Vote for the best Short Story!

Poll closed Jun 23, 2013.
  1. Lance Millenium - The Lighter Side

    2 vote(s)
  2. archerfenris - 'Til Death Do Us Part

    3 vote(s)
  3. Elizrey - The Visitor

    1 vote(s)
  4. Azalea - The Procedure

    4 vote(s)
  1. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England

    Voting Short Story Contest (135) Theme: Lighter

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Lemex, Jun 9, 2013.

    Voting Short Story Contest (135) Theme: Lighter

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

    Voting will end Sunday 23rd of June 2013 to give you all a chance to read the entries. Also as an apology.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone!
  2. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Lance Millenium
    The Lighter Side [2488 words]

    It’s a warm, crystal-clear day. Summer days are usually like this. It almost feels like the day is giving you a warm and loving embrace. For many, it’s suffocating, but to me, it fills me with peace like a mother’s embrace to her child. It feels natural. I never thought though that this day is anything but peaceful on account of the Dulani chasing me. I’m trying to escape on my hoverboard, but their sky cruiser can go anywhere I can. At least my hoverboard is more agile than a car. I sharply turn a corner and head into a nose dive. The wind tears at my raven blue hair and brings a watery veil over my emerald eyes. My mother said not to mess with the Dulani; that a thirteen year boy has nothing to do with types like them. But what do I care what happens to me. After losing my home and my family to those twisted fiends, I couldn’t help it but to seek out vengeance. I quickly align my board to the ground that came too close too fast while I was in my nose dive. There wasn’t the humming of the sky cruiser behind me anymore. Maybe I lost them. I took no chances and keep my pace toward the outskirts of Den City. Again, the day’s warmth reminds me of my mother. I refuse to cry. I can’t cry anymore anyways. I am completely void of tears. I only hope that what I did to the Dulani hurt them as much as they hurt me… But Sarah was right. It didn’t fill the void. In fact, I feel worse. The sun is setting. The last of its light is already fading over the city’s skyscrapers. I reach the abandoned houses just outside the city limit. These buildings were left behind after a poisonous fog settled on the ground. Even after it was cleaned out, people didn’t come back. Hardly anyone comes down to the ground anymore. The fog might be gone, but its effects on the surrounding wildlife still lingers. Strange creatures roam the ground. Most are harmless to humans though, even terrified of them. But there are a few that pose a significant threat to human life. I slow down. I don’t think I am being followed anymore. It’s going to be night soon. I need a place to stay while I wait for Sarah to find me. The area around me holds on to a sheet of grey. Everything just looks grey. Not a very lively place if you ask me. A house nearby looks like a good place to spend the night. It’s small and hidden among other bigger houses. I slowly board through the lawn. With a small kickflip, I grab my hoverboard. The door is slightly ajar. A cool breeze cuts through the warmth. Once inside, I lay on a nearby couch. A ring of dust flies out when I throw myself onto the couch. I cough and sneeze out the contaminates from my lungs. I hope Sarah isn’t too mad. I had to do it. I just had to. And if they think I’m done, they are dead wrong. Today was only the beginning. I unhook my backpack and set it on the floor. I unzip it. Inside is a single item: a jeweled egg. It nearly cost me my life to get it, but I got it. The Dulani must really be mad now. After a few bad business deals in the past week left them desperate for money, taxes aren’t enough to supply the ongoing project the Dulani are currently trying to complete. But I don’t care. So what if the world is dying. We’re all already dead on the inside. The city is degrading. There’s hardly anyone honest anymore. It seems all that died when my parents were taken away from me. I still refuse to cry. I zip up my backpack and lie back on the couch to try and get some shut eye before getting up early tomorrow. If Sarah hasn’t found me by then, phase two of my plan will go into play. This night is the longest night I’ve ever experienced. Every passing second drags on. I can’t sleep. It’s the fifth night I have to spend without my parents. My mind is racing with memories they gave me. I feel like I’m floating in a sea of clouds, bobbing up and down among my thoughts. A sudden clicking sound brings me back to the ground. A rat scurries along the floor, curious of my presence. It scurries away once it notices me noticing its presence. I trace the cracks on the ceiling again. I’ve memorized its pattern a dozen times now. It’s mundane but it helps pass the time. The last thought I have is of my mom giving me a ride to school. If I had known that it was the last time I would ever see her again, I would have given her the biggest hug I can give. She hugs me so much; I think she deserves some in return too. The sun hasn’t come out yet, but I already know I overslept. The city is buzzing with activity. The Dulani are still looking for their precious egg. With their attention on the streets, no one will see me when I head into their northern corporate building and take the boss’s daughter. I take a small bite of a granola bar I saved in my pocket and take off. I stay close to the ground so I don’t attract attention to myself. The target isn’t too far off from here. Above me, dozens of sky cruisers pass me. The city is slowly waking up. The Dulani has to be among the cruisers. I reach my destination. The glass building is surrounded be an electric fence to keep out wildlife, but not a kid with a hoverboard. I smash a window pane to get in. No one is on the ground floor as expected. Now the hard part: heading to the top floor to the cryogenic chamber of the boss’s daughter. I don’t know why he froze her, but I know that she is his entire world. Well, mister boss man, you’ll soon know how it feels to have your world collapse around you. I take the stairs to the top floor, no cameras and it’s a cinch with my hoverboard. All I have to do is hope no one decides to take the stairs instead of the elevators. I reach floor 59 with no problem. Floors 83 through 108, easy. Now I reach the populated floors. My destination is merely 50 floors away and I can already hear footsteps just behind the walls. I pick up some speed. My hoverboard can hum really loud if I go too fast, but I need to get in and out as quickly as I can. Top floor, and no one seems to know I’m here yet. I turn off my board and head in. A huge vault door