Assault: Flash Fiction Friday Post

I’m no more immune to what’s going on in our country than anyone else.

Trigger warning

Assault

Aaron twisted his hands in his lap. His advocate sat beside him. Silent. Why didn’t the woman say something?

“And then, Magistrate, he rolled over in the sand and on top of me.” Neila shrugged her shoulders. “Totally consensual, Ma’am.”

Neila’s advocate then asked. “When it was over?”

“Well,” Neila gave the jury a smug look, her eyebrow raised. “It was time to go home. I mean, it was fun for both of us, but I had school in the morning.”

Aaron saw the jury nodding. Of course. His stomach rolled.

“Prosecution?”

Aaron’s lawyer stood. “Mistress Tyler. You say Master Wrangler approached you on the beach?”

Neila nodded. “Absolutely. I was taking a moment. University is so busy. I just wanted to watch the sun set and get some quiet time.”

Again, Aaron saw the jury nodding. Yeah. Neila was a bright young woman. Her family was in the courtroom, nodding too. Their darling daughter, being groomed to take over her mother’s conglomerate.

His family couldn’t be in court. They were workers, dad in the steel mill and mom at the garment factory. They couldn’t afford to take a day off from work. It looked bad, his advocate had told him. Like your parents didn’t believe you. What could Aaron do? His family had all they could do to put him through university, even with him working two part time jobs to help out.

“And Mr. Wrangler propositioned you. Out of the blue?”

Neila rolled her eyes at the jury. Aaron could see her body language telling the jury that she thought that not only was this a waste of time but that the advocate was a bit dim. The jury turned stink-eyes at the advocate. “I know.” She put on a demure face. “I was so surprised. I mean, I’d seen Aaron, um, I mean, Mr. Wrangler in a couple of my classes. We’d barely exchanged greetings.”

“So,” the advocate continued, “even though you were out on the beach for some alone time, you accepted Mr. Wrangler’s proposition? Right out in the open on the beach?”

Aaron watched her cheeks color, but it just made her look prettier. She clasped her hands together on her chest. “I know. But,” she shook her brunette curls, “it was the right time.” Then she looked at Aaron, an appraising glance that the jury followed.

Aaron began to blush. Well built, Aaron played for the University on the football team. His phisique showed, even in the cheap suit he had on.

“I was a bit lonely, and, well, there he was.”

“Haven’t you gotten the story reversed, Mistress Tyler? Didn’t you come upon Mr. Wrangler and proposition him? Several of your classmates have testified to that.”

She shook her head. “Not so. He approached me.”

“And isn’t it true that later that evening, in your dorm, you bragged about bagging another football player. Bagging, isn’t that what it’s called in your sorority?”

Neila blushed again. “I’ve heard the term but that’s, well, that’s just uncouth, isn’t it?” Again she made a show of looking at the jury. Every one of the members were nodding again. “And, not to be rude, but he’s, well,” she looked at her hands in her lap, “he’s not really in my league.”

That was the final blow, Aaron thought. She’s rich. Why would she be picking up poor young men on the beach?

His advocate had Neila on the stand for another hour. It was a lost cause. At the end, the judge said that it was a he said, she said and didn’t want to ruin a bright young woman’s future. Neila was found not guilty and released. Aaron sat. Stunned. Neila winked at him as she hugged her mother, no one else in the courtroom saw it.

After that, Aaron received so many calls for sex on his comms, he had to get a new number. After graduation, he lost several job opportunities because of the court records. No one wanted to hire someone who was a complainer. Thirty years later, successful despite the slow start to his career, he saw that Neila was running for office. He spilled his story again. That she’d approached him on the beach, stripping her already scanty swim wear off and placing herself behind him, slowly undulating until he’d tried to roll away. She jumped on top of him, sliding herself onto him before he knew it. Then finished, rolling away, laughing at his embarrassment. Down the beach he could hear laughter. She waved in that direction, then picked up her suit, carrying it in her hand as she sashayed away. “Eight” she shouted down the beach. “Try him out for yourselves!”

No one believed him. After all, he was a poor boy. Wasn’t he appreciative of the attention of such a well to do young woman?

Again, he received calls, death threats, offers of sex, threats against his family. Business dropped off and he had to let two employees go.

A month later they found him, on the beach where he’d been assaulted. Dead. A gunshot to the head.

Words: 850

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The Church: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Adirondack Fall by Randy Cockrell

It was a September, my first Sunday in my new house. I’d cleared enough boxes from the dining room table for me to sit at one end. The sun was just up, and I gazed out of the window, mug of tea in front of me. Maples that bordered the edge of the yard between my neighbor and me were still in shadow but the tree tops catty-corner across the street were in sunlight. The church behind those trees, I didn’t know the denomination, had its steeple bathed in light as well. The church had been built in the early 1900’s and wasn’t large but had that village church look that was postcard pretty.

The belfry was just a square mounted atop the church building. Slats covered the openings. At seven-thirty in the morning, I really didn’t expect to see anything or anyone over there. Too early, even on a Sunday. But just as I was looking away to pick up my tea, I saw something up at the belfry. When I looked back, it was gone. I rubbed my sleepy eyes and looked again. A squirrel jumped from one maple branch to another. The branches dipped and swayed with the squirrel’s weight.

I shook my head. Just a squirrel.

