Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 03

Shalom, everyone…

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 03.

This is a flash fiction challenge.  The prompt is a song.  You are not required to write about or even mention the song.  It’s there only to get the ideas moving around in your brainpan.  If you want to write directly about the song (or the video- it’s all good here) go for it but you don’t have to.

The rules;

500 words, but it’s a slushy 500, meaning you can go up to 700 or as low as 300.

Post your entry right in the comments section of this post.


The challenge starts whenever I post this and ends at 11:59PM Pacific Time.  You read that right.  Pacific Time.

This week’s song is a great cover of my favorite Bob Marley tune…. Este Amor (Is This Love) by Gerardo Ortiz.

Here’s the link… http://youtu.be/R4CA5IwYcno

This week’s judge is my pal Mona Bliss.

Have at it!  Challenge ends on Thursday March 7 at 11:59PM Pacific Time.



Posted on March 5, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on THE FICTION VIXEN and commented:
    Love this challenge..


  2. Homecoming
    She revved up the engine. There was a spray of gravel as she screeched out of the driveway, dark sunglasses covering her moist eyes and a carefree smirk camouflaging the turmoil within. She turned up the radio-until the very windows reverberated- and pressed the accelerator down harder. The suffocating city traffic soon dispersed and she found herself driving on an uncannily familiar road. She switched off the air-con and rolled down the windows breathing in the smell of freshly cut hay and wet soil. Her blackberry started vibrating on the dashboard but she couldn’t care less.
    Where are you?
    The message blinked.
    Purgatory. She thought of replying but didn’t. Instead, she took a deep breath and stared straight ahead.
    A few turns but eons later she spotted the
    Time seemed to slow as she took one faltering step after another to the crumbling building in the distance. It hadn’t changed much. The saplings she had planted had morphed into tall trees; the immaculate garden was not-so-immaculate anymore; the roof was nothing more than broken planks supported by ropes. But it hadn’t changed much. The feeling of love hung in the air and somehow it blanketed the vibe of abandonment that otherwise radiated from the building.
    She didn’t knock. She never did. A gust of dampness and a burst of emotions almost knocked her back, but she resisted and walked to the far end of the hallway-beyond cobwebs and dusty walls; beyond old portraits and desolate walls; beyond her real life- and right into history.
    Sunlight poured in through the half open window of the shack, illuminating not so much the occupants of the room as memories of a time long gone. The old lady with the wrinkled face looked up from her knitting, finally acknowledging her presence amd just like she had always greeted her, she whispered, “Welcome home, Anna,” and broke down crying.

    Word count: 314 excluding title.
    (It’s my first attempt at anything longer that a hundred words. Great challenge!)


  3. Compton California Dreamin’

    Ernesto limped through the doorway of his apartment, bone tired and stinking to high hell. He shuffled over to the battered AC unit he’d bolted to the window frame and flipped it on. He remembered the day he’d pulled it out of a job site dumpster and nearly done himself in dragging it all the way back to Compton. It took every bit of mechanical skill he had to resurrect it at all, but he was accustomed to making do with less than he might have wished for.

    Snagging a beer, he sank into the lumpy embrace of his recliner and closed his eyes from abject weariness. Two hours spent milling about with the others in the sprawling Home Depot parking lot hadn’t been the best start to his day. The ensuing eight hours of hauling broken cinder blocks and the other detritus off the future site of some building or another had been nothing more than thankless, low-dollar suffering. It was mindless, monkey work best suited to those with a strong back and a weak mind and it galled him to no end to be forced into such. Well, forced wasn’t exactly true.

    He could have been back in his family’s modest home even now. He could be working in his dad’s bicycle shop and eating his mom’s home cooking every night but that wasn’t who he wanted to be. So, if life wasn’t all it ought to be, at least it was a life of his choosing…on his terms.

    It sure as hell wouldn’t always be like this. He was less than two quarters away from completing the HVAC course at the community college. It might not seem like all that, but damn this was L.A. Somebody always got an air conditioner breaking down. Groaning at the thought of school, he dragged himself through a quick shower that left him feeling almost human again.

    Heading down the stairs, he smiled as he realized he had time to stop for a bite before class. Rico’s Diner was a lackluster eatery at best, but Ernesto didn’t go there for the cuisine. He went there for Consuela. She was, arguably, the brightest star in his skies. They’d enjoyed a casual relationship neither had committed to as fully as they might have. While he dreamed of having his own business, Consuela’s quest was, if possible, even more audacious.