greets me. Luckily I know how to open it. Only a Dulani can open it and, thanks to my father, I am part Dulani. I focus hard on the power I hold within. Slowly, I bring it out in the form of a bright light. I focus a beam of it into the little scanner. Now to find the right combination of frequencies. Being a locksmith’s son finally comes in handy. Those long afternoons helping out dad in the shop weren’t a total waste of my time. A click announces my success. The door opens. Cold air rushes out towards me. There in the center of the room is the boss’s daughter lying in cryogenic sleep. She’s actually very pretty. If she wasn’t the daughter of my now life-long enemy, I would reconsider putting her through turmoil. I head over next to her. She’s in a black box with a similar lock like the vault. I open it with ease. Her violet hair waves in the wind caused when the vacuum seal of her box is broken. I pick her up and put her on my hoverboard. I am too small to carry her. She seems to be around her late teen years. Now the real hard part: getting out of here without getting caught or waking my hostage. If the stories I heard about her are anywhere near the truth, then she is a powerful Dulani. I’ll stand no chance against her if she wakes up. I just have to get her to the house where I left the egg. I can use that to drain her power and temporarily keep her from using it. I lock the box and vault before heading back down the stairs. I have to walk my board down flights of stairs. I doubt it can carry us both down safely. My heart just stops when a nearby door opens. A man in a nice suit stares directly into my eyes. He glances at my hostage then back at me. His jaw drops to the floor and he takes off. I can’t chase him and he’s bound to alert security. I have no choice now. I get on my hoverboard and jump between the spirals of stairs. Around floor 183 the alarm goes off and a powerful voice sounds off through unseen speakers. “ALERT, ALERT, THE PRINCESS IS OFF HER THRONE.” This alarm repeats over and over. Sarah is going to have my head if I don’t get out of here safely. She already had to save me once, and that was just from a bully at school. If she has to go through all of the Dulani to get to me, she’ll flip her lid. Floor 115 whooshes pass me, almost there. The whole building suddenly shakes. Something tells me the boss knows of his missing daughter. Oh, this is going to hurt, but I have no choice. I urge my board downward on top of gravity’s helping hand. The stairs turn to blurs. The ground floor happily approaches. Right before I hit it, I pull up with the full force the propulsion system of my board can send out at a time, but it wasn’t enough. We hit the ground and bounce off. The boss’s daughter lands with a plop next to my board. I hit my head on the rail of the stairs. Luckily, I didn’t black out. There’s a strong taste of iron in my mouth and the sound of a waterfall in my ears. I look at my hostage. She begins to stir. It’s all over if she wakes up. I hold my breath. The whole world stops, except for her. She slowly stands up. She looks around after brushing off her white dress. Our eyes meet. If I could hold my breath twice, this would be the time. Her eyes are white as snow. She-she’s blind! She continues to take in her surroundings. I don’t know what to do. If I alert her to my presence, she could attack me. The siren doesn’t seem to reach all the way down here, so it stays relatively quiet. I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and I gasp for air. She “looks” in my direction… and… smiles. I get up. A blast of light dazzles me and a sudden burst of who knows what flings me back. I crash into the wall behind me after taking out the railing of the stairs. I can’t see. A bright light is taking up everything. And all I hear is giggling, such a whimsical laughter from someone simply having fun. Another blast hits me. I feel my skin literally burning off. I still refuse to cry. Even though I failed to avenge my parents, I will not cry. I faint from the pain all around me. My body couldn’t handle it anymore so it put me to sleep.
    “Dad, can I go now?”
    “Aw come on son. You’re almost done.”
    “But this is boring.”
    “Just finish polishing the rest of the locks and I’ll show you how to break the combination of any lock, ok?”
    “Fine… but I don’t see how this is gonna help me some day.”
    “Well, what is it that you want to do one day son?”
    “I want to go to space with the rocket that the Dulani are making to go back home.”
    “Maybe one day son, But I can guarantee you there will be locks in space too.”
    “Gee dad, why are you so obsessed over locks.”
    “It’s been a family trade ever since the Dulani first landed here. You can say it runs in the blood.”
    “Are you gonna go with the Dulani if they ever finish their rocket, dad?”
    “Come on kido, you and your mom are my life now. I will never leave you. Now hurry with those locks son.”
    Dad, you promised you will never leave. Where are you now?
    My body hurts. It feels stiff. I try to open my eyes, but all I see is darkness. Am I dead? I hear snoring in the background. I usually hate it when she snores, but it’s a blessing to hear… Sarah. I sure do hope she isn’t too mad at me. That night was the best sleep I ever had. Sure I have second and third degree burns all over my body and I am more mummy than me, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying that night before Sarah punishes me for the trouble I caused.
    “Rise and shine, kido”, Sarah pulls open some curtains to reveal pure sunlight.
    I groan in a combination of pain and laziness.
    “Hey, get up. We have to talk.”
    I sigh and struggle to get up. It hurts to move. A fist meets my face and knocks me back down.
    “What the hell were you thinking?! Not only do you steal their egg, you have the guts to take their princess?! You know how much trouble I had to get through to find you? Not only that, when I do find you, YOU are getting beat up by the princess. There’s a reason her father put her to sleep. Her power is what’s gonna power their ship. It’s stupid thinking you could take on something that can power a rocket made to travel light-years in a matter of seconds.”
    “I had a plan.”
    “Yeah, I saw it written out on a piece of toilet paper. You’re one stupid kid. Just like your father…” A tear begins to fall from Sarah’s cheek.
    She forces a small chuckle. “Your father always did say look on the lighter side. So stupid…”
    I look into Sarah’s soulful blue eyes. “What’s the lighter side to this story?”
    “You’re alive. And no matter how twisted this world gets, I’ll never leave you. And that’s a promise I intend to keep.”
  3. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    'Til Death Do Us Part [Mature/ 1,562 words]