The next morning I was clearing the rest of the boxes from the dining room. It was ten and I was hot, sweaty and dirty and ready for a glass of iced tea. It was a relief to sit down in what I’d established as my spot at the dining room table. The leaves on the maples were starting to brown, I noticed as I sipped my tea. There were already many fallen leaves in the hosta border between my neighbors and me.

I was watching the sunlight dancing on the tree leaves when a movement at the church caught my eye. Again, something up at the belfry. It seemed too big to be a squirrel, but it was hard to tell with all the trees in the way.

The leaves changed, turned orange, red and yellow and fell from the trees. Every day I saw something over at the church. I’d have asked my neighbor, but she only came up from the city once a month for a weekend to check on her house. The neighbors bordering the church parking lot had fir trees on their lot border, so couldn’t really see the church itself. As I got to know the neighbors, I asked about the church.

“Haunted,” Karen Carmichael told me as we chatted in her front yard. She lived four doors down from me on the same side of the street. “The histories say that spot where the church was built was a burial ground. When the colonists pushed the Indians out, they just built over it.” She nodded sagely but I privately wondered.

“Wow. And this is common knowledge?” I wasn’t sure if she was just pulling my leg or not.

“No. It’s in the town histories. If you go to the town historian, it’s all there.”

“Thank you.” I gave her a wave and continued my walk. I’d have to check that out.

A few days later at the historian’s office, I read through the old records. Karen was right, there had been a burial ground there, but the colonists had dug up the graves and transferred the bones to the Indians before they built the church. I thanked the historian and left.

It was mid-November and the whole town was decorated for Thanksgiving. The church was having a harvest festival the week before the actual holiday and had invited everyone on the street to attend. It was a potluck and I came with a casserole.

At the door I was greeted by the pastor’s wife. “Welcome,” she beamed at me. “Thank you for coming. I’m Allison.”

“Hi. I’m Corrine. I live in the white house, two doors down.” I raised the casserole dish. “I brought a ham and scalloped potato dish.”

“Bless your heart,” she said enthusiastically. “Everyone brings pasta and it gets a little old.” She turned to a passing woman. “Elaine, would you show Corrine where to take her dish?”

The woman agreed and we proceeded to a table in the community hall that was packed with food. I mingled, meeting familiar neighbors and others I didn’t know. People lined up and got their food then sat at long rows of tables to eat. The meal was about complete, and I was telling the people around me about how I was seeing something over here nearly every day.

There was a lot of speculation. Ghosts, were, of course, the main topic but many of the men were convinced it was just squirrels running around the roof. The pastor stood up to give a little speech thanking everyone for coming when we heard some sort of noise coming from the ceiling. The pastor drifted to a stop as everyone’s eyes rose to the noise. There were two screams and everyone gasped. A few even stood up. That’s when the ceiling collapsed, and two huge raccoons fell onto the table in front of me. Men were shouting. Women and children were screaming as they jumped up and tried to escape. The raccoons ran in different directions creating even more havoc as more tables of people began to run, screaming, for the exits.

The next day, workers were at the church. I went over to see what was going on. The pastor was in a denim shirt, sleeves rolled up. “A whole nest of raccoons. Several generations worth,” he said as he wiped his forehead with a bandana. We had no idea.”

“I should have said something. I’ve been seeing something up around the belfry and roof since I moved in but never could get a good look.”

He nodded. “Well, thank you anyway.”

As I left, I got a card from the exterminators. I wanted my house and attic checked as soon as possible.

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Working: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Captain

Working

I juggled my cell as I maneuvered eight dog leashes. The pooches, all regulars, were good dogs but each one wanted to smell something in a different direction. “Mr. Malony, I have an opening for an interview between three and five pm.”

I jerked Fluffy away from a discarded food wrapper. The fat little Pekinese would eat anything, then puke it up once she got home and her owner would call and ream me a new one. “Yes, sir. At the moment I have appointments up till three.” I rolled my eyes. The appointment was another job. Not this one, this one was the first job. Six in the morning till eight, walking dogs. The same gig, would that be job three or four, between six and eight. The second job was barista at a coffee shop who could only pay me for four hours, five days a week. Between noon and three was ticket seller at a downtown theater. Not the best theater, by the way, but the manager thought that a pretty girl in the booth would sell more ticket in the slow period. So that leaves three to five for my interview.

I jerked Sammy away from an oncoming owner walking her husky. Sammy was always eager to prove his dogliness to any passing dog. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there.” I clicked off. I really wanted the job. A real, eight hours per day, real pay and holidays and benefits. I could give up all these pitiful make do gigs to pay the rent.

My share of the rent, that is. Six women in a three-bedroom apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of them but there is always a fight for the bathroom and paranoia over the food in the fridge. It would be so great to be able to have my own place or at least a share with just one other person.

My phone rang. “Hey, mom.”

“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”

I pulled a doggie waste bag from my pocket and scooped up Freddie’s contribution. While I tied the bag shut, I said, “Great mom. How about you?”

“Great, honey. Your father and I booked a cruise to Tahiti for next month. Can you go? We’d love it if you’d join us.”

I sighed. “I don’t think so, Mom. I’m going for an interview this afternoon. I don’t want to commit to anything in the future till I know if I’ve got the job.”

“That’s great, sweetie! I’ve been wondering why you’ve been doing those make shift jobs.”

