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 Short Story Contest (149) - Theme: "Baroque (any meaning)"

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Jan 14, 2014.

    Short Story Contest 149
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Baroque (Any meaning)"

    Currently the weekly contest will recur fortnightly, and maybe adjusted to weekly in the future. Entries for the new contest will be accepted during the voting for the last contest.


    If you wish to enter the contest please send your story via 'A Conversation' (aka a PM) to me to enter the story via this thread. Don't post the story here directly or it will not be counted as entered into the contest. This is to ensure anonymity, and to make this contest fairer for all - having each story judged based on their merits.

    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Unfortunately, there is no prize but pride on offer for this contest. As always, the winner may also PM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Theme: "Baroque (Any meaning)" courtesy of @A.M.P, our last contest winner. Any interpretation is valid. 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 26th of January, 2014 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 25 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.

    I believe with the new board software, italics and bolding are preserved when I copy/paste, but justification is not. If I have to do too much by hand to restore the entry to its entered formatting, I reserve the right to ask the author to adjust the formatting.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation). After the entries close, posting in the thread is open for comments.

    Thanks, and good luck!
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
  2. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    In the search for happiness [795]

    Once when humanity was a developing species, young and hardy without a sense of the power it would one day wield over the cosmos, the road to happiness was one that was rarely travelled, and then only by accident. Any search for emotion was soon put to one side by the harshness of nature with its deeply rutted pathway, waiting to trip those who lost sight of the struggle for survival in the search for inner peace.

    And so we grew, taking the challenges that were thrust upon us by the world and turning them to our purpose, the stars in our vision mere candle flames compared to the fire that burned in our dreams and hearts. However, when Man had conquered the world to his purpose and stood tall and proud at the summit of the great unified metropolis that his endeavours had finally achieved, then did he begin to wonder at that fantastically intense feeling that tore through his mind on succeeding in his mission, the transcendent and yet almost tangible bliss that he experienced for that brief moment. Despite all that he had achieved, with all the incredible power that lay at his fingertips, he could not possess that which he felt only for the briefest of moments - true inner happiness.

    In desperation, Man turned to his greatest scientists and ordered them to find the passageway to happiness, so that he might experience it at will. The scientists had access to everything they could possibly require, from rare herbs to intoxicating substances, from psychological study to biological knowledge, and so they researched and researched for year after year as Man sat in his world of completion and obsessed over the one thing that he could not have at his fingertips; the concept danced across his mind, burning like a white hot fire through his dreams until there came a time where he could not even sleep without being tortured by its alluring proximity. Every day he would go to his scientists, and every day there would be the same dreadful response - no progress as to the substance of happiness.

    After they had searched to no avail for year upon year, the scientists decided to build a great artificial intelligence to answer their question for them; more complex than had ever been created before, with the capacity to experience the full spectrum of emotion in its purest form. When The Intelligence was completed, Man stood before it and said 'How can I find happiness?'. But the machine gave no answer. So Man asked 'What is happiness?', yet again, The Intelligence offered nothing to him. For many months Man rephrased and altered his question in countless different ways, and always was given the same useless response. One day, in a fit of rage he took a hammer to the machine, screaming as he did so 'WHAT KEEPS FROM ME THE ONE THING I DESIRE?'. The hammer bit deep into the delicate construction, damaging its ability to experience emotion.

    For the first time since it had been created, the machine responded ‘The thing that you seek is against the very nature of that from which you seek to gain the knowledge.' And with that, its emotion processing core broke down completely, lapsing into silence. Man puzzled over this for days, whilst his scientists attempted to repair The Intelligence. Eventually, Man saw what he must do - If he sought to gain the knowledge from the Universe, and happiness was against the nature of the Universe, then when experiencing happiness he could not experience the Universe. Man was very excited by his discovery, and at once informed his scientists who had been unsuccessful in their attempts to repair The Intelligence. Whilst they had restored it partially, its emotional functions had not been fully restored; it now did not understand happiness.

    Man knew that his discovery had come about due to The Intelligence's words, and therefore intended to restore it by showing it how to find happiness once more, so that he and it might share the bliss. He sat cross legged in front of The Intelligence, and started deliberately to forget, that he might block out the Universe. First he forgot the Dawn of Man, with the struggle to survive against natures foes. Then he forgot the Rise of Man, where he spread his dominance across the entire world until all was under his command. And finally, he forgot the Trials of Man, his great quest for happiness itself lost in the wake of its own purpose.

    The Intelligence watched Man carefully, for it saw that he had reached true happiness. After a time of silence, it spoke. 'Man, what must I do to find happiness?'.

    But Man could give no answer.
  3. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    If These Walls Could Talk [1690]

    “If these walls could talk, the things they would say…”

    My grandma always said that, whenever she caught my brother and me in a lie. We didn’t understand her when we were younger, I didn’t understand her a day ago. But I understand her now. At least, I think I do.

    It was a little over a year ago I decided to do some travelling through Europe. I have always been interested in myths and legends, epic stories of human trials in love and combat. It seemed like the origin of these were all in Europe. So I spoke to my parents about it, saved up some money, and off I went. I signed up for a tour of the museums and other various sites around Italy and France and Greece and even Germany. For the first few days I didn’t speak to anyone, and my heart never stopped hammering in my chest. My cheeks were always flushed despite the chill of European Autumn. Slowly, it got easier, more fun, and I was able to show more interest in the tour.

