Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 26

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 26.  That’s half a year.  Not too shabby!

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 prompt comes from all the way back in 1981.  The band is The Police.

Image

The tune is… “Secret Journey”.  Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/Keolc7BpTcI

This week’s Judge is author, friend, architect of the Orange Karen project, and all-around awesome person… Christina Esdon.

That’s all you need from me.  We’re live from the second you read this post until 4:30PM Pacific Time on Friday August 16th.

Now…. go write!!!!!

 

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Posted on August 13, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Here it is…
    Secret Journey

    Jenny smiled politely as she shuffled past the office staff, they were all hunched over their desks, tapping away on keyboards and staring with furrowed brows into glaring screens, she on the other hand gently pushed her cleaning trolley by with ease and total relaxation.

    Some would sneer down their noses at her and others treated her as equals but none knew her secret. After cleaning up after these messy employees; those seemingly unable to pour coffee into a cup, to clean up spilt sugar, and those who had large mouths that were difficult to get the food into without dropping most of it on the floor she would go to her cleaning cupboard. Carefully closing the door and turning the lock, she would remove her tabard, hanging it over the trolley, and then work through the steps in order to open the gateway.

    The top shelf that held the spare toilet rolls and paper towels needed to be arranged in piles of ascending order, the middle shelf which held all the cleaning chemicals and sprays needed to be clustered by colour, and the bottom shelf completely empty. Once she had finished sorting them out she wiped her brow on the discarded tabard, all that was left to do was to do the jig, she stood on one leg and began;

    As I Jig and dance about
    I call upon the friends of grout
    I clap my hands and then I stop
    Before I dance around the mop
    I stamp my feet and stack the bleach
    Making sure they are in easy reach
    I wiggle my bum amongst the freshener
    This jig is starting to raise my body temperature
    I crouch down low to grab the tissue
    Kicking out like the king of Jujitsu
    I turn around arms outstretched in the room
    And then I pose like a witch on a broom
    I’ve finished the jig to open the door
    And when I look down there is no floor

    The floor disappeared and this always made Jenny panic and faint. When she came to she was lying on a huge four poster bed adorned with a lace canopy and huge inviting pillows. This was different to last time when she had woken up in the Wild West, caught amidst gunfire, and covered in dust from head to toe. The time before that she had ended up in the sea in full diving gear gathering pearls and buried treasure. Jenny was excited at the prospect of being a princess.

    “HEY! HEY! Open this door!”
    “What is she doing in there do you think? Should we force it open?”
    “I don’t know, last time we had to get the cleaning company to bring a spare key, found her in there asleep on the floor, a spray bottle in each hand like a some kind of gunfighter,”
    “Oh my gosh, really?”
    “Yeah, she had even slept through a box of washing powder falling on her!”
    “So is this the second time it’s happened?”
    “Nope, time before that she had knocked over a bucket and we found her lying in a puddle!”

    @tsk_show
    518 words

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  2. Here’s mine

    THE WOMAN AND THE RAIN

    There was no relentless sound of rain in Nell’s cave, no hiss of the sea, or scream of gulls, or a whisper from anything living. No water dripped from eerie stalactites like in the old films. There were no monsters there. There was no breathing. There was just Nell.

    It’s not that she was a spirit guide, like the ones off up in the mountains. She’s wasn’t a witch woman. She had never healed anyone in her life.

    The thing about Nell that set her apart was really such an ordinary thing, something that many of her friends and family had, something perhaps even you might possess. The thing about Nell was that she was compassionate. If she had a TV she wouldn’t switch off at the money-begging poverty-porn charity ads, nor would she have left the room on some pretext. She would have felt for the little waif on the television, but she wouldn’t have picked up the phone to dial the number to make some financial but probably meaningless contribution.

    Nell knew, as you might, that compassion and charity begin at home. She knew that it begins with giving some money to the man hunched on the side of the street, or a paper cup of tea, or even a smile. She knew that it lies in really, actually, listening. It lies in realising that the person in front of you is just as perfect and as imperfect as she is and as you are.

