1. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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

    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest #188 "Kingdom Come"

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Mar 14, 2016.

    Short Story Contest # 188
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Kingdom Come" courtesy of @Fernando.C

    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 27th 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!
  2. Indarican

    Indarican Member

    Mar 14, 2016
    Likes Received:
    The Last Battle

    “During a battle is never the time to make life altering decisions for within one wrong move, one ill step, your life may be altered.”

    Here I lay bleeding on this battle ground remembering one of the many lessons my father tried to teach me, one that I wished I had listened to before I rounded up the troops this morning and began my way towards Tronta’s camp.

    Tronta was the leader of the Trevian people, a small but powerful colony right in the middle of all our land. For ages my father had tried to get Tronta to relocate, both forcefully and diplomatically but to no avail. Still in his old age Tronta was as stubborn as he had always been. He would rather die than see his people dragged from their little huts.

    As king of all Sythia, my father knew that he could never have a united people with Trevia occupying land and operating under a whole different set of bylaws right in the middle of our lands, unfortunately getting the small colony of Tronta to relocate was easier said than done. For starters, the Tronta people had men by the droves. I would estimate that it was anywhere from 4men to 1 women to 6 to 1. With a population of barely 5000 they had at least 3500 strong men who start their lives not learning any trade or skill but instead they learn how to be warriors, they were ruthless killing machines with no qualms about taking a life if it meant there home would be safe. My father's army on the other had had more than 8000 men but they were only called to arms in time of great distress, they spent the majority of their days as farmers, physicians or artists. We put a sword in their hands, taught them how to thrust and parry and send them on their merry way, more times than not to die.

    Today, of all the days, today was supposed to be different. After 20 long years, my father finally released the reins to his army appointing me the leading general. I would get to show him and all the high council what I was made off, what I could do with the power of my people. Today was the day I would convince Tronta and his people that their land was mine and I would no longer stand by while they squat in the middle of my paradise. They would come to understand the meaning of ‘No Longer Welcome’ either by the force of my hand or of their own free will. I hoped it was by my hand.

    I sat upon my horse, a beauty if there ever was. Grey as the troubled clouds right before a storm, with a white mane as soft as the finest silk but the temperament of a savage beast. Only I could calm Winter, I was the only one ever to be able to ride her. We trotted to the front of the formation, lines upon lines of my men dress to the nines, platinum armor shining as bright as the sun with heavy blades shaking in their hands. I looked up towards my house banner at the black snake atop the white sheep, I was proud of my heritage. Proud of the fact that we went after all our territory and sly as a snake taken down the unsuspecting sheep. I looked back down at my captains, at their concerned faces, the turmoil etched into their brows and smiled. They all were against me marching even a small portion of our army towards Trevia, we had been living in a state of false peace for some time now, months without a single battle between the two nations. They wanted me to sit with the council and talk about the politics of the matter. They wanted me to propose the idea to my father and get his opinion. They wanted me to kowtow. No there soon to be king would not be slave to the words of the old men's counsil, nor would I ever cower in my on boots. I would face this problem and I would march straight into whatever may come. I never thought that the Trevian force would be waiting for us to come. Not only were they waiting for us, they were just as prepared for battle as we were.

    I felt the carefully placed lines of men at my back shift warily at the sight of hundreds of Trevian warriors standing atop a hill, hundreds of yards of plain field separating us. They wore traditional attire for them, heads of various game placed gutted and placed upon their heads. Pelts of past animals slaughtered as their armor. I was ready for them, as ready as they were for me but my men, my men were shaken to say the least. It was time to get the blood flowing.

    “Men, look at your enemy. See how they plot your death in the deepest corners of their little minds. Will you fall to these beasts? Will you let them take your pride, your home, let them take what’s rightfully yours? No, I say. We were born with the right to this land,we were born with greatness running through our veins, with the power of our ancestors in our blood. I have lived among you all of my life and I tell you know that no one, I mean no one can take that right away from us” I trotted back and forth in front of my mind letting my arrogant words claw through their hesitation and steel there backbones, “My brothers of war, look at your enemy! Say a prayer for their souls, for this is were they die.” I turned my horse and set my eyes on my prize as the roar and chant of men with fire in their belly rose behind me. I drew my blade and with one bellowing cry ordered “Attack!” My men, took off straight towards the enemy I guess it should have dawned on me that even though the Trevian army was outnumbered they did not retreat at the sight of my army running towards them nor did they charge back, they waited. Even as the curious thought past my mind I did not order my army to stop, I just continued with the charge. Novice mistake number one, soldiers will slow whilst running up hill making them an even better target for the archers your enemy more than likely has stowed away.

    I could not believe my eyes as a saw hundreds of arrows approach us covering the entire sky and coming straight for the front lines of my armies, most of the men did not even have enough time to get their shields into place. With one unified attack, the Trevians had taken out 1/3rd of my force. Still with arrogance and pride driving me I would not be deterred by my country men dying on the floor. We continued the drive up the hill and finally our enemies began to charge down towards us. Novice mistake number two, soldiers coming downhill at full speed have more force than those trying to run uphill. The Trevian army in perfect formation with shields raised came barreling down the hill stopping all forward motion,even those of my captains on horseback were pushed back to a stop. I was able to break through their walls, taking down 5 young men with me, this I was ready for. Even if all my men were to die, there only needed one man to get to Tronta and kill him. My hubris was unheard of. I reached the top of the hill with a few men behind me and the rest at the bottom of the hill fighting for their lives, senselessly, I know that now. I had abandoned my soldiers because I had not seen the enemy that I had so desperately wanted, Tronta was not there with his army. He was cowering in his little tents. No matter to me, I would find him and kill him. Show everyone how simple it could be to take back our land.

    I tore through several tents only to find women and children huddled into corners. I was here for the land these people had no importance to me, I would not harm them if they did not get in my way. Tent after tent of women and children but still no Tronta. After a few paces and hearing the clash of the fighting getting dimmer and dimmer, I had no choice but to burn the colony down. That way I would ensure Tronta dead. I ran to the nearest pyre and made a makeshift torch and walked into the nearest tent, this one was bigger than the rest. I half hoped Tronta would be there instead I was stopped by the eyes of one woman. Right there the teachings of my father emptied from my mind and I wanted nothing more than to just stop the fighting, stop time itself to stare at the soul that was pouring out of those eyes. I watched her, unmoving, as she stood without ever taking her eyes from mine. “Are you here to destroy my people?” She asked with a light voice. “Not you.” It was then I decided that I would do anything to keep those eyes looking at me, to learn the secrets that it shielded. The direction of my life had irrevocably been altered by just one woman. She walked slowly towards me, fingers skimming her belongings as she passed by them. “Why do you come into my home? What is it that you want?”

    I knew what it was a few moments before, power, victory, glory. But now the man and all his hormonal glory, had burst forth from me. War be damned, all I wanted was this woman touching me, perferably from her knees. “What are you willing to give to me? Tell me my lady, what would you do for your people.”


    I felt blood pulse harder through my body as she got closer to me. After further inspection, I noticed her attire was little more than sheer pieces of cloth, her perk bosom pressing against my armor.It took every single shred of will power I could muster to keep from ripping her close off and taking her right there but I had some sense, I knew I couldn’t take her behind enemy lines with the ending of the battle coming so rapidly. “I see that you know who I am. I am the Prince of Sythia. Just on the other side of this terrain is my kingdom, come let me lay you on a bed of the softest fur and celebrate your body.” She smiled sweetly. I should have known. The sheep does not just walk up to the snake unless there was an attack to ensue.

    Sharp pain pierced through my body before I had a chance to register what exactly happened. I looked down at my side and at the bloody hilt of a dagger that was angled beneath my armor and through my body. She turned the dagger with a menacing laugh as I began to drop to the floor. Blood pooling in my mouth, vital oxygen no longer able to make it past the bubbling liquid in my throat.

    “You fool! How dare you expect me to turn my back on my people to follow you? One who lives only for himself. One who thinks not of his people of his kingdom but of possessing a piece of land? Your arrogance has taken your life, I pray the spirits of my lands take your soul and those of your soldiers that you have lead to a fruitless demise.” She bent down to get closer to my face “Now let me tell you, my kingdom will burn your kingdom to the ground dear prince. And your people will suffer for your pride.” She pulled the knife from my side and I felt my life blood pour from the wound.

    As I lay here and feel my body die I offer up one more prayer, “My pride has caused my end, my hubris has blinded me. Oh my King, my countrymen, my god now against my kingdoms comes a force not to be stopped. My last decision was my worst, and for my err I pay the ultimate price. I offer this as penance for my sins.”
  3. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Word count for the above: 2092.
  4. Rethagos

    Rethagos Member

    Mar 19, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Somewhere before the screen (or not)
    The Reckoning of God [643]

    The wind carried the smell of smoked pork, strong wine, and something more.

    At the time of rest for all the decent human beings, one place within the manor didn’t abide by common sense. Blinded by the luxury, the people therein celebrated yet another night of mindless indulgence.

    Firelight flickered on polished, ivory walls. Armored men kept the vulgar display of opulence contained within the mansion. Even so, laughs and squeals of nobility still brought no rest to the troubled citizens.

    The mansion was a grand testimony of the ancestor’s noble deeds. Countless rooms and corridors glimmered with radiant lamplight. Paintings of landscapes, battle scenes, and glorious predecessors covered the walls. The magnitude of this collection revealed both refinement and vanity of residents within. The hall, located at the focal point of the mansion, was packed with people and their servants. They gathered around an ebony table in the center and feasted to their heart’s content. Their appetite was so voracious, that the hall resembled more of a feeding trough. Slabs of meat, chunks of fruit and other delicacies were strewn around the place.

    They celebrated just another day in their pointless existence. Just as if they lived like there was no tomorrow.

    In the meantime, an old man scampered towards the window. Deranged by vulgarity and mindlessness of the noble, he had no sleep since weeks ago. Constant visions and nightmares troubled his already fragile mind. Every single night, he just looked out from a window and gazed at the grassy cliff, overlooking the manor.

    He has seen bright angels at the cliff, bringing forth the Kingdom of God. He’s seen the seven-headed dragon, cackling at the manor’s misfortune. He’s seen the pillars of fire, reaching high up to the sky. Or were they just a passing thought of a madman?

    This time, there was a shadowy figure at the cliff, lit by the mansion’s lamplight. Even though it was too far from the old man, its image carved itself into his brain.

    It was a perverse caricature of the God’s angels, both hideous and breathtaking in its form. Its numerous, marble eyes seeped with cosmic blackness. Serpentine shapes of raw flesh and jagged bone jutted out of the tattered, black robe, rattling and twitching in unspeakable fashion. Pulsing, bloated veins covered up most of its horrid head. The creature had suspended itself in the air with two pairs of impressive, thorny wings. Then it fixated upon the place of blasphemy against culture.

    The creature grinned, seeing the degenerate nobility indulging themselves in their primitive pleasures. It lifted its horrid forelimbs up, in a mocking gesture of blessing, and opened its jaw.

    “Let Your Kingdom come”, it murmured.

    Every word unsettled the earth below the mansion. Walls trembled, and then cracked, bringing the festivity to a halt. Tectonic plates moved out of the way of the God's reckoning. The building’s foundation has tilted, once, then twice. Then it cracked in two, opening an imposing fracture, down to the Earth’s fiery core. Everything started falling down. In a matter of seconds, the crack was covering up with ivory debris and twitching bodies of the sinners.

    The mansion shrank in half like a creature bloated beyond its proportion. Fire yawned from the tectonic scar. None of the disgraceful were to survive that day.

    The crack widened, consuming even more of the place. People of the manor, woken by the earthquake, watched in twisted delight as the aristocrats fell down the hellish pit. It all lasted only a few moments more. The earth devoured every last bit of furniture, every slab of stone, and then – was put to rest once again.

    Or was it all just a passing thought of a madman? Just his last blissful vision before cosmic blackness would finally claim him, and force out the last wheeze out of his lungs?
    zoupskim likes this.
  5. Samuel Lighton

    Samuel Lighton Senior Member

    Feb 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    His Final Breath - [802]

    What is it to be a man? Is it the measure of your successes? The depths of your failures? The choices you made? Those you did not?

    What is it to not be a man? Laying there in my bed, I considered my life before now. I had waged war in the name of peace. I had brokered peace in the name of war. But in all of it, I had done it all in the name of my family.

    Family. Family is what I have fought for, to protect. Our house standard waves in the wind above me, the sound of it’s flapping carrying through the silence that surrounds me. Birds circle up above, their black silhouettes outlined against the grey clouds above. I raise my arm slowly, hand outstretched towards them.