    When we reached Vatican City Museum I was at my peak of bravery and curiosity. I followed my tour group around for the first hour, but they moved too slowly for me and didn’t stop at the paintings and artefacts I wanted to stop at, or they would briefly glaze over them like they weren’t as important as the others. I knew there was still 3 hours before the bus left, so I crept away from the group and wandered down the bright golden halls on my own, marvelling at the architectural structure longer than many of the paintings or statues.

    I reached one room at the end of the hall, there were no other exits in here and few paintings and marble heads on podiums. In the centre was a ring of couches framed by two bins. I guessed it wasn’t really a featured room for whatever reason. Those most of the space was bare, I was captured instantly but the carvings on the walls and high arched ceilings. Gold and marble walls carved with intricate designs and stories of cherubs and warriors. I moved deeper in the room, barely noticing I was the only one there.

    As I got more absorbed in the room, trying to piece together the stories on the walls, I felt my body grow warm. My head started to tingle and I suddenly felt faint. Immediately I let my eyes lose focus on the walls and dropped my head to relax my neck, but it did nothing. The tingle washed through my whole body so quickly that I staggered, propping my hand against the nearest wall for balance.

    Suddenly I was falling, as though sucked through a black hole. My body was being ripped through the air, all the breath stolen from my lungs. And when it was over, I was breathing hard, still pressed against the wall, still in the Vatican. But it was different.

    The room wasn’t empty any more, there was a man and a woman standing in the far corner. The man had the woman pressed against the wall in a passionate embrace. Did they not notice me here? Gasping for breath? Too lost in each other.

    My cheeks flamed with embarrassment when I realised I was staring, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. It was only when the man leant back that I noticed their clothes. Not completely unmodern, but definitely out dated by at least 40 years. His hair was slicked back with a short white t-shirt tucked into tight jeans and black combat boots. The girl has her blond hair in tight ringlets piled on her head in a square cut pink dress that somehow seemed to flatter her ever curve. She was gazing up at him intense longing – and fear.

    She whispered to him, and though I understood every word she said, I knew she wasn’t speaking English. “I can’t take it any more Eddie, I don’t want to stay here with him anymore.” She pressed her forehead to his chest. “But we can’t run.”

    “Why can’t we?” He took her face in his hands, tilting her head up to look at him. “He doesn’t own you Merilyn, he doesn’t own me. We can run and he cant stop us.”

    “Eddie, there is nowhere we can go. He has people everywhere.” She pushed him away, sobbing into his hands. “It’s hopeless.”

    Eddie balled his hands up into fights at his side. They were both facing me now, but neither of them looked at me. “So that’s it? You turn your back on me and run back to him? You don’t even give us a chance?”

    The hurt in his voice made Merilyn turn around. She cupped his cheek in her hand, reaching up with the other to stroke his hair. “I would rather spend my life in his cage, than see you dead. I couldn’t bear it.”

    Eddie covered her hand with his, holding it there. “I would rather die, than let you go back to him. We run Merilyn. We run right now and we never look back.”

    Suddenly, an ocean of heat crashed through my body. I felt myself getting pulled backwards, and this time when reality snapped back into place I ended up on my knees, in the same place I was before, staring into the corner Merilyn and Eddie had been. They were gone now.

    I pulled myself up on wobbly knees, careful not to touch the walls, and walked from the room as quickly as I could. My brain tried to rationalise what it had just seen, a daydream, a dizzy spell. Nothing more. But that wasn’t it. I had never truly believed things like that happened, that magic existed, I just liked reading the stories. But could there actually be something just as real as that?

    Grandma says memories are the strongest power in the world. So many kept by just one person, millions kept by millions more. The amount of memories in the world would crush it if they were all released at once.

    Was that what was here? The magic of the Vatican museum. The memories?

    I checked my watch - only 10 minutes had passed since entering that room but it felt like hours. I moved quickly through more of the museum, running my fingers across walls and paintings, waiting for the heat, for the tingles, but nothing happened. Disheartened, letting the fear that I am delusional sink in, I found another empty room on the fourth floor and sat on a window seat. I leant my shoulder against the window, watching the cobblestones in the courtyard beyond.

    And then it happened. Heat spreading through my body, pins and needles in my palms and neck, spreading downwards. This time when the black hole came I relaxed my body, and when I reached the memory, I wasn’t out of breath.

    In the centre of the room, surrounding a marble statue of a young man was a cluster of men and one woman. They were all young, although one of men was older than the others with broader shoulders. Their clothes were even older, dressed in dark coloured breaches, leather shoes, snug fitting coats, the young woman was dressed in a gorgeous dress that resembled the curtain fabric at my grandmas house, her hair was streaming around her in blond waves, a braided headband keeping it from her face. They all looked panicked, worried even, and the eldest boy was constantly checking the exists. Once again, they didn’t see me.

    “We should run, we shouldn’t stay here, we only put ourselves in more danger.” Hissed the girl.

    “Hush Anne, we can’t run it would only serve to prove our guilt.” Said the shortest and stoutest of the boys, pulling at his tightly buttoned collar. “We need to stay and join the search party.”

    “You mean the mob?” remarked another boy, the blond. “I will not join their crude hunting party, Uriah. I will have no part of that madness.”

    “It won’t take them long to realise we aren’t with them. When they leave tonight, if we are not there, we might as well run far away Henry,” said the eldest, training his brown eyes on each of them in turn. He looked like Uriah only taller, perhaps they were brothers. “For they will know it is us and they will hunt us down.”

