Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 2.5

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Year 2, Week 5.

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 MIDNIGHT Pacific Time on Friday.  You read that right.  Pacific Time.

This week’s song prompt comes straight from the ’80s.

It’s, “Left of Center”, by Suzanne Vega. Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/9YIBmZjONtA

This week’s Judge is still Mark Ethridge…

The challenge opens the moment you read this post and runs through midnight Pacific Time on Friday April 18th.

Now… go write!!!

 

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Posted on April 15, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Lipstick Kisses

    “Morning gorgeous,” I said, rolling over to find Mia’s side of the bed cold. I never believed in love at first sight until Mia. I thought she felt the same, obviously not going by a neatly folded piece of paper on the pillow.

    ‘If you want me, you will find me’ with a ruby lipstick kiss.

    Screw that! I threw the scrunched up ball across the floor. She knew I hated games. Told her that last night, completely up front and she goes and kicks me in the bollocks. Just because she liked the thrill of the chase.
    I sat in the cafe across the road from the hotel, opening up the menu. A piece of paper fell out.

    ‘If you want me, you will find me, you’ve joined the game’ with another lipstick kiss.

    I looked around but Mia was nowhere. She knew I’d be here, it’s where we met. She wanted me to play, wanted me to find her.
    Finishing my coffee, I jumped on a passing bus, grabbing a window seat but I wasn’t concentrating on the view as Mia’s flirtatious giggle filled my head. I tried to dismiss her but something caught my eye. Ruby red lips! Jumping off the bus, dodging traffic, I ran up to the newsstand where the lipstick kiss was.
    “Have you seen a woman, about this high, wearing a short denim skirt, white top, brown hair, red lips?” All was met with a shake of his head, offering me a magazine or paper. I scanned the racks. The Face! I picked up the top copy. Mia mentioned this, a magazine for aspiring artists.
    “Hey, if you wanna read it, you buy it,” the man said. I handed over a note and walked, flicking through the pages. A piece of paper lay neatly inside.

    ‘I’m glad you want me, you will find me . . . soon’ and another lipstick kiss.

    I thought back to the conversations, way into the small hours. She said she wanted to be a singer. Did some busking . . . Another bus to Covent Garden. I ran around the bustling market, but only saw living statues. No point asking them. There were no clues. I was sucked into a game I didn’t want to play but now couldn’t leave. There had to be something. She said her favourite drink was a mojito. I looked up and found I was outside Henry’s. I ran in, downstairs (because Mia said she liked to drink downstairs). I opened up a menu. Nothing. Opened another. Nothing.
    “Can I help you?” the Australian barman asked.
    “A girl, Mia, orders mojitos, have you seen her?”
    “Sure, she used to work here, handed in her notice this morning. Looks like you could use a drink.” Never having drunk a mojito before, I ordered one, flicking through the magazine, stopping at her kiss. I’d wasted the entire morning and now reached a dead end. That’s why I hated games. There was always the chance of losing or never finishing.
    “I don’t suppose she said where she was going?”
    “Na, just said she was going to be a popstar.”
    I looked back at the lip print, gulped down the mojito and left, back out into daylight. It was easy hailing a cab. I looked at the lips again, circling a talent agency for singers. She had to be there. It was a short cab ride. I burst through the doors, met by security. Calmly I asked them about Mia.
    “Are you Elliot?”
    “Yes!” He handed me a note. The note was blank. Not even a kiss. “What? I don’t get it. Isn’t there another note?”
    “No.”
    I sank in the chair, head in hands.
    “If you want me, you will find me,” Mia’s voice sang. I looked up. She stood, grinning flirtatiously at me. “Good song eh? My agent thinks it’ll be a hit. How about you?”
    At that moment, I didn’t care about the song. All I wanted was to taste those ruby lips once more, hold Mia and would only play another game if winning was ever this good again.

