Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Jan 23, 2009.
  1. Doug J - Goodbye, Son

    1 vote(s)
  2. Mello - My Present

    3 vote(s)
  3. wonderxwhy - Terminal

    3 vote(s)
  4. Generation - The Man In The Green Suit

    1 vote(s)
  5. Guerito - Bitten

    0 vote(s)
  6. Leaka - Ruptured Fall

    0 vote(s)
  7. Wreybies - 160

    5 vote(s)
  8. yellowm&M - Melting Autumn

    4 vote(s)
  9. Enki - A Great Calamity

    1 vote(s)
  10. TheIllustratedMan - Coming to Terms

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest (36) - Narrator With One Week To Live

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jan 14, 2009.

    Voting Short Story Contest (36) Theme: Narrator With One Week To Live

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned.

    Voting will end 23rd January 2009 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not strictly in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Doug J - Goodbye, Son

    Day 1
    I saw Dr. Rahmen come to the door and hurriedly my father told my mother to take me into the other room. The doctor stayed a long time and eventually I snuck back toward the study and stood just below the picture that showed me, my older brother and our father laughing. The photo was not very large and was in a simple black frame and hung on the wall in the hallway with many of the other family pictures. I remember well the day when the picture was taken and every Saturday I would ask my father to lift me up to see the colorful image better. It was a wonderful outing at the beach and that is where I first learned to float on my back and make really good sand castles. But this day I did not want to look up at the picture, but instead I crept slowly and silently trying to listen through the closed door.

    I thought I could hear my father sobbing, but more clearly I heard some of what the doctor said: “. . . I am so sorry . . . I wanted to come here as soon as I found out . . . perhaps only few days; or a week; maybe as long as . . . I know you do not feel well now, but you will feel much worse . . . perhaps for the . . . you should say goodbye now . . . come with me . . . we can make you more comfortable . . . your wife can come – should come - too.”

    I knew something was wrong, I could not ask my mother or father about it because I had been warned to stop listening to others when they were not talking to me. And by the time I was tucked into bed I had almost forgotten about the doctor’s mysterious visit, in part because my mother whispered to me and said my favorite uncle, my father’s brother, would be coming over the next day to talk to my father. My eyes brightened and I grinned, but my mother pursed her lips and warned me to stay away from them because they had important matters to discuss.

    Day 2
    My uncle came, but as my mother had foretold, the men were behind the closed doors of the study when I came home from school and remained there, even throughout dinner. My mother was not answering any of my questions and eventually sharpened her words to silence me. She had tears running down her cheeks and I watched as she ladled soup into a large bowl and brought it into the study. While my mother was in the study I returned to my listening post in the hallway and again could not hear everything, but my uncle was loudest.

    “. . . you must eat something . . . look, there are other options than what this doctor . . . we could go to America . . . I have connections . . . do not give up . . . stop crying . . . brother please let me help you . . . tell him, tell him we should try to go to Chicago where I know . . .”

    I could not remember a day when I did not see my father; but on this day my hero never left the study. Things were strange. This was like the story from one of my reading books where at night the world suddenly changes and monsters start to come out of the closet and from under the bed. But in the story the monsters turn out to be friendly and funny. Hours later, I looked outside my bedroom window watching as my uncle drove away, tires squealing as the sun took the last of the day behind the mountains.

    Day 3
    When I came home from school I saw the doctor’s vehicle and I became a little frightened. Again the door to the study was closed. There were loud sounds coming from the room and many voices I did not recognize. Surprisingly, I heard my mother’s voice clearly explode from behind the door:

    “. . . I do believe in God, but I do not need to believe in you! . . . you are not doing anything . . . not afraid to disagree with the great doctor, well I believe my God will save him . . . we need something different! . . . you have no answers . . . now, all of you - get out of my house!”

    I quickly moved down the hallway expecting the door to burst open and see my mother pushing however many men there were in the study out the door.

    But instead, the door remained closed. I eventually crept closer to hear more. The men were taking turns talking, but I could not make out actual words. I needed to do extra homework to prepare for the field trip next week and I retreated to the kitchen to open my backpack and start with my letters and numbers exercise.

    Day 4
    I saw my father just before going to school, and when doing so my legs stopped moving and my eyes and mouth stood open. His looks changed so much I was scared for him and me. He tried to gather me up into his arms but he was too weak to even lift my feet off the floor, so he hugged me with is thinning arms. Clearly my father had been crying and his cheeks were sunken inward slightly. My father’s voice was raspy and unsteady like a car motor missing one of those spark plugs. I cannot remember what my father said before he fell to the ground in the kitchen, but my mother quickly went to lift him up and told me to get ready for school.

    When I left I heard my mother cry out and yell at my father, but I could not hear the exact words.

    Day 5
    My father was in the living room on the sofa sitting up when I came home from school. I had so many questions, but his eyes told me to be quiet and listen. My father’s voice was steadier today, but it was not much louder than a whisper.

    “Come here, son.”

    “Son, you know I love you don’t you?”

    I nodded and looked back to see if my mother had any facial cues to help me negotiate this tender moment; but she was not there.

    I asked, “where is mama?”

    My father said she left, but he hopes she would return soon.

    “You have been a good boy, and I am so proud of how you do your school work as soon as you get home; and how you are a good friend to our neighbor’s boys and the others in your class. And I know you say your prayers. You do pray to God, do you not?” He paused and I watched as his chest grew larger and then shrunk.

    “I do pray, Father.” My father was trying to smile between the coughs.

    “Are you going to die, Father? Tell me. You have not eaten in a week. Why are you not strong like you always have been? Why are you not spending any time with any of us and all you do is talk to the men doctors everyday? Why are you not . . .”

    “Hush, hush, you are too young today to understand. Go play with your brothers and sisters..”

    Day 6
    The doctor was walking toward our front door as I was leaving and looked down at me and said, “Your father has told me so many wonderful things about you.”

    “I don’t think I like you. My father cannot eat ever since you talked with him. You are not our regular doctor – you just had dinner with us a few weeks ago and then you came here everyday. And now my father is going to die. I hate you. What kind of doctor are you?”

    “Son, your father is a brave man. And you are a very brave boy. I am not your enemy. And I have not made your father sick. You see I work at the University, I’m a doctor of Global Relations Studies – not a medical doctor.”

    I ran into the neighborhood.

    Day 7
    The night before the “doctors” returned to our house and since my mother was still away I stayed late at my listening post in the shadows near the study. I could hear them praying and several times heard, “it won’t be much longer and than you will have peace.” My uncle came but he was not allowed into the house and through the doorway saw me and told me to go to bed. One of the doctors took him to a special store to bring back something for the family, but they had not returned before I fell asleep in the hallway.

    When I woke my father was in my bedroom with the doctor. He smiled when he saw I was awake and his eyes seemed very dark and lazy. He opened his mouth as if he was not sure what to say, but then the doctor knelt down beside me and started talking before my father found his words.

    “You will have a grand day at school today, won’t you, Emil? Today is the day your class has a field trip to the shopping mall, is it not?”

    I nodded.

    “Ah, yes. And I have made you a special lunch and placed it in your backpack.”

    I saw the books, crayons and folders that used to be in my backpack on the floor next to my bed.

    “But the lunch is very, very special, and because of that I have placed a small lock on the zipper so that you do not try to see what I have prepared for you until you are at the mall. It is a special lock and only the soldiers in the mall have the key to open it. You must be careful with this because I had to put your lunch in something very fragile – be careful that it does not break inside your backpack. Do you understand?”

    I nodded.

    “Also in your backpack is special surprise – a small cell phone. You would like that wouldn’t you?”

    I shrugged.

    “But to get to the cell phone and your lunch you must wait until you hear the phone ring. The first time it will only ring three times. And when you hear those three rings, no matter where you are in the mall, you must run as fast as you can because in just few seconds that special phone will ring again and when it does you must be near one of the soldiers in the mall. In fact, try to go where there are several soldiers together. And do not say anything. But just stand near them. When the phone rings a second time, they will know you are there.”

    My father started to cry and the doctor turned and said something to him.

    “Now hug your father and be off to school, Emil. You are a wonderful boy and your family will be thankful for you all their lives.”

    The doctor helped me on with my backpack and I hugged my father. He smelled and I wanted to leave right away, but he held me closer and whispered, “Goodbye, son.”
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Mello - My Present

    Yeah, so I definitely screwed up.

    Here I am, hightailing it across the country in a stolen vehicle at 8 A.M., the most important man in the world. That's me, Henry Barker, a military scientist, an overachiever in the eyes of my peers, a celebrated graduate of Harvard who receives several lovingly written greeting cards on holidays, an overrated fool. The guy who, just eighteen hours ago, made the career-ending mistake of turning the population of an Arizona army base into freshly-made, stone-dead corpses. The only guy who knows what happened, and what is about to happen.

    I don't know why I'm running away. It's impossible to run from a disease. Diseases always run faster. They run through handshakes, kisses, paper bills exchanged at checkout lanes, doorknobs, toilet seats, rivers, canals, plumbing . . . It's running through my veins, and I know it. About fifteen miles from the base I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the first purple splotches appear on my brow. I've been very careful not to touch anything, and not to let anything touch me. I've been very good about this, I think.

    For a scientist, I sure am stupid.