    Jack pressed down on the lever of the lighter, sending a spark flying into the air with its metallic ripping sound. The flame failed to bloom. It was a seemingly routine action but it sent a shiver down Jack’s spine. He pressed down on the button again and the spark ignited with the gas. The tip of his cigarette glowed red before he exhaled, sending curls of smoke before him, dancing into the air. He fought the thoughts away, though he knew the images would soon come.

    Inhaling another puff, Jack noticed he’d begun to sweat. He tapped his fingers nervously against his sofa, the television giving him the only light in the room. Jack thought of calling Dr. Bell, but decided he didn’t want to bother him this late at night. He silently pondered about his actions, knowing what would happen next.

    “Fuck it,” he said, after a brief debate.

    He rose from his chair and walked to his dark kitchen. The moon shined through the window over the sink, creating a box with a cross on the floor next to the dining table. The window had a lace curtain over it with trivets in the sill from first grades long passed. “To Daddy, come home soon,” one said. “My Daddy is a hero,” said the other. He snorted in laughter at the second one. Pulling the refrigerator door open with a hard yank, Jack gazed inside as the light illuminated a narrow strip across the kitchen. He pulled a Bud Light from the six pack sleeve and turned to leave before stopping. After a half second pause, he picked up two of the six packs and closed the door, before retreating back to the living room.