I had to shake my head. They refused to understand that it wasn’t 1950 any longer. Dad’s corporate job lasted thirty-five years. He did the whole promotion every other year, gold watch on retirement, the climb up the social ladder. Mom, of course, was the socialite on dad’s arm. She’d held a job just after college, where she met dad, and that was her entire working life. They were disappointed in me, not getting a big corporate job right out of college.

Dad got me interviews, of course. But the new corporations were all about the “contractors”. People they could hire short term, pay a salary agreed to on a contract, then they wouldn’t have to pay retirement or benefits. No one was interested in a career path for me like the one dad had. That was way too expensive.

“Doing my best, mom. I hope I make the new job.”

“We do too, hun. Well, let us know, would you?”

“Sure, mom. Sure.”

She hung up and I clicked off with a shake of my head. She seemed to think this was a lifestyle choice. Who would want to be on a constant hustle for enough money to pay rent and eat? But it seemed the majority of the people my age were doing exactly that. It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. Businesses just didn’t want full time employees. They cost too much. Stockholders wanted bigger and bigger returns. CEO’s wanted bigger and bigger paychecks.

I tugged Maybelle away from a parking spot that had what looked like a transmission fluid puddle. Then stopped the whole procession to pick up Raylar’s droppings. Very glamorous, being a dog walker, but I did appreciate the exercise. The ticket gig was creepy. The barista job was hardly better. Every would-be self-appointed ladies man made a pass. Why couldn’t they just order their coffee and move along? And none of their lines were original or clever. I liked the dogs better and the happy owners tipped well.

At three-fifteen I was at the office building, tugging my skirt straight and smoothing my hair. I took a deep breath and went in. Oh. My stomach dropped. A panel interview, three people. I smiled at all three of them as I entered. They had me sit and introduced themselves. At the end, I thanked them, left them with my resume, references and my card.

It didn’t feel like they liked me. I thought about my mom and her invitation to cruise. Oh yes. I’d like to cruise. But that was not in the cards. My last day off was six months ago, only because I’d lost an earlier job taking tickets at a parking garage.

I went home. There was two hours before my evening dog walking gig. I changed and ate a can of ravioli as my supper and ran the interview through my head over and over.

I was in the middle of the night dog walk when my cell rang.

“Hello, Mr. Donnah.”

“Ms. Roman, the panel loved your interview. Would you be interested in starting Monday?”

It felt like my heart had stopped. “Yes, sir! I would!”

“Excellent. We’re emailing some basic information for you. See you Monday.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you and the board.”

“You’re welcome.”

I did a little dance right on the sidewalk. Finally! A way out.

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The Universe Calls: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Lightning in the Night Sky

The Universe Calls

When I was seven I could hear the whispers. I told my mom about them but she said I was thinking of the voices on the television.

When I was ten, the voices were louder. Not loud enough to make out what was being said, but they were there. After years of telling my parents, I finally understood that they couldn’t hear the whispers and didn’t want to know about them either. I kept the voices to myself.

Every year the voices grew louder, until I could clearly hear them. No one else I knew heard voices, so I kept it to myself, even when they became so loud it was hard to hear the teachers in school, or even mom and dad or my sister or brothers.

I kept to myself and surprisingly, it didn’t take long for people, even my family, to just kind of, overlook me. My brothers were so boisterous that they attracted all of the attention. What they didn’t attract, my sister did as she acted out with skirts too short and boy friends too wild. My parents had all they could handle. I wasn’t a problem so they just left me alone.

By the time I was sixteen, I could tell who in school might be like me. We were the outsiders. Not picked on, just hanging around the fringes. Slowly, I made friends with them. It wasn’t easy to draw them out. Like me, they’d learned to keep quiet. Eventually, though, we had our own table in the cafeteria.

The others had their own gifts. That’s what we decided to call them. Carl was a math whiz. He could see the answer to any math problem. Secretly he’d gone to the biggest university web sites and pulled their math department’s toughest problems. He’d solved them all but didn’t tell them. He worked with Gillian, who was a computer hacking genius, to break into the government’s sites and find their hardest problems. He solved them as well. Tony was a mechanic. He could fix anything. Along with Claire, who could design anything, they built some fantastic new devices, but we didn’t share. Bob was a plant guru and Cecelia could manipulate light. Sound was Patel’s gift. He could make it open, close, build or destroy.

By the time we’d graduated, we’d cracked Wall Street and all of the overseas financial markets and purchased land and had housing and labs built. We told our parents, the ones who cared, anyway, that we were going on a walk-about. My parents both cried as they protested they didn’t know where the time had gone and they hardly knew me.

That was an understatement. We went to our secret hideaway and called others like us from around the world to join us. The voices kept us busy. They wanted us to build all of this great tech. They pointed out where we could improve things. Soon we had kids, well, young adults, now, come who were charismatics. We started them on political paths as the rest of us prepared.

It took a lot of time as we maneuvered our politicians into place in each country. Our military experts had to run interference several times but by the time I was fifty, we were ready.

We’d changed the laws, planet wide. Kids received proper schooling, food, and medicine. More and more children had the gift and we put them to use. Warfare fell away and the last dictator was gone. Cities were cleaned up and the environment, close to collapse when I was a girl, was recovering.

That’s when the voices told me to assemble our leaders. Not the politicians, but the leaders of our little group that I had assembled decades before. I was the conduit, where we’d received our instructions so far.

I spoke as the main voice in my head spoke.

