Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed May 8, 2011.
  1. Still Life - Eulogy

    2 vote(s)
  2. K.S.A. - Summertime

    1 vote(s)
  3. Mysh - Ivan

    1 vote(s)
  4. Preacher - God be with ye

    1 vote(s)
  5. ClockworkOrange - Last Goodbye

    0 vote(s)
  6. Nicole93 - Goodbye Again

    0 vote(s)
  7. CoffeePrince - On the Way to Making It Three

    3 vote(s)
  8. nastyjman - This Constant In Life

    1 vote(s)
  9. teacherayala - Swinging

    0 vote(s)
  10. author97 - A Million Freckles

    1 vote(s)
  11. -oz - I Don't Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

    0 vote(s)
  12. yellowm&M - Blue Eyes

    0 vote(s)
  13. city_struck - A Familiar Voice

    1 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 91: Last Goodbye

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Apr 26, 2011.

    Voting Short Story Contest (91) Theme: Last Goodbye

    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 Sunday 8th May 2011 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
    Still Life - Eulogy

    Earlier when the sky was gray, Midori had felt almost glad to be at the funeral. The throng of mourners had hustled into the church at the first hint of rain, and the mutual clutch of drabness one felt inside an under-lit temple on a rainy day lent a soft and vulnerable and genuine sorriness to the whole ordeal. Yes, she had been almost glad. But now the weather had turned, and sunlight came bursting through the stained-glass windows like the wrestling of a divining rod.

    Men loosened their ties, and dabs of pinks and oranges and reds shot up like signal flares as the older ladies unfolded their Japanese fans and, one by one, began swatting furiously at their faces. A young woman in tight jeans and high-heels sashayed up the steps toward the podium and began belting out lyrics to "Amazing Grace", while Midori's mother, who was seated beside her in the pew, dabbed at her eyes with a lace handkerchief to express her newfound grief.

    Midori turned her head and noticed that her mother was not the only one. The elderly ladies fanning their faces dabbed at their eyes also, and their wrists arched back in forth in mute melancholy to the tempo of the song.

    Oh, don't be so ridiculous! she wanted to shout at them, but her words were choked off by the off-key belching of the call-girl on stage.

    After the song had ended, and friends had sauntered up to tearfully testify to the dead woman's good soul, and the pastor was forced to wrap up his speech about cherubs and angels in heaven and was ushered away from his expounding plank by an eager churchgoer who feared delaying the burial ceremony even longer, the mourners queued up in the adjacent room to view the casket.

    A young woman, who had just come from viewing the dead body, sighed wistfully and said, "She looks so beautiful in there."

    Midori, who was not yet in line but spotted the unhinged casket door, turned sharply to leave. Her mother held fast onto her elbow.

    "Aren't you going to say your good bye?" her mother said.

    The rough lace of her mother's dark gloves chafed her skin, and she jerked her arm away.

    "It's an open casket!" she said.

    "I know, but wasn't she your friend?" her mother said.

    "What kind of friend hangs herself off of a ceiling fan?"

    "Don't be ridiculous."

    She wanted to jab her finger at the call-girl in the jeans and high-heels, or the pastor holding onto his interrupted speech notes with a look of regret, and each and every one of the crinkled, old goons huddled in a bulging line with their garishly-colored fans waving up and down, and shout, "Tell that to them!" But she held off for too long and the moment had passed.

    She found herself sandwiched in-between her mother and another elderly women with sporadic eyelashes that shot out from her lids like a peacock's tail feathers, and pressed forward with the crowd to get a last look at the dead woman in a box.

    "She was my daughter's friend," her mother confided to the elderly woman with the peacock-tail lashes who clicked her tongue sadly.

    "They went to middle school together," her mother added.

    The elderly woman trained her wet gaze on Midori and cooed, "Poor thing."

    It was her turn next, and Midori found that she did not need her mother to pull her along after all. While fidgeting in line, she had recalled that shortly before her death, this dead woman had callously slammed the phone in her ear. She danced to the dead woman's tune then, but it was her act now. No, not even the good weather could ruin this moment for her. The thought filled Midori with a gloating satisfaction as she skipped toward the casket.

    The dead woman's father was hunched over at the foot of the casket, looking pale and worn. He recognized her and lowered his head, and she lowered hers.

    Cushioned inside was the dead woman, lips slightly parted as if she was in the middle of speaking but had forgotten her words. This was it! Midori thought. This was the moment she had been waiting for! She would finally have her say and there was no way, no how that this dead body could refuse her that moment of glory.

    Midori braced herself against the edge of the casket and found herself inches away from the dead woman's neck, which was cradled by a set of small, white pillows that billowed out gently from underneath like a pair of doves' wings. The humidity in the crowded room had smudged some of the makeup off the skin, so that the faint purple markings of the rope burns glistened in the dewy church light.

    You reap what you sow! she wanted to say, but the words tapered off. Her mouth flapped open, then closed. She found that she could not stop looking into the hollow whiteness of the dead woman's throat. Her knees gave in with a jerk, and she crumpled over, clutching the edge of the casket for balance, and nearly tipped it over. The crowd of mourners gasped, while the grieving father jumped forward and seized the bottom end to prevent the corpse from spilling onto the floor.

    Her mother hurriedly stepped forward and pried her hands loose. The casket jolted back with a thud. The elderly woman with the peacock eyelashes appeased the murmuring crowd by saying,"I heard they were friends and went to middle school together."

    Everyone clicked their tongues mournfully, as she was hauled out of the room.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    K.S.A. - Summertime

    It was to be one of the most memorable summers of my teen years. Dad had finally taken some time off work, so that we could all take a family vacation together. Our father, who usually stayed as far away from two growing teenagers (with the inevitable mood swings) as he could, couldn’t stop whistling or ruffling our hair whenever he passed by. Things were finally settling down. The ache, which had become a permanent part of me, seemed to growing duller by the day.

    Unanimously, we decided it was time to air out the old family cabin. Dad had said that this would be the perfect way for us to spend some much-needed time together again. My sister had always loved it there – she was the quiet, deceptively angelic one – since she could spend the whole day out by the lake, under the shelter of a big old tree, with a good book & some lemonade for company. And me, Jamie? I was the family adventurer, although my mother always had a few other choice adjectives to describe me. “You’re like the wind”, she would say with a sigh, “always so restless & oh so volatile, just waiting for that spark to ignite you. You’re both such a handful. Gemini twins….what was I thinking?” Then she’d smile her sweet smile & give us both a warm hug, & get back to whatever it was mothers did. Now that I think about it, I never paid as much attention as I should have. And by the time I figured that out, it was too late.

    I wasn’t too happy about the travelling by car bit – I’d always thought they were just coffins with wheels on them. I’ve never been one for cramped spaces. I suppose that comes from a period in my childhood, when I had to spend time in a cupboard of a room in my Aunt’s house. I had been glad at the time for not having to spend any excruciating length of time with the old bat. That wouldn’t have happened anyway, since my bookish sister Arielle had always been her favourite. And I needed that time to myself, for once not having to look after my minute-younger twin. I wouldn’t have known what to do with her anyway. She had always been quiet but, since that dreadful day, she seemed to have clammed up completely. She’d dogged my footsteps & stayed far away from Dad, not that he’d noticed. He was in too much shock to pay any attention to two 11-year-olds anyway. Just the pain of remembering those awful days following my mum’s death, snapped me out of my daydream.

    We’d finally made it to the little cabin, after 8 hours on the road. I had bumps & bruises in places I’d never known about before. All Dad’s fault, of course. Who else would be silly enough to try that dangerous (well, for me at least) road trip in an old pick-up? “So that we can take in the sights & sounds”, my father, the eternal optimist had said. Elle was already MIA, so I just had to suffer in silence. Dad, having spied the look on her face when she’d seen mum’s beloved garden taken over by weeds, had immediately changed into his “gardening” clothes & set out with his shovel. Said he was going to “put everything back the way it had been.” And I knew from the determined set to his face, that he needed to do that alone.

    I could hear him working in the garden, which was right beneath the window to the room Elle & I were sharing. After a while though, I could hear another voice, a female one. Thinking my twin had come back from her little hidey-hole, I went & stood by the window. It wasn’t her blonde head I saw, though, close to my father’s in conversation. I’d know that voice and that hair anywhere. Ms. Dawson, the spinster (oh alright, she was only in her early 30s) from next door. I’ve known her for aeons but I noticed something about her that I hadn’t before, as a child. She was very pretty, with her fiery red curls falling around an elfin face. She turned her head to wipe the sweat off her brow, & I could see her face break out into a radiant smile as she looked down at my father, who was still crouched on the ground. At that moment, as I saw him return her smile, I felt all the breath rush painfully out of my chest, & I quickly moved away from the window. No, that couldn’t be right. My Dad couldn’t possibly be interested in that woman. To drown out the screaming in my head, I put my iPod on full volume & lay down on my bed. I don’t even know when I dozed off.

