?

Please vote for the piece that you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Feb 7, 2010.
  1. InkDream - Supply and Demand

    3 vote(s)
    15.8%
  2. lyethia - The Fluttergidget

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  3. Mr Marshmallow - Once In A Lifetime

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Ree - The Last Minute

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  5. Coldwriter - Metal Birds

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Dropkick Assassin - The Dawn Sky

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
  7. yellowm&M - Smile

    3 vote(s)
    15.8%
  8. irishgirl1616 - Welcome

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
  9. Fabulosa - New Year's Eve

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  10. lavendarshy - Light

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  11. nwian - Last Words

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  12. Delphinus - It's Not Reall Death

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  13. Writer_of_Wrongs - The doctor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  14. Tamsin - Unquiet

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  15. savage - 60 seconds

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
  16. P3RFECT - This seems Familiar...

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
  17. SnapCrackleFizz - One Minute To Live

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  18. chiank - The Short Journey

    1 vote(s)
    5.3%
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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Voting Short Story Contest (60): One Minute To Live

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jan 26, 2010.

    Voting Short Story Contest (60) Theme: One Minute To Live

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 7th February 2010 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 or over 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 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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    InkDream - Supply and Demand

    I was in the doghouse. Again. “I ask you to do one, simple thing, Jack…” Honestly. You forget to bring home a gallon of milk and suddenly you’ve gone rogue. It was the little things that set her off. Not putting the toilet paper on right, washing the laundry on the wrong setting, forgetting the milk. In my heart of hearts I knew it was the pregnancy making her crazy, but I’d given up trying not to provoke her at this point. It would pass.

    I shuffled into the convenience store, no need to rush. Emily needed time to stew and I needed time to lick my wounds. The place was stocked like a sardine can--merchandise everywhere, the dairy towards the back. A moment later I had a gallon of generic milk in my hand while I stood puzzling over the chewing gum selection. Melon twist or the tried and true peppermint? It was the little things.

    I heard raised voices towards the checkout. There wasn’t time to turn around and see what it was about. There was an eardrum ripping explosion and it was like the hand of God had curled into a fist and punched through me, leaving fire in its wake. I was staring up at the water stained ceiling, cold tile at my back, before it occurred to me that I had been shot or that I was dying. My chest was heavy, each breath a victory won.

    The man that worked behind the counter had taken off his shirt and pressed it to the wound to slow the bleed. “Help’s coming” he promised “they‘ll catch the bastard.” I saw the doubt in his blue eyes and wished they were hers instead. Then again, I was glad she wasn’t there to witness it. It wasn’t how I’d want to be remembered.

    Thinking of Emily hurt. It hurt more than the gaping hole in my chest.

    I looked around as much as I could, but the man wouldn’t let me move. I lie in a puddle--my blood made thick, crimson swirls in the milk from the jug I’d dropped.

    Breathing was getting harder but the pain was less. Actually, I really couldn't feel my body much at all. It felt like I was drifting, like leaning back into calm waters to just float. I was floating away, eyes closed, when the man slapped me.

    “Stay with me.” he demanded. “They’re coming. You just hang on.“

    I didn’t know the guy. He’d worked the cash register every time I came in but we never exchanged pleasantries, never had the semblance of a conversation. We exchanged goods for money and that was the extent of our relationship; supply and demand. It seemed odd now that he would be the one fighting for my life, covered in my blood, waiting with me as I die. It was strangely intimate--I didn’t even know his name.

    My eyes lazily flicked to his nametag. Alex. Alex the Great, I thought. A good name for a good man. Even if I didn’t make it his kindness made all the difference. I would not die alone.

    There were sirens, I could hear them screeching in the distance like a banshee calling me home.
     
  3. Gannon
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    lyethia - The Fluttergidget

    She emerges from the cocoon a soggy, slimy mess. Her eyelashes clump together, and she feels her left wing shred at the tip where she stepped on it in her haste to leave her prison. She staggers forward and falls. Green, pus-like liquid pools at her knees. Her breath rasps in her throat.

    A sticky blur of color detaches from the swirling miasma that surrounds her. Something soft runs over her eyes. Her eyelashes part like the teeth of a wolf, her eye staring through, white and gelatinous. It fixes on the face of her savior, her Light-Bringer, who manages to unstick her other eye. He takes her hand and attaches a monitor to her wrist. He places his right hand over her heart. He waits.

    Professor Javier Laplyn can feel the coffee rush fading from his swollen veins. He doesn’t look at the creature before him, only at the monitor on her wrist. He could encircle her arm with his thumb and forefinger and still have enough space to slide another finger into the gap. He shakes the thought off and focuses back on the screen. Her heart ticks away like a train propelling itself from a cliff. Built to kill her. In 56. 55. 54…

    Javier prays that she isn’t one of the lively ones. He had one like that a few days ago, nasty thing. It threw itself at him, spreading disgusting slime all over his lab coat. Some even got on the piece of his jeans that peeked out from beneath his formal attire. It took him hours to wash out, and even then, something that looked like a mixture of sebum and infectious discharge lingered on the fabric.

    Javier shudders. He can feel the texture of her skin even through the thick cloth of his glove. He needs to get new gloves. Rubber ones, perhaps, with reinforced fingertips. Or something. Anything that would muffle the feel of their skin.

    45. 43. 42…

    Javier starts to look up, and hurriedly fixes his gaze back on her wrist. It looks like Annie’s wrist just before she died, the blueness of every vein accentuated by white skin. But no, he must not look at her. At it.

    Monitor, monitor.

    Anyway, who cares if the creature resembles her? Its life contributes to the good of mankind. And it lives for so short a time, it isn’t likely to miss it anyway. Annie would be proud, proud to see what he is doing now!

    33, 32, 31...

    Javier reaches into his pocket and takes out the collecting bubble. He pops the button with a flick of his thumb; the bubble expands, its opening wide like the mouth of a fish. He tosses it into the air and syncs it to the monitor with a simple telepathic command. It will be ready by the time the creature dies.

    25, 24, 23…

    Professor Laplyn sighs and yawns. Gods above, when would it end? He sneaks a look at the ring of disciples that surrounds him. Bah. Residents. Javier snorts to himself. One of them, the most outspoken prior to entering the collecting chamber, has his eyes glued to the floor. His face flames red. Javier feels glee flood his system. He already envisions the long lecture ahead, the scorn, the contemptuous advice he would give his students: the creatures might look human, but they aren’t! How many times do I have to tell you? It’s like looking at a naked elephant! No need to be embarrassed! (Idiots, the lot of them.)

    15, 14…

    Javier looks back at the monitor. He freezes. A pale hand, fingers webbed with translucent green veins, crosses his vision. He feels fingers against his cheek. His bare cheek. His bare. Cheek.

    13, 12…

    It, she, looks up at him. Her irises have already formed, crystal blue, the color of his Annie’s eyes. Her tiny nostrils flare as her eyes widen. They fix on his face. Javier cannot move. He does not even notice that her mouth, stretching from ear to ear, has opened. He only hears the small noise she makes, as though she were a baby waking up to her mother’s face. Her eyes crease at the corners, her lips turn up at the ends. She strokes his cheek. He barely feels her touch, it is so light upon his skin. She widens her smile into a laugh. Oh! Heavens! It is a child’s delight! Javier reaches toward her. He wants to touch her hair, which lies against her skull in a fuzzy pink cloud.

    3.

    2.

    1.

    …so soft …

    0.

    She dissolves. Disintegrates. The monitor clatters to the floor. Snow-white powder coalesces into a column, and the collecting bubble swoops in to scoop it up. The bubble tumbles into his outstretched hand and reforms into a flask. It hardens into glass.

    A smattering of applause. The Professor shakes himself, looks up. His students crowd around him. They tremble, eyes alight, questions barely contained in their mouths.

    “Professor! Professor!” Mary Slaw, face bright, sticks her hand into the air. Her hair surrounds her face like a thicket. “Can I ask you a question? May I? Please?”

    Javier stares at her. He tries to move his lips, but no sound comes out.

    “Why did you wipe the eyes of the Fluttergidget?” Mary asks. “Is there a concrete biological phenomenon that instructs you to do this? Does every Collector do it? Is it just you? Do you have a personal reason that compels you to open her optics? Is there—”

    “Lek-Lek,” Javier says. His voice sounds warbled. “Explain.”

    Lek-Lek puffs up with importance. His flush of embarrassment is replaced by the shade of pride. “Exposing the eye to the light facilitates the growth of optic neurons,” he says. “As more optic neurons accumulate, they spread signals to the occipital lobe of the brain, which in turn augments its volume. This accretion then contributes to the quality and quantity of Luxaria powder.” He turns to Javier for confirmation.

    Professor Javier Laplyn stands up. He jerks his head in the direction of his students, then strides quickly to the corner of the room. Something clangs against the floor behind him, but he doesn’t look back.