    They say Marie Curie died from radiation poisoning. Galileo blinded himself from staring at the sun too long. If there are ever history books again, I'll be in them; Henry Barker, the man who, one morning, practically inhaled his life's work—a deadly airborne virus designed for military applications. It would almost be funny, except for the punchline—everyone probably dies as a result of my mistake. OK, maybe that's a little extreme. Well, I haven't had enough time to think about it. Frankly, I'm just trying to enjoy life, as laughable as that sounds now.

    It was called Lot 52. It was also called a stroke of genius in chemical engineering by some, and the most nefariously deadly chemical weapon in existence by others. We were testing it in a closed chamber, which turned out not to be closed, obviously. It all happened so quietly. Nobody could even tell that anything was wrong until the first bodies started dropping. I should have tried to stop it, to do something, but I couldn't. I wasn't brave enough. I ran for it. Nobody yelled. Nobody stopped me. It was all so quiet. I'm lucky, in the worst way. I didn't die immediately.

    When I slammed through the doors leading out of the base and jumped in the nearest army vehicle, there was nothing but fear in my mind. Four hours later, I was cruising the interstate blindly with sore, red, tear-soaked eyes, looking half-insane, stomach tightening in an endless knot. Now, I'm simply staring blankly ahead, dazed, half-asleep, too tired to theorize, to rationalize or even contemplate my situation, to plead to God that I could be transported back to the morning.

    Yesterday morning, when I had only been worried about my daughter, Millie. Her birthday is in two days. My ex-wife doesn't want me to come, for various reasons. My daughter . . . the one regret I have is that I never cared for her like a father who loves his daughter should. I would tell that to someone too, if I could. More than anything, I just want to talk to someone.

    My hair is sticking to the sweat on my forehead. The blemishes are terribly noticeable on my already pasty skin, which is growing more pale by the hour. My throat feels like it's clogged up with mucus. When I inhale, it's like breathing through a straw. Every time I cough, I'm afraid I'll choke to death. I guess I finally know what it feels like, and even though it probably sounds dumb now, I can't believe I was going to use this on people. I guess it's no time for regrets, though. I've been . . . forcibly removed from every responsibility I've ever had.

    I lied when I said I'm no longer thinking about it. It's all I can think about. If what I think happened really happened, if that stuff somehow escapes from the base, I give the population about seven days. Two days until they notice. Four days until they respond. Six until they lose everything. And on the seventh, they rest.

    I pull over at a little gas station on the outskirts of the town of God Knows Where I Am, USA. Before I lose my courage, I park in the spot closest to the door, unbuckle my seatbelt with shaking hands, push the door of the army truck open and hop out. I leave the door open and walk inside the station.

    The well-lit aisles of the little store are desolate. Nobody's around but a lone clerk, standing behind the counter with glazed eyes, obviously transported by the Waylon Jennings song that crackles softly out of a speaker above the bathroom door. When that little bell rings after I open the door, he sniffs loudly and opens his eyes. When he sees me, his mouth opens and his eyes widen a bit. He thinks better of making an outburst and says, simply, “Well, don't you look like hell.”

    I coax my face muscles into a smile. “Yeah, I probably do.”

    “Well, what can I do for you?”

    “I'm Henry Barker. I'm not from these parts, and I'm a little shaken up, and I know how I look, but I'm not crazy,” I said, realizing that it probably just made me sound crazier. I stepped up to the counter, and stared into the face of the man that I had probably already murdered. Seven days, I thought.

    “Well Henry, whatever happened to you? Spit it out, son.”

    Seven days. Millie would be able to have her sixth birthday party. Maybe even before the first news story aired. Maybe all her friends would attend, and none of their parents would forbid them to go because they had heard some bug was going around. There would be games and guests and a big fat slab of chocolate cake for each one of them. I hoped it would be the best birthday party she'd ever had. I hoped to God that she wouldn't ever get my present.

    “Let me tell you a story,” I began.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    wonderxwhy - Terminal

    I always assumed it would echo. In the movies, that’s what happens. The doctor looks at you, reads out his standard death sentence, tries to express some semblance of fake sympathy; and then everything gets quiet. All you can hear is the last syllable of “I’m sorry” hiding and repeating in the back of your mind as it bounces off the walls around you.

    But that’s not how it happens. The way it happens is worse. Because there is no drama, no suspense, no echo. The hospital buzzes just as loudly as before. Nurses scatter, attendees bicker, machines hum methodically. You’ve just been handed a whole plateful of the incomprehensible, and are asked to “dig in” to something life shattering, but somehow the world keeps spinning. Somehow the days keep going, and people keep living. At least most people do.

    In a strange way though, I feel like this burden made me wiser. Like when you lose your hearing, your other four senses get stronger. Now I’ve lost my future, but I remember ever aspect of my past.

    I remember when I was five years old and taunting a bee with my water gun, not knowing I would soon regret it. I remember when I was seven and feeling incredibly accomplished after mastering “Heart and Soul” on my cheap, electric keyboard. I remember when I was twelve and I had my first life defining, gut wrenching, case of puppy love that went no-where. I remember when I was 16 and ran my mom’s car into a tree and when I was 20 and got to vote for the first time, knowing damn well it wouldn’t make any difference.

    And then I remembered that I would never live to see 21.

    I remembered I’d never get that chance to change the world like I wanted to. I’d never down a shot, I’d never go skydiving, I’d never visit Paris and scream from atop the Eifel tower. But most of all, I remembered I’d never be in love.

    And then I remembered him.

    The way he would rub my shoulders when he could tell I was stressed, the way he would smile at me when I wasn’t trying to be funny. I thought about the way he’d watch me as I fell asleep, and how I’d see him there with me when I’d wake up.

    I remember how much I wanted to love him, how much I wanted to need him, but how I always knew he would never be enough.

    Then I thought about how I was going to die in a week, and about all the weeks I wasted with him. I thought about how he must’ve felt when he woke up that morning without me. I thought about how he must’ve thought of me, after I ran away.

    I met him my freshman year of college. I was working at a coffee shop down the street. He’d walk in every day, 7 o’clock sharp, and order a plain coffee with one cream, no sugar. And then everyday, he’d smile at me; secretly, bashfully. But he’d never say a word besides his order.

    One day I ran into him at the book store. Literally ran into him- in a cliché, klutzy romantic comedy way. But I always knew deep down that this wasn’t love, and that it wouldn’t have a happy ending.

    Somehow, he got the courage to ask me out, but I wasn’t interested. Then he asked if we could be friends, which I readily agreed to. Over the next couple weeks we saw movies, went on walks, did homework together: nothing that indicated he wanted anything more. But then he asked me again. And again, I turned him down.

    And then, it became twice a week. Before my psychology class.

    “Sarah,” he would say, “Have a nice class. I like you, and I’d love to take you out sometime.”

    Usually I ignored it; I brushed it off with a smile or a joke. Or I just walked away. But one day I became particularly frustrated.

    “Look Bryan,” I snapped at him bitterly, “I don’t like you that way. And frankly, I’m tired as hell of you making me feel awful by professing your feelings. How can I even be friends with someone who constantly pushes me to feel guilty?”

    He became panicked, but answered softly, “No……. please. We can still be friends, I promise. I just…I really want this to work.”

    “But why?” I retorted, still frustrated with him “Why are you pushing this so much? Why are you so intensive on seeing this through?”

    And then he said something I’d never get a chance to forget.

    “Because I’m terminal,” he whispered. “I’m terminal and I don’t have a full life to live. Now I know this could be something and I need it to happen, because I’m going to beat myself over the head about it if it doesn’t. And because I may not get another chance.”

    All I could do was stare. Seven seconds of silence. And then I just walked out. I was shocked, and I was afraid. I didn’t understand how someone so pleasant and so full of life, could really be just a ticking clock.

    We dated for two years. My half of our relationship was a combination of pity for his circumstance and respect for his character. But nothing more. Feelings that I knew were friendship, I tried to magnify.

    And while we did have some good times together, I was never all in. I couldn’t be. Nothing about him particularly annoyed me, but nothing about him captivated me either. I would think of him in passing, but I never got the urge to doodle hearts with his name in them. He was there, he was secure, and he loved me. And I just didn’t know anything else.

    I was planning on leaving him a week before I did. Not because of what happened, although that’s probably how he perceived it; how I lead him to perceive it. I remember it was raining and snowing that entire month. So much so that I saw a tree branch break underneath the weight of it all.

    I wanted to leave because I had an opportunity. I finally got a chance to get out of Massachusetts: see the world, save the world. And I knew I had to take it. I knew I wouldn’t be coming back soon. And I definitely knew I wouldn’t be coming back to him.

    Every day I thought, “I’ll tell him tomorrow. I’m leaving tomorrow,” but I couldn’t. And then one day, he told me something that almost made me change my mind.

    “Sarah,” he started, “you know how I’m going to…….die, right?”

    He fiddled with his hands while awaiting my response. We didn’t talk about this much.

    “We’ve all have to go sometime,” I replied.

    His nerves didn’t seem to diminish. “Yeah, well, you remember me telling you…that my time is going to approach….faster than most?”

    I could only nod.

    “Well, I know now…how fast “faster” is. I have a year.”

    That night, I couldn’t sleep. I sat in the common room, watching the storm outside my window with a mug of hot chocolate heating my hands. I counted the seconds between each flash of lightning, like I used to do with my dad as a kid:

    1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

    1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

    1. 2. 3.

    1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8………

    Finally, I made my decision.

