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

Poll closed Jan 23, 2010.
  1. DvnMrtn - A Common Mistake

    2 vote(s)
  2. Davylove21 - Wrong Number

    2 vote(s)
  3. Fabulosa - The List

    4 vote(s)
  4. sprirj - The Wrong Number

    2 vote(s)
  5. lyethia - Wrong Number

    2 vote(s)
  6. OscarW - The Slightest Difference

    1 vote(s)
  7. da_ardvark - In Between

    1 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest (59): Wrong Number

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jan 11, 2010.

    Voting Short Story Contest (59) Theme: Wrong Number

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

    Voting will end Saturday 23rd January 2010 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

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

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

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

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    DvnMrtn - A Common Mistake

    I’m sitting behind the wheel and all I hear behind me is some idiot jabbering on about nothing in particular.
    “I mean it looks like a seven, but it could easily be a one. Don’t you hate that? When seven’s look like ones, or when ones look like sevens?” He said.
    “Will you shut the **** up already?” I snap.

    He’s names Daniel, although I just call him Danny. Ever since I picked him up he’s been driving me up the wall. I take a glance at the rearview mirror and watch him squint down at a soiled napkin. Who the **** sits in the backseat when there are only two people in the car anyway? As soon as I realized the answer I chuckled to myself. I could just picture Danny strapped into a big child’s seat. He was just like a big baby. A big baby who just so happened to be amazing with blades. **** could he carve em’ up. If he had any brains at all he’d make a perfect coroner or surgeon.
    “For Christ’s sake Danny, why didn’t you write it down on a normal piece of paper like a normal person’s supposed ta’?” I yelled into the back.
    “I don’t know. I mean at the time I could read it. It’s a common mistake.” Danny mumbled to himself.
    “Yea, right. A common ****ing mistake. They’re your ****ing ones and sevens!” I hissed. I had to let out some steam.
    “Gee, you sure got a mouth on you, don’t ya?” he mumbled even quieter. I take a deep breath. We were almost there, no need to get all angry up when soon enough I’d have to be very calm and even more serious.
    “Okay look, just tell me the room number. Or what you think the number is.” I say. A few moments pass and the only sound I hear is Danny clicking his teeth together in an attempt to knock something out of his thick skull.
    “I donno. I think it’s four-eleven. It could be four-seventeen, or even –” he replied.
    “That’s okay –” I interrupted “—the four is good. We know it’s on the fourth floor. That narrows our options down to two rooms, four-eleven, or four-seventeen. The rooms don’t go as high as four-seventy so we’re good. We’ll just have to guess.”
    “Hey you’re pretty smart, you know that?” he replied. I turn around, give him a friendly smile and said, “Thanks Danny. Now can you be a doll and shut the **** up until we get there?”
    * * *

    The car rolled gently into the gravel lot of The All-Nighter. This place was a dump. Whoever designed it followed the example of every other sleazy cliché motel out there. The neon lights, the fake palm trees, the hookers littering the lobby entrance. God, it was enough to make me puke.
    “This place is nice, it’s kinda’ pretty” Danny said. I give him a chuckle and then sarcastically returned, “oh for sure.” Of course he never caught on.
    “I mean the palm trees are fake. Did you know that? Palm trees don’t naturally grow in New York, but still, it gives the place –” Danny trailed on. There he goes again. Deep breaths.
    “Danny!” I shouted.
    “As much as I love hearing about your opinion on this places choice of décor I need you to focus. We have a job to do.” I say. Danny chuckles to himself and says, “Sorry, sometimes I can’t help it.” I roll my eyes. With the palm of my hand planted firmly over my face I mutter into it, “This isn’t a ****ing game. This is a job. This is work. This is serious. Do you understand?” That was when Danny surprised me.
    “Maybe for you, but for me, this is fun” he says unfurling his set of blades in front of him. The way he said fun really put some scare into me. I’ve seen and done a lot of things, but even I would never consider cutting a man up into little cocktail sausage sized pieces fun. Danny’s eyes sparkled as he examined his tools. Big blades, butcher knives, blades with serrated edges, all of them lined up from biggest to smallest. Danny smiled as he tapped the smallest one, a scalpel, with his pinky.
    “Okay, I’m ready” he said with a big grin.

    * * *

    The inside of The All-Nighter smelt the way a salty fish cutlet would smell. It was times like these I was glad there weren’t any airborne sexually transmitted diseases. Or were there? Suddenly I wasn’t sure.
    “That lady sure had big boobies” Danny leans in and whispers to me.
    “Do you think—” he stopped to chuckle “Do you think they’re real?” he asked. I ignored him as I walked up to the front desk tapping the little silver bell on the counter. One look at Danny and I could tell he was eyeballing the bell.
    “Don’t” was all I said. It took a minute but eventually from some backroom the night clerk appeared. He didn’t say a word; he simply gave the two of us a look, not even bothering to hide his annoyance with us. I noticed he forgot to do up his fly. Probably boinkin’ one of the floozies’s in the back. That was fine with me. He probably will hurry us through without asking too many questions.
    “We need a room. Fourth floor if you got one available.” I said. The clerk gave each of us a look over before saying “The whole night…or…” his voice trailing off. A big smile showed that he was missing a few teeth. It also showed that he thought Danny and I were here for some kind of midnight romp.
    “I’ll tell you what” I said. Slipping a couple twenties out of my pocket I slapped them on the counter. I say, “forty bucks. We’ll be out of your hair within the hour.” Without hesitation the clerk pocketed the cash and tossed me a room key. Giving the two of us a quick wink he said “have fun you two!” ‘Go **** yourself’ I think.
    “Good luck getting that boner back after picturing Danny and I going at it.” I mutter to myself as I speed away.
    “Wait, what did you just say?” Danny said as he chased after me.