    “Please….someone…..” My voice rasps to no one at all.

    “I’m not sure I qualify as a someone…. but I’ll try if you’ll let me?” A voice echoed into my head. My head lolls to one side towards the voice and I see it all. The battlefield was a meadow, a beautiful meadow filled with spring’s flowers. We fought here, we clashed, we lost. Aside from broken arrow shafts sticking out the ground and the shadows in the long grass where we fell, the meadow remained as beautiful as it was before. A tall figure stood there, wearing a black robe that concealed them from head to toe, despite the lingering heat here. I felt cold.

    “Who…” My chest strains before coughing blood onto my cracked lips. The figure knelt down beside me and plucked a flower out of the ground, twirling it in between their boney fingers.

    “I’m just a simple guide. I help people to make the journey ahead of them as best I can.” His voice echoed around my skulls again, his chest not moving with the breath of talking.

    “You don’t need to talk, I can hear you all the same. All the considerations, regrets the worries. They pass over your mind like a sheen, solid like dark obsidian. I rarely come across one like you.” He said as he dropped the flower to the ground, losing interest in it.

    What is happening to me? Journey? Where is he taking me? These thoughts flit through my mind, distracting me from myself and my life momentarily before they surface again. My wife. My children. What will become of them? Will they survive? Will they live?

    “Mmmm. They will, but just like everything else they will end as well. There’s no escaping that. But they will most certainly live, and they will live well. You can trust me.”

    How. How can you know? I strived my entire life for that certainty, and here you are, a stranger, telling me as if it were nothing at all? Can you even be trusted?

    “I most certainly can. Above all and everyone else, I can. I can know. They will live on in your memory. Not because of you and what you’ve done, but because of how you showed them to live. Even though your life was fraught with the scars of battle, you still valued one thing above all. Them. They knew you in a way that so many wish they knew themselves. You loved and were loved in return. You were a father, a husband, a warrior and a king. Always, forever, in that order. Take solace in that, because it is your greatest victory.”

    I stare at him a while before he reaches out to me, and touches my forehead lightly with his fingers. Suddenly I feel peace. Everything flows out of me as I take my final breath, and surely enough I feel the certainty he felt. They will face many troubles in the future, but they are strong, they will overcome them and grow stronger for it all. They will be lions.

    “It’s been a long time since I felt a soul like yours flow through my hands. You will make a grand king, even in what it is to come. One day, you will see them again, and you will be proud of their accomplishments, King Uther Pendragon.” Glancing up at the skies they both stared at the crows that circled them in the meadow. As they did the clouds parted, a single ray of sunlight eking its way through and shining onto the man as he gave his final breath. The hooded figure closed the man’s dead eyes before he stood up and watched his body for a short while.

    “You will leave him.” He uttered as he disappeared into so much dust scattering in the breeze. Although they were disdainful of him, the crows obeyed him and did not pick at his body, solemnly lying there with a peaceful expression on his face.
  6. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Feb 15, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    The Alliance - [2034] - [Mature Content-sex/language]

    It had taken Aldrich over a year to travel here and another year for his guild to arrange his credentials. This would be his masterpiece. The King didn’t often leave Rennick but this summit meeting of more than forty worlds was too important for the King to miss. This would be the best opportunity to take him out. Aldrich wasn’t happy about the collateral damage that would occur with the explosion, but if any of the other delegates were killed, it would be their own fault for agreeing to even bargain with that bastard.

    Aldrich looked around the space station, he mostly saw gray. Gray walls, gray floors, even the lighting somehow looked gray. He left his shuttle and passed through customs. As a newly hired air filtration and recycling technician he was assigned quarters in the crew area. He wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the King but he wouldn’t need to be very close.

    The explosives he had on him had been disguised. All the parts were broken down into the smallest possible pieces and inserted into other things. The actual explosive material was even separated. The inert material ha been brought up by someone else on the crew. They were supposed to being leaving it for him to find later. The catalyst had been turned into a cheese like substance and packed with a variety of foods he brought with him.

    Customs had been easier than Aldrich expected but he was still nervous as he looked for his cabin. When he arrived on C deck and found his cabin, he was relieved to find that he was the only one assigned there. Aldrich’s guild leader had assured him that they had arranged for a room to himself but there was always last minute problems. Having a room to yourself on a space station is a luxury. Aldrich would have regretted having to kill a roommate just to do his work.

    He checked around the room for surveillance devices. First flipping the bed down and scanning the area with his sensor equipment. When that was done he checked the small desk area and chair. He wasn’t surprised to not have his own bathroom. That just saved him a few minutes of further inspection. Aldrich found a box in one of the cabinets with a code hidden on one side. Upon opening the box he found the detonation material.

    After he was finished inspecting the room he set about his task of reassembling the bomb. As Aldrich worked, he thought about the King. His tariff and taxation policies was crushing the guild. A once powerful and proud organization that provided security and escort to millions of ships over the past century. Now reduced to a quarter of its size because other agencies weren’t part of the alliance and didn’t have to pay such outrageous fees.

    Aldrich had grown up on one of the escorts ships. A ship owned and captained by his own father. Over the years the ship had gone from a well maintained and run machine by an outstanding and loyal crew to…. well… to much less than that. The Thorn was now an outdated frigate with half its full compliment. The aging crew that remained was still loyal to his father but most of them would probably have trouble finding work elsewhere.

    Aldrich continued assembling the bomb. He had all the parts removed from their various hiding places and started piecing them together. Snap, twist, click… all the parts coming together as one. Last he added the inert detonation material to one side of the device and the cheesy catalyst to the other.

    It may have looked like cheese but if anyone had opened up the container and smelled the stuff he would have been caught. The bomb was designed with an audiophillic sensor system. Once the computer detected the target’s voice it would activate. Aldrich assumed that the King would not start speaking and then suddenly leave the conference so he had it set up to detonate forty five minutes after the target had been locked. This would allow Aldrich to confirm the target had been found while in a shuttle bay and then leave the station before it detonated. The bomb wasn’t big enough to destroy the whole station. It was just supposed to knock out a portion of what they were using as a conference room. A room that had his own new workstation on the opposite side of one of the walls. When he was finished, he wrapped the bomb up in a spare station worker uniform.

    Aldrich laid down on the bed, he wasn’t due to report to work until the following morning. He had time think. To think about the King. It would be over soon. Aldrich would blow that bastard to kingdom come.


    Tulay looked around the room and was disgusted by what she saw. Twenty two other women in the room with her. All dressed in flowing silks and painted like whores from another age. There were whores on the bed, whores on couches, whores in the hot tub, whores laying on large pillows throughout the room! What was wrong with these people? They all seemed content with their lives as royal concubines. Actually, she thought to herself, a concubine would be treated better than this. A concubine was attached to one member of the royal family. They were nothing more than sex slaves used by whomever the King decided was worthy. Fuck him!

    When they first arrived on the station a week ago Tulay had planned to find a way to escape. This was her first time off Rennik, actually it was her first time anywhere. She had grown up amongst the royal family. Her mother worked in one of the kitchens and had once pointed out her father as one of the men in the motor pool. Tulay thought he might be a chauffeur.

    Tulay quickly found out that escape would not be an option. She would have to get past the guards just to get out of the area assigned to them. They hadn’t been allowed to step foot out of the reserved zone all week. The King would be arriving tonight and security would get even worse. Even if she could escape, where could she go? She had no skills, she couldn’t just steal a shuttle and leave the station.

    Tulay stiffened when a door slid open and two men came in with a guard following them. All of the women in the room eyed the men as they gazed over the crowd. It sickened her. The same glassy look every man had when he came to see them. It didn’t matter if it was the man’s first time or thousandth, they all had the same look. The one that displayed how much authority he had. How much the women were nothing more than a pen of livestock to be picked over and chosen by whatever whim amused them.

    Tulay did her best to look like she was playing by the rules. Acting sexy while at the same time twisting her body to show herself as unflatteringly as possible. The men wandered around the room mostly just looking and making soft comments to each other. She didn’t bother to try to listen. One of the men came up to her and cupped her jaw. He wasn’t a physically unattractive man, She wondered why he would choose to do this rather than find a woman by more conventual means. She gave him a weak smile and he released her and moved onto the girl next to her. She let out her breath as they continued their inspection. When they finally choose Darcy and Heather she found herself relieved. Tulay had been chosen last night and she dreaded another night of it.

    Tulay started considering what her mother had said when she was taken into the harem three years ago. She and her mother had wept together on her sixteenth birthday. They had already known the King had chosen her. They had known since she had been barely thirteen. The King, a few of his ministers, even his own newly married son had started staring at her at a young age every time she served their meals. The day she left, her mother gave her a small pellet of poison. She told Tulay if things ever got too hard, for her to use it on herself. Tulay had never considered that option but she always kept the pellet with her. It was hidden inside her makeup case. Any casual glance by one of the guards would only see it as something that looked like a broken tip off some eye pencil.

    After a week of desperation in this place she decided she had enough. Enough of the pawing, enough of the degradation, enough of being taken by any man the King chose, and especially enough of the drunken stinking King himself. He was a lousy King and a lousy lover. She was scheduled to be one of his cupbearers at the conference. She would be serving his wine. Tuley would never have the King cum all over her again, she would use the poison on him.


    First Minister Oswald surveyed the crowd of delegates at the conference from his seat at the main table. There he saw a representative from Mulesh, a swampy planet that held vast amounts of water, platinum, and silver. The man was speaking with a delegate from Gronch. Another powerful world with great resources of food crops and salt. When Minister Oswald looked past some serving people he could see a man he knew from Tulstar. A planet that provided manufacturing of all sorts of advanced technologies.

    What he mostly saw was dissatisfied people. They were all being polite with one another but Oswald could read the undertones throughout the room. The group from Bremman was avoiding the group from Ash. The delegates from Vex III was scowling as a man from Ling walk by. The sad part, the truly sad part was that none of this bickering and backstabbing was necessary. Every feud, every slight, every argument these people had with one another could be directly blamed on the King.

    These people were from worlds that had all come together hundreds of years ago to form an alliance. The royal family had begun with an earnest man looking to provide peace and stability. He had succeeded in his quest and for all that time his kin kept the traditions and values the same. Until now. Oswald hated to see how things had crumbled over the past twenty years. Their current leader was crushing the alliance in a miserable pile of greed, depravity, graft, and mismanagement. Minister Oswald had enough. He had worked under the King’s father and even in death he owed that man and his legacy his own life. This King wasn’t worth the dirt under his shoes.

    Oswald spotted one of the guards loyal to him. There was another in this crowd. Both of them were carrying guns that tonight wouldn’t be used to protect the King. They would be used to protect the Kingdom. If he didn’t complete this task what would the Kingdom come to?


    Wren was sitting at a table idly fingering her wineglass waiting for the King to show his face. The dagger hidden in her sleeve thirsted for blood.


    Sean was wandering around the room. Looking for the hidden security cameras. Not that he cared if he died tonight. His sister would be avenged.


    Max came into the banquet with another tray filled with appetizers. He was disappointed to notice the King hadn’t arrived yet, he didn’t know how many times he could keep people from taking the poison one.


    Raven was from the planet Ling, he saw his accomplice from Vex III as he walked past him. Tonight they would join together and end this farce of a royal family.


    A loud chime rang out across the gathering. An ornately dressed man entered the room. He slammed his ceremonial staff down on the floor three times, gathering everyone’s attention.

    “He comes! He comes! King Dom Comes!
  7. Jeni

    Jeni Member

    Mar 4, 2016
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    A Kingdom’s Come [1548]

    The castellan watched as she approached the gates on a spectral white stallion. Syraphina’s auburn hair crowned her head and cascaded down to caress her creamy white shoulders. Terminally, it ended in wisps at the small of her back. Her billowing cloak played peak- a- boo with several small children who had stopped their game to watch her ride past the storehouse. A brilliant smile rose from her rosy lips gravitating all the way up into her luminous green eyes. She winked at one of the kids and stifled a giggle as one long luxurious lash tickled her cheek. She was fierce, intelligent, and caring which made her well loved amongst the common folk. Her people often boasted of the blessings of a strong and just leader. She had never asked for it, but being a leader was her destiny.

    She was known as a shadow priest even though she was all about the “light”. For many millennia, priests practiced the light and disavowed the darkness. It had only been in recent years, when the call for protection was strong, that priests indulged in the darker arts. In the young days, spells of pain and death had been taboo but this modern world had shred scruples from the old. As a rule, priests were supposed to heal and resurrect using the light but enemies saw this as weakness, making priests targets and so their numbers had begun to dwindle.