    “Professor! The Luxaria powder!” Running footsteps. “Professor!...”

    Javier finally reaches the wall of the white, domed chamber. He swipes his card in the security device as though it were a knife against the flesh of his mortal enemy. The door opens, steam uncurls its tentacular tendrils. Javier steps through and continues in a semi-run down the white hallway.

    Mary screams behind him. “Professoooorrrrr! Can we come with you?”

    “We aren’t really supposed to…”

    Javier runs on. His heart beats loudly in his ears. The halls echo with his footsteps; besides his breathing, they are the only other sound in the building. He can only think of one thing: Annie. His Annie. Annie, lost to the Breaking. Annie’s eyes, the same as the creature’s. Why would the Fluttergidget have those eyes? Fluttergidgets were insects in the semblance of humanity. They had no souls. They died in the same instant they lived, and their bodies were harvested as medicine for those plagued by the Breaking epidemic. Javier himself was part of the elite team of scientists that discovered the necessary changes in the Fluttergidgets’ genetic code, shortening their lifespan from years to a minute. The efficiency of Luxaria harvesting improved by 478%. All for the sake of medicine. Fluttergidgets were but living carcasses, developed and maintained at the whim of humanity.

    But how could a creature, no matter its exterior, have such eyes? Professor Laplyn does not understand why. He does not want to understand why. He understands one thing, and one thing only: he must stop the inhumanity. The monstrous thing that he has contributed to.

    Javier slashes another security device with his card, and another pair of doors opens. He steps through—all is empty. Javier walks over to the “Termination” seal. He types in the code. He peers back through the window into the domed room; good, his students have left. Only the cocoons crouch in the centre of the chamber, great white caterpillars waiting for their miniscule window of life.

    The scientists would have to deal with cell-based Luxaria cloning.

    Medicine does not exist to destroy.

    Professor Javier Laplyn smiles. “You die to live,” he says, and pushes the purple “Termination” button.
     
  4. Gannon
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    Mr Marshmallow - Once In A Lifetime

    He knows. He can feel it: in the dry air he exhales through chapped lips (why can’t they turn the humidifier up a notch, the cheap bastards), in the soft rustling of papers and murmurs of phone conversations that he hears coming through the thin walls of his cubicle, in the stale smell of paper that tickles his nose-hair with every intake of breath. He feels it especially in the sight of the men that have come to kill him.

    “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” He murmurs to himself, singing some forgotten song. How did he get here? What had he done? What had he achieved? What were his accomplishments?

    He had done nothing noteworthy. The only time he had been in the newspaper was when he wrote a letter to Santa in the second grade. He grew up in the city, went to school in the city, got married in the city, and got a job in the city. The same job he was supposed to be doing now.

    It was dull work. Shuffling the scripts from one side to another, scanning them quickly, then making the calls. Sometimes it went well and the sale was made – other times he was disconnected or cussed at.

    He wasn’t doing a good job, in the moral sense. He wasn’t saving lives or the environment; he wasn’t making people happy, either. Most of the time he was just disrupting already hectic lives.

    Someone wanted him to do it though. Someone wanted it to be done badly enough to pay him the meager wage that he earned. It was barely enough to live on: in fact, it wasn’t. Not with the gambling-addicted brother that he was taking pity on. The gambling debts were high, and the brother couldn’t show his face to get the money to pay them off. He was borrowing enough money to hold off the underground casinos, but he in turn couldn’t pay back the loan sharks.

    So here they were, to end his life. “Into the blue again, after the money’s gone.”

    They quickly scanned the complex; one tall and skinny, the other short and almost as wide as he was tall. They could be a comedy act, he thought. Like the two that visited his high school, so long ago. He could still remember them clearly, perhaps because he hadn’t seen anything humorous since high school. These two weren’t here to crack jokes and screw each other up; these two were here to screw him up.

    As his eyes met theirs, first the taller one and then the shorter one, they began to move towards each other. He didn’t want to make a fuss, and he didn’t want to hurt anyone else. There was small chance of escape, and even if he did he couldn’t come back to his job, and without his job there would be no way of paying back his debts.

    He has some vague idea of reasoning with them, of paying them off, of seizing the guns they are carrying and shooting them both. These fade from his mind as he thinks of what life would be after that.

    He thinks of what his life has been. When he was five he wanted to be a garbage man, when he was seven: a window washer like the ones he saw hanging what seemed miles up the side of the skyscrapers. They seemed so heroic to him, facing the heights and the wind without a care in the world.

    He looked to the window and saw that it was clean. “My god, what have I done?”

    In middle school he wanted to be famous, and in high school he wanted to be a social worker. He ended up working at some pointless job, living some pointless life. He had wanted to go to college, once…

    But really, how pointless was it? He did his best. He didn’t enjoy what he did, but not everyone could be a social worker or a window washer or a garbage man. Very few could be famous. He earned money and used that to buy books that he read late at night. They caused him to think, and to feel, the stained yellow pages of the half-price paperbacks. He did the little things that most people missed, like feeding the birds and holding doors open. Even simple “please” and “thank you” came easily from his mouth. He enjoyed the smile on a child’s face, the color of a rock in the cement sidewalk, the feel of the breeze waving through his hair. It was enough for him.

    “Letting the days go by…”

    He knows there was a lot he hadn’t done, a lot he would never do, and a lot he wished he would do. But despite all of this he knows that he wouldn’t change a single decision he made, that his life was worthwhile. He smiles and mouths to himself, “Same as it ever was.” He is still smiling when the bullet starts through his forehead, breaking the fragile skin and then slowing a little as it bites into his skull, finally hitting the brain and ending the electrical impulses and chemical reactions that we call life.
     
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    Ree - The Last Minute

    It was inevitable. He knew he couldn’t stay. Not here, not any longer. But it was the only home he’d known and the thought of leaving was heart wrenching. In a blink, it seemed like days had turned into minutes. Now any second might be his last.

    His eyes darted back and forth in the darkness as the panic set in. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Relief washed over him as he concentrated on the heartbeat that was his lifeline. It was still beating. He was still safe. Closing his eyes, he tried to hold onto the only time he had left.

    Seconds later, intense pressure surrounded him and a muffled scream vibrated through him. He knew he had to get out. His time was up.

    Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Head down, he started maneuvering his way through darkness to leave. He could barely make out a voice say, “It will all be over in less than a minute. Just hold on. You can do this.”

    “Yes,” he thought. “Yes, I can do this. I know I can.” Determination was his only guide toward the unknown.

    Sounds were distorted, but he could make out a voice that cried, “It’s too much to bare. Please make it stop. Please!”

    The voices and screams continued to heighten. Uncertainty and confusion swept over him. “Ignore it, just keep going,” he told himself. Lowering his head, he accepted his fate. He pushed forward knowing intuitively that if he didn’t go willfully, they would use force.

    “You’re almost there. YOU CAN DO THIS!”

    Thump, thump. Thump, thump. His lungs began to compress as his anxiety peaked. He knew that hesitation might cost him his life, yet he wanted to retreat.

    And then it was too late. He sensed them. No, felt them. Forceful hands grabbed around his head, pulling him forward. He relinquished control as his body contorted in all directions. Sensations like no other rushed through him as he was forced through to the unknown.

    With an instant, he was out but it wasn’t over. Piercing sounds deafened his ears. Bitter chill took over his skin. A burning pain ripped down his throat and engulfed his lungs as he screamed for help. Screamed, cried, and begged for it to stop. He dared not open his eyes for fear of what he might see.

    Just when he thought he couldn’t take anymore, he felt unexpected warmth overcome him. Soft, yet firm, hands pulled him into a cradle hold. His lips were joined with a supple object he never felt before. Instincts told him to allow it in. He opened his mouth to embrace it. Wanting more, he sucked, swallowing warm liquid that felt incredibly fulfilling.

    In the distance, he could barely make out the “Thump, thump. Thump, Thump,” giving him unexpected comfort. He felt safe again.

    With a slight sense of caution, he built up the courage to pry open his eyes. It was then that they met, their souls connected. With more peace than he ever felt before, he heard the angelic voice say - “Welcome to the world, my beautiful son.”
     
  6. Gannon
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    Coldwriter - Metal Birds

    Karm opened his eyes.

    The timer flashed 1:00.

    He had one minute to live.

    Stage was speaking again. “Too bad I found you. Your spy mission might have been successful otherwise.”

    Thick laughter. “You should see how your bird smokes on the ground!”


    *****

    In the brilliant morning blue sky, speckled with hovering clouds, a glittering star raced swiftly over numerous lakes scattered across the land, giant puddles connected by winding rivers and streams. Vast sections of green forests layered between the flowing waters. It veered down to the surface of a wide river, silver body glowing beneath the sun as it skimmed across, casting waves in its wake.