    * * *

    Room four-fourteen. Danny sat on the bed and watched as I stuffed the necessary tools of the trade into my cargo pants. Tonight, someone three rooms over was going to be very unhappy. In which direction though neither of us had a ****ing clue.
    “Hey, can I ask you a question?” Danny pipes up.
    “Absolutely Danny, there’s nothing I love to do more than answer your questions.” I say.
    “Okay good” he replies. He scrunches up his face before asking “What did he do?” I finish stuffing the items into my pockets. Lock picks, leather gloves, a set of brass knuckles, thick garbage bags, and duct tape. The duct tape bulged out even in my extra spacious cargo pockets.
    “Well Danny if you were paying any attention you would already know. Our good friend, who is probably sleeping just a few doors down, did a very bad thing. You see Danny; everyone in life has a job to do. Teachers teach, musicians sing, priests preach. Our friend is a priest who decided that instead of preaching he would do what cops do. He is responsible for putting one of our friends in jail.” I pause, trying to reposition the duct tape.
    “Ah **** it.” I say. Danny is on the bed, still watching me. I have his full attention.
    “I mean, not that the guy didn’t deserve it. What kind of idiot confesses stuff like that to a priest? I don’t give a **** how religious you are, that was just stupid. Anyway, one of our more powerful friends would like to see this priest disappear. That’s where we come in.”
    “I don’t know. It sounds like everyone is our friend.” Danny says. I shake my head and say, “come on, show me that napkin again. Lets go.” He hands me the napkin and I take a second to try and read the numbers. It’s only then that I realize that Danny wrote on the napkin with ketchup and it looks like he used his fingers to do so. Deep breaths.
    “Looks more like a seven to me.” I say.

    * * *

    Danny stands guard as I jiggle the slender picks back and forth feeling for the light taps of the lock. I can normally pick a lock in less than a minute and this one is no different. A satisfying click and we’re in. I motion Danny to come over to where I’m crouched.
    The door creeks open. After years of denied maintenance the creek is especially loud. I stop halfway in to try and listen. The distinct sound of nothing. I motion for Danny to follow me into the shadows.
    The rooms are small, so it only takes me a few large steps to reach the bed. A big lump all curled up under the sheets. Before we can start I need to make sure that this is the right guy. I throw back the sheets and shove one hand over his mouth while the other hand makes a grab for his throat. Before Danny can flick on the lights I already know we’re in the wrong room.
    Whoever this man is he has one massive neck and is likely much larger than our slender priest friend is supposed to be. The lights come on just in time for me to see a pair of startled bloodshot eyes staring back at me before a fist connects with my face. The world is a haze.
    Moments later, I can see straight. Except what I see is the biggest, blackest, most muscular man charging me like a bull.
    “Jesus Christ” is all I manage to sputter out before he tackles me to the ground. His naked body pressing down on me, his groin dangling over my face. I try to move my hands to block the shots I know are coming but they are trapped underneath this mans crushing weight. I can hardly breathe. With his massive cock only inches from my face I can’t help but feel pity for myself. This is not how it was supposed to end. I shut my eyes.
    The man howls some kind of rage-fueled war cry. My eyes shut tighter. Another roar, only this time it’s different. Nothing happens. I open my eyes to see the black goliath arched backwards in pain, his penis still dangling in front of my face. The weight pressing down on me lightens slightly. Behind the man I see Danny standing with a massive blade taking swings at this mans muscular back. Swing after swing Danny plunges the blade deeper into this mans flesh. The man is roaring screams of pain so loud the whole building is defiantly awake. Flailing his arms everywhere he tries to get up, to defend himself. It’s too late. Danny takes one final swing at the man’s neck and the blade makes a clean cut all the way through. His lifeless body falls backwards, blood spurting everywhere. I can finally breathe. Deep breaths.
    Looking up at Danny I say, “**** Danny, you saved my ****ing life!” drenched in the mans blood Danny says “there you go again with your mouth. You know you should really -”
    “Yo Daddy, what you hollering about up in here?” says an approaching voice in the hallway. There, standing in the doorway, I recognize one of the girls from outside. Her mouth drops in disbelief as she sees the headless goliath lying in the middle of the room. More unintelligible screams fill The All-Nighter. So much for quick and silent. The girl runs off down the hall still screaming at the top of her lungs.
    “Danny we need to get the **** out of here now!” I say, getting up and leaping over the black corpse.
    “But the priest. . .” Danny interjects. I’m already half out the door before I say, “**** his holiness. We have to go now!”

    Running towards the stairs with Danny in pursuit my heart is racing; for the first time I am afraid of getting caught.
    “I’m gonna ****ing kill them!” a voice shrills. I stop at the banister and peer down to see a small army of whores making their way up the stairs. Crowbars, bats, knifes, the girls are armed to the teeth. Already on the second floor and coming up fast Danny and I need a new exit strategy. You’d think they’d be grateful. From the looks of it Danny and I just took out their pimp, made their lives a hell of a lot easier. Then again whores never were known for their smarts.

    Danny and I turn and make a sprint for the other set of stairs. Three quarters of the way there I realize there is another small army making its way up those stairs as well. Short on breath, I turn to Danny and say, “Danny we’re ****ed.” I feel pity for both of us. The thought of being ripped apart by a mob of whores. This is not how it was supposed to end. Danny returns my gaze and nods solemnly. We both knew what was about to come.

    The door to our left creeks open. A man, half naked, standing in the doorway yells at us, “what in the **** is going on out here? It’s three in the morning!” My gaze drifts upwards. It’s room four-eleven.
    * * *
    The leather of my gloves wrap nicely around his mouth. It’s been a good few minutes and the madness in the hallway hasn’t toned down at all. I can hear the whores going door to door searching each room with a zealous fury for their pimp’s killers.
    “Okay look, don’t say a ****ing word. Not one. If they find out we’re in here, we’re all ****ing dead.” I say as I whisper into the priest’s ear. The lights were turned off and all three of us crouched in darkness inside the priest’s room. It’s a good thing the priest came to his door when he did, otherwise Danny and I would be goners. I’m sure if his holiness knew who we were and our true intentions he would have stayed in his room. Hell, he probably would have watched our slaughter through his peephole. The irony made me chuckle. I wish Danny could share this moment with me. Now all we have to do is kill our savior, avoid an army of armed whores, and escape without getting caught.

    The whores didn’t even bother to knock. The old door made a thud as someone on the other side tried to force it open. Then came the banging.
    “Open up we need to see your room!” the voice on the other side said. Somehow I knew it was the girl who had walked in on us earlier. The three of us waited in dead silence as the girl continued to wail on the door. My grip tightened around the priest’s mouth. It was a good minute before I realized I was holding my breath. Deep breaths, long deep silent breaths.