    681

    @Lizzie_Koch

    http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/mid-week-blues-buster-left-of-center.html

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  2. Off Of The Strip

    I leaned against the wall of Terner’s Liquor on Larrabee watching all the hipsters head to what used to be The Central but had been some movie star’s vanity club for years now. I live much further east than Larrabee but not so far east as to be cool or even well employed. I wait for you every night. Just to see you lope up the street with your head up, hair loose to your shoulders and your eyes cataloging everything, everything but me. You pass by and turn left at the corner, heading west down The Strip, but I refuse to follow you to see where you go. It doesn’t matter. All is right with the world and now I can just lean here for a while, in the shadows, trash talking the arrogant little pricks who wish they were you. Eventually I cross the street and head east on Sunset to go kill some time at Book Soup. They know me there and since I always buy at least one book while I’m there they don’t mind that I sometimes spend hours just wandering around the store. Today I can’t seem to get you out of my head. I don’t why but something draws me back to that damn corner every night just to catch a glimpse of you. I wander down the aisles of the store trailing my fingers lightly over the book spines until I get to the back and finally focus enough to really see the books. Once that happens the rest of the world disappears and I lose myself in the titles, the typeface, the colors and cover art. Eventually the genre fiction will pull me in and I’ll end up on the floor finding new titles by old friends and old titles by writers I’ve heard of but never tasted. I suddenly wonder if you read? You must. If you don’t read I don’t think…we can’t…well honestly I don’t think I can even continue to fantasize about you if you don’t read. I am filled with anxiety and the need to know. I’m startled out of my daze as someone walks very close to me, I look up and gasp. It’s you. It can’t be you. You are at work. Aren’t you?

    “Hi. You’re that girl I pass every night on Larrabee by Terner’s right?”

    His voice is kind of low and sexy sounding. He’s noticed me? Oh god, I look pathetic.

    “Um, yeah.” I try to sound casual, you know just hanging out…on the street, same place, every night. Oh god.

    But he’s smiling a little, “Yeah I thought so. I like seeing you there. Like a touchstone for my night. You’re so self-possessed, like you own that wall.”

    I grin a little feeling my cheeks get warm, “Yeah? Cool.”

    He looks around, a little unsure and then seems to make a decision. He drops to the floor next to me and leans in to whisper in my ear, “Wanna know a secret?” I chuckle because he says it like a school kid. So he’s funny…that’s good.

    “Yeah I wanna know a secret.”

    He turns and looks right in my eyes, “Sometimes after I turn the corner at Sunset I stop and lean against the front wall of Terner’s and listen to you hassle the asshats heading to the Viper.”

    I can feel my eyes widen with shock.

    He grins, “It’s the best part of my day.”
    I smile, “Wow, you really need to start having better days dude.”

    He laughs, “Yeah, I guess I do. Actually I think I am, right now.”

    I look away feeling kind of nervous but I have to know, “So um” I glance up at him sideways, “what do you like to read?”

    He thinks and then says, “Look I could sit here and spout off a load of shit about Faulkner and Hemingway but the truth is I’m a Sara Paretsky, Andrew Vachss, William Gibson, Jim Butcher kind of guy.”

    “Well that’s a relief because if you wanted to go on about Faulkner or Hemingway I’d have to find a different liquor store to lean on.”

    He smiles and my day just got good too.

    Words: 700
    @MissBliss

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  3. Erin McCabe

    @disturbiakiss

    Words 641

    Out of Touch

    Backed against the wall, foot upturned for balance, Valarie stood statue still. From somewhere behind her a bell sounded; its tinny ring signalling a classroom changeover and causing an outpouring of pupils. She squinted her eyes, instantly transforming individuals into formless colourfast shapes which shoved, shouted, pushed and poked their way down the corridor. This sudden blur of frenetic movement only further served to emphasise Valarie’s stony stance, which was entirely appropriate; she felt absolutely distinct from them, like a separate being, existing outside of their time and space, growing in the wrong direction.

    One by one each lurid hue evaporated upon impact with its chosen destination, all except Little Red.

    “What are you looking at?” Vague, amorphous Little Red asked.

    “Nothing much.” She replied, trying her best to look nonchalant.

    “Something wrong with your eyes?”

    Instantly becoming self aware, Valarie stopped squinting.

    The new girl, with the bright red blazer, extended a hand. “I don’t think we’ve met, I’m Suzanne.”

    “Good for you.” The words came without thought, provoked by a deeply embedded defence mechanism, over which she had little control. Still, to her credit, Little Red seemed unfazed by the verbal assault.

    “Want to see something wild, Valarie?” Suzanne’s eyes widened to accompany a dark mischievous grin, as she outstretched her hand toward the exit doors.