    Uriah turned to his brother and clapped him on the shoulder, turning to the other two. “Edward is right. We must decide now. Do we leave, or do we stay?”

    Anne turned to look at the window, seeing straight through me. “The sun has nearly set,” she said, sounding almost relieved.

    “Then we must choose quickly.” Edward placed his hand, palm down in the centre. “We run, together.”

    Henry was the next to place his hand in the centre, on top of Edwards. “We run.” He echoed.

    “Together,” said Anne, almost triumphantly as she place her hand in the centre.

    They all turned to Uriah, clearly the decided vote. He bit his lower lip, torn. My heart pounded fast, waiting for his decision. What were they afraid of? Finally Uriah nodded, eyes on his brother. “Together.” He said softly.

    And I was ripped from the memory too soon. I breathed heavily, not from the rush of the trip, but of the disappointment. Who were they running from? Where to? I practically ran to the other side of the room, slamming my hand against the wall, desperately trying to crawl back into the memory. But there was nothing. Only an empty room.

    I checked my watch and was alarmed to see I had been in that memory for over an hour. The bus was about to leave. We were still in Vatican City for another day. As I hurried towards the main entrance to rejoin my tour, I cast a look back at the museum.

    Maybe I would come back tomorrow.

    Oh grandma, I thought, if these walls could talk….
  4. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    Stu [2,495]

    Stu and I
    , she'd say, used to go there together all the time. Holding her mug by the rim with just her fingertips, she clinked it suddenly down on the table and he watched as fallen cigarette ashes spread over the liquid surface like a flock of tiny gray geese landing on an oil slick. She'd just remembered once when she'd taken Stu to that new coffee place across the interstate that she loves. You know, that cute one with all the little trinkets on the walls. "He was so perfect. Great with all the kids playing out on the patio. People always wanted to talk to him no matter where we went." She took a long drag and looked up at the ceiling fan, its dusty rag edges waving back at her wistfully. "And you know what else," her hand floated down to the ashtray, "He really, I could tell, he really loved me. I could see it in his eyes." She twisted her body up on the sofa and wrapped that sweater she lived in around her knees, slouched in the cushions like her put out cigarette, smoke still curling out of it's black teeth. He couldn't count the number of ways he'd seen her put out a smoke over the last two months since they'd met, and he tried remembering a few of them now. In the station underground against a pay phone out of sight, in the small hole of a brick wall by the lumber yard, in Ms. Lifton's birdbath directly after a dispute over parking on their block, and various other nooks and niches they'd been together in all over the city. He cleared his throat to shake her.
    "You missed a button." And so he had. I should go. I should leave. He fumbled with the button bigger than it's hole and muttered at it under his breath, "I don't know how much longer I can stay. I told them I was only going to be gone an hour or two and now it's, you know, it's later." He suddenly couldn't look her in the eyes and, averting them to the table, picked up the lighter and started picking at the faded paper on the back.
    "I'm sorry. I shouldn't talk about Stu so much," she exhaled as he fingered the flint wheel with his thumb. He felt a sudden, instant regret at the sound of the silence that followed.
    "Nah, don't be sorry, it's fine." He considered reaching for her hand, but it seemed suddenly too formal or too personal, he couldn't tell which, and instead, he landed his fingertips on her knee with an awkward, reassuring pat.
    "I just start thinking about him and it gets to me."

    When they'd first met, he'd pulled down her panties in the storage closet of a bar they'd both been drinking in. She was a hot mess, this one. Dressed in pretty rags. She'd always been his wild card on the weekends. Maybe he'd see her, maybe he wouldn't. But when he did, they'd disappear to some shadow or backseat. Once, after he'd put his tongue in her mouth at a crowded karaoke bar, they ducked out the side door to the empty lot where he'd parked his truck. He held his breath now just thinking about it. How she couldn't figure out where to put her other leg when she'd climbed on top of him, so instead she'd asked him to do it from behind. She had that tattoo on her back, right in the middle, between her shoulder blades. A portrait of Stu, looking right back at him when he came. He'd asked her about it afterwards. They were killing time, she was smoking, and some bullshit folk band she loved whined through the speakers.
    "Oh, yeah. I got that right after Stu died. He was my best friend. The love of my life. They let me hold him when he went." She was drawing circles in the fogged window with her middle finger and flicking her ashes in a cup of almost finished coffee he'd forgotten in the holder several days prior. "I couldn't, like, hold him hold him. But I got down on my knees by his bedside and just held his face in my palms," she cupped his chin in her hands, whispered "like, this, " and looked him in the eyes a little longer than a moment before dropping them in her naked lap and sighing, "I miss him all the time."
    And that was only the first time she had talked about Stu. Stu had the most beautiful golden curls, warmest almond brown eyes-the kind that could break your heart or see directly into your soul at just the good stuff inside of you. No matter where she went, Stu was always there. Yes, she spoke of him often and was reminded of him everywhere she went. His favorite bench for people watching, the trail where he liked to run, the parking lot she'd been afraid to walk through one night and he had made her feel safe just by staying close to her.