“We congratulate you all,” said the voice who called itself Notion. “You’ve worked hard and followed our instructions. Well done.”

The group in front of me cheered. When they quieted, Notion continued.

“It’s time for us to join you. And for you to join us. We will arrive in a week. Meet us at the spaceport you’ve built. We’ll be together at last!”

There was much cheering at that and while the others asked me what else Notion was saying I could only shake my head. Notion was gone.

Preparations were made. A band was assembled, the best of our musicians that existed. Bunting was raised along with a speaker’s platform. No instructions for the kind of housing Notion and the others needed were given but we prepared an entire hotel with every kind of food Earth had to offer available.

The day arrived, and we were ready. I was on the platform, along with the original group. The ship, if it could be called that, landed. A bright ball of energy and smaller energy balls separated from it. They floated over to us. I could hear Notion.

“Greetings, children.”

I repeated the words before I realized that everyone could hear it speak. It continued as we all gaped in surprise.

“We are grateful for your diligence. We appreciate your efforts.”

I watched as other balls of energy left the ship and as the ship shrank. A ball of energy hovered over each person present. Other balls of energy drifted away. Notion hovered in front of me.

“And you, Cheyenne, we thank you most of all. It’s time for your reward.”

I was surprised. What reward? No reward had ever been mentioned. We were just saving our planet.

Notion drifted closer. Its light was blinding but not hot. I turned my face up to it as it drifted closer. I wasn’t afraid. I closed my eyes. I could feel it touch me, a tingling. Then warmth crept over my whole body. There was a flash of pain, then nothing.

Notion shivered, then made itself draw a breath. It opened its new eyes. “Ah. That’s nice.”

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Oldest Life Lessons: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Oldest Life Lessons

It seemed like just a few days ago I was sitting, well, all right, fidgeting, in the seat my young pupil was in. Might have been the same exact stool.
I watched him as I settled. Ten years old. Brown mop of hair hanging in his eyes. Flirting with the girl beside him, though I suspect they didn’t realize it was flirting. I’ll have to tell the Ward of Novices about that but not right now. Let them enjoy their little moment.
I tapped my cane on the stone floor and the children turned, reluctantly as I remember my time, to face me. I looked into all of their shining faces. Bored already, a good number of them. The girl, though, what was her name? Oh yes, Naiomi. And the boy, Azri, both looked expectant. I nodded. We could tell, who will be a good mage and who just average, even though the novices were in their second year. The ones who actually listened. They would be great.
This year was no different. I was just a middling-mage myself. I was one of the ones already bored. But no matter. I am good enough to teach the young ones. And too old, really, for anything else.
I had my dreams, of course. I’d be a great mage and save the Emperor from some dastardly dragon or an evil demon. That never came to pass. First of all, because dastardly dragons and evil demons are few and far between. Most often the problems are so common that even my middling powers could handle them. But secondly, the really hard problems are for these, Naiomi and Azri, who had the power and the education to handle them.
I sighed and began the class on basic spells. I’d given this class for the last fifty-three years. I could keep up a running internal dialog while I gave them the class. Mostly, though, I wondered where my life had gone? What did I have to show for it besides a handful at best of great mages and a few hundred average ones?
What would these bright young faces before me think if they knew how their lives would turn out? Most of them would be sent to small towns and villages to help the councils keep the peace and handle any sicknesses that might emerge. Lives of drudgery, really, and no family of their own to ease their loneliness. No children, unless you count the ones in our classes, to leave a legacy for.
I drew my shawl around me as we discussed what makes a good spell. I’d been getting colder and colder for more than a year now. Just winter coming on, I told myself. And age, of course. No getting around that.
I was lucky. After doing a few stints with various mages in villages and towns, I was called back to Castle Porta to teach. Life here was more comfortable. The food was better and came reliably. I still remember the year I was with Mage Selean in the village called Thorson. Snow drifted to the eaves and even the wood had to be rationed. Many elderly and young died from the cold or starvation or both. No. I enjoyed my three meals a day, thank you very much. And a hot tea whenever I wanted to send my intern for it.
That’s a good life lesson. Don’t be in a situation where you’re freezing or starving. The children were startled at my wheezing snort. I covered it quickly as a sneeze and they settled back down. We finished the class with a simple spell. One each of us learned in our turn. It was also a sorter. The children who couldn’t manage the spell were sent back to their villages. Or if they were smart or talented in some other way, we kept them on. After all, much has to be done to keep a castle running that doesn’t need magic.
When I released them, the children leapt from their stools as though a wolf were after them. I sat, slumping. Resting. You’d think their energy would feed mine but no. Another lesson. They suck the energy right away. I rested, half-dozing. My intern, Katarina, woke me with a hand on my shoulder. “Master Wheren?”
I gave myself a shake as I woke. “Yes. Yes. I’m awake.”
She helped me to my rooms. Had me sit in front of the fire and brought me tea. I woke again in bed.
Drean stood next to the bed. The old mage raised an eyebrow. “With us still, I see.”
“And why is the castle healer at my bedside?” I looked around my bedroom. “And where is Katarina?”
“I sent her for tea. And I’m here because she couldn’t wake you.”
I struggled to sit up. Embarrassingly, he helped me. “I can do it.” I slapped at his arms as he helped me.
“I know. Just thought a helping hand would be welcome.”
“Hmph.” I pulled the bedding up to my chin as Katarina arrived with a tray.
“Master!” Her face lit up as she put the tray on the table. “I’m so glad.”
Later, I watched her sleep in the chair beside my bed. The fireplace was burning very low. Probably close to dawn. She was so young. Given me as a nurse more than for what I could teach her. I sighed. Again. Too much sighing lately. I tucked my hands under the blankets. I was too cold, but I settled into the pillows and closed my eyes. The last life lesson, I suppose. At least I wasn’t alone.