    Valarie’s eyes fell to the floor, the situation felt somewhat strange and unnatural; she couldn’t tell if this was because Suzanne was dangerously unhinged, or if this was merely a symptom of systematically avoiding other people for so long.

    As she felt Suzanne’s warm hand wrap around her own, immediately her doubts were answered; clearly the girl was mad, or perhaps interested in more than mere friendship. In vain, Valarie attempted to whip her fingers from the girl’s grasp, but they were held steadfastly.

    “Can you please let go of my…” A soft finger against her lips abruptly ended her attempt at a polite plea.

    “Shhh.” Suzanne pointed towards the bottom of the corridor; the Headmaster was approaching, looking quite obviously enraged. Still holding hands, the two girls instinctively backed up against the wall together. Looking down, to her abject horror, Valarie watched as her black biker boots and faded jeans slowly started to turn a sallow shade of pale.

    “Shhh.” Suzanne insisted, sensing her creeping panic.

    The surge of anaemic beige gradually blanketed them both, until they had both become one with the wall. It was a strange sensation, especially for Valarie; for the first time she lacked edges, a central core or even a real presence.

    The Headmaster stopped abruptly in his tracks, a confused look now adoring his face, hastily turning on his heel he ventured back down the corridor. Once the coast was clear, the girls faded exterior began to recede in tiny increments until they were returned to normal.

    Suzanne released Valarie’s hand and took her securely by the shoulders. “I’m not new; I’ve always attended this school.” Her grip tightened. “You’ve never seen me, because like you, I hide in plain sight.” Her voice was starting to break. “I’m tired of hiding alone, existing in my own space, aren’t you?”

    Valarie was dumfounded, a million responses were racing through her head, each more ridiculous than the last and so she had no option but to remain silent and continue staring at her shoes.

    Noticing her hesitation, Suzanne released her grip and hung her head in an attempt to hide the embarrassment violently blushing across her cheeks. “If you want me, you can find me.” She muttered solemnly.

    As Valarie watched Little Red walk away, she had no idea that it would be the last time she would see her. In the absence of a friend, each returned to their opposite fringes, occupying the edges of the outskirts, still growing in the wrong direction, together and yet apart.

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  4. Cory John Eadson
    coryeadson.derby.uni@hotmail.co.uk

    ‘Night People’
    584 words

    The night was another world.

    The lost and the lonely stalked the city streets: messy collages of torn fishnets, multi-coloured hair, piercings, and streaming make-up. Muffled music pulsed from inside buildings that were branded with neon signs, and discarded bottles littered the pavement.

    This was supposed to be Granger’s world now. He watched from the shadows as the night people celebrated their existence, free of prejudice or care. As much as he admired them, he couldn’t go out there. As much as it pained him to accept it, he just wasn’t one of them.

    Yes, he was a tearaway. A loner, cast out from his family and friends and forced to start afresh somewhere else. But these people around him, they had confidence, and passion. And they had each other.

    He saw two girls, arms around one-another, swigging from the same bottle. Over there, by a burger van, were a bunch of people chatting and laughing. And further down, sat by the roadside, two lovers locked in embrace.

    If any of them see me, he thought, they’d laugh me out of town.

    Disenchanted by this awful realisation, Granger turned around and started to saunter off into the shadows, ready to find a new future. He glanced down at the crumpled piece of paper he had been clutching, upon which a hand-written scribble read Black Rose, midnight. He was about to let it go. And then something happened.

    Everything he had been through, everything he had done, and yet he was afraid of trying to start again? Really? He had to try and belong somewhere, had to at least attempt to make a go of it.

    He tugged awkwardly at his battered brown jacket, and glanced at his watch. Two minutes to midnight. Why not?

    Spinning around again, Granger made his way onto the street and gazed in awe at the people around him. Every single one of them had a story to tell, a painful past that they’d managed to escape from. They weren’t freaks, or weirdos. They were survivors. Just like him.

    He crossed the road and walked up to the Black Rose club, handily illuminated in vivid red neon, before pushing open the double doors at it’s entrance. A wall of sound hit him immediately. Deep, melancholy music with a driving beat, kneaded into a symphony of chinking glasses, joyful chatter, and laughter. He wandered inside, taking in the warmth of the place. Everybody had a smile on their face.