    Eventually the girl moved on to the next room, hollering and bashing away at the old wooden door. It didn’t matter. It was only a matter of time before they went downstairs to fetch the spare keys. We didn’t have much time.
    “Look, I’m going to let go of your mouth now, if you scream I’ll kill you before the whores can.” I whispered into the priest’s ear. Removing my hands I worked quickly.
    “Jesus! What’s going on out there?” he whispered. This bought me just enough time to fetch the duct tape from my cargo pants.
    “We’ll chat about it later.” I say as I rip off a strip and slap it around his mouth. Holding him down, I rip off more strips and tape up his hands and feet all the while I can make out his muffled curses. I turn to Danny, smile, and say “and you thought I had a potty mouth.”

    The balcony is our only chance of escape. I don’t remember there being a fire escape but it’s worth a shot. I pull back the curtains and almost laugh at our luck. Right in front of the priest’s balcony is one of those large cheesy palm trees. I suddenly agree with Danny, they are pretty. Hell, at this moment, they’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I say “Danny, finish off the priest. Make it quick, he did save our lives after all.”

    * * *

    The ride back was a quiet one. The only sound I could hear was Danny’s whimpering. Our escape involved sliding down the palm trees the same way a fireman would slide down a pole. It was successful, except Danny slipped and broke. Whatever they use to coat those fake trees was slippery. I had a few cuts from the landing but nothing worth complaining about. The fact was we were alive and **** we were grateful for it. On top of that, the priest was dead, and I couldn’t think of any evidence left behind that would tie us to the murders. Except of course the descriptions the night clerk and whores would provide. But who takes junkies and whores seriously?

    Without turning back I say to Danny “Hey kiddo, everything’s going to be all right. Do you mind passing me your cell?” Danny’s bloody hand appears in my peripheral vision and hands me his phone.
    “What was the number we were supposed to call after the hit’s finished?” I say flipping the cover open. I can hear Danny fishing around in his jacket pockets. Danny says, “eight-four-two, seven-three-eleven.” Before I can finish dialing the numbers Danny interrupts, “oh wait. It could be one-three-eleven, or even…” his voice trailed off. I turn around and say “You gotta be ****ing kidding me!”
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Davylove21 - Wrong Number

    “I’m getting so annoyed with these wrong numbers all the time”

    Alex picked a pile of books from the floor as he spoke, trying to catch Julia’s attention.

    “That’s nice dear, put those on the couch for now, we’ve got more stuff to get yet”

    Alex dropped the books onto the couch with a sigh and followed his wife outside. It was moving day and Julia was fully on task. She went about moving house like it was one of her businesses. She even dressed in black and put her hair up, but she still got stuck in.

    Alex, on the other hand, was lackadaisical in his approach. He was happy to be moving in to their first home together but he will always be a man difficult to motivate. He didn’t really like the fact that he wasn’t the main breadwinner either. This is an understatement because he wins absolutely no bread. He doesn’t even find it; Julia just feeds it to him.

    The house Julia had bought was a detached mini-mansion in the nicest part of the town they both grew up in and cost too much money because it was too big for just the two of them and would be spacious with kids but it was luxurious.

    Moving day couldn’t have been better, weather wise. The sun was high in the sky and joined by wisps of sun-bathing cloud, birds soared higher on the warmer air and their songs were soothing to the ear instead of piercing. It was the sort of day that paid to be lazy and yet Julia had Alex stood behind a rental van, receiving boxes of things he “could be trusted with”.

    “The old owners have been gone for two weeks; did they not tell the phone company do you think?”

    “I don’t know Alex and it doesn’t matter, take these to the kitchen and be careful with them”

    “It just doesn’t make sense, have they eloped? Whose house are we living in!? They could have been maniacs!” Alex took the box of neatly stacked dishes and trudged inside. On his way back outside the phone rang again. With a knowing glare, Alex answered.


    “Hello, may I speak to Mr. Baxondale please?”

    “No, you have the wrong number I’m afraid.” Alex’s tone was firmer each time he heard the name ‘Baxondale’ and this was the fourth time that day.

    “Are you sure?” came the incredible response.

    Alex hung up the receiver and went outside to help his wife with the last few boxes. The removal men had dealt with the bulk of it but Julia insisted that she and Alex apply the finishing touches, a cunning mix of her eye and his hand doing the work that never failed her. At times she amazed herself with the speed she got things done through delegation.


    Julia was a vision of loveliness on their wedding day. Her figure hugging sheath style wedding dress was ideal for a day under the Caribbean sun and complimented her slim, hourglass figure perfectly. Her hair was sculpted by some genius she paid to have brought along with her, just like she paid for everybody else to be there. For Julia, that day was about declaring the victory that her man didn’t convey.

    It was about giving people she knew didn’t like her a holiday in Barbados on her. It was about the white beach decorated with beautiful symmetry. About the Michelin star chef serving Michelin star food. About answering the people who wondered why she married Alex.

    She loves Alex and she can see the questions in their eyes, questions she never wants to hear. Too painful.

    She keeps them at bay with front, answers them with facade.


    “Why don’t you just plug it back in Alex?”

    “Because I’m not hearing the phone ring again, I’m going to go mad if another Irishman asks me for Mr. Baxondale.” Alex had pulled the phone line from the wall in desperation after the ninth wrong number. The phone, an old black model with piercing chimes, sat menacingly silent across from the two young lovers.

    Julia didn’t really care one way or the other and was consumed with admiration for the day’s work. The sun had just set on their town, basking it in twilight. Sunk into an oversized sofa, the pair relaxed in candlelight.

    “It’s just as well the power isn’t on, this is quite nice.” Alex was in his element when he was relaxing.

    “I know, do you want to phone for a pizza and we’ll open a bottle of wine before bed?”

    “Yeah, why not? I’ll use my mobile though, I won’t plug that phone back in. What pizza do you want?”

    “Something all meat.” Julia ate like a man but retained the figure of a model. It was one of the things that bonded them so well and behind closed doors, Julia was just like Alex.

    Julia went off to find the wine they had brought from their old apartment as Alex phoned the pizza place. He ordered a large BBQ pizza with chicken, bacon and ham. It’s the embodiment of mankind’s struggle to create the finest taste experience bread can deliver. Those phonies with their olives made Alex and Julia collectively sick.

