Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 20

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 20.

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 brain pan.  If you want to write about the song (or the video- it’s all good here) go for it but don’t feel like you 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.

MAKE SURE TO PUT YOUR TWITTER HANDLE NEXT TO YOUR WORD COUNT AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR POST.  IF YOU’RE NOT ON TWITTER GIVE ME AN EMAIL ADDRESS OR SOME OTHER WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU!

The challenge starts whenever I post this on Tuesday and ends at 4:30PM Pacific Time on Friday.  You read that right.  Pacific Time.

This week’s song prompt is a special favorite of our Judge (we’ll get to that later!).

It’s, “Home”, by Depeche Mode.

Image

Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/oBZR82Ds_OY

This week’s Judge is the Commanatrix… the talented, vivacious… Jennifer Gracen!

That’s all you need from me.  The challenge is now open & runs through 4:30PM Pacific Time on Friday July 5th.

Go write!!!!!

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Posted on July 2, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. LOVE this song! Damn, might have to write something now…

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    • The Reservoir Dog

      A formidable predator, dad specializes in damage control for the Tarantino family. An occupation I detest. A secret better left buried in the tangled bits of sheets that drag behind his feet.

      Dad’s weary grin opens an ugly crimson gash near his jaw. Flecks of dried blood cake the edges of his raven hair. A sickeningly-sweet haze surrounds him.

      “Why are you playing ball with the neighbor’s pet?” he snarls, intimidating the poodle, who instinctually scampers off. “No more hanging out with that babbo from across the street. You’re supposed to be in training.”

      “I prefer chasing after balls, not people,” I say, leveling my eyes with his. The metallic bite in the air stings my nose. “You should try it sometime, it would be less hazardous to your health.”

      In one brutally swift motion, Dad has me pinned by the neck, my face shoved into the rough concrete. “Watch it son! You’ll treat me with respect or I’ll…”

      “Or you’ll what, Dad? Tear me to shreds like the last guy?” I snarl, firing my accusation into the cold cage of his heart.

      “It’s a dirty business, son. I”m not gonna lie,” Dad relents, backing away as I jerk free from his loosening grip, “But it’s the only life I know. You won’t be so quick to judge once you start making rounds with the boss.”

      “That’s no kind of life,” I snap, shaking the dirt from my coat. “You’re nothing but a pawn tied to a short leash — one they’ll use to hang you with before all is said and done. I want a better life. I want a home.”

      He hangs his head, “When I was your age, I was trained to inflict pain. It was my job, my duty, my purpose. I don’t wish this life for you…I never have.”

      “Then why can’t you stop?” I plead. “I know where we can go. A real home where people will actually care about us. You have a duty to me — to your son!”

      “I wish it were that easy, son,” he sighs.

      “It can be. I know where we belong. Just, trust me.” I say, backing down the driveway into the road, eager to put some distance between us and the clutches of violence.

      “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” he jeers, reluctantly following my lead.

      “Good thing you’re not old,” I tease, the tags on his collar clinking as I lick his face.

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  2. James Mender

    Admission
    by James Mender

    “Hello, Sef.”

    She stared at me for such a long time, I began to wonder if I’d made the right choice. Maybe I should have just gone forward and never looked back.

    “You’re back,” she said. “Didn’t it work?”

    I fingered my newly constructed Waystone on its chain. Its power called, opening up the whole of The DUST to me. “It works,” I said.

    She waited another minute before finally inviting me into her hotel suite. “So? Tell me about it.”

    I produced a bottle of Golden Mist liqueur which she took from me silently. While I settled myself in a chair, she poured a generous amount into a pair of glasses. Handing me one of the glasses, she took the chair opposite me, with the coffee table between us.

    She took a sip and, startled, said, “Damn. That’s good stuff. It’s from … elsewhere?”

    I took a sip as well, nodding. “There’s a man who makes it on a little out of the way DUST world I know. It had been so long, I wanted to see how he was.” I also wanted to see if my enemies knew about him, but Sef had no need to know that. “I’ve never found any other DUST world with a drink quite like this.”