    Behind, a large black object gave chase, a mass of black steel with yellow eyes locked on to the fleeing silver.

    Darting over the twisting river, the silver armor looked like a hurtling spear, massive midsection and large head streaking forward, dragging behind two metallic legs.

    The river to the right erupted in a monstrous splash. The silver flier shifted left, just another explosion sank into the water right where it had been and flashed white spray into the sky.

    The enemy mobile suit had come within range.


    *****

    50 seconds.

    “That’s quite the machine you pilot. I don’t recognize the model.” Karm said quietly as he reached for a panel below him.

    “Indeed!”

    The blonde kid patted the machine as he stood from his suit’s seat, ejected from the core of the black suit. “It’s one of a kind, the first MT mobile suit created. As you have just experienced, it’s faster, stronger, and greater than any other suit around.”

    A proud smile.“ Pure superiority.”


    *****

    Trees exploded along the river’s edge.

    Karm had enough of water tag.

    Inside his suit’s core, he reached behind him and with both hands pulled downwards on two black rubber handles. Two large wing-blades rose from behind StarV and extended outwards. Karm shot upwards and arced high into the sky. He glanced behind him and saw the black suit coming up fast as well, a growing shadow eager to swallow him.

    A yellow flare flickered and grew into a sphere and Karm instantly spun right as a magnificent yellow streak sliced through the air next to him and into the atmosphere. He guided StarV, twirling and diving to avoid the yellow blasts cloaking the air around him. The sound of spattering machine-gun fire joined the fight as the black suit raised a turret on its shoulder and fired.


    ******

    “Unlike your friends back there.”

    “Worthless suits.” Stage spit. “They were more pathetic than you.”

    Karm held a small metal rectangle in his hand that contained two locks for two keys, one on each end.

    40 seconds.

    “Couldn’t catch me. Without your guns, you wouldn’t have either.”

    Stage laughed. “Does that really matter? Here you are lying on the ground about to die.”


    *****

    A powerful yellow beam sliced into Karm’s mobile suit, piercing through the armor and severing StarV’s right arm and wing-blade. Wires sparked and flared, smoke fuming from hole. StarV flew backwards from the impact into a spin. The other suit slammed into Starv, the two metallic bodies screeching. The black suit raised a mighty fist and struck StarV squarely in the midsection, sending it in a freefall towards the ground. Karm yelled as he wrestled to gain control of the barreling StarV.

    She tore through the forest canopy and smashed onto the ground with an explosive thud.


    *****

    30 seconds.

    “Goodbye, Karm.”

    Stage gave a short wave but just as he turned to hop in his seat, two thick hooks discharged from the center of StarV, and slammed into the open chest of the black suit. They locked and pulled down on the black suit. Stage should have fallen from the impact, but his hand caught a grip at the last moment.

    20.

    Scrambling to his seat, Stage tried to return to his core but he fumbled with his controls. The metal chest scraped against the metal chains as it tried to withdraw inside.

    Jammed.

    Stage cursed loudly. “Karm! You bastard! What are you doing?”

    Karm reached inside of his shirt and clasped two metal objects around his neck and ripped them from the leather that held them. He held out the panel and inserted the first key on the right.

    15.

    He inserted the second key.

    “What are you trying to do, you fool? You will not escape death this way. I will come kill you inside of the machine myself if I have to!”

    Karm put both hands on the keys and closed his eyes.

    “Karm!"

    10.

    The two suits were yards apart.

    StarV had been good to Karm; her final use was beautiful.

    Stage screamed at him.

    1.

    Karm twisted the keys.

    Detonation.
     
  7. Gannon
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    Dropkick Assassin - The Dawn Sky

    Devlin sat on the curb waiting for the bus. He wasn't even sure that it was coming. He was the only one at the stop at the moment out of the usual twelve teenagers that lived around here. He pushed his long brown hair out of his eyes and stared across the street waiting to see any sign of movement that would tell him that someone was coming. As he watched his mind wandered.

    He had only been going to this school for 3 months but in that time he had grown to greatly dislike his bus driver. She was tremendously critical of the rules. If she saw a water bottle at all, in your backpack, hand, anywhere, she took it from you and threw it away. Devlin called it thievery. She called it the right thing to do. She yelled if you had an elbow hanging into the aisle between seats and if you spoke above a whisper she would stop the bus and order you to get off. Devlin didn't just hate her, he loathed her.

    A movement across the street caught his eye and he saw his friend Madison walking toward him. Good, he wasn't late. Madison came and sat next to him and they talked quietly. Eventually, everyone was there and as the last person walked up the bus turned the corner at the end of the road.

    The bus pulled to a stop in front of them and they began to file quickly and quietly onto the bus. As he stepped onto it an unexplainable shiver went down Devlin's spine. He disregarded it and sat down in his seat in the front of the bus, pulled out his iPod and played one of his custom playlists as the bus started its slow crawl to the next stop. Just as the first song started again, his friend Christian sat next to him and he turned off his iPod. He began to chat quietly with Christian.

    Suddenly, the bus shuddered and then stopped. Right in the middle of an intersection! He watched as the world became a movie played in slow motion. A car barreled out of one of the intersecting roads and hit the brakes and the horn simultaneously. Too little, too late. The car slammed into the bus right by Devlin's window and he felt his leg crack. He gasped in pain as screams rang out all up and down the bus. Christian was thrown across the aisle. He was dazed but conscious.

    Devlin's first thought after the pain hit him was of Madison. He swiveled around and saw her. She was bleeding a little from a scratch on her cheek but other than that fine. He shouted to the back of the bus, "Sean, open the door!" Nothing happened. It was too loud. No one could hear him over the sound of the screams.

    "Everybody get out!“ He shouted, raising his voice over the confused din of voices. The hood of the bus was on fire. He could see that and the acrid stench of burning paint and oil filled his nostrils. He stepped into the aisle using the backrests of seats as makeshift crutches. "Christian help me get them out," he said and Christian stood obediently and offered himself to a girl that looked badly injured. She accepted his help gratefully but it was no good. The aisles were packed full of panicking teenagers and there was no way to get through.

    Devlin started screaming for action, for people to get off the burning bus. If they didn’t there would be problems. “Move!“ He shouted. He stepped into the aisle and began pushing people, his leg burning with his weight. Suddenly, the buzzer signaling that the emergency door had been open began sounding. Relief pulsed through him as he realized that things may turn out alright.

    From there, the rest went quickly. What they were taught in the bus evacuation drill forgotten people were pushing and shoving, running and jumping to get off the bus. Soon, the aisle was clear enough for him to move freely. Christian and the injured girl passed him on their way to the back.

    He looked around to make sure that everyone was going and saw that Madison was still in her seat. “Hun, we gotta go,” he said to her and pulled her to her feet, gritting his teeth through the pain of bearing the weight of two people now.

    “What happened?” Madison asked.

    “Crash.” Devlin kept things simple. He put a finger to his lips so she would shush and they began walking down the bus together. Devlin hid the fact that he was hurt. He didn’t want her to make a big deal of it. When they reached the end Madison leapt down. Devli9n turned to make sure everyone was off and his heart sank. His gaze got caught on the front mirror of the bus where he could see that the bus driver was slouched in her seat. "Call 911!" he called to Madison, then said to Christian, "Get them out of the street."

    “No! What are you doing? Devlin come back!” Madison pleaded but he had already began the arduous task of pulling himself to the front of the bus. When he reached her seat he undid the driver's safety belt and dragged her to a standing position. He wrapped her arm around his neck and started back toward the back gasping from every step. He didn't have crutches this time.



    Madison called the emergency number that every five year old knows just to hear that someone had already called. She turned back to the bus and saw Devlin walking toward her still in the bus. He gave her a small smile and pushed on. He was about halfway up the bus when it turned into a fireball that illuminated the dawn sky…
     
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    yellowm&M - Smile

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    What if you only had a minute? Just 60 seconds? And after that minute your life was over. What would you do with it?

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    The question bounces around in my mind searching for an answer to stick to; an answer that isn’t there. Each bounce against the walls of my head keeps time with the ticking time bomb of the clock behind me. Each movement of the hand is a step closer towards the end of that minute.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    I’d never noticed before how both unsettling and yet oddly soothing the sound of a clock is. It calms my racing nerves making it easier to stay sitting in this chair, not that there is a choice of leaving anyways. I don’t look at the clock hanging behind my back. I don’t want to see exactly how many
    second are left.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    You’d think that I’d be trying to find a way out of here. Normally people don’t just sit around waiting for their life to end. Yet, here I am doing just that. It’s definitely not a position I ever expected to be in.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    Don’t get me wrong, what I’m doing is not suicidal. I like life; I love it. It’s not by choice that I’m sitting here waiting for it all to disappear. Of course whether or not it’s by choice is irrelevant, because regardless I’m still here. It’s what I have to do.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    Maybe I should be crying or something. You know, showing some kind of emotion. This isn’t exactly some simple little walk in the park that I’m going through. But I’m not. I just feel strangely calm, though my heart is still racing in my chest.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    The seconds go resolutely by. My eyes are locked on the window directly in front of me that faces my little neighborhood. It’s very pleasant and peaceful out there. I’ve always loved this house mostly because of the neighborhood. In months past I would sit in this room and watch the people who walked by, now I’m watching for her to walk by.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    The question is still swimming in my mind. What would you do if you only had a minute? But I’m no closer to an answer. You’d think I’d know, especially right now when I only have a minute, but I don’t.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    Out of everything that is happening to me, do you know the hardest idea to handle is? What if she doesn’t walk by? What if I don’t get to see Hannah in these final seconds? She’s supposed to come by. But what if she doesn’t?

