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@jacobts · (edited)
$20.83
FIST FIGHT - Part 2 - The Stories

Flash Fiction Improv Inspired by Steemit stories woven together in a living room of friends.

Preface

Everything is homage.  In Fist Fight Part 1 I shared the story of a young improv team’s rehearsal night.  During that night they improvised a piece which, had it had an audience would have been a wonderful show with rich improvised stories. I can not do their work of art justice.  This is but my humble attempt to share those stories.  For the team’s opening and inspiration, I wove together bits from a couple of Steemit Stories,  “Ships at Anchor” by @zthomasolson and “Windows of Perception” by the @Krnl. What follows is my attempt to translate those stories into some flash fiction for your reading amusement.  Everything is improvised, everything is homage. Enjoy.


                     * Fist Fight ~ Drew, Josh, Maddie, Michael, Paula & Coach Katie *


Opening

I've talked about the "spark" many times before. She lay with her head across his lap asleep in the front seat of the car. He liked her best when she was not asleep, but nearly so, because it was then that she would take his hand and hold it in earnest. When she was tired she let the loneliness show, and that’s when she needed him. Consciousness is a double-edged sword.

Truth takes time, a catalyst to awaken consciousness to care more. It’s strange country we’re driving through, he thought, although it wasn’t so strange at all. The land was flat and grassy with long roads more gray than black, and the thick, dark tar patches rattled the wheels in a random way that kept her from completely drifting off for more than a moment or two at time. As they hit the rough patches she would wake up and squeeze his hand like a ship tugging at its anchor.  Chaos is a teacher, if we pay attention to it. He was thankful for the strange country.


The Living Room 

"I remember Iran and the long Van rides across the country.  I can remember the smell of the air and being with my family over this alien terrain.  I was young so the memories are like dreams but the van was real and my family still is."

"In church I would crouch below the pews and play with toys that I brought in my pockets. Occasionally I would bump into people’s feet and wonder if they noticed.  It was my own little world while the adults were living in theirs."

"I used to worry that my parents would find me trapped behind the ladder in the family pool.  We had a pool and I used to like swimming between the ladder and the wall.  I don’t know why , maybe it was the danger."

"My boyfriend used to drive me home from school.  Sometimes he would take a different route and I did not know why.  I would ask him where he was going and he would tell me we were on an adventure."

"We would play Hide & Seek at Grampas. Do you remember brother?  There was always a place to hide. The house seemed so big back then."


Kids Games

“Jeremy, thanks for helping me build the fort.”

“Yeah. It’s cool Melissa, and then maybe we can go roller blading.”

“Mom never let’s me build a fort in here.  Look!  I took her blankets from her room.”

“Yeah.  That’s cool.  Here’s a flashlight and I brought rollerblades.”

“I feel like, safe in here.  Look at all these couch cushions.  This one is my fort table.”

“Mmm mm.  I want to go roller blading.”

“What?”

“We always build forts.  We never go roller blading. I got new roller blades for Christmas.”

“OK, we’ll go rollerblading after we play in the fort.”

“We’ve been in the fort all day.”

“I hate rollerblades!  Jeremy.”

“What?”

“I just like forts ok?"

"I just thought...  ok."


The Backyard

“OK Son, I see the problem, you’re glove is new.”

“I want to catch it Dad. I just can’t close my hand. Watch!”

“I see. We gotta oil your glove. Let me see the glove.”

“I can do it. Like this?”

“You have to put the oil in first, then you rub it.”

“Right. Like this?”

“Not too much. Where's your mother?”

“Like this!"

“That’s way too much. Here why don’t you let me-”

“I can do it. See?”

“I’m watching.”

“Now what?”

“Now you rub it in. But..”

“Yeah?”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m rubbing it.”

“Yeah but just, do it normal.”

“I can rub it.”

“Son...”

“I’m doing it!”

“This is chaos! Let me have the damn glove... please.”

“ok.”

“Ok. Like this. Are you watching?”

“Where's mom?"


New Life, Old Home

“Denise, I wanted this to be special, so I hid something under the carpet.”

“Yes Michael. What could be more special than our new life together.”

“Well, I hope you find it. I hid it pretty good.”

“I’m looking. I found it. Oh Michael, my grandmother’s ring!”

“Yes dear, I found it when I was cleaning out the fireplace.”

“Oh Michael, it’s beautiful and everything.  Thank you so much.”

“I love you Denise. And I made us pudding.”

“What? My favorite! How could this day get any better…”

“It can’t. Not as long as you are here, with me, in this house.”

“I’m so glad we decided to move into this old house. It’s meant so much to my family.”

“I remember.”

“Where did you get the pudding?  The kitchen isn’t even ready.”

“It was in the van.  Here, it’s chocolate. Be careful.”

“Be careful?  Why… Oh Michael!  There’s something in the pudding.”

“Go on.”

“It’s… another one of my Grandmother’s rings.”

“I found it when I was cleaning out the pool.”

“I remember when she lost this.”

“Oh.”

“We found her trapped behind the ladder...”

“I’m…”

“She survived.”

“Oh! Right.”

“That’s when she lost it.”

“Denise.”

“Michael. Have I told you, you're my spark?”

“Many times before.”


                                                                BLACKOUT


~

 images hosted at steemimg.com/jacobts . 

i Appreciate all the Up Votes & Comments

All the Best, Jacob TS 

http://www.steemimg.com/images/2017/01/18/jacobtsavatarddd6459d.th.jpg

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· @strangerarray ·
$19.50
Erosion of an Empire: Part 3

“State your first and last name to the board of elders,” commanded a solid steady voice.



Oath
Image Credit


“Hasim Patel.”

This was anticipated Hasim reflected.

“Contact?”

“Alexander.”

So far, so good.

“Birth date?”

“11 of September 1994.”

“Country of origin?”

“Syria.”

“Lineage?”

Hasim paused.

“Lineage,” the voice boomed again with more force.

Hasim took a deep breath.

His objective was to be accepted, but he hadn't prepared for this question.

Hasim cleared his throat and began confidently, “I am Hasim Patel, son of Abram Patel, son of Shem Ali, son of Edom Paran, son of Elam Patel, son of Nahash…”

“That’s far enough,” the voice interrupted.

Hasim let out a sigh of relief.

“Jeffery says that you demonstrated an ability to fight,” the stern voiced questioner, Tectamus, added more as a statement than a question.

Hasim nodded. “Sir, I’ve had my share of fights. There is nothing more I would like to avoid, but when push comes to shove, there is only one thing to do.”

“Well, what do you see your role here being?”

“This is something I’ve given much thought to and depending on your needs, I am sure I can fit in where you need me.” Hasim answered evasively.

“Look, we know more about you than you may realize,” Tectamus said with a hint of threat in his voice.

Hasim had done his homework, but he only knew what he was able to find. He was not able to know what he didn’t know he needed to know.

“Tectamus, right? Can I call you Mr. T? I am going to put it on the line here and tell you I am here to help and think I can provide you with some real assets in my ability to gather information for you from sources you may not normally be able to reach.”