    “I knew from your stories that The DUST is almost infinite. With stuff like this out there, I’m surprised that you came back.” Her voice held a trace of bitterness. I wasn’t sure if it was because I didn’t make a Waystone for her or if it was something … else.

    “So am I,” I said, choosing to deal only with her surface words. I took a sip of the Golden Mist to fortify myself. “Before I was marooned here, I’d never settled in one place for more than a month. There’s always somewhere new to go, something new to see, someone new to meet. You’re a Free Traveller. You know what that’s like on just this one world. Multiply that by a thousand, a million. Even now, I can hear The DUST calling me. It’s like a Siren, promising wonders beyond my imagination.”

    She looked steadily into my eyes and asked the only really important question. “So why did you come back to our little DUST world?”

    Even now, I hesitated to say it. I’d been a DUST traveller for so long, followed by several years wanting nothing more than to find what I needed to construct a Waystone and escape this world. It was as if, if I said the words out loud, it would somehow make it real. While my thoughts churned, Sef waited silently. She wouldn’t help me. I finished off my glass quickly, barely tasting it – a pure waste of that near-magical liqueur.

    Finally, I raised my eyes to hers and admitted out loud what I knew was already true. “It feels like home.”

    ~ ~ ~
    Author’s Note: 480 words, @JamesMender
    For additional notes about the story and background, see my blog: http://jamesmender.wordpress.com/

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  3. Yearning

    She dragged the back of her hand across her forehead, and wiped the sweat on the edge of her skirt as she stared into the distance. The road fizzled into a mirage of haze on the horizon and Loren leaned back against the fence post.
    She’d heard the rumours, word spread fast in a small town, and she waited.
    Slowly she slid down the wooden post, smoothed by wild prairie winds and rain, and settled in the long grass. She closed her eyes and let the sun beat down upon her. She glanced quickly to her side and smiled at the swathe of ox-eye daisies bobbing their heads at her in the breeze. The morning sun moved slowly overhead, and shadows glided lazily across her skin.
    The midday bus ambled past in a cloud of dust, but Loren didn’t stir. She knew he’d walk.
    Daisies anchored her, their nodding flowers brushing her leg where the breeze had ruffled her skirt.
    Then she saw him. On the far horizon a figure broke through the haze and Loren got to her feet.
    Her heart skipped and her breast rose and fell beneath her thin cotton, summer dress. Down on the floor a daisy brushed her leg and she smiled at its touch. Her breathing quickened as the figure grew slowly bigger and her heart began to unlock the bars that encased her soul. She could feel her blood coursing through her veins, and the rising flood threatened to break the dam of emotions now throbbing within her head.
    She lifted one foot and rested it flat against the fence post, her knee thrusting forward, her skirt flapping in the breeze, and she flexed her fingers and swallowed. The summer wind rippled across her collarbone and she inhaled slowly. She cast her eyes downward and stared at the grasses then raised her head, following the rolling grass, until she focused solely on the silhouette walking down the vast road.
    His pace lifted, and it was all she could do to stay rooted to the ground. He was no longer a blurry image, but a man, putting one exhausted foot in front of the other.
    She could hear nothing but the crunch of his footfalls on the dusty gravel and the thump of her heart. She stood, ignoring her weakening legs and damp palms, and turned her face toward her man. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but still she did not move, choosing instead to remain anchored and savour the sweet approach of her love. Her hands shook and the empty years rolled away.
    His face was dark and tanned, his stubble raw, and his hair swept in curls about his face as he locked his black velvet eyes with hers. His hand reached forward and unsteady fingers moved a strand of golden hair from her cheek and then his lips were on hers, and hunger bled through their bodies.
    She melted into his frame and fingers entwined, legs leaned close and bodies moulded into one, and beneath the hot summer sun, for a few moments, they were lost within each other.
    Flushed and quenched she ran her fingers down his prickly cheek and gently pushed him away. His eyes pierced her through and black, lusty pupils drowned in her gaze. She smiled and cast her eyes down toward the flowers and grasses at her feet, her anchor. He followed her gaze and his face crumpled.
    He fell to his knees and whispered softly, “God grant me grace…and forgiveness…”
    Loren watched, her heart soaring with pride and love as he held out a trembling hand, and beheld his own eyes.
    The five-year-old smiled, a shy curl of her lips, and black velvet eyes regarded him with curiosity. Then as tears streamed down his face his daughter held out a small hand and presented a daisy, a broken daisy with a snapped stem and missing petals. He took the flower and raised it to his lips, then stuck it in the button hole of his moth-eaten, four-and-a-half-year-old, woollen suit.
    He took his daughter’s hand and stood. His voice caught as he stared into Loren’s eyes, “I’m home.”