    I closed the curtain, laid out on the couch and stared at the ceiling for three hours. The time seemed to go so fast, now that I knew where I was going.

    And then I headed out the door. Just packed up, got in my beat up car, and left. All very stoically. Not one trace of emotion came across my face.

    I left the letter under his door, and then walked away as quickly as possible. I lied in that letter four times. Four. times. I was persuaded it was for the best. I was persuaded everything I was doing for the best.

    I realize now that it was the best. The best for me. In every way it was the best choice for me. I was getting out of a relationship held together by guilt. I was getting a chance to do what I’ve always wanted. Yes, it was right for me. But for him? I can’t even contemplate.

    In that letter, I told him that I loved him. I told him that I always would. I told him that I was leaving because I couldn’t bear the pain. I told him I was leaving because I’d rather have him die hating me, then leave this earth trying to carry me with him.

    And it was all lies. I left because I got an opportunity. I left because I got an offer, an internship, a chance for those dreams I’ve been waiting for to take center stage. I left him because I was selfish. Because I was immature and because I didn’t see another way. I left because, at that point, everything seems like life or death; so neglecting a situation that actually was, seemed like nothing.

    But that wasn’t the only reason. It never was that I was trying to mask the pain, or that I couldn’t handle the pain. It was because I didn’t feel the amount of pain I was supposed to feel. People say you aren’t “supposed” to feel anything. They say you just do.

    But I know better. I’ve sat silently at a funeral, the only one with dry eyes. I’ve been there, with my mother next to me, tears running down her cheeks, wondering what was wrong with me. Wondering why I wouldn’t mourn someone I was so close to.

    I didn’t want to be there again. I didn’t want to be back in that place where remorse is mistaken for attachment. And while I was remorseful about the up-and-coming death of such a great guy, the most significant emotion protruding my spirit was disappointment.

    Anyways, I seized my chance. I went everywhere: Ethiopia, Zambia, Mali, the Congo.

    And then I came back.

    And that’s how I ended up here. That’s how I ended up with a week to live.

    A rare infection. The doctor told me the name, but I couldn’t pronounce it.

    A rare infection, generally more common in the climates I traveled through.

    A rare infection that I brought upon myself. A golden opportunity that had turned my finger green.

    But I don’t even think it’s the disease that’s killing me anymore. What’s killing me now are the “maybes”. What if I hadn’t left? Maybe I would’ve had someone with me right now. Maybe I would’ve already lost him.

    Maybe if I would’ve stayed, I would’ve been fine. Not happy. Never happy. But fine.

    I just couldn’t live with fine.

    And now I’m not. I’m not living with anything.

    I’m terminal.

    Fate has a dark sense of irony. I don’t know if I believe in God. I don’t know if some higher power is punishing me. But I do know what its like to wake up in the morning with death staring down at you. Just like he did. The only difference is that he was living his life, and I’m cemented down to this hospital bed.

    It’s been about a year. I don’t know if he’s still alive, and if he is, I don’t know where he is now. I do know that I made the wrong decision. But I also know that none of my decisions, right or wrong, could’ve mattered that much; because I would’ve left eventually, and despite of the maybe’s, it all would’ve ended up the same.

    Maybe he’s down to a week now like I am. Maybe he’s in a hospital too, sitting back and remembering me.

    Because I always remember him.

    I remember how he changed my life, and I remember how he changed me. And I remember the nights I spent with him. The nights, like this one, where I sat alone. Wide awake. Remembering.

    So I looked out my window, gazing out at the pond and trees through the heavy rain fall. I counted the seconds between each flash of lightning.

  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Generation - The Man In The Green Suit

    I was never a gambler. Your Grandmother always used to warn me against it, but then again she said that smoking would kill me and she was way off the mark there. My first memory of gambling is when I was 6. Me and Matt Loader used to trick older boys into fighting each other by feeding them complete bull**** lies. I'd go off to one boy,for instance Gary, and tell him something like “Clarke said that you still suck on your Mum's boobs!” and Matt would go off and tell Clarke that Gary said he had a pin prick dick, which would have been the flavor of the month insult at the time. Anyway, word about the disses would spread around the school, little embellishments would be made to what was said and before you knew it Clarke and Gary would be going at it on the playing field trying their very hardest to take each other down. Unbeknown to them, me and Matt would have put wagers on the fight. Nothing major, just Pogz, marbles, maybe a Snes game if we were feeling daring. The boy we were backing to win would be the one we went to to tell what the other boy had said, and the trick was to make it as bad as possible so that they would get even angrier, and therefore make it more likely for them to win the fight. Eventually other kids got in on the scam and we had a nice little racket going on. Somewhat inevitably however, a case of 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' crept in and we were betrayed by those in on the scam. Word got back to Gary and Clarke and all the other knuckleheads about what we were doing. Once they found out, me, Matt and the others were battered to a pulp. After that I wasn't too keen to get back on the scene. In fact I made a mental note to avoid gambling altogether. That was before the man in the green suit made his offer.

    It was Glastonbury 2002 and I was 21. It was the first year they put up the super-fence to keep out the gatecrashers. So for that particular year you'll be saddened to hear, your father had to pay. It was the Saturday evening, Coldplay were headlining so naturally I was doing everything in my power to avoid the Pyramid Stage. That quest led me to the Craft Field. I was browsing through the blankets made out of mud and twigs when something strange caught my eye. I looked up to the Stone Circle high on the hill and right in the middle sat a caravan. Even more strangely, the people looking up to the Circle didn't seem to see it, nor did the people sitting around it. Since I wasn't on anything at that time, I naturally found this odd. I trekked to it to find out what the score was, avoiding the rubbish that people always seem to litter the sacred site with, and knocked on the door. A voice from within called me inside. I stepped in and saw a man unremarkable in appearance, apart from the tacky, green nylon suit he was wearing. I informed him that the campsite was back the other way, and gave him the name of a reputable tailor on Saville Row. He laughed heartily at this, said I was obviously a man who liked to have fun and asked me if I enjoyed games. Yeah I said, I like games. He then got out a £1 coin and said that if I correctly guessed what side it would land on, he would tell me anything I wanted to know about the future. How I laughed. Typical Glasto kook I thought, but I said I'd play his game anyway, if only just to humor him. I guessed heads, he flipped it with a flourish and then slapped it down with gusto on the back of his hand. Heads. Looks like you get a question he said. I searched my mind and decided that I wanted to know when Radiohead would be playing the Festival next year, and if they had remembered their guitars for the new album. He told me that yes indeed they would be playing, and that yes, there would be a bit more guitar on the album, though it might not be for the better. A good answer, but I wanted more. I said I would guess tails next time and alternate between the two options for the proceeding tosses. He flipped again and I got it right. Wanting to ask something a little more important, and to test how much he really knew, I asked him which of my friends would be snuff it first. “Matt will die at this very festival” This is the same Matt that I used to scam with back in the day, so this answer shocked me. Matt was camping with us at the festival, but there was nothing to suggest he would die anytime soon. “How do you know his name?” “I know a lot about you Jack”. He flipped before I could say anymore and I won again. “You will have your first and only child 3 months after his death” He flips, I'm right “Your Internet Investment company will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams” How does he know about that? Flip. I get it “But its a poisoned chalice, your family will be killed by a bomb explosion on a bus in a terrorist attack on July 7th, 2005” Toss “But you will rise from this and start up one of the worlds most successful charities, focusing on rehabilitation of terror attack survivors” Flip “In 2009, on the anniversary of your wife's death you will be killed when two cars collide whilst you're waiting for a bus” He smiles, tough break kid.

    Stunned by this, I politely told him to go **** himself and left. Obviously you can't take what these nutters say to heart, but I still kept a close eye on Matt for the rest of the festival. He was in top form and got through it unscathed. We left on a high. It was the first summer after we all finished University. Later on we set up our Internet Investment company for real, buoyed with fresh ideas and eager to take on the world we began our rise. We invested in fresh new ideas, always to great returns. We hadn't set the world on fire yet, but we were young and had cash in our pockets so understandably, we partied. Drugs, girls, music, we had it all. It was a fantastic year and I didn't once think of what the man in the green suit had told me. By the time Glastonbury rolled round the following year we were well up for it. The news that Radiohead would be headlining jolted my memory of the green suited man and made me smile. Maybe I'll see him again this year.

    So me, Mark and all the boys from work went to the festival in an old van we had bought. The festival was a storm. Radiohead pulled it out the bag and by the Sunday night we were ready to see the weekend off in style. Matt had 4 pills left but he said he'd only take 1. But then he got bored and ended up taking all 4. After a few, frenzied minutes he was left shaking in his tent. After a few more minutes he was out cold, and it was a few more until we realised and ran off to find paramedics. They pronounced him dead on the scene and I nearly vomited. I had to get out of there. I ran, tears streaming, with crowds gawking at me all the way to the Stone Circle to see if the caravan was there, but it wasn't. There have only been a few times in my life when I've felt that alone. I was numb for the next few weeks. I went to work, somehow managed to make good on investments despite not being fully there, then came home and thought about the man in the green suit. He said that 3 months after Matt's death I would have my first and only child, which turned out to be you.