“Undoubtedly, and **no* Mr. T is not okay*, but my friends can me Chief. That’s all for now, Hasim, we will talk more later.”

Hasim left the building alone with a nagging thought that he left knowing only a little more than before and that he gave up more information than maybe he should have.


Banksy Gaza

Image Source



● ● ●


Hsiao Hsi cupped his hand to keep the flame long enough to light the cigarette that dangled from his lower lip.

He plopped down on his worn futon. He interlaced his fingers and cradled the back his head spreading his elbows out wide.

So this is how it ends?, he contemplated.

The pending oil depletion had been in the news everyday for the last decade, but it had been kept at bay due to constant innovation in the industry. It began with Fracking and changed over the decade in as many ways as the mega-corporations squeezed every last cent from the earth.

Hsiao, was from the Shandong province which had experienced a boom in economic prosperity because of its proximity to South Korea and Japan which provided commercial investments and tourism to the area.

Hsi could be described as a textbook slacker. He had an intellect and wit smart enough to skate by in school without much strenuous efforts and he rarely challenged himself to become something greater.

He liked thinking and didn’t think much for working too hard.

Now that the world was rioting and fretting over food, Hsi felt like his life choices served him well.

If it was all going down the tubes anyways, why strive for what is certain to quickly be no more?

It was thinking like this that often kept Hsiao from taking action.

So this is it, he kept coming back to.

Should I try to go out in a blaze of glory? Should I try to piece together some sorta coalition and build a tribe to support and supply me and each other?

What about being a lone wolf type?

The dystopian fiction and television shows had peppered his mind with many options and opportunities.

Whatever happens, this is gonna be fun.


● ● ●

Part 4 of *Erosion of an Empire* coming soon!




Michael


Written by Michael Paine

Follow me @strangerarray and donate because Hasim and Hsiao would.


Please check out my other recent post:


P.S. Before you go, do you have Student Loans and are looking for ways to save money by restructuring the loans to reduce your monthly payments ?

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@meesterboom · (edited)
$17.03
Steemit Story Slam Challenge 2: Push the Button!

http://i.imgur.com/ygzpGox.jpg

Present Day

'Beautiful.' I surveyed the freshly laid grass covering an expanse before me. It was perfectly smooth, large enough to play soccer on with palm trees huddling around it in groups. Between the trees, the sun glinted on the distant waves of the ocean. I flicked my head at the foreman beside me Are we ready then?
'Yes Mr Bom,' he uttered as he deferentially bowed his head. 'The final fitting and testing is complete.'
'Fine work, you would never be able to guess even close up!' I cradled my new cat, a Persian. He purred, delightful long, white fur draping over my arms as I held him close. 'Lead on then.'

A gentle wind frolicked with my hair as I strode purposefully to the centre of the circle. The foreman trailing behind me at the contractual two paces. We stood in the centre of the grassy expanse. The sun made sweat prickle at the back of my neck. Perhaps I should have worn shorts instead of my fine white linen suit but appearances must be kept. The foreman, Ralphie I think was his name moved hesitantly forward pressing a small box into my outstretched hand. It was a sparse affair. Gun metal grey with a singular red button on it. 'Thank you Ralphie, no surprises, final snags? We are good to go?"
'Yes Mr Bom, the men have finished all of the work on time.'
'Utterly splendid my fine fellow!' I boomed gregariously. I checked my Rolex. 'Ah and here they are, right on time!'

http://i.imgur.com/LJmOPfD.jpg

Trotting through the trees in single file was a column of some twenty men in black combat fatigues. I admired the efficient way they approached, perfectly in step and with utter discipline. They pulled to a halt a few paces from myself and the nervously twitching Ralphie. One of the men stepped forward from the rest
'Rory Harding, reportin for duty Mr Bom, as requested at 1400 hours,' his Scottish Highland burr made my lowlander lips twitch as I fought down a snigger.
'Yes, yes. Very good. Ralphie? Name tags please.'
Ralphie darted forward to hand Rory Harding his name tag which simply read Guard 1 then proceeded down the line handing out the rest of the guards their numbers. I leant toward Guard 1 and in a jovially conspiratorial tone whispered 'Not very good with names these days, just can't be bothered you see. Hope you don't mind this little foible of mine?'
'Aye sir, nae bother.' Guard 1 snapped off some odd salute.
'Well gentlemen, let us do this thing!' I cried. With a flourish, I gestured my arm in an arc. Who would have believed this could all be happening? Three months ago I was just Johnny Normal and now?...

I pressed the button.

http://i.imgur.com/L237dd8.jpg

Three months ago

The train damply chuffed its way into the station, sounding a forlorn *whooo as it slowed to a halt. I looked around at my fellow commuters standing in the misty Scottish rain. Just another Scottish summer. How bloody depressing. The doors parted with a swish and I made my way to a seat. Wiping the condensation from the window I peered out and sighed as we pulled off. Oh well, another day complete in the misery factory that was my work. I noticed the shrieking headline on the newspaper the chap beside me was reading -

Lotto winner still to come forward!

I chortled to myself, lucky bastard and pulled my smartphone out to read the real news. The portly chap beside me was breathing with such gusto that I couldn't focus on my phone. I looked at that headline again. Had I checked my ticket? Had I? Wouldn't that be a thing, to have won and not known? I fumbled my wallet from my pocket and fished it out, who knows, I might have won a tenner. On my phone, I scrolled past the advert laden text proclaiming portentously of the life changing amount an astonishing 386 million pounds due to successive rollovers.There! I stopped swiping when the article finally saw fit to display the winning numbers. Hmmph, 14, yep, 17 yep My heart skipped a beat. ..23..24.39 ... I was having trouble swallowing and now my heart was booming in my chest as I got to the last number.

Fuck! I won... It's me!

I quickly stuffed my ticket back into my wallet. I fought the urge to run, to scream, to shout my news. But a sudden fear silenced me. I sat in grim silence among my drab travelling companions like a coiled snake for the rest of the journey, terrified that they knew and were plotting to take my golden ticket my any means necessary.

Present day

The button clicked and the ground we stood on trembled then gently sank. There were murmurs from the guards attempting to hide their surprise as we sunk directly down into the earth on a disc some twenty feet across. The sides of the shaft glimmered softly, LEDS set at intervals in a veined black marble. 100 metres down the sides of the shaft fell away into the distance and the platform we rode upon came gently to a halt. My empire lay before me. A futuristic lair of glass and chrome, irised doorways punctuating the walls. Numbered guards patrolled lofty gangways connecting a series of windowed rooms. The main space comprised of a gigantic screen and a command bridge before it.