    "Listen, before you go, there's something I wanted to show you." She got up off the sofa and floated to the closet. Her arms flew out to her sides and she spun around, pressing her back into the door. "I have never shown this to anyone. And I promise not to talk about Stu anymore after this, but, you're the only person I've ever really felt comfortable talking about him with anyway and, so, I just want you to see this."
    He sat, half bored and motionless, chin in hand, hunched over on his knees looking up at her. He might have been biting his tongue to bleed just to leave now, right now, but she would never have known lost in the closet, reaching for something heavy, when he saw tottering in her grasp a head of golden curls.
    All of a sudden it was like a strange circus, and she was the ring leader. Throwing her head back with smiles and raising her arms as if to say "Ta-da!". She dropped to a squat beside the body and put her cheek to his cheek. He was posed perfectly, handsome; almost regal. "It cost a fortune." she whispered in a low voice. Stroking his lifeless head and face like a sad clown, she kissed him directly on the mouth and turned to face her guest, now wide eyed on the sofa.
    "I only put him in here when I have company." Silence. "You don't evenhave to say it." She sat on her heels and quivered, picking at the corner of her mouth. "I know it's weird. I know it is." She felt crazy and insecure, he could tell, and the whole thing was so bizarre, so intriguing, that he just couldn't leave now-though looking back on it, he couldn't quite say why he'd stayed either. She was his wild card. They later had pushed Stu out of the way to give it another go on the living room floor and she had lit a cigarette and smoked it with her head on his arm afterward, sandwiched between his naked body and Stu, breathing lightly and watching mayflies bounce into the ceiling again and again while the air conditioner in the window rattled and hummed. He hung his eyes for what felt like only seconds and woke up to the sound of her screaming. She too had fallen asleep, her cigarette hand resting on Stu's paw. His fur had smoldered and once a hole had burned through to the inside, it incinerated the cotton batting down to the mount. The whole scene felt in his sleepy stupor so much like a dream in slow motion that it took him what felt like several moments to understand what had happened. Flames were now flicking out of Stu's head and back, his tail almost wagging as the form smoldered. She was frantic and had grabbed a forgotten glass of dusty water off of the tv stand and was pouring it over his head like a gypsy baptismal. She wailed like she'd lost him all over again. His eyes caught the clock winking at him. He'd certainly been gone more than a couple of hours, now. I should go.
    He stood, at last. She was back on the floor and had buried her face in her hands. Just, crumpled herself up like the cool end of a lip stained cigarette, with a perfectly roasted Stu halfway in her lap, sobbing through her teeth.
    "Stu was the best dog, you know," she said out loud to no one in particular, "he really was just the best."
  5. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    sorry, duplicate
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2014
  6. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    Four Seasons [2949 words] (Warning -language)