    And she was there too, at the bar, right in front of him. He recognised her instantly. The shining eyes and the scarlet lips, that beautifully complimented the red dreadlocks in her otherwise raven-coloured hair. Shaking with nerves, Granger walked towards her. He could hear his stupid shoes clunking on the floor (or was that his heart beat?), and the ridiculous white shirt beneath his scruffy jacket had never felt more ill-fitting (or was he just choking with nerves?).

    “H-hi,” he managed when he reached her, calling loudly so she could hear over the music.

    “Hello Granger,” she said, passing him an alcoholic beverage (she had a drink ready for him!), “You got my note then?”

    Granger took a sip of the drink. It was whisky and coke, and it was good.

    “Yes, yes I did,” he answered, raising his glass to her as he completely failed to suppress a huge grin.

    Chinking her own glass against his, the girl said with a smile, “Welcome home, Granger. Welcome home.”

    @Evermore_Evil
    Words: 584

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  5. HIDE AND SEEK

    They said, ‘Take the left at the next junction’
    But I went right as my thoughts malfunction
    Walk alone on a lonely street
    Will pure chance allow me to meet
    Anyone who can understand
    That none of this was ever planned

    Going right, off the beaten track
    None ever know how this attack
    Invades the space that once was mine
    Removed the glow, destroyed the shine
    Hope springs eternal, so they say
    But mine is now a shade of grey

    They said, ‘Take the left at the next junction’
    My mind just refused to take that action
    As something gnawed away at that
    Chewed the fabric and left me flat
    So I went right, not thinking ever
    To return across my river

    How does this thing so deep inside
    So deep within its place to hide
    Creep in and out and round about
    Screaming so loud but doesn’t shout
    Each time it speaks, it leaves me weak
    I hate this game of hide and seek

    They said, ‘Take the left at the next junction’
    But it cuts so deep, this mental auction
    Am I able to consider
    Who will be the highest bidder?
    Whose voice is sounding out the quote?
    My own voice cannot leave my throat

    I try to run, to get away
    The voice shouts out, ‘No stay and play’
    ‘You cannot leave what you have sought
    And I will keep what I have bought’
    I look behind and tho’ still weak
    I call out, ‘You’re not what I seek’

    They said, ‘Take the left at the next junction’
    Sometimes it’s wiser to pay attention
    To those who have time and knowledge
    And help you break free from bondage
    Take their advice and walk the path
    That leads you to the place of truth

    No more for you beyond the fringe
    No more for you, the fearful cringe
    No more for you, the pain inside
    No more for you, the voice you hide
    No more for you the way of meek
    Now you have found the truth you seek

    @ScotsJamaican (344 words)

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  6. The Intrusion of Peripheral Vision

    Whenever we run into each other in public, I try to not be aware of you. It’s harder now that our children are in middle school and have similar interests. Last night at the band concert, it was as if I had split into two selves. There was me, the devoted mother watching her son perform, and me, the person wishing she had never been your friend and desperately wanting to not be seen by you. When my husband leaned in to whisper to me, it was one self too many for me to maintain. “Shhh,” I hissed viciously at him. He raised an eyebrow and turned back to the stage, his feelings clearly hurt. How much did that cost me? Even now, ten years later, I cannot preserve enough self to function properly when I am worrying that you might be watching me and judging me.

    Every few years or so, you get a new kindred friend, and you are inseparable from them until you are done with them. I try not to ignore that. I try not to see. If I can avoid it, I don’t speak with that person. It’s been long enough that most people don’t know we were ever friends. It’s been long enough that even my husband doesn’t think it matters anymore, so he sat next to me in the dark with the jaunty strains of the middle school band tumbling around us, wondering why I was mad at him. I was mad at myself.

    Why is feeling your judgment such an unbreakable habit? There’s nowhere I can seek solace about this: people don’t understand women who can’t get over a friend who isn’t a friend anymore. They’re more likely to empathize with the pain of your high school boyfriend of two weeks dumping you than they are to understand why a friend of fifteen years who suddenly hates you is a loss that keeps hurting you for years.

    I’d like to say I have let go. I sat in the auditorium and tried to shut myself in, not remembering, not thinking, not feeling you were there. I willed myself to go away. I don’t want to hate you. I don’t want to reconcile with you. I don’t want to do anything but stop remembering that you know who I was ten years ago, and you may still be passing judgment on the me that was trying to manage my two year old son.