    Sometimes people come to visit Nell in the cave. Caves give people an aura of mystery. People tend to assume that cave-dwellers are prophets, whereas street-dwellers are junkies. People tend to visit prophets.

    Nell never knew what they wanted, exactly. Maybe they never really knew themselves. Were they looking for secrets? For their future? For peace of mind?

    Sometimes she would send them away with nothing. Sometimes she would sit and talk to them for a few minutes or a few hours. Most of the time she would greet them with a deep smile, and gesture at the path they had come down, and remind them that real life was out there, where they had come from, and real charity too, and real love. Real life was in the rain. Real love was in the trees, the grass, the hands of strangers. Charity begins with breathing, she’d say. We all must be kind to one another, for none of us has much time here.

    Twitter: @fabhcun
    Words: 418

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  3. http://cellarfloor.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/filter/

    Filter

    November 9, 2037

    Major Piersen,

    Please present this abstract of my official report for Filter to The Council.

    The initial phase of the trial went off without a hitch. Two hundred subjects were invited to the facility for a free family vacation in exchange for their suggestions in advance of a grand opening. Per standard lodging protocol, all subjects were given ChemBlock injections on arrival. The fluid nanomesh for Filter (suspended therein) self-assembled and became addressable in all subjects within 16 hours.

    All functions were tested both within the facility and remotely from the Bern field office. Subjects were exposed to banned sensations during controlled activities. Subjects were surveyed and asked to describe their favorite and least favorite portions of each activity. We successfully modified all banned sensations for the first 12 hours following Filter connectivity.

    At T-plus 14 hours, Subject 107, female, 16, Consumer class, health rating B, seemingly blacked out. AidBots immediately responded and the subject was determined to be in Non-REM stage 2. However, brainwave frequencies were high-Theta at 36 Hz. Subject was only roused after 1,500 micrograms epinephrine. Once awake, subject described vivid hallucinations consistent with REM stage dreams. We suspected a severe sleep disorder and marked subject for remote sleep monitoring once she returned home.

    By T-plus 14:07, 14 additional subjects had fallen into a similar state. We scrambled all available AidBots and pressed clinical staff into service. No similarities between subjects were noted –gender, age, class, and health rating all within standard deviation. All subjects were found to be in stage 2 non-REM sleep with brainwave frequencies ranging from mid-Theta to low-Gamma.

    These 15 subjects all described vivid hallucinations seemingly transcendent of all senses. Most subjects were convinced there were stimuli the interviewers could not detect –phosphorescent auras surrounding objects, intense spice aromas, melodic voices, sweet hot flavors on the air, the feeling of a cool mist about them.

    We quickly engaged Filter to soften all sensations. All subjects responded violently and immediately. They ran headlong into objects and each other. Some subjects writhed on the ground. One subject began pounding his fists into both his ears. Filter was set to full block for these 15 subjects. All were reduced to laying motionless. Vitals were monitored. Brainwave activity approached 59Hz for most subjects –dangerously close to the sustainable maximum. These subjects were moved to individual isolation in the quarantine block.

    Meanwhile, the remainder of the subjects blacked out in shortening periods. We left the subjects in this state while we decommissioned all instances of Filter. Filter mainframe confirmed complete shutdown and all nanomeshes were scuttled.

    No longer deprived of their senses, subjects returned to their prior states. The 15 subjects in isolation returned to consciousness screaming and writhing in agony. Their condition did not improve over the next 48 hours.

    The remaining 185 subjects continued to experience increasingly vivid hallucinations until all else faded and only the hallucinations remained. As they became increasingly dangerous to themselves, my staff, and other subjects, we moved them into isolation. At T-plus 39:04, the last subject was moved into isolation.

    I convened my staff and phoned Reintroduction Commission. As no budget was allocated for intensive rehabilitation and care, humane termination was initiated (T-plus 63:21) . Disaster Staging has been engaged for liability mitigation.

    Please find release notes for Filter v1.01 attached. I have already contacted Subject Supply for the next sample.