    When I finally woke up, my eyes felt grainy & my throat was aching. So, I had a quick wash, changed into a fresh T-shirt & went down to look for something to satisfy my grumbling stomach. As I entered the kitchen, I saw something that nearly killed my optimism for this trip – my dad & Ms. Dawson talking animatedly to each other, while my sister sat nibbling her dinner & quietly watching them. “Ah! Look who finally decided to come down. Come sit & eat something, sleepyhead. You remember Pam from down the road, don’t you?” Pam, huh? “Yeah. Hi.” Couldn’t really look at her because her blindingly white teeth were now flashing in my direction, in what I thought was a sly smile. “It’s lovely to see all of you here again. And both of you have grown up into such gorgeous women, a lot like your Mum.” As she said this, she sent a swift apologetic smile up at my father, who returned her smile with a quirk of his mouth. I felt sick to my stomach. I could barely look at the food in front of me let alone try to eat it. I clenched my hands under the table to keep from wiping that stupid look off that cow’s face.

    “Looks like someone isn’t hungry”, the bovine said, smiling at me again. “Uhm, yeah. I’d rather just go out for a bit. That alright, Dad?” “Oh that’s fine, honey, as long as you don’t stay out too late.” So saying, he got up & started clearing the table. Pam got up as well “to help you” she said, fluttering her stupidly long eyelashes at him. Come to think of it, I always remember her being a bit flaky. When her hand “accidentally” brushed my father’s as they were cleaning up, & both started grinning like imbeciles, I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed my jacket & bolted out the door & into the fresh night air. I just started walking in whatever direction my feet took me. I heard footsteps behind me, so I turned around to find my sister walking up behind me.

    “What was that all about? You were a bit rude, you know”, my kid sister admonished, as she put on her jacket. “And stop walking so fast. You know I can’t keep up with you when you’re in a huff.” “I am not in a huff!” I said, screaming the words back at her. That made me stop mid-stride. I rarely raised my voice around my sister, let alone screamed my head off at her. She’d stopped walking too. “Sorry Elle. I didn’t mean to be horrid. It’s just that I can’t stand the way that woman was simpering at Dad”, I said truthfully, & then a little more quietly “and the way he was looking back at her.” “Oh honestly, Aimes! You can be so daft sometimes. Dad looked genuinely happy & I haven’t seen him like that for a long time. Heck! I’ve barely seen him around these past few years. And she’s nice. I’ve spent some time talking to her & she’s not an idiot, which is what you're probably calling her in your head right now.”

    I looked away to avoid the knowing look in her eyes. “But what about mum, Elle? Is it okay that he’s just forgotten her? That he’s flirting with some other woman in Her house?” I turned back & screeched, unable to contain my anger any longer. Arielle, who knew me better than I knew myself, recognized the kind of mood I was in, & used her calm voice on me – one that sounded so much like mum’s it made me even more miserable. “It’s been 8 years, sis. We’ve got our friends & we have our fun. But have you ever seen Dad smile the way he smiled today? He loved Mom”, she said, interrupting me before I could start screaming again, “and I bet he always will. But don’t you think he deserves to have at least a fraction of the happiness he had with her? Are you so selfish that you would go on living your life & not let him get on with his? God knows he’s spent the better part of a decade working so hard he wouldn’t have to think about how painful losing mum was! I want him to be happy & deep down I know you do too. So, grow up, Aimes! It’s time to let him go.” After giving me a swift hug, she walked back in the direction of our house, leaving me speechless.

    I don’t even know how long I stayed out there, lying on the grass & looking up blankly at the sky. I couldn’t even tell you exactly when I made my up my mind. All I know is that when it started to drizzle lightly, I sat up - a strange peace settling over me as I felt the fragrance of wet earth envelop me in its warm cocoon. And then I said Goodbye to the summer, lifting my face up to the rain, welcoming it.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    It was a sudden combination of sounds wrapped into one wretched burst that penetrated me. Followed, as it were, by a long scream and a series of shorter screams, hoarse, frantic screams. It occurred to me based on the sensation in my throat that these screams were coming from me, and the preceding sound had been from the moment that the car made contact with the body beneath it. Both the car and the body remained motionless in the dark street before me. Both the car and my dog were motionless. My best friend was motionless. My best friend was beneath a car.

    My whole world was hit by a car.

    We came to a similar state of blurred consciousness almost simultaneously and I found myself slamming my palms against the hood of this heinous, metal weapon. “Back up! Back the **** up! Back up!” He was struggling dizzily to get out from under it. As it lurched from over him he scrambled to his feet. He fled stumbling into the darkness as I recoiled in horror.

    “Oh, my god! His leg is broken!” I heard someone scream. It must have been me again.

    Yes, that was my voice as I chased him into the night. He made it about 30 feet before he collapsed. A cell phone as a flashlight illuminated his broken body. Blood was bubbling like a geyser from an opening in his chest. A blanket appeared under him, his warm blood soaking into it, saturating it.

    “My dog has been hit by a car! I need you to meet me at the clinic! I need you to meet me now! Right now! He’s dying! Come now!” I was on the phone.

    How did I get on the phone? Whose phone was it?

    He began to cough as they lifted him into my car. I knew what that meant. I knew his lungs were filling with blood. I knew he was dying. I knew Ivan was dying. I pressed my forehead against wheel as I sped down the street. His breathing was labored from the blood in his lungs. “He’s dying. He’s dying. He’s going to die. Oh, my god, he’s dying. I know he’s dying.”

    “You don’t know that. He’s going to be fine. Just calm down,” said a voice beside me.

    He’s just saying that because I’m driving. He’s just saying that. He’s just worried about himself because I’m driving. He just wants me to calm down because I’m driving too fast. He knows Ivan is dying.

    "What’s that smell?”

    “He’s ****ting! He’s ****ting because he’s dying! Oh, my god, he‘s dying!“ someone screamed. It must have been me. Was it me? It must have been me.

    “No, I think he’s getting better. His breathing sounds better,” came from the backseat. It was Raven. Raven and her boyfriend exchange frightened glances.

    Do they think I don't notice them? I might be screaming and shaking, and my dog is dying, but I know what those looks mean.

    “It’s because he’s getting weaker. He’s getting weaker because he’s dying. His breathing is getting weaker, not better.”

    Suddenly, I found myself in the backseat outside the clinic with his head in my lap. Ivan’s head was in my lap and his ears felt strangely cold. His breathing was barely perceptible and suddenly he was hit with that dreadful seizing. Every muscle within us convulsed in unison as our mouths gaped open, mine with a choking scream and his silent, breathless, strained. I slammed my face into the open car door and pressed it there as I fell from the seat. His head slid limply off my bare legs.

    No. No. No. I foresaw these breaths and they told me it wasn't going to happen. They said it wasn't going to happen. His trachea has collapsed. I've seen this before. I know what this means. I know this is death.

    Now, the vet says his brain shutting down. I know that already. She says there is nothing she can do. They're talking far away. Raven's hands feel so cool against my burning, sticky shoulders. I'm soaked with every bodily fluid imaginable, a mix of our lives draining from us, our living juices falling away. I press my face into her lap, shrieking, her long, thick hair enshrouding me. I want the pavement. I push away into its bumpy surface. I want to crawl into it. My fingernails rip back as I try to get into the ground and journey to the other side of the world, and out further still. My skin pinches between my skull and the ground as I try to get away.

    I feel a pull and my body floats through the doors clutched by strong hands on either side and suddenly there is light, an unnatural fluorescent light shining down upon my dog, my dead dog. He was perfect. He was perfect and I destroyed him. He's on a metal table, covered in a blanket from the chest down.

    Do you think I don't know why you put the blanket over him? You're trying to protect me from what I‘ve done to him. I failed to protect him, and now you have the audacity to protect me. Wait, this isn't how real life looks. I know what's happening. None of this is happening.

    She's staring at me from the other side of the table with wet blue eyes. Her mouth is moving, but I interrupt. It doesn't matter what she says, because she's not here, and I'm not here, and Ivan isn't here.

    "This isn't happening. This isn't my life. This isn't my life."

    She looks scared, but I know she doesn't believe me.

    It doesn't matter what she thinks; I know this isn't my life. What the **** is wrong with her? Why is she staring like that? Why doesn't she believe me?

