Short Story Friday

The Love of Each Other’s Lives

By

Arbor Barrow

 

Rudy is literally a fish. Rudy wants people to know that because when he implies that he is a metaphorical fish, most people are confused. Rudy is a fish and lives in a saltwater tank at a fancy restaurant on the west side of a big city. He only knows this because he can see a sign outside the tank that says “Welcome to the West Side” and beyond that he can see the tall and pointy skyscrapers of a huge city. In his tank is a miniature version of the city with little cubby holes he can pop out of. Before his time in the tank the little miniature had the name of the city printed on the side, but the salt water of the tank had long since worn it away all that was left were the letters R U D and Y. His name.

Rudy is literally in love with the owner of the restaurant. Rudy wants people to know that because metaphorical love is meant for poetry and Rudy is not a poet. The restaurant owner is a man named Finny. Finny is a part time chef, part time sea captain, and full time love of Rudy’s life. Finny comes to Rudy’s tank and feeds him every morning before the restaurant opens and every evening before the nighttime rush. But most importantly of all Finny tells Rudy stories about the outside world. The last story Finny told Rudy was about the time he was thrown into the “drink” (this is a term that Rudy has come to understand as a place called the ocean which from what he can gather is a very large fish tank somewhere out there in the world) and had to swim back to shore with nothing but his wits and the clothes on his back.

Rudy was born in a tank in a pet store on some other end of the city, the only thing he remembers about the pet store is the ceiling fan above the tank clacking noisily, he doens’t remember his siblings, they all looked the same honestly, and he doesn’t really remember his parents. What he does remember is the moment Finny’s face appeared before his tank and he said to the shop owner, “I want that one.”

Rudy was in love the moment he was lifted out of the tank and his second sight of Finny literally took his breath away. Though, if Rudy was being totally honest with himself, fish can’t breathe out of water so it might have just been a coincidence.

On a particular Tuesday morning, and Rudy only knows it’s Tuesday because his tank is right next to the flip calendar the wait staff use to mark special requests from customers, Finny came with a gift at the same time he came with breakfast. Finny reached down halfway into the tank, where Rudy took great fun in swimming back and forth through Finny’s very long arm hair, and dropped something in an open space in the tank.

The little ceramic piano settled to the bottom and Rudy thought his whole world was about to change again. He loved music. The piano player at the fancy restaurant could always play the most delightful tunes and now he had one of his very own. Rudy swam a couple circles around the tiny piano.

“Oh Finny!” Rudy sang enthusiastically. “You make my world so spinny!”
Fish can’t sing, but don’t tell Rudy that.

Finny grinned down into the tank. The tattoos on his very wrinkled neck stretched happily as he smiled. “Lookie here Rudy, happy birthday! It’s been a year since I got you!”

A year? A year was like forever! Had it really been that long? Rudy desperately wanted to give Finny a hug but was again irritated that he didn’t have legs.

“Alright, Rudy. Behave yourself!” Finny said as the last bit of fish kibble floated down from the surface of the water.

Rudy didn’t know how he could possibly misbehave, he was a fish!

Other than apparently being his birthday, Rudy didn’t expect a Tuesday to be anything more than a normal day, but Rudy and Finny, and most of the city that Rudy had pulled his name from was about to get a very interesting surprise.

+++

Rudy is a small fish, a yellow tang about three inches long, so it should come as no surprise that it was small thing that changed Rudy’s life. It wasn’t the new piano, it wasn’t the little kid who found his tank halfway through the day and decided that a fun game was letting Rudy follow his finger across the surface of the glass (as fun as that was), but instead it was the arrival of a magician. Not one of those run of the mill illusionists, but an actual wand and magic word magician. The guy showed up outside the restaurant and stared at Rudy through the glass. He looked more like a hobo than a magician but when he waved his hand across the glass Rudy was captivated. The man came inside, requested a glass of water and then stood above the tank looking down at Rudy with a thoughtful look on his face. There was glitter coming off his fingers and his wand was a bent metal straw. When the maitre d’ gave the man a cup of water the magician dropped his wand into it and sucked loudly at the straw. His eyes never left Rudy and Rudy didn’t look away either.

