?

Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Feb 20, 2009.
  1. ThadOcho - The Eternal

    3 vote(s)
    15.0%
  2. sprirj - Forever

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Evil Ferret of Randomness - The Hospital

    5 vote(s)
    25.0%
  4. Xeno - I'm Always Fine

    3 vote(s)
    15.0%
  5. Destin - Immortality, In Truth

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Agreen - Fifteen

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Emykei - Flaw of Immortality

    1 vote(s)
    5.0%
  8. inkslinger - To Be Jane Fane

    2 vote(s)
    10.0%
  9. yellowm&M - Guardian

    6 vote(s)
    30.0%
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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Voting Short Story Contest (38) - Immortality

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Feb 12, 2009.

    Voting Short Story Contest (38) Theme: Immortality

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

    Voting will end 20th February 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
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    ThadOcho - The Eternal

    Ray Wade, thirty-six years old, was beat-tired and the boring Pennsylvania night on the highway wasn’t doing him any favors. Shadows and trees, shadows and trees. How exciting. Even the cars on the highway with him were boring. Ray swore he passed at least eight Honda Elements, and two Hummers, both green. How original. How unique.

    In the day, he wouldn’t have cared one bit. But at one-thirty in the morning going from exit to exit to find a hotel that would sell him a room for under two hundred bucks and not having a coffee for over six hours, he let the little things bug him. The moon was too bright. His car was too noisy. He was hot. He was cold. Oh, the list could go on.

    He lived in Manhattan by himself, and worked for a telemarketing company as a programmer. He was to go to some business meeting in southern Maryland, but the traffic out of New York was horrible. He was, by his standards, a complete loser. He had no friends, a job that would usually pay well but his boss had to have his pay reduced, hadn’t gone out in years and had nowhere to go if he lost his apartment, as his dad, mom and brother were all dead from lung cancer.

    If only he could just make a good impression at this meeting tomorrow, all his problems would be solved. If the owners of the company were impressed and promoted him to another, better building, life would be just dandy. But, no, it wasn’t that easy. He had been up for hours looking for a decent and cheap hotel, and he was going to sleep in, look like hell in the morning, rush to Maryland and not even pay attention to the meeting. That was the way Ray Wade’s life worked. Now, a person with luck would wake up early, be able to pay the hotel for the overnight stay, and--

    Something suddenly jumped into the road in front of Ray’s car.

    “Holy God!” Ray screamed, and hit the brakes. The thing went flying ten feet, then landed roughly onto the ground. Before it flew back, the object was clear to Ray; it was a man.

    He had hit a man.

    Ray pulled to the side of the road and got out of his car. He rushed forward, his heart racing. He had just hit a man. HE had just HIT A MAN with his car!

    A fantasy, a very horrible fantasy, played in his mind: He was being arrested, then tried for manslaughter; he was found guilty and the police brought him into jail where God knows WHAT other prisoners would do to him!

    He was instantly reminded of the movie “The Butterfly Effect” and what happened to the protagonist when he was thrown in jail. The prisoners took his notebooks and to get them back he had to…

    “Oh, God, no,” Ray moaned.

    He reached the man, who was laying on his back. Ray knelt down beside him. The man’s eyes opened.

    The man said in a low voice, “Hey, man, am I dead?”

    “No,” Ray was almost crying with joy. The man was ALIVE. He didn’t kill him!

    “Ah, crap,” the man said. He looked around his mid-twenties. “I guess it really is true, huh?”

    “What’s true?” Ray helped the young man up.

    The man patted his pants and dust flew into the air. “Oh, nothing. You hit me?”

    “Yeah,” Ray said. “But who in God’s name did you survive that? You’ve got a LOT of luck on your side.” This man, the man who survived a hit from a car which was going slightly over the speed limit, had the luck that Ray wanted. If the positions were switched, and Ray jumped out into the road, he would’ve died slowly and painfully, he just knew it.

    The man shook his head and smiled, “Not luck, exactly. I actually want to thank you for at least trying.”

    “Trying to--?” Ray began, but the man raised his hand to quiet him.

    “There’s a bar at the next exit. I’ll buy you a shot.”


    Next thing Ray knew, he was at a bar in some old town, drinking away his troubles and laughing with the man he almost killed.

    “…so I tell him, ‘go get some’, y’know?” the young man finished his joke as Ray spun in his chair, laughing hysterically.

    After the laughter there was just silence. The bar was empty except for one bartender who looked like she wanted them to leave very badly. She probably wanted to go home. The two finished their bottles after a lot of rather large mouthfuls of beer.

    Finally, Ray asked again, “What’d you mean ‘I want to thank you for at least trying’ back there?”

    The man smiled at him, “To be quite honest, Ray, I’ve been trying to kill myself for quite a while. But now I know I can’t.”

    “Why?” Ray asked for both statements the man had just said.

    “Well, my life has been a bit of a wreck since yesterday. I was with my ex. My ex-girlfriend was quite a knockout. We went out and, on the bridge in Central Park--”

    “Manhattan-man like me, eh?” Ray said grinning.

    The man smiled, nodded, and continued, “On the bridge in Central Park one night, we first kissed. I wasn’t expecting it. She was the kind of quite girl who always seemed like she wouldn’t be the wild-crazy moods, not the kind of girl who’d start undressing you in Central Park on your second date. Hang on.” The man got up and went across the room to the bartender, and ordered two more beers. He brought them back, took a swig and resumed, “However, she only got my shirt off, when all of a sudden she started kissing me again. And this time she spat in my mouth.”

    “Weird,” Ray said. He couldn’t relate or understand if this was good or bad, but the way the young man told it, a girl spitting into your mouth didn’t seem all-too-great.

    “Right after that, she broke up with me.”

    “Are you kidding?” Ray asked, stunned. He took another gulp.

    “Dead-serious,” the man said. “I was distraught. I went home, and I was about to end it all. My life, I mean. You see, I used to be a rich guy, but was robbed. I used to have a wonderful roommate who got shot in an alleyway. I had a great family who died in a house fire when I was eighteen.” Another swig. “I had a .22 caliber in my bedroom, under the mattress. I put it in my mouth, and squeezed the trigger.”

    “Jesus Christ,” Ray said, awestruck.

    “Yeah,” the man nodded. “But, as soon as I shot, the bullet bounced right back out. As if my throat was made of steel.”

    Ray looked at the man for a long time. “What d’you mean?” he asked slowly.

    “I mean,” the man said. “That I am immortal, Ray. Eternal. I went to tell the only person who saw me earlier that day, my ex. She told me that I was cursed. That she was immortal and hated it, and that when the immortal’s saliva goes into someone else, the immortality leaves the first person and goes into the second.