    She never discussed her background and he saw no need to be intrusive. What he did know was she was definitely not a Los Angelina by birth. There was just something about her that made that plain. Her fondest desire was to ascend from the local cable commercials to full-blown stardom. Ernesto, secretly, felt it was a long shot at best but who was he to piss on anybody’s dream?

    He knew something was wrong when he entered Rico’s to find the tables vacant and nobody at the register. From the back he heard the reedy voice, “Just grab a seat. I’ll be out to help you in a minute.” Confused, Ernesto did just that.

    Rico came out, wiping his hands on a rag and grinned when he saw his customer. “Hey vato! Bit short handed, si? Good thing you come in today. That chica you like so all fire up and quit. Said she goin’ back wherever she come from. ‘Bout time she wised up. She takin’ a bus somewhere be leavin’ within the hour if you wanna wave bye bye to her.”

    Ernesto was floored. Though he’d never declared intentions to Consuela, he’d always hoped for something more. Maybe he didn’t have all that much to offer her, but he’d learned sometimes it didn’t take all that much to be happy. He had a roof over his head, food in his belly and the crying need for something…someone…to hold close to him and dream along beside. Maybe, just maybe, that might be enough to persuade her to stay.

    Checking the clock on the wall, he winced realizing he could either make it to class or to the bus terminal. As he ran out the door and down the street, it was not toward the college but towards his future that he ran.

    700 words @klingorengi


  4. Coyote Heart

    My quickly drying blood on the desert dirt had a floury copper taste as it permeated my airways. The sharp pain in my torso made it evident that my ribs were broken when I gulped another dry breath. Removing my blindfold, I realized I was alone and the night had now descended on the tall, thorny barrel cacti and the flat nopales that were now succumbing to the darkness.
    I should’ve known better than to let her have my heart without a background check first; I should have known that Jacobo wouldn’t let a beauty like her go so easily.
    My foot stumbled over my broken cell phone as I dragged my leg behind me like a wounded coyote. As I attempted to gain my bearings, I noticed the light dissipating on the horizon before me. I could scarcely see the deep tire tracks on the cooling desert floor, and I could hear Eugenia Maria’s shrill pleas echoing in my ears and finally disappearing into the East.
    Tearing pieces from my silk shirt, I made a sling for my surely broken forearm. It’s for situations like this that I learned to shoot with both hands, but what good is one unbroken arm without a gun?
    The thought of her dark brown skin like coffee spiked with cinnamon sticks accompanied me as I wrapped what remained of my shirt around my ribcage. To think that just a few hours earlier, I had held that coffee colored skin against mine and had bestowed it with tender kisses and little thought of consequences.
    The night had almost fully overthrown the day, and the desert creatures were beginning to stir; I could hear the soft rattle of a snake in the distance. I could almost picture our future baby shaking a similar sounding toy.
    Like a tracking dog, all I could smell was her cinnamon scent on the wind calling for me to following the tire tracks, and save her from her captors. They’d torn her from my arms in our bridal bed.
    No matter how covertly we tried to make our escape from Mexico City, they managed to track us down in Sinaloa in a small beach town with only one fishing boat and a sparse population. It had been a small, but boisterous town before the cartels had descended upon it waging open warfare on the streets near the beaches.
    That’s never how my family ran the trade. We ran things like gentlemen and knew who to pay and who to kill, but never out in the open where a mother’s child, a poor campesino or fisherman could be hit by a stray bullet. Gentlemen don’t randomly behead scores of migrants to send a message. Butchers slaughter the innocent, not gentlemen.
    Filled with vigor and anger, my gimp leg no longer felt so heavy, and I quickened my stride. Eugenia’s voice with her love coos began calling me to her again. I needed to get to her before they hurt her or sold her into the sex trade. It would be too easy for Jacobo to just kill her, and it wouldn’t be painful enough for me (in his eyes) to know he’d disposed of her. He knew I had a special disdain for the new cartels who now peddled mediocre products and unwilling women.
    Thinking of my beautiful new wife being subjected to unimaginable atrocities hastened my pace. Looking upon the darkening horizon, I smelled manure which led me to believe that there must be a ranch nearby. If I could get to a phone, I could call my brother, Jaime, so he could send a helicopter to fetch me.
    Like a mad man, I began to laugh at the blood dripping from my open gashes, and walked slightly faster than a tortoise toward the darkness of the East. Holding my broken side, I grinned, as I thought of Eugenia’s cinnamon skin, and of how Jacobo would pay for his atrocious disrespect. I could describe the torture that I will make him undergo, but a gentleman never tells.