    (692 Words)
    @LastKrystallos

    You can comment here, if you wish… http://thelastkrystallos.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/blues-buster-yearning.html

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  4. I left her. I got up that Monday morning, and got ready for work, like I had for years. I left the house precisely at 0715 hours, like I had on Mondays for years. But I didn’t drive to work. I drove. I left town, and I kept driving, heading west. I drove all day long, stopping only for food and restroom breaks.

    I left her. I left my job. I left my home. I left my life. I had to.

    As I drove, I remembered my parents, growing up in their home. I’d never known they were in love. They always screamed at each other. Night after endless night. I used to lie awake at night, listening to the front door slam as Dad left. Listening to Mother cry. Listening to the silence when she finally fell asleep on the sofa, Listening to the front door open as Dad got home, just before dawn. Listening to him stagger through the house to the bathroom, where he threw up again, from drinking himself sick.

    As I drove, I remembered the night Mom stayed awake until he got home. He was drunk, of course. She screamed at him. He screamed back at her. They fought. I remember seeing the bruises on both of them at breakfast that morning.

    As I drove, I remembered my brother’s wedding, how he and Tabitha had been so happy. I remembered how proud he was of his baby girl. How he got sick at work one day, heaving his guts into the toilet. How they sent him home that day, and he walked into his own home, where Tabitha was naked, sitting on a naked man he’d never seen, her legs straddling him, as she softly moaned.

    As I drove, I remembered the niece I had once. How my brother covered her head with a pillow, suffocating her, then went to the garage of his home, locked the door, got in his car, and turned it on. How they found him the next day, cold as ice, with the car still running.

    As I drove, I remembered the woman I loved so passionately. How she always wanted more. More of everything. How I had to stay in that job I hated, to keep buying her the things she wanted. How she never slept with me any more, or even slept in the same room as me any more. How she always went out at night, “with the girls”. How I wondered if who she was sleeping with.

    As I drove, I remembered how she’d once been beautiful. How her smile faded away with time, being replaced by empty eyes, and lines of age on her face. How he figure changed from a beautiful hourglass to a pear. We used to hold hands, years ago. I wondered when that stopped. She used to kiss me good morning, and fix me breakfast. That too faded, until she never stirred when I woke to go to work, and breakfast became a can of soda, and a bowl of cold cereal with milk.

    As i drove, I remembered how I’d once been in love with her. How that love had grown cold and died. Like the love my Mom and Dad once had. I knew that’s why people started homes. They were in love. And thought they always would be.

    I left her on a Monday morning, while she was still asleep, and I was heading to work.

    Because I remembered homes become cold, and lifeless, and slowly kill the people living in them. And I knew the only thing I could do for her, and for me, was leave. And in so doing, free us both from the trap our home had become.

    624 Words
    @LurchMunster

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  5. Andy Bartalone

    The bar was crowded for Tuesday night. Just about everyone in Godfrey was trying to find out who bought the plant that had supported the town for a hundred and fifty years, and employed just about two-thirds of the fifteen hundred people that weren’t farmers or cattlemen in this sleepy little town, a hundred and twenty miles west of Tulsa.

    “Shelby…Shelby”, Brenda said raising her voice. Signaling she wanted another round for she and Michelle. As Shelby approached and delivered two bottles of Miller Lite, Brenda spoke *pointing* “Shelby honey, who is that fella at the end of the bar”, Michelle trying to pull her hand down “Damnit Brenda, it ain’t polite to point”, Brenda lowered her hand “Shelby, who is he”. Shelby stopped and glanced over at the man sitting by himself nursing a drink. “I’m not sure, he has been in here every couple of months for the last year” Shelby paused “He comes in, has a couple of drinks and pretty much leaves everyone alone, he sounds like he is from England”. Shelby went back down to the other end of the bar, Brenda still trying to get her sister to talk more about the visitor.