    He finished ordering as Julia returned empty handed.

    “I can’t find the wine, do you reckon the removal guys helped themselves to it?”

    “Could have done, I don’t trust them anyway. The working man doesn’t sit well with me, they make me uncomfortable, I didn’t know whether I had to tip the guy or not when he left so I just didn’t in case I belittled him” Alex wasn’t lying, average Joes really made him uncomfortable. What he neglected to mention was the embarrassing farewell he gave them when they left: ‘Cheers a lot’.

    “You know what? I bet those guys took it as a tip!” Alex was sure of it.
    “I’m pretty sure they did, just let me deal with them in future Alex. I’m going to nip out and get some wine before the Pizza arrives, won’t be long.”
    “OK boo, be quick though!”


    He proposed on New Year’s Eve at a party in front of their closest friends. They shared a broad group of friends, almost all of whom were trusted enough to have known prior of his intention.

    He had saved up over a period of time and spent most of his advances on a beautiful, smoky quartz engagement ring that they had seen on holiday together. It took forever for him to track it down and most of his adequate income made from illustrating.

    Julia said yes immediately, of course, and they spent the first six hours of 2009 holding an impromptu engagement party. It couldn’t have been more perfect.


    Julia had picked up two bottles of red wine and a bottle of champagne to toast the new house with and was in the car on the way home. Moving day had been important to her and whilst he may not know it, Alex was an integral part of that.

    Her own family had, long ago, insisted that Alex was not good enough for her. They were wealthy conservatives and he was an awkward boy from the white ghetto and deemed surplus to her requirements. Really they just didn’t want somebody like him seeing any of Julia’s money and by extension, theirs.

    But she had finally found somebody who could stop her wanting things from life, somebody that made doing nothing with the day an event to set aside time for. In that one moment in the car, everything had reached its plateau and as she reached her destination, she hoped it would last forever.

    The pizza guy was about to knock the door as she got to it, so she paid him and took the pizza inside. The lack of power to the house must have made it look like a childish prank or wrong address so she was happy to relieve him.

    She entered the living room and her life came to a halt. In front of her, on the sofa, lies Alex. Covered in blood, his wrist and throat cut wide. Dead.

    Panic. “Alex!” Nothing. Touch him? Cold. Can’t catch your breath.

    She turns to phone the ambulance and realises that the phone’s been ringing all this time. This silent eternity with her horror has dulled the senses. The phone, unattached from the line, rings its way into her consciousness.

    Answer it?
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Fabulosa - The List

    People accumulate things.

    But my Matt was not a materialistic man. Matt liked old, worn and broken things. He got a kick out of salvaged bicycles and draughty cars stuck together with duck tape. He wore generations of paint splattered hoodies which I would discretely bin when they were too far gone, feigning surprise at their disappearance. He had no interest in expensive things - or did he simply have no use for them? No bits to clean or stick or fix? There are so many questions after someone is gone.

    Matt’s presence has mostly been purged from this house. His cloths are gone - apart from a dear, old, raggy hoodie. I have cleared the yard of his bicycles and pieces of engines. I have kept his books and the photos of course, on display on the mantelpiece as they never were in his life. But sometimes I am blindsided by traces of him, like when I pick up a pencil and discover it has been pared with jagged, manly slices by his Stanley knife. Today is such a day. Today I found some scraps of paper between the pages of a book. Scraps of paper followed Matt like a smell. In the early days of our marriage, piles of paper - receipts for small items from shops, pieces of paper with nameless phone numbers, scribbled ideas and drawing - would be left on every work space in the kitchen. It was a great joke between us, how he saved every piece of irrelevance ever handed across a corner store counter. Of course, as the years went on, the paper trail strayed to the corners.

    Today, between the pages of an old hardback, I found two pieces of paper. On the first, was a black biro drawing of a beautiful girl. She had elphin features, flowing hair and full hips, but the rest of her body was a bare-boned skeleton. Blood dripped from her mouth. I smiled. Matt was talented at sketching, as at all intricate things, but even in his forties, he never moved past the Heavy Metal style and tattoo-ish subject matter of his youth.

    On the other page, in Matt’s almost childlike handwriting, was a list of women’s names.

    I knew what the list was without thinking. All things are finite. In anyone’s life there are only so many birthdays, so many holidays, so many hair cuts or traffic jams or cheeseburgers. There is a finite number of trips to the supermarkets or thunder storms. Tears are finite, as are good times. There are only so many lovers. This was a list of his - the definitive and final list of his - and it was not even very long. I sighed. Poor Matt.

    The first name on the list was Cheryl. I knew about Cheryl. Everyone always asks about their lover’s first. I knew he was fifteen and Cheryl was years ahead, at least in experience. They got it on in a friend’s car. He told me that when Cheryl had moaned in pleasure, he had stopped and asked her if she was alright? We laughed about his story - sweet, funny, endearing Matt - after we made love on my fold-out futon in our magical first year together, when we were still amazed at the miracle of each other and greedy for every detail.

    Next on his list was Stacey. Of her, I knew nothing, but I imagined an athletic college-blond. That is the kind of girl I would wish for Matt as a young man - and why not? Years ago, I would have felt secret pangs of jealousy over any other woman, even one Matt looked at in passing on the street - even sometimes over our own daughter and all the time they would spend together alone, doing whatever they did. But I’m over forty now and jealousy, like passion, has waned. It amazes me how I could ever have claimed to own someone and the private desires in their mind, knowing as I do now that all things are finite.

    Then came Lisa. I knew of Lisa, his first love and all-round good girl. In our early years together I had felt haunted by Lisa, who was the template, it appeared, for me. It is true that we looked very alike and that she too was a teacher. One of his old friends even called me her name by mistake one time. I pretended not to hear. Anyway, Lisa answered a higher calling and left Matt to do volunteer work in Africa. There followed an angry phase in Matt’s life, the highlights of which included, in his own words:

    The blond at the party

    The brunette in Amsterdam*



    The Brazilian chick*

    What did the last three do to deserve asterixes that the anonymous party blonde did not? Was it a rating system? Or did it mark some sex act that no-one else would provide? Old missionary-style Matt never shared anything less than vanilla with me, though perhaps that too was my doing. After our first magical years, I was not always keen on the hand creeping across the bed. I had headaches and he had his tool shed. I didn’t know then that all was finite. Regret stabbed at me. To ease my pain I imagined young Matt, on his legendary European adventure, wide-eyed on the streets of Amsterdam. There would be a girl in a window. A brunette for sale.