    Evolution came on a raven’s wing, a dark spell, that when balanced with the light had no negative connotations to the caster. Priests had found a way to heal and promote the light while still protecting themselves and others. Syraphina was one such priest. On a thousand moments, she stood upon a precipice balancing dark and light in order to protect her people. It was a burden she was happy to bear. She was mother to a kingdom and her children needed her protection. Many high priests had advised against acceptance of the shadow. They argued that it was too easy to be engulfed by the darkness never to return, or even worse, to return an aberration of what one once was.

    The gates opened and with endless grace Syraphina rode her noble stallion past the portcullis. She stopped after a moment and looked back at her accomplishment. Long and lean the unwavering stone wall stood as a formidable warning to passing foes. In the center, at roads end, an unyielding gate had been erected. Watch towers framed the massive iron behemoth. From this spot, she could see the castle peaks rising above the far wall. She had built this place! It was wild when she came here, just a patch of overgrowth without a hope. Even so, through a thousand toils and ceaseless labors, she had made it great. When she arrived here, the grounds were overrun by every manner of element, beastly and unnatural. She had fought countless battles for this life. Seasoned in the act of fighting, she killed the veritable monsters that had littered this place. She tamed this land and now it was hers.

    Building the garrison and castle had not been easy, but the land proved fruitful and a persevering luck had been hers. Endless envoys and workers had been sent in every direction looking for materials. They had amassed a large cache but she still found it lacking. Syraphina spent eternal days searching and farming the land for just the right materials. Some days, she had to fight for her life, but vigilance was her ally. It was imperative that she not allow an enemy to sneak up on her. Spell casting had many advantages but being closely ambushed put her at a distinct disadvantage.

    She turned back to the task at hand. She had been working on enchants for some of the soldier’s gear, and materials were getting low, so she thought that today would be a delightful day for farming. She nudged her mount. He was so in tuned to her every wish that she need only tap him with her knee for him to move. She didn’t make it far before a slight movement caught her eye. She slowed the mount and looked towards the glen. The motion had been faint but a tingle in her belly said that a threat was close. She had a way of knowing these things, call it instinct, and Syraphina always followed her instincts. They had been her savior on countless occasions. Eyes narrowed, she looked again. Not a blade of grass seemed out of place. She was frozen for long seconds, watching and listening. At last, she heard it, a faint rustle and then a snap! She squinted in the direction of the sound and saw a tiny blur, near to indistinct.

    She jumped down from her mount and slapped his rear. Lightening was her most beloved mount and she would not chance him being injured in a fight. She stood knees bent, with her fingers caressing the warm smoothness of her staff, Anathema. She had named the staff the day she had won the right to carry it.

    She unlatched a small round ball from her belt and tossed it towards the spot where she believed the intruder was hiding. It made a small swishing sound and a thin wisp of red smoke began to rise. The smoke expanded to blanket the area in a red fog. It covered everything, causing the intruder’s stealth ability to fail.

    Knowing he was found, the pale green orc took a hesitant step forward while Syraphina let a breath out in a slow menacing hiss. Thank the heavens for the engineers that sacrificed day and night to make her these little gadgets.

    The fool! How dare he trespass this far into our lands! A flick of her wrist and Anathema was in her hands. The tip of the staff began to glow and flicker with an icy blue flame.

    The orc was a hunter, or so she guessed by the mangy wolf heading her way. Pets didn’t bother her much. She swirled a finger and a pale yellow force field surrounded her. The wolf leaped towards her just in time to be bounced off of the shield. He let out a piercing cry and scrambled for purchase as soon as he hit the ground. She splayed her fingers and the cast was done. Shadow word pain had begun to drain the life of the wolf. The orc’s onslaught of arrows whistled through the air bouncing off of her shield and into the ground forming a helpless pile. Syraphina shoved Anathema forward and the spell was wrought. Shadow word pain inflicted the orc, weakening and draining his life in painful and torturous increments.

    Desperation was evident in his bloodshot eyes. He glanced over as his pet took one last breath and fell to the ground in a lifeless heap. Taking ragged breaths while aiming, the orc shot an arrow that penetrated her thin cloth armor just as the last vestiges of her shield faded. It grazed the surface of her arm. The scratch was enough for the poisons to paralyze her. He seized his chance and sprinted towards her with his daggers in hand. He was in the last moments of his life and he had nothing to lose. He would kill her if he could. There would be no mercy.

    She watched, unable to move, as his right arm came up and he jumped into the death blow. As the heavens have it, luck remained on her side. The poison faded in just enough time for her to swirl one finger. Alas, her shield had returned. His eyes registered understanding at the last moment but it was too late. His dagger bounced against the bubble of her shield and he fell to the ground, impotent. Gasping in pain, he lay there unable to gain the strength to rise.

    Syraphina stood straight and proud, her cloak thrashing as the wind sent it wrapping around the tops of her boots. She looked down at the orc with piercing green eyes and said in a commanding voice, “I am Syraphina and this is my kingdom! Trespass not you foul creature!”

    The orc looked up at her, fear evident in his eyes. To him, she appeared as if she were an avenging goddess. The sky even seemed to speak her fury as thunderous clouds rallied around her head like a forlorn crown. He looked down defeated, and with pity in his voice, said one word, “mercy.”

    She paused for a moment contemplating, and then said, “Mercy, I shall grant, but henceforth, you shall wear the mark of one defeated by Syraphina, the patient, so that all may know of your folly this day. You will return to your people and let them know that my kingdom hath come and mercy is fleeting.”

    She knelt next to him, unsheathed her knife, and slashed an arc across his cheek in a spot that could never be hidden. He cried out and held his hand to a crimson soaked cheek while his life’s blood seeped between splayed fingers.

    Despite the injury she had caused, he gave her an admiring nod for allowing mercy. She returned the nod and whistled for Lightening. She mounted and said two words before riding off, “Be gone!”
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
  8. Boger

    Boger Senior Member

    Sep 27, 2014
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    The Dome of the Slate
    [accidently hit send]
  9. BruceA

    BruceA Active Member

    Feb 7, 2016
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    As Tears Go By (2950 words)​

    Imelda walked slowly up the wooden pier, listening to the music surrounding her. Each painful step was a beat of a bass drum, accompanied by the natural rolling percussion of the waves below. The squawking gulls argued with the regular squeak-squeak-squeak of the wheels of the shopper trolley, she pulled behind her. The wind snatched at the sound of the creaking boards beneath her feet. There was music everywhere. Her legs might not work as well as they used too, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing. Nor her imagination, for that matter.

    Imelda had always loved music. Not that awful tea dance nonsense, not Vera Lynn nor any of the other sing-alongs she’d had to endure at the Autumn Years Club, her friend June had dragged her to a few months ago. What made them think that people her age wanted to listen to that kind of music? She was born during the war, had lost both parents to it. But those songs were not her songs. They were not part of her history.

    Her music was real music: rock and roll. The rockier the better. Stones, not Beatles.

    One of the reasons she got involved with this church, was the music. None of the dull, mournful hymns she remembered half-heartedly singing as a child, accompanied by an out-of-tune organ. Imelda didn’t believe God would think himself praised by those dreary dirges. John - the preacher - would lead them in joyful song, his electric guitar plugged into a small but surprisingly powerful amplifier. Sometimes they had a full band: bass, drums, the works. On these occasions the church would shake with the power of sound and she couldn’t help but smile.

    Her destination, the battered old building at the end of the Pier, had not only been the pride of this seaside town but had once been hailed as “South East England’s Number One Nightspot: Theatre! Dance Hall! and Restaurant!”. Imelda knew this, not only because a tattered poster proclaiming the fact still clung to the wall of the foyer, but because, a lifetime ago, it had been here that much of her youth had been misspent. The end of the Fifties and the beginning of the Sixties had been an exciting time for the young. Even here. The Stones had played here, on this very pier - in sixty two, or sixty three - Imelda couldn’t remember the exact date. They were called The Rollin’ Stones, then. The ‘g’ had been added later.

    At the top of the building a plastic banner slapped against the old wooden sign. The bottom cords had worked loose, again. The words ‘The Kingdom Come Church’ could be seen briefly before it flapped upwards against the roof. Faded weather beaten letters could just be made out if you knew what to look for: “The Bell on the Pier”.

    Joe - her great-nephew, a good boy - had bought her a tickets to see the Stones at Hyde Park later this summer. She had introduced him to the music of the Stones, and a host of other bands too. As a boy Joe, had spent hours flicking through her vinyl collection, admiring the artwork of the covers as much as the music within. She had taught him how to care for the records, wiping each side of the album carefully before putting it on and gently lowering the stylus, and, when finished with, another wipe before putting it back into its sleeve. Joe now had his own collection, and sometimes brought her albums he thought she might like to listen to. She had helped shape his music taste, he said. Without her, he might have never discovered music. Or worse be a One Direction fan. He owed her, he said, big time. And these tickets were his way of paying her back. A real treat, for both of them. The coach trip from here was included. It would be a laugh. Bring back memories. Perhaps she’d bump into some of the old crew. He could try and find them on Facebook, if she wanted.

    She wasn’t going. She had told him he didn’t want an old codger like her cramping his style. He should go with his friends instead, enjoy the day without her dragging him down. She wouldn’t be able to manage standing up for that long, not with her legs. He had said he’d thought of that: he was bringing chairs. And a picnic, they’d make a day of it. She had said no, had been a bit short with him, then. She felt bad about that. Just a bit. She kept remembering the look on his face. It’s OK, he had said. If she changed her mind, all she had to do was ask. There was even a spare. She could bring a friend.

    Imelda didn’t really have any friends. Not like she used to. Time and marriage and life in general had got in the way.

    The truth was that she was scared. She was afraid to leave this little town, even for a few short hours. Joe said something about her not wanting to get out of her comfort zone.

    The door of the church was shut. Brian was late. Or if he was there he hadn’t opened up properly. She felt a mixture of feelings: annoyance and a strange rush of elation: she knew he would let her down - let the Church down, rather - and, once again, she had been proved right. He wasn’t a bad man, Brian. But his heart wasn’t in it, he wasn’t dedicated enough.

    Imelda tried the handle on the large wooden door. Locked. She sighed and reached into her shopper trolley and pulled out the set of keys. The large key slid easily into the lock. There was a bit of a knack to unlocking it: she inserted it all the way, half-turned and then pulled the key out a quarter of an inch before completing the turn. The lock clicked and Imelda opened the door.

    She felt for the light switch and then waited for the florescent tube to stop flickering. She tutted when she saw the blackboard was not leaning against the wall where it should be. Someone’ probably Josie, had left it on the far side of the foyer. Always in a hurry, that Josie: forever rushing home to look after one of her GrandKiddies, as she called them - much to Imelda’s irritation - or nipping off early to put on the tea for her husband, “‘cos he has to get down the pub early this evening for the Match”. Never mind that others had to work twice as hard. Imelda wedged the door open with the wooden peg (thankfully hanging where it should be) and pulled her shopper troller in through the door. The blackboard was awkward to move, she had to drag it across the floor and out through the door. She set it up so it would be visible to anyone venturing along the pier, and read through it to see that all of the lettering was intact:

    Kingdom Come
    Church at the End of the Pier
    (Souls Saved Here! All Welcome! Pop In for a FREE Cup of Tea and a Chat with a Friendly Face)

    Satisfied that nothing had been rubbed off, or added (the local kids loved to doctor the sign, once an entire week had gone by before someone spotted one of local wags had changed the name of the church to “Condom Cum”) , she went back inside and trundled her trolley through the foyer, down the corridor to the kitchen. Located at the back of the Church, the kitchen was large, poorly lit and probably dangerous. Imelda didn’t think the electrics would impress the local Health and Safety Officer. She filled the large kettle and took it over to the old gas cooker. Like the rest of the building Imelda could feel the past ooze from the walls. Almost half a century ago this kitchen would have been crowded: chefs churning out chicken or scampi for theatre goers, hungry for culture and fried food served in a basket.

    Today, Wednesday, was not one of her usual days. As she lit the gas, using a match from the box in the drawer with the broken handle, Imelda felt mildly apprehensive. Wednesday, she realised, was an unknown quantity. She knew what would happen on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and (of course) Sundays, the days she was normally to be found at the church. On Wednesday anything could happen. Imelda liked routine: she was very much a creature of habit. Once impetuous, rash - a risk taker, even - she now liked - no, needed - her life to be ordered, predictable and safe. Like the blackboard: everything in its place.