“You’ll do,” the magician said and when his cup of water was drained he tapped the metal straw on the glass tank. It was a small event in the scheme of things, a tiny tap on the glass, a little glitter magic falling to the floor beneath his tank. But that’s all it was. The magician left, the restaurant went about its business, and when the restaurant closed for the night Rudy felt the change begin. He started to grow, and at first he didn’t notice but when he was as big as the miniature city in his tank he knew something was wrong. WHen he was so big that the tank broke under him he knew he was in trouble.

Or so he thought. Instead, he found himself on the floor, and he had HANDS. Rudy stared at the hands like they were tumors. They were tumors, fish don’t have hands!
More than that, he was breathing IN THE AIR. Rudy stood up and stared around the closed restaurant. He was as big as a human person now.

There was something wiggling at the back of his mind. An urge to walk out into the street and just destroy everything around him. But that didn’t make sense to him. He was very fond of all the sights and things around him. He didn’t want to destroy anything, especially not this restaurant. It belonged to Finny, the love of his life… FINNY! Rudy looked around the restaurant and tried to get a sense of where Finny might be. He usually only saw Finny in the restaurant but he knew Finny had a home somewhere with his wife and three children.

Rudy didn’t want to break anything more so he found a seat in the restaurant and waited. He would wait for Finny to arrive.

+++

Finny, short for Finnegan, had worked really hard to building his restaurant, his brand, and his life. And he didn’t realize just how lucky he was that a tiny fish named Rudy, his favorite yellow tang, loved him as much as anyone could. When he arrived at his restaurant to open up that Wednesday morning he was startled and shocked to find Rudy’s tank demolished and a tall yellow man sitting in a booth drawing on the back of a menu with some crayons. When the man saw him, he stood and grinned crookedly.

“Finny!” The young man yelled.

“Uh… Who’re you?”

“Rudy,” the man said.

“Rudy,” Finny said, and stared at the man. He was as yellow as his Tang, but he was a MAN. He looked between the destroyed tank and the yellow man. It was impossible. But there was no way he could have gotten in here without breaking anything and the only thing broken was Rudy’s tank.

Finny blinked a few times, then wandered to the back where the security cameras could tell him the real story. And the real story was just as the yellow man said. In the camera he could see Rudy growing and bursting open the tank and slowly transforming into a human-like creature. He turned to see that Rudy the former fish was standing behind him, naked as a jaybird.

Finny sighed and wondered what he had done to deserve this oddity. He pulled out the lost and found and retrieved a sweatshirt and an apron from the kitchen.
“Oh! Clothes! I’ve always wanted clothes! Thank you, Finny.”

“You’re welcome Rudy.” Finny helped Rudy get sort of presentable and started to clean up the mess from the broken fish tank. A shadow crossed the window outside and Finny looked up to see the old hobo from the night before staring into the restaurant. His face was a mask of anger and confusion.

Finny poked his head out of the door. “Can I help you? Do you need another glass of water?”

The man pointed past Finny at Rudy and shook. “You! Where have you been? What have you been doing all night?”

Rudy blinked and then pointed to the table where he had sat all night. “I was drawing a picture for Finny. Who are you? Where were you all night?”

The old man balked. “What… why… I am a chaos magician! You’re supposed to be wrecking chaos!”

Rudy just stared perplexed at the magician. “But that would destroy things. I don’t want to do that. Also, Finny told me to behave, I think that falls into the territory of misbehaving.”

The magician stared at Rudy incredulously. “What is wrong with you!”

Rudy frowned at the old man. “I’m a fish that is now a human person, what isn’t wrong with me?”

The old man made an angry squeak and turned on his heel. He limped down the street and shouted nonsense into the air.