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    I wouldn’t blame her for not coming of course. It’s not exactly the most pleasant thing to some see someone when they’re in my situation. I’m still bizarrely unfazed by what will happen as soon as those ticks reach sixty in number. I’m already about halfway there as it is.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    My heart starting beating a little faster and I can feel my nerves starting to fray a little more. It isn’t from my impending loss of life, however. It’s from the idea of not seeing Hannah again. It’s making my heart beat quickly and my blood run cold.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    The seconds seem to be both speeding by and inching along slowly. Still I don’t have an answer. What would I do? What should I do? Even now in that theoretical minute I can’t find my own answer.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    More second pass as I struggle to find that elusive answer.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    I keep staring at the window before me. I’m still desperately hoping for Hannah to walk by my window so that I can see her.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    I listen for the sound of voices and footsteps. However all I can hear is the echoing tick of the clock. A soft wind blows by my window and it carries with it sweet, young voices. My heart lifts in my chest.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    And there she is. Smiling and holding the hand of her two daughters. Her husband is standing in front of the three of them laughing with the two little girls. And even though she’s with him and not me I feel no sadness or regret for what could have been, only overwhelming joy.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    While her family is happily occupied with each other she turns and looks at me. Her eyes and smile are sad and as beautiful as ever. I take in her face greedily and I can feel my very soul lighting up.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    I am seized with the need to tell her one thing before I am gone. Not out of pain, but out of the simple need to let her know. I mouth the words “I love you,” through the glass that separates us. Her eyes grow sadder still and she mouths back “I know.” In her face there is the slightest hint of longing which makes a sad smile curve my lips as I reach out my hand slightly towards her.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    And suddenly I know the answer to my question as the blackness begins to curl around me.

    Tick.

    What would you do if you only had one minute?

    Tick.

    I’d tell her that I loved her.

    Tick.
     
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    irishgirl1616 - Welcome

    Sophia glanced up at the only window, seeing the moon glow down on her like a beckoning angel. Usually the moon would have provided solace when she was unnerved, but tonight it was just a beam of light keeping the darkness away.

    Sweat began to trickle down her back as the clock hit 11:59.

    A minute left.

    Two other people in the room kept company with her, not like it was any use. It wouldn’t help in the end.
    She wrung her hands together, their moisture keeping her painfully aware of what was going to happen at midnight. Her heart began to beat faster, fluttering like a trapped bird in a cage, as she watched the clock. This wasn’t happening to her. She should have chosen better friends, she should have never gone out, or…or….Her mind stuttered through all the possible scenarios that could have kept her away.

    Her mouth was chalk dry and as she swallowed one of the men looked at her from across the room. He was standing beside the door, hands crossed over his massive barrel-chest and a gun holstered to his hip. Sophia stared defiantly back at him. His black tux made him look like a mobster, but that was being generous. He was the lowest of the low and again Sophia couldn’t believe what she had gotten herself into. The other sat in a chair, silent.

    30 seconds.

    Sophia's nerves tingled with fright and her heart was relentless as it pounded away in her chest. She glanced at the man sitting, but spoke to the other.
    “Marcus…” She began but he cut her off as he held a hand in the air.

    He stared at her with hard eyes. “What has to be done will be done, Sophia.”
    A heart beat later, “I’m sorry it had to be this way.”

    10 seconds.

    She glanced at Marcus, who raised a questioning brow. . The large man began to make his way over to her. Her heart pounded with what was coming and with the realization that she couldn’t stop it. Marcus grabbed his high-powered Browning from its holster and cocked it. Thoughts danced through her head of the life she had before this...of how it was going to end…
    Marcus’ hand was on hers. She could taste his breath in her mouth he was standing so close. She looked over at the man in the chair.

    The clock hit 12.

    The shot rang through the room, jolting her arm with the force.

    The man in the chair fell to the floor in a spray of blood, his head nothing but meat.

    Marcus’ gun sat warm in Sophia's hand, with his arm on her shoulder. She turned to give him a cold stare.

    “Next time, tell Anthony that I’m not killing anybody.”

    Marcus gave a lazy smile. “Sure thing, baby.”

    He leaned down to kiss her and she reluctantly kissed him back.

    “Welcome to the club,” he whispered teasingly.
     
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    Fabulosa - New Year's Eve

    Snow flakes fell on beautiful people. The niteclub queue was fun, hostile and glamorous. I held my space in a crush of glitterati. It was 11:42 on New Years Eve.

    Four giants guarded the door. They stopped two angel-faced girls with incredible legs for being too drunk and too young. The girls tried to flirt with them but the giants were impassable.

    Agitated, I tried to blend with a crowd of high-spirited, pretty people in front of me, but one shiny, black giant stood before me like a wall. He leant down and looked into my swollen, kohl-ringed eyes.

    “ID?”

    “I don’t have any. I’m twenty one.”

    “You have to show me ID.”

    I spoke slowly. “I am twenty one.”

    He looked deep into my soul and lingered there. Then he put a huge hand on my back and pushed me into the club. My soul must be weary, as I am only eighteen. But I am haggard.

    I threw a bunch of notes at the cashier and walked off without my change. Another giant stamped my wrist with the nite-club logo. I pushed past the cloakroom queue and past a line of tangerine girls in tiny skirts, into the ladies toilet. Inside the girls were drunk and hysterical, shrieking at each other as they applied war paint. I scrubbed at the logo on my wrist with soap and water until catty girls began to exchange glances, and then I locked myself in a cubicle and rubbed at my wrist until the stamp rubbed off and there was only raw, pink skin. I put my gloves back on.

    I looked at my watch. It was 11.52.

    I left the toilet and pushed my way upstairs towards the music. The club was heaving. I moved through the mass of bodies like a ricocheting bullet.

    A drunk leered at me. I looked the other way as if I hadn’t seen him. Then I struck him with a sly shoulder as I pushed past, fast.

    A sinewy, gay man with spikey hair and a big laugh saw me scurry. He jumped in front of me and playfully grinded up against me as his friends laughed. Smiling, he looked me in the eye. Whatever he saw made his smile wilt. He let me pass. I hurried on. I knew where I was going.

    I pushed through the bar towards the dance floor. On the opposite wall, was a huge screen showing footage of an alien autopsy, cut with footage of flowers opening, growing and decaying in hyper-speed, cut to the pounding, retro classic ‘And God created House’. Five hundred gyrating human-monkeys faced the screen and worshipped. But I did not search in the pit of flesh.

    I knew where he would be. And like magic, he was there. I saw his silhouette against the screen. It sent an electric jolt right through me.

    He was on a level above the dance floor, close enough to be with the music but away enough to be above the crowd. He was moving to the music but not committed to the dance. Shiny, happy people talked in his ear. He spoke and everyone laughed. A sleek brunette shimmied for him. I hated him for that, and for so many other things.

    It was now 11:57.

    People moved towards the dance floor like a stream of ants. The crowd thickened into a stew of bodies. I slipped through, closer.

    I reached into my handbag and gripped the handle of the gun. Even through my gloves, it felt strong and cool. I watched him; I watched his body sway to the music, as the Moet flowed. Among his own crowd, he didn’t seem as old as I had always believed him to be. He was forty two, but he was athletic and strong and top of his game. The best people learned their tricks from him because he was a natural. He’d always had easy charm. Men fought each other for his friendship and women changed themselves for him. And let’s not forget children. And now that he’d landed some actual wealth, after many years of playing the part, Charlie was lord of all he surveyed.

    I looked at my watch. It was 11.59. Charlie had one minute to live.

    Herdlike, the crowd drew to the dance floor with a weird, noble purposefulness. They massed around us. The crowd was maybe four bodies deep between me and him. No-one here knew me. I was a world away, though three feet close.

    A superstar deejay led the countdown from his electronic pulpit.

    “Ten.”