    Lenka would be a pale, skanky Russian in high boots and short skirts. Hadn’t Matt once remarked that Russians had no souls? I had countered that nobody could be that morose without a soul. But maybe Lenka could. I shivered and hoped the Brazilian chick was nicer. It felt strange to hope that my late husband had had a good time with a prostitute twenty years before - assuming that this happened twenty years before. But if these women were so far back in time, I wondered why he hadn’t told me about them. Hadn’t I often remarked at tipsy dinner parties that if I was a man I would try a prostitute for the experience? Maybe he had once again confused me for Lisa. Or maybe he felt his needs were as inexplicable to me as the inside of one of his engines. I wish I had known my husband better.

    The next name on the list was Lauren. I gasped.

    We knew a Lauren. The wife of Matt’s old college friend, Ben. Surely not that Lauren? Ben was still living the bachelor life when I married Matt. We used to joke that I had rescued Matt from the mannish squalor of their shared apartment. Ben had yet to meet Lauren. She was never a friend of mine, although we would often meet up with them at parties, and once even a camping trip. She seemed insipid to me, mousy even. She never had much to say; Ben said she wasn’t comfortable in groups. I don’t ever remember Matt and her having any spark - although they shared a tendency to slink away from the centre of attention. Matt was good with her in the way that he was good with children and animals. He was a quiet presence, undemanding and reassuring. Ben and Lauren are divorced now.

    The only other Lauren we knew is our daughter.

    Matt and our Lauren were close. They always had their secrets and I was jealous. Always.

    Lauren has not yet recovered from the shock of finding her father in the tool shed that day, struck through the jugular with a Stanley knife. Blood was still spurting out. He must have been dead only moments when she came out screaming and drenched in her father’s blood.

    What happened to you Matt?

    You were such a quiet man. I did not know you wanted to die.
    Though I remember how you used to say you looked forward to the end of the world. I would scoff. Now I know what you meant; you meant the end of struggle. Now everyday I struggle. It has taken me months to believe that you killed yourself. How could you be a suicide? I still struggle to believe that you, who lived so gently, would take your own life so violently. Some days, to believe this is impossible. Those days my instincts and my sense of all that I knew of you will not believe that you stuck a Stanley knife through your own neck. Sometimes I imagine that instead you would choose a discrete death for yourself; you would run your car into a tree so no-one would ever know you wanted to die - that’s if you wanted to die before that morning. But you were dead on the tool shed floor; the facts speak. I just wish they would tell me more.

    You seemed content. I was content. I know we were not passionate like before, but our life together had a comforting rhythm. Or were we so faded from each other that we lived as strangers? Were you as much a creation of my imagination as Lenka? My questions seem endless. But then I comfort myself with the thought that they too are finite and will end.

    A tear drops onto the scrap of paper that is Matt’s list of lovers. Poor Matt. It’s a short list, his lifetime’s worth of passion: Cheryl, Stacy, Lisa, the blond at the party, the Amsterdam brunette, Lenka, the Brazilian chick… and the mysterious Lauren. At the end of the list he had written his total: the number eight. Of course it’s the wrong number. My husband had forgotten his wife.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    sprirj - The Wrong Number

    “Pick a number.” Hamad said to me grinning from ear to ear.
    “Two hundred and ten trillion.”
    “Two hundred and ten trillion!” He repeated back to me.
    I was one of six people who would meet every weekday morning at 11am in a secret location on the fifth floor of a building in Canary Wharf, London.

    This meeting decided the fate of two hundred and ten million pounds sterling or three hundred and sixty trillion US dollars, it was known as the Libor (London InterBank Offered Rate). This rate decided the borrowing rate between banks from across the globe. This number goes on to decide what rate the banks lend to their customers.

    I have quite an important job.

    It was January 2010 and London had ground to a halt. The snow over the past few days and freezing temperatures had seen the worst climate in the UK for the last 30 years. The extreme weather meant that schools and businesses had closed. The MET office had advised that no body travel unless an absolute emergency.

    My job was important, but I was snowed in.

    Luckily I have a dedicated phone line in my home in case anything should prevent me getting into work. It was installed in the unlikely event of a terrorist attack, but served just as well in the event of freak weather.

    Hamad worked for the government. He had to travel. His job had become an emergency. He was here to tell me that the recession was about to go critical. The UK economy was about to collapse.

    The UK banks rely on banks from other countries from around the world, to provide them with the money they need. But in the last year, the Libor rate has risen well above the Bank of England rates and the Japanese banks have reined in lending, fearful that they might not get the cash back. No one traded, borrowed or lent with such a high rate. It needed to be lowered.
    As the money pots have dried up, some of the biggest banks in the UK have been deprived of the cash they need for day to day activities.

    I had been told that MI5 agent 3090441 would be coming today, that it was a matter of national security, that I and I alone could save our economy. All I had to do was lie and give out a false number. A number that would see the banks release funding back to the UK and prevent a disaster.

    A lot rested on it. The world stood on the brink of a global depression. It was all about the numbers. It had to be done. I watched out of the window.
    I wait patiently for the numbers to arrive. The clock chimed 11am. The numbers came in. These are the figures that will determine the day's Libor rate.

    Hammad quizzed me “What do you think the most important number is?”
    My computer ran the numbers.

    10% complete.

    “Maybe PI” I said.


    “…. No wait…. The golden ratio?” I thought harder.


    “Is this a trick question? Is it a prime number or a square route? Is it a joke?”


    “No.” Replied Hamad sharply.


    “No joke.”


    In a few moments I would have the new Libor rate.

    The government wanted me to cut what ever the figure was in half.

    A false figure, a figure that might just spark trading between banks again, in the nick of time.


    “What is the answer?” I asked Hamad.





    “7 days of the week. 7 wonders of the world. 7 sins….. sins like greed.”