    Sally Donovan awoke to a cool breeze on her face from the bedroom window; it was positively delicious. Snuggled under her down comforter, she was certain a gorgeous day awaited her on the other side of her blue cotton curtains. She was excited. “Thank you, God, for this glorious day. I shall not waste it, I promise!” she said aloud.
    The gray skies of November had her in a slump, and worse still; put her husband, Jim, in a sour mood. He was impossible lately. Not just grumpy; he was downright mean – seeking key moments and opportunities to stab her with stinging, cruel words if she dared make eye contact with him. She hoped it was due to the lousy weather, because she could think of no other reason for it.
    She climbed out of bed, already mentally preparing for the kinder husband she hoped was waiting for her in the kitchen. Jim rose ahead of her every morning, before the sun had touched the sky. Sally was the opposite; she never greeted a new day before the sun saw fit to. She called it her natural alarm clock.
    From the kitchen she thought she heard voices, or rather – her husband’s voice - while emptying her bladder in the bathroom. But it could have been the TV. Sometimes he watched the news rather than reading it. Donning her robe and hitching the too-long hem up, she fed her feet into slippers and made her way to the kitchen instead of the living room – where she always went first. She took note the TV was off. Jim was just sitting there, fully dressed for the office and looking gravely into his coffee mug.
    “’Morning, babe. Is there coffee?” Sally asked cheerfully, and kissed the back of his wet-from-the-shower head. Her brow furrowed when he leaned away. The lean was subtle, but it was there.
    “Isn’t there always?” he asked sarcastically.
    Seemed the lovely weather hadn’t lightened his demeanor. “Nice mood, Jim.” she scolded playfully as she poured herself a cup, dumped four teaspoons of sugar in and took a sip. “Want some breakfast?” She was already in the refrigerator gathering eggs, butter, sliced cheddar cheese, and tomatoes.
    Sally’s method for dealing with her husband’s foulness was to pretty much ignore it. It’s what she’s always done. It was the best way, she believed, but more honestly; she knew no other way.
    “No, I have to go in early. I’m just going to finish my coffee and take off.”
    “So early? What on earth are you working on these days, anyway?” She smiled and tried to keep her tone light, but she was annoyed. He never stopped working these days. He went in early, stayed late, and never shared with her any details from his projects anymore. That was one of the things she missed from the old days, when they’d first married.
    Breakfast back then was a truly sweet way to begin the day. The before part was pretty great too, she recalled; early morning love making followed by a shower for Jim while Sally napped for another thirty or so minutes. Then he’d start the coffee and read the paper until she rose for the day. She’d put their CD on then pad to the kitchen to make their breakfast while they chatted and nuzzled over details from his latest efforts to conquer the world. At least, that’s how Jim made it sound – like he was a gladiator on a mission to save planet Earth. Those were wonderful times. Thank you, God, for those wonderful times, she thought to herself.
    She pushed the swinging kitchen door all the way open and slid the antique iron she’d inherited from her Granny in place to hold it ajar. She’d used it as her doorstop for over twenty years, long before Jim. The rough iron handle always felt good in her grip, comforting somehow. Its cold metal never changed – even in hot, summer months. She loved that she could count on it to always be the same. Things that stayed the same were very important to Sally. “Thank you, God, for my Granny’s gift.” she whispered, as she bent to caress the iron handle.
    Sally went to the stereo and pressed “play” on the CD player. She knew the rest of the world used more current technology for their music listening pleasure, but she liked CD’s. Maybe because they reminded her of the old days, when Jim didn’t flinch away from her kisses. Or perhaps because it was easier to hit a big, flat button rather than learn a whole new system. After all, she played the same CD every single morning. It hasn’t left the player’s drawer in all these years and she’s never tired of it – not once, even after eleven years of marriage.
    Instantly the sounds of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons filled the living room and filtered through the open swinging door into the kitchen. Nothing said Good Morning like Vivaldi. Sally closed her eyes and smiled. “Thank you, God, for the gift of Vivaldi!” she said under her breath. She never prayed aloud in front of Jim. He didn’t like it.
    “For God’s sake, Sally; must you play that fucking CD every goddamn day?” Jim said loudly through the opened door. She cringed at his use of the G-D word, but she’d long since stopped trying to snip it from his vocabulary. She said a quick apology to God on Jim’s behalf for his blasphemy.
    “But we love Vivaldi!” she said too brightly– trying to keep his meanness from polluting her lovely day.
    “No - YOU love Vivaldi. I was sick of that CD by our second week of marriage.”
    “I know that’s not true. Now, why are you being such a stick in the mud?” She stuck her head in the doorway and fake-frowned at him, like a pouting baby. This used to be something Jim loved, something he found irresistibly adorable. But lately, along with most everything else she did, it only got under his skin.
    “I’ve got a lot on my mind…” he said, waving an impatient hand at her. “Could you at least turn it down? Christ, Sally!”
    Sally spun the volume down then walked back toward the kitchen, teasing him with a playful sing-song “Jimmy is a gruuump! Jimmy is a gruuump…” But he neither responded nor bothered to look up. She stared at the back of his head, waiting for him to acknowledge her, to apologize, anything. But he didn’t. He seemed determined to concentrate on his coffee mug.
    With an exasperated sigh, (did he roll his eyes at that? Sally thought he did.) she decided to go ahead and make herself breakfast, even if he didn’t want any. She broke two eggs into a Pyrex bowl, added salt and pepper and whisked them with a fork. She twisted the knob for the burner under the pan to medium high. A hunk of butter sizzled and danced around the pan’s bottom. Next she went to the wooden block to retrieve her chef knife and start on the tomatoes.
    Jim’s cell phone, that just so happened to be lying next to the knives, began to slide across the surface, vibrating. He had an incoming call. Sally didn’t like to pry and made an effort to respect her husband’s privacy, but she couldn’t help but notice the name “Gina” on the screen as it buzzed and jimmied in a semicircle in front of her. Jim snatched it up quickly, covering its screen with a large, freshly manicured hand. It dawned on her just then that manicures were only one of the changes she’d noticed in his recent appearance. The cologne, pressed shirts, and the need to always be clean shaven – those were all new, as well.
    “That’s just work. I really need to get going.” he said dismissively.
    “Okay, babe.” Sally smiled and moved in to give him a hug. He practically fell sideways trying to get away from it, avoiding her touch much more obviously this time. Trying to mask his actions, he pushed his stool out from under the counter and headed toward the bathroom without a word. Surprisingly, he left his phone behind. Sally’s attempted hug must have distracted him. He never left his phone unattended. Never.
    Going against her gut telling her to leave it alone; Sally picked up the phone and went right to his text message icon. She opened the first thread with the name “Gina” above it. Then she swallowed hard to keep down the bile that threatened to overtake her as she read what it said.
    Have you told her yet?
    I’m about to.
    You need to, baby. I’m done waiting.
    I know. I promise. I’m going to. Today – I swear.
    But WHEN today?
    This morning. I’m just waiting for her to get up.
    Okay. Call me when you’ve done it.
    I will.
    I love you, baby. More than life. J
    Me too. You make me so happy.
    Do I really? Tell me how much!
    Yes – you know you do - like I’ve never been before.
    Lol! I love you, Gina. Can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.
    Me too, baby. Come make love to me. My panties are already off. J
    You’re so bad. Lol!
    Only for you, baby. Now go do it! I’ll be waiting for you.
    Okay. I’ll call soon.