    The crowd bristled. I edged closer … This is for you Charlie, and for the woman you would have slept with tonight - and for the one who slept with you last night…

    “Nine”

    Closer …This is for coming into my family pretending to be my father’s friend even as you convinced him to throw his money at your sinking businesses…


    “Eight”

    I grasped the gun …This is for spinning my mother’s head - for making her laugh even when Dad was at the office fretting over money haemorrhaging from companies you designed to fail…

    “Seven”

    I dug my elbow into the warm, soft back of the fleshy blond who stood between me and Charlie...This is for my mother and father‘s tears as they told me that despite their love, Dad was leaving… and this is for seeing you walk naked from my mother’s bedroom three night’s later.

    “Six”

    I gently pushed the blond aside... This is for walking in on me when I was naked after my shower.

    “Five”

    I stood just behind him and smelt his scalp. It smelt rich and made me want to sleep a deep sleep, as ever … This is for not walking out again.

    “Four”

    With the speed of an animal, I took the gun out of my handbag and pointed it at the floor... This is for letting me fall in love with you when I was fifteen. This is for teaching me pleasure on my childhood bed and for letting me tell you all my dreams…

    “Three”

    I pushed my handbag against his back and inched the nuzzle of the gun against it... This is for my mother loosing her mind and begging you to stay with her, even though she knew you were sleeping with her teenage daughter. This is for dignity lost.

    “Two”

    This is for when you got bored of playing with me - for when you backed away from me when I stopped eating and became gaunt. This is for a thousand tears and a hundred rants and ten months without your smell in my bed. This is for finally coming to me last night after I begged you too; for making love to me as I cried with happiness… and this is for throwing a bunch of notes on my bed afterwards and telling me that I am not your problem.

    “One”

    Charlie, I am your problem.

    “Happy New Year!”

    Fireworks exploded. The crowd roared. Speakers shook with a seismic thump of bass. The whole world erupted in cheer. But I was frozen. I couldn’t move a finger.

    The fleshy blond saw me holding the gun to Charlie‘s back. Her screams pierced the cheering like a knife. Others turned and went into hysterics. People scrambled over each other like a riot in a slaughterhouse. Charlie turned and flinched with fright - though no-one could see that but me, who knew Charlie so well. Empty space opened around us. There was now just me and Charlie and an ugly bass thumping empty air as a thousand eyes watched from the sidelines.

    Ever the king, Charlie took charge.

    “Give me the gun, Lara.”

    I shook my head.

    “Give me the gun, and I will make this alright.”

    He took the gun out of my limp hand. Then he smiled, merciless.

    “You silly, little girl. You're determined to ruin your life, aren’t you? Just like your parents.”

    Charlie winked his special wink that was only for me.
     
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    lavendarshy - Light

    To hear laughter. To see the sun again. To know the sweet forgetfulness of sleep, to feel the golden infinity of a shining day. To hold the one you love in your arms and whisper goodbye. To live.

    You smile at the thought, you remember a thousand days of peace. You hold them to you, hold them in your heart. After all, there is nothing that can be done now.

    There was more you wanted to do, so much more you could have done, and you regret letting your dreams pass you by. But there has been so much you did do, so much you are proud of. You smile again, smile in the face of it all. Why not? If it must end, you may as well go down with a smile as with a frown. It really doesn't matter any more.

    The light at the end of the tunnel, they call it. But there isn't any light behind this one. Only a small metal capsule, one that is capable of taking that most precious thing. Able to take life, instantly and without remorse.

    You can't so much argue with metal, and you don't want to. There is the other one, the one behind the metal – but no. It is over, and it will be over. It is time. Time to sleep, and you are ready. Now you are tired, so tired. Something whispers that you should be afraid, but why? Sleep is nothing to fear, nothing to run from.

    You wanted to sleep again. The sweet forgetfulness of sleep, you said. Yes, yes. To forget it all in sleep.

    For a moment you remember again, for a moment you do not want to forget. Then you see the tunnel bearing down on you, and forgetfulness is the light, the light at the end. You see it coming, hear it coming. And it is welcome, almost.

    You are tired again. Sleep is coming, coming for you. You smile a little at the one behind the tunnel, the one who brought you sleep. You want to say thank you, but it is so hard to move your lips! You are so tired. . . .

    Perhaps it is time. Yes; your eyes are closing, softly, inexorably, and you cannot hold them back. When they close, others open, and you can see your closed eyes. You look strange asleep.

    But of course that is not you - only the thing that kept you awake. It is time to sleep now, now that you have gotten away.

    You close these second eyes, and you can feel yourself turning, spinning, stretching into a moment of the present, a shaft of eternity.

    You smile one more time, and you sleep.
     
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    nwian - Last Words

    We were in the kitchen, as we always were that time of day, cooking together. Just spaghetti that night, but her special spaghetti with special ingredients. I was chopping the peppers and she was breaking the noodles over the boiling water. Now I can hear clearly the snapping sound of those noodles. It was the last noise I heard that made sense.

    “I'm dying,” she said.

    “Huh?” I responded, turning from the cutting board on the counter toward where she stood at the stove.

    She was staring in the pot, her arms dropped strangely to her side.

    “Wendy?” I asked, now taking the few steps between us. I reached her side seconds before she turned slowly. She gazed in my eyes as if she did not recognize me but knew she should. But then she saw me.

    “Oh! I need to go, hon.” Her voice was slurred but I stood frozen unable to comprehend.

    “Huh?” I repeated.

    What kind of moronic word is 'huh'? It is a stall word, a word that begs for halt, a stupid word. If I had believed my wife, what she spoke to me, been able to know what she knew, I would have held her, in fact, caught her before she fell and then stayed, stroking her hair, listening to the few important things she was able to utter before she did have to go.

    Because she's gone. She fell and then I bent, felt for breathing. She was and so I raced for the phone, dialed 911, talked to them instead of her, told them what was happening when I really did not know.

    They told me once they arrived what had happened. She had suffered a stroke, had died. It had happened in a moment. Maybe a moment and a half because her eyes flickered once more as she laid on the cold tile. By now I had her hand in mine, her head in my lap. I didn't understand what she said just before her eyes closed, the left side of her face drooped, drool already escaping. But she said something. She said something she wanted me to know. And I don't know it. I've gone through that moment in my life where her life ended, over and over, but I can't figure out what she might have said. It was so quick and yet now in my mind it plays slowly. And not lonely can I not comfort myself with her last words, but cruelly, I hear my own words to her replay; “Huh?” “Huh?” “Huh?” Now I wake in the night screaming, “I love you!”

    It is not my fault, I know. Who would not have called for an ambulance? Who would ever know or take the risk that this was really it, our last seconds together, her dying breaths?

    And I will tell you that on gracious nights, I dream a lovely dream. I see her just as slowly leaving as in the tortuous replaying of my days, but in these dreams, I hear her. I see the gleam of her lucidity for seconds longer than the vacancies which in reality overtook that minute, that minute and a half. And I hear her voice. Every word. I say nothing in response because now it does not matter. She sees a greater love than I could have ever given her. He stands before her and she smiles. Smiles first at me but then at Him and what she says is, “I'm going home.”

    I wake weeping. But though I cry for myself and I can almost smell the soap on her skin, feel her lying next to me, the cloth of her long nightgown, I sob also with relief. Relief that these nights the Lord is merciful to assure me that He now holds her in His arms as He holds me though we are in separate worlds, chasms apart. He knew her and she knew Him and that last minute was our whole life; but a vapor. But now she is home.

    I am stuck here Stark reminders everywhere I turn now, that I am not home. Cooking alone in our kitchen, my heart breaks, for I miss my companion, my friend, my love, but someday He will call me home and I will see Him and I will not miss this place.
     
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    Delphinus - It's Not Really Death

    60.

    The hiss of the smooth, white surface of the door disguises an entire shipwide hydraulic system. How postmodern; how last-century.

    55.

    The air that rushes across my face is both distracting and annoying. I'll have to comb my hair once I reach Sector One.

    50.

    The dim whirr of the ship's engines is practically the only audible thing inside this reinforced-plastic bubble. The ejection controls are barely half a metre away, and for a second I have the compulsion to touch them. The feeling recedes before it begins.

    45.

    The door hisses closed again, immediately cutting out the vague humming from the main body of the ship, and terminating my view of the information centre. In just under a minute, they will activate the transporter controls and warp me to the surface of Mars as a series of ones and zeroes, where I will be reconstructed. I always hate these moments of silence.

    40.

    A bloated cruiseliner in gaudy blue-and-gold, of a design that, before the forming of the World Coalition, we would have described as Arabian, drifts lazily by, a haze of polished black fighter craft surrounding it.

    35.

    The radio laser switches on with a vague click at the same time as the tracker light. I stand stiffly, like a corpse, trying not to breathe, while the green light marks the progress of the scanner. Although there's a degree of correction for movement, sudden movements can cause faulty readings. I've heard horror stories.

    30.