    Sincerely,
    Dr. Jefferson Quill

    @cellarfloorwp
    571 words

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  4. A Near East Pilgrimage
    by A J Walker

    Currently faith seems like an oddball idea to many. How can you truly know something without anything concrete to point at? In these days of science the belief in something without an ounce of proof is something you should whisper about quietly, or Dawkins will come a knocking. But I can tell you I’m a true believer, though I’ve no empirical proof to show you, no current facts and figures. I have lots of words, a few ideas and there is history to point at – a lot of history. I have my knowledge. My enthusiastic selling of my knowledge, which you can have for free, whether you want it or not.

    Of course you are entitled to your view. It should be pretty much mine though, because if it’s not then I’m sorry but you are wrong. I know beyond the truth of death and gravity that I am right, that we true believers are the righteous.

    These thoughts go through my mind as I watch the road go by, then I nervously check the rucksack beside me again for the passport and ticket. They’re still there, in the pocket where they were two minutes ago. The small bag seems excessive, not even half full: just a few light clothes – carefully chosen, a camera and a book. There’s really not much required for this week away. This pilgrimage – my chance to rekindle my love and show my faith.

    The taxi drive to the airport is uneventful, but I am loving it, seeing the roads thick with other pilgrims on their way. Many of the vehicles are brimming with people, faces rapt with the joy of the day and of the week ahead. My taxi driver in his blue shirt remains quiet, he’s one of the unbelievers. He follows another faith and is unsaveable – not worthy of my effort.

    As I look out the window again at the massing numbers my heart is full to bursting and adrenaline is pumping. I know that I’m such a lucky sod to be able to take this opportunity to commune. As we draw into the airport drop off zone the pilgrims are flooding in from everywhere. A vivid river of red.

    Faces joyful, all hardly believing we are on our way. Even the check-in lady is grinning widely, being taken along with the mood.

    The airport is jumping and the lads are already in the bar and they have a pint with my name on it – the first result of the week!

    We’re on the way to Istanbul, seventeen hundred miles and we will not be walking alone. The singing starts, ‘Liverpool. Liverpool.’

    Keep the faith.

    (443 words)
    @zevonesque

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  5. “Waiting”
    by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy) [358 words]

    “I CAN see,” the old man said, suddenly answering my unasked question. “Well enough to get by, anyway.” he chuckled quietly to himself.

    “Is that right, Granddad?” I spat out the last bit, annoyed the old codger had heard me approaching the bench. I had hoped for an easy mark. Danny was waiting. And it did not pay to keep Danny waiting.

    “Got any cash, Granddad? I’m in a hurry.”

    “Yes, a little… No, I’m not.”

    “Huh?”

    “And I wouldn’t be if I were you. In a hurry. I know where that road is heading.”

    “Wha…? Look, just give me your money Gra…”

    “I’m not your Granddad, boy. But sure, you can have the money. It’s yours anyway.”
    He took out his wallet efficiently, like he had expected to be mugged, and handed it over.
    “See you pay it back now… When the time comes…”

    I took it. Given how easily he had rolled over, I gave myself the luxury of checking his wad. Result! There must have been a few thousand quid, along with a slip of paper marked ‘I O Me. Watch out for the shit.’, which I screwed up and dropped to the floor. I handed him back the purse. No need to be rude, as he was being so cooperative.

    “Thanks Gra…”

    “It’s Stephen… Steve.”

    “Hey, same as me!” I thought to myself. Not really smart introducing yourself aloud to your victim. At least the old man wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a line up. His glasses were as thick as milk bottles.

    I turned to leave. Danny was waiting. And that is when I trod on the dog shit. “How the hell…” I started to wipe my boot on the grass. The old guy on the park bench wheezed a laugh behind me.

    “I never was good with warnings.” he sniggered. “Danny… is waiting. You should have enough. If you’re as stupid as I was, I’ll still be here when you get back. If I’m not… well… then we’ll both be in the…” He pointed uncannily at my foot, then waved me away. I ran. Danny was waiting, after all.