    677 Words @skarlitsunrise


  5. Delilah E. Day

    Hope – By Delilah E Day

    “What’s up, bro?” Terry said, slapping his pint glass down on the table beside me. “Long time no see.”

    I nodded my head to him and broke out in a grin at his lop-sided cap and vacant expression. “Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked, sipping my glass of whiskey. “I thought you moved.”

    “I did man, I did.” He was smiling as he gurgled back a mouthful of beer. “Caught a woman, got a house, and a fucking dog too. The whole she-bang.”

    The thought of my old pal having settled down made me laugh a little as I leant forward towards him. “I’m proud of you, dude. But why the hell, if you have a smokin’ hot wife, are you sitting here with this bunch of losers?”

    “Oh, she’s smokin’ hot, believe me, but I ain’t seen my old buddy Benny in a god-awful long time, so here I am.” Terry sat back in his seat and brought on his serious face. “Dude, you need to get out of here sometimes. I figured you might not even be here anymore, that you mighta moved on but…”

    “I like it here,” I said, looking around at the damp, musky bar room. Old codgers with pipes and youngsters pretending they’re old enough to drink. None of them happy, all of them lost in the alcoholic haze like me.

    “Bullcrap,” Terry sighed. “When was the last time you had a good-looking woman in your bed, huh Benny?”

    I averted my eyes and looked at the empty glass in my hands. “Not since Cheryl died.”

    “But that was seven years ago,” Terry cried, leaning forward towards me and covering his face with his hand. “Dude, you gotta move on. You’re killing yourself.”

    “I can’t be with anyone but my Cheryl. She was…”

    “She was beautiful and amazing, Benny, but she’s gone. She would want you to be happy. Not sittin’ here in this dump drinking. I was right there with you and I got out. Come on, are you telling me that if you could get that,” he pointed to a place behind me, “woman to love you and care for you and have your babies, you’d rather sit here alone?”

    I didn’t turn around, afraid of what I’d see. He’d made me think, and I had been paying for a significant amount of whiskey to prevent that exact thing. “Come on…” I begged him.

    “Look.” He said firmly, and I did.

    Behind me, alien to the rest of the patrons, were a small group of women. I could tell immediately which one Terry had pointed me to and I almost closed my eyes and turned away but feeling his hand on my shoulder, I kept looking.

    She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. In contrast to the dark, musty colours of the room she was wearing a bright purple dress, figure-hugging and complimenting the glinting blonde hair that wound its way in ringlets across her back. Her eyes glinted, big and dark as they flicked around to look at me.

    I blushed and took my gaze away as she saw me and smiled, realising that she was probably around my age. And then she held up her hand and waved to me. My whole body grew hot.

    On seeing this beauty, the prospect of having an actual connection with someone illuminated all the dark corners where I’d hidden away my feelings and needs. My heart skipped a beat as she leaned over the table to talk to her friend, her skirt hiking up across her thighs and showing off more of those gorgeous long legs.

    “Is this love?” I whispered.

    When she turned to me again I felt faint. What if she came over? I hadn’t washed in days, the whiskey made my manners and charms weak. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d shaved.

    She stopped right beside me at the table and looked from me to Terry and back again.

    “Pleased to meet you,” She smiled, and her perfect white teeth and a ringlet draped across her cheek were so distracting that I couldn’t speak.

    She sat down next to Terry. “I’m Alana, Terry’s wife.”

    (700 Words, @DelilahEDay)



    12 December 05.30am

    You were conceived an hour ago so I know you’re there. Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.

    It’s not your fault and it isn’t mine either so I don’t see why we should have to suffer. I don’t think I am going to tell anyone actually because they will have me down at the police station answering questions and giving descriptions. I couldn’t do that anyway because I never saw a thing. He just came out of the night and pushed me against a hedge. Your Dad that is.