    It is night time on this side of Mars. The vast metropolis in the desert reminds me of old photos of what Las Vegas looked like from above before it was razed in the Nevada War of Independence. The consensus is generally that Washington should never have authorised the Gravity Bomb. We have laws against that now.

    25.

    Once upon a time, people would find the idea of teleportation like this repugnant. Its inventors would be hailed as evil, vile men. Murderers of hundreds of billions of people every year. If religion still existed, they'd attempt, with their conservative ways, to stop the growth of the multi-billion dollar industry. They would fail.

    20.

    Why am I thinking like this? Normally I'd just stare out the window and wish the time would pass more quickly. Perhaps I haven't slept enough lately.

    15.

    Science has progressed so far in the last few centuries. Philosophy has ceased to be an abstract subject; it can be tested, like any other hypothesis. God is proven dead.

    10.

    Although the recreation of my body in Sector 1 will share identical memories and an identical psychological makeup to me, they will not be me. There is no immortal, transferrable soul.

    5.

    My other body will not have my consciousness inside it. I will no longer exist in five seconds.

    4.

    Am I okay with that? Should I start banging against the walls of this bubble, like I have a hope of escaping in only a few seconds?

    3.

    There's no point. Why should I attempt to resist? It wouldn't prove anything.

    2.

    Am I really a human for thinking like this?

    1.

    Are any of us human now?

    0.

    I die.
     
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    Writer_of-Wrongs - The doctor (Under Word Limit)

    The doctor that was helping find out what the hell is wrong with me walks into the room. Go figure, he doesn't look happy. this should be interesting.

    "Hey doc! whats up?" i ask jovially

    "I am very sorry to tell you this but you have one minute to live, according to these charts" Doc Sangre replies in his usual monotonous voice

    "what the hell? is this some kind of joke?! well if it is, its not funny!" I was starting to feel nauseousness coming on.

    The doctor looks at his watch and simply said,"58...57...56..."

    I get out of the starchy bed and look under my bed for it.

    "Got it." i pull out my emergency .357 and run for the roof,"might as well make an exit, right?" I shouted as I ran to the roof.

    i get to the roof. Thankfully no clock, so i didnt have to keep time. Good thing i was on the 2nd to top floor of a 300 story building. Would have taken me forever to get there.

    i load a single bullet into the chamber, and i almost stepped off the roof, when my cell rang. It looked like the hospital's number.

    "Hello?"

    "Hello, Mr. Smith? i am very sorry but we grabbed the wrong charts. you are free to go. thank you for your stay"

    *click*

    i was about to turn around when i stumbled on a random piece of metal and fell. i hit the edge of the roof and fell.

    "Oh hell! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"

    I proceeded to use the last bullet into my head.

    LATER:

    Doctor Sangre walks out to smoke, and then he saw a man, an oddly familiar one too, face first on the ground. Or at least what was left of him. he was surrounded by forensics specialists. He looks at his watch, suprised.

    "Right on time, too. One minute exactly"
     
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    Tamsin - Unquiet

    Ears pricked against stark white. A platform, hollowed and echoed. Darkness like a faint electric buzz. Stilled time enclosed him like a silent ocean. He felt no movement; the raw edge of consciousness lay a lifetime away, yet right in front of him. A wave about to crash had been suddenly suspended. Years didn't move here. A long uninterrupted sky, sullen and muted.

    Magda had been vacantly staring at him for hours. Time didn't comfort her; it came without promise. She had been living through a kind of blurred vision for almost four years. Hope had given way to denial, denial had given way to function, function to numbness; she was faintly aware that there was nowhere to go from here. The thought briefly stabbed then retreated. She envied the dull cheeriness of the nurses as they hovered in and out of her consciousness. She had almost stopped hearing them completely.

    Saline slowly made its way into his bloodstream, feeding an unfelt need. Memories drifted past like icebergs, fractured and distant. Somewhere his heart beat had become vast and suspended. His thoughts fogged and gnarled, frozen fragments of the present. Ripples moved through him; forgotten moments vague and untouched. Stillness remained, an unlived place, an invisible membrane protected and smothered him. He had no knowledge of her name.

    Doctors worked silently around her, she watched their preparation with morbid fascination. Tubes, needles, iodine, starched sheets. Through the window she watched the framed scene of an empty corridor. Fear started to make its ascent. She imagined making the final journey down the stairs, outside to the car park, home. She saw the future like a foggy horizon, bleak and terrifying. She wondered what she would remember, when the grieving would start. If she would feel him drift away any further. She gripped his hand. It would be a strange kind of death.

    Here pasts and futures do not exist; it is a different kind of plane. Horizons sink beneath the sea. Sound is broken and echoed, like the silenced ringing of a bell jar. It's an open territory, measured beyond distance. Connectors and receivers run parallel, their senses cannot touch. His thoughts have been unfelt, wants passed, dreams shadowed and boundaries run. Somewhere a jolt, plates unconnected slide almost within reach. He heard the faintest outline of a tear.

    He existed in a different time, her love forever unreturned. The past years felt like an endless journey. He lay, like a stranger, in an isolated slumber, just out of reach. She had been told the end would be a release, but for whom she was uncertain. Doctors adjusted equipment, conducted experiments, read data; talked of stimuli, assessments, indicators and neurological damage. They spoke in a language unfamiliar with love; cold, blank words that had little to do with her husband. She wondered if she could survive without his heartbeat.

    His was a slow landscape. Time spiralled and faltered, breath unfelt. A cold prison. Images were brief, unfixed. His mind spanned an uncharted plane, one of mobius suspension, tides with no coast. Perception came in patches. Slowly light collected and blurred at the edge of his vision, the vaguest sense of a touch. A hand in his he was unable to grasp. The tiniest flicker of love.

    Doctors efficiently ushered around her, meeting her gaze only momentarily as they explained the procedure. She was offered a prayer but no words would come. Gazing at his face she wondered what thought would bring her comfort. Many times she had been told the end came four years ago, at the scene of the crash. Hopes of seeing him awaken were futile. But something had prevented her from letting go. Her love was fierce, unrelenting, beyond the imaginings of science. Even now, looking at the chart which declared objectively he was gone, it felt like a betrayal. A connection that shouldn't be broken by her will. The question always remained, what if they were wrong? Her mother told her she was preventing his peace. The nod came with closed eyes.

    The glimmer of light just reaching his eyes stopped dead. The feeling of a return deserted him. Waves stirred and crashed, a connection broken off, his hands emptied. Distant floods came in torrents, a soft smothering of silence. His final breath expelled amidst the distant memory of a kiss.
     
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    savage - 60 seconds

    60 seconds


    One minute. Sixty seconds. Passes most of the time without notice. What happened to the world in the last sixty breaths,and what possibly can happen in the sixty to follow? Hardly gets in the head you know. But, what if just before you were going to die, exactly 60 seconds before, you know, just somehow know, that this is the last minute you'll ever have on this planet; that this is the last minute of the everything you built with every passing breath here.
    You are just walkin' to your office.Or, you are on couch watching television. Like any other day. And suddenly, you have nothing but sixty seconds. Tick Tick begins. Race against time. What'll you do?
    Death. An eternal truth. Everyone of us knows about it. Everyone of us knows someday it's going to come, some form or the other. Still, there is a solemn urge to prolong life, breath by breath. Why?
    I don't know. I don't know ****.
    Martha says, " If she knew, she'll call me. She'll tell me how much she loved me. She'll try to live the whole one minute with me." I choke. Choke at the very thought of it. And she says, " But dyin' in the arms of someone you love is, probably, the best way to go." I tremble in sheer delirium. I love Martha.
    That odd summer evening, I remember. There she was. Dark glossy hair. Hazel eyes. Bewitching me completely. Those giggles and chatters still resonate in my head.
    And then the evening with the Red Dress. We were watchin' Before Sunrise on the DVD. We were soon lost into each other. Truly. Madly. Completely. I wish, I wish : I could just go back o'er and o'er again.
    [Cellphone Beeps]. It's a message from Bettie, my lovely li'll sis. Her smile almost everytime kills me. Message reads : Wen u cumin' home, bro?
    Bettie reads in tenth grade. She's very bright. Always tellin' me things about History, Civilisations etc. Mayans, Incas and GodKnowsWhat.I hope she becomes an eminent historian someday, I'll love that. I really will.
    You know, Bettie and I used to go this playground, right in the neighbourhood where we grew up. Especially those see-saw rides. How much I enjoyed those! Was like being on cloud nine, you know. Every single time. It was like flyin'. Give me back those wings. I wanna fly. I wanna fly again. I always have.
    Reincarnation. All that stuff Dr. Ian Stevenson talks about,you know. Is it real? I mean death only means that we would back on this stage yet again but with new constumes and new dialogues. Is it only that? But, what if you love this character so much that you don't wanna go?What then,huh?
    When I think about it. Accomplishments. Does it count? You can become everything you want to be, but is there a difference when comes the time to say goodbye?
    Well, Hell's bell but I've enjoyed all. Topping my classes, acing guitar lessons, then Electrical Engineering so on. I've enjoyed 'em all.
    Childhood memories suddenly gush in. I was a fat little kid. Always watchin' televison or eatin' from the refrigerator.Times that I especially remember - Cricket with Dad, times when Mom n I used to play hide and seek, the smile on their faces whenever they came to Annual functions in the school, when dad and I used to make fun of mom........
    I pick up the cellphone. Screen shows the family photograph. All of us smilin'. Martha, Bettie, Mom, Dad n ME.
    Tears fall down my eyes.
    I couldn't talk to 'em, even if it's killin' me inside.
    I want to hold Martha. Hold her tight. Tell her I wished her to be happy, ever after I was gone. Tell her I was sorry that I broke my promise; I really really wanted to be around her forever but I couldn't.
    I want to tell my parents how much I loved them, how much I wanted to live the dreams they had for me. I just want to hug my mom and dad.
    Lovely Bettie. I want to kiss her on the cheek. Wishing her all the luck in the world.
    I only have some seconds. It's time I closed my eyes.