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I Shouldn’t Have Swiped Right: Flash Fiction Friday Post

I Shouldn’t Have Swiped Right

Let me start by saying that I hardly ever swipe right. I mean, to change the menu. Yeah. Maybe your phone is different, I can’t say. But otherwise? No. Then, of course, I had a new phone. I bought it because my old phone just didn’t have enough memory. We can all relate to that. Am I right?

I bought the same make of phone. I was hoping they hadn’t changed the operating system too much. They, had, of course. Any phone gets updated every 6 months, just to annoy their customers, I think.

While I was exploring the new phone, a call came in. Yep. You guessed it. Swipe right. So I did. There was a huge flash of light and a noise that made a sonic boom sound like a whisper. Ears ringing, I blinked my eyes, trying to get the light blindness to clear. When my vision returned, I was standing in the middle of a grove of trees.

They weren’t like any trees I’d seen before. First of all, they were purple. I blinked some more. The trees stayed purple. I stuck a finger in my ear to try and clear the ringing. The twittering continued. That was going to be annoying, I thought. Then I turned around.

I just stood and stared. A group of…what should I call them…aliens? Dark purple, they had four arms each and they were all waving around. There were four eyes apiece and they all seemed to be able to operate independently. I took a deep breath. I’m a big sci-fi fan but that doesn’t really prepare a girl for something like this. Finally, one of them stepped forward.

“Welcome! How do you feel?”

I took a moment to process the fact that this, fellow, it was a deep voice, was speaking a pretty good form of mid-western American English. “Fine. Ears are still ringing.”

The twittering from the group behind the alien picked up. One of his arms waved at them and they quieted. Mostly at least. “So sorry about that. We’re just so excited we got it to work.”

“Work?”

“Yes!” He grinned, if you can call it that. There seemed to be a lot of very sharp teeth. “Our transporter. We saw from your signals that you had transporters so we got to work. They probably don’t work as well as yours. We didn’t see anything in your transmissions about side effects.”

I could feel my hands get sweaty. “Transmissions? What transmissions?”

The twittering behind him picked up again. He turned and responded to them in some high pitched tweets then turned back to me. “You call it T V.”

I let out a deep breath. Television. They were picking up our TV shows. Good lord, what must they think? I rubbed my forehead. How to explain this? “So you saw we had transporters and you just, uh, just made one?”

All four of his arms flapped. Since I could see his head was joined pretty thickly to non-existent shoulders, he probably couldn’t nod. The group behind him did the same thing. Okay, flapping equals nodding. “And how did you happen to choose to transport me?” I looked around. I was on a platform, but I didn’t see any equipment. I was standing under an open sky, pink, by the way, with pale pink clouds.

“We didn’t. We just picked a signal and retrieved you.”

I cleared my throat. Thank goodness they didn’t choose some Hell’s Angel or Crip. “Very clever.”

Again, they all flapped. “We did our best to make the trip as comfortable as possible.”

“Appreciate that. And just where are we?”

“Lishton, in your language. We call it,” and he tweeted something that sounded like all of the other tweets they’d been whistling.

“Lishton.” I ran my hand through my hair. I didn’t feel that I was either capable or prepared to be a first contact. What if I said or did something wrong? This could be a disaster. “Nice to meet you.”

“You as well.” He grinned again. So did the others. “Would you like to meet our leader?”

“Of course.”

So he guided me off of the platform and we got into an open, I don’t know, wagon, that lifted off and flew into a city. We met the leader, apparently a group that was the entire, planetary governing body, and went to a lunch with several hundred other Lishtonians. The lunch was fruit and veggies and nothing made me sick, something I was initially concerned about. Then there was music, more twittering, singing I suppose, and as the sun began to set, they took me back to the platform.

“Thank you for joining us for the day,” my guide told me.

“Thank you for…inviting…me.” I went to the center of the platform. I hoped it wouldn’t hurt to go home.

“Come back anytime.” He grinned again and the whole group, still with us, waved. Goodbye, I guess. Again, bright light, big noise, and when I recovered, I was back in my living room. I glanced at the clock. Twelve hours. I’d been gone the same amount of time here as there. Shaking, I turned on the tv. The date was the same. Something to be grateful for. I wasn’t returned to an unexpected future.

The phone rang. I threw it in the trash. There was no way I was going to swipe right again.

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Watching the Rain: Friday Flash Fiction Story

I wiped the fog from the kitchen window with the towel I’d been using to dry the dishes. Rain. What a surprise.

When they’d told us on Earth that the planet was rainy, it never really registered with me. I was from Seattle after all. I was used to rain. Anyway, that’s what I thought. I sighed and turned back to the kitchen. The psychologists made sure our prefabs were bright and cheery. All of the lights, in every building, were full spectrum so that we wouldn’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder. SAD they called it back on Earth. Here it wasn’t something just the occasional person got. Apparently quite a few of the original colonizing scientists went mad and killed each other. Can’t have that with the permanent colonists.