I stepped forward smugly, my cat mewing in religious awe at my lair. Ralphie scurried at my side whilst the guards fanned out, covering me against potential harm. As I strode onto the command deck a large black armchair sphinctered out of the ground before a lone console. I delicately sat down and motioned for Ralphie to come forward. 'I am greatly pleased Ralphie. Your men did sterling work here but I am afraid it has only just begun.'
'Mr Bom?'
'Yes Ralphie,' I tapped a series of buttons and the screen above us fractured into life. It showed the view of a group of construction workers standing precariously on a small scaffold jutting over a large water tank. Below them, the fins of sharks circled angrily.
'The work you and your men have done has pleased me greatly. This is my secret lair in which I will plot on how best to become ruler of the WORLD!' My voice screeched slightly at the last and I reigned myself in. 'But you see Ralphie, there is one problem. I can't have anyone knowing where my secret headquarters is now can I?'

http://i.imgur.com/58oFVK1.jpg

'Wait,' Ralphie's face dropped as he realised the import of my words. 'Meester Bom, please, no. I have children!'
'Oh fear not Ralphie, as I said. You have pleased me.'
'Please, please Meester Bom,'
'Yes yes, I have spared you Ralphie but I cannot be lenient. I must protect my new secret headquarters. If you wish to stand by my side then you must prove your loyalty. Can you do that Ralphie? Can you?' I pointed to a large pulsing button on the console before me. 'Push the button Ralphie and your erstwhile comrades will plunge into the shark-infested pool where they will be torn apart. Push the button Ralphie and you will be saved'
'What?' Ralphie's face turned ashen. 'Mr Bom, I can't. I can't do this?'
'You wish to join them Ralphie? You wish to feed the sharks with your own flesh? What of your children?'
'Mr Bom, please no, this is wrong!'
'Push the button Ralphie,'
'Please, Mr Bom, I beg you,' despite his pleas he moved a shaking finger closer to the gently pulsing kill switch.
'Push the button Ralphie, then my plans can begin!' I started shaking with mirth.

'PUSH THE BUTTON RALPHIE!'

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@johnjgeddes ·
$11.13
Desire ...a lightning storm ignites a fire inside of me Part 1 of 2



https://i.imgsafe.org/1949fe429a.jpeg



“So, this happens every night?”

Brett Waters stares at me as if I’m insane, and frankly I’m beginning to agree.

We’re sitting in the Hart House dining room having lunch and I’m telling him about my dreams. We both teach courses in modern drama, but I specialize in Tennessee Williams, who’s preoccupied with desire.

So, I'm well acquainted with deep-seated passion, but still, I’m not just a drop of reason in an ocean of emotion—I hope.

I try to maintain some semblance of rationality, although I'm feeling very vulnerable at the moment



“I’m at a loss to explain it,” I tell him, “but somehow I get the impression this girl is someone I once knew and is now dead—and, face it, she’d have to be, because as you know, my love life is pathetic.”

“Any clues as to where your dream affair takes place?”

“I get the impression it’s the Deep South—I see white manses and smell magnolias.”



https://i.imgsafe.org/195f7b13e4.jpg



He rolls his eyes. “O my god, Bro—southern belles and mint juleps! Can’t your dreams at least be a little less conventional?”

I color a little—Okay, a lot. I need to explain—try to justify myself.

“Yeah, I thought of how lame that sounds too—but I do teach Tennessee Williams.”

“Well, if I were you, Pal, I’d just go with the flow. It seems harmless enough—but until we perfect 3-D holography, this is probably the closest you’re going to come to losing yourself in a romantic fantasy.”

He gets up to go to his 1:00 pm lecture. “I hate to say it,” he grins, “but Freud would have a field day with you.”



I smile ruefully as he walks away. He’s right, of course—it’s probably my long-suppressed libido, my Id, making a back-door assault on my Ego and speaking to me through the language of dreams.

But I also have a lecture to attend too, and as I think about it, the image of my Nemesis comes to mind in the person of Karine Williams, a beautiful, but challenging student.

From the first day of semester, Karine has been a persistent adversary, peppering me with incessant questions and smirking if she succeeds in catching me unprepared.

Her constant needling has worn me down and made me limit student questions.

Lately though I’ve decided to take a more proactive approach—not allowing her acres of time to hand in assignments, and cutting her off when she verges off track.

I’ve drawn a line in the sand so to speak, and if she crosses it today, I’ll make sure she pays.



I lean on the lectern watching the students file in and sure enough, the last one to enter is Karine. There will be no respite from needling today.

It’s the Friday before the long weekend and term assignments are due today. I wonder if Karine will make the deadline, and to forestall any arguments I begin by reiterating the rule I made—either get the assignment to me in class, or hand-deliver it to my home.

“You know the rules,” I remind them. “If your term paper is not in today, I won’t accept it—or, poor you, you’re going to have a long car ride to my Muskoka cottage.”

The class laughs and Matt Morton, a linebacker for the Varsity Blues calls out, “My paper’s ready, Prof—I even read the books for this one.”

I laugh along with the class, but notice Karine is not smiling—not a good sign. I decide to get right into the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof lecture and so I start in with Brick and Maggie’s confrontation in Act One.



I begin by stating that Maggie uses the excuse of poverty to justify why she always has ‘to suck up to people.’ She claims it’s turned her into a restless cat on a hot tin roof.

Karine’s hand immediately shoots up. The class groans—Matt Morton rolls his eyes, and I grimace inwardly.

“Yes, Ms. Williams?” I strain to say the words evenly, plastering a brittle smile on my face.

“I’ve noticed you’ve adopted a very biased attitude toward Maggie, Professor Enright—you’re seeing her through a male perspective.”

“Well, duh,” Matt Morton snickers, “He is a man, if you noticed.”

Karine’s eyes flash. “That is such a typical male response—taking sides against a woman.”

I decide it’s best to stifle this argument before it gets really heated.



“Let’s not get into a He Said—She Said, disagreement. I always believe that when there’s a difference in interpretation, you should let the text speak. Do you agree, Ms. Williams?”

She glares at me. “Yes, I do.”

“Good! Then bring your copy of the text up here and stand beside me.”

She hesitates a moment, looking uncertain. Matt Morton snickers, anticipating some kind of come-uppance in the works, but to her credit, Karine doesn’t back down.

“I want you to read Maggie’s part, and I’ll read Brick’s—and we’ll let the text decide.”

“I don’t do southern accents,” she hedges.

“Neither do I,” I counter.

She tosses her head defiantly allowing her long dark tresses to mesmerize me. But then, begins reading, falteringly at first, but gaining momentum and confidence as she goes.



https://i.imgsafe.org/198411bc14.jpg>



Maggie’s part in Act One is demanding—she has to sound hysterical and out of breath as if she’s run up several flights of stairs yelling Fire! And she has to sustain that energy all the way to the end of the Act. A demanding role for Karine to play.

Serves her right, I chuckle inwardly.

As for me, my part is easy. I get to utter monosyllabic replies for most of the time, before things start getting heated between Brick and Maggie.

But as we get into the rhythm of the dialogue, a strange thing starts to happen. In the midst of acting out Maggie and Brick’s conflict, a storm blows up outside the lecture hall.

The tall, narrow windows are illumined by waves of blue lightning.