    Jack flopped down on his couch, beer in hand, and stared at the TV. Figures flew around on the ice, slamming into each other, fighting for the puck. The Wild was already down two goals.

    “Come on guys, hit somebody,” Jack said as he pulled the cigarette from his mouth and leaned it on his ashtray. Jack had once loved hockey, from the moment he first put on skates. Now though, he found himself forced to watch it. The physical poetry of the men no longer excited him, as it once did. He felt the urge to do something else, but hockey was such a part of him he wasn’t sure what the something else should be. Jack took a drink. Bland. Bud Light had no taste, but he wasn’t drinking for the taste. On his second drink he tipped the bottle up and chugged, downing it with vigour. He twisted open another.

    Jack let loose a satisfying sigh, leaned back in his chair, picked his cigarette back up, and took a drag. He watched the smoke rise up to the ceiling before being eaten by the fan’s edges. The images started. Helicopter blades, along with their familiar chopping sound, whipping around a blue sky. Sand kicked up from the rotor wash, stinging faces and killing visibility. Jack tried to pull goggles down over his eyes, but they weren’t there. A radio started squawking.

    “Baron x-ray, this is Rock 1-1, 9 line MEDEVAC to follow, over.” Jack listed to the radio as if it was sitting on his coffee table.

    “MIST report sent. I say again, soldier has no vital signs present, over.”Jack looked at his hands, expecting to find them bloody. The image of them on a red-smeared chest hovered in front of him. He heard the pumping, listened to the ribs cracking.

    Trigger, spark, fire. He saw the left boot of Bennett touch the ground, felt like warning him, that the sand was a little off color there than the rest. There was a click, the trigger. Beneath the sand, two metal plates on either end of two wooden blocks, separated by springs, touched together. The metal plates bridged the circuit, igniting the blasting cap of a single 82 millimeter mortar round and a pressure cooker filled with gasoline.

    The door to the living room opened and in walked Jack’s wife, carrying her backpack from her night classes. She took a step in, closed the door, shrugged off her coat, and turned around, taking in the scene before her. She dropped her bag and coat with a sigh.

    “Jack, you’re drinking again? Where’d you get the beer?”

    “Bought it,” Jack said, void of tone.

    Flying sand was still in his mind. The heat whipped at his face and his ears were ringing. He swore he could feel the pebbles landing on the helmet that wasn’t on his head; dink, dink, dink dink. Jack was crawling toward Bennett, finding him among a mass of sand and blood. The pungent smell of burning flesh and chemicals flared his nostrils. Bennett wasn’t breathing.

    “MEDIC!” The scream didn’t sound like his own. His kids, after all, called him a hero. Heroes don’t scream like that. A sickening scream, filled with fear and uncertainty. It wasn’t the sound of a calm, confident soldier. It was the sound of panic.

    “I can’t believe you’re in here drinking. What about the kids?”

    “I’m a fucking drunk, not an idiot. They’re asleep.”

    He eyed his wife, dared her to check on them, to doubt what he’d said. Jack waited for her to indirectly tell him he wasn’t who he had been anymore. Just a broken shell of a soldier who left his soul lying on the ground, to die next to Bennett, somewhere in Afghanistan. The soldier waited for her to tell him he couldn’t even care for his own kids. She moved toward the hallway and Jack was out of his chair in moments, throwing the bottle and flying across the room in a rage. He grabbed his wife by the shoulders and pushed her into the wall.

    “You don’t think I can put my own fucking kids to bed?” he screamed. His wife turned away from him, eyes shut tight.

    “Jesus Jack, you’re scaring me.”

    He looked down at his hands to find her skin turning red around his fingers. His eyes darted around erratically, as if he was taking in new sights, and he let go of his wife. She rubbed her shoulders and gave him a scowl.

    “I…I’m sorry,” Jack stated before putting his back against the wall and sliding down it, burying his face in his calloused hands. He’d never hurt his wife before. He despised wife beaters, dismissed them as cowards. Yet here was his wife, rubbing the red marks off her shoulders. He tried to cut off his cries but failed, causing a loud choking sound before he began sobbing.

    “What is it Jack? Will you tell me? Please?” The ‘please’ had a true plea in it. The plea of a woman who’d asked this question several times before.