    I thought back to the last 6 months and thought about the possibility of fatherhood. There had been girls sure, there had always been girls, but I'd always taken precautions, and when I hadn't I always assumed the girls in question had. Thank God, that on one occasion, this wasn't the case. I was in one of my melancholy moods. I was Sitting in my boxers eating cold baked beans from the can when the phone rang. I answered and it was Jenny. Jenny was a girl I used to have a thing with back before University when we were in Sixth Form together. It was only afterwards that we crossed paths again. She was doing PR for a company we had helped invest in. It had been a huge success, so naturally we partied. One thing led to another and before you knew it me and Jenny were back reliving the old days. Back in the present she asks how I'm doing. “****” I think to myself, but because I hate being pessimistic I tell her that I'm doing brilliantly. “That's great” She says. There's an awkward pause. “Really great, I knew you and Matt were close” This goes without saying, but I thank her for her sympathies anyway. There is another awkward pause. “I don't really know how to say this, but.... well.... I'm 8 months pregnant”. Flash forward another month and I'm holding you in my arms, proud as a father can be. You were a beautiful little girl, even then. We named you Mathilda (a fact I'm sure you're well aware of) after Matt. But even in the joy of that moment, there was doubt and fear eating me up inside. I knew what else the man in the green suit had said would happen to me. I was terrified of dying, and I was terrified of losing you. I would do anything I could to stop the inevitable. I had to look after you and your mother. We had been getting closer and closer leading up to your birth, and against all the odds we married and made it work. We had made a life for ourselves that we could be proud of. Things were going great, but fate had other plans.

    The business exploded. We were making more money than I could ever dream of spending. They were crazy days and as more money rolled in they got even crazier. I was going wild. I knew that the man in the green suit said that I would be successful beyond all my expectations, so I felt that I couldn't fail. I started investing company money into some of the stupidest **** you can think of, safe in the knowledge that I couldn't lose. I wagered a massive amount of money on the success of the Segway Scooter. Have you seen those things? A miracle of bad design, but I invested anyway and whaddaya know, got great returns. I would put money into falling stock in the morning, go off, play gold and screw around, then when I came back it would have skyrocketed and I would have made yet another fortune. Life was just a game. I burned money on a coke habit that would make even Sly Stone blush. Things went to my head, but I never forgot what the man in the green suit told me about your death. But I thought I had a plan. I forbade your mother from using public transport so she would never get on the bus that would kill her. I told her that we were above it now and wasted another pile of money getting a personal driver and custom Mercedes for you and her. She never stepped foot on a bus again.

    I didn't need a driver. I had a Ferrari and I knew that a crash could never kill me. When I drove the needle never dropped below 90. I would take every
    corner at full speed without even blinking. Some people would say that it was self-destruction fueled by empty bravado. I would have said it was life affirming, I never felt more alive than when I was laughing at death in the face. It's the same reason why I would snort lines of coke of Restaurant tables in full view of everyone. What the **** could those mere mortals do to stop me? One night I was gurning the engine at 110 around some country lanes and I rolled the car whilst taking a bend. They had to put me into a coma to make sure I survived. They said I was lucky to have any bones left.

    It was then that I learnt you can't beat fate. They put me in the BMA building in Tavistock Square. It was July the 7th and you were coming to see me. The Merc was behind a bus caught in traffic when the bomb on it exploded. Your mother and the driver didn't make it, but you somehow survived. I came out of the coma on October 2nd 2005. They told me Jenny was dead and I wept. You can't fight fate. Then they told me that you had survived without so much as a scratch and I knew then that I had to accept the future given to me by the man in the green suit. I recovered slowly, but after a few painful months I was ready to start my life's great work, with you still only 4 years old by my side. I channeled the remainder of my fortune into setting up a charity to help survivors of terrorist attacks. We funded plastic surgery, we paid for therapy and we helped to get people back on their feet. The charity expanded. We went into war zones and rehabilitated people, cleared land mines and distributed aid. It didn't feel like I was just reading the lines or going through the motions commanded of me by fate. This was something I had to do. And all the while, I thought about the man in the green suit.

    I reasoned that there must be behind something behind his magic. A power that held the world together, a power that went beyond nature. I knew then that I would see Jenny and Matt again. I wasn't afraid of dying anymore because I knew that my soul would transcend. I immersed myself in religion, and found a God. My life was based on principles of love, goodwill and tolerance. I saw beyond the corruption of the Church and realised that God exists in everything and everyone. For the first time in a long while, I was at peace. I was no longer afraid of the inevitability of the death, and neither should you be.

    It was June 2008 and I found myself at Glastonbury once again, not as a punter, but as an activist. You were there as well, you always loved the work we did. We were with the charity collecting signatures for a petition that would help close several arms factories. We had 25,000 signatures by Sunday. Buoyed by our success I went for a walk around the site, and lo and behold I found myself at the Stone Circle, where smack back in the middle was parked the same caravan I had seen there 7 years earlier. I walked straight up to it and entered. The man in the green suit was there, he hadn't aged a day. He beamed at me and offered me a cup of tea and a scone. I accepted and we talked. He thanked me for coming and apologised for the unfortunate circumstances of our last meeting. He said that sometimes fate can come askew, and that people like him had to intervene. I asked him what he meant and he told me that if I didn't meet him last time, then you would never had been born. He told me that you will go on to do very special things. I told him that I'm proud, but asked why Jenny and Matt had to die?. He said with a smile that “bodily existence is so very fleeting, you'll be seeing them soon enough” I told him that I already know this, and that I'm no longer afraid of dying. He says that he knows this too. We part and I can't help but think I'll be seeing him soon as well.

    Shortly after we managed to get those factories closed down, saving countless lives in the process. But time was short and I only had a few months left till my date with destiny. I started putting plans in place to ensure you were taken care of after I'm gone. I made a man named William Roberts your Godfather, he is one of the Presidents of the charity and a man I love and trust dearly. By the time you read this letter I know you will too.

    Today is July the 7th 2009. I just dropped you off at school and took extra care to pack your lunchbox with all the snacks you like. After all, it's a special day. I kissed you goodbye and you skipped away, lighting up the world with smiles as you went. I found myself a bus stop, and sat down at the bench. That's where I am now, writing this letter. When I put away this pen, and put the letter in my pocket I know that it will only be a matter of time until two cars collide and I get caught in the crossfire. But I'm not afraid. How could I be? When I know that there will be people who I love waiting for me on the other side. Remember that I always love you. I'll say it again when we next meet. So until then, live your life and be as great as you were born to be. Me? I'll just sit on this bench, think about the wonderful things you'll do, and wait.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Guerito - Bitten

    I met her last night in a bistro, a few blocks away from the main street. I am a regular there. The term "regular" seems to characterize my whole life at the age of forty-two. I am the balding owner of a small book store, left to me by my father together with the small apartment above the shop. I can make a living from selling books, but only barely; if I had to pay rent I would be starving. As it is, I can afford to dine in the bistro three or four times a week.

    She sat down at my table without even asking. When I looked up from my newspaper, I found her gazing at me. A slender face partly veiled by strands of black hair. A hint of a smile that didn't extend to her green eyes. Long fingers playing with a golden pendant. The air had become thicker somehow, and warmer, pressurized. "Bonsoir, Monsieur" she said. The pendant, a winged angel, kept swinging back and forth. "Bonsoir" was all I could manage. My memory of the following conversation is blurry. I think I told her a lot about myself; she seemed to be a good listener. Her name was Christine, that much I remember. One or two hours later, we bought a bottle of Bordeaux and went for a walk.

    It was in the small hours when we arrived at the book store. I took her up to the apartment. We sat in the kitchen, talking, sipping wine from old glasses. It felt as if I had known her for years. Then she got up, came around the table and bent down to me.

    It hurt only a little when she sank her teeth in my neck. Maybe there was an anaesthetic component in her saliva; I know there are vampire bats in Brazil that can drink from a cow without the animal noticing. There could have been other ingredients, too. The moment she bit me, it felt like something hot and massive had hit me. Liquid fire spread out from the wound to fill my whole body. I suppose this was what drug addicts call the "kick". The world changed. Lights became too bright to look at, while black shadows transformed into discernible shapes. Some of the shapes were moving, and breathing. Time itself turned into a tangible, oily liquid, oozing its way from past to future, making it difficult to establish a concept like the present.

    Noises changed, too. And smells. My senses awoke to the night. The distant murmur of traffic dissolved into a concert played by a thousand instruments. Closer, the heartbeat of a small rodent behind the wall. The floor boards creaked softly as the building moved ever so slightly in the mild breeze. A scent of bread and dough came from the baker shop, wafting through the night in layers, mixing with the tar of the streets, the gasoline, oil and cooling metal of parked cars, the heavy perfume and alcohol laden breath of a late prostitute walking home, the canalisation fumes rising from manhole covers, and a hundred other smells, combining to an exotic cocktail.

    And there was Christine, close, a pulse beating softly under warm skin, a scent of sweet nuts, musk and a thin film of sweat, moist lips and a smile promising pleasure. She touched me again, this time not for drinking.

    Afterwards, she whispered to me, "You will be dead in a week."