    I'm growing hysterical, "This isn't my life. This isn't my life. I don't want this life. This isn’t happening. You have to listen to me. This isn't my life." I won't give up my lock on her eyes for anything. I won’t give up this fixed stare, because I can’t give up my dog.

    She has to believe me. Why doesn't she believe me? She has to believe me. Doesn't she know what this means? Why does she want this? If she would just ****ing believe me, because everything depends on her understanding, and she just won't, but why?

    I'm frantic, absolutely frantic.

    She has to understand. I'll push these words into every orifice of her ****ing face, if it will make her believe me. I will rip her face off and put them into her vacuous skull, if I have to. Only my nails are broken, and my life is gone, and my muscles are mush, and nothing matters, because my dog is dead…
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Preacher - God be with ye

    She went her unremembering way,
    She went and left in me
    The pang of all the partings gone,
    And partings yet to be.
    ~Francis Thompson

    We have been soul mates through a thousand lifetimes. We were born the same day, a thousand miles apart, and died on the same day many years later, in each other’s arms. Each rebirth, each new beginning on the wheel of life; would find us once again searching for that tenuous, but unbroken link between our hearts.
    It was always there, sometimes weak and sometimes strong, it was always there.

    I was immersed in a cold so deep and so complete that I thought I must be dead. Rubbing my hands over my eyes created a painful crackling as ice shattered and flaked from my frozen lashes. Once open, my eyes could only discern a blanket of white, covering the entire world for as far as I could see. At my back was a massive beast, like an elephant but covered with coarse, wiry fur. Near my feet was a small, pitiful fire, the weak flames barely flickering and seeming to fold back into itself as if it was trying to conserve its own heat. It provided little light and even less heat unless my fur-clad hands were pushed close enough to singe the hair from the backs of the gloves. My quarry was near, I could feel it, but I could wait until the sun rose. She would wait for me.

    Another time, another place and I was riding across an open plain, a saddle-less horse surging beneath me and waves of wild grasses passing by in a blur of golden color. The wind was warm and dried the sweat from my face almost as fast as each drop formed; the sun hot on my back and on the hide of the beast beneath me. The feeling of freedom and speed was intoxicating. At my side, on a dappled mare, was the woman whose life was more dear than my own. Her silken tresses flying behind her and her belly full and round with our unborn child, she smiled at me and my heart sang. The open miles before me were dwarfed by the miles already traveled, and none of it mattered as long as we were together

    We fled Germany ahead of the Jesuits and traveled to Paris where we were married in the spring of 1588. We were caught up in the Catholic League and joined the mob that chased Henry III from the city the very next month. We spent the summer days in revelry and the nights making love until she took ill with the plague. When she died, I fell on my sword rather than live without her.

    We grew up together, neighbors and friends, in the small village of Alais in southern France. My father harvested raw silk and cocoons for the trade routes and hers was a doctor who worked for the Bishopric. We ran barefoot through the hills and picked wildflowers for the table, chervil and rosemary for the pots. We swam naked in a small pond hidden among the trees and were as innocent as ever was Adam. We entered our teens, convinced we would wed and live happily ere after, chasing our own children through these same hills. We had barely shared our first kiss when raiders razed part of the town and we died in each other’s arms, our homes aflame.

    England, the New World, and across the American Continent, we are born, fall in love and live our lives intertwined. Again and again we find each other, our threads woven together on the great loom from the same skein of yarn.

    It was 2022 when the space program was re-launched. America was going to Mars and we were both mission specialists. I held doctorates in geology and biology while my lovely wife was an engineer with specialties in ceramics and chemical engineering. I would find the perfect spot to locate our temporary habitat and she would build for us a new home.

    We were scheduled to spend two weeks at the International Space Habitat in Earth’s orbit before moving into our interplanetary ship for the long journey. A technical issue with her equipment package delayed her and they sent me up first, with my bride scheduled to join me in another week. We never said goodbye, preferring the original ‘God be with ye’, since we knew that no matter what, we would be together again. As always, when we were forced to part, I held her and confessed my eternal love .

    Three days later, someone bombed the spaceport, killing 32 people, my wife among them. I didn’t hesitate, I made my way to the nearest airlock and was evacuating the air when they found me. I was not going to go on without her, was afraid to go on alone. What if we got lost on the wheel and could not find each other on the other side? No, as I had in the past, I would rather go boldly to my death than risk that.

    They stopped me, detained me, drugged me and kept me alive until the ship was well on its way to Mars. They were sure that the grief would pass, that I would not be so quick to end it all if I were deeply involved in our collective dream of a new world.

    They were wrong, but they didn’t give me the chance to prove it. They watched me, guarded me against myself no matter how I begged and pleaded.

    A message from Earth arrived yesterday and that missive, in a single stroke, made my desires moot. The explosion that had killed my love had also sparked a war. An unbelievably swift, staggeringly violent and ultimately final war. One side launched a nuclear strike and the other replied in kind. The message from the International Space Habitat theorized that there was a heretofore unknown threshold of energy release that had been pierced. It had ignited the atmosphere and the resulting firestorm was raging across the face of the planet, leaving lifeless soil in its wake.

    The hundred people aboard the ISH had watched the conflagration on the planet below, seeing the devastation sweeping the globe as inexorably as the passage of time. Two days later they sent this message, telling us of the events at home and notifying us of their plan to force reentry of the habitat, joining their doomed brethren in the massive funeral pyre below. The message ended with several seconds of silence, followed with a heartfelt, “God be with you.”

    There would be no more turns of the wheel, no more rebirths. Never again would I find that indescribable link, that sense of destiny pulling me towards the woman who had been my companion through all of time.

    Looking out through the view port at the infinite majesty of space and hoping that somewhere, somehow, she could hear me, I said goodbye.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    ClockworkOrange - Last Goodbye CAUTION: GRAPHIC