    “No…I really can’t,” he replied. His wife was beautiful, with blond hair, large grey eyes, and full lips. He couldn’t tell this beautiful creature about Bennett. If he did, he’d corrupt the one innocent part left in his life. In a strange way, by not telling her, it felt like he was preventing the evil from touching her.

    “What about Father Rob?” She asked, her eyes now filling too.

    “Fuck them,” Jack replied, more to The Church than Father Rob himself. The war had taken his soul and his faith. He didn’t know what he’d do if it took his wife and children too.

    “What about Dr. Bell? Please Jack!” His wet eyes met his wife’s and he nodded. She smiled, drying her eyes, and helped him up. His shirt was stained with beer from the bottle he’d thrown.

    “Come on, let’s wash this,” She said.

    She pulled his shirt over his head, causing his dog tags to chime. His stomach was an oil painting of destruction across a canvas of muscle. Peppered is what the medics had called it, after Bennett’s body was moved to the morgue. They’d told him he was lucky. The shrapnel made a checkmark-like scar on the right side of his abdomen. It started at his upper thigh, was interrupted from where he’d worn the side plate, just above his hip, and resumed again just below the armpit, ending at his shoulder.

    “Sit down, sweetie,” his wife commanded.

    He obeyed, and collapsed back down on the couch. His wife collected the bottles. As she left, she took the remaining six packs with her. Jack looked at the game and saw The Wild had tied it back up. He heard his wife pouring the beer down the sink and tried to dry his eyes. As he leaned back he heard his wife talking to their daughter.

    “No, no honey, everything is fine. Let’s get you back to bed.”

    Jack still couldn’t believe what he’d done. He grabbed what little hair he had and gave it a hard yank. He felt tears coming again but fought them off. He picked his cigarette back up and found it burnt out. He lit a new one. His wife returned to the room and sat next to him.

    “We’ll call Dr. Bell tomorrow morning,” she said. Jack nodded again.

    “Thank you,” He said.

    “For what?”

    “For dealing with me.” His wife smiled and kissed him on the cheek before resting her head on his shoulder.

    “’Til death do us part,” she said. Jack silently agreed.
  4. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    The Visitor (981 words)

    The grandfather was sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. He wanted to get on with his life but he found himself thinking about David, his grandson. David had died several months ago at age 16; he was driving his car and had lost control of it, going over a cliff. His daughter and husband were still in shock. No other children in the family and that made sad. He was a typical teenager driving too fast and not thinking of the danger of driving recklessly. It was so empty without his grandson being with him and talking about sports, girls and other subjects that he shared with his grandfather.

    Bart heard a noise outside and went out to see what it was, he found a young girl wandering in his yard. “Who are you looking for? I am the only one here. Are you lost?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry I was looking for my dog who I thought came here. I will leave now.” Bart saw that she was pretty and young; he couldn’t imagine her wanting to rob him or anything.

    “You can look for your dog but I never heard anything out here except you.”

    “I will look and then leave; he must have gone into some other yard. Thank you for allowing me to look.”

    This young girl was the first person he had talked to since David died. Maybe he should go help her; she looked like the girls David liked to date. Maybe she knew him from school. She seemed friendly and so concerned about her dog, that Bart found himself wanting to help her.

    She told him her name was Christy and the dog’s name was Checkers. Bart started calling for Checkers as he walked. The dog wasn’t there so Bart went around with her looking at the houses. "Do you live around here?"

    She was reluctant to answer that question but she said she lived several blocks away. After an hour, she said she would go home and see if Checkers returned. She thanked Bart and gave him a big smile. She was a beautiful young girl with long blonde hair and pretty blue eyes. She had a nice smile and an engaging personality when she talked with Bart about Checkers.

    Bart went and told his daughter and husband about this girl named, Christy and her dog, Checkers. They were wondering who she was but then they didn’t know all the people in the area. Bart told them Christy was pretty and had a nice smile. He joked about wondering for a while if she was trying to rob him or something. She definitely was not a menacing looking teenager.

    They all got caught up in the story of Christy. It was a relief to have someone else to talk about besides David. She was probably about the same age as David and might go to the same school.

    A few weeks passed and Bart was wondering about Christy. He decided to drive around and see if he could see her, it was a Saturday and no school. He drove around and looked at the houses but didn’t see her anywhere.