    “I didn’t believe her, at first. So, I slept on it and decided to take a long walk to Pennsylvania this morning. A very, very long walk. I thought I would be tired, but I wasn’t at all. I walked all damn day, Ray, and wasn’t the least bit tired. Then I wanted to prove to myself so badly, I jumped in front of the road--”

    “…and I hit you,” Ray finished, whispering. “Holy God.”

    The man nodded, “Yes. I want to end my life and I’m immortal. What a curse, right?” He took another swig.

    “Prove it,” Ray whispered.

    “Eh?”

    “Prove it,” Ray said. “In the parking lot.”


    The crickets chirped in unison outside in the dark Pennsylvanian night, an orchestra of the small.

    Ray lit a cigarette, raised the empty beer bottle and smashed it onto the ground. The shards spread out everywhere. He picked up one point piece, and handed it to the man.

    “What’s this for?” the man said.

    “If you’re ‘immortal’,” Ray mocked. “Let’s see you cut your own throat.”

    “Are you serious? You don’t believe me?” the man asked, amused.

    “Not necessarily,” Ray said. “Cut.”

    The man shook his said, “Ooohhhkay, then, Ray.”

    He pressed the glass up to his own neck, and sliced. Ray expected to see blood spurt everywhere, but what he saw spurt everywhere was the glass shard breaking into smaller pieces.

    It broke when trying to slit the young man.

    “Dear, God!” Ray croaked.

    The young man smiled, “You don’t know how much I wanted that to actually kill me, y’know?”

    Ray shook his head, awestruck. This man could not die. How lucky was that? He could rob a bank and not get harmed in any way. He could not get murdered. He did not die of old age. If only he, Ray, had that power. He would, yes, abuse it in any way possible, but what did that matter to him? He could go up to his jerk boss and beat him to a pulp without getting a scratch on him. If only, if only--

    “I just had an idea,” Ray said.

    “Hmm?” the man grunted as he smoked.

    “Spit in my mouth.”

    “What?”

    “Spit in my mouth,” Ray repeated. “You don’t want this power. I do. Very badly do I want it. Very badly you want to die, very badly I want to live forever. Win-win scenario, bud.”

    The young man looked at him for a long time. Then, he said, “You do know the consequences, right? I mean, soon everybody wants to die.”

    “Not me,” Ray said, shaking his head. “Not me.”

    “Well,” the man shook out his cigarette, threw it onto the black pavement and stomped on it. “If this is what you really want…open your mouth.”

    Ray obeyed. Soon, the man spat and a bullet of wet, gooey saliva filled Ray’s mouth. He winced.

    “Swallow,” the man said. “Or it won’t work.”

    With effort, Ray swallowed the spit. He felt very nauseous. He began to stir.

    “Hey, are you all right?” the man asked, rushing forward to help.

    All of a sudden, the nausea passed. It was replaced with a strong, golden feeling that Ray didn’t understand.

    “I’m fine,” he muttered. “Great, actually.”

    He picked up a glass shard and attempted to slit his wrist. Like the man’s shard did, his shattered into smaller pieces.

    Ray Wad, thirty-six, was immortal and laughing. His laughter was intense, hysterical, insane. He began to sweat from all the laughter. He didn’t know why he was laughing; maybe because of the feeling, maybe because of the immortality.

    Soon, the man laughed right along with him, and the duo’s laughter carried out through the dark Pennsylvanian night.
     
  3. Gannon
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    sprirj - Forever

    It feels like forever. I can't remember... anything... I have no idea if it is night out there or if the sun is beating down at mid day. I only have a neon bulb for company. I wish I could feel something. My senses are useless. I can't taste, smell touch, my atmosphere is sterile. I live in this cocoon life support. Time has stopped fore me. I wish I remembered what the world was like out there. I wish I could remember what Laura Shaws lips tasted like. I feel dizzy but never pass out, I am connected to tubes of liquid, keeping me alive, giving my body everything it needs to live, but my mind nothing. I blink and an eyelash falls on my cheek. I wonder if there is anyone left but me? If I die will the human race? I'm alive still, I should be thankful, but alive in an airtight coffin, is this living? Am I alive? Better off in here than out there... maybe. My thoughts are a mess, I've been over every little detail so many times, I can't remember when I last thought of it. I wish I could taste Laura Shaws lips again. Just so I could remember. I'm probably in my 40s by now, I've been here at least 2 years, but there is no clock, so I can't be sure. I was one of the lucky ones, I might be the only lucky one. It was the disease. It was a mutated virus and killed everything so quick. The newspapers were quick to call them zombies, ha, its true they came back, the dead walked, and they attacked, human teeth in human flesh, spreading the disease. Now here I am leader of Britain, hiding like a coward as everyone dies. Do they die? Or are they alive? In a pod, keeping me a live... I want to get out. Death is better than this, isn't it? Will I regret getting out. Shall I stay in here another year or 2? Just give it 6 months maybe? 6 more months of trying to remember Laura Shaws lips... Hmmm it was a college crush, she was a friend, nothing more, we both were drunk... if only I could remember, then I think I could face what ever it is out there....zombies. It sounds crazy but there is comfort knowing that mankind has been wiped out by something he predicted in sci-fi. Its, its satisfying... is that wrong? Is there a wrong anymore, if I am the only one to judge. Maybe not. I wonder if Laura Shaw is still alive? It would be a joy if I lifted the lid on the pod and it was her lips again that caressed my skin, although I'm pretty sure she never tore my flesh from the bone when we kissed. Ha. Who would have thought my time in office would end like this, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom talking to himself, not sleeping, pissing himself, hiding away in a box with a neon bulb. What I would give for a sunset and piece of cake right now. Those were the days. I feel like an immortal I've been here so long. But the immortals are up there, looking for me, sniffing for blood. The zombies really do have a keen sense of smell. I wish I could smell something, but this box filteres everything away. It has too, because of the disease. I'm tired now. I will close my eyes and pretend its night time and hope I dream, and remember Laura Shaws kiss....
     
  4. Gannon
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    Evil Ferret of Randomness - The Hospital

    "Its strange..." Martin said, cigarette in hand. He took a puff of it, greatly enjoying the return of nicotine. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had one, but, to the same token, he couldn't remember much at all. That is what he told me, at least.

    "What is?" I asked, looking up to the man. I'd been his psychiatrist for two years now, and not once, had he ever looked my in the eyes. Martin always looked into the corner of the small, dark hospital room. "The hospital?"