    Hamad went for his gun. His agent number…..720801….it did not match the agent number I was told would be arriving. The barrel of the gun was in my face, black and shiny and smelling of gunpowder.

    “Double the number.” Hamad demanded.

    “But if I do that…..”

    “….no country will trade. Your Kingdom will fall to its knees and you will see new world powers emerge.”

    “Your country?”

    “Give them the wrong number!” Shouted Hammed.
    I picked up the phone and heard a voice at the other end greeting me with warmth.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    lyethia - The Wrong Number

    Lisa picked up her cell phone. This was it. She was going to do it.

    She stepped out into the cold. Her blood felt like it was going to boil in her veins. Her hands shook as though she had epilepsy. She dialed each number slowly, placing her ungloved, naked finger into the center of each button, pushing down until it flattened completely under her pressure, then lifting the finger with the same speed. At last, all 10 digits stood out in perfect order, clear and vivid on the screen. Lisa pressed the call button.

    Ring. Silence. Ring. Silence.

    She gnawed on her lip until her teeth met through the softness of the skin. Blood stained her chin a glittering black.


    Click. Like a gunshot.


    Lisa ripped her teeth free of her lower lip. She inhaled.

    “Josh. I know what you did.”


    Lisa’s hand tightened on the phone, knuckles almost bursting through the skin. “I saw you, Josh.”

    The wind rolled a solitary beer can across her driveway.

    “Josh,” Lisa said. “You goddamn, pathetic loser. You can’t even SAY anything, can you? Because there’s nothing to defend you? Is there? Is there? Do you have anything to say for yourself, you asshole? Huh?”

    Somebody coughed delicately into the receiver. “What?” said whoever had answered the phone.

    Lisa’s breath deserted her. He might as well have punched her in the stomach.


    Lisa’s nails sank a millimeter into the cheap plastic of her phone. “You. Heap. Of. TRASH. I am about to have your baby. Your baby. Your goddamned BABY, for god’s sake! And you—you—I saw you—with that skank, I saw you, I…” The trees swam before Lisa’s eyes. “Jenny told me about it earlier, but I didn’t believe her. I believed in you, Josh! I thought we…you said you’d help me, you’d support me, you said you’d already told your parents, and I, I, I just, I thought…oh Josh. It can’t be true, right? It wasn’t you? It couldn’t have been. It was someone else, right? A prank? Josh, I—” Lisa stopped and held the phone against her chest to muffle all sound. She coughed with enough force that, for a moment, she half-expected to see the linings of her lungs on the ground. Anybody passing by her lawn would have thought she was choking to death. As it was, more blood flecked her lips like fruit juice. Lisa placed the phone back against her ear. “Josh,” she whispered. “I love you. I can’t believe you would do this. I trust you…I believe in you. I love you. Maybe I, I don’t even care if you…did it with…her, as long as you love me. I—”

    Lisa halted. Something emanated from the device she clutched to her ear, a sound so horrid, so terrible, that for an instant her brain simply refused to acknowledge it.

    Laughter. Loud. Deep. It crept in through her ears, sank tenacious claws into the crevices of her brain.

    The phone fell through Lisa’s fingers. It bounced once against the ground, then settled, screen-down, in the short brown grass of her lawn. And yet, laughter rose up from it in poisonous fumes, cut scythe-like across the frigid December air. Lisa staggered back and fell onto the sidewalk. Something within her stomach wrenched and tore. She pushed her fist into her mouth and bit down to keep from screaming.


    Josh sank to the ground before her. Her body was still fresh, relatively, but the reek of formaldehyde pervaded every corner of the room. Josh held his nose as close to the collar of his suit as he could without actually burying it into the cloth. He gagged from the room’s cloying, heavy air.

    A hand landed on his shoulder with enough force to knock him sideways. Josh braced himself on the tiles and rubbed his eyes rapidly with his sleeve.

    “It’s not your fault, son.” Lisa’s cousin, a man who clearly belonged in the land of the redwoods, dropped down onto one knee beside him. Black eyes regarded Josh from beneath a hulking brow. “You couldn’t have done anything. God only knows what she was thinking, dialing the wrong number, and getting so worked up over it.”

    “But,” Josh choked out, “To die so…violently, so horribly. To hang herself, still with the baby, I just, I don’t understand.”

    The man shook his head. “It isn’t your fault. You were a great support to Lisa. The blame does not taint you. Nobody knew what she struggled with.”

    Josh stared blankly at the marble jabbing into his knees. “I just wish I could have helped her,” he said quietly.

    The man rose with the creak of strained cloth. A button popped off his suit and smacked Josh in the eye. “Live well, son. Do not dwell on the past.” He nodded to Josh and glanced into the open coffin. A frown pulled his massive lips down at the corners. He shook his head and strode from the room.

    Josh sat in his prior position, head bowed, a dark silhouette in the sedentary air of the room. The cousin’s footsteps dissipated. Josh grabbed the edge of the coffin and pulled himself to his feet. He gazed down at the cold, dead flesh, already rotting amidst the dandelions’ surrounding golden bloom. He ran his finger down her putrid cheek, and brushed his mouth against hers. Blood welled on her lips, like tiny black insects crawling from the crevice of her throat.

    Josh tilted his head back and laughed. Loud. Deep.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    OscarW - The Slightest Difference

    When the wet season arrived, it arrived with a relentless force. For the time being the downpours had ceased, but still the glow from the crescent moon glistened against the coating of rain on the jungle foliage. Agent Jamison took one more drag from his cig and stepping to the edge of the veranda flicked it where it vanished into the pitch dark wall in front of him.

    Jamison had been to so many other areas of the world: Iraq, Burma, Papua New Guinea. All his voyages had been under duress, work-related, of course. But here in the jungle, the soothing pattering of the final droplets falling from the palm trees onto the clay roof, the purified air, even a native tune from the nearby village intertwined with laughter seemed to exist unaffected by the influences of the outside world. And yet a war raged on out there, just beyond the horizon.

    “I’m American” the man swore. “I’m from Miami.” He only spoke in short phrases.

    The man was much shorter than Jamison. Five foot six was being generous. His cropped hair was the darkest shade of black, his eyes an equally dark hue and his skin the color of rawhide. The year round supply of sunshine did that to one’s skin and Jamison noticed he was sprouting a pretty decent tan himself.