    I was walking home by the light of my mobile phone. There were no street lights and I was completely oblivious to any danger that may have been lurking. Too much vodka to blame for that.
    Believe it or not I wasn’t even scared, not really. I did make a sort of token attempt at fighting him off, or pushing him away would be a better description, but he was big and as I said, I couldn’t see anything.

    Now there’s a thought for you. There you are, a little speck getting comfortable inside me and I, nor in fact you have any idea of your heritage. Bit of an adventure for us really. What colour will you be? Will you be Asian or Irish? I am not bothered at all if you are a boy or a girl or to be honest if you are a different colour to me. I do hope you are not South African though. I hate that accent. Still you won’t be born speaking will you? You’ll have to learn that so I guess you will sound a bit like me.

    The best thing of course is that I will never be alone again. Ever, and I have no intention of telling you how you came to be. That’ll stay my secret. I shall tell you that your Dad died before you were born and that I am so very lucky he left you for me.

    I guess that I better quit the vodka now but would you mind awfully if I sat down here on the curb and had one last fag? I’ll kick them straight after I promise because you are the best thing that ever happened to me. And I’ll get a job for the next seven or so months and stash every penny. You won’t want for a thing.

    Bloody funny way to find yourself and that’s a fact. Most women would be yelling their head’s off and running up and down the street looking for help.

    Not me though. I may have had a strangers nether regions forced in to me against my will but he left the best deposit ever.

    Is this love? Damn right it is.

    468 words


  7. Training Day 1
    Jan looked over the vast nothingness. Sand, rocks and small shrubs filled her view from horizon to horizon. This training world reminded her of the virtual visits to her great-grandparents on Earth. They had lived in West Texas and even from her space port home she could feel the grit in the simulated wind each Christmas and Easter. Air kicked up dust and blew across the barren land, leaving the smell of soil in her nose just like those holiday visits. Dirt bit into her uncovered arms, stinging as it mixed with her sweat. She hoped this exercise would be short.

    She pulled out her tablet and began taking notes:

    Terrain – flat
    Weather – windy
    Flora – scratchy
    Life Signs – none

    Jan raised her head with that last answer. This was a training program. There had to be something to document besides rocks. She put the electronics back in her pack and headed toward the nearest bush. The grey brown branches matched the ground and blurred any detail. Maybe she was missing the obvious.

    She stopped at the knee high shrub and looked down. Was there movement in the middle? She leaned down and pushed a thorned branch aside for a better look. There! A small winged creature hovered in the middle of the plant, the same beige as its surroundings. The life form had large chibi eyes, smooth skin and tiny hands. Its wings reminded Jan of storybook dragons, membrane stretched tight across tendon and bone. The entire thing was small enough to fit in her palm. She reached out slowly. The creature glanced at Jan’s hand then looked at her face. The big eyes gave the creature a sweet childlike expression. Jan smiled as tiny hands clasped her finger. She might be the only trainee to find the creature, much less to record a physical encounter. She was going to rock this exercise. She’d be flying to real worlds soon enough.

    “Son of a bitch!” Jan jerked her hand back and landed on her ass beside the bush. Sharp little teeth had pulled a sizable chunk of flesh from her right index finger. Large eyes and a bloody grin danced on the breeze. The thing seemed cheerful and happy. It made a chirping sound and disappeared back into the brush. Then Jan saw the other eyes at the bottom of the branches, all staring eagerly at her bleeding hand.

    “Shit.” Jan scrambled back onto her feet, keeping her eyes on the bush and its man-eating swarm. Maybe she wasn’t going to ace this after all. She took a step backward and all the eyes moved forward. She took another step back and pulled her pack around. She had loaded a glimmer gun and stunning net; looked like she was going to get a chance to try them both out. The swarm seemed to know her intentions and darted toward her.

    “Shit, shit, shit!” Jan took off at a dead sprint, still fumbling in her pack for the gun. This explained the consent form and waiver she had signed in order to join the program. The Scipio Faction was not responsible for dismemberment, death, or mental instability…yep, this counted as a waiver worthy event.

    Jan ran, hoping this didn’t get her kicked out of the program. Of course that would be the least of her concerns if the little bastards ate her first.