    "No... Why you'd want to kill me... And the fact that people like you refuse to believe the evidence I've shown you..." He paused, his face becoming distraught. I was afraid he was going to have another panic attack, or simply attack, or, perhaps, start screaming about his theories on how people were plotting to kill him, but another puff from his cigarette seemed to calm him.

    I sighed, and looked down at my notepad; the slip of paper on it was desolate, lacking a single mark from my pencil. I slowly adjusted my leg, then looked at him once more. "You've shown us so much, Martin, but we can't do anything about it." I sighed again. I was once more throwing myself into his world, pleasing the poor eighty-year-old.

    I knew he wouldn't last too much longer, I guess. He'd suffered two 'Heart Attacks' this year, along with five suicide attempts. He claimed he couldn't die, he said he survived his own suicides because he was immortal, though he wouldn't have died from the lame attempts had there been medical intervention or not. Whether he be in extreme denial over his upcoming demise or if he was simply psychotic, I felt sorry for the old man.

    Perhaps I did it simply because I felt guilty.

    "Remind me. When were you born?" I asked, my expression growing slightly grim.

    "I don't remember." That was always his answer, and he always stated it with out emotion. "But, I remember the vast deserts in my childhood. I remember a bunch of people, my brothers and my sisters and my mother. And then I remember a war, I was on horse back in leather armor. I had thousands of Roman troops behind me, and thousands of barbarians in front of me."

    'Roman, now.' I thought. He could describe near any war with a preciseness that would baffle historians, but he had a tendency to be relatively inconsistent about which wars he was in. Considering, during Martin's last interview, he had described the same war, only he was a Barbarian, and he was a grunt, not a commander.

    "... And, after slaughtering their ranks, and maintaining the Empire's border, I got to go home, again..." He finished, shoving the butt into the ashtray I had provided.

    "You don't remember anything else?"

    "Not right now."

    I took in a deep breath, and crossed my legs. I glanced at my watch, then at the door. "You want another?"

    His eyes flickered, but returned their aim towards the corner of the room. "Yes, please."

    I unpocketed the small box and handed the old man a cigarette, as well as a lighter. He lit it himself, then gave me the lighter back. "Anything else you want to talk about?"

    He exhaled, and smoke escaped his throat and lungs as he did so. "What will you do with me? Dissect me? Try to find my immortality?"

    I gave him a confused look, because I was a bit confused. No, I wasn't confused. Just surprised.

    "When you kill me..." His eyes trailed over to me, and I felt a chill go up my spine. Guilt, for once, seemed to find my soul as I looked into his aged eyes.

    "How can I kill you if you won't die, Martin?" I asked smoothly, using all the charisma I had to keep my cool. Who was I fooling, again?

    "Poison my food. I know you did. It tasted differently today." His eyes seemed, almost, vengeful, and all I wanted to do, now, was get up and leave.

    "How... ugh... I'm going to get something to drink." I said, standing up rather abruptly. My chair almost fell back, but I, with luck, managed to grab it before it did so. I walked to the door, pulled out my keys and unlocked it, then turned back to Martin. "You want anything?"

    He simply stared at me, silent, not even bothering to take another puff of his cigarette.

    I walked out, and went straight to the coke machine in the lounge. I glanced at my watch, then pulled out my cell phone and dialed in Sarah's number.

    "Yes?" She answered, her tone almost scaring me.

    "Its today?" I asked, hoping to keep things simple, and direct.

    "Yes, you retard!" She screamed, then went silent for a few moments. I could hear her taking deep breaths, trying to calm herself. "Just make sure he stays dead, this time."

    I walked back into the room, to see Martin with his face against the table, eyes closed. I felt his neck for a pulse, and there was non. "Get a nurse!" I screamed, then looked back at the now dead Martin. The nurse ran into the room, and she seemed to quickly take in the seen. "Heart attack." I told her, then glanced at my watch, though, the time I was to state had already been memorized. "Twelve : thirty, Wednesday, June the sixth, nineteen ninety-eight."

    I walked back into the lounge, pulled out my cell phone, and hit redial. The same voice answered.

    "Yes?" Sarah hissed.

    "Was a few insurance policies worth killing your family?" I asked, staring down at my own shoes. "You should take him as an example... Money won't make you live forever..."
     
  5. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Xeno - I'm Always Fine

    “Cigarette?”

    Dan flicked open his lighter, watching the flame for a second, before lighting the cigarette currently in his mouth.

    Joel was sat in the bed, idly staring at the heart monitor. He turned when he realised that Dan had spoken.

    “Sorry, what?”

    Dan sighed, taking the cigarette out of his mouth to speak.

    “Do you want a fag?” He asked, handing the roll of paper to Joel and motioning with the lighter.

    “Oh, uh... sure,” said Joel, reluctantly taking it out of Dan’s hand, “But I’m not sure if I’m allowed to—“

    Dan spoke while the lit cigarette was still in his mouth, “Who gives a crap? You’re dying anyway.”

    Joel relaxed.

    “Yeah, I guess so.” He took a long breath of tobacco and sat back in the bed.

    The two men watched as the smoke floated around the room, casting dancing shadows on the clinically white walls and floor.

    *****

    He sat on his bed, feeling the weight of the metal in his hand. He’d always loved guns. Collected them, catalogued them, even made a few, in his time. And he knew just from glancing that the gun he held was a Browning L9A1 Hi-Power, used often in the cold war era.

    But hey, that was all immaterial now.

    He took a single bullet out of the box in his drawer, carefully sliding it into the magazine.

    This is all going to end.

    At last.

    He brought the weapon up to his head.

    No more whiney neighbours.

    The cool metal of the barrel pressed into his temple.

    No more stupid tabloids to read.

    He turned off the safeties, slowly.

    No more disappointments.

    The gun fired.

    *****

    “So how’s your daughter?” Joel managed to turn himself to face Dan, “Still doing those paintings?”

    Dan laughed. Jenny had spent the last month proclaiming that she would be an artist.

    “Nope. Changed her mind.”

    Joel tilted his head.

    “Oh, really? What’s she going to be now?”

    “Exo-biologist.”

    Joel laughed, wincing and putting his hand to his chest.

    “Oh my god.” He gasped.

    Dan stared upwards at the ceiling fan.

    “I know,” He watched the blades spinning, following each one as it passed him, “I’d never even heard of the word before she said it.”

    Joel sat back, sliding under the thin, pristine covers.

    “How old is she now?” He looked over to Dan briefly, who was engrossed in playing with a pair of tongs.

    “Three.”

    *****

    The sea air gently cooled his face, and he smiled as the lights of the small town beneath him began to come to life.

