1. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.

    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest #187 "Daffodils"

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Feb 22, 2016.

    Short Story Contest # 187
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Daffodils" courtesy of @Blighters

    Submissions will be open for 2 weeks.


    To enter the contest, post the story here in this thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

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

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

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 6th of March, 2016 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time.

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

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

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

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere** on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.
    (**We tried one that had been posted for critique before entering but it defeated the anonymity so I've gone back to no stories perviously posted here in the forum.)

    PLEASE use this title format for all stories: Title bolded [word count in brackets]

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation).

    After the voting ends, posting in the thread will re-open for comments.

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

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

    The point of consistent titles and line spacing is to avoid having those things influence votes, sometimes for worse.

    Thanks, and good luck!
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  2. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

    Jan 11, 2015
    Likes Received:

    Betty Baxter, and the Jonquil Infestation

    Jethro watches me with a smile as I prance around our room, the smell of sugary sweetness wafting and whirling around my body as I spin. On Jethro's handheld, data revealing, photographical, note-taking, day-planning, music playing flashlight a gentle, merry song mixes with the aroma. Guitar, tambourine, flute, and drums weave a melody that lifts our hearts in anticipation of our feast.

    "My anaconda don't want none..." I know the words of the one song Jethro has on his device by heart. "...Unless you got buns, hun!"

    "You can do side bents or sit-ups..." Jethro joins in, his deep voice Juxtaposed against mine beautifully. "...But please don't loose that butt!" Our singing is interrupted by a melodious 'ding'.

    "Finally!" I declare. I hop over to the small oven in the corner of our living space. I carefully open the door downward, heat washing over my face, mixed with more of the delicious smell. I grab the nearby cloth mit off of the top of the stove, reach inside the oven, and then an alarm goes off.

    "Dang it, I knew we should have made tacos!" Jethro raises his hands above his head in anguish, but I know better as I pull out our perfectly baked cupcake.

    "That's not a fire alarm, silly." I ogle the confectionery masterpiece lustfully, it's golden brown, fluffy goodness calling my name. "Betty. Oooh, be-e-e-t-t-y."

    "Oh right, fire is more of a 'weewoo'." Jethro's so musical. "This is clearly a 'wah wah wah'."

    "Wait... wah wah wah?" I look at the baked treasure sadly, the wah wah calling my name. "That's an engineer emergency alarm."

    "Not it. But, I'll save you a piece." Jethro's such a sack of lies, my pleasant attitude and light-footed bearing dashed against the cold metal reality of space troubles. I get dressed quickly- not that I was naked earlier! I just wasn't in my space suit. Perves. Anyway, I crank open the metal door, and find myself face to throbbing pectoral with a duo of huge, muscular alpha males in dark military uniforms.

    "Uh oh." I really hate it when I don't even know what it is I am about to get into trouble for. It's almost as bad as not getting to eat a delicious cupcake.

    "Miss Betty Baxter." The bigger of the big men flashes his big badge in my face, the metallic surface slapping against my forehead painfully. He holds it there, obscuring my vision as he speaks. "Gunnery Sergeant Maximus 'Tex' Battlemaster, the third."

    "Ow." I greet him respectfully.

    "We have a situation that requires your... expertise." He speaks the last word with a weight usually reserved for rocket launch countdowns.

    "Is this anodized?" The Badge is searing a light-scar onto my vision, kind of like when you look at a star for too long, except more militaristic.

    "Tell us, miss Baxter." The second man takes a deep breath, his massive chest expanding before he finally speaks. "What do you know about... botany?" My heart stops, not literally, but figuratively. I'd make another joke, but there's no time for that anymore. No time at all. I swipe the badge away dramatically, drawing looks of surprise from the two men as it clanks in the corner. I jerk my leg back into the room, whipping a stool from next to the door into position in front of 'Tex'. The two military men watch in disbelief as I step onto the stool, bringing my head above Tex's chest, putting my face at neck level. I stare into his narrow eyes, his confidence shaken a little as I size him up.

    "Everything, Mr. Battleslapper." My voice is dead serious, my heart heavy as I see a wisp of fear in Tex's eyes. I doubt he will survive this day.

    Fifteen, ten-foot tall men in giant, nuclear powered, titanium-plated, psychically-powered, power armor rub shoulders loudly in the main freight elevator of the secondary hanger bay. Their metallic forms creak and clack loudly in the small space, their shapes jagged and deadly in the dim light. I stand in front of them in my blue space suit, legs wide, hands on hips, a dwar-... height challenged person among gian-... shortness challenged people.

    I watch their military bravado with a heavy heart. As they trade 'yut yuts' and foot-space-ball fives, I try to guess which will die first. Around us, the servos of the freight elevator strain in agony at the weight of the men. Tex steps forward, his bidirectional, quantum plasma rifle held at the 'ready' in front of him, his face barely visible in the dull visor of his power helmet.

    "Squad suited up, formed up, powered up, covered down, and ready for battle." He declares, his voice robotic and muffled in the power armor.

    "Hell yaw!" One of the men yells stupidly. "Time to visit ol' buggy infester'ator with a whole box oh plasma flavored whoop'ass, rah!?" Before any of the other meatheads can answer, I heave a giant, thirty pound wrench at 'Hell'yaw's' chest, a metallic clang echoing loudly from his stupid armor.

    "Shut up, soldiers!" I scream.

    "Uhm, we're Marines." One of them tries to correct me. He won't last ten seconds.

    "No one cares in hell!" I scream. My voice is so loud, my pitch so high, that it takes a whole ten seconds for the echo of my final word to stop reverberating in the elevator shaft. All of the men are looking at me, the clanks and creaks of their armor cut off by their deathly still bearing. Death. We will see much of it this day. "Now listen here, and listen good." I point at the large double doors behind me. "Through those doors-"

    "Right now!?" One of the marines aims at the door.

    "Squad!" Tex points at the door with a giant metal finger. "Open fir-GUR!" I'm a pretty good aim with giant wrenches. Tex falls backwards, his enormous metal form jarring the elevator when he lands, the gears and hydraulics hissing and cracking from the disturbance. The lights flicker, and hope fades. The other Mermaids look at his body. He is not moving. One down already.

    "There, you see!" I'm screaming at Tex's motionless body. "It's fecal matter like that!" I point an assertive, blue gloved finger at the fallen man, my hand quivering as I gesture. "That gets people killed!" One of the Mariders begins to crouch down to help their comrade. I ready another wrench. He freezes. "Leave him, there's no time for weakness once the reproductive microgametophytes start spreading!" I have their attention again. My heart is racing, my expression dire.

    "Look..." I start over, slowly explaining the situation. We've already lost a man, and I'm not even done with the briefing. "Through that door-" They raise their weapons. "In the middle of warehouse four, not right now!" I watch them with wide, angry eyes as they lower their weapons. I watch them as I continue, ensuring no one tries to fire. "Down there... Is a genus of perennial plant in the Amaryllidaceae family." They are all mesmerized by my scientific jargon. Good.

    "What the hell does that mean?!" One of the Marines asks, his voice laced with fear.

    "Solitary petals, or Umbel?" Another blurts out, his voice cracking.

    "Two rows of three stamens, or one row of six?" The floodgates are open, as military discipline breaks down completely.

    "My God, two years?!" A rifle clacks on the ground, abandoned by it's user.

    "Or longer!" I snap back, finally glad to see them showing respect for their enemy. "Narcissi spread by division, but are also insect-pollinated."

    "Oh..." One of the Martyrs moves his hand to his helmet visor reflexivly. "Oh God-UURHGAW!" He vomits in his helmet, disgusting, green-brown liquid smearing across his visor. Two down.

    "Based on how long the infestation has been present..." I push on. I have to finish the briefing, or these Marinas won't stand a snowball's chance in fusion reactor. "...The poisonous spores might have spread into the entire warehouse!" As I finish my declaration, one of the Myrmidons turns around and starts clawing at the back of the elevator, screaming like a child as he strains upwards against the approaching doom.

    "I want out!" He screams, knocking his comrades aside as he kicks frantically. "I want a DD-214!" Weapons fly in the air, and voices cry out in the weak illumination. A giant power armor pile forms as Marines trip over each other, their minds broken by the horror of the invader. With grim, female determination, I grab a fallen rifle, it's giant, fifty pounds of metal and plastic dragging me down as I climb atop the pile of writing, muscular, metal humanity. With all my strength, I swing the rifle over my head, slamming it down onto the helmet of the climbing marine. The weapon clangs worthlessly on his armored helmet, so I hammer again and again and again, trying desperately to bash some sense into the slobbering and broken remnants of masculinity and military might. We can't loose another man.

    "This. Is. Not. The..." I enunciate every word with a strike to his armored head. "...Time. To. Panic!" I slam down hard, cracking the visor of the scrambling marine. He turns around, falling to his back against the wall, his metallic armor scrapping loudly as the elevator descends into hell. Through his cracked visor, I witness a sad and broken face.

    "Dee dee two forte-e-e-e-n!" He sobs the words pathetically. Three down. I turn around, glaring at the massive devil-dog pile, a mangle of cyborg arms and power legs, rifles pointing ever which way, visors poking out like little tombstones. My mind races. What can I do? They are afraid, they are weak, they are helpless.

    "Are we going to die, Betty?" One of them asks in a calm voice. I look him in the face, gazing through the synthetic glass, synthetic eyes, through his synthetic bravado and motivation, straight into his synthetic soul.