    The crowd grew until there wasn’t much more than standing room, Brenda was holding court with four of the local women and Shelby was just trying to keep up at the bar, and getting her wait staff their drinks.

    A voice came over the crowd from over near the door. “Why Kyle Parker, you must have a much bigger set of balls than I remember to walk into this bar”, it was Jimmy, Shelby’s brother. Kyle pushed past him toward the bar, ignoring him.

    The crowd parted a bit as he got near the bar, he walked up toward Shelby, Brenda speaking as the rest of her hens stared at him. “Ain’t no one heard from you in ten years”, “My mama has” as he got all the way up to the bar “Can we talk” he asked Shelby.

    She waited about twenty seconds and pointed toward the back room. “Gina, can you cover the bar” Shelby asked, about half of the bar staring at what was happening.

    They walked quickly to the back and Shelby closed the door, almost in tears “Why are you here Kyle Parker, what are you doing here” grabbing his two-pocket shirt and shaking him. “Shelby…Shelby…Shelby” putting his hands on her waist “Do you remember when I promised you I would be back?” Shelby stopped shaking him but didn’t respond. His voice slowed “Do you remember…” she shook her head *yes* a bit frantic. “But why?” she asked “Well, I bought the Plant today, and both of the ones that shut down over the last twenty years” he paused “and there was someone here I wanted to be with…been waiting ten years to be with”. Shelby stared at him for a full minute, silence between them, and then hugged him.

    494 words
    buffalo@guisarme.net

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  6. Storeroom Duty

    “Bosslady said to store those, Lenn.” Brandi rested breasts the size of melons on the counter and paused her lipstick duties to wave at two jumbo totes spouting mannequin extremities.

    Brandi was a beautiful waste of skin. “So store them.”

    She smacked her gum and rolled painted eyes. “I’m not going into Hannibal Lecter’s lair. Last week, Warren killed a rabid badger back there.”

    “It was a mouse. Watch the front, will ya?” I left her prattling excuses and pushed through swinging doors. Warm boutique lighting gave way to shadows and cold, gray concrete. I peered around my load and moved further into the darkness.

    Hefting the totes on one knee, I pushed open one of the doors marking the long, dark hallway and groped for a pull-chain. I found it and tugged. Nothing. I groaned and stepped deeper into shadows. The plastic bottoms scraping across the shelves reminded me of Clarice’s lamb bleats. Brandi was right. This place was a spookfest. I steadied my breath and forced myself not to bolt.

    Something snapped underfoot and I looked down as a strong hand closed around my wrist. The room tilted. I swallowed a mouthful of panic as my body was yanked away from the door. Lips moved up my neck.

    “Damn, but you smell good.”

    “Warren! You scared the shit out of me, you creeper!”

    His smile broke into a grin. “Sorry, Lennie. I heard you coming and wanted to see you.”

    “You are so not sorry. I gotta get back to work.”

    “You aren’t excited to see me?”

    “Not in the least.” I shoved away but he caught me around the waist and pressed my ass against clear evidence of his excitement. An unexpected thrill welled in my chest and settled between my thighs. His hand massaged my leg, slid under my skirt and didn’t let the scrap of black lace slow his deep plunge. I sucked in a quick breath and did my best to suppress a moan. A flush of liquid heat only aided his skilled fingers.

    “Aaaah, your body disagrees.”

    I whimpered as practical reason and fiery need wrestled for my attention. I opened my mouth to protest but Warren spun me and I caught a smolder in his eyes as he bent and grazed the corner of my mouth with his tongue. My heart flamed and I caught his tongue between my teeth. We crashed together and I pulled at his zipper while he made quick work of hitching my skirt so the soft material billowed at my hips. His hands kneaded my ass and I arched, tensing and stretching against his hard body. He lifted me and I wrapped eager legs around him. I raised my chin as he licked and nibbled tender skin. I ground my hips against him and my hair muffled a curse. I smiled, ready to play, but he had other ideas.