Finny glanced back at Rudy and laughed. “You know, I knew I picked well when I saw you at the pet store. You are a special fish, Rudy.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m sorry about the tank.”

“It’s alright.”

“I don’t have to go back to the pet store do I?”

“No, I don’t think they have a tank big enough for you. Besides I think you deserve to be family.”

“Can we go fishing? Can I meet your family? Your kids?”

“Of course. I think they’d love you just as much as I do.”

Rudy is a literal fish. But he has the heart of a human, and the soul of someone who loves the people who love him. Things could have been different, and for another unfortunate fish in another part of the city they were. Because not a few days later, a huge, hulking puffer fish the size of a barge wrecked up the east side of the city and shouted angrily at everyone “how about I puff you up!”

 

♦The End♦

 

Find and Follow Amber Barrow

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Short Story Friday Night

Tension in Suburbia

by

Victoria Clapton

 

Recorded church bells sounded at the end of the gated community, muffled by the siren sounds from an emergency medical team approaching the street. Animals, pets and wild alike, cried out into the cacophony of noise, announcing that the reign of Amanduwilla had come to an end.

Refuse and one lone shirt were all that remained of it’s subpar existence. It’d even snatched the lone orchid straight from its neighbor’s kitchen. Amanduwilla had gone, leaving terror in its wake.

Throughout the tree-lined streets of suburbia, the remaining residents grinned in silent cheers, happily emancipated from Amanduwilla’s nasty sneers.

 

Find and Follow Victoria Clapton

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Short Story Friday

OFFICE INTRIGUE IN THE FUTURE

a short story by Elizabeth Lemons

5 JULY 2019

WORDS TO USE:
time travel, trousers, supervise, identity,
mustard, kitchen, successfully, law, fly, tooth

Picture, if you will, a futuristic hub of legal counseling and representation. It is the year 2050, and our scene begins in a very posh, upscale law office that is located in the Plutonian Upper Galaxy, inside the central super dome which holds inside the prestigious legal firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM, and HOWE.

If you are equipped with just a bit of imagination and I-GGPS (inter-galactic GPS) for precise time travel expedience, perhaps you can imagine true masters of the Universe as they daily gather around the water cooler-tablet dispenser, wearing the latest in expensive spacesuits, trendily colored in purples, cobalt blues, or mustard golds. They are complete boring-ass clones of one another, there is no speck of personal identity amongst their entire gathering.

The notion of doing one’s own individual “thing” unfortunately died tragically over thirty years ago in an Earthly city called New Orleans when a priestly dude called Dr. John exited human existence and vacated the great Blue Ball, taking with him all his mystical and voodoo-y powers of human exclusiveness. Since earth is no more, he and all other musicians, artists of all types, chefs, and writers (now eternally converted to their astral mo-jo selves) have been sent to daily rule in the Misfit Realm on Planet Funky. Untouched, unbothered and still unaccountable, these artistic Uniques, to this very day, continue to create amongst mellow hippie vibes, bathed forever in the scents of patchouli, surrounded by fresh icedrop sky flowers, and are forever content in a secreted place located remotely far from the Galactic Daily Grind.

So, the unspoken rule of the Undulating Universe these days is to simply fit it and make no intrusive waves of any kind. Unseen and unheard is the accepted best policy. Aloft here in the Galaxy, making fortunes off the misfortunes of others, are each of our attorneys, who dress and accessorize his or her own ensembles with prerequisite “men-in-black” sunglasses which hide emotion and permit planetary apperation. Heartless, blood-sucking attorneys, just the same in today’s time, as in days of old. Only concerned with the bottom line and filling their pockets. These lawful gods and goddesses of destruction daily wake inside their personal pristine monotone and meteoric dwelling pods, and stare into stardust mirrors, purchased illegally, (they “know” someone) on the bootleg market, completely enthralled with how their own “personal flare for justice” will surely successfully save the solar system from foreboding doom that is sure to come. Then, just before they fly from home dome back to another work day, they usually flash a fake smile at themselves as a gold tooth sparkles back at them from the looking glass. “Ding!”