    It's a curious curious world, don't you think?
     
  17. Gannon
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    P3RFECT - This seems Familiar...

    “Faster David. MOVE FASTER!” Jay shouted with an adrenaline filled tone.

    Jay and David are quickly running down the tunnel as the floor breaks apart closely behind them. The tunnel is falling apart in every direction with debri flying throughout the air.

    Both of them continue to run down the tunnel. Looking at each other silently, just for a brief moment, but in that moment it felt to them like they were having a long conversation from the expressions on their faces. Telling each other in that brief silent moment that not only was this plan bad, but they hope each other would just die.

    They start to lose their breath from the constant running in the tunnel as everything falls apart around them. Before any doubt comes into their minds about the inability to make it out alive they see where the tunnel ends and another begins. Seeing an open space between the two tunnels, David and Jay both have a relieved look on their face’s like a weight has been lifted. Both tunnels don’t connect do to that open space between them and so the second tunnel won’t fall apart.

    “Ha-ha, you see that? Said Jay, “Do you not realize how awesome I am?”

    “Shut up!” thundered David. “We haven’t made it yet, you retard.”

    “I hate you so bad.” Jay whispered.

    “There, there! Get ready to jump!” shouted David.

    Jay and David are getting closer to the edge of the collapsing tunnel; smacking each other’s arms back and forth like children, yelling at each other at the same time preparing themselves to jump.

    “Here we go! Run faster dumbass my calculations are fact.” said Jay irrefutably.

    “I hate you so bad.” whispered David.

    They both reach the edge of the tunnel bending their knees as far as they can, getting ready to jump within inches from the edge of the bottomless pit. Pushing forward with the full force of their legs, they are no longer touching the floor of the tunnel.

    David and Jay are both in midair with the tunnel crumbling behind them and the endless black pit beneath them. Before either of them can speak David lands on the platform perfectly. Satisfied with his landing he felt the need to gloat at Jay. David then turns his head to the left to begin the gloating process, but he couldn’t see Jay. Happy by the thought of not seeing him, David completely turns around just to make sure.

    Jay is hanging on the edge of the platform struggling to hold on with his arms hopping over one another, trying to get some form of a grip as his feet is dangling in the air. David quickly moves towards Jay, but ends up tripping on what’s seems to be nothing. Crawling slowly to the rescue, Jay continues to barely hold on with pools of sweat coming off of his body making it almost impossible to have any grasp.

    Unable to hold any longer, Jay slips off the edge with ease. Falling slowly down to the bottomless pit, but as soon as Jay lost his grasp David managed to catch him.

    Both David and Jay are having a very difficult time climbing over the edge onto the platform, because David is grabbing Jay by the neck simultaneously saving his life and chocking him to death. With David’s full strength and chocking power he manages to lift Jay onto the floor of the platform almost safely.

    Both of them are lying on the floor breathing heavily after all that has happened. Jay quickly lifts himself up and says “What was that! Huh? What… what was with the freaking choking? You could of just ran over and picked me up!”

    “Hey man I saved your damn life. Show me some gratitude.” David said confidently, relaxing on the floor, “Besides… I tripped.”

    “I’m done. I can’t work with you anymore… You’re fired.” Jay walks away in frustration.

    “Ah-ah… I’m fired? Really! You can’t fire me. I’ve been running this operation the whole time. You’re just as useless as a background character in a movie.”

    Jay doesn’t respond and just continues walking away. He then stops and says “Ok, I’m the adult here so… Thank you. Now get the hell out of my face.”

    David quickly gets up and rushes towards Jay, grabbing his arm. Just as David grabs Jay’s arm they both hear a loud click beneath their feet.

    “Oh crap.” said David.

    A small rectangular brick that David stepped on has slightly caved in possibly meaning a trap. Jay then yanks his arm away from David’s grip and takes a few steps back. “Ah-ah, that sucks.”

    “What, what does this mean?” said David in a concerned voice. “Nothing… nothing seems to be happening.”

    “Let’s see… From my calculations and this handy Manual; it states that you have exactly 60 seconds until you die somehow.” said Jay tonelessly.

    “Man that is such a lie. You think I’m that stupid?”

    “It says in the Manual, --When the circular stone begins to spin it will count down from 60…. And death will fall upon the victim--.” said Jay unconcerned. “It also adds, --those who lift there foot upon the stone shall die instantly--. Damn that really sucks… bye.”

    “Why, why you gotta lie so much I…” The circular stone upon the ceiling begins to spin making a very eerie sound of large stones rubbing against one another.

    “I told you man that when you hear a loud click from the stone the timer will start. It’s only spinning so it hasn’t started yet, sorry.” said Jay carelessly. “I just want you to know that I… I really hate you so bad it makes my stomach hurt.”

    “I really wish this happened to you!” shouted David.

    “Ok, how about this. Tell me about your life before the stone timer starts. I’ll write a short autobiography about you or something.” Said jay serious and jokingly.

    “What! This isn’t…” A loud click is heard from spinning stone.

    “You got 60 seconds!” yells Jay.

    “Alright…I’ll just say the most awesome parts of my life.” David shacks himself in preparation. “First, when I was just a baby a man came into my house and tried to kill me with some sort of beam thing, but my parents protected me with a barrier of love. The attack reflected back at this man and he ran. I shall not mention his name.”

    “49 seconds!” roars Jay

    “Third, a man came to me all buffed out and told me he was there to protect me from some hit man guy. This buffed out dude that protected me seemed to have no emotions and got hit by all kinds of bullets feeling nothing, talking about the future or whatever. Also, every few minutes he said this really annoying quote.” David rushing his words like a mad man.

    “Fourth, I was working on this project for a very long time and out of know where this really old, but very rich man recruited me to help him test the opening of this weird new theme park. These freaky creatures at the theme park started going crazy and I got my ass out of there. Man, that park went to hell.”

    “Is this from something?” said Jay, with a confused look. “29 seconds!”

    “I… uhh. Oh yeah, Fifth. I was training one of my friends to be a great warrior for the council. I believed he was the chosen one, after me of course. He later turned evil and killed the council members along with the trainees. We fought to the death above this large lava pit and I had to chop his legs off. Seeing him catch on fire by lava was horrific, I had to leave.” David forces his story.

    “Six, do to my abnormal strength and healing abilities the military recruited me and asked for help. I said fine. They injected me with some sort of metal which made me virtually indestructible. They wanted to control me, but I got really pissed and escaped, but not after I killed most of the people. Man I’m so badass.” Spouts David confidently.

    “Seven, I met Chuck Norris, he isn’t all that.”

    “What’s going on? 8 Seconds!” screams Jay.

    “Eight, I had a twin brother that died. Military needed me to use a fake body to pretend I was an alien to help them out. These aliens were smoken hot so I joined them. Fought the military, fought giant robots, won and had some blue loven!”

    “Times up! See-ya David” said jay with a smirk on his face.

    David’s face looks solid and strong with no fear. He stands in the manliest pose possible. His two feet separate in a perfect triangular position and both his arms bent on his hips with his fists tightly closed. Like a man who is incapable of being moved from that position.

    Something oozes out of the ground and incases David which what seems to be some metallic, brown material slowly covering his entire body. And so David remains frozen for all time.

    Why does all this seem so… familiar?” Said Jay, more confused than he has ever been.
     
  18. Gannon
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    SnapCrackleFizz - One Minute To Live

    For the last fourteen minutes I lay strapped to the table. On the fifteenth minute the physician said I would be dead. I could feel the full effect of the Potassium Chloride finally taking its complete chokehold on my central nervous system. Paralysis happened just seven minutes ago, leaving only my memory, hearing and sight the only three functioning motor skills I am able to control.