    "Yes..." I admit. There is a moment of silence, the armor scraping against the elevator stealing all ambient sound. "... But... " I step down from my perch of man and metal, dropping the rifle onto a visor. Three down. "... If we can pull up our pants..." I step on someone's 'manhood' by accident, ironically the one unarmored part of their bodies. Four down. "... Strap down our 'uncle bucks'..." I grab the last wrench from my emergency wrench pile, taking my place facing the door leading to our destruction. "... And devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the defense of the USS Lorelei!"

    "The ship's called the USS Langley."

    "...Er... right, the USS Langler!" The elevator clangs to a stop, the screeching of power armor and elevator shaft finally grinding to a halt. "...We may just be able..." I hear a melodious series of high pitched energy whines and sharp metalic clicks, as plasma rifle selector switches are clicked from 'safe' to 'kill'. "... To trim this sonsofbitches."


    We tear the doors open, a symphony of plasma and metal ringing throughout the warehouse, my wrench's flight like unto Thor's space hammer. As I ride the wave of cybernetic humanoids, we unleash hell on the pair of daffodils growing from a crack in the floor-

    "Wait wait wait..." My words echo in the hanger as the metal monsters wind down, their forward momentum gone, their rifles falling limp at their sides. Everyone slowly stops behind me as I stand with slumped shoulders and hanging head, staring at the two flowers.

    "There's two..." A marine's voice offers blandly.

    "Yup." I stare at the little yellow flowers, the air let out of my space balloon so hard it's forming a black hole.

    "Wait..." One of the Marine's points a giant finger at the flowers. "What does that mean."

    "You boot!" One of the Maritals slaps his comrade upside the head. "Don't you know anything?"

    "One daffodil is a sign of doom, misfortune, and space jellyfish." I turn around and slog off to the elevator, all hopes of glory and overtime pay crushed. "But, multiple daffodils are a sign of future prosperity." I lead the group of Marines into the elevator, their rifles dragging, their blood lust gone. The 'boot' does not move. He stares at the two flowers, watching them sway gently in the space breeze. "Get over here, stupid!" I call at him angrily. "I've got a cupcake with my name on it!" Everyone loads up, and begin our ascent in the elevator shaft.

    " USS Longhorn Defense Command." I call on my wrench radio, the marines shuffling around in the elevator casually. "False alarm. Standby for casualty report."



    "Man, and I shot up on painkillers and everything."

    The End
    Hubardo likes this.
  3. Samuel Lighton

    Samuel Lighton Senior Member

    Feb 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    To be... - [3289]

    “DON’T CALL ME THAT ANYMORE MR. NELO.” She said sternly at him.

    “Daffodil? Trust me, it’s not a compliment - and if you were as smart as you think, you’d know that.” Nelo said flippantly, turning away.

    Looking at him nonplussed, she cocks her head to one side.

    “Daffodil. 14-46 chromosomes. Used in botany, toxic properties - effects include salivation, acute abdominal pains, nausea - EW - vomiting, and - EW - diarrhea, then neurological and cardiac events, including trembling, convulsions, and paralysis. Death may result if large quantities are consumed. Genus name Narci- ARE YOU CALLING ME A NARCISSIST?!” He laughs uproariously at her, clutching at his side.

    “Hahahaha, ow, ha. Stitch…..….” He turns to the young lady, her arms crossed and her face an image that would frighten monsters.

    “Oh, what? It’s true. You leave your bloody signature at every job. I’d call that narcissism. And reckless. You’ll just wind up getting caught one day, and then it all comes out. Every job you did, signed by yourself with that little butterfly flying around the screens after you leave... As if the jobs aren’t….” He tapers off, reaching up and cupping his ear as if listening to something quiet. “Right, right. Sure. What? Look that’s….Yeah, but it’s too... No I don’t doubt….. Wh...Fine.” He drops his hand and sighs.

    “You’ve got a job.” She drops her arms into her lap and stares at him before standing up.

    “WHERE ARE WE GOING?” she asks as Nelo rubs the back of his neck. “Not we Daffodil.” Reaching for her coat, picking it up and handing it to her. “You.”

    “Standing at over two miles high, connecting far beyond the ceiling of this district alone, the Levet building serves as a central transport hub for personnel throughout the districts. Today, the criminal group known as ‘The Khans’ have halted all traffic, trapping several New American dignitaries on their way to the Peace Summit, stating ‘We do it because we can’. Ransom has been issued, but the question still remains, what will the District Police Department do about the criminal element in New England?” The news reporter spoke into her microphone as the heliodrone hovered around her, filming the fleet of police enforcement vehicles arriving.

    Huge six-wheeled armoured carriers pulled in around the courtyard, all rolling into a defensive half crescent formation. Police began filing out of them, carrying equipment and devices, and setting up a temporary base. Shortly after, tents and temporary stations were set up and officers flowed in and out of them, co-ordinating efforts to gather intelligence on the inside.

    A vehicle approaches on the outskirts of the courtyard and opens it’s doors, letting a single person out. Wearing a full skin suit covered in armoured plates, they walk directly to the command post. As they walk, the officers take notice, and one by one begin to stare. Approaching the command tent, they stop, the eyes of the operational team all staring at them. Tapping their wrist pad and gesturing at the display terminal, a chain of command transfer badge appears and floats there.

    “Special Section 9, Agent Nelo... This is my operation now.”

    “I want a long range sniper team here ready to change position, and three teams prepped with launchers, smoke and jammers only. Additionally-”

    The officer obviously in charge cut him off. “You have no right, this is our district and it’s under our control. Who gave the or-” The plexiglass windows higher up in the tower shattered violently, spraying flecks of super-hardened plastic out into the air. Picking up speed in their descent, landing viciously on the people below, the cries of pain as they cut into them echoed through the court.

    “What the hell…” Nelo mused. Looking up he saw that was only the appetiser. Machines unfolded out of the window bays, flexing their mechanical arms outwards they revealed weapons tubes attached in a spider like array. “TAKE COVER!” He shouted.

    The arrays released their charges, each firing a swarm of missiles with lethal payloads down at the police vehicles.

    “So this was their plan, a massacre. Daffodil!” Travelling at high velocity, it would only take a few moments for them to strike their target, and wipe out over thirty police officers and civilians. “DAFFODIL!” The rockets streaked down towards them, their smoke trails drifting away with the artificial wind, the flares. It looked beautiful from here. “BETHANY OEFOU WHERE THE HELL ARE -”

    The air compressed with the missile’s staggered explosions, pushing air down fiercely around the temporary command structures, detonating mid flight. And all you had to do was use my ACTUAL name. She chirped into his helmet. His hand clatters against his helmet as he facepalms himself.

    “Deep breaths, Nelo. She’s only a teenager, she’s going through that phase now.” I can still hear you, you know?

    “Don’t care. Work to be donef.” Hastily shifting to the few standing commanding officers, he slams his fist on the tactical overlay.

    “Listen, if you don’t co-operate things are going to get fucked faster than you can say ‘Lube me up for the next salvo’. Or, I can go off on my toddle and you can detonate missiles mid flight yourself, although I’m fairly certain anything above making sure you’re leaving the house with trousers today is above your fucking pay grade. Do I make myself clear?” Wow, grouchy. “Shut up.” The officers still in the command tent stared at him. “Not you. Get those teams in position, no need to switch frequency -" He gestured on his wrist pad and flicked it towards the communications console, taking control of their communication hub instantly. “- I’m already in.”

    “Amateurs,” He said with no lack of disdain in his voice as he walked away from the tent, through the blockade and towards the building. Jeez, no need to rag on them so hard it’s not -

    “Do you know what the difference between an officer and an agent is Daffodil?” The short jump boosters on his suit powered up with a whir as the plates on his boots shifted position around his feet. I said stop cal- “Officers dive deep into their roles. They specialize and as a whole group they’re good. Agents, have... agency. I’ve done some heinous stuff in my life, but I’m good at this. Prepared for it. They’re not. They will get themselves and others killed. I plan to get in the way of that stupidity Daffy.” Daffy?! “New name, reminds me of my childhood. You’ll live. Gotta go.”

    As he sped up into a sprint across the courtyard the thrusters on his back blazed blue flames outwards in a wide arch, propelling him up and into the side of the building. Slamming against it, his hands and feet shone as the compressed energy in them formed a gravitational field of their own around him. Pushing against the window, he stood himself upright, perpendicular against it with no effort at all. What you said, you know - it’s kind of noble of you. Putting yourself in the line of fire so no one else gets injured. It’s nice to see you like that, a protector. It reminds me of when you found me in the - Ohmygod, are you flipping them the finger?! Nelo chuckled deeply to himself as he held up his hand, middle finger out in the air behind him.

    “Can’t have a lady thinking such thoughts, thou mightest getteth the wrong idea milady.” He mocks her as he runs up the side of the building, his boots thumping against it, and the turrets swivelling to aim at him. He taps on his wrist pad again, the teams set up in the courtyard aimed their launchers up and fired salvos of grenades up through the broken window. As he sprinted up towards it, a loud pop pushed a cloud of smart-smoke out of the window that stayed thick inside the building, but dissipated quickly outside. The turrets were still visible, but their target and track processors were fried by the grenades they had launched.