As Maggie lashes out at Brick, thunder rumbles ominously in the background. And as Karine gets into the cadence of Maggie’s voice, her speech begins to take on a southern accent. When I reply in Brick’s indifferent tone, my speech has a southern drawl.

Suddenly, a real rage exists between us. I feel myself grasping for Brick’s crutch so I can brain Karine—er, Maggie—do anything to make her stop.

The atmosphere turns electric and the room grows darker by the minute. Finally, it becomes so dark we both get scared and stop.

The lecture hall goes ominously silent—reminiscent of the pause between lightning and thunder—and then there is an enormous loud crash, and Karine screams in fright and falls into my arms.

The minute I feel her in my arms a dark network of hidden memories lights up inside me.



I’m dazed and shaken, and at the same time powerfully attracted to her. I stare at her lips wanting so badly to crush them beneath mine, but am aware of the students gaping at us as we cling together on the raised platform.

I come to my senses and pull abruptly away.

I manage to call out, “I think we’ll end early today because of the weather. Don’t forget to hand in your papers on the way out.”

Nobody moves or says anything.



Finally, Matt Morton gives a huge sigh and deadpans, “That was intense.”

His remark breaks the ice and the students laugh, and then begin to file out. It’s then I realize I’m standing alone on the platform, feeling bereft and desolate.

Karine has fled, leaving me feeling totally abandoned.

My hands are shaking as I clumsily gather up term papers and shove them into my briefcase.

I drive home in pouring rain, peering through the rain-splattered windshield and seeing superimposed over the splashing streets, a transparent image of Karine's face.



http://www.pixhoster.info/f/2016-11/0dff8623d573ac516463affdf5f7e2fa.PNG



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@everittdmickey ·
$11.06
Ride the Lightning: Episode 29

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Up Close and Personal



http://static.fjcdn.com/gifs/Combat_0ea1bd_5296923.gif

Everyone turned to look at the pony. Except for me and Bubba. I thought of the black panther kitten as Bubba in my mind. He was a Cyber-cat.  The little horse was a Cyber-pony. I had a ThumBrain. The two cyber-animals were linked together via wifi and so was I.  The pony had dropped an info-dump on Bubba just before it died.  I knew this because, oddly enough the ThumBrain  hanging from the torque around my neck picked it up too, and squirted it right into my brain.

Bubba-cat shot out the door like a tomahawk missile.  I was right behind him. I was trying, and against all expectations, I was succeeding, in keeping up. A normal house cat can run over thirty miles per hour if it’s in a hurry.  Bubba wasn’t normal, he can run MUCH faster and he was in a BIG hurry.  No way in HELL could I run that fast…but I was.  It had to be those damn bionic legs that had been giving me so much trouble lately. Something was really strange but I didn’t have time to worry about it just then.  We had a young girl to save.

That cat passed Trog in a flash, just as he launched a swarm of drones. I was right there with the kitten.  Little did I know it at the time but every damn customer from the restaurant was a galloping after us…they were pretty far back, and not going NEAR as fast. Me and that cat, we was hauling ass.

I tuned in automagically to the drone flight.  My thumbrain streamed  video from them. A mile or so ahead of us, just over the next hill, was a mob of Jihadis. I had no idea what flavor they were. They had a young girl, the pony's rider, one of Rosetta’s grand chillen,bent over the tailgate of a pickup. They were raping her, some were even standing in line waiting their turn.

 I found out later that the little girl had been out riding her pony and they had ambushed her, before she could get off a shot. The fact that a young girl should be out enjoying herself with no male supervision had enraged them, like as not.  That she had a weapon caused them to go berserk. They weren’t just rapeing her they were beating her too, looked like they were intent on killing her.

We had to stop em.

The drones got there first...barely.  They were just surveillance drones with no weapons. Still..they packed a punch when they plowed into a head at top speed.  The raps on the heads distracted the Jihadis until Bubba ripped right into them full bore.  He caught them completely by surprise. He literally caught many of them with their pants down.  Too bad for them. They tried to shoot him.  Shooting each other often as not.  Bubba was a hard cat to catch, much less hold, in the cross hairs. The jihadis didn’t even USE cross hairs or any other kind of sights. They didn’t aim, they’d just spray and pray.  Bubba didn’t stay still for an instant, just slash and dash.

 I was right there with him. This was up close and personal time. Just perfect for a battle-ax, and that’s what I had, gotta love that smoke pole’s ability to transform.  The fog around the end of the  diamond core flattened out and grew edges. It became a double bitted one handed ax. A really damn sharp one too and electrified with lethal voltage.

In the other hand I had a pistol.  Here come ‘da JUDGE. Raging Judge that is, loaded with .454 Casull, wielded by a raging trucker.

I had the element of surprise, and I was lightly armored. I started chopping.  I’d save the pistol for special needs. It had a limited number of bullets and I damn sure wasn’t going to be able to reload. The axe, however, wasn’t so constrained.

I wasn’t wearing my duster, it was much too warm for that. I did, however, have on a poncho.  I’d had Trog modify it for cooling. It was also ballistic protection, much the same way as the duster only lighter weight.   It was protecting me, mostly, but this was pretty much point blank range.  It’s damn hard to stop a bullet when it’s fired from close up.  I was getting hammered but the bullets had lost much of their punch.  They were hitting me…but they weren’t killing me...right a way.

I kept chopping.

I could hear em yelling at the top of their lungs. We’d demoralized them. They were screaming to boost their courage.

Aloha SnackBar!  Aloha SnackBar!

Over and Over. So that identified them.  They weren’t Radical Feminists. They was also screaming something about evil devil women from hell..or some silly thing.  The onliest female I saw was Rosetta’s great granddaughter..and she didn’t look too well. Actually she looked kinda dead. It looked like the Jihadis had raped her to death.

Never give up hope.

I had to save her if I could.  She might only look dead.  She might still be alive. I ignored the bullets and kept choppin’. The Jihadis kept shooting and one out of ten, maybe, hit me. I felt like I was being repeatedly hit by a baseball bats but I kept on.

Me and that cat hit them Jihadis like  avenging angels or the wrath of God…or rather…since I am an agnostic…their ass was grass and we were lawn mowers. I used that ax like a meat cleaver. My clawed feet gave me really good traction (I had clawed feet?  I didn’t used to have clawed feet...I did NOW! They looked like fighting rooster feet with spurs!)  and I put some force behind those swings. If anyone pointed a gun at me I shot em in the face.

I waded into them swinging right and left, kicking, slashing and shooting. There is no such thing as fighting dirty. The only way to fight is to fight to win.  It’s a binary solution set…win or die.

I tried really hard not to die.  I was right in the middle of them. It was a target rich environment.  I could shoot, stomp, slash or chop in any direction and get one or more of them.  All I had to do was look out for the kitten. That cat didn’t take much looking out for, he could look out for himself.  He didn’t look much like a Jihadi either, it was easy to tell them apart.  He was purtier and didn’t smell half as bad. So that part was pretty easy. They, on the other hand, shot each other about half the time. There was, however, a great many of them. We must have surprised an army or something.  