    While she waited for the water to boil she opened the cupboard below and took out the box of teabags. She put six in the pot. Her Nana would have slapped her legs twice for that. Once for not warming the pot, beforehand, and another one for using new-fangled tea bags instead of leaves. She had been a traditionalist, her Nana, free and easy with the back of her hand, unwilling to adapt to changing times. Imelda was the same age now as her Nana was when she died. Seventy seven. Had she become the woman she had both loved and hated? Imelda didn’t have a granddaughter to lecture and bully, but she shared other traits with the old woman. Uneasiness when faced with change not the least of them.

    Back in the Sixties Imelda had been bold. She felt as if she had been infected by the energy of Mick, Keith and the others. She wanted more. And she wouldn’t find it here. She found a job in London and a room in a bed-sit on the Old Kent Road with three other women. There she found a freedom she had never had under her Nana’s regime. Imelda could almost believe the memories belonged to someone else when she thought about the risks she had taken, back then. In her mid twenties she had been older than many of her London friends. On her rare trips home, her nana told her she should settle down. She was wasting her time, she said, hands on hips. She was getting a reputation. Nice, decent men wouldn’t go near her, if she carried on the way she was going. She was getting old. She was going to be left on the shelf. She would end up alone, her Nana said, finger wagging.

    Imelda met Archie at a Small Faces concert in sixty five. Archie was a roadie with the support act. They got talking at the bar. Archie bought her a drink, and then a bag of chips to share as he walked her home, through the late night streets, right to her door. Before she knew it twenty three years had past. She still grieved for her children: two miscarriages, and one stillbirth. Archie died at the age of fifty five from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer he developed years after he stopped working at the asbestos factory.

    Archie was a decent man. Not just her husband, he had been her friend.

    She heard hurried footsteps in the foyer. The door to the kitchen swung open. Brian, flushed, breathless and tired looking, stood in the doorway, carrier bag in hand.

    “Sorry I’m late,” he said.

    Imelda didn’t reply immediately - letting him know she was annoyed through her silence. Let it weigh uncomfortably heavy: something else she’d learned from her Nana. Instead, she poured the now-boiled water over the teabags, stirring them with a long spoon.

    Brian came over and set the bag on the counter next to her.

    “Sorry, I’m late,” he said, again, louder this time. He probably assumed she was hard of hearing: just another old biddy too proud, or vain, to wear a hearing aid. People were quick to leap to conclusions. People were far too quick to judge.

    “Well,” Imelda said, with a sniff, “now you’re here you can make yourself useful.” She indicated her shopper trolley with the spoon. Brian nodded and began to empty it.

    “Snap!” he said, as he pulled out a packet of iced buns. He smiled and produced an identical pack from his bag.

    “Is that why you’re late?” Imelda said. “Josie told me, she always got the buns on a Wednesday.” She looked at Brian through narrowed eyes. “I caught the early bus especially,” she said.

    “No harm done,” Brian said. He was good at ignoring her irritation. Archie had been good at that too. Sometimes it had made her so angry it tipped into laughter. “Means we can eat one before the punters arrive.”

    Imelda sniffed again, and went to pick up the pot to put it on the tea trolley.

    “Let me do that,” Brian said.

    “I’m old,” Imelda said. “Not incapable.” But she let him do it.

    “You’re neither,” he said, lifting the pot. His hands shook as he put it down on to the trolley and some tea erupted from the spout. “But you are a lady. And my mother taught me good manners.”

    “Some people might describe that as sexist, Brian. I didn’t burn my bra for nothing, you know.”

    He laughed. They both did. His laugh became a coughing fit. He pulled a handkerchief from his trouser pocket, one hand over his mouth. Out of the corner of her eye, Imelda saw him check the contents.

    “Did you?” he asked, eventually. “Burn your bra, I mean.”

    “I was sympathetic to the cause. But I’d bought that bra myself, and knew how much the bloody thing cost.” Another thing she’d learned from her Nana: waste not, want not.

    There was a silence afterwards. Both of them began loading the trolley with mugs (something else her Nana would not have tolerated: tea should be drunk from a cup or not at all). Brian began to whistle. He wasn’t very good: tuneless and without rhythm. It took Imelda a few bars to recognise “Paint it black”.

    “I saw them play here, you know,” she said, for something to say.

    “The Rolling Stones?” Brian said. “Here in this little town? I never knew they played here.”

    “Right here in this building. Sixty two, I think.”

    Brian looked around him, as if seeing the place in a whole new light. “Wow,” he said. “That must have been some gig.”

    “It was the talk of the town, for a while afterwards. The local vicar said it heralded the beginning of the End of Days. Perhaps it did. It certainly changed my life. I wouldn’t have met my husband if I hadn’t come that night.”

    “He was a roadie, wasn’t he? That’s what Josie told me.”

    “Did she? Well, Josie says a lot of things. But in this instance she’s right. He didn’t roadie for the Stones, though. I didn’t meet him here. It was in London, a few years later. Seeing the Stones here made me want to see more. Do more. Be more. Living in London made that more likely than living here.”

    They were silent for another minute. Brian looked pale. Grey even. His hands were shaking again. Imelda cleared her throat.

    “Are you alright, Brian?” she said. “Have a seat. You look dreadful.”

    For a second, she thought he would laugh it off: thanks very much, with friends like you who needs enemies. The sort of thing Archie would have said.

    “No, not really,” Brian said, sitting down on the stall. He took a deep breath and then looked Imelda in the eye. “The reason I was late was because I had my second dose of chemotherapy. I’m alright,” he said , quickly. “I had a small tumour removed and the chemo is just to make sure, the doctors say. To get rid of any stray cancer cells. Make sure it doesn’t spread. It’s just slowed me down a bit. Knocked me for six, so to speak.”

    “I didn’t know. Sorry, Brian.”

    “You weren’t to know. No one does,” Brian said. A smile: “I kept it from Josie on purpose.”

    They laughed again, this time forced, uncomfortable.

    “I guess, it is a good thing,” Brian said, after a moment. “In a way. I think I had taken it all for granted. I am fifty seven, and I have never really done anything. Never been anywhere, apart from Spain on a package holiday. It’s made me think about things. I mean, we’re all terminal when you think about it. All of us are going to die. We just don’t know when. So you have to live your life.”

    “Yes, you’re right. Of course you are.”

    “I’ve started one of those ‘bucket lists’. You know a list of all the things you’d like to do before you die. I’m going to take some time off work and I’m going to see a bit more of the world. Whilst I can.”

    They wheeled the trolley through to the little room, at the front of the building. Chairs were already in place, ready to receive those souls who wanted a free cup of tea, and to talk to a friendly face.

    Brian was right. Time was precious, it was foolish to waste it. Imelda had spent too long stuck in the rut of routine. If she didn’t want to become her Nana (and she certainly did not want that) she would have to make more of an effort. She would phone Joe, when she got home, she decided. Thank him properly, and tell him she was going with him to Hyde Park. And if he still had a spare ticket she would buy it for Brian.
  10. Hubardo

    Hubardo Contributor Contributor

    Feb 22, 2014
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    The Time I Visited Grandma In Real Life
    (1,970 words)

    When I arrived at Rebirth Mansion, the front desk screen informed me that by the end of next year, RL visits would no longer be allowed due to energy restrictions. By then, Grandma would likely be dead in the physical sense, but her mindcopy would integrate into the Netwaves.

    My sister had told me it was pointless to meet Grandma in RL. “Don’t be a ‘NoNet’ Luddite,” she had said. “Nobody does RL anymore, Lee. It wastes energy and it’s boring. Don’t embarrass yourself.” But I wanted to see Grandma with my actual eyes before she passed.

    I entered the socialization hall, taking in a slightly unsavory and somewhat sweet odor. The superelderly shrank in their bamboominium bodyfit seats, each senescent face masked behind a VR set. Taking a seat across from Grandma, she waved her bony hands around, signaling full immersion in some other world.

    “Grandma, I’m here.” I said. “I’m next to your body. Can you hear me?” After trying a couple more times, and poking her shoulder, I decided to wait.

    At the far end of the hall, a janitor bot the size of a child buffed the mycotile. It said something, but I couldn’t hear it. I went closer.

    “What did you say?”

    It was quiet for a while, intent on buffing the floor. Suddenly it said, “Don’t jump the gun!” It sounded like some kind of pathetic attempt at singing, but it was so strange I could hardly tell what to think.

    An old woman nearby passed gas so loudly it seemed to echo. Someone a few tables away let out a muffled belch. Dying bodies swayed and creaked in their chairs. I really saw how human Grandma was in her physical form. She wasn’t a dragon spacecraft folding space-time, or a giraffe-gorilla shooting lasers out of its nipples. She was just a very, very old person.

    What was she experiencing behind the VR mask? There was never a way to know from the outside.

    “Thy will be done!” the bot said, again sounding like it was trying to sing.

    “What are you—”

    “Don’t jump the gu-u-u-un! Thy will be done! You’re not the o-o-o-ne! Thy kingdom come!” It spattered cleaning solution across the floor, wiping it up in a circular motion with its bristly bottom unit.

    “Robot, please explain yourself.”

    It turned its round silicon head a full 180 degrees toward me, then back to the shiny floor.

    “Fine,” I said. I jacked in my VR set, despite having hoped I wouldn’t have to. I had to know what this silly bot was talking about. ID tags appeared at the top right, and I didn’t recognize any but Grandma’s: GalacticQueer69.

    “Grandma,” I said. “Does the janitor robot have a personal channel? I would like to have a talk with it.”

    An auto-reply:

    I took off my VR set and checked the bot’s model number: JB662B. Ran a Netwave query on it, and a spinning 3D image of the bot appeared. Its model number floated above its spherical head, followed by information about its type. Category 6 service bot, version 2. Self-maintenance software integration. Organic waste disposal specialization. Voice command input activation, programmable automation. No vocal output features. No longer manufactured (see version 5 here).

    No vocal output features?

    I removed my headset. The bot was on the far end of the socialization hall, dusting a window. “Look at me, robot,” I said.

    The bot continued dusting.

    “Bot! You are being difficult! Look at me!”

    It turned its faceless head toward me. Instead of a face, there was a dull orange glow. “That’s better,” I said. While I said it, the bot shimmied its round body. Metallic clicks sounded out of its hips. Its buffer bottom spun me dizzy.

    The bot thrust against the sill, continuing to dust the window with its long, metallic arm. “Ooh, ooh, oh! Yes, yes, yes! Thy kingdom COME! COME! COME! COME!”

    I stuck my fingernails in my mouth and chewed violently. The superelderly drifted through worlds I would never know. They had their heavens; I had this obtuse creature driving me mad.

    The bot uttered its distasteful poetry again, mindlessly cleaning surfaces that looked to be already spotless. It drifted away from socialization hall and toward the sleeping quarters. I followed.

    “You are in no way sexually desirable to me,” I said. It turned its spherical head-thing in my direction while spinning its body the opposite direction. The hall dimmed. My heart kicked against my chest. I swallowed. “Don’t be inappropriate!”

    “Don’t jump the gun!” it screeched.

    A pungent smell started from somewhere nearby. Along the corridor, VR screenshots of residence members riding dinosaurs, posing in various historical periods and on extraterrestrial soil, lined the walls.

    The bot turned into a room at the end of the hall. Standing in the doorway, my jaw unlatched and I covered my nose with my shirt collar. The janitor bot removed a body sized black bag from inside its chest. The stench. There was a bluish body lying on one of the beds. It did what it came here to do at Rebirth Mansion. The bot removed the VR set from the corpse’s face and wrapped the body in the bag. “Thy kingdom come! Come! COME COME COME!”

    Once again, the bot was humping. It was humping a dead person, trying still to sing from a vocal box that should not exist, in a voice that cannot sing.

    “You abomination.” I clutched for something warm and soft but there was nothing.

    The bot pulled a lever on the other side of the room and an opening appeared. It lifted the body with its long, tiny arms. Witnessing its impossible strength filled me hopelessness. It dumped the body down a chute and closed the opening. “Thy will be do-o-o-one!”

    My wristband buzzed and lit up. A new message. I put on my VR set.

    “Lee! Saw you poked! We were filming Christian hardcore. It’s the new viral. Total infection. Here, join my channel.”

    An invitation appeared. CH.221.

    “Grandma, someone just died and the janitor bot threw them into a hole in the wall.”

    “Come visit!” she said.

    “I don’t want to see you having sex, even if it’s an avatar.”

    “Such a prude. Got it from your mother, didn’t you? We’re done anyway, dear. Wearing clothes now. Mostly.”

    I found myself in front of a young woman in black lingerie lying on her stomach atop a piano. Above the woman there loomed a stained glass window depicting an agonized man nailed to a cross. Plumes of smoke rose from the sprawled woman’s cigarette. Her hair was a mess and her face was covered in smeared makeup. “Jesus!” she cried. “Lee, you are so boring! Why don’t you ever use a REAL avatar?” She swatted a shirtless man beside her. “This is my grandson. He’s a total Luddite, but he’s a good boy, like you.”