    Spreading his arms wide, he started walking along the cliff’s edge, taking each step as slowly as possible, watching small fragments of chalk fall into the distance.

    He stopped briefly, staring down at a small flower, clinging to the side of the cliff face.

    Its spindly stalk was bending and twisty in the gale, but still it held on.

    He started walking again, thinking about the plant.

    ‘Under the right conditions,’ he thought, ‘A plant with proper nutrients and enough sunlight can live forever.’

    He turned to look back at the flower. It was still there, distorting in all directions, but with all its petals intact.

    ‘But would it want to?’

    He turned again, this time towards the ocean, and held his hands high above his head.

    Night fell in Whitstable.

    And he leapt...

    *****

    Joel was bent double, coughing and spluttering into a small basin.

    Dan was looking on, a disgusted look upon his face.

    “Die quietly, can you?”

    Joel took a breath. Dan could hear him struggling to force the air into his lungs.

    “Tried... that...” He wheezed, “Didn’t... work.”

    They sat in silence, watching as the last traces of the cigarette smoke faded out of vision. The ceiling fan had stopped, so the only sound Dan could hear was Joel struggling for breath.

    He fiddled with the tongs, putting the clamps around his leg and squeezing lightly.

    Joel watched him, not talking.

    Dan hardly noticed as he began picking things up with them, turning it so he could see every object in detail.

    Joel took a deep breath, and spoke.

    “You haven’t aged.”

    Dan looked up, as if he’d just noticed that he wasn’t alone.

    “What?” He blurted.

    Joel gasped for air before continuing.

    “I’ve known you for five years, and in all that time you’ve never aged a day.”

    Dan snorted lightly.

    “I use moisturiser.”

    Joel rolled his eyes.

    “Here we go.” He groaned.

    Dan looked up.

    “What?”

    Joel’s head lolled over to look at him.

    “Whenever you don’t want to talk about something, you joke. Give me some credit, I’m not a complete idiot.”

    Dan laughed.

    Joel’s eyes began to water.

    “Dan?” He turned back, “You will do something for me, won’t you?”

    Dan hid his face under a beaker.

    “What is it, your lordship?”

    “Pray for me.”

    Dan almost dropped the cup.

    “I’m an atheist, you berk! I don’t pray.”

    Joel began to murmur to himself.

    “You will, though. I know you will.”

    *****

    His face was briefly illuminated by the lights of a passing Ford Focus.

    ‘Everyone’s going somewhere,’ He thought, ‘Even me.’

    He heard the roar of a diesel engine and looked to his left.

    This was the one.

    A huge eighteen wheeler was coming towards him.

    One chance.

    Just one.

    Casually, he took two steps forward.

    That’s all he needed.

    *****

    Dan stood leaning against the doorframe, staring at an empty bed. Faint wisps of smoke were still dotted around the room, giving the whole room the same smell.

    Joel’s smell.

    Dan breathed, as deep as he could, and turned to leave.

    A nurse, head to toe in a blue dress, stopped him in his tracks.

    “Excuse me, are you a member of his family?”

    Dan considered before answering.

    “No,” He replied, “Just a friend of a friend.”

    The nurse took something out of her pocket.

    A pen.

    “He said that whoever was waiting for him should have this.”

    She thrust it into Dan’s hands.

    “Said that you’d understand.”

    *****

    Dan picked himself up from the ground, dusting off his clothes.

    The truck driver waddled over to him, frantically.

    “Are you ok?” He stammered.

    Dan looked him in the eye.

    “I’m fine.” He said, sharply.

    “Well, we need to get you to a hospital,” The man began to run back to his cab, “There’s a great one up the road.”

    Dan turned on his heel and started walking.

    “I know,” He murmured, “I’m on my way right now.”

    *****

    Tears welled up in his eyes as he stared at the pen.

    “I’m always fine.”

    And he cried.

    As always.
     
  6. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Destin - Immortality, In Truth

    "How can you say your love for me is immortal?" She looked up from my lap one lazy Sunday afternoon in the park. "Someday we will both be dead and our children will be dead and so will our grandchildren and their children after that. Then who will remember our love?"

    I could never say what I had meant to say that afternoon. As always, the words seized in my throat like a frigid ball of iron, immovable.

    I would have loved to tell her that a love as true as ours would be remembered in the very fabric of the world, that the trees and the grass and the wind would see us here and remember us. I'd tell her that when we died the earth would celebrate it's good fortune in receiving us into her warm embrace, just to experience a small taste of what we had.

    Or maybe I would tell her that I would go to the ends of the world for her, that I would swim the deepest oceans and climb the highest mountains in her name. I could tell her that no man or god could stand firm against the ferocity born of her touch. She would know nothing would stand in the way of me getting to her. Then maybe she would understand the trueness of what we had, how infinitely untouchable a love like this was, and to never be touched ensure it's immortality.

    Romeo and Juliet, I would meet her eyes and say with all seriousness, couldn't even hold a candle to us. Antony and Cleopatra would be downright envious of what we have. A braver man would have said so and meant it.

    Things like that always sounded better in my head than when I put thought to mouth, so I just closed my eyes and pressed my head back against the tree that shaded us from the day's heat. I told her that one day I would provide the answers for her questions, and she wordlessly accepted. We left our conversation hanging off in a peaceful silence. I stroked her soft hair, and felt the warmth of her against my chest. If I could tell her how even thoughtless moments like this set such an unquenchable fire in my heart and lit me up inside she would certainly know what an endless love we shared.

    But my emotionally stunted mind cringed at the thought, and ruthlessly beat my heart back into the dark corner of myself where it exists in quiet solitude.

    So I quietly retreat to the blank page, the canvas of my soul. Here I write the truth of a love immortal, and here it shall stay, immortal.
     
  7. Gannon
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    Agreen - Fifteen

    His hand is broken. He tries not to wince as they tape the knuckles and growls when they squeeze his fingers closed. “It's not too late man, you can still back out.”

    That makes him smile. He doesn't remember the weasel faced man's name, but he knows what he is, what he's about. His question does not arise from any sense of concern, at least not for him. There's money to be made here, but not if he dies. If he dies, that'll bring the whole thing right to a halt. “Come on Rick, answer me. You sure this is what you want?”

    “More than anything.” Weasel shakes his head, nearly sends his wide brimmed hat flying. What a stupid thing, why do people wear stuff like that? Is there really no other way to get themselves some attention. Not like he can talk. “Hey skiff, you keep that nice an' tight now. Don't want it falling off in there.”

    “Better get those ankles too then, they're creakier than this dump's back door.” It's supposed to be a joke, but he doesn't laugh. Can't. Stomach won't let him, it's too damn tight. Was it always this tight, did he always feel this damn nervous? Can't really remember anymore.