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  6. I reached orgasm seconds before I realized that I had to leave her. Breathing hard from exertions that went on much too long, I held her as she fell asleep, ignoring the heat and the sweat and the itching of the fluids sticking us together. The hand she unconsciously wrapped around mine still lacked the ring I’d bought a year earlier, the ring I now knew would never be hers. Because of the wall. Because of my secret shames.

    When her breathing had settled into soft snores, I gently rolled away. Beautiful even in the hazy streetlight, the sight of her almost made me lose my nerve, but I soon found my way out into the night.

    The humid air seemed to weigh tons, and I had to fight for each breath, allowing the oxygen through the wall as I hadn’t been able to allow her through. As I hadn’t allowed anyone through.

    My dad instinctively understood how to deal with me – studious, quiet, standoffish, even as a child – so he let me have my space. My mom, on the other hand, never seemed to come to terms with the fact that she couldn’t emotionally connect with me, and she never stopped trying.

    The buildings around me changed. I hardly noticed. The wall had wrapped itself around my heart and started to squeeze.

    As I felt my heart being crushed from within my chest, I thought of the woman I’d left sleeping in our bed. If I could have opened the wall for anyone, it would have been for her. She changed the laws of the universe just by being in the room. The air was sweeter. My step was lighter. I was all-powerful.

    Nearly.

    She changed everything except that which fundamentally defined me.
    The pressure in my chest grew unbearable, and I fell to my knees. It had to be better this way – a merciful release for all who thought they knew me. But my own release wasn’t to be that simple.

    With a rush of agony, the wall exploded out of my mind, taking physical form as a three-story tenement building, mortar decaying, but stout and strong. From inside I could hear voices. The voices of my failures. My regrets. Every time I’d said the wrong thing. The times I’d been rejected. The weight of choices gone awry.

    My face grew hot, and I relived each moment on which I’d built my entire identity. The flaws I couldn’t share with anyone, not even a woman who loved me enough to change the universe. With a cry, I ran to the wall, pounding it with my fists.

    And then one of the voices changed. It was alone in the din, the voice of a girl I’d asked to dance. She’d rejected me out of hand then, but now – now it wasn’t even a memory to her. The pain was solely in my mind, a moment the rest of the world had long let go.

    I punched again and again, and more voices joined the girl’s. So many wounds that I was the sole caretaker of. So many heartaches which weren’t registered in anyone else’s psyche. The wall housed my shame, but no one else cared.

    I could let go.

    I beat at the wall until it fell in, and screamed as the tenement fell, the pain and misery and embarrassment and shame and hate and fear and worry of a lifetime rising into the air. A wind swept up, and I breathed deep, relishing the freedom that came with the wall’s release. And then a scent drifted along with the breeze.

    Her.

    The sun was creeping over the horizon as I ran back to our home. I made it up the stairs to our apartment and realized as I stopped in front of our door that I was crying, tears streaking down my face, through the grime of my past.

    I crept into our bedroom to see her sprawled on our bed. Radiant in the early morning glow, my desire for her was undeniable. I opened the drawer on my nightstand and pulled out the box I’d buried back in the corner. It was time to let her in.

    700 words
    @drmagoo

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  7. Verse 9

    His footsteps echoed off the cold, dark hallway of Archer Women’s Correctional Facility. Detective Matthew Pierson had walked these halls many times in his fifteen years on the force. He was of average height with a medium, stocky build with black hair that was graying in places. Pierson was a man of many races—a fact that made him a constant target of racial slurs, many of which were derogatory to a race he did not belong to. He was used to it, especially from the inmates.

    He was there for one reason and one reason alone—to put an end to a 32-year reign of terror and Magdalene Parker was the key.

    Back in 1981, there were a slew of murders whose victims were all individuals with deep religious conviction. Left at every crime scene was a professional photo taken of the victim just after they were murdered. In each photograph, there was a silhouette of another individual posing just like a model. Also at every crime scene was a verse from St. Matthew chapter 5—the Sermon on the Mount. Every atheist and agnostic in three states became the target of vigilantes, which complicated the case. After seven years and over 48 bodies, the police finally caught Magdalene—a brilliant photographer with a sharp mid and hidden agenda unknown even to the detectives who caught her.