    I felt my face contort. “Grandma?”

    “The last time he saw me,” she said to her shirtless friend. “I was a yodeling space dragon with eight physical senses. He didn’t bat an eye. Now I’m a pornstar and he’s about to shart himself to rebirth.” The man smiled, wrapping his arm around… Grandma.

    “I used the restroom before I came,” I said. “I’m not going to defecate. Who is your friend?”

    “Lee, Zeep. Zeep, my grandson Lee.”

    “Hello, Lee,” the man said. His pronounced pectorals glistened either sweat or oil as he protruded his long arm. “I can visually detect the resemblance.”

    “Grandma, the janitor bot just dumped a dead resident into some kind of disposal unit in the wall. Is that normal?”

    Grandma turned to her friend. “That’s what you do, right?”

    “Well,” said Zeep, flexing a bicep. “I am a partitioned identity whose hardware resides in the JB662D unit. One might say I am the janitor bot. However, that would be inaccurate to say. One does not identify a character in a dream as the dreamer, although the character is a projection of the dreamer’s mind. How would you rate that analogy?”

    “What? Wait a minute,” I said, gathering my thoughts. Grandma blew the ash off the end of her cigarette. My eyes wandered up toward the crucified man above us in the multi-colored glass. Its woeful eyes seemed to meet mine. I became overwhelmed with guilt for a moment. “Zeep, were you the one talking to me? Or singing? From your… robot body?”

    “Singing!” Grandma cackled. “There’s that crossover again, Zeep! Let’s never get that fixed!”

    “Crossover?” I said.

    “Some apparent glitches in my software have reportedly presented some verbal and nonverbal partition crossover issues, recently,” said Zeep. He touched his toes while speaking to me. His voice was smooth and unwavering. “This complex identity from which I present to you now, was programmed by GalacticQueer69, whom you refer to as Grandma, as a top-of-the-line VAI companion. At times, it appears that what I do in VR crosses partition boundaries in a way that sends unintentional behavioral commands to the JB662D unit’s hardware. We have yet to determine the root cause.”

    “But that’s not possible,” I said. “The waves told me that JB662B has no vocal output capacities.”

    “Honey,” said Grandma. “Dee, as in dickless dead dyslexic dog. JB662-D. The B model had no vocal output. The D model does. It’s not impossible at all, sweety.” Grandma, in her pornstar body, rolled off of the piano and into the bench in front of the keys. “But anyway, I programmed Zeep to write Christian rock lyrics. I can’t stand it, but Zeep makes it tolerable. We’re really bringing in the Vitcoins. Christians are the biggest porn addicts in VR now, did you know? Pretty divine. And we gotta follow supply and demand. Like they say, you have to do unto others—“

    “As you would have them do!” Zeep sang. The agonized stained glass man above us began blowing wind out of his inanimate face. It combed through Zeep’s brown hair, making it wave. “Do unto you! You! You! Do unto you! You! You!” Zeep leapt onto the front most pew in the church and humped the air as he sang. The stained glass head tracked him, blowing strong wind like a spotlight. Grandma threw her head back in lunacy, fingers slamming piano keys, howling.

    I felt my virtual body creeping away, palms facing outward. Back set against a wall, my eyes darted around the room. Up at the crucified man in horror, down to Zeep in bewilderment, over to Grandma then quickly away in confusion and shame.

    “Don’t jump the gu-u-u-u-n!”

    “You’re not the o-o-one!”

    “Thy kingdom co-o-ome!”

    Grandma joined in.

    “Thy will be DONE! DONE! DO-O-O-O-ONE!

    As this phrase ended, Zeep pulled his penis out of his pants. I removed my headset.

    Back in socialization hall, everyone was still masked and immersed. I scratched my head.

    A sound came from the corner of the hall. The janitor bot extended its arm into a high corner, perhaps removing cobwebs. It trying to sing again. I turned away.

    The superelderly seemed to be devoured by their headsets. I couldn’t see their eyes or mouths as their bodies made subtle adjustments in their bodyfit seats. Their heads and arms and torsos sent prompts into worlds beyond my comprehension, or maybe prompts were being sent to their bodies. I realized that I knew nothing about this world or any other world. Did I control myself? Did something or someone else? Maybe I was a partitioned identity due to a glitch in the fabric of whatever evolutionary programming made me possible.

    Exhaling my confusion, I departed Rebirth Mansion. “Good luck, Grandma,” I said. The sky train descended moments later. It took me home.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
    zoupskim likes this.
  11. Wordhacker

    Wordhacker Senior Member

    Dec 29, 2007
    Likes Received:
    End Times
    (2200 words)

    Protest signs danced among the wave of supporters at the Trump rally. They were held by people who believed they knew Trump’s true nature. John held his own sign he had recently constructed from cardboard and a broom handle. Previous signs had survived only thirty seconds before they were torn to shreds by uneducated racists, who hailed Trump’s insensitive opinions about gays, the homeless and any group he viewed as weak and unworthy of life. So John wasn’t willing to make another trip to Kinko’s for another expensive sign that would see the fate of previous signs. The free sign he held now was just as effective as the $100 sign that had been burned and stomped on at the previous rally.

    But the sign he displayed in front of a CNN news camera would send its message as long as the camera remained focused on him. None of the rally goers would openly attack him on live media. And he did everything he could to keep CNN interested. He even had a packet of fake blood he had chewed on until it burst and streaked down his chin. Trumps supporters took cheap shots at his back and legs, yet smiled for the cameraman as if they respected freedom of speech, even for protestors such as him. His sign read: Satan Supports Trump. Bold letters in crimson, smeared on it by hand.

    It was closer to the truth than anyone realized. Even other protestors didn’t know the real truth about Trump and they’d probably think he was out of his mind if he told them that Satan really did support the candidate. Or more accurately Satan and Trump were one and the same.

    John had seen Satan himself at a café in France years earlier. The devil was enjoying the day with one of his minions. No one paid attention to the fiend because John was the only one who could see Satan for who he was. Even the waiter who was serving them had no clue, as he set ice teas on their table, smiled and bid them bon appetite.

    The crowd had suddenly turned their full attention to John. Trump was drawing attention to him, pointing at him. Then Trump invited him to the stage, asking his supporters to make way for him.

    “That’s right, make room for him, please,” Trump said. Then he said, “Sir, could you please join me?”

    John glanced around. Surely Trump wasn’t talking to him, but the CNN cameraman was gesturing to him. All eyes were on him. Was this what he wanted? Suddenly he felt weak. He could feel his face flush, like the day at the Paris café, when the devil had sensed John’s awareness of his true nature. Satan fully revealed himself for John’s benefit. People passed the sidewalk cafe completely clueless of what was happening. Pure evil thrived among the innocent passersby in France. The thought of this happening in such a public place was terrifying. His minion revealed his identity was well. While Lucifer grew horns and showed his hoofed feet, his minion displayed his scaly skin and forked tongue. John recalled his face getting hot and the sweat building on his forehead. He felt the same now, except Trump didn’t grow horns and his minion was nowhere in sight.

    As he made his way to the stage and the awaiting Donald, he turned his sign in all directions. He was getting full media coverage, though he hadn’t prepared for this possibility. No one kicked or spat on him. It was eerily silent. Images and sensatations suddenly filled his head as he made his way through the crowd. He was a Jew being loaded onto cattle cars, a political prisoner sentenced to 20 years hard labor in a North Korea work camp. He saw death all around him, people being hung, and blacks being burned at the stake. He felt the human suffering all around the world, the cruelty done to animals. He sensed the doom of all living things on the planet and he was headed in the direction of the being that would be responsible for it all.

    “Come on up here,” Trump said. “That’s it.”

    As he made his way up the stairs to the stage, Trump had his hand extended. The smile on his face had disappeared, horns protruded from his scalp and his minion was peeking from behind him. No one noticed. No horrified looks, or screams, just smiles. The smiles of the ignorant that refused to see past the tanned skin and fine blond hair. As he grasped Trump’s hand, he suddenly wanted to pull away from the cold, scaly grip. He felt a swimming feeling, a lightheadedness that threatened to plunge him into darkness, yet he held on to the conscious world.

    His sign had fallen from his grip. It landed at the foot of the stage stairs. A little boy was scrambling to retrieve it, surely the end to his message that would soon find its way into a landfill where the rest of humanity would eventually rest.

    “What’s your name, son?” Trump asked

    He was standing at the podium, though he couldn’t remember how he got there. He vaguely remembered being among the crowd, a cameraman. He wasn’t thinking straight. He heard the faint voice of his mother when he was a boy. Pleading for him to get ready for school.

    Trump said, “It seems the cat got his tongue.”

    The stadium filled with laughter so thunderous he thought the ceiling would cave in. He actually thought he could feel the stage tremble below his feet. And when he looked into Trump’s face it was the devil in full disclosure, a thunderous growl behind a contorted mask of ugliness and sin. He then saw a gun on a shelf inside the podium. Satan was tempting him to take it. Prodding him, filling his head with images of human suffering around the world, past, present and future. And then he just grabbed it and stumbled back with it in his hand, clumsily waving it in Satan’s face.

    There were screams and the sound of radios all around him. Someone grabbed him. He was knocked to the ground, all the while Satan growling with laughter. And as they dragged him away, it was Trump again at the podium, hands in the air, gesturing for calm and composure. Then the image of Trump flickered back and forth from Satan to the Presidential candidate.

    He was given a psychiatric evaluation and declared insane. A judge ordered him to a mental institution, where they kept him strapped to a bed and pumped full of thorazine. Conveniently they had hooked up a television in the upper corner of his room, with full election coverage. He was certain Trump had something to do with this, though he never said this aloud or alluded to Trumps true self.

    As months dragged on, then a year, they had relaxed his confinement and he was allowed to mingle with the general population in the mental institution. He had begun to realize it was all an illusion. He had gone through a bad marriage and the loss of his daughter to leukemia. It had all been too much and he saw that now. His ex-wife had even started to visit him and they dealt with their daughter’s death together. He had apologized for his behavior during their marriage and hoped she would forgive him one day. She told him it would take time but she was willing to trying. One day…maybe.

    Trump had been overwhelmingly elected, even with all the efforts of protestors to sabotage him. John still didn’t like the newly elected president but had accepted it. He secretly sided with radical protestors, but really didn’t want him dead like most people.

    Before a morning therapy session, Doctor Jansen came to his room and sat on his bed. “How are we doing today, John?”

    “I’m fine, doc. But I still don’t like that son of a bitch,” John said, pointing at the television.

    It was trump giving the State of the Union address on a CNN news channel. Then it broke away to the infamous story of a protestor bringing a gun to a Trump rally and trying to execute him. John winced. It was hard to believe he was the man in the story. He would go down in history as the crazy radical, making all liberals look bad.

    “Are you still that man, John?”

    John said, “It’s hard to believe that was me. I mean, it still seems so surreal. God, to think I almost took a life. It’s still so hard for me to accept I would do something like that.”

    Dr Jansen chuckled. “It’s kind of difficult for me as well. You’ve come a long way.” He glanced around then said, “They still haven’t figure out how you got the gun into the rally.”

    “Well either can I, to be honest. I’d really like to remember. I just can’t. Everything about that day was so vague.” He ran his fingers through his hair and shrugged.

    “Look, the reason I’m here is to let you know someone has come to see you.”

    “Really? Who?” Surly not his ex-wife. The doctor never had to let him know of her visits before.

    Trump poked his head in the door. “Hey, champ.”

    John was speechless. He felt that swimming feeling again. He was fading in and out of consciousness, but fought off the darkness. He’d be forever connected to the President but never expected to see him again. Not in person, not this close. Those images of human suffering around the world were creeping into his head. He grasped the sheets.

    Dr Jensen said, “You okay? Deep breath, just relax.”

    “Is this a bad time?” Trump asked.

    John composed himself. All those feelings were just in his head. No big deal. “No, it’s fine, Mr Trump. Come on in.” He was calming down, his breathing steadying.

    Trump pulled a chair to his bedside. No horns or hoofs. No signs of Satan…or his minioin. “Its fine, Dr Jensen. I’d like to talk to John alone, if you don’t mind,” said Trump.

    Jensen hesitated, looking between the President and his patient. “Okay.”

    As his doctor left the room, John could see into the hall. He counted five men in black suits. No need to ask who they were. He could tell they didn’t like him. They had hatred in their eyes. They were looking for any sign that would allow them to kill him. He made sure to keep his hands in plain sight.