    “So, you remember the plan?” He looks at his questioner, his oldest friend. His hair's grey now, and thick muscle born from years of agony have fallen into rolls of fat from a few months neglect. For the first time he starts to doubt. That gonna be him in a few weeks, when all this is over? That's not his biggest question, not even the top two. The biggest one is simple: what's the plan again?

    “Oh yeah, same as always. Just keep my hands up, keep the damn things up and-” his friend looks at him like he's dead, but doesn't get to say anything. The door bursts open, weasel's back.

    “Damn it Rick, you look awful are you... Nevermind, I know. It's time.” For just a moment, he almost forgets what for. Then he looks at the black gloved hands sitting in his lap and it comes back. Not the gameplan though.

    They say every game plan gets thrown away the first time you take a punch to the face. That thought amuses him, but even at his best it never lasted past this part. He walks down an empty hallway, three men behind him and two security guards at his side. The floor is shaking, he sees a curtain up ahead.

    Stepping out into the arena, he feels the energy again. Hands reach for just the slightest touch, the barest connection. A moment of immortality fading as fast as his body. The camera's bright light shines in his face as he makes his way. He tries to look past it, above, through the cage and into the ring. Three men wait for them there, one to judge, one to announce and one to crush. At least, that's how it used to be. He figures he's got one more left in him. Only fifteen minutes after all.

    The mat is soft and light. He hears the squeak of his feet as he runs across it, the effort and the heat beating sweat to his body. It normally took a bit longer for that to happen. The crowd still shouts and screams, he hears them chant his name. He looks up at the banners overhead, counts the ones with his face. Can't quite remember them all anymore, but each of them made him, his legend. “This fight is three rounds...”

    It's a different announcer than before, he thinks. Doesn't seem like him anyway. He wouldn't really notice, at this point the only thing he can hear is his friend's words shouted in his ear, “Don't give this kid a chance. Put him on the cage, put him on his back, just don't... and for the love of God keep those hands up!”

    All sounds reasonable to him, so he just waits. The referee is a small man, which isn't the best of ideas. If someone goes down, how's he supposed to pull them off? The ref looks at him hard, beckoning with his hand, so he figures he may as well come forward. Probably a new part to the whole thing, they liked to make a big show of it now. He just wanted to fight.

    The man standing in front of him might just be half his age. Brings back memories of his first time, when he fought a guy just like him. Just like he is now. They said the guy was a legend, that there was a time he could never lose. Might be, but the old man didn't even see round two. He holds his fist out and manages to not wince when the kid touches it with his own. Fifteen minutes to go.

    Fights like this are real strange. The great ones, the ones he remembers, the crowd's screaming and chanting the whole way through. This one, they're silent. Like they're rubber-necking on the highway. Like watching a funeral. He remembers back to that first fight, how he took it so quick. He knows he's gotta hit first.

    Shin slaps against flesh, making a dull thud. If the kid's surprised, he doesn't show anything. The answering jab deflects safely off his arm, and he counters with another kick. He hears a beat on the mat, that's one minute.

    He keeps coming forward, opponent circling back. He sticks to the left, cause if he's gonna throw that big right he wants to make it as hard on the kid as possible. Then it comes. He sees it, tensing of the arm at the shoulder, body leaning back. Big one's comin'. It used to be so easy, just duck down, punch up and good night. Now, he barely moves in time, feels the air as the kid's fist cuts over his hair. “Grab him Rick!”

    So he does. Grips him under the open shoulder, muscles him to the cage. Throws a little elbow, but no knee. Doesn't trust himself with that just yet. Kid feels a bit weak, and that suits him just fine. Every once in a bit he hears the ref tell him to move, so he throws a punch, an elbow. And he holds him tight 'til he hears that airhorn blow. Five minutes done, ten to go.

    Now, his back his screaming, shoulders are stiff. “Goddamn man, was it always this hard?”

    They put ice on his head and pour water on his back. Takes a big drink from a water bottle and looks over at the kid. Looks furious, it must be going well. “Damn good job Rick! You're killin' him, keep it up he's got nothin'!”

    Sure he don't. Horn sounds again, again he heads for the centre of the cage. This time the kid ain't waiting. He runs for him, jumping, knee up front. He does the sensible thing, he ducks, turns, waits for the kid to land, then wraps hands around his waist. Every finger screams as they lock with their opposites, but he thinks his back and arms have it in 'em to left the kid up and drop him on his head. So he does.

    On the ground the kid rolls, trying to escape on up. Escapes the back lock, but still open. He pushes past the kid's legs, puts his weight on the other man's chest. Now he can hear the crowd, chanting his name like once they did, like nothing's changed. He drives his elbow into the kid's face, rears back, and launches a knee into his side. Kid just grunts, holding the heel of his right leg on the left hip. He punches now with his left, his good hand, alternates with elbows and the odd knee. With each of the last, pain shoots on up all the way to his back.

    At last, he sees the opening. He hears boards click and knows he's gotta work fast. Posturing up he shoots a leg over the kid's body, sits on his chest and punches with both hands, ignoring the pain. Waits for him to flail, and grabs an arm. He secures it against his knee, then turns his body up, kid's arm between his legs, and pulls back. Damned horn sounds. He feels the ref tap his shoulder, gets up. He hasn't won, but that's ten minutes now, leaves just five.

    Rest comes in a blur. He's sweating, heart pounding so hard he don't know if he can stand up. Hurts all over now, and he's the one that's done all the hurting. Kid isn't lookin' forward now, eyes are empty. Can't believe this is happening, no doubt, wonderin' where did this all come from? He's had that effect before, it's what made him famous, made him a legend. When people look back at his career, that's what they'll remember, that look etched on so many faces, forever. But five more minutes await, he's up before the horn.

    Now it's the kid coming forward. He holds back a wince as a shin hits his thigh, but his mouth slams shut as a fist grazes his forehead. It shouldn't hurt so much. He circles back now, looking for space. Hates to do it, but he's won the fight, just needs to make it. Hands beat on the mat, four to go.

    Crowd sounds unsure now, still chanting his name, but not as before. Then, the opening comes. Kid throws a real sloppy kick, amateur stuff, and slow though he is he catches it, trips out the other leg. He throws a couple of shots now, and doesn't really resist as the kid locks his legs around his hips. He can win from here, just has to be careful. He leans forward, and puts a hand over the kid's mouth. Gotta be tired already, so why not make it harder to breathe? Twelves minutes gone.