    Warren’s lips claimed mine and he walked us toward the wall, pressing my back into something soft. I forgot to wonder what hung there when he pushed my panties aside and slid into me. My world exploded in white-hot sparks of sweet abandon while he stroked perfection into frenzied bliss.

    Warren held me as we descended and found ourselves in the dirty storeroom once again. He eased my feet to the floor and smoothed my skirt while I clung to him. He brushed my hair away from my face and smiled at me. I smiled back.

    That closet quickly became a brighter shade of dark and I never again argued with Bigboob Brandi over shirked storeroom duties. Best. Job. Ever.

    @Valeriebrbr 602 words

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  7. Dreadlock Holiday

    Annie looked at Adrian and shook her head, ‘That’s got to be better now. You stunk!’

    Adrian stopped toweling his heavy dreadlocks and peered up through the matted curtain of hair, water dripping from his thin body onto her wooden floor.

    ‘There’s beer in the fridge when you want it,’ Annie said, feeling the silence.

    She walked out to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror willing the face to start a conversation. Ten years without a word and he’d just turned up.

    Her head was bouncing with questions. She’d have to ask them all eventually, but she didn’t want to frighten him away. She would just have to broach one or two tonight. If he was staying.

    When she returned she found Adrian on the sofa wearing a towel, with his feet on the table and a bottle in his hand. His filthy clothes were stuffed in a pile by the open window. Annie was sure that was intended to let the smell out, but it seemed to be just allowing the evening breeze to waft the heavy stench back into the flat.

    ‘Ten years and it doesn’t look like you’ve been away,’ she nodded at his feet.

    Adrian apologised with a look and started to move his feet, clumsily taking with them a newspaper, an empty bottle and plate.

    ‘Adrian!’ Annie exclaimed, ‘Back half an hour and you’re already wreaking havoc.’ She smiled as she picked up the debris.

    ‘Sorry,’ he shrugged, ‘Guess I’m just comfortable here. With you.’

    ‘Comfortable?’ she struggled to contain herself, ‘Comfortable with me! You disappeared of with your friends for ten bloody years without anything. No explanation, no calls, no letters. Not even a bloody email every now and again. Comfortable.’

    Adrian grimaced, ‘Well, yeah. I could have stayed in contact. Maybe I should have. But.’ He paused.

    ‘I had to get away. It was too normal and claustrophobic here,’ he shrugged, ‘I needed something else. I wasn’t a 9 to 5, pizza and TV kinda guy.’

    Annie left the silence hanging, waiting for him to continue.

    ‘I fell in with some people. We did stuff. Stuff we wanted to, when we wanted to,’ Adrian was working hard at being unspecific.

    Annie knew about the drugs he’d started doing about the time he left, and guessed he’d fallen into a cycle of petty crime and drugs, but he could have gone on to do anything after that. At times she’d thought he could be dead, though for some reason she never quite believed it.

    ‘That’s your explanation? That could cover a couple of days away. You’ve been away TEN years!’ she was trying unsuccessfully to sound calm.

    ‘Hey, I’m back now,’ he said looking at his empty bottle.

    Annie took the hint and got two bottles from the fridge, taking a big swig hers.

    ‘Back!’ she spluttered as some of the lager tried to go down the wrong way.

    Adrian looked into Annie’s eyes and a calm seemed to descend on the room.

    ‘I know you’ll have lots of questions, and I will answer them all. I’ve done so much and at the same time there’s so little to say,’ Adrian tugged at a dreadlock. He looked so much older, but his eyes and smile hadn’t changed a bit, ‘I feel like I’m home now.’

    She averted her eyes, ‘Ten years. I’ve done so little and there’s so much to say.’

    The fridge was full of beer and there was another slab in the car, but Annie wasn’t sure it would be enough. It was going to be a long night.