I finger-combed my son’s fine hair, same as his father’s, and gave him a smile. “Finish your breakfast, Eddie.” He nodded, mouth full of scrambled egg, as he kept his eyes on the cartoon on the monitor.

“Breakfast, Ed!”

“Right there!”

I dropped sliced bread into the toaster and poured a coffee for Ed. I was still amazed at how well the agriculturists could mimic real coffee from the yeast vats. There was some squawking about when we’d get real coffee, real dairy, so on and so on. You’d think they were deprived or something. All we ate on Earth was yeast food. Just because the scientists said we’d get real food someday. I rolled my eyes. Takes time to raise animals after all, and plants. Nothing Earth derived could survive the climate here. Time, I thought. Need lots of time.

Ed came into the kitchen. He kissed Eddie on the top of his head and gave me a kiss on the cheek as the toast popped up.

Eddie finished his egg by pushing it onto his spoon with a slice of toast. Then ate the toast.

Ed buttered his toast and slurped his coffee. “Great bread, honey. I love that you make it from scratch.”

I smiled. As a botanist, I had a part of a greenhouse. I was developing a strain of wheat that might work here.

Ed finished his toast. “Come on, buddy. Time for me to walk you to school.”

They both put on their rain gear and walked out the door with a wave to me. I watched from the cleaned window. They got halfway to the next pre-fab and collapsed. I pulled the curtain and cleaned up the kitchen. The bread went into the disposall.

I was at my computer when the knock came. I answered, letting the colony leader and the security officer into the foyer. “James, Alex, what’s going on?”

James looked uncomfortable.

“Uh, Anna.” Alex pulled his hood down. “There’s been a problem.”

I looked at each in turn. “Problem?”

“Yeah.” James took a deep breath. “Your husband and son were found out on the walk. Dead.”

I blinked at them. “Dead?”

“Yes.” Alex pulled his pad from an inside pocket. “Something about poisoning. The local plant alkaloids. Was Ed experimenting with anything here at home?”

“No. No. He kept everything in the labs. Some of the local plant life is toxic even to touch.”

The two men nodded. “Sorry for your loss, Anna.” James took my hand and patted it. They pulled up their hoods. “We’ll send Mary by.”

“Mary.” I nodded. “That would be good.”

“Sure.” They left.

I went back to the computer. That would be good. I was sick of Mary, too.

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Four Doomsdays Bonus Story: Flash Fiction Friday Post

https://www.deviantart.com/dantephreak/art/State-of-the-Dow-Jones-101457104

Since my brain was already in doomsday mode I thought I’d write one more. Enjoy.

 

The financial report sucked. I finished my breakfast, and headed to work.

At the coffee maker four of us gathered to get that first kick in the butt to get our brains functioning. “Did you see the stock market report this morning?” I asked as I took my turn at the Keurig.

“Yeah.” Dave put creamer in his coffee. “The company stocks are tanking.” He shook his head. “The majority of my company share is in their stock. I’m taking a beating.”

“I hear ya,” Penny said as she put sugar in her coffee. It poured and poured out of the shaker. I didn’t know why she bothered with the coffee. She should just have been drinking Kool-Aid. “I’ll be ninety before I can retire.”

“It’s the brokerages.” Ellen said from the table where she was eating a microwave breakfast sandwich. “Just like in the eighties. Congress passed all those laws giving them free rein again and look what’s going on. Same damn thing, different year.”

My stomach sank. Last time I was just in the workforce. I didn’t have much put away in the banks, didn’t have a mortgage, didn’t own stock. Now, though. I was up to my eyeballs in debt and just about all of my savings were in the stock market. I counted my lucky stars that I hadn’t done a variable mortgage. I’d insisted to my husband we go fixed. He put up a fuss but now, I’m glad I insisted. “What about the company? Are they going to make it?”

“Who knows,” Dave said. “They nearly collapsed the last time. And now, Polygon is much stronger and more competitive. They’re…” He stopped talking as the boss came in.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” we all said as we grabbed our coffee and left.

I put a stock market notice up on my computer screen, set to pop-up if there was any news. Then I went to work. I had six meetings today.

At lunch I checked the market. It was going down. In the lunch room I sat with Dave and Ellen. They were as worried as I was. Dave’s phone kept pinging with every fall.

Mid-afternoon, Dave came into my office. “Look.” He held up his phone. The graph showed the stock market down 2500 points since the day’s opening bell.

“Oh crap.”

He nodded. “I’m underwater on my mortgage. If this thing tanks. I’m going to lose my house.”

I didn’t know what to say. “What about the company?”

He pulled up our stock market feed. “It’s down a hundred.” He pushed some more buttons. “Polygon is down fifty.”

“What do you think?”

“The whole market is going into the toilet.”

“Perfect.”

Dave left and I went to my last meeting. Halfway through, all of our phones began beeping. It was the company text. We all looked at our phones. Andrea began to cry. Elisha threw his phone on the table. I just stared at mine. The company was toast. Everyone was ordered to pack up their desks and report to the exit. Boxes would be searched for proprietary materials. We’d be contacted in two weeks with any salaries owed us.

We all got up and went to our offices. My boss came in as I was boxing up my crap. “Hell of a thing.”

“Yeah.”

He leaned against the door jam. “You have anything lined up?”

“No. I never expected…”

He nodded. “I have something. You’re a good manager. I’ll see if they have a spot.”