    Legs sneak up his back as those hands slap again. He pulls himself back up, high as he can, pulling back his arm like an archer, and throws. It's a huge shot, catches the side of kid's head by the eye. He hears a grunt, but all he feels is agony. Wrong damn hand. He rests, trying to cradle the hand without showing pain. Kid pushes on him with his hands, but that's it. Hears the pound again, and the ref says “Come on Rick, or I'm puttin' you back up.”

    He pulls up again then, punches, but with his left. Light shots all, kid moves his head and some of them miss. Kid's legs are back at it, so he tries to swat them aside. Now, he can stand higher and throw a larger punch. He tries, but the kid shoots back, almost leaps right back on his feet. So, back to circling as the last pounding of hands sound. Minute fifteen, and it's all him.

    Again, the kid rushes forward, arms windmilling. He wants nothing of it, so he keep going back. He shakes the broken hand and smiles, hears his corner say somethin' about goin' backwards, but doesn't really care. For years, he hasn't felt like this, like lightning in flesh. Twelve-thousand voices in one chanting his name to the rhythm of his heartbeat. He sees the kick, but late. Only thing he can do is block with the broken hand.

    Shin lands on fist. He feels his hand drop to his side, and for once, for the first time human instinct overcomes years of training. His left moves to hold the right, leaving his chin to catch a punch. Last thing he hears is the boards click the last ten seconds.

    He's not sure where he is, 'sides his back. The mat is soft but he aches all over. His brain feels like it might swell on out of his skull. A damned light shines in his eyes, then disappears. He sees the doc's black shirt. “You okay Rick?”

    Sounds like he might throw up, like he just cried. No he's not fine, he thinks his damn hand is broke. He just nods and says, “For sure.”

    They help him sit against the cage, he sees someone kneeling beside him, young thing with a buncha bruises, and a big ol' glob of Vaseline on a cut over his eye. He looks down and sees his body covered in blood, white shorts turned pink. The blood's not his. “I win?”

    He holds out a hand, the kid stands and pulls him up, wraps his arm around him. He hears him whisper in his ear, over the crowd of fans chanting his name, though they sound so disappointed. “Thanks man, I'm so honoured, you're still the best.”

    Rick looks up, sees a crowd on their feet. Still chanting his name, crying all the more when they see him rise. He counts banners of fights past, so many with his face the biggest, his name the featured. Fifteen of them with some belt on his shoulder. So, he thinks, this is what it feels like to lose. Makes all the victory that much sweeter, but his head don't feel none better. He hugs the kid back, then points at the crowd and says, “No man, you. Enjoy it kid, you're gonna be like me. They're gonna sing your goddamn name forever.”
     
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    Emykei - Flaw of Immortality

    Immortality does not exist.

    Eight long years. From the first time her fiery amber eyes first lit mine, to the first time my fingers entwined with hers. For every time I fell asleep with her curled up between my arm and torso, head in the nook of my chest, soft cheek beneath my hand. Twisting her soft golden hair between my fingertips, watching it unravel like the silk ribbon on a valentines gift. Feeling her hands grip my shoulders, hugging me tight on the ocean shoreline, inhaling the sweetest scent of salt and Easter lilies. Since the moment we met, she has been my everything.

    We traveled the seas on my grand sailing vessel. The ship was my pride and joy, but not my life. I had her for that. We saw so many shores. Felt endless stretches of sand beneath our feet. Held hands and watched the waves roll in and retreat all night while our ship rocked us to sleep.

    We came across a little island during one particularly warm summer. The people that lived there could sense our love. They spoke to us, saying they wished us to be together always. They brought us atop a magnificent canyon, and right on the edge they connected us for all of eternity. She looked into my eyes, and our skin, moist, stuck gently together while the gap between our lips closed tightly.

    Just moments ago, she was still in my arms. The rain was drizzling comfortably, the sky was dark, and she was telling me of the stars that sparkled brightly, just beyond the clouds. I was savoring the feeling of her warm, soft hand, cradled gently in mine. I was feeling the love, coursing through the circuit between our two hearts. I ran childishly to the side of the road, picking a lone daisy stranded there. She looked into my eyes, igniting them once more. Her sweet smile graced her lips, and her fingers pinched the fragile stem between them. Her mouth quietly but doubtlessly formed the words: I will love you, always.

    Watching in horror, her body alit. She shook, glowing, eyes wide open, hair on end. I stared on helplessly and she moaned and screamed. Her body fell to the ground, convulsing, drooling. I ran to her, cradling her head in my lap, petting her face. Her beautiful, angelic face. Desperately, I tried to think, but all that came to mind was how I could not go on without that lovely face as the sunlight of my ever day. Soon she lay limp, pulse-less, for the last time in my arms.

    Now I gaze to the sky, begging, pleading, please take me as well. But it will never be, I’m cursed to live here forever, as we both always knew. Now, now I see. She was my entire life. I awoke in the morning, knowing she’d be beside me. My mortality can never end, but my life died with Her.
     
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    inkslinger - To Be Jane Fane

    Not a soul could weep better than Margo Fane. She put everything she had into her cries, the whole big fat grand deal. She did it all---the shuddering, the clinging tears to the cheeks, the quivering lip, the hitching breath, and of course the big bulging puppy eyes. It wasn’t uncommon to see Margo collapsed in a heap on the ground, in a tearful mess, putting on her big performance. This was her… thing. This was when she was on, when she was a star!

    She picked herself up quite impressively, too. She’d gulp a bit and dab at her eyes tragically, but within the next minute she would be okay. It was all an act, and when it wasn’t, it somehow still was. Margo Fane was possibly never not acting. Even she had lost track of whether her feelings were authentic and not artificial.

    “It doesn’t matter, anyway,” Margo said often, usually to her sister. “I can cry and until I can’t, I don’t care.”

    Jane was her sister, and she pitied the girl. She even hated her sometimes. Actually, she only thought she should hate and pity her. She couldn’t actually produce emotion strong enough to hate and pity her younger sister. That was Jane’s problem. She couldn’t cry.

    And that, by exact opposite, was Margo’s problem. She could cry. She produced emotion and feeling better than anyone.

    “It’s rather easy,” Margo said to her sister. “You just have to be vulnerable enough, you just have to leave yourself open enough. Everyone can do it.”

    “I can’t,” Jane said tonelessly. She was boring. She was too… put together. She was nice looking and intelligent, and had no emotional issues, no traumas or baggage. Jane had lived many years of her life dully present, doing everything just so, but not feeling much of it.

    “You know there’s something wrong with you,” Margo said, staring at herself in her vanity mirror. She picked up the hairbrush lying on the very edge of the counter and began running it through her dark, thick curls. “You know, right, Jane? I mean, I try not to mention it, but it’s obvious. You’re not even a real person.”