    Somehow, I was not surprised. Nor was I scared. Seven days, one day more than God needed to create the world. Seven days, in this state, seemed more than a lifetime.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Leaka - Ruptured Fall

    They say one week and then everyone begins to cry. Everyone begins to say, no not him, anything, but him. My father always asking is there something we can do, is there something I can do, what about surgery?
    It the kinda questions like those that haunt me most of my life. I was born ill, I have always been told a month, a year, and now a week. I don't buy it. Of course I have faced my fare share of deaths, every time my parents seek out a new professional, so that way they can preserve me or something. I am eventually going to die aren't I. Whether it be here and now with only living twenty years of my life or when I have lived sixty years of my life. I find it kinda ridiculous how all these people say, I have to accept the fact that I am going to die.
    Truth be told, every time you step out bed you have to accept the fact that you are going to die. Everyday you live you only really have one week to play the battle with the grim reaper. That isn't why I am so surprised about giving the diagnosis of one week. It's not me who has to accept, it's the people around me.

    For these twenty years of my life it was been in and out of hospitals, at home, then back at a hospital. Staring at white walls and watching people pass by your medical window as they are going to see the old man next door was common for me. A common sound and sight. I even get a bed beside a window, so I get a good look at the city. My door is always closing and opening usually my father, who checks up on me every ten minutes or so.
    The door opened, right on time dad, and I just stare at him. Trying to soak in that bristly beard and those blue eyes of his. His wizen features and wrinkly face. This may be the last goodbye he would ever be able to tell me, the last conversation. To you it just sounds sad, but to me it just sounds pathetic.
    “Well you have three days is there anything you would like?” he asked.
    What did he mean by that? Did he accept it or was he hiding something? My father was like that you could never tell his intentions.
    “Cold water,please,” I said.
    “Yes right away,”

    My father left in hurried rush for my water, it was if he had suddenly become my slave or something. These last past few days with the death sentence of week he has been coming in out asking me if there was anything I needed. I don't understand my father or maybe there was a time and point where I did understand him. But after mother died I guess dad is afraid of losing someone else, his last family member. That last member would be me. Dad doesn't want to be lonely, I cannot blame him no one wants to be lonely. The door opened again and my father just smiles with the glass of cold water.
    “The water my son,” he said, “Is there anything else?”
    “No thanks, let's talk dad,” I said I needed to say this or else he wouldn't accept my death properly.
    “All right, what do you want to talk about?” he asked.
    “You remember the old park you guys use to take me to, they are breaking it down and making it a mall,” I said, “When it's finished can I have pictures.”

    This was one sure way he would stay alive if I died. I didn't want him to live in such a lonely world where he got ride of his olden life. I wanted him to one hundred, so I needed to give him a goal to live. And taking pictures of a mall that should be built or be finished built in eleven or so years was one sure way to keep him alive. Father began his teary eye thing again, where he opened his mouth like a gaping fish, but said nothing.
    “Actually son I cannot give you pictures I....”
    “What going to die after I die?” I asked.
    “I...don't know how to tell you this, but um I rather...”
    “You rather what,”
    “Forg...I gotta use the restroom”
    “ 'Kay,” I said.
    Father left in tears like a girl or something. What was he trying to tell me? That he wanted to forget all about me when I died? That was fine with me if he forgot, it would be better if he forgot.

    Day 3, Destiny Day

    Well today my last day on this planet. I should be saying goodbye to the hospital, to the city, and to the world by now. Or maybe I should just close my eyes and feel my strength leave me. Then the door opened, it was probably my father. Instead it was a doctor. He smiled at me, but I didn't like what the smile hid behind it.
    “I hate to tell you this, but I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding that you got,” the doctor said.
    “And what could the misunderstanding be?” I asked.
    What could I misunderstand? I was going to die, leave this world, all that mumbo jumbo.

    “You don't have a week to live...that diagnosis was for your father,” the doctor said.
    “What?” I said, “You led me to believe that I was...and my father?”
    “He is dead...he died last night when the clock struck midnight,” the doctor said, “I didn't think about it until now, when I read in your father's journal and say that you may have the wrong idea now looking at your reaction once again...I'm going to leave you now and you call when you are ready for someone to bring you down so you can see your father.”
    And here I thought I was suppose to accept my own one week sentence, but it was my father. The reason he came in and out of my room was because he was accepting his own death not mine. I didn't know what to call this feeling I had in the pit of my stomach numbness, shock, or nausea. Maybe even all three plagued me.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Wreybies - 160

    The system continued to ignore me. It was over-tasked with the reploting of stars that no longer answered to any of its internal charts. Either the data was corrupted or the universe was corrupted.


    My finger hovered over the enter key yet again. I had programmed a purge routine which would clear the core memory. The system would run faster and use less energy without continually trying to reference charts that were meaningless. I had written that program on the second day after I awoke and had let my finger hover over the enter key for more times than I could count.


    The charts were useless. They served me no purpose. They would not lead me home. I pressed the enter key and a cold sweat broke painfully on my back.

    Truly lost.

    The cabin dimmed momentarily. The screen refreshed with an anticlimactic lack of sound, but was asking for a prompt. This was more than it had done in the three days since I was wakened from hibernation. I began to query.

    Gravitational distortions?

    Yes. (no big deal)

    Hull integrity?

    Optimal (good, good)


    Unstable. (s**t!)

    Cold sweat broke anew from every inch of available skin. Unstable. Not good. Not good at all.

    Life support?

    Minimal. (mother****!)

    There was no chair to lean into. There was nowhere to prop my elbow that I might cup my forehead in my hand. There was no gravity to hold me decently to the floor that I might sob and let this panic leach from my body. Only in science fiction do space ships have chairs, tables, beds, large open spaces and magic gravity. The real economics of space travel do not permit for any of that.

    Life support duration at present consumption?

    160 hours.

    I began to laugh at what looked like my system’s poor attempt at comedy. The core purge must have screwed with the internal clock. I checked it against the external chronometer. They matched.

    The giggling would not stop. It started to well up from hidden pockets and strange places. I glanced again at the internal clock and scanned over to the date which was obviously, absurdly wrong. Again I checked it against the external chronometer and again they matched. My laughter became a small moment of insanity and there was a sense of blissful relief in the idea that I might just go mad before I died and be spared the reality of suffocating to death in this tin can.

    142 hours of life support remaining

    I made a list of everything which could be powered down. The list was short. In a small intersystem ship there is very little that is not required. The only lighting within the tiny cabin now came from the system panels and indicator lights. It was as if I floated free in space and the stars were red, blue, green, and white. The system screen was like a square, pale moon.

    The cabin was beginning to smell.

    120 hours of life support remaining

    I cold not return myself to hibernation. The process was complicated, lengthy, and not something with which I was at all familiar even if I had had the resources or the facilities. The system was designed to autothaw only one of us prior to planetary approach so that the ship could be retrieved with the help of an onboard pilot. Jenson and Marks remained in hibernation and I envied them their sleep. By a stroke of good fortune, the hibernation system was not within my power to disconnect or deactivate in order to save more power. I would never have to know if I was capable of murder to extend my own life. For this small blessing, I was thankful.

    97 hours of life support remaining

    I had never married. I had loved and been loved, but never committed to anyone in an official manner. The faces of past lovers floated through my mind, both women and men. I had never been picky in that respect. Flashes of beautiful women of all colors with silken hair and breasts both round and high. Strongly muscled men wrestled playfully with me under the sheets as we laughed like boys and kissed like men.

    I had never had children, but never really regretted not being a father. I had been a beloved son and a favored uncle. I had magically produced candies for my nieces and nephews from pockets that seemed to have no bottom.

    I had been a good son. My parents were well cared for and lived in ease on Earth on a small ranch outside of Louisville. My mother was a plump woman who was generous with the baked goods in which she took so much pride. My father was a gentle man with a kind face. They had both been active in assuring that my interests were catered to and that I should feel special and smart and that whatever I wanted was within my reach if I just tried. I loved them dearly and had been perplexed at the angst my childhood friends showed to their families.

    70 hours of life support remaining

    Magnetic Anomaly Detected.

    The pale glow of the system screen was suddenly eclipsed by a blinding light through the small port. At this point I was quite unsure If I had actually seen the flash of light or not. So much of my perception had been internalized as I reflected on my past and masturbated to memories made more vivid by the lack of external input. I floated myself over to the system screen and ran a new scan at precious cost to the power remaining.

    Magnetic Anomaly Detected.

    I looked out of the port and saw nothing. I continued to look and noticed that there was a large area of too much nothing. An area of complete blackness moved slowly aft of the ship and then was gone from my view.

    There was a metallic clang against the ship aft of the hibernation section. The clang became a soft scraping up the flank of the ship, behind the navigation console, behind the the system screen, up the forward section of the ship. I shoved my face into the port again to see if the patch of blackness would reappear. The void creeped from the right side of the viewport and soon blotted out every star. The beam of light again blasted into the port with a tactile, physical presence. It was the last thing I remembered.

    * * *

    There was gravity. It felt like more than one G, but after so long in free fall, there really was no way to compare. I was pressed against the bulkhead near the forward section of the compartment, stiff and uncomfortable, but not in any real pain. The air was stifling and stale and stunk of my own urine. I managed to get myself up to the port which my newly revived sense of balance reported to me was now facing down.


    Outer space can be many colors other than black, but rarely is it brown. I hunkered down in order to get the best view possible given the port’s strange position and could just make out the faint line line that marked where a brown wall met a darker brown floor. I was inside of a room.

    Life support remaining at present consumption?

    45 hours. (unconscious for more than a day)

    Exterior pressure?

    18 psi. (pressure!)

    There was pressure out there! I pressed my face to the port again just in time to see something leave the field of view. I pulled back instinctively. I lowered my head in order to get another look without actually putting my face to the thick glass. Shadows of movement from something that was just outside the field of view.