    In a jump not far from the edge, he grabs onto one of the turrets arms, swinging past and over, while smoothly deactivating his gravity field and activating his thermal vision in one swift movement on his wrist pad. Three men are highlighted, two are shocked by my sudden entry, but the third is already training his rifle on Nelo. Shit.

    Without thinking he tears the launcher clean off of the device and hurls at the nearest one with such force that the sound of the dull thunk as it connects with his head penetrates through the smoke clearly, along with his body dropping limply to the floor. Not missing a pace he charges at the other two, grappling one’s arm until it snaps, and drawing his pistol with his spare hand. Spinning around, arm in arm he aims point blank at the third before discharging an electrical burst that fizzes as it hits him, making him convulse and fire his rifle at the floor in fits, before hurling the injured man at him so hard they’re knocked clean off of their feet. Not moving and unconscious, he still fires a shot at each for good measure.

    “They’ve got Thermal’s too Daffy, and I don’t like the odds of me and my stun pistol versus armed thugs. Anything you can do to mess with their heads?” Maybe. Weak encryption, can probably throw something in the mix. Why do you never carry lethals anyway, that taser is going to wind up getting you killed you know? She questioned him. “Well, a long time ago, about when I met you, a friend of ours was very explicit about ‘definite’ endings. It just stuck with me. You got any surveillance inside?” Nothing concrete. Floor pressure pads indicate two groups. One just up ahead, 5 or 6 inside an office depending on gear. The others, one floor up, same room, 15 plus, and probably loaded judging by weight.

    Running down the hall, turning the corner, he slows to a short stop by the office door. Reaching into his back pouch, he pulls out a small block and swipes it over his wrist.

    “Activating short burst signal, you ready with that hack?” You remember who you’re talking to, right? “Yeah, yeah princess. Breaching in 5.” Pushing the door open gently he sees one of them and promptly throws the device inside.

    “Four mississippi, three mississippi, two mississippi…..” A startled collection of yelps carries around the room as he bursts in. The sound of his taser gun barely reaching over the noise blaring out of their headsets. Swiftly clearing the room, and curious as he was, he reached down and took one of their visors.

    “What exactly were you showing them?” Your butt from when you got pass-out drunk the other night. And the latest track from Crimson Cascade, turned the volume up to 11 just for them. His jaw clenched at that. The latest in cyberpunk-poprock-post-artistic blatant noise. No one deserved to have Crimson Cascade forced on them. No one.

    “You have no humanity.” He feigned sadness. “See? I’m rubbing off on you.” Don’t kid yourself. “ I do have a question or two. Why is it you can talk just fine when you’re linked, but otherwise you’re all…..shouty.” I don’t really know, I just feel normal this way I guess. Come on, you’re going to give me a complex. “Alright, fair enough.Then, why were you taking pictures of my ‘butt’?” There is no response. He chuckles to himself as he runs back out of the room and climbs the stairs up to the next level. He paused outside the room. No noise, no muffled voices.

    “You sure about this Daffy. I don’t hear anything.” I’m sure, the weight plates in the room’s floor are way above normal. Windows are in blackout mode, so we can’t look in. “Okay, coordinate that sniper team, ping me when they’re positioned.”

    The wrist pad vibrated as it showed an overlay of the sniper team, set up on a mobile platform directly across from the window, seventeen blocks away.

    “Well, let’s see what they’re so careful to hide.” Nelo muttered to himself as he carefully edged the door open. The room is pitch black, the flickering lights above forming a dull sillhouette of him across the floor. With his pistol drawn, moving to the other side of the door, he scans the room - his thermal visor highlighting nothing.

    “Here goes…” Edging into the room, his pistol hovering in front of him as he turned side to side, the door shut. The locks clicking into place and the handle flaring red, he knew he was trapped in there.

    Raaaaggeee…..it’s the most...intelligent emotion...you are capable of. A uniquely human design….it boils inside you - consumes every other emotion and dominates every thought. A deep rumbling voice bounces around the room as Nelo twists and turns in every direction to pinpoint the source.

    There is no point trying to find meeeee. I am inside your head….Nelo. I am you Nelo. Thank you…. for giving birth to me. Floodlights burst into light, hovering over him as he snaps around to aim at them, projecting his shadow behind him against the wall. The floodlights rose up, higher into the room, and swing around as Nelo is flung across the room with a grunt, skidding across the floor. Pushing himself up with one hand, he flips over to a stand, bouncing in place, his pistol lost somewhere in the room.

    The Floodlights shifted upwards again and swung quickly back down as Nelo rolled to the side. A giant fist slammed into the floor where he was standing, cracking the glass of the window beside it.

    “Jesus Christ...it’s a tank. They must have assembled it in here.” WHAT?! “Hold on.”

    The machine swung again in a swipe across the floor as Nelo jumped, clutching onto it as it travelled along its arc, flinging him around like a rag doll with it’s momentum. Hanging on, he lifted himself up and was instantly highlighted by the floodlights again. The machine gave out a guttural roar as it spun furiously and flung it’s arm at the window, throwing him into it, shattering it completely into shards as he flew out into the empty air outside.

    NELO! “I said…..Hold on.” He grunted out, winded, his armour taking the brunt. Tapping again on his wrist pad he confirms targeting for the sniper team. Flinging his hand out like a gunslinger, the tank’s full shape highlighted by the artificial light, he points at the targeting arrays on the tank’s sides and re-activates his gravity drive.

    As he slows down to a floating stand still in the air he takes a long look at the tank stood there, it’s brutally large fists clenched, hanging down by it’s sides as it watches him back.

    “Bang.” Two heavy slugs whizzed past him, their tracer trail dissipating into the air like smoke. The tank shuddered as they hit, penetrating straight through and slamming into the wall behind. As he accelerated towards it with his shifted gravity, the machine roared and swung wildly in the air, blinded by the shots. Barely grazing the floor, as if he were impossibly sliding across it, he reached out, spying his pistol, and grasped it as he flew underneath the massive spider legs of the tank.

    Reaching the wall at dangerous speeds, he shifted the core again, slowing down enough for him to land against and flip himself up onto the back of the tank as it flailed around. Gripping harshly onto a climbing rung on it’s back he’s swung up and onto his back and slams into the top partition, gritting his teeth behind his helmet as his right shoulder dislocates.

    Straining for his wrist, he slaps it with his palm and the gravity field breaks off, landing him against the curved roof of the tank swinging around in place.

    “Jesus Christ, it’s like a sodding rodeo!” What’s a rodeo? With no time to explain he painfully dragged himself across the surface, slipping as the tank spins suddenly in the other direction, barely hooking his other arm over in time. And who’s Jesus Christ?

    “Ex….ACTLY!” He says exasperated as he pulls himself over and takes aim at the control box on the tank’s back, his pistol whirring up to maximum charge. Knowing he only has a few shots at that charge left, he has to hit his target. Everything seems to slow as he stares down the holographic sight and edges the trigger in.

    The Tank suddenly jaunts up and down as he fires, the shot firing clear as he is flung around.

    “SHIT!” He pulls himself up again on his bad shoulder, feeling the bone wrench even further out of the socket and shouts as he jams the pistol onto joint near the control box and pulls the trigger one last time, the charge fizzling out in a blue hue of sparks as it bounces around the surface, the machine juddering uncontrollably before falling limp, his hand numb with the closeness of the discharge.

    “Okay. It’s down.” He gives out breathily, still hanging from the top. Pushing himself up he sits on the top spreading his legs out so he can work on the access pad on the top. It only takes a few moment before the back peels apart and the command chair ekes it’s way out along it’s railings.

    “The American delegate’s here, unconcious.” The New American delegate you mean? “Yeah. He’s safe, sort of. How quickly can you hack a fission core control unit Daffy?” I don’t know, never tried. Why? “Because this one’s set to explode in about, uh, thirty seconds.” Nelo says as he rips off his wrist pad and begins connecting the control circuits into the machine’s interface. What?! That’s not enough time, it’s - “Do it or the Delegate dies Daffy.” What about you? “Work. Now.” He grunts as he finishes wiring the relay.

    Seconds filtered away as she worked, the streams of data flowing up and down the wires, moving impossibly fast as she tried to wrest control of the systems. Is this why he wanted her on our usual job alone? I don’t care if I die here, but - if I do, she will never forgive herself. Damn it.

    The core whined as it’s safeties disengaged, coolant evaporating and hissing out of the vents. The shell surrounding the core started to glow orange from the heat build up inside, and Nelo closed his eyes. “Listen, if I don’t make it Bethany….” Shut up, I’m busy. “....it’s not your fault, you know that right?” I said shut up. Open your eyes.

    Steam still pouring out of the vents, the core was cooling down. The orange hue fading into red, then the grey metal of it’s shell. All of a sudden, a butterfly floated onto his visor and fluttered around the screen there, before a daffodil sprouted out of nowhere, the butterfly landing on it gently before folding it’s wings back.

    Sorry it took so long. In fairness I finished ages ago, it took longer to hack into your visor to be honest. What kind of security are you even running? He chuckles to himself as he lies down on the top of the tank, resting his forearm across his head, the butterfly still fluttering around his view.