They have forgotten what happened on Earth when their precedents attempted to do the same.

Between the dull-roar hours of 10am and 11am SST (Stardust Standard Time), a daily work meeting convenes in the Conference Room/Kitchen at this place of prestige on weekdays other than Friday. On this particular morning, a Tuesday, several of the lawyers have grabbed a bagel tablet or two, cream cheese tablets, with coffee pastilles, and some of the younger suits chose Taco tablets because Taco Tuesday still remains a thing, even in modern times. It is more than fine to consume a couple of jumbo Margarita tablets for the purpose of washing down the combo pills of chips and salsa. Alcoholism and DUI’s are a thing of the long-ago past, and now a person can consume anything without fear of disease, weight-gain or other stigma. They sit in an oval circle, around a pellucid table, with an actual live view of the Aurora Borealis surrounding them through the crystal-clear outer wall. Many an intended thought has been forever lost in that kaleidoscopic abyss of starry gas and neon colour.

A particular tall attorney whose job it is to supervise the group (some think he resembles the earthly actor known as Will Smith) calls the work meeting to order. Beside him sits his assistant, Atreya. He clears his throat and begins, “Good morning, team. Glad you all found some nourishment. I know you all have a busy day ahead, so we will jump right into things on our agenda.” Felbar gestures towards the pad of notation known by today’s techies as a Warrior Z that lay on the floating invisible table before him.

“Atreya has just completed our evidence room inventory and she has reported back to me that a sensitive object is missing from its secure housing. Is there any reason that one of you might have relocated the evidence ID’ed as item # ERTH-69-VMP for an ongoing case? I can’t imagine what that might be.”

Not a sound can be heard in the room. Felbar continues with a smirk. “OK, alright…or possibly maybe one of you has borrowed it for your own personal naughty role-playing use (he winks) and are now afraid of reprimand should you get caught returning this item?” Non-response continues to prevail, except for the shuffling of one of the attorneys boots on the floor. Each of the legal eagles who sit gathered around the stardeck table begin to look everywhere but at their leader, Felbar. Some fidget, some pretend to be thinking, some look from one lawyer to the next or at their fingernails, desperately trying to guess who is to blame.

After what seems like light years of uncomfortable silence, one of the younger and newest attorneys (normally they ignore her at all cost) raises her left hand up in an acknowledgment wave. “Look, I know I am new here and I admit, I have just begun to take my “better-than-human” conversion meds which I agreed to do upon hiring, and so you may or may not believe me when I tell you about something that I have witnessed. But, I swear, it is absolutely true.” Felbar casts his intense gaze onto the woman who looks both eager and simultaneously scared.

“Do tell”, Felbar encourages her.

“Well, a few weeks ago, I was assigned a pro-bono case with one of the FUNKS, from Planet Funky, the artsy types. It was not a greatly desired case, you know, but I agreed to listen, due, naturally to my inexperience, and also, you know, with being expected to learn and work my way up (you know, without standard pay, as all entry-levels do who are learning the legal ropes),” she stammers.

Felbar interjects, “yes, yes, we know.”

“Well, yes,” Aurora continues, “and so I spent some time one afternoon discussing this rather weak case which, to me, sounded like something unfounded, as if it were from a long-lost memory from Earth. A middle-aged couple came to me, wanting me to somehow help their daughter. They claimed she had been kidnapped, been violated and then, subsequently had a child. Because of this vicious accosting. I know we are to forward any of these old-school crime cases down to Legal Aid for Ancient Grieviances. Rape, kidnapping and children being born outside of ideal two-partner marriages are forbidden here in our modern world, I know this, but, well…as I said, they came here from Planet Funk. And, well, ugh, you know, they still have IDEAS about ways and means from older times on that planet. You know what I am speaking of… Basically, I just listened, recorded their concerns, and told them I would investigate and get back with them.” Aurora is practically out of breath after venting her tale.