  8. Elena stood by the door arch, and the flames from the lantern flickered in her eyes as she stared down the dusty road into the night. Her bare feet shifted leaving scuff marks in the dirt and she cocked her head to listen to the sounds in the shack behind her. Small voices whispered and a complaint echoed. She leaned back inside and uttered instructions to share. The voices softened and faded, and she returned to her vigil.
    The ground beneath her feet was pitted and worn, and her rough soles matched the patches of eroded earth. She shivered and pulled her holey shawl tighter around her shoulders, and leaned down to flick away an irritating mosquito. Elena coughed, a sound that echoed through the night as much as it rattled through her chest, and she struggled to clear her throat.
    She tapped her foot impatiently and tried to gaze further than her old eyes would see, tried to penetrate the dark indigo desert and see beyond the tall saguaro, the sentinel at the edge of the track into town. She pulled in a deep breath, shaky with worry, and leaned back against the stone doorframe. The wick in the lantern was low and the oil almost spent, but she refused to turn it out, refused to sink the track into the gloom of dusk…not yet.
    A bark carried across the chill night air and resonated through her bones, and sent fear curling into the pit of her stomach.
    Still she waited, aware that there was now quiet in the hovel, aware of the fatigue that chilled her fragile body, and aware of the last crust of bread and spoonful of soup sitting by the dying embers in the grate. Her belly growled.
    The moon scrolled across the sky, and stars began to glimmer, and Elena wondered if time had moved too far.
    She stepped out from beneath the arch and moved across the stony track, limping awkwardly, her heart sank each time the wild dog howled, and she tried to bat away the tears that hung on her lashes.
    She waited, still standing firm, her resolve never wavering, despite the darkness of the night. She stood until her feet ached and hope began to fade like morning stars.
    Then she heard it, as quiet and soft as a mouse; footsteps, tiny footsteps beating against the dirt trail and her heart swelled. She shuffled towards the sound, dragging her lame foot, until a small child burst past the saguaro and ran, haloed in the moonlight, into her welcoming arms.
    He wept, rubbing tired and dirty fists across his tear-stained face, and Elena hugged him close. “Hermoso niño!” she murmured, “Al fin en casa.”
    After the spoonful of soup and the last crust of bread the exhausted child slipped beneath a ragged blanket on a narrow bed, with six other lost children, and slept beneath his guardian’s constant gaze.

    (488 Words)

    You can also find this story on my blog: http://thelastkrystallos.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/blues-buster-is-this-love.html


  9. I always liked Mexican food, and I especially liked Mexican drinks. That night, I needed to do something I liked. When I sat at the bar, I sat alone. Some crazy Latino music was playing in the background. I couldn’t understand a word of it. The bartender was singing right along with it as he sat chips and salsa on the bar in front of me. “Somethin’ to drink, Senor?”

    I nodded, “Something big. With lots of Tequila.”

    “For you, Senor, I have just the thing.”

    He’d come back with a giant Margarita that had to weigh a couple of pounds. Plunked that sucker down in front of me, and then put two shot glasses of Cuervo Gold next to it. “The biggest drink we have, and lots of Tequila to go with it.” I handed him a $20. “If you need anything else, Senor, you just let me know.”

    I sat there, eating chips and salsa, planning to get too drunk to drive anywhere. And doing anything I could so I wouldn’t cry. Not one damn tear. Hell, I’d stand in front of a truck on the highway before I shed one damn tear. I picked up my drink, “Here’s to you, bitch,” I mumbled, and took a long chug, clean up to where I got brain freeze.

    The bartender walked back by, singing again, this time in English, “Is this love, is this love, is the love, is this love that I’m feeling?” And the song continued on.

    “Yeah, baby. This is love.” I looked at my drink. It wasn’t going to be big enough.

    I remembered that afternoon when I got home. She was gone. She’d left a note. All it said was “You don’t love me anymore.” I knew she was never coming back. For two years, we’d lived together, slept together, shopped together. I’d given her everything she’d ever asked for. And I loved every minute of that two years. I loved her. I loved having her around. I loved being able to hold her, touch her, kiss her.

    And she was gone.

    I’d never seen it coming. And I sat there, at the bar, listening to crappy Latino music, drinking straight shots of Tequila, and liters of Margaritas, wondering how she could abandon me like she had. How she could leave me.