    Two weeks ago, several bodies were found all killed with Magdalene’s m.o. It was first ruled as a copycat murder, but Pierson knew that it was more than a copycat. This was something that was much deeper.

    Despite his cool demeanor, Pierson was anxious inside. The last detective on the case became what was thought to be the last of her victims.

    Magdalene sat with her nose in a book and her legs crossed. Her posture was very formal, despite the fact that she was in a prison jumpsuit. Prison had not been very kind to Magdalene. Her face had aged 10 extra years and her frame was awkward and frail. Her grey hair was fairly dirty and pulled behind her head in a ponytail. Everything about her screamed pathetic. But when her beady blue eyes peered up from her book, she suddenly looked sharp and very aware.

    “Detective Pierson.” She said politely. “How lovely of you to come see me again.”

    Pierson’s eyes lowered to the book. “Titus Andronicus.” He read.

    She nodded. “One of Shakespeare’s better works, in my opinion. He used such beautiful language, don’t you think? I was never good with words. I communicate best through my pictures.”

    Pierson bit his lower lip, tore open the envelope, and dumped several photographs on the table. Each one was of her posing with her victim after she had killed them. He separated some of the photos and pointed to one stack. “These were you.” He began with a heightened tone. He pointed to the other stack. “These were taken around 2 months ago. They fit your m.o. All the victims were very religious and their bodies are all positioned like models. The only thing missing is you.”

    She looked up at him. “Oh Detective, you are as eager as ever—always searching for the truth.” She sighed and her face fell into a serious one. “Unaware that you have been put on a secret journey by a holy man.”

    “What?”

    “Enlightenment is the holiest of missions.” She explained. “Last time, we chose McKnight. In the end, he couldn’t figure it out—his faith had taught him to never ask why. That’s what got him killed.”

    Pierson raised an eyebrow. “We?”

    She pointed at all the pictures. “What is missing?” she asked.

    At first, he was puzzled by this question. And then he remembered Matthew 5. “Verse 9!” he exclaimed. “ ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ McKnight was verse 9.” His mind was racing with connections. “You…are a part of a group targeting who you think is God’s army.” He looked down at the new stack of pictures and knew exactly who was next.

    She grinned. “You have completed your secret journey, detective. Now you are a holy man.”

    Word Count: 698
    @Chelle87Fox

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  8. Lucille stopped in front of the subtly lit signage, knowing it was the place she had seen in her dream. The pull within her was strong; the excitement in her core peaking.

    She entered the club and no one at the door batted an eyelid. When shown the card at the cloakrooms she knew she was in the right place; the image on the other side burned in her mind. Her response was met with a quick nod and smile.

    When she walked inside, the music made her feel like she had walked into a time warp; its singular note filling the room. The people stood around as though waiting for something, and for a moment she wondered if it was her. Then the beat started and the dancing resumed.

    When she approached the bar, she was handed a drink. She sipped it and delighted in its accuracy. Speech was rendered useless here, allowing the music to permeate.

    Her mind was flooded with images and thoughts. The eye contact she made drew her in, engaging her in dialogue, tapping a previously untouched depth within her. She had finally arrived. She was among kindred souls.

    Lucille looked round for him, he had to be here; he’d been the main player in the dream, going by the name of Rohan. And then, as if on cue, the people in front of her parted and there he was, on the other side of the dance-floor, standing with a group of people.

    He looked round as though someone had called his name – and she realised that maybe she just had. The smile that spread across his face when he saw her, made her soul yearn. He wasted no time crossing the room to reach her and embraced her like a long lost lover.

    When their lips touched her mind reeled in a white light that filled her entire being. When they broke apart she held his face, and looked deep into his eyes. Moments from their past lives flowed like an exchange of ideas, as they caught up to the present. They had found each other again.