Felbar holds his face with the fingers of his right hand as he thoughtfully responds. “And this has to do exactly WHAT with the missing evidence?”

Aurora sighs. “I don’t exactly know.”

Felbar rolls his eyes. “Please don’t waste our time, Aurora.”

“Look, all I can say is they came, and they said they thought a..,um…well, sir, they actually believed that a vampire had taken their daughter, the father was absolutely convinced that this was true. He thought someone had to be protecting this vampire and any others, and was vehement in that he would do whatever he could to stop this from ever happening again to any other young woman, or man, I guess. I suppose, under these horrific circumstances, that any father would. I am not saying this so-called vampire-person took the evidence for sure, but doesn’t it seem like it’s possible he might be the one who did?”

“Alright, Aurora.”, Feldar says soothingly. “Thank you for your …,” he smiled, “insight.” “Since we have no actual proof at this time, let’s table this for now, and move onto the next item on our agen—”

Actual giggles are heard around the table. No one believes that any of the past-known supposed fictional “mythical monsters” have outlived the downfall of Earth. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, even mermaids have not been seen nor heard of in over half a century and are now, by most intelligent beings, deemed extinct. There have been absolutely no sightings, nor reportings or any reason at all to believe that they have somehow followed humans into the future, into space. It is believed that they all remained and consequently perished long ago on the vast, empty, lifeless, dry and brown tundra…Earth.

A lawyer called Taurean speaks with a bemused tone. “Where would they be hiding, the bloodsuckers? Here we have no cemeteries, certainly no coffins! We have no haunted houses, we have no blood banks any more. This is laughable, just so archaic!” No sympathy appears from anyone towards the possibility of Aurora’s sincere supposition.

“But, wait! Please listen, Sir! Even I know what # ERTH-69-VMP is! It is a vampire hunting box, a kit complete with holy water and stakes! Who else would want it, for that matter, how in the world would this client who came to see me even KNOW about this kit’s survival? If these and other creatures don’t exist, sir, then why in the stars would we have retained such an exhibit as evidence? Sir, why are you not taking this seriously? We need to call in experts, we need to try to find this father, before he snaps! He might remove his monitoring collar and attempt to capture this violator all on his own! What if he IS right? And what if he has decided to take things into his own hands, to hunt and kill? Sir, what if there really IS a vampire situation in the current Plutonian Galaxy?” Aurora practically shouts in her enthusiasm to help solve the case of the missing evidence.

Feldar, always the fearless leader, looks at Aurora, He slowly makes visual eye contact with each of his look-alike attorneys still sitting around the floating table. They express nothing, reveal nothing, and basically are just drones of protocol, now filled up and sanctified with salsa and coffee. Feldar turns to his ever-by-his-side assistant Atreya and he asks, “tell us, Atreya, exactly why do you think the missing item that was contained in this forever hidden-away trove has our Aurora so unhinged with fear?”

He looks at Atreya, then he turns his eyes towards the room full of attorneys, whose eyes were now like lasers, glowing a bright red. Feldar charmingly smiles. It is at that precise moment two very prominent, sharp fangs are revealed from inside Feldar’s mouth. You can hear the clicking..first from Atreya’s mouth, then from each lawyer as each of their fangs dropped and popped and who now hungrily stare at this tender young solicitor.

Aurora faints.

And thus, another daily gathering of the Inter-Galactic Plutonian Upper Galaxy law firm known as DEWEY, SCREWEM and HOWE dismisses their morning legal duties and proceeds to convene into their favorite activity of the day. What some people might call a Power Lunch.