    But looks were not enough. Jamison had made that mistake years ago in Somalia. He hadn’t done his research, was too quick to judge by looks and facial features and ended up making the wrong conclusion and looking like a fool. His own country had plenty of individuals that mirrored the looks of the small statured man being questioned inside the ranch house turned interrogation room.

    Nick Barton, his understudy, took the man outside for a piss, which was the first break they had had since late in the afternoon. Jamison assumed they must be back and ready by now.

    He entered the ranch house, Barton standing against the near wall staring down the man. The man was dressed in fatigues, his hands bound behind him. He sat quietly on the other side of the thick table in the middle of the room. Jamison nodded towards Barton to sit in the other chair and he instructed the novice interrogator to take a stab at it.

    Barton was caught off guard. His command was to assist Jamison and analyze data, definitely not interrogate suspected spies. He sat in the chair, adjusted himself and looked down at the notes, trying his best to give the appearance of being calm and collected.

    Barton cleared his throat. “So, lets review. Your name is Jose Mendoza, born and raised in Miami?”

    Jose nodded.

    “You’re on a mission with the Coalition Force with strict orders from the United States military?” Barton continued.

    Again Jose nodded.

    Barton placed a hand on his forehead looking for somewhere to start, a gap to lead to the truth. Jamison had spent the last few hours drilling the man with questions and outside some basic background information and the vague mission he claimed to be on, they had nothing. He had no identification something the man claimed was a prerequisite for Special Operation’s missions. A few minutes passed, and the man across the table sat silently looking at the top of Barton’s head.

    He couldn’t stop engaging the suspect, though. A talking suspect would lead them somewhere Jamison had told him. “What is your first language?” he asked.

    Jose stared at Barton. “English and Spanish.”

    “You’re a native English speaker then?”

    “Yes” he replied simply.

    This wasn’t entirely suspicious, Jamison knew. There were thousands, even millions of Americans who were fluent in more than one language. If he had a linguist with him he could test the man’s dialect. He knew Spanish was too broad. There was continental Spanish, Cuban, Mexican and probably hundreds of regional dialects. He didn’t know what it would prove anyway, there were mercenaries from several countries involved in the conflict, but at least it would be a starting point.

    Of course, they could always use other methods to get the truth out. Anything from a simple beat down or water boarding. They could even take the battery from the Jeep out in the dirt driveway and connect it to a place where Jose would be sure to squeal, naturally, in a higher pitch.

    But then again what if the man was the telling the truth? Could he really sleep at night knowing he tortured one of his countrymen? It had happened before, not with him, but it had happened and was something he hoped to avoid.

    “Who were the other men with you? The men in the ravine?” Barton asked. Really he was referring to the bodies, the unlucky souls that didn’t know enough English to shout ‘surrender.’

    “They were prisoners. I was transporting them before we were attacked” Jose’s lips turned indignantly. “Before you attacked us.”

    Barton’s face twisted in anger, his fists, now balls of bone and muscle.

    “Um huh” Jamison uttered from deep in his throat. Barton looked to his commanding officer and relaxed in his chair.

    He looked at the notes again. “Tell me more about the hundred grand you had in the canister we found on you. Was that for Castillo?” The name slithered out of his mouth.

    Jose wasn’t intimidated. “Hundred and twenty grand” he corrected Barton. “I found it on them. It was probably for supplies or weapons.”

    Jamison thought he heard something in Jose’s voice. Something slight, almost inaudible, but something that was scratching at his memory.

    “And where were you planning on taking it?” Barton asked.

    “I was hoping to pass the ravine, take the road out to Aguilia. I was going to hand over the prisoners and report the money at the American outpost there.” Jose replied.

    “Bull****” Barton yelled and it echoed against the clay walls. “There’s no road to Aguilia through the ravine. You would have had to pass through the mountains and find the Rio Azares, three kilometers away.” Barton gleamed sure he had caught the man in a lie.

    It was well established that the area surrounding the Rio Azares was rebel territory. Some were even believing its leader was camped there. Antonio Pedro Castillo, was his name, a former state senator and prosperous ranch owner. He was clever and well connected. Moreover, his top brass were not only the military type. He had lawyers, businessmen, even former university professors. He had diversified and up to this point it was a winning strategy.

    Jose smiled at Barton’s question. “There are two routes to Aguilia.”Once again Jamison heard it.

    Now Barton laughed. “Jose, my friend. I’ve been over all the maps and I know this region like the back of my hand. There is one road to Aguilia.”

    Jose continued smiling. “You are correct, but I am not your friend.”

    “So, you admit there is only one road?” Barton asked. His look of triumph turned to confusion.

    “Yes, one road on the map.” Jose stopped, breathing deeply and relishing the moment.” But pass the ravine and you will find the old road. Its mostly covered up now, but locals use it as a walking trail. ”

    Barton pushed himself out of the chair and walked to the other side of the room to where the maps were spread out across a makeshift table. He found the ravine, following it with his finger before it stopped where Jamison knew the mountain range began. He could see Barton mouth a profanity.

    Seeing Barton’s reaction, Jose decided to antagonize his interrogator. “See, agent that is why I work in Special Ops and you are this man’s lap dog.”

    Barton turned and was about to strike the man when Jamison moved in.

    “Barton, outside. Now.”

    The door had barely closed when Barton began. “I know he’s lying. That smug face of his. He’s lying.”

    Jamison nodded his head. “And what proof do you have?”

    “Are we really supposed to believe this man captured three enemy soldiers on his own?”

    “I’ve known guys in Special Ops and what he detailed in there is nothing out of the ordinary” Jamison responded. “That’s not proof.”

    “Screw proof. Who cares what we do with him? Who’s going to know besides you and me?”

    “What if he’s one of our own?” Jamison offered. It shut Barton up. He hadn’t thought of that. Jamison patted him on the back reassuringly and pulled out his pack.

    Barton was quiet and Jamison could hear the sounds of the jungle again. Had it not been for this war he thought, this would be a great place for a vacation home. Reclusive, it would be a great place for him and Carol to escape the rest of the world. Still, something nagged at his brain. He shared Barton’s suspicion. There was something about Jose that didn’t sit well. The sound. Maybe it was instinct he knew, and as well as that had served him in the past, his record wasn’t without its blemishes.