    You called him a monster. Remember? You called my son a monster. You were the leader in every social circle I belonged to, and you judged him a monster because he broke your coffee cup. You had made similar turns against me in the years we were friends and I had always sucked it up because it was only my self-esteem I was sacrificing, but I could not allow myself the luxury of forgiving you this time. When every mother in our group began treating him like the monster that you had deemed him to be, I knew you were asking for a measure of pain that was not mine to give. I could not let you hurt him as the price for keeping you.

    After the concert ended and all the parents stood in the hall waiting to reclaim their children, I said my mantra to myself as I tried not to hear your strident voice: I push you to the periphery, I will not care if you see me. I will wear blinders on the corners of my eyes and hope you do pass directly in front of me. I will love those who are worthy of my love. I will forget you someday. I will stop worrying if you are judging me and hurting me in ways I can never see until it is too late to protect myself.

    “Mom? Did you like my concert?” my son said when the river of children finally dropped him at my side.

    “Yes, you were fantastic,” I said, and I hugged him so hard that he squirmed and shrugged me away. I focused all my attention on him, and the nagging periphery of my vision faded away.

    @violetgrendel (697 words)

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  7. Jack unwrapped his sandwich and contemplated it dolefully. Oatnut bread, just a bit of mayo, light swiss, and turkey, because it was Thursday. As he had every day for the last month, he contemplated pitching it in the trash and going down the street to that new bar, the one everyone else in accounting was talking about, and as he had every day for the last month, he ate it anyway and headed back to his desk.

    If you asked Jack how the rest of the afternoon at work went, he couldn’t have told you, not for all the money in the world. The days blurred, a miasma of featureless time, and it never failed to surprise him when he found himself trudging through the parking garage at the end of each one.

    When Jack had bought the Saturn, shiny and green and almost-new, his friends had all envied him. The first of the group with a real job, and the first with a real car. But they’d moved on, to shinier jobs and faster cars and wives and husbands and kids, and Jack still drove the same car, the one with the slightly cracked rear quarter-panel and radio that crackled. He could afford to replace it, but this one still ran well enough, unless it got too cold. And no one would ever steal it, or even try to break the window, not for a buck and a half of spare change and a radio that didn’t even have a CD player.

    Jack didn’t even look at where he was going as he ascended the ramp in the garage. He parked in the same spot every day, thirteen spaces from the top of the ramp, facing east. The skyscrapers blocked the morning sun, and he never once burned his hands on a steering wheel. But this Thursday, when he went to put his key in the lock, his hand moved into nothingness and he stumbled forward. No broken glass under his feet. No tire marks on the ground. Just no car. Every other car that was supposed to be there was still in its spot, awaiting the drive to wherever people went after work. Just not Jack’s.

    It didn’t even occur to Jack to call the police. They surely had better things to do than spend time and money hunting down a car that wasn’t worth a day’s pay to some of them. With nothing left for him in the parking garage, he headed down the stairs to the street. Amid the mindless clamor of people going here or there or nowhere, Jack looked around and contemplated his options. That new bar was two blocks north, and he could probably call a cab or something, but he turned left and headed south.

    As he walked, Jack fell into a kind of rhythm. Not quite mindless, like the way he shuffled through the day, but effortless, as if he was walking a path he’d traveled hundreds of times. At some point, he dropped his briefcase. At another, he shrugged off his jacket. He moved smoothly and easily, people stepped aside for him, and cars waited at intersections until he moved on. At those intersections, Jack mostly went straight, but if he turned, he turned left.

    On any other day, he would have found himself going in circles, but I didn’t want that. I’d called him to me after years of searching, and I was going to make him mine, Euclidean geometry be damned. It had been so hard to find him, with his mind wrapped in its cocoon of disconnectedness.

    Jack barely registered when the sidewalk ended and the beach began, and he paid even less attention to the water rising up his body at the edge of the sand. When he was fully submerged, he reached his left hand out and found mine, and we finally walked together. He was mine and I his, walking unseen among the people of the world. Unseen, that is, unless the light was right and you looked out of the corner of your eye. Over there, just a bit to your left, where all the secret people live.