    And then, a foot.

    A large, round, elephantine foot wearing what was, except for the bizarre shape, obviously a boot. White upper with a sole almost the same color as the floor outside of the port window. The foot lifted out of view again and I caught a glimpse of it’s tread. Yes, a boot, looking very much what a boot would look like if elephants were capable of making them.

    Now, two feet and... a hand? A gloved hand. The three middle fingers were knuckles to the floor with the same tread as the boots. The outer two fingers were held off the floor with no treads. The hand was twice, maybe three times the size of my own, gloved in pristine white fabric which proved to be very elastic as the fingers splayed widely. I watched as the hand lifted and it gave the incongenerous impression of delicacy as large as it was.

    I brought my face closer and the hand dropped again into view, then another hand.

    Then a masked face.

    We both drew back at the same instant, obviously each surprised and shocked. What a face! From what I could I see in the instant we were face to face and from behind the mask it was wearing, it looked like a cross between a horse and a gorilla. Long, long lashes around dark horse eyes. I was hyperventilating. I ducked my head slowly down again.

    Large liquid eyes framed by heavy lashes and a white mask that looked medical in nature. One hand still knuckled the floor but the other was gesturing in an all to human manner. Long fingers slowly curled and uncurled in an unmistakable beckoning to come closer. The large eyes blinked slowly and it was clear that the creature was behaving in a manner not to induce fear. Every gesture was slow and deliberate, smooth and calm.

    Three deep breaths and I brought my face to the glass again.

    It stopped waving me closer and ever so slowly turned its hand around to show me its palm, fingers splayed wide. I began to cry for reasons I would not parse out until much later. It was saying hello and my heart was breaking at this simple, very human gesture.

    Here is my hand. See? It is empty. I mean you no harm.

    A part of me that had never had a voice, never had reason to speak until now came to the front of my consciousness and took control. I placed my hand, open and wide upon the port glass to show that I too was without weapon. I too meant no harm.

    The creature blinked more quickly in obvious recognition that communication had just taken place. Moments later it lifted up and walked away.

    19 hours of life support remaining.

    Less than a day left. Much to my surprise, I was not panicking. The bizarre face had left me with a sense of reassurance. I played the scene over and over in my mind. The creature was large, much larger than I. Most of it had been out of view, but from the size of the feet, hands, and face, it had to be big.

    Tap, tap, tap.

    It took me a moment to realize that I had actually heard the sound of tapping. I went over to the port and saw the large white gloved hand. It moved out of view and then the feet and hands were back again where they had been during our last and only communique.

    One hand lifted and pointed one of the large middle fingers at me and then both hands came together, side by side, palms down, and then separated one from the other until they were facing palm to palm about a foot apart. The creature repeated the two gestures over and over again. The meaning was childishly clear.

    You. Open.

    You open up.

    You open up the ship.

    I need you to open up the ship.

    I tapped the glass and the creature stopped making the gesture, its eyes intent on me. I pointed at myself slowly, and mimicked the same gesture of opening. The creature made a quick gesture, tapping the ground several times with its knuckles. It blinked very quickly. Its excitement was clear.


    I tapped the glass again until I had its attention. I could see that its body still swayed with excitement. I pointed at myself and then breathed in and out against the glass. I prayed that it understood my concern for breathing an atmosphere that would not be lethal.

    It quickly moved away from my view and then returned holding a very ordinary, if large, piece of what looked like glossy paper. The figures drawn on the sheet were meaningless. It pulled the paper away from my view and looked in at me waiting for a response.

    There was nothing I could do. There was no gesture I could think of that would be a clear indicator that I had understood nothing on the sheet. Up until now, the small amount of communication had been the mimicking of actual physical movements. A nod of agreement or a headshake of negation was arbitrary and not even universal among humans. I decided to do nothing, hoping that the creature would take a lack of response as a lack of comprehension.

    The creature tapped the floor twice with one set of knuckles and quickly departed. Just as quickly it returned with a blank sheet and a kind of long stylus. It drew two slightly overlapping circles. Then, very deliberately, it slowly drew a line away from the two circles. At the other end of the line it drew three overlapping circles and then filled in the center circle connecting the other two.

    Two into three.

    Two of the same into two of the same with one different.

    Sweet Jesus! I thought to myself. Two joined oxygen atoms converted into two oxygen and one carbon. O2 into CO2. Aerobic respiration. It understood what I needed. I had no idea how it knew, but it knew what I needed to breathe.

    I mimicked the same bouncy tap gesture with my knuckles to the floor that I had seen it preform when it was exited. The creature did the same dance in return with renewed exuberance. It even added a small spin and something that looked like a gargantuan somersault.

    Tears flowed freely from eyes and I began to sob.


    There was no mistaking that the creature was expressing joy. Only joy could bring about the kind of motion which would take attention away from self preservation in order to indulge in the inner beauty of dancing. Laughter started to filter through my tears and I felt lightheaded. It wanted to help me. It mattered to it that I understood and it was overjoyed that I had.

    I tapped the glass to get its attention. It put its face much closer this time and I was slightly startled. I pointed a finger at it and then pointed away. I hoped it understood that I meant for it to move away from the ship. The emergency egress would open via explosive bolts. The hatch would fly away and I did not want it to be injured. I repeated the gesture and the creature tapped the floor twice. I watched it move away to the other end of the room in the very direction I had pointed. I turned to the system screen and typed in the order for emergency egress. A ten second countdown displayed on the screen. I put my hands over my ears.

    The explosive bolts fired less dramatically then I had expected. The hatch flew away and landed outside of my view. The air in the compartment suddenly became easier to breathe and the stench of urine and of my own unwashed body dissipated and was replaced by an organic but not unpleasant smell.

    It smelled like a forest would smell after a heavy rain.

    It felt like an eternity passed as I waited for courage to fill me. The creature outside of the ship had given me every reason to believe that it only meant to help me, yet still fear of the unknown made my feet into lead. With a dizziness that threatened to drop me, I stuck my head out of the now open hatch.

    The creature beckoned me out with the same gesture it had used in our fist communication. It waited patiently as I managed to squirm out of the small hatch and drop to the floor outside.

    It took a few slow steps towards me. I pressed my back against the ship in fear. It stopped moving and waited for me to show some sign of calm. I willed myself away from the ship and made disobedient feet move in the direction of the creature.

    It seemed an eternity when we finally met in the middle of the room. It extended one large hand toward me, palm facing out, fingers spread and waiting for me to come closer.

    I took the last few steps between us and watched my hand come up, as if it belonged to someone else, and touch that huge palm.

    Two beings, a universe apart, coming together in an act of compasion and true humanity. I thought of my mother and father back on earth and what they would think of this moment, and I was sure that they would care more that I showed good manners to this very human non-human for the act of kindness it had paid me.

    “Thank you. You have saved me.”
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    yellowm&M - Melting Autumn

    I draw in a deep breath, the cold air rushing down my throat. Its smell is intoxicating. I draw in another, focusing on the aroma which is a mixture of coffee, dry leaves, cinnamon, warm apple cider, and that indescribable scent of autumn. I close my eyes and bury my face in my soft, orange scarf, letting my senses focus solely on the smell hovering around me in the air. A slight breeze drifts around the park, bringing more of the cold air with it. I shove my hands deeper into the pockets of my coat to keep them warm, and open my eyes again. However, despite the cold, the day is nothing short of glorious. The trees have burst into brilliant color, their fallen leaves creating a vivid carpet of fiery red, burnt orange, golden yellow and warm brown. The leaves crunch dryly under the feet of children rushing home after school, adults going about their various business, tall cups of coffee and phones in hand, and me. Everything about the familiar scene whispers autumn.

    I breathe in more of the delicious autumn air, savoring the warmth, comfort, and familiarity of the smell. All my life I have loved autumn. I love the smells and the sounds, the colors and the feel. I love the way the cold air brings me alive, biting into me with gentle caresses. I love nature showering us in all its splendid glory. I have been in love in autumn, and I have always been in love with autumn. To me autumn is magical. I guess in a way it is poetic that I should die in autumn. I guess it is poetic that I will die in the time I feel most alive.

    I smile wryly too myself. One week, that’s all I have. One more week of life, of autumn. I suppose I should be wallowing in self-pity, or spending all my remaining time with my family, or at the very least talking with the doctor, trying to find a way to halt the disease spreading through my veins. But I’m not doing any of that, I’m just walking around this park by myself.

    When the doctor told me I had a month left I did spend all my time with my family. But now, in my last week, of my last month I want to be alone. There is nothing left unsaid that I haven’t told to them. There are no goodbyes left; I’ve already said them all. If I stay with them now, it will just hurt them and me more. They beg me to go to the doctor and let him buy me time. He also tells me that it’s not too late; he might still be able to string my life out a little more. I smile and shake my head, because deep down inside of me, I know I can’t be helped, no matter how advanced the treatment is, or how many people it has saved. My number is up. It’s simply my time to die. And I’m ready.

    I am finally ready to truly say goodbye to my children and grandchildren, and I have been ready for years to be reunited with my beloved husband. He always was and always will be part of the magic of autumn. I met him in autumn, I married him in autumn, and I lost him in autumn more than six long years ago. But that autumn wasn’t really autumn...it was winter.