    After dinner, Bart was drinking his coffee and heard something in his yard. He went out and there was Christy. “Hi, Christy, did you find Checkers?”

    Christy said no but she was sure he had a good home because he was so sweet and gentle. She seemed to have the issue settled in her mind and so Bart didn’t say anything more.

    Bart liked the girl and wished he knew more about her but didn’t want to impose. He asked if she would like something cold to drink and he would bring it out on the porch. She said okay and sat in a chair while he placed lemonade on the little table. She was a polite girl and he enjoyed her company. She laughed at his stories about the old days when he was young.

    Bart did ask her last name was and she said Rogers and they lived on Oak Street in the big white house with blue shutters.

    They had many more conversations on the porch and Bart looked forward to seeing her. She showed him pictures of herself as a child. She was beautiful even as a child. He spoke about David and she was sympathetic and curious about his life. She said she felt David was in a happy place and she looked so sure about David that he felt like he was letting go of his stored up feelings for his grandson. They talked about everything in general that was of interest to both of them.

    One day, after Christy told him she would be over, she didn’t show up. Bart was worried but she was a young girl and probably had plans. A week went by and he was wondering what had happened. He drove over to Oak Street and saw the big white house and blue shutters, he stopped and decided to go ring the doorbell. A woman answered and looked like Christy. It must be her mother, he thought. He asked if Christy was home and she said he must have the wrong address. After Bart left she told her husband about the man at the door. “He must be one of those people who are trying to write a story about Christy.”

    Bart never saw Christy again and thought she must be a runaway or not telling the truth. Bart looked outside one day and there was Christy. She was smiling at him. He ran out to see her disappear in front of his eyes. She was a vision and Bart was wondering if he was seeing things but he knew she had to be an angel sent to comfort him about David.
  5. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    The Procedure (506 words)

    “Are you ready?” a man in a white coat asks the two young women reclined before him. As with all of these procedures, one is skinny and one is fat.

    “Yes” Jenny says. Her name-brand heels and tailored suit are in stark contrast with the surroundings. The floor is dirty and the room smells vaguely of urine and vomit. Jenny doesn’t complain; the procedure isn’t exactly legal.

    The woman next to Jenny grunts. Her yellow hair hangs in greasy clumps. It reminds Jenny of the french fries she used to eat.

    The exchange is simple enough -- fat for intelligence. The technology has been around for years. Jenny is not exactly sure how it works. Enzymes or proteins or something like that for your metabolism. Cells from your brain stem for the IQ points. The risks are low -- comparable to getting dialysis. But there are concerns about ethics. “You have to be really dumb to do this,” the inspector general said recently. “Oh wait, that’s the problem. These people really are.”

    All Jenny knows is that she needs this procedure. She’s tried everything else. And, in exchange for a change in her metabolism, she’s offering up IQ points to this glazed-eyed stranger who is hooked into the scuffed, gray recliner that mirrors her own. It has to work. She doesn’t have more money or time.

    The technician turns a knob on a gray, cube-like device. Tubes run from the machine to the women. Jenny can feel a cool sting where needles are placed at the base of her neck and in her leg. She wants to rub the needle in her neck but her hands have been restrained.

    “Ow, ow ow,” The other woman moans. Jenny hears her thrashing.

    “This won’t take long,” says the man.

    Jenny’s head hurts. Everything is becoming hazy. Is this what it’s like to be dumb? How many IQ points has she agreed to give up? But it isn’t like she had a choice. She needs to gain weight, to be able to metabolize food more slowly. Or she’ll die like the rest of her family -- skinny but smart. Skinny people are always the first to go in a famine.

Jenny wakes up in an unfamiliar room. She sees a man in a white coat with a clipboard. “Nice to meet you,” the man says.

    “Why am I here?” Jenny looks around the room. She is surrounded by women -- some thin, some fat. Many stare at their hands. Others at the walls.

    “You’re tired of being dumb.” The man says. “But I can help you.”
    “What do I have?” Jenny asks. Her clothes seem nice. Does she have money? She doesn’t remember.

    “A new job,” The man says.

    Jenny is about to ask about her job when sees a woman with yellow hair that looks like french fries. “Do I know her?” Jenny asks.

    “Patty has brain-damage.” The man says. “Pray that does not happen to you.”

    “At least she’s not skinny and dumb.” Jenny said.

    “Not yet.”

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