    A whimper echoes through the house. Can't hear a thing.
    I am what they usually call, half deaf. I can only hear sounds through one ear. The right ear.
    On this case, I sat on my aquatic green sofa while staring at the ceiling. You know, minding my own business. It is then when the police knocked. Even then, I could barely hear a thing.
    I taught myself to rely on my one ear as well as my sense of touch .Ah yes,vibrating things. They always make me damn suspicious.
    The policemen knocked on my door, vigorously. The living room shook a little so I figured, why not go check the door? You know, maybe that annoying couple from yesterday's valentines day found themselves having sex on my frontdoor again. I bet they thought it's funny, having sex on stranger people's frontdoors.
    I looked through the small eyepiece that I got with the door. And instead of the usual void I happened to find two policemen.
    "Mr. Taff, Mr. Taff? Are you home?" Three more angry knocks.
    Ah yes, just a moment fellas. I opened the door. They stood there with their sunglasses, trying to reflect a clear distance between them and me.
    "You're Mr. Taff, is that correct?", said the right policeman, he was taller and more intimidating than most policemen you see in the area.
    Ah yes, that's my name. Is there a problem there officer? I tried to be as less anxious as possible, policemen on your doorstep will never mean any good. It's better to show some confidence.
    "Go ahead", he said looking at the second policeman, " Ask him".
    The second policeman looked insecure. Like I could nail him up on a wall with little to no resistance. " Right, right. Sir, we got a call at the station saying we should check your house for suspicion.
    You see, they said something about loud screams. You happen to know anything concerning that fact?", with a clear satisfaction he looked up to the first policeman, who replied with a grunt.
    Ah not at all, sir, not at all. You see, I have a hearing impairment. Only one good ear , you see.
    "Are you sure you didn't hear a single thing?!", he tried again, but the other policeman started barking at him, " Fool! He just told you he can't hear a damn thing", I heard that!
    "Well sorry for the bother there, old man, happy valentines day."
    That was yesterday, my sons! gosh, how unobservant the police is , no wonder 'bout the increase in crime nowdays. They left. And once again, alone. Left to think.
    It's the best for me to tell you how I lost the hearing in my left ear, I was 16, a young a handsome little boy, now, ah yes. I had this girlfriend now, my first love: My first kiss, my first sexual relations, my first broken heart. Our relationship was something that established me as a lover. Not everything went as planned. Rose was her name. You see, her father used to work as a Gardner. We always sat on their backyard, on the little wooden table they kept from centuries back, or as they said. Her father was funny man you see.
    I loved her, I truly did. I still do... 66 years later. Unbelievable. I was bound to her the day we combined to one. So this father of hers, he asked me to help him with his small garden. He had this machine, something that worked on gasoline, old fashioned gasoline. I remember when it still existed, long before the uranium and electricity finally took over. It was a plastic world. Now, back to the story, yeah we worked with it, the machine, it used to cut the leaves. Well, that machine was not that much stable. I worked with it while her father closely observed, and then Bam. That machine jumped out of my hands and exploded. In dear father's face. Oh dear I said. Oh dear. What remained of his face was a charred black melting coal. The rest went ablaze, I screamed. Whimpered in pains. The explosion was far greater than expected. That Rose's father put some kind of mixture containing a few chemicals , to save on the benzine. I remember I heard when I was young about people that gets blinded, see a sparkling blackness at those kind of accidents. I shared the same thing, only in my left ear. The remnants of my left ear living stock perished in the next moments, the last surround sound I ever experienced. And the last time I saw Rose. So that's it. My story.
    So I sit on that aquatic green couch again, and I get the same feeling of vibration coming from the door. I open it and there's that void. I go out, look to the right , look to the left, and close the door. It's time for a little walk, now. Ah yes, the police car is at the neighbors, checking their hearing impairments. I circle the small neighborhood and get back home. I think I forgot something. So I go straight to my backyard. Oh no. Oh no.
    There she lay. The woman. From before. She found rose in my backyard. Buried. I never figured how she did. Never cared.
    " Y-you!!!", she yells at me, she took out the duct tape I put on her mouth.
    How can I ever trust a woman to ever keep her shuthole, ah yes, I say to her.
    "Why do you hide her? Why?!"
    You will never understand. I can't live without her. Now come to me, I need you to learn the gift of eternal silence.
    She screamed, as she should. But there's that police around.
    So I grabbed her. She couldn't dodge me. I was clear enough when I told her she have to stay in my basement. So clear I cut her Tendo. Which is a muscle at the back of her feet. It's what moves the feet when we walk.
    So I grabbed her, ah yes. I did you see. And I dragged her all the way, yelling and whimpering in my arms, like old rosie did back at the time, when I wished her my last goodbye. To her face at least. I kept it clean as much as possible when tied her up and buried her alive, 66 years ago. In her own backyard I did even, when her mother moved, I bought the house, you see. Her mother never knew why I always came and sit in her backyard, thought I was worried sick about rosie. She used to call me, but I never heard her. She had no one , her mother, you see. So she moved.
    So this woman, sits on the chair, retied. With a bloodied shirt and socks.
    Unfortunately, I have to get rid of her. You see. I figure, it would be plain nasty to kill her with the knives I eat with, and all I had was this workshop saw. She wake up. Then she speaks.
    "What are you doing with this saw?"
    Releasing you, can't you see? youth these days.
    "Mom... mommy...."
    Crying now, my dear? Your mommy clearly can't hear you.
    "Why... why did she tell me to come here and dig..."
    What did you say now dear? I couldn't quite here you.
    "Why did my mom told me to dig in your backyard, old man!"
    Well, that's out of question, where should I know? It's your mother. Now where were we.
    It is then, when I raised the little uranium based saw, you see, no more gas.
    Stepping closer and closer, this thing may be lighter than the old ones, but still I am an old man.
    The door opened.
    "Put your hands above your hand, Mr. Taff!"
    That tall policeman.
    "Is she here? is my daughter here?", an old lady came bursting beyond the smaller cop.
    "You..... Tim?"
    Ah yes, I couldn't hear you quite well could you gently repeat?
    "You're.. You're Tim Taff?"
    And who might you be, dear old ma'am?
    "I am rose, Tim."
    The smaller policeman released the shouting woman, whom voice I blocked. She couldn't get up, obviously.
    You're not Rose my dear, my Rose been in this backyard for over 60 years.
    "You were never good at tying people up."
    I can't hear any of those things anymore. So, I take the kitchen knife that I had in pocket, quite unsettling, but I don't believe I will use it any longer.
    "Put that down, old man!"
    Goodbye, my dear rosie. Such as the great artist of well past, I will remove myself from any more suffering. You see, in the end, my ears were just a burden. Goodbye, my dear rosie, how much I love you.
    She shouted something, but I was at my own. Cutting my right ear. That sparkling blackness. That was the last time I heard anything at all.
    The house shook today it shook alright. shook enough for me to to finally realize that silence is peace.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Nicole93 - Goodbye Again

    The sun shone bright in the sky, radiating heat from the roads. Of course there's only one thing to do on a day like this, and that's to get the biggest chocolate peanut butter shake around and a carton of fries. I was going to start yesterday but this is tradition, I almost don't have an option.
    "You comin' with me baby?" I said
    "Nope, I don't want to be a part of your self destruction. Besides you made me a promise and your braking it . . . again." He spoke harshly
    He just doesn't understand, doesn't he remember it's tradition to get a shake and fries on the first 100 degree day of the year? "Honey you know it's just this last time, for traditions sake." Disappointment etched in his expression.
    "Yeah, heard that before. It's always the last one, you haven't even tried! I really believed you last time" His head fell onto his hands, there'd be no fixing this right now.
    "Well, I guess I'm going now," I felt bad just saying it but gosh I just can't resist, "I love you?"
    "Bye." I shouldn't expect much more, I've been promising him for months that I would try to get healthy, but there's always tomorrow and there's always a new thing to say goodbye to. I know, it's ought to be more general, but hey, I'm workin' down the list right?
    Pulling out of the driveway, I turn on the radio, turn it up, and skid out of the driveway. I don't know what's on and I don't care.
    Am I going because I'm upset, no, that's not what this is. I'm going to try, I am.
    Walking in to the local ice cream shop the smell hit me and the guilt was gone, now to get that shake.
    "Hey Paul"
    "Hey, let me guess, the usual?"
    "You got it."
    He dumped in the peanut butter cup ice cream, then the extra fudge, the extra peanut butter. It really is perfection. Nothing wrong with a cheat day, well I guess it's not a cheat day if you do it every day.
    "You in line?"
    "Uh, yeah, just waiting for my shake."
    "Ah, well, here's my card, give me a call if you need to." She slid the card into my hand and walked out the door.
    A personal trainer. Go figure! I can't even escape the guilt in here. He handed me the shake, it barely fit in my hand as usual and so I walked out the door.
    Holding the shake, looking at it, smelling it, a tear squeezed its way out of my eye, and then another. How long can I keep this up.
    Something filled me up so deep I couldn't control it and the shake flew to the windshield. Cream and bits flew all over the car, covering the window. Looking at I cried so hard, it covered the window just like it had covered in me in a body that wasn't meant for me.
    "Goodbye." I walked away from the car and in doing so from my own way of life, I left it behind then and there and walked home to the new life I'd always wanted. This was my last goodbye.

    A full year later

    Julie stood on the stage and smiled, more joy than ever in her life radiated from her. She had just placed third at her very first fitness modeling competition. From that day in the car she never touched another shake, or fry, or even a soda. Today was no longer in essence of the very last goodbye to unhealthy living but the hello to rest of her life.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    CoffeePrince - On the way to Making It Three

    It was a really hot day- record highs according to a barely functioning radio next to the bus driver. Without the air conditioner blasting out tundra level wind, it was possible- no, definite that someone wouldn't survive. As we crossed over the ridge road, it was a lot cooler and much more refreshing due to the shade. She pulled the window down and took a large gasp of air.

    "You should do this. It makes you feel so much better."

    He looked at her and then looked outside the window. With how long the canyon road was, it would be another hour before they would get to the destination.

    He cleared his throat and said, "You know-"

    "We wanted this didn't we?" She clarified.

    "I wanted it."

    "Too late to change anything."

    "It's not too late, we can go back."

    She pulled the window up as if she were going to get sick from breathing in the fresh air.

    "It's really nice here. I think I'd like to vacation here next time."

    As he pulled out a flask and took a sip, he demanded an answer. "We should do what you want to and we don't have to do this."

    "We really don't have to do anything at all."

    "We could. Is that what you want?”

    “I don't know.”

    She silently braided her hair while he once again took a sip from the
    flask. She turned her head toward him and asked, “What are you drinking?”


    “I thought you quit drinking.”

    “I thought I did too.”

    “It's a bad habit.”

    “It's only me and you. No one will know.”

    She paused and gently placed a hand on him. “Give me some.”

    “I thought you said it was a bad habit.”

    She painfully smiled saying, “It's not like it matters,” then reassured
    him, “It'll be the same as before.”

    “Depends on if you want to or not.”

    “Are you still up on that?” She asked as she grabbed the flask from
    him. She took a large gulp before making a disgusted expression. She
    coughed loudly and a child offered her some water. She once more painfully
    smiled. She waved her hand as if a sign to tell him that it was okay. Turning
    her head, she giggled, “It tastes like liquorish- the bad kind.”