    Jane watched her sister brush her hair with fervor, as if it was the most important task in the world. She wasn’t sure what to say to her sister. She often didn’t. Most of the time Margo seemed out to insult her one way or another, and she didn’t see the point of being catty herself.

    “I’m who I’ve always been around you,” Jane answered finally.

    Margo set down the hairbrush and turned around to face Jane. There was pity in her eyes. Whether it was genuine or an act of emotion, Jane didn’t know. Margo didn’t know.

    “That’s the problem,” Margo said.

    Jane only stood still and returned her sister’s pitying gaze with a blank stare of her own.

    “Maybe it’s time you… not be,” Margo suggested, struggling with her words. She sighed and then turned to face the vanity. “I love you, sis, but it’s ridiculous. I’m artificial because I choose to be; I put on a show because I can. I’m authentically artificial. I can stop anytime I want!”

    “I don’t know what you want me to say,” Jane said quietly.

    Margo smiled at her sister through her reflection in the vanity mirror. “I think you’re in denial. That’s the difference between you and me. I’m living my life with emotions and you’re just living your life with years. You haven’t felt anything and it’s sad. I’ve felt everything and whether I made myself feel it or not, I still produced an emotion. That’s the difference, Jane.”

    Jane knew she should be annoyed with her sister, the way she talked to her, the things she said, they were all underlying with pleasure. Margo enjoyed dissecting her, putting her underneath a blinding light and looking down at her, scrutinizing every inch of her existence.

    She didn’t know what to say, and so she said what was on her mind, the most practical thing to be said, because that’s how Jane Fane worked, with practicality and pragmatism.

    “We better leave now or we will be late for work,” Jane said, checking her wristwatch.

    Margo rolled her eyes, and with her usual dramatic, animated movements, snatched her coat and purse and stormed out of the bedroom. Jane followed with her usual smooth and careful footsteps.

    The sisters worked at a secluded jazz and poetry club on the opposite side of the city from their apartment. Everyday they traveled a good 3 hours by subway just to work, and then it was another solid 3, sometimes 4, hours to commute back. The entire way, every time, Margo made a show of things. Margo made a show of anything. Not having a seat, a big show. A bum asking her for change, another big show. Her heel breaking, big, traumatic, theatrical show; the death of a heel was serious. Margo wanted everyone to notice her, to see her and her emotions, and just know.

    Meanwhile, Jane always remained in the background, usually waiting patiently until it was all over. She didn’t know how she did it, day after day after day. It was on-going, almost always identical. Nothing new or exciting ever happened. She lived with Margo, worked with Margo, and slept a good 10 hours a day. She had no friends, no love life, no direction, and no ambition for any of it, which was the worst part about not having any of those things. Without the ambition, the others remained impossible.

    Sometimes she questioned herself. Was this a life? A true existence? What was the point of it all? What was the point of it all when you couldn’t feel? Because she certainly couldn’t. She knew she was supposed to be able to, or at least feign these emotions, like Margo, but she couldn’t. It would have been frustrating had she been able to feel frustration. She only knew of it.

    …she only knew of love, of hate, of heart-pounding, blood-pumping, adrenaline-kicking excitement.

    And each time Margo would scrutinize her, mock her for her lack of life and full existence, she wanted to be able to scathingly reply. She wanted to be able to defend herself, but she didn’t have the heart to. She didn’t have it in her to; it was missing; it was gone and dead.

    It had stayed gone a good long time. That wasn’t going to change. She told herself she accepted it.

    Life was full of choices, and she had made hers. She remembered the memories of her feelings, she simply couldn’t feel them anymore. She knew it was supposed to be a matter she could shrug off, and yet she couldn’t. It was constantly in the back of her mind. Each day Margo threw another tremendous fit, full of emotion and life, she would sit back and be patient, waiting for it to end.

    The worst part was the way everyone around her, everyone like Margo, could tell. The children, especially, were the worst, because they lacked tact and didn’t shy away from pointing her out.

    “It’s okay,” Margo sometimes said, to soothe her, though she wasn’t upset. She couldn’t exactly be upset. “It’s pretty okay, because you look really good.”


    ****

    “Look, mom, look at her,” said a small boy with the most curious face on a child she’d ever seen. He stared at her as if she were ugly, but she wasn’t, not conventionally anyway.

    “Brian, it’s not polite to point those sort of people out, even if they’re bad examples,” his mother muttered to him. She grabbed his hand and steered him off toward the playground, where the rest of the children were.

    Jane watched them go, her hands folded neatly in her lap. She had taken to going for walks in the park and sitting on the bench to observe everyone for a few hours. It was getting harder and harder to be around Margo all day, endlessly, everyday.

    It was time to think, and though that’s all she was capable of doing, she couldn’t feel. So thinking was all there was, she had to settle.

    She watched as an elderly woman giggled along with who appeared to be her granddaughter. They were walking across a nearby grassy hill, both of them with tall ice cream cones in their hands. Their eyes were bright and their faces nice and full with spirit.

    Jane watched them closely, knowing she had been wrong, knowing it was beautiful; they were beautiful. She couldn’t regret what she had done, it was years ago, a whole life time ago, when she had been sadly mistaken. It was during a time when she believed life to be about duration, not the feel of it, when she believed a good life was looking nice and living long.

    Eventually the sun set and the moon came out, and the playground kids dispersed, returning to their homes hungry for dinner. There was nothing to observe then. Jane stood up from the park bench for the first time in hours and made her way back, taking as long as she could.

    “Where have you been?” Margo asked as soon as she walked through the front door. She was sprawled out on the sofa in their living room, a glamour magazine in her hands. She watched her sister move about with suspicious eyes, as if she felt Jane wasn’t supposed to exist anywhere if she Margo weren’t around to make her exist.

    “I went for a walk.”

    “Why?”

    “Because… it seemed like a thing to do.”

    “Why? You’ve never gone for walks before.”

    “You weren’t born when I used to go for walks before. I used to go for walks all of the time.”

    “Oooh!” Margo said excitedly. She sprang up from her lying position, anticipation in her dark eyes.

    “What?”

    “I think that’s maybe the most feeling I’ve ever heard in your voice!” she said.

    “It doesn’t mean anything.”

    “Maybe there’s hope for you yet! You don’t know, Jane, maybe you can feel a little after all,” Margo said with hope. She was already running away with the idea, forming all of these possibilities. “You’re not ruined, maybe. It’s possible, let’s explore a bit.”

    “It doesn’t matter, it won’t work.”