    “Huh. Congratulations, you just saved a political figure.” Yeah. But, who was controlling the tank? That delegate isn’t an operator. I saw no streams to that room. It couldn’t have been a hack job. “Who knows. Leave that to the Police to find out.” He sighs. “I need a drink.”
  4. GeoffreySmith

    GeoffreySmith Member

    Feb 7, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Pale Daffodils [1484]

    Kirk stepped out of the car and felt the chill of the morning air and the sun’s warmth on his face. A flickering OPEN sign hung on a metal chain and blocked stacks of newspapers and shelves of candy bars. Behind the small gas station there was a grouping of trees with big green leaves that danced in the breeze, shimmering. Gravel had been shoveled carelessly around their trunks, and Kirk could see hearts and penises left in their bark by the dull knifes of careless vandals.

    The door chimed as Kirk walked in, and Kirk’s shoes squeaked on the warped and grimy square tiles. The cashier silently handed Kirk the key to the bathroom. “Just drop it back here when you finished,” he said, not looking up.

    As Kirk stepped outside, he heard a subtle chirping behind the station and noticed a few clouds dotting the sky that extended over the pale blue mountains to the north . Kirk walked around the station both to sneak a look at the tree and search for the bathroom. He had to crane his neck to see over the propane tanks and, once at the side of the building, couldn’t hear the birds over the ice-container’s incessant humming. Kirk also couldn’t find the bathroom.

    He walked to the other side of the station, crossing the crumbling asphalt as he did so. The highway, which sprawled to the east, was motionless and the sun traced broken mirages down its winding black trial.

    As Kirk walked up to the grimy bathroom building, he noticed a yellow patch of wildflowers tucked carefully between the road and the wire fence that separated the road from the field. Everyday driving to work he’d seen the gas station but never the small cluster of pale yellow flowers.

    At the bathroom door, the key stuck as Kirk wiggled it in the keyhole. It took Kurt a moment to realize that the door was already opened a crack and the silent darkness inside peered out.

    Kirk pushed the heavy blue door open carefully. As he did, he heard a rustle in the back of the room..

    He ran his hand up and down the cold wall but couldn’t feel a switch. Kirk began to panic. Where was the switch?

    He heard something move again. Kirk kicked the door open to let in more light. Finally, he saw the switch. The lights flickered on slowly, gradually getting brighter.

    The rustling stopped.

    Kirk could see something curled up on the stall floor, like a bundle of matted fur. But, as the room lighted up Kirk could see it was a torn quilt in a messy pile.

    “Hello?” Kirk said into the silent bathroom.

    Rustling came from behind the stall wall.

    Kirk stepped in. “Hello?”

    A cough responded, like someone was clearing his throat.

    Kirk peeked his head around the open door and saw what had been making the noise. Huddled against the wall a girl in a tattered shirt looked at him, her pretty eyes narrow. Dirt streaks ran along her foot, contrasting the chipped pink nail polish painted on her toenails. Her pants were torn from the knee down and only small strands of fabric covered her dirty ankles. Her thin hands clutched her quilt, and she glared at him.

    “Blowjobs are ten, sex twenty five. I got condoms,” the girl said coldly.

    She had small blue eyes, frayed brown hair, and pale skin. Despite her tattered appearance, she had a pretty face with high cheekbones and deep socketed eyes.

    There was silence.

    “Well?” The girl asked impatiently.

    “No thank you. I came here to use the restroom.”

    “Fifteen,” the girl said, “for sex.”

    “Um, I don’t…”

    “Ten for sex. Fifteen for both. I got condoms,” she said, reaching under her blanket.

    “No, I’m not interested.”

    The girl looked at him and sighed. “Ten for both.” She ripped open the condom wrapper and began pulling out the pale yellow contraception.

    “Look. I’m not interested. I’m going to work. Uh I’m not going to do anything,” Kirk began to step away and considered using the stall.

    The girl clenched her jaw and stuck her hand into her blanket again. “Last offer,” she said. She seemed embarrassed as she revealed the small knife. Kirk glanced at the dull blade and looked back at her. She stood painfully, leaning against the wall to get up.

    “I can’t let you go without an offer,” she said, sternly.

    Kirk took a step back. She was a thin girl and her hand shook as she stepped toward him. “Ten to use the urinal?” He asked, almost jokingly.

    “No,” she said, not looking at Kirk. Her voice hid a distinct frustration. “I need…” she paused, “Gimme your wallet.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, passing the blade inches from her nose.

    Kirk sighed and nodded. He tossed his thick leather wallet on her blanket pile.

    “Don’t use the cards after today. I’m going to cancel them. Get some food.” She held the knife loosely and pointed it away from Kirk.

    She sat back down heavily and stuffed the wallet into her blanket. She looked up at him and muttered: “blowjob if you don’t tell no one I’m here.”

    Kirk tried to catch her eyes but she avoided his. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “No. No.”

    He walked to the stall and pissed. She rustled again to get comfortable. He tried not to think of the poor girl as he flushed and walked out silently, listening to the water hiss down the drain.

    Kirk straightened his tie as he walked to his car once again forced to cross the crumbling asphalt.

    He’d forgotten the key. “Shit,” Kirk murmured under his breath.

    If he left it in the bathroom, the cashier would go retrieve it and discover the poor girl. As he turned to return to the bathroom, he noticed the cluster of yellow just off the road and decided suddenly, as if on an impulse, to walk to them. He stepped out onto the highway’s shoulder and walked a ways.

    The gravel ended abruptly at the base of the petit yellow flowers. The ground looked cool and lush around the little strands of green grass that had sprouted between the pale daffodils. In the bright sunshine, the small daffodils were almost white. Kirk picked one, a small and delicate looking one.

    As he walked back to the bathroom, he twirled the little flower between his fingers and felt the toughness of the asphalt beneath his feet.

    As Kirk approached the bathroom, walking intently toward the pale blue door.

    It opened easily this time and Kirk strided into the dimly lit room. He stepped in front of the stall and looked at the girl who had wrapped herself in her thin arms and curled her knees to her chest.

    “The card has a $300 dollar limit. Get yourself some food. I’ll be back tonight, around 6. Keep an eye on the time. Look, here’s my watch,” he unlatched his silver watch and tossed it to her. “Don’t get found until then. I’ll give you a ride to the city and we can work on getting you some clothes.”

    Her small blue eyes widened. She looked confused but nodded intently.

    “If anyone comes in, ignore them. Keep the stall shut and lock the door when I leave.”

    She nodded again.

    Kirk bent down and grabbed the bathroom key and set the daffodil on the ground, careful to rest the yellow tube upwards.

    She smiled, and little wrinkles spread by her eyes.

    Kirk, not knowing what to do, turned away from the stall and began to walk for the door.

    “Wait,” she whispered.

    Kirk returned to the stall and looked at the girl.

    “What’s your name?”

    Kirk looked at her and rested his hand on the stall door. “Kirk.”


    Kirk smiled. “Wait for me,” he said, looking at her one more time before turning away from the stall.

    Kirk stepped out into the sun, slammed the door shut, and flipped the lock into position. He then clipped the bathroom key off its chain and exchanged the the bathroom key with an old house key he carried. Kirk slid the bathroom key into his pocket and jangled the fake bathroom key set as he walked to the gas station building.

    Kirk handed the keys to the cashier.

    “‘Ave a good day,” the cashier said, not looking up.

    As Kirk stepped out of the building, he noticed the weather had shifted slightly. It was later morning; the wind had settled, more clouds had formed, and the sun had gotten warmer.

    It wasn’t long before Kirk was whizzing down the highway on his way to work, as usual. Disappearing in his rearview mirror, however, was a pale, almost blue dot on the horizon. Now, finally, he had something to come back for.
    matwoolf, Indarican and Jeni like this.
  5. Winniethepooh

    Winniethepooh New Member

    Feb 24, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Along the yellow brick road
    Another Morning

    Another morning, another workday. When I had arrived at the precinct it was aflame with people. Walking into my office I set my bag down and exited, heading towards the team. We had a big triple homicide that had been going on for a couple weeks. A man who favored daffodils used them to poison his victims and then left them in a gruesome state with the flower implanted in the stomach like it was cement.

    “Morning. Fill me in.”

    “We found the shop that does the bishop tattoo that was seen on the murderers arm. we’re going tomorrow to check and see if the owner remembers anything,” Jason informed.


    “We visited the guy who had seen him and he told us he lived in an apartment on Briarwood. I've sent some guys up there to confirm his statement.”

    “Thank you, good work team.” I clapped my hands, smiling before I walked off.

    Amber walked up next to me, I acknowledged her before turning back. “What do you want?”

    “I want to talk about last night.”

    “And how you left when I woke up?” I asked.

    “Kinda.” She responds.

    “I'm not interested in hearing what you've got to say.”

    “I know but let me just explain. I've got a good reason for doing what I did.” I looked at her, her punk hairstyle shocked people whenever they asked what profession she was in.

    “How's there a reason? Your absence was clear to what it meant- a quick fuck.” My eyes heated as I stopped and looked at her. “And this wasn't our first time either.”

    She grabbed my hands but I pulled them away and hissed at her. “Not here!” Shaking my head I mumbled low enough for only the both of us to here. I said it more to myself than her. “I don't know what's wrong with me, I knew better than to get involved with someone at work.”

    Amber smirked, “but you did,” she said and added. “You liked my persistence and if I remember correctly we both were hesitant with initiating this relationship.”

    “Sorry to interrupt this love feud but we found something.” We both looked at Jason.

    A smile lit my features, I was relieved for this interruption. “Show us.”

    “Well our tattoo owner told us he had dark hair, was toned, didn't speak much and had a wobble in his right leg.” Jason informed as they approached the board that held pictures of the victims on it. “The statement wrung true. We're going down to bring him in for questioning.”