“Thanks.”

He drifted out of the door.

At home, my husband was already sitting at the kitchen table, a glass of Jack on the rocks in front of him. The bottle in the middle of the table.

“Fired?” I asked.

“Yeah. You?”

“Yep. My boss may have something for me.” I sighed and got a glass and sat down at the table. “You think he’ll come through?”

My husband shrugged. “What I want to know is how is it he had something lined up? Did he know your company was going to tank?

I sipped the whisky. “I don’t know. The competition was beating us. Maybe he was just getting out before they killed us.”

He nodded. “Maybe. Wish my boss had as much foresight.”

He’d turned the TV in the kitchen on, sound off. The screen showed people rioting in the street in New York, Chicago, L.A., London, Rome, Tokyo, and even Moscow. The world-wide economy was collapsing. Grocery stores were being looted. Store windows were smashed. I sat there, mesmerized and just sipped my whisky

“I stopped at the bank and pulled all of our savings,” he said. “Eight grand.”

My stomach sank. “That’s all we had?”

He nodded. “If we’re careful, eight months mortgage.”

I drank the last of the whisky in my glass and poured another. “Let’s hope my boss doesn’t forget me.”

“You got that.”

We stared at the TV and watched the world collapse.

 

Thank You!

822 Words

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Four Doomsdays – Doom Four: Flash Fiction Friday Post

meteor_by_brandonstricker-d6ai470 via DeviantArt.com

 

I made my mom comfortable in her room and went out into the living room. My sister-in-law, Ann, and her daughter, Casey, were sorting canned food supplies in the middle of the floor. Ann had a clipboard where she was keeping an inventory. My brother, Ned, was standing in the kitchen door, drinking a glass of water as he watched his wife and daughter.

“I’m headed to the airport.” I grabbed my purse from the credenza.

“Stay safe.” Ned emptied his glass.

“I have my nine mil.” I lifted my shirt tail to show the gun.

He nodded. “Barry comes in tonight, he’s got the kids. Joyce wouldn’t come.”

I sighed. I knew it would be a toss-up. Joyce and Barry had divorced a year ago. “I’m glad she let the kids come.

“Me too.”

I slid by my brother into the kitchen and out the door to the garage. I used the Prius. The back could hold a lot of stuff and it looked normal. The trucks attracted too much attention, even if we didn’t have the machine guns mounted in the back. Once on the road, I turned on the police scanner. I wanted to avoid any roadblocks. Also, any riots.

I was surprised, actually, when my daughter called me two days ago to tell me she and her ex were coming. I had thought he’d go to Texas to be with his family. I’d find out when he got here why he’d decided to come to upstate New York. In the meantime, I kept my eyes open for opportunities. That was life now. Grabbing any opportunity to stock up. No matter what the thing was. Last week I’d found a grocery store being looted. I joined in and scored dehydrated camping meals. They were in a back corner of the back room and most people were out on the main floor fighting over the last of the canned goods.

The trip didn’t reveal anything worthwhile and I arrived at the airport on time. I met my daughter, Zoe, and her ex, Matt, in the baggage area. I gave her a hug, Matt, too, and helped them bring their bags out to the car.

“We had to pay extra,” Zoe said on the ride home. We brought everything we thought would be helpful.”

“Guns, ammo?” I asked.

I could see Matt shake his head in the rear view.

“No. We couldn’t bring it on the plane no matter how we packed it. So we mailed it, four days ago. With luck, the boxes will be here today or tomorrow.”

“If the mail is still running.” Governmental services had become spotty, even the police, State Troopers, and Marshals. They had families to take care of too. “I was surprised you caught a plane.”

 

“Yeah.” Zoe pulled her hair out of the elastic. “It was the last one. It only flew because the pilot’s family lives here and he wanted to come home. There was no co-pilot and only one flight attendant.”

I nodded. “You able to bring anything else?”

“Gold,” Matt said.

“For real? Excellent.” We expected normal currency would be worthless soon. Gold, historically, would be more valuable.

“Is the wall up?” Matt asked.

“Most of it. Building a wall around the valley was a struggle.”

“I’ll bet. I can help get it finished.”

“Thanks.” One of the problems we’d faced when we started was that the valley was mostly populated with retirees and elderly. But once the crisis began, the kids, middle-aged, and grandkids, young adults, began coming back. We hadn’t been preppers, but the community came together, made a plan, and began implementing it. The wall was the major task. The valley was just off of the main highway going north and south. We expected hordes of survivors would leave the cities and head in every direction, including the Adirondacks, looking for food and shelter. We were sympathetic, we really were, but there was only so much food and shelter to go around. The community did have a plan to accept newcomers, but they’d have to have skills. There was no longer any free lunch.

Once home, it was a celebration. Venison was on the table, along with vegetables from my garden. We’d expanded it to cover half an acre. We were constructing a frame over it and were gathering old windows to make it into a greenhouse. That was going to be important for the future. The old barn on my parent’s adjoining property, held goats, mainly Pygora, for their fleece but some Kiko’s for their meat. Both breeds give milk but it wasn’t their main selling point. We had rabbits, too. In every regard we chose livestock that could be brought inside.

We turned the tv on after the kids were in bed. I waited impatiently through the pictures of rioting and cities on fire. The story we were looking for came on halfway through the broadcast.