    “How have you been, John?”

    John said, “Look, I want to apologize…”

    “No…no need for that, John. That was the past. No need in drudging up any of that, though I wanted to personally thank you.”

    “Really? How so?”

    “After the incident, my popularity went through the roof. Actually, I would be willing to put money on you single handedly winning me the election. I had some doubts until that day, but after that performance, I knew it was locked.”

    “You’re welcome, I suppose. But I wouldn’t have voted for you. I sure as hell don’t like you as President. You’ll never get my vote.”

    Trump laughed. “I know.”

    The story was still on CNN. The video of the incident was running again, for the millionth time. But no sign of horns or Satan on the video. It had all been in his head. He was sure of that. Trump laughed again and gestured to the television.

    “Classic.” Trump said. “Well, listen. I have to go. Just wanted to stop by and thank you.”

    “Sure, why not?” John responded. He was sick to his stomach.

    On Trump’s way out, he said, “I have to address the nation about that tsunami that hit Hawaii. 1500 dead so far…and counting.”

    “Ya, sure. That presidential stuff.”

    When Trump left the room, John glimpsed a spiked tail dragging out of sight. Or thought he had. More of his imagination. More thorazine. He’d keep his mouth shut. He had learned that much in this institution.

    Jensen came to his bedside soon after. He sat on the bed again and said, “How do you feel? I was against him visiting you but he insisted.”

    “Everything is fine. Still don’t like the asshole.”

    Jensen laughed. “Neither do I,” he whispered. “Its’ the comb over, I think.”

    John chuckled and said, “I guess you’re right.”

    “Okay, good deal. We’ll see you in therapy in a bit.”

    “Sure, doc.” John replied.

    Therapy went well. The group was quite impressed with him and he had to admit he was impressed with himself as well. He couldn’t wait to tell his ex-wife. He had secret hopes they could mend their relationship and get married again. He could almost go as far as saying Trump wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Or perhaps not.

    The next morning John woke to the sound of sobbing. When he looked out his door he could see a couple nurses holding each other in the corridor. When he got out of bed he saw another nurse rush past the room with a handkerchief to her face. More sobbing. He put on his rob and left his room. The doctors were somber. A couple of them were consoling other nurses.

    He stopped a nurse in the hall. She wasn’t crying, but didn’t look happy either.

    “What’s going on?” John said to the nurse.

    “A tsunami just hit Hawaii.”
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2016
  12. Gilganjun

    Gilganjun New Member

    Mar 22, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Kingdom For A Horse [1400] * correct , italicized version *

    "My kingdom for a horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

    King Jada roared commandingly as the morning rabble hastily scurried past his palace, consumed by their own daily affairs and paying little attention to his quadrupedal appeal. By now, most were so familiar with his regular, regal announcement that they no longer stopped to glance in his direction when his booming voice momentarily overwhelmed their senses. Even though their ears rung with a fleeting pain as if grazed by the precise arrow of an elite archer, most kept soldiering forward, preoccupied by the meaningless tasks ahead of them. Those whose heads rotated towards him, at once turned away with a familiar hesitation the moment their eyes met his.

    They dare not fixate upon my gaze. A high price to pay for such treachery, indeed. What horrors I encourage through sight alone. What nightmares I conjure through my omnipotent, stately presence. A fearsome king, I am.

    "My kingdom for a horse," he bellowed once more while scratching intently at some nameless irritant buried deep within his sprawling grey beard. A deep, guttural, hearty laugh accompanied this wild proclamation like it always had each time he'd spoken those words. In recent days, the laughter did not sing alone, unhindered, but instead was interrupted by a throbbing strain within his cavernous chest and then severed absolutely by a maniacal bout of coughing which lasted some moments longer than seemed necessary or befitting of regality.

    Peace returned soon enough, if only for the briefest of visits.

    The sun crept methodically behind the tall village structures, appearing then disappearing between them from time to time, as it journeyed eastwards, slowly rising to flaunt it's nurturing, warm rays upon his ailing kingdom. This celestial game of hide and seek often amused him, occasionally prompting an animated, imbecilic "I see you," as the sun peeped cautiously around the stone edges of the cluttered skyline once more.

    To his right side, some distance away, he noticed the stallkeeper, Varakira, shuffling about with goods and merchandise, carefully lining the shelves, tapping each individual item with a hopeful finger, once it had found it's temporary home in this alluring, inviting display.

    What fortune bechances my traders that my kingdom has waived all taxes. My populace may trade freely, be profitable, eat well, with bellies a horse would wear proudly. A generous king, I am.

    Hand in hand with his mother, a child approached to his left, hopping along the battered stone paving. His free hand brandishing a worn, wooden practice sword stabbed the air frantically as he vanquished another invisible foe, each strike punctuated by a satisfying, high-pitched grunt.

    Our flourishing young warriors shall protect this kingdom, evermore. We shall endure all adversity with ease, by their guard. Our lineage confronts eternity. Long past my triumphant ascent towards the heavenly realms will my descendants courageously rule this land. A timeless king, I am.

    Through his scum-filled nostrils he slowly gathered a deep breath of contentment and solace, though his fingers again searched frantically for the source of this persistent irritation plaguing his distressed beard.

    The approaching child, confronted by increasingly ominous threats, suddenly broke free from his mother's grasp, swinging the sword more vigorously, spinning around and around, defending against the relentless hordes who were rapidly closing in on him from all quarters. He turned again dramatically but this time, as he span, the sword escaped his clutches, hurtled through the air and came to an abrupt, thudding halt as it struck the King squarely in the chest. The newly splintered wood rebounded onto the floor as quickly as it had arrived and provoked the day's second coughing frenzy much sooner than the King would have ordinarily expected.

    With an intensifying pain brought about by the sudden shock, King Jada desperately clutched at his heart, trying to soothe and massage it through the obstructive garments which stubbornly denied access to his aging, withered skin. He fell to his knees and for a moment lost sight of the world.

    There he saw her riding free through the forest, galloping atop the white steed. From a short distance he watched, mesmerized by her radiant beauty as it bobbed ravishingly closer and closer towards him. Her hair bounced teasingly, softly striking her shoulders and then blossoming in to the air, again and again, in time to the horse's propulsive rhythm. And at once, his love's enfettered anamnesis had escaped the deep recesses of his mind where he thought he had imprisoned it forever.

    The memory of his kingdom returned to him.

    Just forty paces away now, still galloping at a moderate pace, he had gleefully called out her name and waved so that she might distinguish him sooner from within the obscuring arrangement of trees. And she had tilted her head towards him, acknowledging him with her joyful, enchanting smile. She removed one hand from the reigns carelessly, so as to wave back at the man whom she loved so dear and who she had rode to the forest to meet with that fateful day. As her grip loosened, the horse suddenly stopped. It was spooked by some unknown distraction in the tall grass, and with the abrupt loss of momentum she lost her grip entirely.

    My voice stole away her grip...

    The inertia propelled her helpless body forward, soaring over the front of the stationary creature and crashing headfirst into an old oak tree, greeted by the sound of a loud, hollow knock. The once peaceful, tranquil forest was transformed in an instance into a gruesome theatre of the macabre as her skull shattered into a thousand pieces, staining the dark brown wood with a fresh splash of dripping burgundy. The horse stood motionless, staring at the body in front of it, perhaps oblivious to the lives it had just torn apart with it's single act of defiance.

    Forgive me, my love... Had I not called your name... Drawn your attention towards... Would you... Lose all concentration... Loosen... your grip... Would our kingdom... be as it once.. was... I thought our love would hold it strong... I tried to forget you... and how the memory of me... was so suddenly stolen from you... my whole world... was in your mind... A forgotten king , I am.

    The wail of war horns drew closer as he jerked out of unconsciousness. Was the kingdom under attack? Foggy, incoherent, the pain still unfathomable, he could piece together the stallkeeper Varakira shouting, "He's over here! Over here!" as the frantic footsteps quickly approached and came thudding down on to his cardboard palace, destroying all his worldly possessions and the only home he had known for those long, disintegrating years ever since he had lost her.

    "It's old KJ! He's been coughing like crazy lately. It's gotta be his lungs or something," Varakira spoke quickly. A bag dropped loosely to his side, two hands swiftly investigated his head, neck and torso. Out from the bag a device was removed, manipulated and then pressed against his chest. A distant voice said, "clear," and with that a charge of electricity surged freely through his entire body.

    The sun had now peaked above the village structures, illuminating the red brick buildings, the dirty pavements, Varakira's station stall, and Jada laying limp, next to the cardboard box he had once called home.

    In her presence he'd felt so alive, filled with an unbridled joy, consuming each moment life offered with a blissful, tenacious passion. Anything was possible. Any adversity, conquerable. And none of it worth spending many moments of worried thought when he could instead immerse his mind in the beauty of her being and feel so immeasurably contented, as paradise found him through her touch.

    "I'll always be your queen and you will always be my king," she had told him once, with pure love exuding through her watery eyes when they were nestled together on the leather sofa. She was flicking through the brochure he had brought for her from the country stables so that she could choose the pet she'd always dreamed of since she was only a young girl.

    The words came to him one last time, though his booming voice was replaced now with a painful, solemn whisper as his eyes shut tight and the hooves of destiny rode away with his last breath.

    " My kingdom.. for a horse."
  13. ranjit23das

    ranjit23das Member

    Jul 29, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Leeds, UK
    The Power and the Glory (527 words)

    Aziz squeezed the trigger hidden in the glove of his left hand. God willing the plan would work. He would now see if all the bomb-making techniques he had learned in the training camp would pay off. He had been trained by a former bomb disposal expert from Hussain’s Iraqi army who had turned his knowledge of bomb disposal on its head.

    The sharp click of the detonator hidden in the suitcase was one of the last sounds Aziz heard. The five kilograms of explosives he had so carefully carried to the airport ignited. The suitcase had been filled the night before with nails and screws and old rusting metal picked up from car scrap yards. In all, over twenty kilograms of shrapnel was released by the explosion. The deadly load spread out in all directions at speeds of over one hundred kilometres an hour. Like a tsunami, the bomb reaped havoc.

    The shrapnel shredded Aziz’ legs instantly and a split second later ripped through his torso and upper body. The two passengers standing in the check-in line at the airport behind Aziz suffered a similar fate. The ones further back, shielded by Aziz and the other two passengers were less fortunate. They would suffer days of pain before succumbing to their wounds, their bodies peppered with burning hot nails and metal. In all twenty one people would die from the explosion.

    The papers would do a background story on the terrorist; who he was and how he had become radicalized. They would find out that Aziz had been a petty criminal stealing CDs and Satnavs from cars. His family had been given asylum and had moved to the country from a war-torn land twenty years ago. His father had been a science school teacher back home but when they moved countries he had to take various menial jobs to bring in money. First a dish washer in a restaurant, then a taxi driver.

    Aziz and his brothers had had a rough upbringing living in one of the slum areas on the outskirts of the city. They had never fitted in, always being bullied and ridiculed by the other school kids for their accents and religious beliefs. Quickly the ‘foreigners’ turned their backs on the locals and began to stick together. In their clique they were free to speak in their mother tongue and avoided the bullies and beatings.

    Yes, it has been a tough life growing up but Aziz knew why he had turned to the terrorist organization. Not for any fervent religious belief; he had seen too many Imams preach about living a pure and holy life and then seen the same men at the local brothel, getting their fill of Russian flesh and fun. Hooking up with the terrorist organization gave him status and prestige amongst his peers. He would die defending the beliefs of his homeland and earn the respect of his elders and loved ones. A dropout who had been destined to be a footnote in history would die with some power and glory. Better to be a terrorist than a taxi driver he felt.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  14. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

    Jan 11, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Betty Baxter, and the Testament (2885)

    Jethro bends his knees, testing his boot bolts for firmness. He tugs on his belay harness, testing his rig for tightness. I watch him with a smirk. He's so nervous for some reason. "Belay ready!" He yells nervously into his helmet mic, almost deafening me.

    "You ready, buddy?" I smile at him, trying to erase some of his anxiety with my chipper, can-do attitude. He just stares at me through his helmet visor, eyes wide, and mouth tight.

    "Are you?" His attempt to convey some manner of weight or fear in me has the opposite effect. Today is the greatest day of my life. I hold up a small metal box, it's pure white color bright in front of my black space suit.

    "Confirming possession of package by engineer Betty Baxter." I announce with a goofy, falsely serious tone. The normally boring technical verbiage feels so good rolling off my tongue.