    He smiled and said, “That's why I told you not to drink.”

    “You know what would be good right now?”


    “Some cold beer. Like those german ones at home.”

    He frowned and pursed his lips together before saying, “You don't want

    “I never said that.”

    “Yes you did. You should have told me. I knew you didn't.”

    “I told you I don't know.”

    “Do you want time to decide? We don't have to do this now.”

    “We're already at the end of the first. You know I can't in the second.”

    “I can find someone. Can't be too hard.”

    “No. We're already going, let's do it.”

    “It's not my choice. It's yours. You know that.”

    “It's both of ours- it always was and you know that.”

    Forced into a stalemate, the two of them sat there without a way to
    redirect the issue at hand. All they could do is continue sitting on that metal
    bus that kept going along the shaded canyon road.

    “You know what'd be nice?” She asked.


    “If we could see elephants.”

    “We have to wait until spring before the zoo's open again.”

    “I mean right now.”

    He chuckled, “You know that'll never happen.”

    “How about Africa for next year?” She asked.

    “What about Spain?” He countered.

    “We can always go to Spain, but Africa is different.”

    “Africa will always be Africa, but Spain is always changing.”

    She sheepishly responded, “I guess you're right. Spain then.”

    Time slowly crawled on until the bus left the shaded area behind them,
    behind an impenetrable ridge line. Up ahead was a very pristine looking bus

    She sighed, “I guess this is it.”

    “You know we can just go.”

    “We can't- you don't want to.”

    “Don't put this on me. I thought you didn't want to.”

    “I said I didn't know.”

    “Then now's the time to decide.”

    The bus slowly came to a crawl and stopped. People began filing out
    and the child that offered her water happily ran around with his mother. She
    smiled at the sight of it while he looked at her.

    He commanded, “Let's not do this.”

    “Why not?”

    “I don't want to.”

    “Yes you do.”

    He reaffirmed, “I said I don't.”

    “I thought it was my decision. I want to.”

    “You said it was our decision and I don't. Look, I love you and I would
    give the world to keep you and that's it. I'd be willing to give my world to
    have you.”

    “Please don't make it hard for me.”

    “I'm not.”

    “Don't make me decide.”

    “I won't.”

    Relieved she asked, “Really?”

    “Yeah, but I want to do this. You should get ready.”

    She stood there with her hopes held high only to have them crushed
    almost instantaneously. “I understand.” She cried in desperation.

    As he walked off to the bus station, she held onto her engorged
    stomach and played around with it. She cooed and held it as if were the
    most dear thing to her.

    She softly whispered, “Hello and here's our last goodbye.”

    As he walked back, she asked, “What were you doing?”

    He looked up at the bright sky and responded, “The next bus is in ten
    minutes, you want a lager or a normal one? That guy over there is selling

    She smiled happily and hugged him. She layered kisses over him.

    In response, he merely peeped, “Africa sounds nice.”
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    nastyjman - This Constant In Life

    Andrew and Sarah were inside a metallic pod. The pod hummed with an ominous groan: the solid walls trembled, the grated floor sizzled and the hollow ceiling crumpled in. The computer console nearby screamed for attention, beeping incessantly while flashing a dire message to its passengers. On its screen, the console showed the current temperature. It had broken through the threshold of 1,000 Kelvin – it was 1,500 K inside.

    Andrew and Sarah held each other closely, affirming their love for one another. They wanted to lock lips, but the helmet they wore prevented them to do so. The helmets looked like fishbowls, but they were far from being fragile – the helmets were made with Polyphelexine and Maorgian material, five times stronger than First Earth Adamantium and Eighth Earth Ndukwium.

    Andrew and Sarah donned the same space suits which were made of thin, elastic Polyphelexine material. It had a built-in life-support system and an internal cooling system. The helmet and the suit were designed to prevent any damage from solar flares and were built to withstand 1,500 K.

    Andrew and Sarah perspired in their suits; the internal cooling system could not keep up with the temperature inside the pod. The cooling system was supposed to stabilize the wearer's temperature at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But with the condition inside, it could only stabilize the temperature to 120 degrees F.

    The pod was supposed to save them, was supposed to send them into outer space. At 60 million kilometers away, a mother-ship waited for the escapees of Twelfth Earth. There were one million pods manufactured, and they were only given to a select few from a brimming populace of two billion. Once the mother-ship harvested the pods within 12 hours of evacuation, it would propel itself in light-speed, away from the doomed planet. Andrew and Sarah's pod didn't even lift off due to a malfunctioning thruster.

    There were two portholes on each side of the pod. Andrew wanted to see what was happening outside. But the portholes were as bright as searchlights, blinding anyone who would dare to stare at it. Also, the temperature of the beams were 1,000 K.

    "Stay here," said Andrew. Sarah received the message through the built-in speaker, but his message was mired with static. The magnetic interference was too strong and too thick – like struggling through molasses. Andrew's curiosity tugged him to the porthole, but Sarah's embrace prevented him from doing so.

    "Please don't," said Sarah. She believed that there was nothing out there – nothing to see and nothing to witness. This pod was their universe now, and she refused to accept what was outside . . . it made itself known through the glowing walls and scalding floor.

    Andrew wanted to witness the final minutes of Twelfth Earth. He extricated himself from Sarah's grip, but a sudden pang of guilt froze him: he didn't mean to shove Sarah aside. A part of him wanted to return in her embrace, but the other part of him needed to see – needed to witness.

    Andrew pressed a button on his wrist. The helmet transformed from a clear fishbowl to a solid gold visor. The Maorgian material had made it possible to reflect any harmful rays – or beams of searing light. He dipped his helmet in the beam and peered out from the porthole.

    The heavens burned a bright yellow. The sun encompassed the horizon. Arms of fire waved like tentacles from the sun, burning everything it touched. Towers were crumbling, turning into ash and blowing away like dust. The soil swelled like magma, and the air of Twelfth Earth was blanketed in a fog of fire.

    Andrew blinked twice; he didn't believe what he was seeing. But what had caught his eye was not the cataclysm that raged outside – a family of four, out in the open, stood in the fiery fog. They wore the same suits as Andrew and Sarah did. The family held each other hand in hand, facing the furious sun. They were unmoved.

    Andrew couldn't break his gaze away from the family. While Andrew watched the family's defiance, he realized a fact – a constant in all life and a constant in the universe. This fact made his eyes tear, and it made him accept his fate without defiance. He felt awe within his throat and within his heart. The family felt the same way.

    And the family turned into ash and blew away like dust.

    Andrew turned away from the porthole. He was neither horrified nor shocked. He turned back to Sarah who was hugging herself. Andrew approached Sarah with a lightness in his step as if gravity had ceased. He also felt a tingling revelation inside his head, made his helmet feel like a balloon filled with helium. Andrew returned to Sarah's arms, ready for an embrace.

    Andrew pressed a button that turned his helmet transparent, revealing his emotions: he was weeping, but he was also smiling. Sarah saw Andrew's lips move, but she didn't hear him. Instead, she received an earful of static. Andrew saw Sarah open her mouth and heard nothing but static. Andrew shook his head and reached for the latch on his helmet. Sarah stopped him, shaking her head while tears fell from her eyes. Andrew said "it's okay." Sarah heard "bahhzzzztshhhhhh."

    Andrew released the latches on his helmet. He lifted it off, exposing his hair, his skin, his eyes and his lips. His skin slowly dried and peeled. The nanomachines on his skin worked double time, trying their hardest to repair the burning skin cells. Andrew reached for Sarah's latches, but Sarah parried his hands away – she wanted to do it on her own. She released the latches and lifted the helmet off, revealing her perfect face, unskewed by the helmet's refraction.

    The computer console made an ominous sound – it was time. It beeped and squealed and gave a flashing red warning. "WARNING! WARNING! Critical Condition!" it said.

    Andrew reached for Sarah's lips. Sarah closed her eyes, hiding from the gruesome detail of Andrew's burning skin, and entering inside her void, inside his kiss. They locked lips, and the pain of being burned alive was null. The pain was lost inside that kiss, trapped like a unit of light inside a black hole.

    "I love you," said Andrew. No magnetic interference prevented him from saying it.

    "I love you," said Sarah. She smiled. She also realized the fact – the constant in life and the constant in the universe. She opened her mouth and said her last words:


    The pod exploded. The sun devoured the surface of Twelfth Earth, undoing every human creation and every human progress. The sun devoured Twelfth Earth wholly, along with its two moons and its neighboring planets.