    (600 words)

    @zevonesque

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  8. Beginnings

    Cherry woke to the click of a lighter followed by the crackle and tang of burning tobacco.
    “Take that contra-band shit outside before the sensors trip,” she groaned. “I don’t need another FRED.” FRED – the working stiff’s slang for the government flagging system; slapped onto permanent records for infractions. Tobacco might count as two FREDs and Cherry didn’t need any help breaking the rules.
    “Well aren’t you a ray of sunshine.” The man rolled out of Cherry’s bed and kicked open the balcony door.
    Cherry ignored the comment and buried her head in the pillows. Why had she brought him home again? Oh yeah, she had been drunk and he had been hot. Still, no guy was worth a FRED or two.
    She rolled and peered through her hair at the man. His lean muscles and perfect abs didn’t do a damn thing for her this morning. Too bad. The sheets clung to the sweat on the back of her legs making the bed hot and uncomfortable. No need to delay the inevitable; it was time to get up, get rid of this guy and start the day. She kicked off the covers.
    “I have to get to work.” Cherry stood, avoided looking at the balcony and made a b-line for the bathroom. She hoped Mr. Perfect Abs wouldn’t get his boxers in a twist when he realized he was the one night stand and not the other way around.
    “So?” He asked. Cherry sighed and picked up her toothbrush. She turned and stared across the tiny apartment at the man.
    “So, that’s your cue to leave.” She angled away from the balcony.
    “Huh? You’re kicking me out? Already?” This guy really wasn’t getting the gist. Cherry moved enough to see him stub out the cigarette and walk back to the bed. He was not going to lounge in her apartment all day.
    “Yep. Time to leave.” Cherry stuck the toothbrush into her mouth.
    “You’re a bitch,” he said. But to Cherry’s relief, he moved off the bed and started pulling on clothes. She shrugged her shoulders. Cherry had found appearing to not give a shit was the best way to get rid of a guy. She continued her morning routine until she heard the slam of the front door.
    “Finally,” she said the word aloud to release the tension running down her back.
    She grabbed dirty work coveralls from the floor and pulled them on over last night’s underwear. She laced up her boots then slapped on her ID band. A red light pulsed as soon as the metal touched her skin. Too much alcohol, lower than required REM achievements, and no protein paste in the last twenty-four hours meant her FRED count inched up to 4,967.
    “Damn it.” The red light pulsed again – FRED no. 4,968. Cherry bit the inside of her cheek and tried not to slam the door as she left the apartment. She’d top 5,000 by the end of the day. 5,500 was the maximum allowance; she had no idea what happened if you reached the FRED limit but she was going to find out soon enough.
    Cherry moved onto the crowded street, eyes down, elbows pulled in tight. Sixty-five blocks stood between home and work; she had to navigate it without gaining another infraction; or six. Six was her normal morning FRED count.
    “I’m totally screwed,” she thought.
    She maneuvered past sixty-three blocks without incident; a personal record. She thought she might make it when she felt the slam of another body colliding with hers. The red light popped on immediately. She shoved the person; BLINK.
    “Damn it, you asshole!” BLINK, BLINK. Cherry whirled to see who had ruined her day and stopped dead. Before her stood a man she had only seen in dreams; short dark curls, the edge of a mischievous smile, and eyes so bright and blue she never imagined they’d be real. She knew him, knew the feelings he conjured. His smile widened, then he turned and ran. Cherry watched him disappear, debating whether or not to follow. Her wrist flashed letting her know she had earned another FRED for being late to work.

    694 words
    @BrewedBohemian

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  9. THE INFIDEL WITHIN

    The outer door swung open and a woman entered the lab.

    Abbas stopped struggling with his captors and locked gazes with the interloper. “I should have known this was your doing, Geraldine.”

    She perched on a countertop. “Who else on this god-forsaken planet has the balls to march into the Science Division and snatch you up by the shorthairs?”

    “I’m still baffled as to how you became my superior.”

    “How I got the position and how long I’ll hold onto it aren’t important. What matters is that it enabled me to accomplish my primary objective.”

    “If that was aggravating me beyond reason, it was well met.”

    Amusement lit her blue eyes. “Two birds. One stone. I aggravated and relocated you in one afternoon. Lucky me.”

    “Why here? Why now?”

    “Here, because you belong at home, in the trenches, where your skills can be put to practical use. Now, because you made an interesting point in your last report.”

    “I wasn’t aware you read my reports”

    “I do. Faithfully. What caught my attention yesterday was your insight into the unique composition of the alien brain. Their ‘collective consciousness’, as you referred to it, is too great a possibility to ignore.”