    695 words
    @drmagoo

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  8. Centre

    Today’s the day. I see you in the distance, in my mind’s eye. Centre. We’re near, though still at a distance. Left of Centre. Great name for it, incidentally. Guess they couldn’t come up with anything better. That, or simply ego. Centre must be – and is – central to everything and all that. Truthfully, I suspect they had other priorities in the aftermath. As They would. You wouldn’t know, unfortunately. Not now. You certainly didn’t then. I tried to convince you but you were stubborn. Had to have it your own way, for all the good it did you. So now you’re stuck there, me out here. Separated by time, space and a god awful row, built up by pressure and circumstance.

    Though I want to, I can’t take the words back. They’re out there, freer than you are. Now. For me to regret, at least. I would recant them if I could, though you won’t recall them. Not now. Not at the centre of Centre, right in the hub. Now it’s up to me to sort things. To try to get you out by getting in. Crazy idea, really, though I feel I owe it – not just to you – to try. You’d laugh if you knew. About the suggestion of kamikaze behaviour; being one of the revolutionaries. We’re outlawed for what we did – simply by leaving, for failing to submit to testing; for product processing. Terrorists. If caught, what they’ll do to us is worse than what they’ve done to you. Worse still, if we fail, you won’t even know it; safely slumbering mind hive, deep amidst the grounds of Centre.

    I wish I’d tried harder, to get you to leave. It got too late to convince you. You didn’t believe – the rumours, a casual whispered word here and there. Too casual to carry weight, for you. I heard; I listened. I ran, to stay safe. For the chance to stay awake, not to be drugged and dumbed down; to sink into silence. That subtly induced sleep.

    They said it was about species survival; ensuring we came through things safely. Thus – the trials and testing. Coma subjects for comparison. At the end, whenever that was. Who knew. No-one ever said where the “they” had found out from – or who they were. Perhaps the chain of whispers was its own protection. For the “them”. For us. We had realised there were disappearances, of course. Officially, people had simply had enough; gone over the community walls, to seek new life. Though no-one knew what lay beyond Centre. Not really. Not now. Nor whether it was actually possible to leave. We knew no-one who’d tried. Just what was said.

    It was a sheltered existence post-Breakdown in Centre. The scavengers brought food; the committee took control. There were few questions. Sustenance and shelter bought grateful goodwill. From most. I kept quiet. You didn’t comment. The non-conversation lay between us. I knew. One too many coincidental “disappearances”. You disregarded. Until the day. The day They came. For me. For us. Our turn.

    We had some warning. Not much. The “them” sent word through whisper. I moved, straight off. My family; friends too. You took the time to hesitate. Too much, with too little left to us. Harsh words, spoken in haste, whilst seeking to persuade. I remember. You don’t. I hate that you don’t.

    Still, they tell me there is hope, those whispers. Their networks run outside, through secret means. The who and how scarcely matters. You are there – deep at the heart of Centre, where my thoughts stray most. Waiting, though you don’t know it; can’t see it. Not your turn. Not yet. Not ever, if I am able. If we are lucky, though it will take much more than that.

    We plan here, left of Centre. We’ll find a way to break you out somehow. To do that, we’re breaking in. Aiming right for the heart of Centre. To break the systems down; to wake the sleepers. To grant the choice to take a chance on what lies left or right of Centre. The outside. The unknown.

    Now. Today’s the day. We are coming. Towards the heart of Centre.

    @FallIntoFiction

    (700 words)

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  9. “Come out with me tonight.” He whispered in her ear.

    “You don’t need me to.”

    “Need, no, but want, yes.” Greg tugged at her arm, bringing it across his torso as they lay there on their backs staring at the ceiling.

    He’d come by earlier in the day, catching her on one of her rare days in town and taken full advantage of her. It was something they did. It was something they couldn’t resist doing.

    “I’ve got stuff to do.”

    He scoffed. “You’ve always got stuff to do. Please. Come.”

    She peeked at him from the corner of her eyes. He was staring back earnestly. She sighed. He smiled and kissed her hand.

    That evening Kate tugged at the little chiffon dress she’d put on as she stared at herself in the full length mirror. It didn’t feel right. She fiddled with her hair for the second time. It didn’t sit right. But she knew it wasn’t her clothes or her hair.