    “Alright. I want a warrant to search his place,” I said.

    “I'll talk to the judge,” Jason replies.

    We had gotten the call in that informed us he'd been taken into custody, we walked to his apartment which was on the bottom floor. Booting the door in we walked forward and began investigating the rooms. There were books of botany, bibles, and others that were piled high in the front room. The other rooms were filled with plants under UV Ray lights, study notes, and then vials that were scattered all over on the floor.

    “Elizabeth come check this out!”

    Entering the master bedroom my hand immediately went to my nose, there were no beds, dressers or furniture in the room. It was all covered with plastic and laying on the ground was a box filled with small vials of blue liquid. A metal table stood in the centre and held a woman who was dead. On her were daffodils. It was like the poison killed her and then made her body a fertile home for a daffodil to grow.

    “This is beautifully gruesome.” I examined the body that held the small bunch of daffodils.

    A critique afterwards would be appreciated
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  6. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Word count for the above: 622.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  7. Winniethepooh

    Winniethepooh New Member

    Feb 24, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Along the yellow brick road
    This is my first time doing this in a writing forum ... I've got to add a Title(which I forgot.sorry) and my word count is okay or not?
  8. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    You're fine, no worries. If you can still edit it, feel free to choose whatever title you want.
  9. Winniethepooh

    Winniethepooh New Member

    Feb 24, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Along the yellow brick road
    No I can't. But I'll remember that next time .. Damn I had a good title too. I wasn't sure since it said "assigned title."
  10. Ex Leper

    Ex Leper Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Likes Received:
    The Last Daffodil [588 Words]

    This is Carl. Carl is the last man on Earth, but he doesn't know it. Say hello, Carl. He is searching through the rubble of the world looking for loved ones. As time passes he starts to become desperate and would be happy just to meet anyone.

    Carl doesn't know what has happened. When the end of the world came he was sitting underneath a wrestling ring waiting for his cue. It never came. He noticed that the crowd had gone quiet. When he peeked under the ring apron there was nobody about. Thinking it was a practical joke, Carl began his search for someone he recognised, which turned into a search for anyone.

    Now, Carl is panicking. He is running in and out of shops looking for food. The shelves are empty. There is nothing to eat nor drink. It's not a fun apocalypse, is it, Carl?

    Carl is getting desperate. He has heard stories of people drinking their own wee to survive. Carl pulls a face. That's disgusting. Carl agrees.

    But, what's that? Shining like a heaven-sent gift with bright yellow petals against the grey of the world; slender, green stalk sticking out from the ground: why, it's a daffodil.

    Carl approaches with reverence for this miracle of miracles. It's not a mirage, is it? He pokes it. What a relief.

    Does it have any water on the petals? Carl looks closely, and sadly shakes his head. There is only dust. What a shame.

    Carl digs the ground up with his hands and pulls the plant out by the bulb. He is looking at it with very hungry eyes.

    It's no good as food... Carl don't do it! Too late. Carl has chewed his way through half the bulb and eaten it. Silly Carl. Carl looks confused. It doesn't taste nice, but it's food. Carl doesn't know. Shall we tell him? Daffodil's contain lycorine. Lycorine is poisonous. Silly, silly Carl.

    Carl sticks his tongue out and starts scraping his nails across it. What's that? It burns? Well, of course it burns. That would be the calcium oxalate crystals.

    Quick, get some water. Oh, there is no water. I'm so sorry, Carl.

    Carl clutches his stomach. That will be the abdominal pain. You may start to feel sick soon, Carl. You may even get the trots. Poor Carl looks confused again. The runs, Carl. Diarrhoea. What's that sound? Is that your tummy? Looks like we spoke too soon, doesn't it?

    Carl is in a right mess. He's running around holding his bottom. That won't keep it in, Carl?

    Carl wants some privacy. You're the last man on Earth, Carl. How much more private do you want it? Don't pull that face. What, you didn't know? He shakes his head. He is sad. And he pooped himself.

    Poor Carl.

    Now he's shaking. That's part of the poisoning, Carl. When does it stop? I don't want to scare you, anymore. Okay, okay, don't get testy. It stops when you're dead. Yes, Carl, you're going to die.

    You're dribbling now. Of all the people to represent the last of humanity, why did it have to be you? Of course you're depressed. I would be depressed too if I were you.

    Oh dear, Carl's not responding now. Carl is having convulsions. I don't think he's got long left. No. That's it. Carl is gone. Goodbye Carl. It was nice knowing you.

    And, so it came to pass that the last daffodil and the last human killed each other.

    Well done humans.
  11. Jeni

    Jeni Member

    Mar 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Daffodil House [3226]

    We moved into Daffodil house the spring after my sixteenth birthday. It was beautiful! It was definitely nothing like our city apartment. Mom and dad had decided that we needed to get away from the city. Maybe it’s because of the trouble I had been getting into… maybe not.

    The house is a huge, white, two-story home with a porch spanning the entire front. In the center of the upper story eave was a circular stained glass window with a single yellow flower. It was a Daffodil. We studied them at school last year. They look like a trumpet and are supposed to be a sign of “rebirth” or something. I looked at everyone’s happy faces, and nodded. Ok, I can try this. What could happen?

    Where the outside of the house had been bright and cheery, the inside of the house was old. There might even be lead paint on these walls! I walked over to a heavily repainted door frame and scratched it with a fingernail. It quickly chipped and chipped and chipped again, color after color, until a fairly deep hole had formed.

    Mom walked up beside me saying, “Its ok hon……it just has character. Imagine the stories each of those colors of paint can tell!” She walked away leaving me to think about that.

    What could those painted walls tell? I shook my head……too many stories for my taste! It’s an effort just unpacking my room.

    Finally, the moving van was empty! Dad was going to return the van tomorrow so maybe I could go into town and check things out. School didn’t start until Monday so I had the whole weekend to explore. It was an awesome night! Mom cooked chicken and dumplings then we all sat on the porch and listened to the crickets and birds. We talked about memories and how much we liked the house. It is so quiet here. In the city, there was always noise, even at night. In this moment, I felt like this would work.

    Mom woke me early with a little shake and a “good morning”.

    I rolled over and looked at the clock. “6:30” I said, pulling the covers over my head then slapping them back as I jumped out of the bed yelling, “Please tell me it’s not 6:30 a.m.!.........Mom! Really?” I stomped into the hall heading to the kitchen. This is aggravating! This family knows that I don’t function well until after ten a.m. Why should the country change anything? I kept walking, peeking into doorways as I went. This house had a really long hallway that was full of doors all the way down. In a way, it reminded me of that show The Shining. It gave me the creeps! I kept feeling like someone might leap out at me, which of course, my brother had done four times last evening. It was deathly quiet this morning. Where had mom gone? I was coming up to the end of the hall when I saw something move near the window in the front room. Mom had said it was once called a parlor but we made it a study. I didn’t like the word “parlor”. Isn’t that where dead people were waked? Creepy! I stopped in my tracks and leaned back slightly to see into the room. The porch softened outside light made the room gloomy and dust floated in rays from the window. A tingle ran down my spine.

    “Clara!” my brother said jumping into the hallway. He scared a year off of my life! And now…..I’m going to kill him! I sprinted after him, squinting as the sun hit my eyes.

    Mom turned and gave me a look. You know that “what are you doing, why aren’t you ready” look?”

    “OK …. one second.” I went back inside squeezing into jeans and a t-shirt. I smeared some toothpaste on my finger and rubbed my teeth while grabbing my shoes. I stumbled outside already pulling them on. “Ready!”

    Mom harrumphed and rolled her eyes, “Did a brush even touch your hair?”

    I smiled brilliantly saying, “Country girls don’t need to brush their hair mom. Who’s going to see it? A squirrel? A bumblebee?” She hugged me and we laughed all the way to the car. It’s going to be a great day! I looked at the smiling faces around me. I haven’t felt like we were a family in a long time.

    Dad called it a town but it couldn’t be more than a community. I saw one stop sign, a shack with a sign saying “post office”, and a general store. I didn’t see the school. It was devoid of stoplights, subways, or buses. There were two, for lack of a better word, buildings. Mom and dad headed to the post office with the kids so I headed to check out the store. I walked in and knew instantly that this was unlike any store I had ever seen. There were animal skins and flowers hanging in the corners. Taxidermy animals were mounted on every wall and a huge black bear stood next to the door with his paws up and fangs flashing. There were a few shelves with dusty canned goods. Along the back wall sat the biggest fireplace and oldest woman I‘ve ever seen. She must be a hundred! The lines in her face looked as deep as the hole I had scratched in the door frame at the house. She was swirling liquid in a jar while dipping a wooden arrow into it. She gave me a passing glance and nodded her head. I took that as an invitation to look around and began to make my way around the room. Every animal imaginable had been stuff and mounted on the walls, even a wrinkly faced bull dog! I quickly bypassed the animal skins and stopped at the flower section. There were all sorts of plants here. Some were drying upside down. Herbs I guess. Mom likes fresh herbs.

    Near the window sill, a yellow flower caught my eye. It looked like the stained glass window at the house except there were bunches of it here. I lifted a vase and said, “Daffodils right?”

    For the first time since I had walked into the store, interest flickered in her eyes. She put down the jar and slowly rose from the rocker. Wiping her hands on a tattered apron, she hobbled over to me. I held the vase up to the sunlight and looked over to her. She gave a toothless grin and saying, “Yep….. picked ‘em m’self.”