    “How do you know?”

    “Because it’s gone, it’s dead, it’s… this.”

    Margo stood from the sofa and followed Jane out of the living room, through the narrow and dimmed hall, into their bedroom. She was like a dog who had just been teased with the most appealing bone to exist.

    “Maybe not! Maybe you can be just like me--then we can truly be sisters!”

    “What makes you think I want to be like you?” Jane asked before she could sensor herself. She stopped short of her bed and turned to look at the girl she called her sister. In reality, this girl was her grand daughter. “I can’t exactly want anything… not really, authentically. It’s artificial.”

    “And that’s your problem! You’re just… artificial. It’s sad.”

    “Margo, you’re artificial.”

    “If you can cry you can’t be artificial, you can’t feign that sort of thing, Jane!”

    “You’re artificial when you’re alive, Margo,” Jane said bluntly, in her practical voice. “You think an emotion is some big exaggerated reaction. There was a time, years ago, before you were even thought of, when I had emotion, and I could feel my life.”

    “How can you say that to me?” Margo said in her big show of a reaction. Her eyes were going watery.

    “You think life is something to be acted, as if you’ve been cast some part to play,” Jane said uncaring of whether Margo cried. “Your tragedy is that you feel empty and you think you can fix it by making yourself act out emotions. My tragedy is that I chose time and… the surface, the youth of things like my skin and my face, all of it, I chose it over a graceful, natural death. Here I am, physically, but spiritually, I died 56 years ago on a hospital bed. I walk around the city and everyone knows by just looking at me. I’m here but… I’m not. There’s no real existence once you’ve lost your soul, and no miracle medical technology can keep your soul with you. When it’s your time to go, it’s gone, it moves on, and there you are, just physically there but nothing else. Sure, you’re breathing but it’s not living.”

    Margo was a mess by the time Jane stopped talking. Tear after tear poured from her eyes and she shivered and shook, and let out puffy breaths.

    “It’s late and I should get some sleep. You should too. We have work tomorrow,” Jane said.

    With that, she reached for the light switch and the room went completely dark.


    ****

    “My contact, I can’t find my contact!” Margo wailed loudly to the subway car.

    Every person turned in her direction. She had their full and undivided attention.

    Margo dropped to her knees, her palms flat against the subway car floor, as she swept it with her hands in search of her one missing contact. She was playing the part well, being panicky and fretful. Her cheeks were red and her eyebrows pushed together in worry. Soon people joined her in the search.

    Only Jane knew that Margo didn’t wear contacts. Margo didn’t even know, she was so into the part.

    It was a typical day. They were on their way to work. A few people stared at her as if she were alien. Margo made a scene everywhere they went. The day was like every other day.

    Jane waited calmly for Margo’s scene to be over, seated in the corner with her hands folded, as they usually were, neatly in her lap. She had stopped thinking about her lack of emotion, her soul who had died when she had supposed to, and her difference from most around her.

    At the end of the day, it was all said and done. It had been for 56 years. She would live forever, until something capable of undoing the procedure, finally did her in. She would be pretty and young and have a beating heart thanks to medical technology, but she knew now that life wasn‘t just looking the part, it was feeling it, experiencing it, savoring it. Because of her decision, she would go on without her spirit, without her feelings, just like she had been doing for decades.

    All she could do was stand back and observe those around her lucky enough to be living and not just breathing. There was nothing to do but watch and wait, patiently, for the day she could join the other half of herself, wherever it was, whenever that would be.
     
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    yellowm&M - Guardian

    When I was five, I used to spend almost all of my summer playing in my front yard. Our street was a safe, quiet one, so my mother saw no harm in letting me play out there as long as she could see me from our kitchen window. I didn’t care; so that’s what I did nearly every day. I was a very adventurous and curious child; a dangerous combination for a five year old. So one day I decided to climb the tree in my front yard. A very stupid thing to do for sure, but I didn’t think of that. When I was about five and a half feet up the tree, I lost my footing and fell. I didn’t even have a chance to scream before someone caught me. Looking up, I saw the face of a man I had never before seen in my neighborhood. He was an old man wearing a light gray trench coat, with a brown bowler hat pulled low over his eyes which were bright blue, and twinkling. He smiled gently before setting me down. Then he turned around and started walking away. However, when he had only gone a few feet he turned back to me, smiled, touched his hat, and nodded to me.

    From then on, I saw him nearly every day; he walked by my house when I played outside, he read the paper while I waited for the bus, he browsed the isles while we grocery shopped. And every time I saw him he would look up, nod, and smile. Anyone looking at the situation logically would have been scared out of their wits, and would have called the police long ago. But I didn’t look at this logically; I couldn’t look at it logically. Everything about the situation was the very definition of illogical. Even thought this man was following me, and I knew absolutely nothing about him, I just knew he meant me no harm. I had a strange, but very strong feeling that he was there to protect me.

    As the years passed by, I began to view him as a friend, albeit a strange, distant one, but a friend nonetheless. A constant force in my life that was always there whenever I needed him most, for better or for worse. At my high school graduation, he stood in the crowd and clapped for me. On my very first day of college, he led me to my classes on time when I got lost. When I was 19, and my boyfriend of two, almost three years broke up with me, he sat with me outside in the pouring rain, and held me while I cried. And when I was done, he made sure I got back to my dorm safely.

    Five years later he came to my wedding, and stood in the back. And when it came time for the guests to congratulate us, he was up there to hug me, his eyes bright and dancing, and the biggest smile I had ever seen on his lips. When my husband and I went searching for our first house I saw him standing across the street from the house we bought. One year later my mother died and he showed up at my house, his eyes grave. Again, he hugged me while I cried. I told my husband that he was an old friend of mother’s and when he left, my husband took his place, comforting me just as well while I cried in his arms. Then, three years ago, when my daughter was born, he came to the hospital, balloon in hand, and a huge smile on his face.

    All these moments fill my mind as a pair of hands yank me backwards, away from walking in front of a speeding car that surely would have killed me. I fall backwards onto the sidewalk and instantly my husband’s strong hands are helping me up, my daughter’s hands cling to my leg, and my hands go gently to my belly and the baby growing there. My husband kisses me and reassures our daughter, while holding me. But I, I look towards the shadows and an old man hidden there.

    He’s wearing a light gray trench coat, and a brown bowler hat pulled low over his eyes. Sensing my gaze, he pushes his hat up and smiles, his blue eyes twinkling. Touching his hat softly, he nods at me, then turns around and walks away. I watch him walk away, knowing he will be back at some grocery store, or park bench. After all, never changing, never aging, he is my immortal guardian.
     
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