    When she reached the bar she braced herself before entering, ready for the melee within, fixing a smile on her face. He spotted her right away. He’d been watching the door, waiting for her and she knew it.

    The usual crowd was with him, a mixture of couples and singles. She behaved herself and showed interest and for a moment enjoyed being there, being with him, a part of something, sharing time and space, but then someone cracked a joke that only they knew about, and something got lost in the translation making it fall flat. He squeezed her leg. She smiled wishing they could go now.

    But they didn’t. Two more hours of drinks and as the alcohol took affect she caught herself watching him, and watching them respond to him and how they all responded to each other, having known each other all their lives. There was some kind of comfort in being able to see their closeness as a group, but it left her feeling empty inside. Part of her wished for it, and part of her was glad she’d never experienced it.

    When it was time to go, he didn’t hesitate in taking her hand, treating her as though they had always been one, always been together and she liked it. And as they staggered back to her apartment she wished she could enjoy this feeling every day.

    But come morning, while watching him get dressed she thought about the packing she needed to do for her next trip, and although she enjoyed the lengthy goodbye kiss, she was relieved when the front door behind him and she could think again about the next place she needed to be, and the next thing she needed to do, without the distraction of belonging.

    She would belong to him again in a couple of weeks, and that was enough for her.

    476 Words
    @PurpleQueenNL

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  10. Of Sneakers and Syntax

    One little ‘B’ on my final junior year report card put me on the bus to Gram’s, summer in the Bahamas with my parents rescinded without discussion. Anything less than a 4.0 GPA endangers the teen athlete endorsements my father already has in play, the ones paying for the vacation I’m not taking. (Insert dramatic sigh here). Not to mention it puts a black cloud over the track-and-field college scholarship he has lined up for me.

    Anyway, Gram is great. Sweet as marmalade but super old-school. No cable. No smart-phone. No wifi. On the plus side, she doesn’t hold me to a curfew, keeps the fridge stocked with my favorite brand of ice tea, and didn’t mind when I lopped off three quarters of my hair with the kitchen scissors the night I arrived. (Picture dad’s horrified response to my short hair here).

    Now, I’m supposed to train two hours a day but I have other plans for my life, plans that don’t exactly line up with my father’s. So, every day, I leave Gram’s house at the appointed time, dressed in the expected gear, and head downtown, in the opposite direction of the gym.

    I can sum up my fascination with the county library in two words. Wifi. Him. The need to plug into the internet needs no explanation. My growing obsession with watching him completely defies explanation. He’s tall, six foot or better and he’s got hazel eyes and this one dimple, on the left side, that just, oh, I don’t know. It makes my skin sing. (Refrain from puppy love wisecracks here).

    I try to keep my observations covert when he and his geek squad come into the computer room in the afternoons … but today, I zoned and next thing I know, somebody’s tapping my earphones.

    I glance up, see it’s him, and click open a new window to hide what I’m working on.

    He smiles and that dimple is working overtime. “Name’s J.D. Kirby. I remember you from last summer. You staying at your grandmother’s again?”

    I blink. Brilliant. On camera, I blithely encourage my peers to buy energy drinks, feminine products, and snazzy sneakers. But say ‘hi’ to the cute guy doing his damnedest to chat me up? Not happening. (Imagine catastrophic angst here).

    He nods at my computer. “I kinda got this fantasy going that you’re over here in the corner writing computer code.”

    I shrug. Denial has always served me well.

    He taps the laptop touchpad and my original screen shows up. “Aha! I knew it!”

    Denial has always left me in the lurch.

    He sits beside me. “I’d love for you to come to the school computer lab and see what I’m developing for my senior project. Maybe you could give your opinion and suggestions over a soda.”

    “I don’t drink soda.”

    He gets to his feet, smile still there but dimmed. “Okay, well, I tried, huh?”

    My stomach’s in knots but I manage to say, “One of my endorsements forbids it. Have to drink their sports water in public. But I want to see it. Your code, I mean. And what you’re developing.”

    He grins. “Yeah? I’d really like that, Michaela.”

    (Visualize furious blushing here). “You can call me Mick. So, you don’t think it’s strange? That I love to write code? Because my dad, if he knew … he wants to build a financial empire on my back but I want something else.”

    “Why not do both? I mean, you already are, right?”

    Why hadn’t I thought of that?