    Another song was playing in the background. Some kind of Spanish Love Ballad. The bartender walked by, heading to the couple halfway down the bar, singing right along with the song, “You don’t bring me flowers…”


    And, God damn-it to hell, I cried. Because she been right. She’d become a prized possession. Something I could show off. A prize of some kind. I didn’t love her anymore. And I kept hearing her voice saying those words on that note, “You don’t love me anymore.”

    And the bartender walked by, singing along with that crap music once again, “Cold. As. Ice. You’re cold as ice to me.”

    I swore that night, I’d never fall in love again. That was 16 years ago. And I’ve kept my word since then. I’ve kept my word.

    543 Words


  10. This is a bit graphic. I toned it down, but the story calls for a touch of it. Mature audiences please.

    Finding Dark

    It is dark, the moon blanketed by heavy fog. I am jittery, anxious, in the mood to push boundaries. Graffiti laden buildings lean dangerously, jutting chunks of stone rising out of piled garbage. Age, disuse and depression gather here like shadow at the edge of light.

    I glance down a narrow alley and stop in my tracks. A woman is sitting on a window ledge just up from me, one leg bent up onto the ledge, the other dangling, her skirt gathered in the gap between her legs and exposing her long pale thighs. She stares into the night unaware of the world around her.

    She is stunningly beautiful, perfectly formed pixie features, long dark mussed up hair, heavy black lining her eyes contrasting their rich blueness. In the drifting fog she looks like a dark city nymph, transparent and wispy. I half think she’ll fade away into the night as I approach.

    ‘Don’t go near her’ a small voice whispers inside my head. ‘Trouble is sitting on that ledge tonight.’

    But this woman has something I need. As I approach, her eyes rise, and my breath catches. She has some strange power over me and I think of the fey powers of the fairy folk from the fantasy novels I’d read as a child.

    “There are many things that go bump in the night. I am one of them.”

    Her voice is rich, loamy. I think about thick fertile soil, towering trees draped in green, then of the dank trashy smell of garbage dumps, the grimy smell of the city. The taste of that dark film that coats the bottom of your shoes after walking through the city on a wet night. The funky smell of my dick the morning after a night of epic fucking. Goosebumps rise on my arms, my fingers tingle and my stomach clenches.

    “There is animal in all of us, we can’t escape it or control it. I have seen it in the eyes of those who turn away. I have smelled it. On you. And I have tasted it in the cum of the men sweating above me. We are a lot alike you and I.”

    That voice is the most captivating sound I’ve ever heard. The image painted with her words makes me uncomfortably aware of her body, her almost visible breasts, and what lies waiting beneath that gathered skirt.

    “Humanity is just a thin veneer over the heart of a beast. So easily stripped away when the opportunity presents.”

    I shudder. A deep shudder that makes my knees feel weak and my muscles shaky.

    “Would you like that opportunity? I can take you there.”

    My cock stiffens as her fingers close around my arm. There are a million things that I once wanted and sought, but now, all I wanted was her. She pulls me toward a doorway, darkness falls over my eyes and we climb. A door closes, and then she wraps her legs around my middle and I experience heaven.

    When I open my eyes I see a mouth distorted into an enormous flat O with row after row of teeth encircling it, hovering over me. I see reptilian eyes glowing like sickly bioluminescent algae on a black ocean. Her gaping maw settles onto my neck slicing the tender flesh it finds there, her clawed fingers dig and rip into my flesh. I scream as my body tears and breaks open. Blood splashes and dampens the blanket below me.

    The sky is raining blood. Deep copper tears of rust run down buildings older than the oldest child, and pools of ruddy liquid gather in the pavement cracks. It is raining, and I am freezing in a pile of garbage. I am numb, tortured, and I can feel the last of my blood seeping out of my body.

    I can hear the noise of the real world, of light, where monsters don’t exist. May as well be on another planet for all the good it does me. I am no longer a part of that world, I cannot reach it anymore.

    681 words. @ScrivK


  11. Cover Band

    There wasn’t much to the bar, but then again there wasn’t all that much to the town. Sure, it was on the tourist track, but everyone left after snapping a few pictures and buying some ethnic trinkets to show folks back home how adventurous they were. Unlike most others, I hadn’t moved on. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything that made this town special. I wasn’t seeking a higher spiritual truth like some of those who clambered over the ruined temples (it isn’t sacrilegious if no-one still believes in those gods, right?) nor was I trying to find myself like the ones who were living out of their backpacks and seeing the “real world”. I was here because I just couldn’t be arsed any more. Booze, internet and passable food… what else could you want? After about five months, they even stopped trying to sell souvenirs to me. I didn’t kid myself that I fitted in, but at least the locals left me in peace. More than I could say for the tourists – they were always trying to ingratiate themselves with me. Thinking I could give them an easy way to connect, so they’d have a bit more of local colour to add to their stories. Wrong!