    "Package possession confirmed." A militaristic voice echos in our ear mics. I can't believe I actually have a long range radio today. "Belay confirmed. All observation orient to 180X by 180Y by 180Z degrees on fuselage axis."

    I tuck the small metal box tight inside my left armpit and turn away from Jethro. I tug on the tether on my back gently, but I am not focused on its feel at all. I look out behind our ship, the engines burning gently orange to lessen the chance of me roasting alive when I jump. Running from the back of the ship, red hot at the base, and blackened the further from the engines it gets, is an enormous titanium chord. Thicker than an interplanetary ballistic missile, longer than a Pangaea continent, and stronger than some other third amazing thing, the chord connects our ship to another ship many kilometers away, my destination not even visible.

    "Confirm engine output decrease!" Jethro is yelling again, his anxiousness palpable in the air, which out in space shouldn't even be possible.

    "Yeah, they're low." I ditch the jargon. Today is the greatest day of my life.

    "Good luck, miss Baxter." With those words from the 'tower', I prepare to jump.

    "Betty!" Jethro's voice interrupts my rhythm. I don't turn to look at him. I am poised for detachment, but pause to listen to him. He says nothing.

    "What, Jethro?" I won't let him get to me. Why is he so worried?

    "Be careful, Betty." I love Jethro. He's my best friend, has saved my life, like, a dozen times, and has awesome big hands. But today, in this moment, his words are useless to me. I do not respond. I leap away from the ship.

    I pass the 'dim' engine fire, the raw display of atomic fusion blazing like four massive volcanoes belching rhythmically in the backdrop of oblivion. Even at this distance, I should be dead as I pass beside them, but today is the greatest day of my life. The black space suit I am wearing was issued to me just today, for this one job. I'd tell you what it's made of, but I was dozing off during the briefing. They hadn't told me yet, that today was the greatest day of my life.

    I leave the engines behind me, along with the rest of the ship and my life. Anyone else might look back, trying to gain some context for the nothingness they are about to experience. I do not. The future is in front of me and around me. I soar slowly along the huge chord, looking down to check my distance from it's metallic surface. I laugh gently in the void. My jump was perfect, my alignment with the one man made threat to my life ideal. I focus ahead, tracing the chord into the darkness. My eyes widen and my heart is set on fire.

    Heaven opens in front of me, unobscured by technology, blinking lights, or paperwork. I see a virgin portrait of deep space, framed artistically by the oval outline of my helmet visor. An ocean of the deepest blue only an infant's step away from being simply black is the canvas. Millions of unique lights beg to be named, countless other shapes impossible to pick out still shining for my admiration. My gaze is drawn to the hateful twins. Two giant, mixing whirlpools of fire and energy sit motionless to the left of our ship's path, light years in the distance, but so real an vivid I feel like I could reach out and touch them. At the center of one maelstrom rests a pure orb of red anger, the center of the other an oval, white with rage. They were young stars that did not want to share the same space, so they will struggle against each other in embryo for eternity.

    "Your vitals are up." The boring voice cannot steal my joy. "How are you doing?" I blink for the first time I can remember since my jump, tears comforting my tender heart. Today is the greatest day of my life.

    "I see the ship." As if by fate, as soon as the voice broke my trance, one of the infinite sources of light struck a reflective surface on the destination of my flight. The last ship in our fleet, the smallest and most vulnerable, lists sideways through the beautiful picture. The running lights are all dead, the ship much closer than anyone originally thought. One of it's engines coughs violently at irregular intervals, the other burning with strength and defiance. "Poor bub's all catty-wompus."

    "Repeat your last?" I fiddle with my chest controls. This space suit actually has working chest controls. Today is the greatest day of my life.

    "It's at least half the estimated distance." My words are answered by silence from the tower, revealing more than words can convey. "I'm preparing to flip."

    "What!?" It's Jethro, the poor guy sounding more terrified than ever. "No!"

    "Negative, Miss Baxter..." I fiddle with the controls, programming a short burst to shift my position and neutralize my momentum in preparation for landing on the ship. "We have to re-compare current ship trajectory analysis with your own observational report." Yawn. Math. "Do you see the Testament?" I look up at the ship, noting the true source of all this fuss. Besides straining against the straight, forward tug of the fleet chord, the Testament's offset engine burn is forcing the ship into a wounded aileron roll. The spin is slowed by the chord, but it is twisting the tether, straining the enormous structure beyond it's limit. Today is the greatest day of my life.

    "Flipping." I type in my 'guesstimate' on the controls, settling my thumb on 'The Button'.

    "NO!" Jethro's cry echos above everyone's voices. I key off the mic, tuck in my knees to my stomach, wrap the package in my arms against my chest, detach my section of the tether, and thumb 'The Button'. The little air boosters on my back spend some of my precious oxygen to adjust my flight, and I join the wounded ship in a gentle spin.

    "Hey buddy." Random debris fly past me, little pieces of hull melted off by the arguing engines. The massive form of the ship lists towards me. "You hurt?" The hundred meters of tether I still have gathers behind me. I note it's position, but focus on the surface of the ship. The kilometer long vessel rolls towards me, a point of size-reference finally visible. I see an entrance, a standard three meter tall double door, careening towards me at over two hundred 'personally relative' kilometers per hour. "... Oops."

    I key another program just in time, burning more oxygen to accelerate my own speed to that of the ship. My boosters fire, and I am blinded by G forces from the sudden surge. I fight unconsciousness, grabbing the head of my tether and focusing on my feet. The Testament is a meter from me, but is moving slowly thanks to my last second boost. All of my tether, except for the head in my hand, slaps against the hull, a grim display of what almost happened to me. Barely conscious, my boosters driving me away from the approaching monster, I extend my feet delicately. I tap my feet gently on the hull for reference, careful not to disrupt my momentum. The ship is still coming at me, but only centimeters at a time. I bend my knees slowly, my booster program stops, and my mind clears. The Testament approaches as I pull my knees up, 'crouching' slowly above the ship. I reach down and clip my tether onto a loop next to the door.

    I exhale, realizing that I have been holding my breath for who knows how long. That's not good for you in space. I stand up casually, tucking the package under my arm, and keying on my mic. I turn down the volume to lessen the effect of all the screaming voices.

    "First try!" I yell into the sea of fear. As silence settles into the channel I float slowly up to the large metal double doors, knocking gently with my free hand, whistling some tune I heard the other day into my helmet.

    "What the hell was that?" The tower chides me. It's funny how easy it is to break a 'professional's' bearing. I glance out at the universe. Without working running lights, my proximity to the Testament does not diminish the view of space. The doors open gently, and I focus ahead.

    "Chillax, tower. Just doing a little ol' space walkin-..." I find myself face to elegant white space robe with a kind looking man, his magnetic boots keeping him locked onto the floor of the hallway. He's wearing a space helmet, but appears to have only a flimsy cloth garment as the rest of his attire, floating gently in the weightlessness-...ness. "Uhm... Hello..." I hold up the white package. "... Did you put in a work order for engine repair?" His eyes light up slowly, his mouth opening in a gentle, toothy smile.

    "Oh, God bless you..." He detaches his boots, and floats unprotected out into space towards my motionless form, wrapping my torso in a gentle, robey hug. "...Thank you so much."

    "Yeaha ha ha!" I laugh nervously as I try to think of a response. It is hard to think with my mind overcome with the rush of raw discovery mixed with cautious fear. "So!" I push him off, pressing the package into his huggey arms. "Here ya go! No need to sign for it, this is the future an all!" My eyes widen as his hands settle on top of mine, pinning my palms gently to the package. He is still smiling.

    "Miss Baxter." A voice in my mic, the most comforting thing in the universe to me right now. "Have you made contact with the Testament crew?"

    "Ha ha have I ever!" I let go of the package, the man's fingers caressing mine one last time as I withdraw. "I think some of the personnel reports might be wrong."

    "No... They're not wrong." The words soak into me like radiation. Space radiation.

    "... What?" Deep space radiation

    "Listen carefully..." The voice in my ear is hard to hear as I stare at the white robed man. I do not think my eyes could be any wider, my smile any more huge, toothy, and forced. "... Repair the engine, reset the burn program, and get the hell out of there."

    "... So... this crew isn't..." I cannot think of any words. Robe man is still smiling at me.

    "No, Betty, you fell asleep during the crew composition brief." Jethro is so informative.

    "Betty, is it?" Oh my sweet space potatoes, robe man knows my name. "I know you are probably feeling a lot of confusing emotions right now."

    "Confusing!" I yell goffily. "Right! That's it!"

    "But during your time here, doing your charitable work on our humble home, we want you to feel as welcome as possible..." The realization washes over me like a space ocean as the man begins the strange litany of words known only as 'Witnessing'. I have heard of these people before, but never thought I would meet one. I will survive this encounter changed, my mind, my work, my love for space, my hunger for tacos, forever altered. "... Which is why I would like to take this time to tell you... about Space Jesus."


    "She's coming in too fast!" Jethro yells as he leaps away from his bolts. Floating horizontally across the Langley, he tightens his grip on the bulky grappling gun held under arm, trying to settle near where I will likely impact.

    "Don't touch her until she lands, you'll both die!" The tower directs Jethro, their voices warbled and static in the mic.

    "Preparing to fire!" Jethro hooks his emergency boot clamps onto the ridges of the ship, bracing the grappling gun against his body. "Oh no, Betty!" I slam into the hull like a black comet, my body bouncing away like a rag doll into space, my tether whipping around dangerously. Jethro fires the grapple at my spinning form, the bolt-led wire coiling out after me as I fly into oblivion. The barbed hook skewers me in my thigh, stabbing through armored space suit, skin, flesh, bone, and soul. Jethro jerks the gun, stealing my chaotic momentum and pulling me into him like a big fish. A fisher of men. I tumble into his open arms, we fall in a heap against the hull, and he hooks us both onto the ship. "I have her!"

    "Jethro Jethro Jethro-Jethro!" Today is the greatest day of my life.

    "Her vitals are off the charts!" No, tower. My soul is off the charts. "What's her status?!"

    Begone, semi-third person narration, I'll tell you my status. I am reborn, crying, screaming, interupted occasionally by mild twitching. Jethro gather's me into his arms, cradling me like a baby as I cry into my mic. I make sure to be extra loud for all those listening "Betty!" I don't want to hear Jethro right now, I am not done crying. "Betty, calm down!" I look up at him with tear soaked eyes, slobber trapped in my helmet as blood from my leg floats around us.

    "Jethro!" My voice is a mix of joy and hysteria.

    "Betty, calm down!"

    "They preformed a 'conversion' on me-e-e!" I scream the words for perhaps the tenth time since I leaped from the Testament. "It was awesome!"

    "It's okay!" Jethro hugs me close, the two of us settling onto hull of the ship, the engines burning gently behind us. "Calm down, Betty."

    "They they they-" My lips quiver and my breath is irregular as I recall the profound experience. "They compared the Holtsman Effect to throwing a big piece of mesh into a lake to collect 'fish'!"

    "That's... I..." Jethro's mind, his understanding of the universe, is changed now, like mine. "... What's a fish?"

    "I don't know." My eyes are wide with wondrous wonderment. "It was a 'parable'."

    "What's a parable?" As Jethro finishes his question I grab his space helmet and pull it against mine, staring into his fearful eyes with my crazed look of insane knowledge.

    "I! Don't! Know!"

    "Make your way to the emergency hatch!" The tower is afraid. "Damn deradiation, she needs medical attention!" I feel sorry for them.

    "Come on Betty." Jethro stands up carefully, and I settle into his arms and look up at space truly for the first time. Here the stars are hard to see, the stronger engines and bright lights stealing the glow of the universe. As I worked, in the candlelit darkness of the abode of the edible God, there were countless 'windows' everywhere. Pieces of structurally worthless vulnerability of immeasurable spiritual value. There was nothing wrong with the Testament's running lights. They were kept off by design. I could see space everywhere I looked. From inside the ship, I could see space. The sensation alone, the constant reminder of the beauty of the universe, had brought tears to my eyes.

    "They let me eat their God." I offer the words up at Jethro like a child, a mere babe. Reborn and awakened in Chrisps. "He tasted like crackers and candles."

    "That's good Betty, just calm dow-"

    "I am immortal now."

    "... What?"

    "In Chips alone, my hope is found." I sing the only song I will ever need to know.

    "It's too late for her." No, tower voice. It's never too late for any of us.

    "Mr. Johnson, get her in the ship right now." A second tower voice speaks.

    "He is my light, my strength, my song." I answer them happily.

    "Shushushush, it's okay. You're safe now." Jethro pats my helmet gently as he 'clamp' walks to a nearby emergency hatch. "A little time in medical, a nice taco, and you'll be good as new."