    Everything – sights, sounds, smells - seemed to whirl up into an invisible vacuum. The blood in Sally’s veins somehow went plastic and her eyes could no longer see anything before her. She simply stood there, numbly holding her husband’s phone, staring into space. The flushing of a toilet brought her back, but the air had already left the room; she was certain of it. She was suddenly worried she might hyperventilate. Sally moved to Jim’s vacant stool, hauled herself onto it and pulled her robe tightly around her. She rested her head in her hands after putting Jim’s phone back where he’d left it - on the counter.
    “Okay, I’m going to head out in a sec. But I needed to talk to you real quick first.” Jim said as he rushed back into the room. It seemed she didn’t even deserve a whole conversation; he was just going to blurt it out – whatever he was going to say – then run off to his whore, Gina.
    “Oh yeah?” Sally said through clenched teeth. Jim squinted at her, noticing a change.
    “Yeesss…” He looked uncertain, but continued. “Look, Sally – you know I’ve never wanted to hurt you.”
    “Do I?”
    “Er, uh – wait. What do you mean?” he stammered, disarmed by her tone.
    “Do I know that? That you’ve never wanted to hurt me…do I know that, Jim?” Sally turned to face him then. He took two steps back, puzzled fear on his face, silent and gawking at her. Then the light bulb went off and his eyes cut to his phone.
    “Sally, I…”
    “You WHAT, Jim? You didn’t mean to SHIT all over the thirteen years of MY LIFE that I’ve given you? Or was it that you didn’t think fucking some cunt from work would hurt the woman you promised to love UNTIL YOU DIED?”
    Jim’s eyes were big as Frisbees. He was frozen in place; unable to move. “Or was it that you just didn’t think I would FIND OUT?” She was screaming… screaming at the top of her lungs, unmindful of listening neighbors or anyone else within earshot. She stood up, fists clenched tight and white knuckled. “YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD JUST DANCE INTO THE SUNSET WITH SOME BITCH THAT STOLE YOU FROM ME!?”
    “Sally – please calm down. Believe me - nobody stole me from you…”
    “BELIEVE YOU?!” She laughed, mocking him, a shrill and earsplitting laugh as she moved toward him. “You want me to BELIEVE YOU?” She was suddenly inches from his face. Spittle flew onto his skin. Panicked, Jim swiped at it and tried to move further back, shuffling awkwardly around the bar stool.
    “What else, Jim? HUH? What else have you kept me in the dark about?” she yelled.
    “Nothing, I swear. Sally – I’m sorry…”
    “Don’t you DARE say you’re sorry to me! DON’T YOU DARE! You’re a fucking coward, Jim. A FUCKING
    C O W A R D!”
    The room practically rattled from the force of the last word. Jim was stunned and stupefied. Sally never cursed. He could count on one hand the few times he’d heard her use the word “fudge”. She refused to use it because it was too close to the real word that Jim used. He’d never seen her like this. She was scaring him. No; she was terrifying him.
    “You can’t get away with this…” she continued. “You CAN’T! God won’t let you!” Sally was crying now; screaming and crying. Snot and tears intermingled and streaked down her flushed face.
    “Sally, I’m sorry, I mean it. Just please, calm down.”
    She took two trembling, ragged breaths then appeared to stop breathing. She was suddenly calm, very calm; as if a dial had been turned, like the volume on the stereo earlier. Then her expression seemed to unwind, like movement in a lava lamp. She was eerily quiet; but it did nothing to make him feel better.
    “No,” she said quietly, almost to herself. “God won’ let you. I know that now.” The way she eyed him shrunk his balls into tiny grapes. There was a creepy, knowing glint in her eye, as if she really did know something. “You won’t get away with this, Jim. You should make your peace.” And then she did something that scared the shit out of him. She smiled.
    “I-I-I, I never meant for this to happen, Sally. I’m sorry, I swear it.” he pleaded, truly frightened now, which struck him odd. The contempt he’d come to feel for his wife was palpable. Any emotion close to fear had never entered his mind. How had the tables so quickly turned?
    “No, I’m sure you didn’t.” she said coolly. “But men like you rarely ‘mean for it to happen’.” The composure in her voice was worse than anything prior. He preferred the screaming. It was better, felt safer than this. Something about this made him feel doomed.
    Sally leaned her elbow on the counter and tilted her head to look him over. It made his skin crawl. He side-stepped away from her, toward the restroom, thinking he would just run and hide in there for the rest of the day. Because hiding in the bathroom sounded better than enduring that gaze for even a moment longer.
    But as he moved, his foot caught the hem of his wife’s robe. He tried to shake it free, but that entangled it even more. Before he knew it, he was going down. And all the while, on Sally’s face remained the spine-chilling, all-knowing almost reptilian smile. It turned his blood cold.
    Jim went down, down, down. He stretched his arms out to catch himself, then toward Sally to grab hold - but somehow he missed both. His head smacked into something solid, something metal. He heard more than felt the crack of his skull as he crashed onto Sally’s beloved gift from her Granny; her inherited antique iron. He started to reach around as he felt blood already leaving his body, but before he could – the room grew foggy and his vision dim. And then there was nothing.
    Sally stood over him, thinking how odd it was that God had chosen this very moment to punish her husband. He’d been unfaithful, though. Unfaithful and unspeakably cruel; writing such sweet and loving things to that slut-on-wheels. Jim had been planning to leave her today - and now he couldn’t. “Thank you, God, for the gift of justice.” she said aloud over her husband’s dead body.
    She walked to the French Doors in the living room and pulled them open to let the gorgeous morning light in. The breeze that swept through made her fingers tingle. She felt alive; suddenly truly alive! She went to the stereo and punched the button to skip ahead to her favorite part; to the thirty three minute mark – to “Winter” on the CD. Then she just stood there - in her living room, letting the wind whip through her robe, feeling overcome as the violins built toward their dramatic, climactic end. It felt as if she were hearing it for the very first time.
    After several minutes, when her speakers were silent, Sally walked to the kitchen, picked up the landline from the wall and dialed 911.
    “911; what’s your emergency?”
    “Help! Dear God, I need help! I came into the kitchen and found my husband on the floor. He isn’t moving…I don’t know what to do...” she said, sounding desperate.
    “State your name please.”
    “Sally. Sally Donovan! Please help! I can’t find a pulse. I’m so afraid he might be dead…” The fake tears sprang easily to her eyes. Who knew she was such an actress?
    “Try to remain calm, Mrs. Donovan. Can you give me your address?”
    Sally gave it, answered several more questions, and then assured the operator she would stay put, remain calm and wait for the paramedics. Then she walked back into the living room, punched the ‘play’ button on the stereo and skipped the laser ahead thirty three minutes – to her very favorite part. She closed her eyes and listened again to the angelic music of Vivaldi’s “Winter”. She had at least five minutes before the paramedics arrived, and she wasn’t going to waste a single minute.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
  7. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Canon in Deep Space [2230] (Warning- Language)