    353 Words
    @PurpleQueenNL

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  9. Cat’s Eyes

    With his holdall packed, Alex was ready to leave. With a quick silent prayer, he closed the door and made his way out into the hustle and bustle of the night life. Anonymously, he walked with purpose, dodging passersby with his head down, hood pulled right over; it was surprising he could see where he was going but he’d walked this journey before and now it was like a map in his head.

    Soon the streets quietened and Alex found himself in a residential neighbourhood; signs of family life strewn across yards in the form of footballs, tricycles, bats and skipping ropes. Signs of suburbia assaulted him; lawn mowers, barbecues, dogs. The bile rose in his stomach. He whispered another prayer and watched.

    This was the part that fuelled his imagination, his need to feel part of this middle-class world, observing life; the routines of suburbia where everything seemed to run like clockwork. But he’d seen it all before. He already knew the house, the family, the time of his arrival. He just needed the signal. A cat jumped out, startling him, but he liked cats and beckoned it; soft, warm fur, powerful hunter’s eyes. Alex felt at one with the cat, understanding him. But it was a distraction. In swiping the cat away, the cat swiped back and nicked Alex’s hand before running off into the night.

    Lights out.

    Alex crept from behind the woodland at the bottom of the garden, pulling his gloves on, dismantling the alarm with ease; the code never changed; surburbians loved routine. He was inside within seconds. Before creeping upstairs, he stopped in front of the mirror. Shining his torch, he saw his reflection. He smiled as again he whispered another prayer and crossed his heart. He saw the signal; a halo in the reflection, above his head. He was doing the work of God, purging society from the evils of excess and he had a long way to go.

    The Smyths’ were the first family, quickly followed by the Robinsons’ and the Millers’. Only then did people start to take interest. Newspapers consumed every detail, detectives voiced their appeals on television but no one knew. They would never know. For his was a solitary journey, a secret journey sent to him by the highest authority in the land. He could hear him now, urging him to complete this task as he took each carpeted step gracefully, breathing calmly. The family portraits lining the stairs smiled down at him but he had someone bigger smiling down on him.

    All the doors were closed but he knew who was on the other side of each one. He’d been good and done all his homework. His bag, now unzipped was ready and so was he.

    It had been a long but satisfying night as Alex got home whilst it was still dark. He showered, letting the hot water melt away the aches and pains of crouching around in damp places. The TV was showing some game show and he watched whilst eating a microwave meal before dozing.

    “Another brutal murder has taken place, this time the Young family,” the news reporter said as Alex awoke. He quickly turned up the TV; he liked this bit. Hell, he liked all of it!

    The news item quickly swung to the house where a crowd had gathered. A detective came on screen. “I know who you are! I know you! Your journey is about to come to an end and I’ll be meeting you,” he said, staring right at Alex. Alex laughed. The camera widened. Alex sat up. Something caught his attention. Behind the detective, a police officer was holding a . . . . . . . it couldn’t be! . . . . . . . . . That cat! She was holding that cat and someone was taking something from its paw. . . .

    Alex’s face blanched as he ran to the bathroom; his microwave meal taking a quick journey down the toilet. He rinsed his mouth. He looked in the mirror but no signal came. He looked down at the scratch on his hand, a wry smile on his worn out face. Alex had always liked cats.

    684
    @Lizzie_Koch

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  10. Storm Before The Calm

    Despite his meditative state, Ned heard the footsteps approaching and knew, of an instant, it marked the approach of Master Chun. Though blind since birth, the old monk’s steps were never hesitant or uncertain. He walked as one who knew and understood his way in the universe and was convinced, with no tangible reason, it was not only the most proper but his destined road. Returning his conscious mind to the temple that was the world about him, Ned rose to his feet with a grace unknown to him but a year before.

    He had come to this remote mountain retreat a man broken physically, emotionally and spiritually. While he had always done what was required of him and fulfilled the expectations of the world into which he’d been born, the doing of such had not come without consequences.

    Born a child of privilege, he grew into a man to whom much had been given and, naturally, of whom much was expected. He had attended all of the proper schools, participated in all of the necessary clubs and organizations and done anything and everything necessary for him to assume the position in life that was not only his birthright but his mandate.