Deja Vu all over again…this was worse than  Chile. The claws on my feet and the ax in my hand didn’t need any ammo.  The Judge did. When it ran dry I just dropped it.  It made a poor club and I definitely didn’t have time to reload.

I reconfigured the axe, and got a firm grip with both hands.  The handle was longer, I got some SERIOUS  force multiplication and range. I proceeded to do some serious chopping.  I’m a big old boy. Those claws on my feet gave me good traction.  I put my heart and soul into those swings.  Arms, legs, even heads went flying.  Who ever I hit with that diamond sharp axe went to pieces.

A swarm of lions and tigers arrived about then…Bubba’s kinfolk had come to the party. Bubba was no longer the only big cat  tearing the Jihadis  throats out with his teeth, while ripping their guts out with his claws.

About that time my luck run out.   Suddenly, with no recollection of what happened,  I was flat on my back. Bubba was standing over me screaming his battle cry. We was looking up the barrel of an AK-47 that a terrorist was pointing at us.

The terrorist grinned, then his head exploded.

https://media.giphy.com/media/3oriO7Cxcsc2Qw7Aje/source.gif


To Be Continued


I hope you are enjoying this
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If you are just now discovering this story and want to read it from the start
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· @theowlhours ·
$10.11
Fancy a Game? [Story #2]

https://i.supload.com/SJlFADgwl.jpg

Image provided by Pixabay.


Dear Steemians,

If you're just joining us, welcome! You have the chance to choose which story you want continued on this site, and you have three choices: here's choice #1, below is choice #2, and choice #3 will be coming your way some time tomorrow. Have fun reading, and may the best story get an ending.

Yours Truly,
The Owl Hours


Story #2

He hadn’t really known what to expect, when he’d shown up at the temple. The way the monks decided who was worthy of a pledge was mysterious, and rarely discussed by outsiders.

What he hadn’t expected was to be sitting across from a girl who looked barely older than himself — if she was that — and for her to be glaring at him.

“So,” she said, her tone distinctly unfriendly. “You want a Guardian.”

The fire flickered between them. He willed himself to sit up straight and look her in the eye, willed himself to remember why he had come.

“Yes,” he heard himself say. “I do.”

The girl sighed, her ash-colored braid shifting with the rise and fall of her chest. “And the Fire’s deemed you worthy, who knows why, and stuck me with you. But it’s my decision whether or not to pledge to you, so tell me: why should I? What makes you so worthy that I should protect you, even at the cost of my own life?”

To be perfectly honest, he didn’t know. But looking at this girl, and the harsh, unforgiving planes of her face, he knew that such an answer wasn’t going to cut it. If he told her that he hadn’t the slightest idea why he was worthy of the all-encompassing protection of a Guardian, he would be walking right back out of the Cha-M’betha Temple with only his magic to protect him. And with what he had in mind…

He studied the girl for another moment. She sat across from him with perfect posture, the temple’s robes draped elegantly about her. The soft folds were offset by the many weapons strapped to her, though — the Cha-M’betha warriors had never been the kind to hide their weaponry. There were daggers strapped to her forearms and thighs, a sword and longbow strapped to her back, and glass rings on her fingers that he knew held various poisons and their antidotes. Her braid was threaded with metal wires that had been coated in shards of glass. She was a living weapon, limned with a sense of power and energy that he envied. She was ready for whatever the world could throw at her, he was certain. And if something happened that she didn’t like, she would fight and claw her way to a change.

What was it like? To have trained since you were little, to imagine nothing other than war? He examined her face, trying to imagine what it would have looked like before the color had disappeared. Would she have been beautiful? Would a woman like this have even cared about something as soft, as immaterial as beauty?

He continued to look at her, to wonder what words he could possibly use to sway someone like this. But she didn’t fidget, didn’t cough or prompt him. She simply returned his stare, waiting as if they had all the time in the world.

“Because I want to change the world,” he finally said. He had a feeling that nothing other than the truth would cut it here, so he swallowed his pride. “I want to know what the world was like, before the king took over and all the color left. I want… I want to give that back to people again. And I feel… responsible for the way the world is now.”

She tilted her head. “You want to kill the king.” It wasn’t neither a question, nor an accusation, and for some reason this made him feel better.

“Yes.”

“And you need help?”

“Yes. I’m a sorcerer, but sorcery only goes so far in battle. It’s better for long-range things. If I were caught in a fight…” he trailed off, hoping she’d fill in the gaps.

She looked him over, noting the lack of defined muscle or weapons. “You would die,” she said bluntly. “So you need… a bodyguard?”

And a friend, a comrade, someone who believed in him, someone who he could trust. But a bodyguard was a good start. He would take a bodyguard.

“Yes.”

“And you won’t tell me why you feel responsible for the way the country is now, or why you’ve decided that you need to kill the king, or why you need to do it now?” she asked.

Well, there was no point in lying. “No. At least, not now.”

“Then you won’t get an explanation as to why I’ve decided to pledge to you, either,” she said simply, and he watched in shock as she slit her palm open in a business-like manner, then tossed the knife to him so that he could do the same. He did, wincing a bit, and clasped hands with her over the fire in the ancient ritual. To his surprise, she smiled at him as the flames danced up to entwine their hands.

“My name is Irie, and I am your Guardian. It's nice to meet you.”

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@dreemit ·
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Today Again: An Original Novel for steemit by dreemit Chapter Nine


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If you are just discovering this novel click here to start at the beginning.

If you missed out on Chapter Eight click here


Chapter Nine

Caleb turned Grant’s car into Goemans marina, his hand shaking slightly as he pulled into a parking space. He rested his forehead against the steering wheel and listened to the car idle for several moments trying to gather the fortitude to step out and face it. This, the place that began his journey of the past six months and maybe the reason he was stuck in this fucked up time loop. Twelve days and counting.

It had been dark the last time he was here, he thought as he raised his head and looked around, dark and cold and deserted. Everything always looked so much different in the daylight, particularly during the height of summer. What am I doing here? He thought as he opened the car door and stepped out. Looking for redemption? He walked slowly toward the spot where his father had breathed his last breath, only vaguely aware of the people bustling around him, the sound of boat-horns and motors as they pulled away from the docks.

When he reached his destination he knelt down on the ground and bent his head. “You stupid fucker,” he whispered. He wasn’t sure whether he was aiming this at his father or himself. He sure the hell had been stupid that day, setting up the meet and greet with dear old absentee dad at a place that was ideal for a drug exchange. But he hadn’t realized the pigs were onto him. Those fools. Those worthless fucking idiots.

He’d had many long hours in his cell-like room at the rehab to relive those last moments. Walking up to his father, taking in his appearance and how much he looked like an older version of himself…

“So what’s up old man, did you find Jesus? Or are you in one of those twelve step programs and this is the part where you make amends for all your drunken fuckups?”

His father smiled sadly. “No program kid, I just woke up one morning and realized I’d wasted most of my life on the poison. I hurt a lot of people along the way, but none more than you.”