    And the sun consumed other neighboring suns, consumed everything until one sun – one light – remained in the dark expanse of space, and time slowed down until it ceased to exist. The single, lone light shimmered and hummed, pulsating with energy unmeasurable and unimaginable. The single light stood in the coordinate (0,0,0).

    The light did not have any thoughts nor motives, yet it wanted to be alive ... again.

    The light exploded into dust, spreading across the universe and painting the dark canvas with the beauty that could bring god to his or her knees. Within these lights were more lights burning with the same passion to be alive. While it burned, the light gave birth to other lights. The offspring cooled, transforming either to gas, liquid or solid – or to any combination of the three. The offspring flew away from the mother-light, but they were tethered to its gravity. The offspring formed rings around their mother, dancing within a circle.

    On the third ring, the eighth offspring of the light gave birth to its own life form. Within the primordial sea, the life forms spoke to one another through chemicals, asking if it wanted to combine and create something bigger and better than themselves. It created and pro-created, then shriveled and died due to entropy. But its offspring carried on to create and pro-create. And this fact – this constant in life and this constant in the universe – was the engine, the invisible hand, that moved the life forms to change and to evolve. Life began anew.
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    teacherayala - Swinging

    Linda waited until dark to walk to the park down the street from her apartment. From the snores drifting out of the bedroom, she knew that her husband Cory was already asleep and wouldn’t miss her. Every so often she found time to sneak away for a half hour, and when she did, she usually headed for the swings on the park playground. Painted in red, blue and yellow, they reminded her of childhood innocence. How she would love to visit those times again! Swinging for a moment was instead her only connection to better times—times free of looming responsibility and stinging regret.

    A sign was posted at the gate listing the park hours. It was supposed to be closed by 6 o’clock, but this wasn’t the first time Linda had defied those rules. The gate was never locked, and the neighborhood was quiet. She opened it and chose her favorite swing—a dark blue one in a shadowy corner. Even if a local were to walk by, she wouldn’t be noticed if she stopped the swing in time and kept very still.

    She gave herself a kick start, pumped a few times with her legs, and then straightened them, leaning back into the swing with abandon. Her hair came loose around her face, flying free in the breeze rushing around her face. She closed her eyes, listening for the swoosh, swoosh of rhythmic magic. As long as she kept her eyes closed, she could imagine a blue sky overhead dotted with puffy white clouds and feel the heat of the sunshine instead of the night sky. In her mind’s eye, she saw the outline of tree leaves, bright green and sparkling against the sunlight. Her mind’s ear heard the high-pitched sounds of children playing around her, and her mother’s voice calling her, cautioning her.

    “Be careful,” she would say. “Hold on tight!” And then just for one moment, she could remember her mother’s face, her mother’s voice, and the way she used to laugh.

    “Look at me, Mommy!” a childish voice said, a voice Linda recognized in her vision as her own. “I can do it all by myself!”

    Even as a child, Linda had been fiercely independent, ready to tackle the world with both hands. It was that same independence that caused her to move to a different far-off city from her parents, urging her to throw caution to the wind. It was that same independence that drove her to marry Cory in a whirlwind romance. It wasn’t as if Linda regretted all of her choices. She just wished that she hadn’t been so quick to move away from her mother. If she hadn’t married Cory so quickly, and if she hadn’t have begun a family quite so soon, she might have had the chance to say good-bye before a stroke had taken her away forever.

    Slowly, Linda stopped the swing. She opened her eyes and sighed. The vision was gone just as quickly as it had come. The fact was that Linda would never give her mother that last good-bye. All she had to go on were her memories, fleeting dreams that woke her up at night, and a legacy of love that made her wonder if she would ever find love that strong again. Cory tried, bless his heart, to fill in the gap, but it was a chasm too deep to fill. Who else would give her advice on her writing? Who would listen to her complain about housework, smile over old baby pictures and share those tried and true “family-tested” recipes?

    “I miss you, Mom,” Linda said, releasing her older, more adult voice into the night air. “I should have been there for you. I should have known that time was short, that my life depended so much on yours.” Tears formed in her eyes and dropped one by one onto her cheeks before her hand wiped them away. “I’m sorry if I didn’t tell you how important you were to me before you died. I’m so, so sorry that I didn’t get to you in time. I know I look like an adult, sound like an adult, and speak like an adult, but inside I feel like a child. I need you.”

    A cloud moved past, revealing a patch of stars. Linda wondered how far away they were, how long it took for their light to hit the surface of the earth. Communicating with her mother seemed as futile an enterprise as sending light out into outer space, and yet the stars and moon bathed her once-hidden swing with a pale glow. If the stars can do it, so can I, she determined.

    Tucking her feet back, she leaned forward, moving her swing back and forth again. She pumped hard, increasing her speed and rhythm until the muscles in her legs ached. She knew she was swinging high when the top bar of the swing set was at eye level. Somewhere deep inside of her, she knew it was a crazy thing to do. Anybody walking nearby would call the cops, thinking that she was some crazy hobo breaking into the park at night, but at the moment she didn’t much care. She took a deep breath first, and then released her hands from the chains, launching herself into the air. Arching her back, she reached her feet out.
    “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” She said, screaming in half-terror, half-elation. Her butt hit the ground with a muffled thud. Not the most graceful landing, she would admit, but then again, it had been years since she’d jumped from a swing.

    Her mother came again to mind, muttering a few choice words and hovering around her in concern.

    “Linda, why on earth would you want to do such a foolish thing as that? You could have been killed!”

    Linda smiled at the image, gathered her legs around her and repeated what she would have said as a child under those same circumstances.

    “I love you, Mom.” Maybe there was time for a last good-bye.
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    author97 - A Million Freckles

    A million freckles stand out against milky white skin. I wonder if she has ever counted them. I wonder how many there really are. Why is it that those freckles fascinate me? Is it because my skin is so lacking of any marks, except for the birthmark on my thumb, and the scar that resides behind my left ear? I used to think people with freckles could never grow bored. They could take a marker or pen and spend hours connecting their freckles with lines in all sorts of pictures. The thoughts of first-grader, of course.

    A pencil falls from her desk and she leans to pick it up, as I watch from the corner of my eye. I thought I was so lucky to have snagged a seat next to her at the beginning of the semester, I was practically glowing with accomplishment. Now, a month later, I only silently observe her from my peripheral vision. I still have yet to work up the courage to ask her out, and every moment I don't another guy could. When she straightens up, pencil in grasp, a sheet of scarlet hair hides her face, but I have her features memorized already. High cheekbones, a prominent jawline, and highly arched eyebrows that sit over smoky gray eyes. A cute little nose, small and perky. Red lips, and of course, a million freckles.

    I admire the way she writes, the scrawl that has a loopy but firm demeanor. Then the sharp and shrill sound of the bell pierces the air. I glance down at my notes, only to find that there aren’t any. Instead, dots fill my paper. Freckles, I think. A million freckles. She’s leaving now, almost out the door, and I rush to walk behind her so that I can smell the sweet scent of her lavender perfume. Jostling comes on all sides when I enter the hallway, and I’m pushed beside her. She glances at me and smiles, thinking I’m there for a reason. I break out into a cold sweat.

    “Hey, um, did we have homework in that last class?” I stutter, than curse myself instantly. Did we have homework? What a loser. That must be the words running through her mind because the smile disappears.

    “No, we didn’t,” she says, “thank God, I’ve got enough already.” I nod in response, thinking she’s trying to salvage the conversation. Sentences race through my mind as I think of what to say, trying to pick out the perfect response. She turns rapidly and disappears down a stairwell and my heart sinks. Of course. This is where our paths divide. I know this, having watched her take the course many times. She wasn’t trying to salvage the conversation after all. I breathe a sigh of disappointment. As she turns to descend the next flight of stairs, I catch a fleeting glimpse of her. Her, and those million freckles.

    Three years later I’m at senior prom with a girl my cousin set me up with. She’s good looking enough, but she’s not her. She doesn’t have a million freckles. I wonder if that girl will be here. The girl with a million freckles. She’s not in any of my classes this year, and I haven’t seen her. I want her to be here, so I can see her again. However, if she’s here, she’s with another guy. I definitely don’t want that. When I enter the ball room, specifically reserved for prom, my eyes scan the crowd. My date must realize she doesn’t have my full attention, but she drags me to dance anyway. I feel sorry for her. Sometime during the fourth dance a flash of scarlet hair catches my eyes. It’s her, the girl with the million freckles. She’s with my best friend. My heart stops beating. I can’t breathe. My blood freezes in my veins.