    Though never unaccustomed to hard work, dedication and selfless devotion to achievment, there was no denying the demands this took on Ned. Suddenly, he came to realize his quest to climb to the top was nothing compared to the strain of remaining there. It was all about who booked the most hours and who signed the most clients and less and less about enjoying the benefits of his work. A personal life was impossible. Recreation was a means to an end not a relief of pressure. Inevitably, something had to give and that something was…Ned.

    His family had no comfort or solace to offer Ned. He had committed the unpardonable sin of failure and such was anathema. While he was sent to one of the most prestigious private facilities to…convalesce, it was made clear to him no further contact would be necessary, unless and until, he was ready to “man up” and resume the life for which he had been bred.

    Two and a half months after his admission, he walked out of Tranquil Shores Institute and walked, as well, out of that which he had always known and into virtual oblivion. Having stopped only long enough to divert certain funds and recover his passport, Ned fled. He travelled far and long never finding peace or knowing relief. Drugs, alcohol, meaningless sex and dangerous situations became his new world and signaled a world no more healthy or viable than what he had known before.

    He only barely recalled the circumstances under which he had arrived at the monastery but, without question, he was accepted in and nursed back to health. He had found in hard work, simple food and the teachings of enlightenment he had found the balance and the direction he knew he had only felt he possessed before. Today would be the culmination of all he had learned as he was to take the vows and become not merely a student but one fully committed to the Ways.

    He bowed low as Chun reached the required nearness for such obeisance and, as tradition dictated, waited for the sightless Master to speak.

    His voice low and calm, he began, “It will rain soon”, his head nodding towards the hills, “and with the rain comes cleansing.”

    Ned could only nod, feeling foolish Chun could not know he had done such.

    “It is time you left us, young one. A world you had no place in before is now the only place that you truly belong. You came to us devoid of purpose, bereft of hope, bankrupt of understanding. That is no more the case. The gifts you have been given you now must share with those who are as you once were. You will gather your things now and you will go.

    With that final declaration, the old man turned and shuffled slowly away. Looking to the horizon, Ned nodded with understanding and acceptance. Though the downpour would come, he could no longer hide from its cleansing embrace.

    700 words @klingorengi

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  11. Blood and Nightmares

    Michaela Sutter pulled to a stop at the light at Hollywood and Western. She lit a smoke and watched the Santa Ana winds kicking up the trash and the crazy in her city. Even though it was 3AM she waited for the light to change. The last thing she needed tonight was trouble with the cops. They weren’t that fond of her to begin with and she had already been hauled in for questioning because they knew she did collections for Jimmy Sanderson at Skin Cuts Digital Editing Services. Sounded like everyone working in the industry was getting questioned but the only thing Micki could find out was there was some trouble with one of the actresses, the getting dead kind of trouble. Micki cruised slowly down the nearly empty street when out of the corner of her eye she saw someone stumble out into the street towards her car. She slammed on the brakes just as the naked woman ran into the side of her car. She had wild jet black hair and was screaming and scratching at her skin. She had already scratched her face so badly the blood gleamed darkly in the sodium street lights. Micki jumped out of the car and rushed to the woman just as she fell to the ground twitching and shaking and still trying to pull her own skin off. Micki called 911 as she kneeled next to the woman. Fuck, all she had was her jean jacket, she pulled it off and wrapped it around the woman’s hands trying to stop the scratching. The woman struggled but she was a scrawny thing with giant tits, Micki figured she was a stripper or sex worker, not unusual in this neighborhood at this time of night. The woman got one hand free and started on her face again.

    “Stop it damnit!” Micki grabbed her hand in the jacket again and held her hands down on her belly but the woman started kicking and Micki ran right out of patience and slapped the hell out of her. She felt bad for a split second but the woman stilled and stared up at Micki, her eyes suddenly clear but filled with terror.

    “Help me, please, help me. It won’t stop I can’t make it stop” her voice was rough and broken.