Caleb shook his head, a humorless smile twisting his lips. “You just woke up one morning with an epiphany…well good for you. I mean that. But you’re thinking of a small boy who no longer exists. He’s the one you hurt, and unless you can turn back time? There’s no way you can make it up to him. Because me? I really don’t give a shit about apologies, they’re just empty fucking words. You really want to say you’re sorry, pull out your wallet, because in my world money is the only talking that’s worth a damn.”

“Okay. If that’s what it takes to make a start for us,” he reached for the inside of his coat…

“FREEZE! Put your hands where we can see them!”

Caleb turned slightly to take in the men in uniform that seemed to appear out of nowhere. “You have got to be shitting me,” he said under his breath. “Stupid fucks.” He chuckled darkly as he lazily raised his hands in the air.

“I just want to show my…” His father called out.

“Dad,” he cut him off with a hiss, “shut up and put your hands in the air.” He stared incredulously as his dad ignored him and shoved his hand into his coat.

“Get on the ground Sir!”

“Dad for Chrissakes, I don’t want your fucking money!” He hissed again.

“I just want to show you something….” His father said quietly and pulled his hand out of his coat…

The sound of a gunshot, blood blooming on the white shirt under his dad’s coat and dribbling from his mouth as he collapsed to the ground…uniforms charging onto the scene while Caleb stood with his mouth partially open, staring down at the crumpled form in frozen horror…watching in numb shock as someone pulled something out of his father’s hand, a keychain with a mini jet bomber hanging from it.... yanking out of a man’s grip, being pulled backward…spinning towards the source, a crunching sound as his fist connected with the man’s nose, being grabbed from behind and using his head to bash the assailant in the face, all the while roaring in rage and pain as he was wrestled to the ground and put in cuffs…

Turning his head on the pavement and staring into the lifeless eyes of his sire.

Caleb jumped to his feet and paced to the retaining wall, shoving his hands in his pockets and staring out over the water. “Why couldn’t I have relived that day?” He demanded …to whom he was speaking, he had no idea. God? He snorted, if there was a God He was a total fucking asshole…no fuck that, God was a She and she was a Cunt. Just like the mother who abandoned him as a child, and the best-friend….he squeezed his eyes shut as his hands clenched into fists. Why did he always come back to her? Lissa fucking Donovan, the traitorous back-stabbing bitch.

He opened his eyes and looked around. Why had he come? There was nothing here for him. Nothing but ghosts. He turned and strode back to Grant’s car pushing the past out of his head. He needed to get drunk. And for Grant to find him a female he could bear to look at in the harsh light of day. He wrinkled his nose at the memory of the trio of whores as he climbed into the car, supplanting Lissa’s face on that of the brunette’s, adding pocked skin and bad teeth to her once fine features. If she’d kept on going like she was when he’d last seen her five years ago, that’s about what she’d look like…he smiled cruelly, liking the image.

If there was any justice in the world she’d be a used-up whore with a foul smelling pussy. Fuck you bitch, he thought darkly, as he started the car and pulled out of the marina turning onto the road that would take him back to Grant’s.


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· @luckyman404 · (edited)
$0.12
Interesting facts about zombies

The term "Zombie" in the Bantu languages means "soul dead" and is strongly associated with the cult of voodoo and magic practices of the Caribbean people. According to the beliefs of voodoo sorcerers are able to resurrect dead people and turn them into slaves.

One of the officially registered cases of zombie man is the story of Clairvius Narcissus. In April 1962, the year Clarvis, scandalised with his brother and later falls with a terrible fever in the hospital, where dies. The next day, he publicly buried near his native town and... 16 years later he returns home. The man said that all this time was in bondage to the sorcerer and doesn't remember much. To myself let death be the last. As it turned out later, Clairvius "ordered" the sorcerer's brother. 

The U.S. has developed formal rules of action in case of zombiepocalypse. The plan CONOP 8888 spelled out step-by-step instructions action by the U.S. Strategic command to protect the civilian population and civilian authorities from the zombies, the elimination of the zombie threat and the complete destruction of the living dead. 

The first literary work about zombies with some exaggeration can be called a novel by English writer Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" published in 1818. There's also sewn from dead bodies, the character was dead, but alive. 

By the way, in the times of the discovery of electricity recovery metvetsov tried to do some scientists. So a Giovanni Aldini (prototyp Victor Frankenstein) experimenting with dead bodies, passing through them an electric current. 18 Jan 1803 in London, was his most outstanding demonstration with the purchased body. He was attached to the pole 120-volt battery to the body of the executed murderer George Forster (George Forster). Here that wrote one of the eyewitnesses later: "Recovered severe convulsive breathing; the eyes opened again, lips moving and the killer's face, not obeying the exclusion of the control instinct, was making such strange faces that one of the assistants lost from the horror of the senses, and for several days suffered from a true mental disorder." 

The first mention of the word "zombie" in the European literature refers to 1929. It was then that the famous reporter "new York times" William Seabrook published his book "Island of magic" in which he described the life of Haiti, including the rituals of Voodoo to create zombies. The author claimed that he was present at the rituals in person. 

Showing zombies first appeared in 1932 in the American horror film "White zombie". 

In 1968, "father" of zombie films George Romero made his first feature film night of the living dead, which made a revolution in the genre of horror films. Despite the black-and-white format of the film, critics were so amazed by the abundance of scenes of violence and cannibalism that tried to organize a ban of this "horror". 

The most expensive and grossing zombie film is "World War Z". His shooting has spent 190 000 000 dollars, in hire the film has collected $540 007 870. 

By the way, there is a survival guide in case of an epidemic of "zombie virus", it was written by American author Max Brooks in 2003. 

Zombies actually exist. Some parasites in the animal world can control the bodies of their owners. For example, the fungus Cordyceps parasitic on the ants, can control their behavior. Infected mushroom spore, the ant leaves the colony, climbs to a height of about 30 cm and is fixed on the sheet, then slowly dies. After that, the fungus grows through the ant's body, using the body as an incubator, and the chitin armor for protection. 

Scientists say that the world could hit a zombie epidemic of the virus resulting from mutation of a simple flu, for example, rabies virus, causing the tendency to cannibalism. Infected will certainly not be immortal the dead, but to bite and infect other quite a can. 

Interest in the topic of zombies among young people has created Zombie mobs (Zombie walk), which is a massive entertainment procession in which participants made up as zombies. The first "zombie parade" was held in Sacramento (CA) 19 August 2001.

________________________________________________________________

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@aubreyfox · (edited)
$0.09
Children Creating Stories- Children Have The Most Amazing Imagination

Image source

My 8 year old niece and I create stories all the time. We start of by finding the characters and then by looking at the colours, smells and sounds of the scenery, building it up at we go along. We bring in further characters and then we continue to build.

My favourite one is an fairy called Eisla, who is looking for her prince Robin in the forest. They can only see each other by their flashing wings that are distinct in certain colours. 