    There wasn’t much to the bar.The beer wasn’t even cold. But then again in this climate, nothing was. The breeze stirred by the rickety ceiling fan was barely enough to keep the flies away, but sometimes you have to be thankful for the small things. My stool on the verandah was empty, so I took my accustomed seat and began drinking mechanically, watching the unfocused haze of the sunset. A Zen Master has nothing on me, I can sit for hours as long as the succession of beers isn’t interrupted and no-one tries to talk to me. Sighs escape me periodically, but I couldn’t tell you why. Not contentment. Not sadness. Not even ennui. Apparently there’s a word in the local lingo that sums up this state I’m in so perfectly that I could be the poster boy for it, but I don’t care enough to learn how to pronounce it.

    There wasn’t much to the bar. But then again, there wasn’t much I was after. I wasn’t running from anything and I hadn’t burned out. Life here was simple. Predictable. Peaceful. I had a good thing going. The tour guides that often drank here after the last bus departed were more excitable than usual tonight, talking excitedly. Just as the mosquitoes were coming out, a couple of guys rocked up with some instruments. A fiddle, a flute and a harmonica. Normally, that’d be enough to make me head home, but I still had a couple of drinks in front of me to get through, so I stayed and listened. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had been dreading something “traditional” that the tourists all lusted after but sounded like cats being strangled with their own tails. Instead what greeted my ears was real music, just done differently. It’d take me a while to pick the songs, as they were singing the lyrics in their own language. Who would have thought that a pub cover band with those instruments would work? The Beatles. The Doors. Marley. A bit of Zep. As the night wore on, the music got more recent, but somehow it was still great. Even some that I’m embarrassed to admit to knowing… Aqua. Rednex. That chick with the annoying voice who was everywhere a year ago. The beers had run out, so against my better judgement I swapped to the local rotgut. Still they played on, getting weirder and more eclectic. Stuff I’d heard my parents listen to that I couldn’t name, but I knew. When I recognised the notes to Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I started to feel tears trickle down my cheeks. I had a vivid childhood memory of watching Kermit playing his banjo and belting out a song on a similar topic. Not the same tune, but it hit me powerfully for some reason. Maybe I should blame the booze, but I decided that tomorrow I’d head back home.

    700 words on the dot (not counting title)
    Timezones and I don’t get along, but I think I’m not late yet


  12. “Somewhere South of Orion’s Belt”

    – – – – – – – – – –
    Estefan glanced at the brunette beside him. “So, is this lovesickness or what?”

    She chuckled and downshifted though a pocket of traffic before answering. “Nope. You’re just suffering through stasis deceleration. Hang tight and I’ll get us out of this gridlock. That should ease the nausea.”

    He leaned against the dashboard. “How do you cope with it?”

    “What? Deceleration? Don’t have to. I’ve been conditioned to negotiate interplanetary transfer without side effects. It’s a transporter perk.”

    His tawny eyes snapped open. “Transporter? You’re not my guardian?”

    She maneuvered the vehicle over the commuters and leveled out above them. “Nope. Just assigned to escort you from dock to capital hub.
    Your guardian will meet you curbside.”

    “And if I don’t hit it off with him or her is there some way I can contact you for a referral or perhaps to coax you into changing job titles?”

    “Yeah, that’s not happening, senator. Once I deliver you, we’re finto.”

    “What a shame. So, why a transporter when you are obviously guardian material?”

    “Rules, my friend. I got no love for them nor them for me. I signed on as a guardian right out of the academy but my reprimands outpaced my performance and they let me option out a year ago.”

    “Transportation isn’t optioning out. It’s a huge step backwards.”

    “Maybe, but I managed to walk away with my salary, benefits and third year stripes on my uniform. That’s my story and this is your hub. Now, the ride is over, so kindly exit the shuttle. The navy suit at the kiosk is your guardian.”