    I mutter a goodbye to my date, giving the excuse that I don’t feel well. She gladly lets me go, but I’m a bit sorry I ruined prom night for her. Most of my brain is focused on her. The girl with the million freckles. Her and my best friend.

    Five years have gone by since that prom night. My best friend kept dating her. Her, the girl with the million freckles. They dated through college, and once they graduated he asked her to marry him. She said yes, and now here I am. Sitting in a pew. In a church. At their wedding. I was invited, and I wanted to decline, but I couldn’t pass up the chance of seeing her. At least I’m not in the ceremony. At least I’m not the best man. Our friendship didn’t last like their relationship did. Organ music starts to play a familiar tune, and I twist in my seat. There she is. Stunning as always. Wearing a simple white dress that clings to her frame. She has a million freckles. The ceremony begins and I start to panic. With each word uttered she slips away from me. I let my mind wander, I let myself be free of those words.

    I forget to look away. I forget to look at my hands, the sky, or even just close my eyes. He leans in to kiss her, and I want to scream, but I don’t. It’s too late. Too late. The crowd claps, there are even a few cheers, and she is smiling broadly. I stare at her, only her. Her, and her million freckles.

    In seventy years I find myself in a church again. My former best friend passed away two years ago. I never married. I tried dating, but it didn’t work. I could only think of her and her million freckles. She is ninety-three, or, she was; she was ninety-three. She died last week. I received a letter in the mail, it said she’d died and it gave the date of the funeral. It was probably delivered because I was invited to the wedding. I’ve prepared myself for this, so I walk into the church stiffly. Then I notice that it’s open coffin, and I freeze. I wasn’t ready for this, not at all. As I walk up the aisle, my steps stiff, I force myself to look at somewhere other than the coffin. A row of mourners kneels at the front pew. I read her obituary, and I remember that she had four children, and eleven grandchildren.

    My feet move soundlessly over the marble as I walk to the coffin. My hands grow clammy, and my throat clenches. I forget how to breathe. I force my self to peer in, and then my narrow gaze widens as I see her. A wreathe of flowers sits on her chest. The chest that will never take in air again. It has daisies, roses, tulips, and daffodils. She is wearing a yellow dress with flowers imprinted on it. It’s not so much a sunshine yellow as it is a faded gold. Her once scarlet hair is gray, and cropped closely about her head. Her eyes are closed, and she dons red lipsticks. Her skin is as pale as the ghost of a vampire. She is shrunken and hollow in death. There is one thing about her that hasn’t changed. She still has a million freckles. One million freckles. I wonder if she has counted them. I wonder how many there really are.
  12. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    -oz - I Don't Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

    As soon as the excited voice of the car salesman began passing through my TV, I hit mute. Why did they have to interrupt the finale of the greatest show ever with something this irritating? Commercials were a nuisance as it was; why were there commercials DESIGNED to be annoying?

    I got up to get myself a glass of water, leaving the salesman to himself. After filling my cup at the sink, I downed half of it, refilled it, and walked back to the living room. I almost spilled my drink on the floor when I saw an old man sitting on the couch, unmuting my TV!

    “What are you doing?” This, unfortunately, was the only question that crossed my shocked brain.

    “What? Twelfth Earth is back on. The finale, by the looks of it. Don’t you want to watch?” He looked strangely familiar, but I couldn’t place him. The only really distinctive thing about him was an oversized watch on his wrist. I wasn’t extremely worried about him; he was unarmed and seemed pretty frail, about 80 years old, though in good shape.

    “Of course I want to watch; it’s the finale. Say, how did you get in here anyway?”

    A crooked grin came on his face, again making me think that he was someone I knew. “What? I just warped in.”

    I rolled my eyes; at least this old man had a sense of humor. “Yeah, I’m waiting for Portal 2 as well. Really, who are you and how did you get in here?”

    “Don’t recognize me? I had thought of a few key lines to say, but I had decided they were all cheesy and decided to just wing it.” He realized that I was losing patience; he had seen my eyes flick to the TV briefly. I was missing the finale, after all. “I’m you.”

    I snatched the remote from him and turned the volume down a little bit; there were a lot of explosions on the screen and it had gotten noisy. Turning back to him, I studied his face, slowly realizing why he looked familiar as he kept talking.

    “Remember back in grade school when you kissed Rachel Ballard? How in high school you tore up your knee playing soccer? Your first car was an Isuzu Rodeo, your first pets were turtles named King and Princess, and you still have a plastic dinosaur you won at Chuck E. Cheese's when you were a kid.”

    I took a deep, ragged breath and sat back down on the couch. Explosions were still flashing as I switched the TV off. “Don’t worry about the episode,” the old man said, “everybody dies in the end.”

    “Gee, thanks for the spoiler.”

    “Whatever, the series becomes a classic. You’ll see it plenty of times in your life.”

    I jumped from the couch, my mind having (more or less) successfully wrapped itself around the current situation. “Wait, shouldn’t the time-space continuum spontaneously combust or something?”

    He laughed. “Rubbish! You shouldn’t believe everything you read from Heinlein or Asimov or that Oz guy, you know.”

    I glanced around, not knowing what to think at this point. “So... what are you here for, old man?”

    A brief flash of annoyance crossed over his face. “Don’t address me like that; you know Sarah doesn’t like you ‘disrespecting your elders.’”


    “Oops... Uh, I guess you haven’t met her yet.” He sighed. “I’m not going to tell you why, but I’m going to be dead in a couple days—I know I don’t look it, but it’s the truth.” He shrugged. “The doctor said that I should say my last goodbyes, so I decided to pull one last prank and say goodbye to myself.”

    “Well, you could’ve done it in a way that didn’t scare me half to death!”

    My older self just grinned, which faded as his watch beeped twice. “That’s my cue. I suppose I should get back.” He stood up.

    “A question before you go,” I asked. “What advice would you give me for, uh, the rest of my life?”

    He thought for a brief moment. “Take your time. Nothing in life needs rushed through. Besides, things are better enjoyed when you slow down.” He thought for a brief moment, and then nodded his head, confident about what he had said.

    “Anything else?”

    “No, that’s it.” He looked down at his watch and punched a button, which started making a whining noise. “Goodbye!” he cried as he started to glow. “Have fun!” With a flash of light, he disappeared.

    I stood there in awe for a few minutes before I sat back down on the couch. “Well,” I said, “I guess all’s well that ends well!”
  13. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    yellowm&M - Blue Eyes

    “Bye.” As he spoke I avoided looking into his eyes. The floor. The ceiling. The door. My hands. Everywhere but at his eyes. I knew if I looked into their blue depths I would start crying, and I hated crying. I hated it almost as much as saying goodbye. He placed his hand on my shoulder, but still I did not look up.

    “Are you going to say anything? Or at least look at me?” There was a well hidden injured tone to his voice that made me look up with a sigh; I didn’t want to hurt him after all. The minute I saw his face and those piercing blue eyes, tears started to fill my own eyes just like I knew they would. Damn those eyes.

    “Hey, don’t cry, its okay.” His voice was soothing and sad and it made me feel worse to know I was making things harder for him. Angrily I dashed the tears from my eyes.

    “I’m not crying.”

    “Sure you’re not.” There was a smile in his voice as he gently wiped a tear from my cheek with his thumb. The motion left a streak of heat across my skin and I closed my eyes for a moment, savoring the feeling.

    “Don’t go.” I felt another wave of tears gathering, but I forced them back with sheer force of will. My hand reached out for his and was soon enveloped in its warmth.

    “I have to, Mia…I wish I didn’t, but it isn’t up to me.”

    “I wish you could stay.” I leaned my head against his chest as I spoke. He was so tall that I barely reached his shoulder. Sometimes I still couldn’t believe how tall he was; it didn’t seem that long ago that he’d been a shy, skinny, little boy. However the way he hugged me and the years buried within his voice proved how far away from childhood he was. He had grown into a strong, wonderful, brave man, and here I was holding him back with my stupid tears. With a wrenching pain I gently let go of his hand and stepped back. The pain seemed to intensify and for a moment I was tempted to wrap my arms around him again because it hurt so badly to let go. Nevertheless I forced myself not to; I couldn’t make this worse for him.

    “Hold yourself together, Mia.” I muttered under my breath, before speaking out loud. “You…should probably go, David…you won’t want to be late.”

    “Yeah…but first I need a proper goodbye.” He looked at me meaningfully and I felt my heart freeze up. He knew how much I hated to say goodbye. I couldn’t say goodbye. I didn’t say goodbye. Throughout my life saying goodbye had only led to loss. Goodbye meant there was no coming back. Goodbye was permanent. Goodbye was forever. No, I didn’t say goodbye.