    She seemed so pleased that I had to smile.

    “My name is Clara.” I said.

    She nodded and was still smiling as her gnarled hands reached for the vase. Her nails were brutally long and I recoiled when they brushed my hand. I looked down when she said, “Folks ‘round here call me Lucy…….but m’ name’s Lucinda.” Then she put the vase back onto the sill.

    She stared intently at the vase. I felt awkward so I tried to keep the conversation going.

    “So Lucy, how long have you lived around here?” I asked, even though I knew the answer was “forever”. I stifled a giggle. The sound was hardly audible but apparently it was louder than I thought because Lucy whipped around and gave me stone cold look with piercing blue eyes.

    She waited a second then said, “Lived here forever.” Forever echoed in my mind causing me to look quickly back at her face. She was smirking! She knew what I was thinking! Creepy!

    I cleared my throat saying, “That’s a long time! How long have you owned this store?”

    I walked over to the fireplace and touched the tip of my finger to the wooden dart. Lucy rushed forward so unbelievably fast! She looked frail but the grip on my hand could only be described as “viselike”.

    I must have looked startled because she quickly let go croaking, “that’s poison girl!”

    Rubbing my finger on my pants I stammered, “P..Poison?”

    The old woman hobbled back to her rocker and nodded her head. “Poison! “

    I was in shock but still asked, “What kind of poison?”

    She looked satisfied. Pointing a crooked finger at a stool, she told me to sit. I sat as she began. “I kilt ever one of these animals ya know……not with no gun. I use homemade poison.” She said pointing to the jar. “My family’s lived here a long time. My pappy run this store a’for me and his pappy run it a’for him.” She nodded looking around the room. “I stuffed them animals too…don’t waste no part o’ them. I even use the eyeballs!” She said looking into my eyes. I gagged and she giggled.

    Sheepishly I asked, “How do you make the poison?”

    She stopped smiling and gave me a serious look. I waited impatiently as seconds ticked by. I tilted my head tolerantly and she continued, “I use Daffodils. Ain’t it funny how something so beautiful could kilt ya?”

    My brow furrowed as I thought back to science class. It was a blur but I only remember good things about Daffodils. They helped with pain, treated Alzheimer’s, and were considered a sign of rebirth. This was interesting. I leaned forward on the stool asking, “How can they kill you? I thought they were good luck.”

    She also moved forward and stroked her chin. “Well, you see……a bunch o’ Daffodils is good luck and a sign of life, but……” She sat back in the rocker and crossed her arms.

    Her voice deepened as she finished the sentence. “One Daffodil……you see……is a bad omen.” Her head shook. “One Daffodil ...brings doom!” Her bones made popping and crackling noises as she rose and walked to the vase of Daffodils.

    “Come and see!” She said grabbing an empty vase. She poured water into it and added five different flowers. Lastly, she added a single Daffodil then placed the vase on the sill. “Come mornin’ ……. the Daffodil will be the only one alive!”

    I was still trying to process everything when mom and dad bustled in with the kids. They stood frozen at the door with the same look that I had when I walked in. After a moment of shock, dad introduced himself to Lucy then grabbed a couple cans of baked beans. Lucy rang up the purchase, looked at me and said, “see ya in the mornin’.” I shrugged when Dad tossed me a curious look, then we headed out. On the way home I couldn’t stop thinking about the Daffodil being a bad omen.

    Later, I stared at the stained glass for a long time. It seemed so cheery yesterday but today, it looked ominous.

    I choked down dinner then headed to my room, cell phone in hand. I pulled up Daffodil house, Stony Creek on the internet. I really wasn’t expecting much but page after page popped up. Five dead, Daffodil house Stony Creek, 2000. Two dead, Daffodil house, 1950. Seven dead, Daffodil house, 1899.

    I scanned pages for hours. Every story was the same. In 1899, a family of seven died. Reportedly, the family was fine one day then started having vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and paralysis then death. The cause was undetermined but it was believed that a relative poisoned the family by putting Daffodils into their dinner instead of onions. The reports in 1950 and 2000 were similar but there was no mention of daffodil poisoning. The families were thought to have developed some sort of stomach flu that went untreated.

    I sat back. There were so many coincidences! I looked at the clock. Ten o’clock! I can’t wait until morning. I have so many questions. Hopefully, Lucy could answer them. I closed my eyes but sleep was fleeting. I kept imagining Daffodils and those dead animals in the store.

    I was up in a flash. It was a new personal record. I was dressed and out the door before mom could even say good morning. I jumped on my bike and headed to town. I made quick work of the lonely two mile ride to town. Lucy was waiting when I rushed into the store. I rushed past her to the vase with mixed flowers. She hadn’t exaggerated. The single Daffodil was standing tall but all of the other flowers were brown and dead. I turned and looked at her expectantly. She nodded her head and pointed a boney finger to the stool.

    She began when I sat. “Told ya……. dead! I knows poisons. Daffodils don’t take kindly to strangers.” She sat back in the rocking chair and started rocking. I excitedly told her everything that I had read on the internet about Daffodil house. Her brow furrowed and her left eye began to twitch as she said, “ya livin’ in Daffodil house?Bad luck…real bad luck.”

    “Did your family know all of those people who died at Daffodil house?” I asked impatiently.

    “Did we know them? Hmmm. Well …..the first family to die was my pappy’s family. Twas’ eight o’ them you know. My grand pappy, grand mammy, and the six kids. My pappy was the only survivor. He was fourteen when it happened. He got real sick but it never kilt him.” She began to rock in earnest making little moaning sounds on and off. “Mmmmm……them poor folks. They say it was an accident. The Daffodils got mistook for some onions. They got real sick and died.” She shook her head and said, “I can’t talk no more today.” Dismissed, I headed home.

    I returned every day after school asking questions about the house and the town. She answered honestly but redirected questions about the subsequent families that died at Daffodil house. One Saturday, I returned determined to find out what happened to those families. Lucy greeted me with a smile and hot tea. She sat in the rocker blowing glass using a blow torch and straw. She said that she personally makes the eyes for the animals. The tea was warm and sweet. I sipped impatiently. Today was the day! I was going to know the whole story.

    Lucy sat back saying, “go on child…..ask away.”

    I took another long draught of tea then sat on the edge of the seat. “Tell me what really happened to those other families.”

    Lucy eyed me cautiously, “You sure you want to know? Curiosity kllt the cat ya know.”

    When I nodded, she continued, “Well, go on and sit back. Drink ya tea, this might take a bit.” She began with a tale of how her father had barely survived the poisoning. The community joined together and helped the fourteen year old manage the store and house. He married and had one child, Lucy. Lucy’s mother had died in childbirth so she had been raised by her father and an old Indian medicine woman. In the 1950’s, times were hard and her father couldn’t pay the taxes so he lost Daffodil house. It was sold to a newlywed couple.

    Lucy sat back and took a shaky breath.

    I felt a little woozy so I slouched in the chair and she began to talk again.

    “Those folks was intrudin’ on what wasn’t theirs. My pappy had the right o’ it. They was never gonna leave.” She said with a wan smile.

    My brain felt a little foggy but I think I understood. Lucy’s dad had poisoned those people!

    She pointed that crooked finger at me and said, “They died real fast child…..them city folks is squishy. The Daffodils killed them quick! With enough of the juice, you get to skip all that vomiting. Straight to paralysis and they’s gone. No fuss, No muss.”

    I was holding my breath and my eyes must have grown about three sizes because Lucy began to laugh. I took a deep breath. It felt like it was in slow motion. I tried to shift in my seat but my legs wouldn’t cooperate. I looked at Lucy.

    “Mmmm, yes. I guess you know now. Don’t fight it. You’re a city girl……you’ll go quickly.” Lucy said with a smile then she spoke of the last family.

    “When my pappy died, the property was willed to me. Pappy had paid the price with some money the young couple had stashed in a mattress. I kept it until ‘round 2000, when a bunch o’ tax men showed up saying I had to leave because taxes was overdue. I said I never paid no taxes! “ Lucy harrumphed. “They said that’s why I had to leave. “ She clucked her tongue. “I didn’t waste time. I made them a pot o’ chicken soup full o’ Daffodils. They didn’t even make it to meals end.” She giggled and shook her head.

    I was taking little gasps followed by long pauses of not breathing. I would like to say my head was reeling with everything that I had learned but honestly I couldn’t think of anything except breathing. My mind screamed ………take another breath! The last thing I saw was Lucy walking up to me with a knife.

    She put the knife against my eye and said, “Sorry, but I need your eyes. An old medicine woman once told me that when I make a kill……..I should take the eyes and preserve them. The spirit is in the eyes you know. “

    Then everything went black.

    I opened my eyes to my mother’s frantic voice. “Please,” she said. “You must have seen her! She said she was coming here.”

    I blinked a few times. Everything was hazy. My mother, father, and a police man stood there speaking with Lucy. Lucy stood there with her hand on her heart shaking her head. “No, she didn’t come by. I figured she changed her mind.” She hugged my mother and nodded at my father and the officer. A single tear rolled down the old crone’s cheek. My mother turned slowly and started to head outside.

    I stood there with my hands on the glass screaming with all of my might, “ Mom…..Mom……..”

    She paused right in front of me and stared for a moment. I was hitting the glass with my hands but she didn’t seem to see. She turned and asked Lucy, “A…Cat? It’s new?”