    He remained where he was. “I can have you reassigned as my guardian faster than you can reach across the console and punch me, but it’d make things so much easier if you’d volunteer.”

    She snorted. “Easier for who?”

    “Your knuckles. I’ve been told I have a rather hard head.”

    “You don’t say. Look. Grayson is a good enough guy. He’ll do right by you, so just get out of the vehicle already.”

    He shook his head. “I don’t know. He doesn’t look like he can think outside of the box much less claw his way out of one while dragging my sorry butt with him.”

    She sighed. “You might have a point, Senator Barrios. I don’t know that Grayson has the experience or patience to handle a guy like you or the kind of folks that will come after you. If I’ve learned anything in the last fifteen minutes, it’s that you have a way of aggravating people, and the kind of high level people you’ll come into contact with in your new position won’t respond kindly to your tactics.”

    He shrugged. “That’s a price I’m willing to pay to keep peace in the quadrant. So, are you going to take the job or do I have to pull rank?”

    She looked at him, dark eyes narrowed. “I’m only doing this as a public service. And just temporarily, until you’re settled in. Then I want my nice quiet life back. Can we agree on those terms.”

    “Sure. See how easy that was?! Now, I think I’m over the worst of the deceleration, so where can we get a decent meal around here?”

    “I’m not your activities coordinator. Or your dinner date. I’m not even officially assigned to you yet.”

    “Fair enough, but we’re going to be spending a lot of time together and what better way to discuss the logistics than with full stomachs and good spirits?”

    She scowled. “I just lost my appetite.”

    He winked. “Not to worry. I hear there’s a bout of lovesickness
    going around. I believe a kiss is the common cure.”

    “Your mouth comes anywhere near me and you’ll lose your left testicle faster than you can say ‘senatorial prerogative.’”

    “See, that’s progress! We’re bonding, communicating, setting boundaries. Okay, how about you tell me your name?”

    “No way. You can call me Badge 323 just like every other member of the capital roster.”

    He grinned. “We’re going to rule this new world, 323.”

    She rolled her eyes. “Or spin it off its axis.”

    “Either way, it’ll be a hell of a ride with you by my side

    – – – – –
    696 words / @bullishink


  13. Rebekah Postupak

    She was a dog-catcher. Not just any dog-catcher; her keen brown eyes and quick reflexes made her the best in the city. And since it was a city in which no animals of any kind were permitted residence—on pain of heavy fines and imprisonment—“best” was saying something.

    He was a werewolf. Raised by a pair of kindly sisters who had stumbled across him as an abandoned cub, he drifted aimlessly through life, jobless, unattached, floundering, with loneliness simmering as lightly as his secret beneath the surface.

    They met one day in the bookshop at 112th and Elm, bumping knuckles while both reaching for The Secret Lives of Canines: What Every Human Needs to Know.

    Fate whispered in their ears softly but urgently.

    “Hi,” he said in a low voice. Her scent, powerful and aggressive, pushed deep into his cavity, and he clenched his hands into fists. But he did not step back.

    “Hi,” she said, trembling for the first time in her life. She disliked him on sight; his hair was unkempt and his eyes wild and furtive. But she met his eyes humbly.

    They left the book and store together.

    “Can I buy you a burger?” he’d asked. Speckles of fate still swirled around them, dancing between their feet, and she agreed without hesitation.

    He preferred his burger thick, juicy, and rare. She ordered hers well done and topped with thin slices of red onion and avocado. They laughed and brushed the difference aside.

    As the weeks passed, more differences erupted. Where she liked late-night movies and long walks by moonlight, he wanted afternoon rock climbing and early dinners, especially when there was moonlight. At first it was funny and they chuckled often, while the croonings of Fate still rang unrelentingly in their ears. Later, as they grew accustomed to the noise, the laughter faded.

    “At least we’ve laid it all on the table now,” she said one day as they sat over a caprese sandwich and full rack of ribs. “I mean, we know who we are, who the other person is. We’re not much alike, but we’ve worked through it. There’s… I’ve just felt there’s something drawing us together that’s stronger than either of us, no matter how I fight it.”

    “I feel it too,” he said.

    “This is love, right?” Her long fingers clipped and unclipped the leash at her belt.

    “Is this love?” One wary eye on the dark horizon, he swallowed back a howl and shifted miserably in his seat. “It sure better be.”

    421 words


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