    “I’ll miss you every day.” I pushed the words out, hoping he would take them as a substitute.

    “I’ll miss you too.” But he didn’t move, just stared at me.

    “David, I can’t…you know I don’t…”

    “Please, Mia. A real goodbye? Just this once? I promise it won’t be the last one.”

    “You can’t promise me that…”

    “Please, Mia?” But when I didn’t reply, he sighed then enveloped me in another long hug. “Goodbye Mia. I love you.” Gently he kissed the top of my head before picking up his bags and walking away. I followed him to the door, leaning up against the frame as he walked down to the street. He was halfway across the yard when I finally called out to him.

    “I love you too…Goodbye, David.” My voice was quiet, but his small smile made me positive that he had heard me. Slowly I closed the door before sinking to the floor. Now I truly let the tears come. They cascaded down my cheeks, blurring my vision until all I could see and feel was the water on my face. It seemed like it was everywhere and I was sure I was drowning-drowning in tears, drowning in the pain of missing David already, but mostly drowning in my fear that whatever he had said, that would be the last goodbye. Even though David had never before lied to me, I couldn’t believe him on this; there were too many things that were out of his control where he was going. Over there they didn’t care about promises not to say goodbye. Over there it didn’t matter what he had said to me; they didn’t care.

    I cried for hours that felt like years. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, and yet the tears kept coming. Finally I managed to scrape just enough strength together to get off the floor and stagger through the dark house to my bed. As I slid between the cold sheets, a picture on my bedside table of David and me caught my eye. I looked at it for a long moment before gently laying is facedown.

    “I love you,” I murmured, hoping against all hope that David would be able to keep his promise. But I still couldn’t believe he would be able to, not when every goodbye I had ever heard meant forever. Whatever he might have promised, that would be the last goodbye.

    *2 years later*

    “I swear! That’s actually what happened!” My friend accompanied her words with wild hand gestures that caused laughter to come bubbling up from inside me.

    “No it didn’t. You’re totally making it up!”

    “Seriously! Ask Dan, he’ll back me up!”

    “Uh-huh,” I laughed harder as she gave me a look. It had been a long time since I had laughed so hard and it felt wonderful even if I was aching inside, but that was nothing new.

    “You suck.” But she too giggled. Just then the doorbell rang, and I got up to answer it, talking over my shoulder as I walked down the hall.

    “I bet its Haley after all. I knew she would show up!” I opened the door and simultaneously tuned around to face whoever was there. The words I had been about to say instantly died in my throat and my eyes widened. For illuminated by the light spilling from the windows and door was David. We looked at each other for a long moment, neither of us daring to break the silence with words. Our breath mingled in the chilly night air and I stared at him, part of me convinced he wasn’t real; how could he be? Slowly he dropped his bags to the ground-the same ones he had left with two years before, only now they were dirtier, older, more worn. He also looked the same as when he left, except he too looked tired, older, more worn.

    “Hi” his voice was hoarse and quiet and he tentatively took a step towards me as he spoke.

    “Hi” my own voice was slightly breathless.

    “I’m sorry that I never really called. I wanted to, but I couldn’t.” In the waning light of the evening his face looked nervous, scared. I had never seen him look scared before and my heart felt as if it were melting.

    “It’s ok…you’re back now. That’s what’s important.” I took a step towards him this time almost closing the space between us. Cautiously he reached out a hand and brushed my hair away from my face. My eyes closed, savoring the long absent warmth of his fingers. Opening my eyes, I looked up and instead of avoiding his eyes like I had when he left, I searched for them, eager to lose myself in their blue depths. We stared at each other a moment longer then in the same instant reached for each other. Crushing the space between in a tight embrace, I felt the thin barrier that had been between us only moments ago shatter and disappear. Once more tears leaked from my eyes, but I didn’t try to stop them. For the first time in my life I didn’t mind crying; not when I meant I was happy.

    “I missed you so much,” David muttered in my ear.

    “I missed you too.”

    “But I did break my promise.”

    “What do you mean?” I leaned back just enough to look up at his face, confused.

    “I promise you that when I said goodbye it wouldn’t be the last one. But I realized later that I can’t actually keep that promise. I’m not going to leave you again; I can’t leave you again. I love you too much.” He smiled softly at me and all the ice that had been frozen inside of me suddenly thawed and flooded my whole body with warmth.

    “I guess I can forgive you a broken promise this time.” I shot my own smile up at him before burying my face in his chest, content never to leave the safety of his arms. All along I had been right that David wouldn’t keep his promise. But I had never thought breaking that promise would have made me so happy. Now there would be no more goodbyes with David. Only happy tears and hellos.

    “So, hi.” I whispered into his chest.

  14. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    city_struck - A Familiar Voice

    The voice was familiar, but I could not recognize the face. I was running a search through my mental file of acquaintances, with an increasing sense of impending doom, as I was jolted back to the present by a sharp nudge from my cousin, Sitara. I looked up, startled, to catch the last part of a very dirty glare from her. All the women – my aunts, cousins, family friends – were laughing. It was obvious that he was charming them all. I saw my sister Maya’s hurt, puzzled look at my detachment and indifference to the man she was going to marry. Resolving to pay closer attention to his jokes, I pushed away the uncomfortable feeling niggling in my mind.

    Later, Sitara came up to me, furious, demanding to know the reason for my behaviour. As I tried to find words to express what I was feeling, she went on to tell me that I had been mourning my parents’ death for over four years now, and that it was about time I moved on with my life, and allowed my sister to do the same.

    “There is nothing to be done about Chikappa’s* and Chikamma’s death, Meena. Put it out of your mind. For heaven’s sake, it has been close to five years now! You may want to live your life as brooding old maid, but Maya has chosen a new life for herself and she needs your support. Don’t be selfish.”

    I tried my best to follow her advice. I recognized that I had become exceedingly paranoid since my parents had died. I attributed my discomfort to the paranoia, and ignored, as best as I could, the feeling of slow spreading dread that had permeated my mind.

    Our home was seeing colour and festivity after a long time, as the wedding preparations proceeded. The atmosphere reached a feverish pitch as the wedding date approached. I was kept busy by the revelries, errands, and million little things to be tended to.

    The wedding itself proceeded smoothly, a happy haze of colour and laughter. Everybody was rejoicing that Maya had found such a good husband. He was caring, handsome and rich, and his charismatic personality, along with these qualities, more than made up for the fact that he had no family.

    As I looked at Maya’s radiant face, I became annoyed with myself and at that same, disturbing irritation lurking in the recesses of my mind. I was determined to enjoy my only sister’s wedding, and I walked up to her and joined the others in teasing her about her honeymoon, which was to be in a romantic getaway that nobody knew anything about. Her man had planned it impeccably and taken great pains to keep it an absolute secret, flashing a mysterious smile whenever he was asked about it.

    Maya was ready to leave. Her things were packed away neatly, in the trunk of the brand new Voyager. She had two silent tears streaking her bridal makeup as she hugged me tight. I was her older sister, her guide, her guardian. I reluctantly let go of her, when a relatively long time had elapsed. I was choked with emotion and managed to cough out a “Take care!” amidst my tears. As she got into the car, I inwardly cursed that irritating doubt, yet tickling my mind.

    He started the car and yelled out a final “Goodbye, till you hear from us again!”

    In that instant, my thoughts took form. I was flooded by all the images that leaped from the penumbral shadows of my heart. The slashed throats, the battered faces, the gore and blood, all came back instantly, and a wave of nausea hit me. My parents’ blood soaked bed jumped out, clear as day, from my memory archives.

    The phone call. Yes, the phone call it was. I knew where I had heard that smooth voice before!

    “Remember me, your childhood nanny’s 'good-for-nothing son'? Your goody-goody parents decided to allay my foolish mother’s fears of my violent behaviour by having the police pick me up for being a 'troublemaker' in our village; they thought that they were doing the world a favour with their righteous actions, didn’t they? That they could continue living peacefully with their perfect little family feeling good about themselves? Ha! What a joke! I spent three years in jail, single-mindedly plotting my revenge over your family. And so many years after that, preparing what was necessary to achieve my relished fantasies. Your parents had it coming for them! I will be back for you and your sister. Goodbye till you hear from me again!”

    “Maaaaayaaaa!!!!” I shrieked, “Stop!.....”

    It was too late. He was gone. Gone with my baby sister, my only remaining family.

    At that moment, I knew I would never see my sister again.

    *Chikappa=uncle, Chikamma = aunt in Kannada, a south indian language.
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