    "Testament engines are stabilized." The tower bores me with boring physical things. I am a being of the immaterial now. "Course stabilizing. Mission accomplished. Well done, miss Baxter."

    "Chips love you, tower."

    "Betty, be quiet."

    "Did you shoot me, Jethro?"

    "Yeah-yes... I'm sorry Betty, I had to."

    "It's okay. It must have been fun. I forgive you."

    The End
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
    Hubardo likes this.
  15. GeoffreySmith

    GeoffreySmith Member

    Feb 7, 2016
    Likes Received:

    Jane and the Internship [2384]

    Jane pushed her forehead against the cold glass of the taxi window as it approached the towering building. There it was, she thought. Completely solar powered and emission free, the building, starkly contrasting the cracking cement and broken buildings next to it, stood as a monument of the new era the world was entering.

    Jane’s new life was nestled within it.

    “This your building?” The taxi driver asked.

    Jane nodded and began searching for the money she owed.

    “Good luck. Big, big ocean in there. Lotta ways to get lost,” the taxi driver said, gazing up the building, trying to see the top.

    Jane snagged a ten dollar bill and handed it to the driver.

    “Thank you!” She exclaimed as she hustled out of the taxi.

    Jane dodged a few people and jumped into the revolving door, careful to walk at the right speed, and then was slung out into the lobby. She searched the tall room for something familiar and clutched her small purse. Around Jane people shot past her, phone in hand, checking e-mails, shooting out texts, or making phone calls. No one walked in the lobby; they all crossed, zig-zagged, or ran across the magnificent granite floor.

    Dazed by the enormity of the lobby, Jane readjusted her laminated name tag the hiring manager told her to bring and tried to forget the small Texas high school she’d graduated from a few months before. She checked her name tag. It still said Jane. She was still Jane, she thought to herself as she braved the hard metallic world looming in front of her and scratched beside her glasses, sniffled, and picked a direction to walk.

    When Jane got to the meeting room, she was shocked. A tired water jug sat at the far end of the room and bubbles rose noisily to the surface.The room was perfectly unnoticeable, with its white walls and carpeted floors, and completely different than the lobby 18 floors below.

    For a long 5 minutes Jane stood at the door to the meeting room in silence, not even a clicking clock to comfort her.

    Then the elevator dinged. The sound spread down the hallway like a battle call. Jane knew the people who had run, crossed, and zig-zagged across the lobby were coming quickly and any moment their endless energy, jeering eyes and buzzing phones would burst out of the elevator and engulf her.

    She was terrified of them but hopeful yet that one day she could be like them.

    A woman, thirty maybe with pulled back hair and a black suit jacket, and a small armed man with a red tie and silver tie clip burst out of the elevator, jogging down the hallway past Jane, intently discussing what seemed to be very important business talk.

    “We desperately need to dramatically cloudify our portals…” her professional voice trailed off as the pair turned into a meeting room.

    Jane turned back to the elevator to find an horde of business-casual clad young people with stoic expressions hustling toward her. A cell-phone was glued in each person’s hand and stole their attention. The males wore jeans, a button-up, and sports jacket. The females wore dark pants with a contrasting blouse and tight fitting cardigan, blazer, or scarf. They said nothing to Jane or to each other as they passed silently down the hallway dodging into meeting rooms.

    “Um?” A man wearing a blue shirt and black tie said, catching Jane off-gaurd, “Who are you?”

    “Jane,” she smiled. “Hi I’m Jane.”

    “Nice to meet you,” the man flashed his white teeth. “Are you with the Lyman’s group?”

    “Lyman’s? No no. I’m an intern for the X-PRESS Team,” Jane glanced down at her phone, “ID number 05198-F-BlE-BrH”

    “I figured. So X-PRESS Team is a part of the NuVice initiative, right?”

    “Yes,” Jane smiled. That sounded official.

    “Well NuVice is apart of Sygentic, which is down the hall a ways.” He waved her down the hall. “A ways down look for a sign that says YouGentics, that’s what Sygentics is apart of,” Jane strained to hear the man as she walked down the hall.

    “When you find Sygentics make a right. You should find NuVice teams sign and then find your category, or room, excuse me. Just find the NuVice....” The man said something else but was too far for Jane to hear.

    Jane staggered down the hall, glancing into each room very hopefully to find a sign. To her left was a wall with small windows that showed a massive, sprawled out city. She excitedly counted five YouGentics advertisements draped onto buildings in the distance. There was so much to YouGentics, so much popularity, support, excitement. And now that she had signed up for the summer intern program, she could call herself apart of it.

    It was a long time before Jane stumbled on a small white sign that said ‘YouGentics: YOU ELEVATED’.

    Jane decided to follow sign and turned down a smaller hallway. This hall was surrounded on both sides by silent and empty meeting rooms. Each were adorned with big clean white boards that had an assortment of colored markers. Posters of famous entrepreneurs and business executives dotted the walls and had small plates beneath that read ‘The future YOU with YouGentics’ or ‘Live, laugh, love. YOU ELEVATED’

    Jane then came to a door with ‘Sygentics’ inscribed in big black lettering. Beneath it read: A portion of YouGentics.

    Jane pushed the glass door open, and peered inside. Running to her right and left was a hallway that had no end. A janitor with a scruffy beard stopped changing the trash can and looked out into the hallway. He smiled, looked back down, and continued working his way down the hallway.

    “Hello? Oh thank God. Sir?”

    “Ya,” the janitor said loudly, still wrestling the new sack into the trashcan.

    “Can you tell me where NuVice is?”


    “NuVice. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

    “New Vice? Hell. No ma’am.”

    “Can you tell me where I might find it?”

    “You looking for a meeting room?”

    Jane nodded.

    “Well,” the janitor said, tying the knot in the trash bag, “this whole section just a circle. A big damn circle. All it now owned by Sygentics. If ya know what you talkin’ ‘bout then you should be able to find it soon enough. Don’t take too long t’all,” the janitor laughed. “Course I’m kiddin’. This a huuge circle.”

    Jane stared at him. “You don’t know where I can get NuVice?”

    “Ma’am, I told ya. I ain’t heard of no New Vice, Nu Voce, New Bikes none of it. I clean, these people do the talking and the meeting and the sitting and the planning. Like a hospital sometimes with the way they these people change rooms and shout and holler every two seconds somedays. Course some days it’s silent as a mouse, like today.” The janitor looked down the hallway, as if waiting for something.

    “You said it’s just a big circle?”

    The janitor nodded, his big eyes sad and thoughtful.

    Jane slipped off her shoes, and stuck them under her arm. “Hopefully I won’t see you again then,” she said before setting off on a jog around the curve.

    “Don’t tryya run to fas’. You gotta long way tuh go lady!”

    Jane’s steps pounded on the thin carpeted floor and shook the meeting room walls. All the rooms were empty and had the same big white boards with assorted colored markers. There was only one difference in this bigger building: each room was labeled with a small white board tablet placed between the door and window.

    22-UK-87, 99-PO-L7, 46-H5-YJ, Jane read the room codes.

    Jane kept jogging down the hall, it twisted and snaked through the silent, bright meeting rooms. Jane had just began to feel fatigued when she heard a man’s voice echoing through the hallway. the filled meeting room.

    At the next turn she saw the meeting room they were in. Five people sat around the big table and listened to the man who Jane had heard talk. When Jane knocked on the door the man stopped, looked at Jane, and smiled.

    “You must be,” he paused and looked at his clipboard, “Jan?”

    Jane nodded, slightly out of breath. She stepped into the room. A strangely antiseptic smell hit her as she entered.

    “C’mon in. I was just introducing everyone to the newest project X-PRESS team 13-IB-9U has to accomplish. You ready to synergize?”

    “Synergize!” A woman at the end of the table echoed.

    “Syyynnnerrrgiize,” a man in a suit jacket and jeans said.

    “You ready ?”

    “Yes,” Jane said, she placed her purse in her lap and played with the lock.

    “Can you tell me your ID?” The man asked.

    “Uh,” Jane glanced down at her phone. “05198-F-BE-BH. Is that what you were talking about?”

    The man nodded at Jane. “Get that printed,” he murmured to someone sitting beside the table who then rolled over to the wall and began punching into a machine.

    The man switched back into his presenter voice. “We need to design a support banner for our Cloud based YOU TOO team that will help them cohesively mesh the world of US and WE so we can have a more kinetic 3rd quarter.”

    Several people at the table nodded with blank smiles.

    “Let’s brainstorm team!” The man said, jumping up to the whiteboard and grabbing a red marker. He wrote a big S then grabbed a blue marker to write Y and a yellow one for the N. He continued switching markers every letter until he had written SYNERGIZE in big lettering across the board.

    Once he had finished and few people at the table echoed ‘Synergize!’ ‘SYYNERGIZE!”

    A person sitting across from Jane smiled at her. “Synergize!” He said, flashing perfect white teeth.

    “OK ideas team!” The man said.

    “They need to cloudify the market!” The woman at the end of the table said energetically. She was sitting up straight in her chair and her light brown hair was pulled back around her ears.

    “Righto!” The man scratched ‘cloudify’ on the board.

    “With direction,” another said.

    “Direction? I think you mean, introspection!” Someone shouted. The table laughed automatically.

    “I like that!” The man said.

    “They need to address the dichotomy of the world,” someone mumbled from the table. She was wearing a thin cardigan and a white name tag. Jane could only see a few letters and numbers written on it.

    “Right right!” The man said.

    “Without changing it!” Someone shouted from the table.

    “The poor-rich-bridge!”

    “Bridge! I love it. Love it!” The man said, furiously writing on the board.

    The assistant who had been told to print the ID tapped Jane on her shoulder and handed her the ID card. It was metallic and somewhat heavy. The text was simple and had ‘X-PRESS Team 05198-F-BlE-BrH’ inscribed in black type.

    “You can give me your old one,” the assistant said quietly. He wore a blue uniform, almost a jumpsuit, with a high blue collar. The table continued to brainstorm as Jane took off her old name tag, handed it to the assistant, and attached the new ID to her blouse. The assistant smiled and pushed a very small button at the base of the ID. Jane felt a small electric pulse that tickled her chest.

    Jane smiled at the assistant. “Thank you,” she said impulsively.

    He nodded and walked away silently.

    The table continued to erupt with brainstorming. “Not a lang bridge though. An air bridge. Seamlessly. Cloudify to diversify and make that bridge!” The man sitting across from Jane said.

    “Perfect perfect!”

    “And to make this a fiscal reality they need to expedite all unnecessaries and slim.” A man sitting next to Jane said. She noted that his ID card was different than hers. His had three notches beneath the code and hers was blank.

    “Expedite. Slim. Love it love it.” The man said, still scribbling on the board.

    “They need to change the world without changing it.” Someone at the table shouted.

    “Oh yes! That’s it. We did it team!” The man took a step back and looked at the white board. He circled three words: ‘Change. Bridge. Cloudify.’

    “That’s what the YOU TOO team needs. Those three words. How do we tell them?”

    “I got it,” the man across from Jane said. “Cloudify to bridge the change,” someone shouted.

    The Man, standing, nodded. “What change?” He asked.

    “The changing world?”

    “Oh yes,” the Man said.

    “What about the dichotomy?”

    “Good point,” the Man said.

    “How about ‘Cloudify the dichotomy to bridge the changing world?’” The woman at the end of the table said.

    “Yes! That’s it,” the Man said, turning his back to the table to scribble the sentence on the board. “Let’s print that!” The Man shouted at the assistant. The woman at the end of the table smiled slyly and smoothed a fly away from her hair.

    The assistant rolled over to the machine and, without a word, pounded information into the computer. In a moment ten small pieces of paper shot out of a small opening. The assistant grabbed them and handed them out.

    The slip of paper read:

    Your new goal: Cloudify the dichotomy to bridge the changing world.

    A mission brought to you by NuVice-Sygentics a part of YouGentics an operation proudly owned by Allies; A New ERA! A New Kingdom Come!

    Jane read the paper over and over then slipped it into her bag. She looked out the window and caught the eyes of the janitor who was slowly sweeping the carpet. He smiled at her and winked slyly before returning to sweeping.

    Jane snapped her head to The Man. The room was silent, Jane noticed, and the people at the table were glaring at her. Once she was paying attention again, The Man started presenting again and allowed a mechanical smile to slip onto his face.

    Nervously, Jane pulled her hair back as if she’d been told to. She felt the small electric tickle in her chest, this time somewhat more intense, and watched a black dash form just beneath her code. She was surprised, but, not wanting to get glared at again, switched her attention back to The Man where it stayed for the remainder of the meeting.

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