    The old woman nodded and said, “She’d been with me for years. She’s ……let me see….. sixteen! She passed in the night so I stuffed her up quick and finished just before you came in.”

    My mother turned back to me and asked, “Did she die from old age?”

    Lucy cackled, “Oh no dear! Curiosity kilt her. She would always go to the cistern to look into the water. She loved her reflection. I think sometimes she thought it was another cat and she would try to catch it. This time I wasn’t there to pull her out. “ Lucy shook her head.

    Mom gazed longingly one last time. “She’s so beautiful.”

    “She sure is. Now, I can keep her forever.” Lucy said while stroking the pristine white fur.

    I screamed, “Noooooo!” as my mother walked out of the door. Lucy tapped my nose and nearly skipped off humming.

    I looked at all of the other animals. Each set of eyes had a person standing with their hands on the glass looking back at me.
  12. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Feb 15, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    GenPet - [1482]

    Sally pulled at her father’s hand as they waited for her mother to get out of the car. “Dad! Hurry!” “Calm down, we need to wait for your mother.” Frank said. He lifted her up and carried her around the other side of the car “Is there a problem?” Julie said “No, just trying to get organized so I don’t lock the keys in the car again.” Julie finished packing up her bag and shut the door. The three started walking across the parking lot to the store. Julie continued “Are you sure this is a good idea, she’s only eight years old.” Frank stopped walking “A little late now, she’s already excited about it, besides pets are good for children. It teaches them all that responsibility stuff and empathy.” “Empathy?” Julie said where’d you get that from?” Frank shrugged “I don’t know, some website.” Julie smiled at that “Yea, must be true then.”

    The sign above the store’s door read “GenPet - The right pet for you” Frank put Sally down and opened the door for his ladies. Frank remembered getting all sorts of pets when he was growing up. There had been a dog that died when he was very young so he didn’t remember much about it. Then there was Dilly, a Welsh Terrier. That was the dog that lasted through most of his childhood. There had been an uncountable number of cats that had gone in and out of his life, the farm always had cats wandering around. He was pretty sure his sister had some hamsters at one point. “Anyway, my family always had lots of animals, it was good for us.” Julie just grunted. Frank knew she was doing this under duress. Julie grew up in foster care, she never knew what it was like getting attached to an animal.

    Sally instantly ran to the back of the store. “Do you think she’s going to pick a puppy?” Julie asked. “Maybe, but from what I’ve heard about this store …..” Frank answered. They walked past a wall of aquariums filled with every imaginable fish shape and color.” Julie stopped “Wow! Look at that!” She pointed at one the tanks. Inside Frank saw three of the smallest dolphins imaginable. There was a sign that said “GenPet designed dolphins $149.00.” They were no more than six inches long, swimming around each other, occasionally jumping out of the water.and then back down. “That is some really cool shit” Frank said.

    “Mommy come look” They heard their daughter’s voice coming from the other end of the store. They zig zagged their way through the aisles until they found Sally looking at a wall of animal cages. There was an incredible assortment of animals. Dogs and cats certainly but they also had a red fox, two horses that were no more than 10 lbs each, and “That one!” Sally said. Julie looked, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Frank and Julie exchanged glances and Frank said” I have no idea, maybe we should ask someone who works here.” As if the man was waiting to hear such a statement “Can I help you?”

    The man or almost man, teenager was more like it stepped from behind a rawhide display. “Did you want a better look at one of the pets?” Frank said “Um …. yea, but what’s with... ?” he pointed at the display of cages. The clerk made a wide grin “That’s what GenPet is all about, the company has genetically modified a variety of animal species to make them more suitable as pets.” Frank gave that some thought before saying “Yeah, but just making a wild animal smaller isn’t going to make it a decent pet.” The boy continued ”Yes sir. but GenPet’s products are modified beyond just their size, they really have been designed to be good human companions” A bird sitting in a cage near them squaked and said “GenPet’s products …. GenPet’s products.” The boy studiously ignored the bird. Would you like me to take one out?” Frank rubbed his head. Sally was only partially paying attention to the adults she was on her knees looking in one of the cages. Frank said “Yes, okay, we may as well let her see it up close.” Julie stepped in front of Frank and said “What about biting? How safe are those things?” Seeing that the mother was sticking to the customer script the boy said “All of GenPet’s animals are guaranteed to be docile.” Julie said “Umm and if something goes wrong how do get back our daughter’s healthy body?” The boy’s smile slipped, and he looked to Frank. “GenPet’s products” the bird said again.

    The boy went into the back and appeared in the room of cages, he pulled out Sally’s pick. He wrapped a collar around its neck and put a leash on. Sally was jumping up and down “Yes Daddy Yes Mommy it’s perfect.” Frank said “you need to be calm around it, he ummm she … well anyway, it will need to get used to you.” The boy came back around and Frank asked “Is it male or female?” “Male and it’s already been neutered.” He placed it down next to Sally and handed her the leash. It looked Sally in the eye and licked her face. Frank said “I wonder if GenPeet has them modified to automatically do that?” Julie laughed “It is pretty damn cute.” Sally was stroking its neck and making cooing noises at it. The clerk asked “would you like to have her walk it around, we have a penned in area out back for them?”

    The boy took them through a back door as Sally walked the two foot tall giraffe outside. Behind the store was a fenced in area filled with a variety of animal toys. There was a colorful array of flowers growing along the fence and several trees and saplings scattered throughout. Sally took the giraffe out to the center of the yard and picked up a ball. Frank asked “Will that thing fetch? Or play anything with her?” The boy said, “Just watch” Sally tossed the ball and the giraffe just about pulled her down when it went after it.” Julie said “Oh honey, take it off the leash if you’re going to do that.” The giraffe nosed at the ball for a few seconds and then when Sally released the leash it made for the flower bed. “So much for genetically designed fetch” Julie said. The clerk replied “Well, you do need to do some training.”

    They continued to watch Sally follow the giraffe around, as it was nibbling at the flowers. Frank said “Is it ok for it to eat those? What do you feed that thing anyway?” Julie spoke up “and what about housebreaking?” The clerk said “The daffodils can be poisonous if eats too many the other plants out here are fine. Almost any plant will be okay but we have a special food mixture to make sure they get all the right nutrients.” Frank mumbled “Of course you do.” The clerk continued “We recommend that if you’re going to just let it graze out of your yard you have all the plants checked first and even then use the food mix once a week. Oh, and I’ve heard housebreaking is pretty easy with these guys. The elephants are a pain to break in.” Frank barked a laugh.

    They boy went back in the store and told them to take their time with it. They let Sally play for about thirty minutes with the little guy. Julie said “Well, at least they didn’t have any elephants in stock.” Frank smiled and hugged her “You ok with this?” he said into her ear. She said “I suppose so, I was expecting a dog but she seems to have gotten attached already and it does seem gentle.” “Sally” Frank said “Bring him over here.” The two came trotting over, the giraffe happily chewing a rose. Julie said “What do you think Sally?” “I LOVE HIM!” she squealed. Julie said “Of course you do” under her breath. Frank said “Do you know what you want to name him?” Sally, gave that some thought and handed the giraffe a purple flower.

    As they crossed the parking lot Frank insisted on holding the leash. “Just until we get into the car I don’t want him to get loose in the parking lot.” Julie was juggling the 15 lb bag of giraffe chow, her purse and Sally’s hand. Sally was carrying a food dish. Julie pressed the key’s unlock button, opened the door and then helped Sally buckle up. Frank lifted up the giraffe and placed it next to Sally. Sally “Grabbed his neck and kissed his head then said “There’s my cute little Daffodil” Frank said “stupid name for a male” and got into the car.
    Winniethepooh and Jeni like this.
  13. Ghost in the Shell

    Ghost in the Shell Member

    Jan 11, 2016
    Likes Received:
    A New Beginning [2270]

    One minute his bicycle was rolling along the moonlit cobblestones and the next it lay bent into a heap of junk. After the crash and crunch of metal, Rod’s body was lurched onto the truck’s hood, bounced on the windshield and was finally dislodged to the kerb, leaving trickling traces of blood on the speeding vehicle.

    When the dregs of the night had been dispelled, the sun beams coming in through the bow window and her cat curled up against her gave no indication that anything was amiss. This was a day just like any other. Perhaps Rod would sneak in through the backdoor—he had a set of keys— and into her room. Maybe he was already there, she was so drowsy she couldn’t tell, but Minks would have purred her welcome and stolen his beret, which made him look the part of an artist and the cat almost human. Lucy fell into a comfortable slumber. She would sleep in today.

    Then her cellphone beeped and wriggled on the nightstand, startling her. She stretched a tired arm to answer the call.

    Stacey’s voice came choked through the speaker. ‘‘Rod got into an accident... It’s bad... He’s at Raymond’s Hospital now.’’

    Lucy’s heart had sunk at apprehensions of such possible misfortunes in the past, dangers she kept at bay by things like only stepping on the black tiles of the kitchen, as if playing a pentatonic scale that gave an Oriental, soothing feel. But now that it was for real she couldn’t feel the right emotions.

    ‘‘ Wha... Are you there?’’ she asked.

    ‘‘ I’m in the ICU waiting room.... They’re prepping him for surgery....’’

    ‘‘ I’ll be right there, stay calm,’’ Lucy found herself saying.