The asteroid was three days out. Time was almost up. Scientists were still trying to predict where it would hit. Ocean or land, either one was bad though in differing ways. It didn’t matter. Life around the world was going to be decimated. Then the survivors would have to cope.

I went out onto the patio. We’d built this house as soon as we’d heard about the asteroid. It was underground. It was as energy efficient as we could make it. It had two sub-basements where we had all the supplies we could find in the last eighteen months. All of the animals would be brought into the special room we’d had built and this patio would be our greenhouse for the worst of the disaster. I just hoped even with all of the dust in the air, there’d be enough light to grow things.

My husband Liam came out and draped his arm over my shoulders. “We’re ready.”

I nodded. “As ready as we can be, I guess.”

 

Thank You!

992 Words

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Four Doomsdays – Doom Three: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Mushrooms, Otherwise known as Fungus by Randy Cockrell

“And in other news…”

I half-listened as I changed my three-month-old daughter, Becca. It was always bad news on the TV and I was too engaged with my first-born to care about whatever was troubling the rest of the world. My world was perfect.

Still on maternity leave, I took Becca down to the kitchen and poured my husband, Ron, his coffee and put it on the table at his place. This was his first day back to work from paternity leave. We’d had such a nice time this last three weeks. I was sorry that he had to go back to work already.

He came into the kitchen, adjusting his tie. “I’m sorry I have to put this thing on again.” He sat down at his place as I put a bowl of cereal in front of him.

“Then don’t. You don’t have to wear it.”

He shook his head. “No. If you want to get ahead, dress for two levels above where you are. That’s the CEO. He wears a tie, I wear a tie.” He scooped cereal into his mouth.
I shrugged. Ron was ambitious and I couldn’t blame him, so was I. But my system was still swimming in maternal hormones. At the moment, I couldn’t generate any sympathy. “Your call.”

I pulled Becca to me and pulled up my shirt. One of the best parts of the day was nursing time. I could feel her little mouth clamp onto my breast and begin to suck. I still couldn’t believe that I had a baby and I was feeding her. Me. Out of my own body. The wonder of it was still overwhelming. When I looked up, Ron was smiling at me. “I’m going to miss this.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Oh. Did you see the news? Some sort of infection is sweeping through India. Killing babies.” He studied Becca, still going strong on my breast. “That sucks.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. What must those parents be feeling? I’d be frantic.

Ron scooped up the rest of his cereal and gulped down his coffee. “Home by six.” He got up, grabbed his brief case and kissed each of us on the head.

“Drive safe.” I was talking to his back as he headed out the door to the garage. He waved and was gone.

After Becca ate, she had a bath, clean clothes, and was down for a nap. Time for me to shower and dress. Then it was into the kitchen, the baby monitor on the counter, as I washed up the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. The TV cycled through to another news cast. I listened this time as the story about India came back on. “Just in,” the newscaster looked into the camera, face concerned. “It seems China has had a similar outbreak as India. The government there has been keeping it quiet but refugees coming over the border of Nepal have reported children dying by the thousands.
I shook my head as I dried my hands. Poor parents. How awful.

“The Indian government has called on the United Nations for medical support.” The newscaster went on to the next story and I turned off the TV. I was glad I didn’t live over there.

That afternoon, I met some other mothers at the park. Of course, Becca was too young to run and play but it was good to get her out into the fresh air. “Did you hear about India and China?” I asked as I sat down.

“Yes. What a nightmare.” Carol’s baby was the same age as mine. We were in the same room at the hospital. “I cannot even imagine.”

“It’s the conditions,” Margery said with a sniff. “The sanitation over there is non-existent. No wonder there’s disease running rampant.

“What if it get’s here?” Joan stopped talking to wipe her three-year-old’s nose. “I mean, with air travel, disease can spread around the world in no time.”

Margery shook her head as she watched her four-year-old son go down the slide. “The people with the illness are not rich enough to travel. We’re safe enough.”

We all nodded but I wondered. I took pre-med in college before transferring into computer science. Disease was no respecter of socio-economic classes. Look at the plague back in medieval Europe or the flu back in the 1900’s. Millions of dead. Europe lost so many people modern historians marvel that the continent recovered.

I mentioned it at dinner that night.

Ron nodded. “It’s all everyone was talking about at work. Apparently, there is something going around in the bigger cities.”

It felt like my heart was in my throat. “What kind of something?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Lot’s of kids sick. But it’s all a rumor. There’s nothing on TV about it.”

After dinner was cleaned up and Ron was watching a recorded game, I got on the internet and did a search. Pictures put up by private individuals showed grieving parents. YouTube videos showed anguished parents pleading with everyone to stay home and not go out in public. A fungus they said. Some kind of deadly fungus.
I told Ron.

“Can’t be. It would be public by now if there were that many cases.” He went back to the game.

I could hear Becca begin to cry over the baby monitor.

I went upstairs. The poor thing was screaming as I went into the bedroom. “That’s okay, sweetheart. Momma’s here.” I picked her up. Out of the spot where her skull met her neck, something white sprang out.

I screamed, holding Becca out from me face down in the crook of my arm, something long and white. Blood seeped from around the base of it.

Ron came racing in.

“Call 911. Something’s wrong!” I sobbed as Becca kept screaming.

Cordyceps, the doctor said. A new, virulent strain of fungus. By the end of two years, every child under the age of five was dead.

Words: 1000

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