    I stop for a second, tears stinging my eyes. Even after all these years it’s just as painful. I’ve never been quite the same without him, even if I know how to be happy while I wait to be with him again. I breathe in deeply once more, letting the fragrant air numb my pain. I focus completely on my breathing, regaining control. In. Out. In. Out. I start walking again and as I walk I begin to watch the people around me, caught up in their lives. Two young lovers holding hands, a group of teenagers tossing a football, a little child clutching his mother’s arm, and an old couple walking down the street, still looking as tenderly at each other as the young couple. I see a woman walking her dog, a husband with his arm around his pregnant wife, two college students chatting about school. I see the birds flying south, squirrels gathering their food for winter. I see life, and I see love. I see autumn, autumn as it should be. One of the most wonderful autumns I have ever seen.

    A small smile curves my lips. In one week my face will vanish from the crowd, unnoticed, simply melting away to another place in the arms of the one I love. In one week I will melt away until I am merely a memory brought about in autumn. Years from now my children will see the vibrant autumn leaves, and remember me and how much I love autumn, and how much I love them. All my life I have loved autumn. How poetic, and right, that I should die in autumn.
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Enki - A Great Calamity

    May 11, 2020 Day 1: The Beginining
    I don't know if I consciously climbing up the large hill or unconscious, I don't even know where I am anymore, I can't even remember my name nor the time or day it is, just trying to stay alive as much as possible, in the rain dredged forest the rain hits violently onto my white pale face making my eyes blurry, making them twice as hard to maneuver in, dark clouds thunder over me, quickening my pace to the never ending journey , is it all a dream, please let it be all a dream, let some one call my name, wake me up, suddenly the Images that I see are becoming distorted, all I hear is thunder, and a heavy smell of gas. I look down there u see a wreckage of a plane split in two, and over heated blazing fire enveloping over it. I cry out to my loses, all I lost….., “Jamie!, Jamie!, Jamie!”, but as I cry out the name with a uncontrollable sadness, and fear, I hear other voices calling my name, there trying to attain my attention, “Rick!, WAKE UP RICK!, WAKE UP!”, suddenly the thunder gets louder, then I realized I that what I’m dreaming is not real, but the enactment of my emotions. Then a sensation of awareness comes back to me as I open my eyes, everything is blurry I can’t see, I’m too tired to open my eyes, the light is painful. I start to see 2 woman stand over me trying to wake me up in a haste, both of there faces are covered in ashes and dirt; I see blood dripping down the girl on the rights face. She looks quit frightened. Some how she looks familiar and her name comes to me, Helen, as I wake I’m covered in pain from top to bottom as if I fell down 3 flights of stairs. I feel like I can scream at the top of my lungs! I wish the thunder was still sudden, but that was not real, I hear much graver noises, more monstrous noises coming from the top of my head where I saw that Helen looking up into at the grey cracked cement ceiling, the other girl on the left was adverting her eyes at me, “I thought you were dead” she said in a calm voice, with tears running down her eyes, she was crying, “ I thought you left us”, Helen was still watching the ceiling as ashes of dust fell from in between the cracks on to my face.
    But the monstrous noises were the least of my worries even though it was frightening to hear, of course I was more curious of why every one was running in the same direction, and us all happening to be in a sewer tunnel for no apparent reason, but why was I on the ground and covered in pain and the two girls covered in dirt. Everyone was screaming, Helen quickly looked down at me and said we had to, go in haste. The girl on the left of me name Diane leaped up in a grasp of breath looking in the direction everyone was running from, as the noises above her roared with rumbles of large foot steps, and gun fire. I slowly got up as fast as I could with the help of both the girls. Diane broke out with a alertness, “ we have to go Helen!, everyone leaving us!, people trampling over one another, falling on there stomachs, suddenly every thing came back to me, my name, the day, the girls names, my memories,, why we were in the sewer, and why I was in pain, everything with a flash came back as I lifted myself trying to stand on two legs, then I realized we were not in the a sewer, we were in a under ground train tunnel, running from a monstrous creature. “ they must of smelled our scent on the way down here!” I Said, “There scouts, Run”. We broke out running along with everyone else; my pains subsided after awhile of forgetting. “Come on Helen!” everyone was screaming in fear. The shadows were drawing closer. The noises above distracted us, with all the gun firing and the roaring. Suddenly a bad fall cam over Helen, I almost lost my stance also. Helen sprained her bony ankle I guess from the heels she was wearing when we all were at a party when all this happened so sudden; I had my suit on, now its ruin. The sign of Helens ankle injured was not a good sign at all, it meant slowing down and already the fleeing crowd was some distance away, so I told Diane to go ahead of us and make it to the end of the tunnel and wait there while I get Helen out of here. Diane was hesitant of going but I made it so that she was comfortable even though deep in side she was not. Me being alert, I grabbed Helens arm to left her up, she cry in agony, she was so tired, “I can’t….,she cried, a great calamity befell over her, I can’t…I‘m tired, “come on Helen get up, or were gonna die! In here, and I sure as hell don’t want to die in a train tunnel! Here why don’t you get on my back and ill carry you out of here”? She was climbed on his back and they hasted out toward a distant light, and the sound of Diane faint voice calling there names. Helen pointed her camera she had in her small pouch and aimed it down the tunnel, and saw 3 unusual grayish figures climbing the walls after them. She could not explain it she just called out to me, “Rick RUN, faster!!” Helen screams made the pursuing creatures roar, I got spooked especially when some one is running after me. “Put the light on it!” last time I checked these bastards where photo sensitive to light, they only functioned and operated well at night. The light managed to refrain the creature from advancing forward; giving us time to get distance toward Diane, noises from the outside became clearer. There we made it out of the tunnel, nearly killed, but those creatures, trust me, a up front confrontation with one of those things is a serious dealing with a death penalty, its already been tried, no good out come, came out of it. “Boy” we were happy to see Diane. I let Helen down, her whole ankle was numb. She seeks medical attention, but when we got out of the tunnel, we were back outside in the city, which we were hiding from until dawn, but that didn’t happen. An a onrush of fear came over me as I saw the devastation done to the city, and all its Structures abroad, all I saw was fire, and cars smashed, twist and split in two, ash falling from the sky, buildings leaning against one another, smoke arising, almost no one in site, accept a few stragglers, including us, and a pitch black night sky with the moon covered in smoke. I was truly afraid for my life and most of all Helen and Diane which were the only ones left far back when we had 4 other friends, when they were alive, but there dead now. I totally broke down, prancing around, thinking of how were gonna get out of the city alive, and crying at that. Because everyone I love was lost, including my girlfriend soon to be wife, Jamie. “Were not gonna make it out of this aren’t we, Rick?” she stared at him; he said nothing distracted on fear and alertness. Then he said, “I don’t know” “what’s that noise!?” Helen said as she turned toward the skies. Then a ray of light glided past our vicinity, colliding in to the large creature about 2 kilometers away from us, we covered our ears from the blast, I like said gods name in vain dozens of times. The beast roared, two jet fighters flew over us toward the roaring monster, then the military troops and tanks were firing at it from afar as the troops advanced toward it boldly, we ran the opposite direction away. Later we were told to reach Libyan Harbor, for extraction, but It was to late the city was doomed we were domed, everyone was dead. It’s our last day of extraction on the 5th day.

    Day 2:May 12, 2020 Inter-changing Game
    Day 3:May 13, 2020 Dark Silence
    Day 4:May 14, 2020 Lost Rebellion

    May 15, 2020 Day 5: End of Days
    Oh my god, I find my self, about to faint, out of fear of what’s next after we stop struggling to barricade the doors inside a tremendously large animal zoo. Blockading it from those creatures outside, I’m amazed we lasted the last day of extraction, but is to late any ways, communications were lost in the 3 day, simply the guns and rockets and helicopters stopped, the city completely went black, that’s when we lost Helen to one of those creatures, I almost lost my arm except I lost my pinky finger. Only I and Diane were still alive, after all she was only 16 years old, she was the sister of Helen, she did not take the death of her sister well, and she almost gave up until I pulled her through, but look at us we didn’t make it any where but inside a animal zoo, where earlier we found 3 other survivors hiding out, but they left for extraction. We have been struggling to keep these creatures out since yesterday, were getting extremely tired without any rest, the creatures just keeps violently slamming into the door. I think were gonna die soon, were truly not gonna make it out of here alive. I was the only one holding the door against the foes, while Diane was sleeping.
    2 hours later, I was beginning to fall into a deep sleep. But what woke me up was that I heard aloud bang in the far rooms behind us, it woke Diane up from her sleep, in the corner, and we knew that was not good. The banging noises eradicated a barrier entrance through the zoo. Diane moved back toward me looking straight across in front of her, I said on a count of three we will run toward the end of the hall into the vegetation center, !, 2..Run!. We bolted toward the corner leading to the hallway, the barricade burst open leading those creatures inside, we ran to our death. In front of us it looked clear, until we got to the end, a door burst open knocking me down, and intercepting Diane on a different path as a incoming creatures leaped from the side view of her, she acted quickly reaching a open door and shutting it with her inside. But fore me it was bad, it got me all three of them were trying to eat me, I struggled violently back and forth trying to get free, but all I can see is bloody hands, and the sharp razor teeth that engulfed there mouth plowing into me one by one, I screamed and screamed, screaming Diane’s name over and over as she sat in the darkness, covering her ears from all the sounds of agony and pain. All I saw was two small black eyes and its curvy fingers; after all it walked on all four. I had managed to kick them off of me, and I slide to an empty room leaving a trail of blood behind. Suddenly my screaming stopped. I had barricaded my self into a room like Diane did. Diane called out to me, “Rick, Rick! Are you okay?”, “yeah it’s gonna be ok, just stay in that room and don’t come out until some one finds you”, “I’m so scared Rick were gonna die” she said in a sad way as she cried out. I had realized that I was not okay, I had lost a lot of blood, and I knew I was going to die in this room, but I would be leaving Diane all by herself. Told Diane, “Diane, I’m not doing so good okay?”, Diane was very worried about me, “ Rick what are you saying, are you ok?, what’s wrong?”, “ I’m hurt very bad Diane…..I’m not gonna make it”, “Rick don’t say that, were gonna make it out of here right?”, “ they got me good, you go ahead and try and get as far as you can, ok?”, the banging on my door begin again because they can smell my blood. “Rick, don’t leave me here, don’t leave me here”, she cried out, she was shaking. “Diane, the creature have a hard time in daylight you can get away, I know you can, get to harbor, you have to go with out me”, I felt my self slipping into a sudden blackness, my body was getting numb, I was swaying forward into my lap. “What about that big creature outside? Rick! Rick! Rick!” she never saw him again, she was never heard of again, but most of the western world was in complete disarray. The western world is now known as the place of Forgetfulness. The Age of the Gigantis, has begun.
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    TheIllustratedMan - Coming to Terms