    “I need you to do something for me” he told Barton.

    “What’s that?”

    “Get a notebook from inside and write down ten questions.”

    “About what, sir?” Barton asked.

    “Anything. General questions. State capitals, national attractions, anything” he replied.

    “Check his American trivia. Of course, I should have thought of that.”

    As Barton went to retrieve his notebook and construct some trivia questions, Jamison stood there and soaked in the rest of the late evening. He pulled out another of his favorites vices and just before his mind had finally left this world Barton came from behind. “I’m ready, sir.”


    Jose lifted his head heavily as they entered the ranch house. Jamison ordered Barton to offer a glass of water to him and the young agent did so begrudgingly.

    Jamison looked at Barton “The notebook” he said, hands open.

    Barton couldn’t have looked more disappointed. He had assumed the questions were for his own interrogation. He handed the notebook to his superior and moved to a stool by the table with the maps.

    “Jose” Jamison started “I have a few questions here. If you can answer all of them correctly we will let you go.” It perked the capture’s interest. “With the money.” Jamison added.

    He could feel Barton’s eyes widen behind him.

    “So, what do you say?” Jamison asked.

    Jose had finally been put off guard. “Sure” he mumbled.

    Jamison looked at the first question. “What is the capital of Wisconsin?”
    “Madison” Jose replied confidentially

    “Good” Jamison said, encouraging the man’s excitement. “Now, here’s the next one. “What country gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States?”

    “France” he said. Jamison couldn’t quite see the excitement yet, but he knew it was bubbling just under the surface.

    He went on to ask seven more questions. Each of them Jose answered correctly in short, quick replies without hesitating.

    “This is the final question in the notebook” Jamison announced. “How many senators are there in the U.S. congress?”

    Jose thought for a second and then replied. “A hundred and one.”

    Barton stood up quickly. “Ah ha, you’re wrong.”

    Jose sat calmly and looked straight at Jamison. “There are two senators per state, which equals one hundred and the vice president acts as a tie breaker, so technically one hundred and one. I figured you would try tricking me.”

    Barton stood there quiet. “But” he mumbled “normally there isn’t a tie, so-“

    Jamison swiveled towards Barton. “He’s right. He got all ten right.”

    Barton stared back, mouth dropped open. “So we are really going to let him go and give him the money?” he said in disbelief.

    “He did get them all right” Jamison responded. “We are men of our word, are we not?”

    Jose sat across the table proud of himself for proving them wrong.

    Jamison turned back around “I’ve got one more question. “ he said. “A math problem. If you get it right I will throw in the Jeep.”

    “Are you crazy?” Barton yelled. Jamison placed a hand up for silence.

    “Why not?” Jose replied.

    Jamison ripped out a page from the notebook and took several minutes scribbling out a problem and handed it across the table to Jose. Jose looked at it, did the math and reworked the problem. “ I’m done.”

    Jamison stared directly at the man. “What’s the answer?”

    Jose held up the paper and grinned arrogantly.

    “Tell me the answer” Jamison asked.

    “I’m holding it right here.”

    “I want to hear it coming out of your mouth.”

    “I’m showing you the answer right here” Jose said impatiently.

    “Say it.”

    Jose looked down at the paper for a moment. “Thirty-thee thousand.”

    Jamison grinned. “I’m so sorry that’s not the answer.”

    Jose looked back down at the paper, reworking the math inside his head. “It’s right he said. Thirty-thee thousand.”

    “I’m sorry, what is it?” Jamison teased him. “My hearing is not so good. What’s the answer?”

    “Thirdy-thee thousand” Jose repeated.

    “Nope. Sorry. Not it” Jamison replied.

    Now Jose was raging with anger. “Thirdy-thee thousand” he yelled. “Tirdy-thee thousand. Tirdy thee tousand.”

    Jose was now on his feet.

    Jamison looked up calmly. “I’m sorry Jose, but there is no such number as ‘tirdy thee tousand ‘ in the English language.”
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    da_ardvark - In Between

    The ringing of the church bell echoed from the sheer walls of the valley. Nelson was immediately aware that something was wrong. He dismounted Jonzy, his donkey and strained his tired eyes to see what might be amiss. He had left the village earlier in the day long before the sun had come up, and now, after climbing a dry outcrop, was positioned three thousand feet above, stealthily clinging to the vertical earth.
    He could just make out shapes no larger than ants. The ants are scurrying from each direction, all heading toward the south end of the village, the rhythmic tolling of the bell the music accompanying these odd dance steps. At this distance there was little chance of understanding the disturbance, but Nelson sensed the urgency.
    Racing back to his gear, he quickly assembled his hang glider. He had hoped to ride the thermals which were abundant on the far side of the mountain this time of the season, but the sound of the bell and the hair on the back of his neck told him there would be no leisurely ride this day.
    Nelson had never attempted a launch from this vantage. The swirling winds and unpredictable updrafts made a dangerous sport downright suicidal. These thoughts disappeared and all focus was clear and unified. The final strap of the hang glider was tightened just as Nelson stepped off the cliff. Jonzy would have to find his way back to the village on his own as he’d done numerous times in the past.
    Almost at once Nelson had second thoughts as he nearly collided with the wall across from the launch site. A sharp turn to the left narrowly averted his own private disaster, yet his thoughts remained with the villagers. The bell sounded again, pressing him on with greater haste. His decent was markedly swifter than the accent causing his ears to pop and bringing him within clear view of the fire. The heat waves increased with each passing second. He would be assisting his friends in a few minutes.
    Nelson became aware of a strange increase of the heat waves. They increased at a greater rate than seemed possible. His entire field of view blurred and morphed until he no longer looked at the village fire.
    The ceiling fan spun relentlessly counter-clockwise as the telephone rang yet again. Nelson tried to focus on his new surroundings as a wave of nausea rode through his body. The phone rang again but his thoughts were still with his friends in the mountain village. He wondered how the fire fight was going, but instinctively rolled over to answer the telephone.
    The voice on the other end asked for Morty. Nelson shuddered and told the woman she had the wrong number. His thoughts skipped back and forth between the ceiling fan and the village, between the church bell and the telephone. His preference between the dream world and reality was not immediately clear.
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