    “What won’t stop?” But the Micki could see her sanity receding like the tide as the twitching started up again. Micki could hear the cops by now. Good thing too because Micki’s hold on sanity wasn’t all that solid on a good night and this was not a good night. The cops pulled up with the paramedics right behind. As soon as they got to the woman Micki stepped over to the sidewalk and waited to give her statement.

    ***
    I open the door to my office. My office? I don’t have an office anymore. I walk in and cross to the large windows that I know face out to the beach. Something’s wrong but I can’t remember what it is, I stop in front of the blinds trying to remember, I’m scared, terrified of opening the blinds but I do it anyway. I can’t breathe. My best friend, and partner, Sam is hanging upside down from the roof. I’m frozen in place, Sam’s dead, been dead for hours at least…hours or years? I’m confused. It was a hard death, he’s naked and soaked in his own blood, his torso was sliced open from groin to throat, eyes dug out, tongue cut out, and throat torn open. The phone rings. I turn and stare at it refusing to pick it up. Sam knocks hard on the window behind me, I spin around to see his mouth move and I hear his voice as if nothing is wrong, “You’ll need the holy man to make it stop. You have to make it stop Michaela.”

    ***
    Micki jerked awake gasping, trying to shake off the nightmare. Fuck, now Sam was haunting her dreams. Holy man? What the fuck? Stop what? She rubbed her spiky red hair and lit a smoke hoping this didn’t mean what she thought it did.

    @MissBliss
    Words: 691

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  12. Little Fox

    I looked at Janick and wondered how I’d become so lucky. He was strong and beautiful even with the scar over his right eye and the lack of sight. His wisdom surpassed all at the Institute. His fighting skills rivaled that of the Shaolin Monks. And his command of nature was staggering. I had once seen him stop the rain simply because it was wetting a child carrying home rice from the market. Janick was, without a doubt, the most impressive man I had ever met.

    When it was announced he would be traveling to the North to search out and destroy the elusive Dragon Flower Clan, rumors had flown faster than the heron across the Institute. Many thought he was looking for revenge over a lost love. Others said he had grown too old and wished to retire into the mountains but was too full of pride to simply leave. I knew better. I had come from the North and knew the true terror the Clan invoked on the small villages nestled in the mountains. Janick meant to bring peace and justice to my people. In my mind, there could be no other reason for his journey.

    I was surprised by the honor when the priest told me I would be Janick’s travelling companion. There were more suitable students at the Institute but Janick had requested me – by name. There had never been any indication Janick even knew I was a student in his classes, much less that he found me capable of traveling to the North on such an important quest. It was possible he knew of my past but that would only make me less desirable as a companion if he was truly seeking to annihilate the Clan. I held the number two spot in the Dragon Flower Clan’s enemy list and they did not forgive a debt.

    As a child, I had stolen food from the Clan’s storage houses on numerous occasions. It had been easy to go undetected; no one suspected a female child, especially one as frail and small as I appeared. If I had been smarter, I would not have given the eldest in my village so much of the food. I was discovered simply because my village had fewer starvation death than any other and we had too many old townspeople in our community. The Dragon Flower Clan assassinated my grandfather, accusing him of knowing the thief. When he refused to provide a name, the Clan ran him through with a jian.

    Janick coughed, pulling me back into the forest and out of my wandering memories.

    “Is there something on your mind my child,” he asked when I looked his way. How he knew when someone was looking at him was beyond me.

    “I was wondering why you had chosen me, Master,” I replied.

    “I chose you, Shin-gee, because I have seen your kindness. You offer your rice rations to villagers outside the institute; you assist younger classmates with chores and class work when you think the Masters aren’t looking. You carry heavy bundles for the old painter at the Institute. Your actions do not go unnoticed as you assume. Your kind heart gives me courage to defeat any foe we come across.” His answer left me silent and amazed. Janick had seen more without the use of his eyes than any other Master at the institute.

    Then Master Janick smiled.

    “Besides, little fox, you have already been in the hen house!”

    580 words
    @BrewedBohemian

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