    I could only see the ceiling of the octagonal room and the clock out of my peripheral vision, ticking at a subtle pace. But I knew through the five polarized windows, which peered into the last remaining traces of my essence; of the families I have ruined, and the media there to capture it all, each would bear witness to my demise. I wanted to say I’m sorry, beg for their forgiveness, but there was no possible way. The only thing that showed I was still taking breaths was the cardiac monitor, and the captivated audience; eyes glued, waiting impatiently for the audible beep to flat line entirely, to receive their justice.

    The stagnant vegetable I have now become reminisces me back to a childhood that inevitably put me in this predicament. An alcoholic father, after eight to ten laborious hours in a coal mine vented his frustrations with a bottle of bourbon and a belt to my face. My mother would try to intervene but ultimately she would become second in line, so she never ushered a word. At first the pain was unbearable- emotionally and physically, until the feeling of that belt rung like heroin in an addict’s veins. Already having experienced the receiving side of man’s hatred, I thirsted to inflict my fury, my hatred, this was my manifestation, to show the world what I have become.

    My vision is now becoming foggy. My last glimpses of life will be the fluorescent lights and a second hand that is creeping ever so slowly past the six. Still the monitor continues, beep… beep… beep…

    Remembering my first, Abby, the outspoken bartender I met when I first moved into my desolate South Side apartment. Oh how her strawberry blonde hair waltzed harmoniously with every blow to the head. Her green tell all eyes caught in state of panic when the realization came that I did not want her for sexual pleasure, rather a sadistic satisfaction. Twelve others came after, mostly women who found me attractive and my introverted personality quite appealing. All were found the same way, either at the lake or a surrounding park, with severe head trauma. Although the first thirteen quenched my unattainable thirst, I sought vindication.

    Would he be in a wheelchair? Could he be dead already? Did they still live here? I knocked on the old oak door I dreaded stepping through every day after school. My mother answered, she was unrecognizable. The petite woman, who once threw me to the wolf, now became the prey. Passing her, my eyes solely on the reasoning of this primordial existence, I entered the living room. The smell of bourbon still distorted the air, with his favorite weapon strapped even more loosely to his pear-shaped waist.

    Like the thud of metal crashing down on asphalt, the blunt side of the hammer caught him abruptly in the temple. His screams of horror encompassed the entire house. The blood dashed furiously across the mantle and in the mirror I was able to see my mother, standing in total silence as I reciprocated my feelings towards him. After the screams died down and the blood stopped flowing, my mother dialed 911. “Justice has been served”, she uttered gently to the operator.
     
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    chiank - The short journey

    Robot tried to gulp the coffee but his heart was heavy and mind too tense to do any activity. His eyes were locked at door of operation theatre while ears attentive to hear any sound made by it. Early in the morning everything was going fine, he was getting ready for work when suddenly his wife complaint about strong labor pain. He called for ambulance and took her to hospital. Doctor was already informed about the situation, so he was ready when they reach their. The Doctor took her in operation theatre, he was nervous but not tense with some amount of excitement. After fifteen minutes of anxious waiting, Doctor finally showed up.
    “It can’t be that quick,” Robot thought with sudden smile on his face, but one look at Doctor Face and he realized that all is not well. Doctor gave him professional look, sad within the heart but sense of calmness over the face; it is his eyes that gave up his perfect composure which send Robot an unsaid warning. “We expect some complication during the delivery, but there is nothing to worry, we have handled such situation before, go get some coffee while we bring you good news,” he delivered the well rehearsed lines. Robot asked him few questions related his wife and child health, for which doctor only response,” Robot don’t worry, just relax, they are in best hands.”
    He called his father and told him the news. His father was very happy to hear the news and told his son to expect him in an hour at the hospital but before hanging the phone he like doctor told Robot not to worry and soon expect good news. Truly speaking Robot was not worried, he was just excited and nervous, like during his schools days when announcement of results were moments away, and his heart was shared by the feeling of excitement to know his marks and nervousness over his performance. Only difference was that result during school days evaluated his performance in exam while here result evaluated his performance in bed, which he was quite sure being nothing less than excellent.
    Robot father was not alone; he called many of friends and relatives and brought some of them with him and some followed him later. They congratulated Robot, while some gave him best luck thumb. With each passing hour, heat in the lobby increased. All his friends and relatives looked worried and tense, looking at them was enough for Robot to shelter tension and to homeless little bit of remaining excitement.
    With great effort he was able to convince some of his friends and relatives to go home. He promised to call them with good news. It was getting dangerous; to discuss such stories before his son would just tense him more. One of his friends started to tell story how his friend lost wife and baby during delivery, and then some other person told some different story. It was lucky that Robert was not with them, poor Robert was standing from an hour outside operation theatre waiting for some news. He tried to talk with him but Robert was in mood or position to talk, he just wanted to be left alone. He saw Robert standing motionless with a coffee in his hand, his eyes locked at operation theatre door while his ears concentrated to hear any noise made by the door. Then suddenly Robert gave reaction, he heard the sound of opening door; his eyes left the door and soon found doctor eyes. The same eye but this time there was neither a feeling nor reaction but sense of defeat.
    Robert found hard to breathe, soon the image of doctor started to get blurred, warm drops of water left his eyes. How could he reply to the question which has no answer? He begged for change of question, in exams he could skip it, but here there was no scope for it.
    “Mr. Robert we don’t have much time, you need to make a decision now.” Doctor too was tense now, it was this moment which he hates, and it was the question which had no right answer, whatever Robert may answer, it certainly going to destroy his life.
    “Doctor, how can you expect me to make a decision? You need to save them; I am not going to choose between them. Do you understand? I want my wife and baby to be safe.”
    Alan knew Robert can’t make this decision, he came forward, and he could make a decision. “Doctor please sav-,” and suddenly Robert jumped in and put a hand across Alan mouth,” No father, don’t choose one, I know he can save both. Don’t give him option, let him try, I know he can save both.” Robert was crying like mad now, he removed his hand over Alan mouth but ready to take same action again if Alan spoke again. Alan tried to talk to Robert but all his efforts went in vain, Robert was repeating same line “he can save them both, he has to,” not directly to Alan or Doctor both more to himself.
    “Mr. Robert if you failed to make a decision, then it might cost both their lives.” Doctor finally spoke, he couldn’t waste more time, Robert needs to make a decision now or he would decide for them.
    Robert walked towards the bench just outside the operation room, he realize the pain of his decision. He was broken, he had just decided his child faith, and an unwanted question was finally answered by him. He told doctor to save his wife.
    After two days,
    Robert gave his wife a kiss; he went low and kissed his son. Abel they kept his name, was on the lap of his mother, eye’s closed. “Robert, look Abel has got your face, handsome, very handsome.” Angelina spoke with a clear crack in her voice. The Doctor and a nurse entered the room, he gave permission for few minutes and those minutes are over now.
    Angelina saw nurse coming towards them, she was afraid that they might not see Abel again. She begged for few more minutes, but nurse being helpless asked for baby. Angelina went low and gave a final kiss to her son. It was fatal moment for her, Abel who she has kept nine months in her womb, but got real feel of his for few minutes. Abel as if sensing the departure moment, opened his small eyes. He wanted to see his parents for final time. He wanted to see the people who had talked with him over a period of time in his mother womb. “Will you fulfilled my final wish, father?” he thought.
    Robert was first to saw his child opened eyes, and he called for Angelina to look at their son. The doctor heard also heard his voice, but this would just heavy their burden. He went towards Robert and Angelina, both of them were now laughing and talking to their son, should he told them tactful or straight in professional way. With a sigh he told them “I am happy to see Abel opening his eyes, but believe him this just going to heavy your burden. God has given him short life, I was able to save him during delivery but as I told you earlier, we can’t save him for long.”
    Robert was strong now, he seen ups and down in two days. “We know doctor that there is no hope for our son, but we wish to keep him with us. He would be happy to die on his mother laps rather than in small cage with all machines over him.” Robert was now looking straight in his son eyes, as if asking him “Tell me son what you want to see, before these eyes close again.” Robert was looking deep in Abel eyes, trying to read unsaid words. His eyes were very much like his Father, Alan. He will love to see his grandfather, yes he will, he shouted for his father who was paying bills. Alan heard the voice, he thought the worst, is Abel dead? He ran towards the room, he saw his son pointing towards Abel eyes. “Father, Alan want to meets you and Abel meet your grandfather, Alan. You both have same green eyes.” Alan took Abel, kissed him, and talked with him.
    Abel was back at his mother laps, but this time his eyes were closed. The short journey of Abel was ended. Abel wished his journey would have continued, lot could have been seen with those eyes. His last minute had given him extraordinary happiness, he wondered if such a short time, such as a minute can give him so much happiness, then a good healthy life on earth would have been worth to live for. He hopes to have such journey again, but longer one next time.
     
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