    The glorious dimple is back as he says, “Just saying. You look awful good in those track shorts. It’d be a shame to retire them. No reason you can’t run and write.”

    “You wouldn’t mind hanging out in the fringes while I get it figured out?”

    He winks. “Course not. Traditionally that’s where the best code is written, right? Mainstream is for suckers.”

    Yeah, I’m going to bank my future on my brain. And maybe a pair of hazel eyes. My dad will have to fend for himself.

    (Envision dad’s meltdown here).

    (Cheer my burgeoning independence here).

    (Stop watching my first kiss here).

    – – – – –

    693 words / @bullishink

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  11. LOST & FOUND

    I shook my head. I couldn’t even frame the words, the word, the single syllable, but even so he knew my answer. He managed a brave, empty smile and said
    “Well you know where to find me, if … ”
    He couldn’t bring himself to utter the conventional line either: if I changed my mind. As if any girl who turns down her young man thinks that there is the least chance of that.
    ***
    Time passed, but my certainty did not fade with the passing years, as the certainty of youth does. No. It passed much faster than that. It was days, not years, before I knew that I had erred, but it was years, not days, before I found him. Yes, I knew where to look, I knew all his usual haunts, but by the time I realised my mistake he had left them, and where he had gone I had not the means to follow.
    Forty years it has been. Forty years alone, set apart from my fellows. Forty years of seeing some aspect of him in the smile of this stranger or the eyes of that one, and breaking my foolish heart all over again, of hearing the echo of his laughter in empty rooms, of feeling his hand upon my shoulder when my own strength failed …
    ***
    Forty years, and now, when I least expect it, I have found him. Or perhaps –
    “You waited for me?”
    He smiles the old smile, and for a moment I’m embarrassed, because I see that he still has the unlined face of a young man, but as I reach impulsively towards him my arm moves with half-forgotten ease, and the hand that he catches and holds is firm and supple.
    “I promised that I would be where you could find me.”
    The world is fading. He folds me into his arms, as he did so long ago when he hoped that I would face life at his side, and then, hand in hand, we turn to face death together.

    @alexbrightsmith 341 words

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  12. Watching From Between

    “What are you looking at?” the stranger asked Marjorie.

    “Nothing much.” she answered automatically, standing just off of the Strip. The passerby just shrugged and kept walking. She wasn’t used to even running into anyone out on the fringes like this. It was so much easier to not have to deal with anyone else.

    Looking around as she wandered across the outskirts of the town, she could see the most unusual world. A world filled with strange people, some as large and solid as mountains, and others small enough that they should fit in her hand. As she watched, they went through their lives, just as they had been doing ever since she was a little girl. “Looking left of center” is what she called it, and nobody else ever seemed to see what she saw.

    The stranger that passed had no idea that just beside the path there was a pair of individuals the size of children. Dressed in the finest of Persian silks, they were tiny swirls of soft purple and orange, they sharply contrasted with the tiny winged man in a business suit they were talking with. At first, it seemed like they were mugging him, but the gruff voices were filled with words of deference. When they traded a single golden coin for several dew drops, the colorful pair looked around furtively. The ecstatic joy in their faces when they tasted the dew on their fingers made her feel awkwardly voyeuristic. The winged one looked right at her, and she realized they knew she was watching, and they simply didn’t care.

    The tiny figure flitted by, over the shoulder of the first passerby, trailing a rainbow of dust. The stranger sneezed without ever seeing why, making Marjorie grin. Before much longer, several other people came and went on the sidewalk, an unusual crowd on the edge of town. They simply walked past without acknowledging her, or even seeming to notice that she was there. Sometimes she couldn’t tell which set of people were the ones that she could talk to and touch, causing more than one person to think she was completely out of touch.

    She followed the winged business man down the around the corner, just another unnoticed figure moving through the night. By the time she stepped off the avenue, though, he was long gone into the night. Still, she wondered about him, and why the others.

    The night was young, though, as she continued wandering through the hidden edges of the city, peeking in on the colorful world that went on just “left of center” from the regular world.

    @BryantheTinker
    436 words

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  1. Pingback: Night People | The Mind of Evermore (and the Things Inside it)

  2. Pingback: The Joys of Surprise | The Mind of Evermore (and the Things Inside it)

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