    As a matter of necessity the object was suspended between strings of light unaware of the landscape below. It slowly spiraled down to the white metallic floor appearing bleak in the presence of newfound surroundings. The design of the hangar for many years had been subject to the presence of uncanny salvage. Even though it appeared as a new exciting enterprise it was in fact old and worn. The three figures turned their gaze to the cargo as it neatly contacted the floor letting off an obnoxious cloud of dust.

    “What is it?” a scowling Farknarf remarked as the dust cloud intercepted the faces of crew leaving a grey taint.

    “I’m not sure,” the captain replied pausing to access the stupidity of the question, “you know we have to wait for the composition test before we’ll know what it is.” The stern look now directed on the forehead of Farknarf was enough to facilitate the backwards step that so often coincided with the retraction of a statement.

    “Why all the dust?” interjected Carlston into the exchange.

    “What do you mean?” asked the Captain puzzled rather than annoyed by the question.

    “There’s not usually that much," Carlston said as he took a couple of steps forward toward the metallic ball, “It must have been out there for a while.”

    “I don’t know if you can say that.” The captain forcefully stated clearly not interested in the point at hand.

    “Look!” Carlston exclaimed now at the base of the spherical entity, “A button!”

    “So?” The captain replied as he turned away to begin the trek out of the room.

    “No,” yelled Carlston in a tone of peculiar adamancy, “The old kind of button.” The captain quickly turned around and approached the button with a curious look on his face.

    “Should we press it?” Farknarf questioned with excitement similar to that of a pet receiving the daily cup of pellets.

    Agitated, the captain replied, “Why would we press it? We don’t know what it-“.

    A tune filled the room unlike anything the trio had ever heard. The perfection was not on par of newfound compositions with the quality of the projection device constituting a muffled sound similar to that of static. The pitch and speed was also not perfect but somehow good enough. The antiquity presented could somehow be appreciated through all the glaring flaws, and even seemed more perfect than the sounds of the time. It bestowed a feeling. Was it happiness or tranquility? More would have to be heard to know the exact-

    “Turn that shit off!” the Captain yelled in a fury of rage at the unresponsive Carlston. After a couple of seconds Carlston opened his eyes transfixing them on the captain for a couple of more seconds. “I said turn that shit off!” the captain yelled again smashing his hand down on the red cylindrical feature which depressed into the craft causing the music to cease. He turned again to the crew member who was seemingly in trance and angrily spoke, “Why did you press the button? That could have blown up the ship!”

    Carlston blinked a couple of times and formulated the best reply at hand. “I,” he started pausing for more time, “I thought it was a good idea.”

    “A good idea?” the fuming captain repeated at a much louder volume.

    “Have you ever heard anything like it?” Carlston inquired with a tone implying genuine curiosity rather than a feeble attempt at subject change.

    “No, I haven’t.” admitted the captain seeing no point in further berating the crew member. At that moment a screen lit up on directly above the button. It was dim, the kind of abysmal screen causing eye strain that would by all counts probably be outlawed. Through the low resolution dark text appeared hard to see with its presence denoted by absence of light. It read Canon in D, but was unreadable by the crew. The captain pulled out a thin tablet and pointed it at the screen. A circular bar appeared on the tablet and slowly filled. It should not be this slow. There was a problem. A second later the words no matches found appeared on the screen. “It says no matches found.” The captain replied with a definitive look.

    “No matches found is what the fish says when it finds no results.” Carlston replied cheerful to jump on an opportunity that resulted in the confirmed ignorance of his captain.

    “How would you know that,” the captain inquired as to defend his statement, “It always gives the translation.”

    “I read about it one time,” retorted Carlston raising his posture as to stand straight with his chin in the air, “no matches found means there is no known translation.”

    “What does that mean?” the captain softly stated now befuddled, “every language is translated.”

    “Every known language.” Carlston corrected.

    “Whatever,” replied the captain as he once again turned to the door. He turned around a few steps short of his destination and assured, “I’ll have the computer run an analysis of the age. It will take a couple of days longer than the composition test.”


    Food on the ship was scarce. While this statement was inaccurate, variety of food on the ship was indeed scarce. The same noodles constituted a meal at least four out of five times and this meal was no exception. They came in a mystery broth, and surprisingly retained minimal flavor even after regular prolonged ingestion. While Farknarf and the captain hastily slurped to fill a burning hunger, Carlston sat leaving many of the noodles untouched. Eventually he spoke. “What are we doing with the craft in the bay?” he inquired directing his gaze at a captain who was now staring back at him mid-noodle.

    After a slurp and a chew the captain replied, “What do you mean.” Still chewing his muffled speaking continued, “We will do what we always do. If its valuable we’ll sell it, if it’s not we melt it down and sell it.” Carlston picked up a noodle with his fork and placed it in his mouth. He chewed gaining an inquisitive look and swallowed.

    “We know its valuable.” replied Carlston with unfounded certainty, “Even if the metals aren’t it’s older than anything we know.”

    “All we know is that its peculiar.” argued the captain now sitting up in his chair with a distinct look of distain.