    They gave me a gun, a manila folder, and a week.
    "One life for another," the green-suited man had said to me. Our meeting occurred in the alley behind my favorite haunt; me lying in a puddle of my own blood and urine, him standing over me calmly. "You have a week," he said as he tossed a canvas bag into my lap.
    I stumbled home that night, dazed, kicking myself for ever going to that damned club. When I entered my apartment, I tossed the bag into the armchair that I use for storage, and went to take a shower. As the hot water ran over my bruised body, my mind foggily recounted the evening.

    Payday. I cashed my check at the local supermarket, flashing my member card and receiving cash from the clerk. Still wearing my blue work shirt, I headed on over to Wolaver's. The building was unimpressive; a small sign above the door announcing that it was "Wolaver's Tavern", a typical bouncer sitting on a stool by the door.
    The bouncer grunted at me as I entered. The bar was to the right, full for a Friday. The bartender raced back and forth between patrons, filling glasses with brightly colored liquids. The left side of the room was filled with tall round tables, most of which were occupied. A band played on a small stage at the front, and a few people shot pool at a table near the back.
    I made my way through the crowd, passing another bouncer, and exited the back door onto a patio surrounded by a privacy fence. A quick right brought me to a windowed door, where I knocked rhythmically. The curtain behind the window pulled back, I caught a glimpse of a face inside, and the curtain fell back as the door swung open.
    Smoke filled my nostrils as I stepped into the room, and the door closed behind me. Tables of all kinds occupied the room, most of which I ignored as I made a beeline for the wall opposite me, and the craps table there. I pressed myself against the rail, and dropped most of my cash on the table.
    As I scooped up my chips and arranged them in the trays on the rail, a woman came to me. "Can I get you anything?" she asked. In the dim light she looked young, but I knew that it was partially due to the heavy makeup she wore. Her body was nice though, which is probably what allowed her to keep her job. I ordered dark rum on the rocks, and turned my attention back to the table as she slinked away.
    The next hour I spent rolling dice, placing bets, raking in chips. For a while, I was up. Then my luck turned. My stack melted away. I should have stopped there. I should have walked away. Too bad I didn't.
    I borrowed from the house. They floated me five hundred bucks. I was a regular; I figured they knew I was good for it. I thought I would win it back, pay the debt, and walk out with some profit. I was horribly mistaken. My last ten was on the table when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
    I turned to find Godzilla standing behind me. The man was at least seven feet tall, three hundred pounds of muscle, with a face only a mother could love. Before I could open my mouth, his fist was in it. I spat blood without a thought, most of it landing on his face. He wiped it off with he left hand as he pounded my head with his right. Next thing, I was sitting in the alley doing business with the man in the green suit.

    After my shower, I went right to bed. All day Saturday I kept shooting glances at the bag, but never opened it. Normally I would have headed off to Wolaver's on a Saturday night, but I couldn't, so I fell asleep on the couch watching old episodes of "Hogan's Heroes". The jokes weren't funny.
    Sunday was church. I sat in the pew as the pastor talked about sin, my mind still flowing over Friday night's events. I exchanged the typical pleasantries with the few people in the congregation who I actually knew, and went back home.
    The bag was still waiting for me in the chair where I'd left it. I flipped channels for a while, watched part of an old movie, glanced at the bag. It was just an old canvas backpack. Grey. It could have held anything. "One life for another," the man had said.
    I decided that there was nothing on TV. I decided that I was curious about the bag. I decided that I would check it out. I grabbed the thing out of the chair and brought it to the couch. I prayed that I wasn't holding a bomb. I unzipped the bag.
    Inside were the gun and the manila folder. The gun was some sort of pistol, clean and oily. The manila envelope was blank except for a name handwritten on the tab: Black, Ashley.
    I fished the gun out first. I held it carefully, turning it over in my hands as I examined it. I knew nothing about guns, had never even fired one. This one looked like I imagined a pistol would look like. It had a clip, a silencer, and there was a safety catch by the trigger. The safety was on, which made me feel a bit better; the thing wasn't just going to go off in my hands. I set it on my coffee table and turned back to the bag.
    The folder was next. Sliding it out, I dropped the bag on the floor and placed the folder in my lap. I noted the name on the tab and thumbed it open. Inside were a photograph and a sheet of paper. The photograph drew my eye first. It showed a young girl, about six, laughing as she ran toward a swing set, obviously on a playground. My thoughts turned dark, but I held my judgment until I had read the paper.
    The typewritten sheet contained very little information, but what it did have made my blood run cold:

    Name: Black, Ashley Rose
    DOB: 04/06/02
    Father: Black, Robert Timothy
    Mother: Black (Steiner), Mary Leigh
    School: St. Francis School for Girls
    To be eliminated by 01/16/09

    I'll be candid here: I dropped the sheet and cried. I bawled like a baby, there on my couch with a gun intended for a little girl. I cried myself to exhaustion, and slept on the couch for a second night.

    I awoke early on Monday morning, while it was still dark. I went to the fridge and got myself a beer. I threw a record on the turntable, and spent the next couple of hours drinking myself stupid while I listened to old albums. I ignored the gun. I trampled the sheet of paper while I danced. I stared at the photo.
    Eventually I passed out. I slept for a while, waking well before noon, and dragged myself into the shower. My head was killing me and my sinuses were clogged. I felt like total hell, and I was glad. It took my mind off my new job.
    After the shower, after I'd eaten, I knew I had to face it. St. Francis School for Girls was less than a mile from my apartment, but I drove. I wanted to be as invisible as possible, and a guy driving past a school attracts less attention than a guy walking past one does. I assume, anyway.

    I lucked out and got there right as school was getting out. Kids were walking down the sidewalks and getting into cars. All of the traffic on the street was slowed, which gave me a chance to look around a little without drawing too much attention to myself. I recognized the playground on campus as the one in the photo, but I didn't see Ashley anywhere. I kept with traffic, and soon the school was behind me. I headed home, wondering what the hell I was doing.
    My answering machine was flashing when I got home, and the screen told me that there were five new messages. Caller ID told me that it was work. Crap. I'd forgotten all about work. I played the messages but didn't really listen to them. Three were the boss grumbling, two were concerned co-workers. I deleted them all.
    I sat back down on the couch and studied the photo I had been given. Blonde hair flying in the breeze, silly grin plastered across the freckled face. Jaunty schoolgirl uniform. I dropped the photo and staggered into the bathroom, retching. I made it to the toilet and lost everything I had taken in since Saturday.

    Tuesday was more eventful. This time I had walked over toward the school, figuring that no one would say anything to me even if they suspected I was some sort of pedophile. I was right on that count, and I found Ashley to boot. She was playing with some other kids on the playground, taking turns on the slide. I watched for a while. I watched for a long while. I hadn't brought the gun, so I left. I don't know what I would have done had I brought it.
    I went home that night, resuming the familiar spot on the couch, and picked up the gun. I played with it, contemplated it, checked the safety, checked the clip. It was all ready to go. All I had to do was walk up to Ashley, point it, pull the trigger. And then be arrested or shot. Not the best plan.
    The playground was surrounded by a wooded area. I could lure Ashley into the woods. That would make me look even more like a pedophile. Not that what I was planning was any better. I tried to clear my head and just picture the scene.
    Street in front. School on the left. Playground on the right. Woods behind. Kids playing, parents picking them up. Random adults (faculty?) standing near the school. Water fountain in back.
    Water fountain! I had seen all of the kids go to it at one point or another. It sat behind the playground, little more than a cement-surrounded pipe sticking up out of the ground. The woods couldn't have been more than ten feet away. I could wait in the woods until Ashley went to the fountain, get her attention and lure her away. It wasn't the best plan, but it might just work, and I wasn't given a whole lot of time.

    It's now Wednesday morning. I've got the gun in my right pocket, some candy and a small doll in the left. I hope it's enough. I hope I can pull the trigger. I have two days.
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