    “What it is,” he said, mouth drawn thin, “is too great a risk to pursue. Every attempt made in that vein failed. Every test subject turned suicidal.”

    “Your research was impeccable but the closing hypothesis felt inconclusive.”

    “My final summary stands. It would be reckless to continue further experiments.”

    “Ever consider that ‘formidable constitution’ in a test subject might trump ‘intelligence quotient?’”

    “Whatever you’re thinking about doing, don’t.”

    She hopped down, waved off the guards, and approached him. “You say I have no political acumen, yet I have directed all my power toward uniting and preserving humanity. You say I have no religious convictions, yet I have worshipped you on my knees.”

    “I beg you, do not entertain any idea of -”

    She pushed up her sleeve and bared her forearm.

    He saw the cotton swab taped to her skin, clutched his chest, and dropped to the floor.

    She knelt beside him, sank her pale hand into his dark curls, and lifted his face to hers. “I habitually sacrifice my body for your well-being. Today is no different.”

    “Do you know what you’ve done?”

    “Made myself a weapon. Once the injected foreign DNA binds with mine, I’ll be absorbed into the community consciousness and then you can find their weakness by accessing my mind.”

    He stood, grabbing her wrist and bringing her with him. “Let me purge your system while there’s still time. We’ll find another way to beat them.”

    “We both know this is the only way. Your intellect operating through my tenacity is our last hope of prevailing.”

    He pressed his forehead to hers. “I don’t know if I can save you, hayati.”

    “My only expectation is that you use this opportunity to save our world. You are Abbas, the lion all other lions fear! Let the bastards hear you ROAR!”

    He pulled back to look at her, saw something flicker in her eyes, an orange pulse that slowly filled her iris, and then she crumpled at his feet.

    His heart hammered against his ribs. The infidels were already spreading through her indomitable mind like metastasizing cancer.

    Why wasn’t she shrieking and writhing in pain? The other subjects had been incoherent by the time their eyes changed.

    But they’d been scientists, men and women whose livelihood and egos centered on their intelligence. They’d have fought to retain their minds.

    Geraldine’s life and reputation were built on strength and strategy, attributes that wouldn’t have impeded her mental surrender to the collective consciousness.

    He lifted her in his arms, carried her to the exam table, and nodded to one of the guards. “Get her strapped down while I prepare the equipment.”

    The man nodded and said, “Did you know she named you as her successor?”

    His dark eyes flashed. “Then you and your men better pray to whatever gods you believe in that she survives this, because without her infuriating disposition and malevolent grin, there’s not a damn thing that makes this life or world worth fighting for.”

    – – – – –
    698 words / @bullishink

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  10. Belonging

    They’d gone, and she sat there alone in the lounge; her lounge, her home, but she couldn’t connect the dots, she couldn’t quite feel the connection.

    She absorbed the silence, enjoying the peace. But was it peace? The house was empty, silent, still, as though waiting to be filled. It reflected how she felt.

    She had the weekend. They were gone just for the weekend, and she had wanted that. She couldn’t have gone again and pretended to be with them, to be a part of the big yearly gathering. Sitting apart, watching, spectating as they all interacted with each other, but never quite with her. Ten years she had been going, but it was enough. The ice hadn’t thawed; she would never be a part of it, she would always sit on the outside. And however hard it had been to watch her husband and children go without her, the confused look on their little faces as mummy stayed behind, the guilt was quashed by the overwhelming feeling of relief.

    And so here she was home alone. Home. She loved some of the rooms in this house; their smell, their decoration, their furnishings. And it wasn’t just hers, it was theirs; a partnership, something they built together. So why did she feel so disconnected from it?

    She stood up and went upstairs, fussing the two cats on the bed – no home was complete without one. And she asked herself, what was she seeking? What more did she need, to reach that sense of belonging, of satisfaction, of completeness?

    She sat on the bed and faced the big window looking out at the sky, watching the clouds go by as she had when she was a small child.