Anyway i cant finish because the ending will be spoilt and its our secret story. I aim to do this more stories with children as they possess a wonderful innocent gift of imagination, and i encourage anyone else to do so.



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@baerdric ·
$0.07
Fiction Trail Daily Magazine - 20th of January, 2017
http://www.steemimg.com/images/2016/12/19/narrative-794978_960_720b086b.md.jpg

Fiction you love,
Authors you wonder about,
Information you need.


Call for Authors

We are still asking for three sentence reviews as well as articles on Trails!
A new opportunity, is to write a short humorous subheading for the Main title of this page.
We are starting to get some readership, so you might get some followers if your name is seen more widely.

And, of course, the help is appreciated.


  • @fiction-trail


  • Short issue, sorry.

    I apologize for the abbreviated issue today. I have been working since yesterday afternoon to get my new computer system set up the way I want it and have only just now got it so I can write a post. Still don’t have audio working though so I am not done. For those who read posts before you votes, please don’t vote on this one. All you bots, go ahead and waste your voting power, I don’t mind. I’m writing this under @fiction-trail so it all goes to a good cause.


  • @baerdric




  • We are trying to encourage great content creation on Steemit
    by building a community of fiction writers.
    On the Fiction-Trail
    Discussion Group
    ,
    writers can meet other writers,
    get feedback on their work,
    and help others improve their skills.

    Please join us for discussion and lots of great stories under the #fiction tag.

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    @internutter ·
    $0.06
    Blast From the Past: Challenge #00079: One Fine Day in Xavier's Institute for Gifted Youngsters

    OYOI_Cov2585e.md.png

    Scott catches one of the students testing his new policy regarding pranks and bad grades.

    The first strategy, the best strategy, was not having a routine. He was such an easy target because there were places and times he liked to be and things he always did once he was there.

    Which was why he found someone in his ensuite with a roll of suran wrap.

    “Bobby. Can’t resist the classics, I see.”

    “Um.” Bobby looked up. “Hi?”

    “First offence, five demerits off your leading class. Which is physics, I believe?”

    “…yeah…”

    “Second offence is five demerits off your tailing class. Third offence… and I let Sara play with you. Be warned.”

    “…yessir.”

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    @internutter ·
    $0.05
    Challenge #01482-D021: All the Luck

    canstockphoto42405992c0b26.jpg

    “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true, and that is unacceptable” - Carrie Fisher -- RecklessPrudence

    Kyle was a Lucker. One of the unfortunate few with the Luck gene. His bad luck was everyone's good, and vice versa. His 'range' was five Standard Distance Units, or he would be isolated on a small station just big enough for one. The universe, it seemed, liked balance.

    Fortunately for Kyle, he had found an 'out'. He moonlighted as a stand-up comic. All he did was tell tales about his own bad luck and audiences were in gales of laughter. The Minutes showered in. And everyone who laughed at him got some good fortune coming their way. He earned, and they benefitted, and he kind-of made a living.

    He despised being laughed at.

    Kyle was resigned to it. If he ensured his bad luck, others in his range would benefit. If he had accidental good fortune, others would suffer. It was a knife-edge on the catastrophe curve. Making sure he benefitted just enough so that society would accept his presence for yet another day.

    Most of his friends were either AI's or mechanical avatars. Nobody wanted to be too close to a Lucker who might be having a good day. He was used to that. It was amazing what humans could get used to. Except, of course, the laughter aimed at him.

    All he did all day was tell people about the horrible things that happened to him. He always finished with a heartfelt, Goodbye and good luck! to the cheers and hoots of the crowd.

    At least he was good for a laugh. Pity there wasn't much else. He still held out the hope of meeting another Lucker who he could cancel out with. But that wasn't the way.

    He couldn't afford to be that lucky.

    [Image (c) Can Stock Photo / Mediaphotos]

    If you like my stories, please Check out my blog and Follow me.

    Send me a prompt [9 remaining prompts! Please send me a prompt!]

    Check out the other stuff I'm selling

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    @internutter ·
    $0.05
    Blast From the Past: Challenge #00080: Just a Chocolate Bunny

    OYOI_Cov2585e.md.png

    You seem to be running low on musefood, so may we hear the tale of The Battle of the Lindt Gold Bunny

    There were six golden bunnies. One for each resident of the house they shared. Including Breanna, who paid for them out of their scant communal funds.

    There was one left on Easter Sunday.

    “Who had one?” Breanna demanded. “I told everyone they were for Easter. We knew. Didn’t we?”

    “I knew,” said Cari, then Crystal, then May, then Jenny and finally Ann.

    “So who had one? Who had any of them?”

    And then Cari’s looser boyfriend emerged from the room he shared with Cari and said, “Aw, cool. You found one,” and snatched it out of Breanna’s hands.

    Cold, angry death filled the room as Gav unwrapped the foil.

    “What?” said Gav. “It’s just a chocolate bunny.”

    And then he put it in his mouth.

    Six angry, pre-menstrual women launched themselves towards Gav with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on and murder in their minds. Gav had the presence of mind to run for the nearest exit.

    No jury in the world would have convicted them.

    As it was, the resulting footage wound up on Australia’s Funniest Videos, World’s Funniest News, and topped out Youtube for seven weeks.

    Gav had an awful lot of bad luck with the ladies for years.

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    @ilovebatcatstew · (edited)
    $0.04
    The whites of eyes

    http://images.amcnetworks.com/bbcamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/TheHunt_1920x1080.jpg
    And gracefully, I fell. The white of her eyes showing through the holes in my chest. A touch of sinew hangs from one of my calves, as severed, I attempt to make it work. The muscles pull taut, and then softly snap, and I pitch forward.

    And as the rain struck my back like a thousand lashings of the unconscionably dark night, my hands shook. The rain fell harder, and I lowered my head.
    “Why am I doing this? It gives me no pleasure.”
    And then the dark light from streetlights surrounding consumed me.

    She, being the victor of the hunt, lunged in for the kill.

    (IMAGE SOURCE: BBC America.)

    Words from me:
    Not much to say, I know the image doesnt really fit, but I like it. Nothing particularly unusual to report today, I hope you are all going well.

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    @internutter ·
    $0.00
    Blast from the Past: Challenge #00081: One Fine Day in the Seasonal Candy Store

    OYOI_Cov2585e.md.png

    One more prompt, a bit late, but Sara’s reaction to finding out that these exist. (if picture is not working, some genius at Hershey thought a golden apple was a good valentines chocolate idea. There were several “for the fairest” experiments by tumblr-ers)

    There are words of impending doom. A high-pitched, “Ooooh!” coming from Sahra was one of them.

    “Sara, no-oo…” said Todd automatically as he zoomed in on her squee-of-the-coming-apocalypse.

    “But it’s perfect! Just look at what Hershey’s done.”

    It was a box containing a golden apple. Or rather, a chocolate apple wrapped in gold foil. An instant replay of certain greco-roman myths ran through his head.

    “No. Don’t. I don’ care how bad those bitches are, they don’t deserve yo’ happenin’ to them like this…”

    “Yes they do,” countered Sara.