    The rest of their conversation was punctuated by long silences, and when she hung up the lingering voice of Rod’s elder sister, as if ringing out from a distant past, brought a rush of anxiety.

    It had all started in spring. The remembered fragrance of that daffodil resting on the music rack wafted into Lucy’s nostrils. In those days she would warm up her voice to the scales she played on the piano in a classroom lit by large windows, and leave the door ajar. Once when they were picnicking in the park near school Rod told her that it was he who had left it there.

    ‘‘Sorry,’’ he said. ‘‘Was that creepy?’’

    ‘‘Not really, just way too corny,’’ she laughed, and tucked the flower behind his ear.

    He looked pretty like that, his blond curls streaming over his perfectly proportioned face.

    Lucy slipped into a pair of jeans, pulled a sweater over her pajama top and grabbed the keys in no particular order that she could later recall. She ran down the stairs and the wood creaked underneath her feet, perhaps waking someone up, but she didn’t care for company and was out on the street with the sun shining in her face in no time. (She did remember how she locked the door, the absurdity and incongruity of that learned habit then.) She broke into a quick trot, occasionaly stopping for breath. After almost twenty blocks, when she got to the hospital, she had shaken off the last remnants of grogginess and was panting and her heart beat out of her chest with an audible thud. She rushed through the revolving door, past the security guard and onto the elevator.

    When the doors slid open the pungent smell of disinfectant hit Lucy. Then she saw Stacey standing alone in the nauseatingly white corridor—her parents and relatives were flying or driving from vacations, business trips and everyday lives. Lucy threw her arms around her as Stacey let out a hiccupy sob. Too disoriented to talk, their close and wet embrace kept them anchored to reality.

    But before long a group of doctors and nurses came out. The younger ones stayed behind, crestfallen, while a more experienced doctor delivered the news to them in a professional tone. He was sorry Rod hadn’t made it.

    ‘’Why a daffodil anyway? At least you could have bought me a rose, you cheapskate!’’ She laughed.

    ‘’Ah, I did pluck it from the wild growths of nature,’’ he replied. ‘’But that makes it all the more beautiful. Besides,let me show you something.’’

    They walked under blooming jacaranda trees to the other school building and went into an empty classroom. The rough oil paint texture—Rod said it was ok to touch—of the painting resting on an easel came back to her fingertips. It was a portrait of her sitting at the piano, and both her and the piano were covered in yellow flowers.

    ‘’What do you think?’’ Rod asked.

    ‘’It’s kinda gaudy, but I like it.’’

    The hours that followed were a confused jumble of movement. Lucy called her parents, who soon arrived at the hospital and set out to help them, if not cope with their loss, at least deal with the administrative rigmarole. After filling some papers, she and Stacey got Rod’s harmonica and beret back, pretty much the only possessions he had on him when he was clipped by the truck.

    Although Stacey had already seen her brother on life support and decided not to see him after death, Lucy wanted to go into the mortuary. She told her parents she wanted to be alone, but was led into the room where his corpse lay by a fat man in a stained white coat who then stood solemnly in a corner, seemingly watching over her. She briefly scowled at him, but then tried to pretend she was alone with Rod in that silent room.

    She reached out to run her hand down his shoulder and arm: he was stone cold. She winced and recoiled as the chill travelled through her spine. Someone had closed his eyelids, behind which had gleamed deep blue, yet warm, eyes. Hers were brimming with tears at this recollection, but then she was overcome by the feeling that that listless mannequin wasn’t —couldn’t be—her boyfriend.

    More hours whirled by in a blur. At some point Rod’s parents appeared. At some other point she was hugging Stacey. Some time later, she was in her room, although she couldn’t figure out how she’d got there. There was just the faint image of the front door, which must have been locked-unlocked-locked-unlocked.

    The funeral was grand and sober. Everyone in mourning clothes, like black smudges on a canvas. The weather was scorching despite it being almost fall, and the sweat-streaked faces and stifling suits upset Lucy. A host of insects seemed to be in charge of the dirge, cicadas buzzing and humming their mating song as crickets rubbed their wings like bows drawn against strings. She tried to fathom the grief of his family, tried to sympathize with them, but could not and did not want to be there. Rod’s dad had a grave, unmoved look and the wrinkles furrowed in his face were perhaps a blueprint of what Rod might have looked like in the future. His lips moved as he stood on the dais and now and then he would cast a sideways glance at his siblings, whose children had now a greater chance of inheriting his business. Rod’s mom looked as if she was about to faint and collapse at any moment, her face sunken. Lucy was holding her by one arm, perspiration sticking to her skin, which disgusted her and made her feel ashamed. Then the casket was lowered and people tossed flowers and shovefuls of dirt and she thought why couldn’t a daffodil be thrown in there as well. When she left, Lucy wondered if she’d see Stacey again.

    She ran her hand down his collarbone, stroking his warm, pulsing skin, as they lay in his bed, Red Hot Chili Peppers playing in the background. They kissed as they had done so many times before and he descended into her arms. She was surprised by his inexperience, by the fact that he had told the truth, though they were both in the same boat.

    ‘’So how was it?’’ he said, swelling with confidence, as he rolled back to her side.

    ‘’There’s room for improvement,’’ she teased him.

    ‘’Good one!’’ he laughed. He was the sort of guy who is so sure of himself he never found a cause to worry in what others said. ‘’Oh, and by the way, you down for that concert tonight?’’ he asked as he began to put his clothes on.

    ‘’You bet,’’ she said with a smile.

    Days are getting cold at last and Lucy is lying in bed, Minks snuggling up with her and a blanket over both of them. But this time there is a sense of duty keeping Minks glued to her owner and to her place. It’s early in the morning and Lucy doesn’t want to get out of bed, she’s still in that haze between sleep and wakefulness and Rod might sneak into her room but no, she suddenly remembers he won’t and there’s a lump in her throat, choking her fully awake. There’s a muffled scream drowning in her throat, trying to rip its way out to no avail. Minks stiffens for a second, then tries to comfort Lucy in her own feline way. Lucy clenches the bottom sheet and only restrains her urge to flail her arms around and spring out of bed by the awareness of something living resting on her chest now. This is what some days have turned into.

    Days were getting cold and she was a shut-in, a recluse. She confined herself to her room—Minks being the only other soul to be allowed entrance— and kept the curtains drawn most of the time; light was offensive to her. Her parents left her alone for the most part: she would bring a plate with her mom’s food upstairs sometimes, others she would slurp a cup of instant noodles in bed. Her friends pestered her with messages and even came round to see her once, hoping to drag her outside. She thanked them, said she was coming down with the flu or something, ‘‘catch you next week!’’

    They changed boyfriends as often as they did clothes, and were happy. And here she was staring at the white walls of her room and craving darkness, silence, nothingness, the sleep that had been so comforting even some hours after Rod was dead, death in an abstract way. She was bitter that the world was still spinning all the same.

    But the main reason why she didn’t want to see her friends was that they reminded her too much of Rod. Same thing with music, so she drove the jostling melodies that suggested themselves in minor keys out of her head and didn’t so much as look in the direction of the piano when she went downstairs. The image of Rod’s cold body haunted her. The distant squeal of brakes filled her with dread and anger. She thought she’d see blotches of blood tainting the kerb if she went outside.

    And then other times she wanted to remember him. So she would take the crumpled concert ticket out of the drawers, stare at his beret hanging from the door handle—she’d managed to wash the blood off almost completely—, look at the pictures in her cell phone and read the entries in her diary and sometimes her eyes welled up with tears. She was bored all the time and sometimes would turn to some of the other things Rod had left her, though she felt guilty, as if she was staining his memory. She would ground some weed and roll up a joint, then let out clouds of sweet, metallic smoke out of her searing lungs.

    ‘’I can’t believe you’ve never tried it,’’ Rod said.

    ‘’I think I’m good without,’’ Lucy replied.

    ‘’Come on, it won’t hurt,’’ Rod said as he passed the cigarette over.

    She hadn’t been out in weeks and was in the middle of a short trip to get supplies from the kitchen.

    ‘’How you gonna graduate high school this year?’’ her dad said behind her.

    ‘‘You can’t go on like this, you have to see a therapist,’’ her mom added.

    Lucy turned her back on them, climbed the stairs and shut the door to her room. She opened her diary and found an entry where she had written about what she’d do if Rod died. She remembered how she’d cried that day, sprawled on her bed, as if it had been a rehearsal. It had been for nought because she hadn’t been able to conjure up half that emotion after his death.

    If only he had been riding on the other side of the road, or if he had passed by there ten minutes later or earlier. Why couldn’t she alter the fabric of reality as she could tweak the notes in an imperfect score?

    The next morning, Minks came into her room carrying something in her mouth. At first Lucy didn’t notice Minks was shivering. She was holding a daffodil by its stem.

    ‘’What are you moping about?’’ the daffodil seemed to say.

    ‘’I’m sad because you’re dead.’’

    ‘’Oh, I’m fine actually, don’t worry.’’

    ‘’I’m not, I can’t have you back.’’

    ‘’Well, no...’’

    ‘’And I can’t go back to you.’’

    ‘’True, but you have me here, talking with you.’’

    ‘’No, it’s not really you. ‘’

    ‘’It’s all you’ve ever known of me, at any rate.’’


    ‘’Hush, just go out, have fun, sing.’’

    ‘’I can’t...’’

    ‘’You surely do.’’

    That afternoon she took her cat to the vet.

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