    Back then she would escape to the bottom of the garden and get on the swing. Leaning back she would dream of being up there amongst them, imagine their softness, their quiet foggy calm, and imagine being able to drift away with them. But in reality she was trapped here on the ground, in a life of being ignored, being invisible, unless someone needed a hug from her or to shout at her about something. Dragged along to events for moral support or to be shown off, but never to hear her, never to talk to her, or interact with her. She’d never actually been a part of any of it, she was just an extra used to fill a space.

    And that had spilled over into her adult life. She went through the motions; doing as was expected or wanted of her, but never quite being there, never fully present, always a step back, watching and waiting to be invited in.

    And here she was in her own home, not fully belonging, or feeling present; choosing to withdraw, rather than take part.

    She so wanted to change it and break out, but she could only do that in her imagination and in her writings. She sighed getting up and going upstairs to the loft, to her desk under the skylight. The computer was waiting for her. inviting her in to its world of social networks and communities, giving her somewhere to belong and something to be a part of.

    538 Words
    @PurpleQueenNL

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  11. Nighttime wasn’t much cooler than the afternoon, not on a summer day like this. The only advantage was that the sun went away, but that somehow made the air thicker, and of course, the mosquitoes swarmed endlessly. Allie swatted another one out of the air on her bare thigh, feeling the bug squish through the sweat on her skin, imagining the tiny spark it made as she crushed out its life.

    She was tingly that night, an itching that came deep from within. The origin of the itch wasn’t hard to discern, it came from right next to her, on the dock where she’d learned so much about life and death. Lucas’ leg wasn’t touching hers, but she could feel the heat it radiated, and she didn’t pull away, as oppressive as the day was. She wanted nothing more than to be closer to him, but she couldn’t. Allie knew that he was attracted to her – the glances, the laughs, and the flirting had been going on since they’d discovered hormones – but he’d never act. Not with Kylie lying there on his other side, Kylie who didn’t have to keep her leg an inch apart away from Lucas or risk going mad. Kylie who’d told her story after story of their nights, sneaking away to the far side of the lake, or the way he looked when…

    “I’m going for a swim. Who’s with me?” Allie slipped a hand in her pocket and took out the thing she carried with her all the time, now that she knew what she was and what she wanted to be. She climbed to her feet, and didn’t look back as she stripped off what little she’d worn to the dock and dove into the water. Kylie would want to tell her off for being so brazen around her boyfriend, but she wouldn’t get that chance. The water was nearly as warm as the air, but it swirled around her and pulled away the frustration as if she was surrounded by healing sprites.

    When she was far enough away from the dock that Lucas and Kylie were nothing but outlines against the night, she called to them and waved for them to join her. She almost gasped when they did, wanting nothing more than to feel that part of Lucas she so briefly glimpsed in the moonlight and make him feel the way she did.

    But tonight wasn’t the night for that.

    Kylie reached her first, giggling in mock disapproval. “Your dad is going to kill us if he catches us. And if he doesn’t, I’m going to kill you for flashing my man.”

    Allie’s face was beatific in the wavering reflections of the moonlight, and she smiled at her friend. “Kylie – how long have we been friends?”

    “I dunno? Since forever, I think? Why?”

    “I wanted you to understand why I did this.” Allie threw her arms around her friend and kissed her soundly. The warmth of her friend’s body shocked her, but that wasn’t what she was interested in, not with Lucas coming up behind. It was just good form to kiss a loved one goodbye, as her grammie had taught her.

    Kylie was startled by the kiss, but even more so by the sudden pain as Allie’s switchblade caught her in the stomach and sliced across. She tried to squirm away, but that only made the pain worse. Allie shoved the knife in deeper, harder, puncturing a lung, and she tasted blood through their kiss as Kylie coughed out her last breath.

    The spark jumped from Kylie’s eyes into Allie’s, and she was flung backwards, releasing her friend’s corpse as she swam away. The night was no longer warm, but hot, and she was surprised the lake wasn’t boiling around her.

    Her head bumped into something as she swam, and she looked up into the dark, shadowed eyes of her former best friend’s boyfriend. He could see her clearly exposed now, and smiled down at her, the hunger in his eyes obvious. Still riding the high from her first kill, Allie flipped over and let him take her in his arms.

    690 words
    @drmagoo

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