    “No. Nobody does,” he insisted. “You wanna ‘nother Eckley’s Eats happening? You nearly got arrested.”

    “On the upside, I learned I have a file at the FBI…”

    “That’s not an upside, hon.”

    Sara spent a minute on social calculus inside her head. “Oh. Yes. Right.” She put the chocolate apple down. “But, oh, the possibilities…”

    Todd couldn’t stand to see her down. “Tell yo’ what. I’m’a buy this one for you. ‘Cos you my fairest.”

    “Aaaawwww…”

    “And you promise to just eat it.”

    “My word as a closet megalomaniac.”

    “Good enough fo’ me.”

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    @lbliii ·
    $0.00
    A Murmur in Mumbles - Ch. 1

    I.

    Out across the darkness, something began to shriek.

    The scream carried farther and farther off, tapering amid the thickness of night, and then ceasing—with a painful, gurgling burst.

    “Did you hear that?” Jean whispered, emerging from the guest room. He moved down the hallway with a brisk contradiction of fright and lethargy, bare feet brushing against smooth wood. The cottage creaked at every breath. It was dark, probably close to four in the morning, and yet everyone seemed to be awake.

    His sister, Charlotte, poured him a cup of tea as he proceeded into the kitchen. This was her family's home. He had come from the city of L'Croux to visit; the bus ride had been a long journey into the remotest of hillsides, a distant corner of Duskaal, a place called Mumbles.

    Another shriek flung itself from the silence and ended with the same, punctual burst.

    Jean's blood beat cold. “Tell me you didn't just hear that.”

    On the edge of this town called Mumbles, there leaned a cliff which stretched out over the ocean. Beneath this crag sat a beach that went awash by night, and spanned just under a mile come first sign of day. It was a shallow shore, cold and flat and lifeless, offering nothing more than an isolated stretch of brief, unsettling freedom from the banal murmur of Mumbles—or, as the locals referred to it, their steady off-wind import of blasé, blasé.

    “Yeah,” Charlotte said, removing a few strands of hair from her tired face. “I heard it.”

    Jean waited for more, but got nothing. “Is it a banshee?”

    She laughed. “No, Jean.” The flourish of amusement wilted on her face. “It's the sheep.”

    It sounded nothing like a sheep to Jean. It sounded like a woman crying out.

    Her husband, Garrett, leaned against the counter and said, “Difficult little fuckers, they've been.”

    “What do you mean?” Jean asked. “This is normal for them?” He lifted his mug from the table to take a sip, nearly spilling it at the sound of another diminishing cry. He wondered how anyone could ever sleep through this.

    “Well, no,” Garrett said, “but it is now.” He opened the fridge and reached for the butter and jam. “Char,” he said. “We're not outta biscuits, are we?”

    She shook her head and pointed to the pantry.

    “Why are they making that noise?” Jean asked. “Are they sick?”

    “In the head, yeah.” Garrett said, re-emerging from the pantry with breakfast. “You know what they're doing out there, don't you?” Jean shook his head.

    “They're throwing themselves off.”

    “The cliff?”

    Garrett laughed. “Well, what else?”

    “How many?”

    “About, uh,” Garrett stared at the ceiling as he counted his fingers. “About thirty-three now, I’d say, since this all began. Counting the one that jumped just a minute ago.”

    Charlotte nodded. “That's my count.”

    “You should see how they land,” Garrett said, “all twisted and bloated.”

    “That's disgusting.”

    “Mhm.”

    “Garrett thinks they're protesting,” Charlotte said with a shrug, her voice thick with that same taunting sarcasm that brandished Jean throughout their childhood.

    Jean laughed. “Protesting what? Is the grass too brown?”

    “Three years ago—”

    “Garrett, no.”

    “Three years ago,” Garrett repeated, above the loud sigh of his wife, “There opened a free trade coffee shop downtown. Within 24 hours of the grand opening—that very next morning—they surrounded the shop, bleating incessantly and blocking the roads.”

    Charlotte had warned him about Garrett’s theories. He had theories for everything, she said. Theories for the unusually tepid seasons and dim skylight, theories of why fruits and vegetables had grown pale in comparison to years before, theories concerning constellations and their exaggerated tilts; everything, including exactly why his wife Charlotte was so angry all the time.

    Jean looked to his sister, before asking: “What made them stop?”

    “Nothing. They had to be forcibly removed from downtown.” Garrett’s eyes were wild, serious, excited. “A day later? Again, had to be picked up and brought back here.”

    “Why?” Jean asked, growing more skeptical by the moment.

    Charlotte was glaring at Garrett, who shrugged and said, “My guess? Coffee wasn't really fair trade.”

    The two men laughed. Charlotte stared into her mug.

    “You're full of it,” Jean said.

    “About the coffee, maybe,” Charlotte muttered. She shook her head. “Not about the sheep.”

    Jean continued to laugh. “Both of you are full of it.”

    They all sipped their tea, and for a moment, the house returned to quiet. Jean moved to the window and peered out, but there was nothing but darkness. Frowning, he exhaled, and turned to his brother-in-law. “And you're sure nothing is throwing them off the ledge?”

    Garrett nodded. “Absolutely sure. Caleb Macrae’s said he’s even seen ‘em out there, lining up like ants.”

    The Macrae twins were neighbors, of sorts. One of the few remaining on the cliffside. Garrett had spoken of them before as listless, paranoid drunkards; their testimony meant little to Jean. For all he knew, they could have been the ones tossing the poor animals over.

    Jean decided he would see the beach for himself after an extended nap. At the first sign of light, he trudged up the muddy path that led from his sister's house to the ledge. The land was sectioned with old wooden fences, cobblestone, and shrubs—all of it poorly maintained, and yet natural to the landscape.

    It was odd to see animals have such freedom to roam as they did. The sheep occupied wherever they wished, from sunken holes to high, steep hills. Nothing like L'Croux, where strays would sooner be stuffed down the garbage chute than left to their own devices.

    The struggling metropolis had other things to worry about.

    “You know,” Jean said, staring into the eyes of a lamb who'd lifted his head up from the ground. “For a group of politically actives, you sure seem dull.”

    The creature stared through him, eyes glazed, its jaw working on something pulled up from the dirt.

    How cute.

    Cute little demented sheep.

    “Are you plotting your own end, too?”

    Sighing, Jean decided to press on. He could see the ocean, and the sight of it rekindled his intrigue. He quickened his pace and threw his gaze over the end.

    From the top, he could see the three mangled bodies, wet and sinking like stones. The water had drawn out, leaving them exposed as white heaps seeping out blood the color of passion fruit tea. Taking a step back, Jean scanned the ground for anything unusual. Jean couldn’t see any sign of resistance; No tracks besides his own.

    He turned and followed the rock-side stairway, which brought him down to the shore. Upon closer investigation, he grew even more concerned: the bodies were as mangled as Garrett led him to believe, fractured bone pulling up tents of wool off the carcass.

    Why would anything do this?

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