congrats @Lancie, you've won again. It's a wonderful story. And congrats to @edamame for second place, I'm one that voted for your story.
     
  9. animenagai
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    @Hubardo, did you want feedback?
     
  10. Ivana
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    Congrats to all! @Lancie you truly are a master of short stories! (This time I voted for yours, without hesitation) ;)
     
  11. lustrousonion
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    Congrats again to Lancie!

    I have to say I wasn't in love with any of the stories this time. I voted for @Lancie as the characters were really well-formed and the style is excellent. I also liked @edamame's story, and I thought Double Life was an interesting idea, but the execution, especially the ending, wasn't sharp enough for me. I'm confused about Make It So. I saw it on the forum and commented on it when it was put in the workshop, but I can't find it there any longer. I made up my mind from the beginning not to vote for this one because it broke the contest rules.
     
  12. animenagai
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    animenagai Member

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    Since everyone's posting their thoughts, I'll post mine.

    I'm a bit stylistically biased -- I like stories over anecdotes. I like pieces that have clear conflicts and resolutions. To me, the pieces that delivered on those fronts were Inheritance, Home Sweet Home, and Double Life.

    I chose Inheritance for its polish and clarity. Most importantly, it was the story that affected me the most, emotionally.
     
  13. Lancie
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    Thanks everyone :) this one took me by surprise as I fully intended to write about a haunted house and it somehow veered off, and I'm glad it did. I personally really enjoyed Home Sweet Home, and the idea behind Double Life was good but quite a tricky one to pull off. Overall another impressive crop of stories.
     
  14. edamame
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    Congrats @Lancie! I felt yours was the most naturally (deceptively effortlessly) written and I really enjoyed the characters. I was just a little more biased towards my own this time. Thanks to everyone who enjoyed "Home Sweet Home" and a high five to all the writers and their wonderful entries. :)
     
  15. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes that would be great. Thanks.

    Also, @lustrousonion I asked a couple mods about whether it could be entered and they said okay. I hadn't realized it was a rule when I posted in workshop but had written it solely for the contest. Seeing as I got zero votes, seems like it wasn't a problem, but now that I know it won't happen for the next one.

    I voted for Home Sweet Home mostly because it was sci-fi. Inheritance was probably the best executed in terms of like, if you google "how to write a short story" it would have used all that stuff (good characters, good descriptions of stuff but nothing really irrelevant, clear conflict, clear resolution), but it felt too quaint for me. I'm a sucker for sci-fi so HSH sucked me in and got me more interested in reading than the other ones.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I also approved of Hubardo's entry after asking him to get mod approval. I'm sorry if that led to him losing votes but I understand the sentiment and decided not to say anything in the thread so people could make their own decisions about it.

    I inherited that rule and don't understand why it includes stories posted in the forum. I do understand why it includes stories posted elsewhere.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2015
  17. lustrousonion
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    In regard to @Hubardo's piece, I noticed changes to the story here after I had already given feedback on those things in the workshop. Not to say they were changed because of my comments, but I couldn't be sure. Also, I knew who had written it, and I knew some of the backstory. I think it is a good rule not to allow workshop posts to the contest for exactly those reasons.

    Hubardo's already received my feedback, but I'll say again that I thought it was an interesting piece with complex characters. Though the writing could be tighter, it's definitely not a zero-votes story in my book.
     
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I agree with you on the lack of anonymity. Perhaps the rule makes more sense in that respect.
     
  19. animenagai
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    @Hubardo I liked your piece, it made me chuckle.

    I can't judge you for going against the grain. You had your vision and I think you executed it well (should definitely have gotten more votes lol).

    Still, I think that strong characters, clear conflict etc. are important because stories are about immersion, to me anyway. Those things really pull the reader in. It also takes skill to do all of those things well and it would be unfair to the great writers out there overlook this.
     
  20. BeckyJean
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    ~ Congrats @Lancie!! I loved "Inheritance" - it was a quiet, quaint, moving story that physically TOOK me into that family, into that dream-house. I loved what I saw around me. :) And I actually liked "Make It So" very much. @Hubardo! I thought it was very well written, and the use of the 'dream house' theme as a mere comment, an off-handed remark was clever, I thought. In the end, it evoked too much darkness for me to vote for it this go 'round, though. But please know I came very close. :) I was very surprised it didn't do better.

    Just an FYI, @GingerCoffee - I started a rigorous writing course two weeks ago and will be up to my eyebrows in writing exercises and two big projects. So - i'm taking a hiatus from this site for a bit. It's been fun writing with you all! I've learned SO much ~ thank you for all the inspiration. Will check in on down the line! Especially if they ever get that Sci-Fi Contest up and running again. ;)
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's great @BeckyJean! Don't worry about the sci-fi contest, just write a good story, you'll find a place for it. You have talent. By all means, grow it. :D
     
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