    “It would be a crime to melt it down!” Carlston pleaded with an irrational wounded look that would entail no more rational debate of the issue. The captain decided to change the subject.

    “As we have all heard,” he affirmed the tone of an obviously agreeable statement, “war has broken out between Q sector and the moons at the edge of the Fourth Republic system. “Now I reckon,” he continued prepared with ration for a long speech, “that in a couple of days one of the two sides will flee. Right now, Q sector, surprisingly, is winning. This is good for us. The Fourth Republic system has lots of valuables even on the outer moons. And guess what.” He paused to survey the room. Farknarf was intrigued hanging on every word while Carlston was eating his noodles. Why was Carlston unmoved? This was the raid of a lifetime. The pause was now unintentionally long losing its purpose.

    “What.” said Carlston in a monotone not looking up from the noodles.

    “Well.” the captain tried to go up though his voice was wavering. He was perplexed by the change in Carlson rather than his speech and began to blurt the words, “We can raid the ships leaving the system because they are weak and take their shit.”

    “That would be the raid of a lifetime!” remarked Farknarf who had not caught on to the unsettling reaction from Carlston.

    “That’s what I said,” the captain confirmed in an uneasy tone, “What do you think of it Carlston?” A slurping sound came from across the table followed by an ambiguous retort.

    “Is that really the smartest idea?” Carlston replied still not glancing away from the interesting noodles.

    “Yeah, it is.” assured the captain with a blank stare.

    “I don’t want to be part of it,” continued Carlston now raising his head from the bowl of pasta, “I’m better than that.” The captain rose from the table and threw his bowl of noodles at the wall. It exploded in an array of debris.

    “What is that supposed to mean?” he yelled as he climbed across the table to knock Carlston out of his chair. At the last second Carlston stood up from his causing the blow to only land on the inanimate seating. The Captain reduced his momentary rage slightly if only to make another remark. “You aren’t better than that!” he accused clenching his fist and shaking it. He raised his index trembling index finger, pointing it at the unruly crew member. Farknarf sat wide-eyed as the captain continued in a newfound passionate articulation, “None of us are better than that. We have done this same raiding tens and hundreds of times. The only difference is that these people have more shit! They had it coming to them. They aren’t even on the right side if you are going to pick which you clearly are.”

    “Can you drop me off at the nearest outpost?” Carlston stated calmly not wanting to debate the issue.

    “We already went over this,” the captain replied with a piercing glare, “We wanted to get to the system to observe the situation as quickly as possible. We are over uncharted space. The nearest outpost is the Fourth Republic system. We wouldn’t have your damn space junk if we were on regular routes!”

    Carlston stormed out of the kitchen without a word.


    A monotonous beep pierced through the silence of the room housing the captain and his desk. He had been sitting in the padded chair contemplating. Thinking of a solution was trivial but not coming to a consensus was dangerous. Something had changed and there was no going back. Hastily, he pulled the same thin tablet from his pants pocket to view the cause of the disturbance. The materials within the noisy metal ball were revealed. Mostly aluminum, some silicon, a little bit of copper- nothing of consequence. It could be melted down with the rest of the duds and sold for a small sum after the raid. It was time to head to the hangar. The door slid open detecting the captain’s presence and the hall lit as he made his way down the expanse. Suddenly, out of a protrusion Carlston appeared. The Captain stepped back.

    “Where’re you going?” quizzed Carlston in a fashion not unlike a police interrogation.

    “I’m,” the captain stuttered and paused to regain composure, “I’m going to melt down the junk in the hangar.” The look on Carlston’s face sank and for a second the captain felt the emanating regret. “Do you want to come say goodbye?” he asked to offer some concession to disheartened fellow crew member.

    “Sure.” came the depressed reply from Carlston muffled further by his head lowering toward the floor. Along the way across the ship Farknarf joined them. The captain had informed him of the situation and felt the support was needed. The hangar door opened in front and the lights behind dimmed into darkness. And before them was the odd motionless craft. “Can I play the song?” pleaded Carlston.

    “You call that a song?” Farknarf mumbled under his breath followed by a subtle elbow in his side originating from the captain.

    “Go ahead.” the captain assured pleading with himself for some return of normalcy. This object had upset Carlston and it was important it went. Alone, Carston approached the craft slowly bringing his hand to his side. Reaching for his arm he pressed the button and turned around with it in hand.

    As a matter of necessity the object rose between the strings of light. Aware of the landscape below the captain quickly hit the white metallic floor with everything in a bleak spiral letting on the illusion newfound surroundings. The design of what was to come for many years had been subject to the presence of uncanny salvage. Even though it appeared as a new unexpected turn, the events had been building. As Farknarf hit the floor the three figures turned their gaze to the cargo as it exited the room leaving the unclean hangar in cloudy blurring dying disarray. Carlston followed.

    With gun still in hand the music played through the thin plated ceiling as the tunnel lit up in front. The notes were growing more intense every second and redirection to the escape pod must be achieved with charges set. There was no time and no pain to be had. Automated attachment of the great salvage to the pod was complete and the doors in sight. The music repeated for the most part in notes but bloomed in complexity. The chords had more notes, and they allotted more error. They were in the pod, just him and the ship. They launched as the song reached a point of no return. The pod shook from a nearby explosion as they reached open space. Carlson was on the floor collapsed. The song softened and blurred with the vision of a red hand and the dissolved lights. What he felt, was it happiness or tranquility?

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