THE END

 

Short Story Friday

First Love

by Braden Davis

Seth was just slipping through Tucson, the borrowed Dodge pickup purring smoothly through the light traffic, when the horse on the Marlboro billboard winked at him. The Texas Tornadoes were waltzing through the stereo, the winter night just cool enough for the heater, and the moon round and bright behind the sparse Tucson skyline. The billboard sat tall on the right side of a slow bend in on I-10 and Seth had time to look at it for several seconds. About three hundred yards away the horse blinked his only visible eye and Seth opened both of his a bit wider while he smiled and said to himself, “looked like that horse just winked at me.” He watched the chestnut horse with the wild, flared nostrils, as he kept the Dodge humming between white lines and just as he was passing the billboard, the horse seemed to wink again.

“What the,” Seth began. His foot eased off the gas and he checked his rearview, seeing only the dark back of the big sign.

The Dodge moved on its own into the slow lane. Seth corrected with a slight jerk and kept the vehicle from moving onto the shoulder. He turned down the stereo. He always turned down the stereo when he needed to think. Tori hated that.

He looked at digital clock on the stereo, still flashing 12:00. Broken or just needing to be reset, he didn’t know, but it couldn’t be much past 10. Seth let the pickup continue its rightward pull and eased into the upcoming exit. “What the hell,” he thought. “Could use some caffeine anyway.”

A flashing white rectangle begged his attention to the right. El Conejo Lounge. Seth revised his plan and immediately visualized the next several hours. Soda, Beer, then tequila, in that order. It had been almost three years. He’d quit for Tori. Now Tori was in Houston. What the hell was the point? Somewhere down deep inside himself he felt he’d break down this trip. He’d thought he’d get farther than Tucson. Las Cruces, maybe, or somewhere in Texas. He imagined a little dive bar in a dusty Texas town. Somewhere close enough so that when he showed up at her mom’s she’d be able to still smell the booze. Give her an excuse not to come back. Here’s your damned truck.

But the winking horse beckoned a quick exit, not ninety-nine miles into the long trip. And the Dodge idled in park outside the painted brick building that alternatively glowed violet, white, then back to black, as the flashing sign did its work. Two young Mexican men stood talking outside, propped against a short wooden fence. The Texas Tornadoes dissonant with the heavy bass thumping from the walls of the tavern. Seth turned down the stereo again so the music from the bar would make sense. It didn’t. Loud and out of tune. The kind of bar band that sounded worse the closer you got. Seth put the Dodge in reverse. Bad music gave him a headache. He couldn’t start old bad habits with bad music. He hated bad music. He hated Tori’s music—thumps and frightful whistles, monotonic words he couldn’t understand. It all sounded the same.

He pulled the Dodge back onto the frontage road, intending to climb back onto the freeway. Construction detours confused him a little, and forced him farther down the line. He saw the unlit eastbound entrance sign too late and found himself crawling under the freeway and coming out on a frontage road on the opposite side from where he started. He headed east on the road, figuring to catch the next freeway onramp and get out of the construction mire. The frontage road ended and emptied into a dirt parking lot that sat under the florescent flush of a huge Motel 6 billboard, giving the smattering of cars, trucks and semis a yellowy glow. A square, grey, slump-block building sat on the other end of the lot, the words “Elmer’s Pub” painted blood red on the side. Once again, Seth put the Dodge in park and turned down the stereo. The muffled sound of a bass guitar walked a twelve-bar blues that seemed to bleed through the walls of the bar. It looked much like the other place, but the music was different. Seth’s music. He turned off the engine.

The place seemed more crowded than he could observe from the cars outside. Seth found an empty stool at the end of the long bar, not far from the door and felt his eyes burn as he squinted through the hazy din. That’s something he didn’t miss. A burly, bald man with a salt-and-pepper beard nodded at him and continued filling a handful of mugs with beer from the tap. Across the bar, in the corner, the band finished the blues song. A three-piece, and wow, was the guitar player good. He charged off on a song-ending stinger, wild, intricate and entertaining. Seth tried to watch the guy’s fingers, but he was too far away. Why bother anyway; Seth was just mediocre enough to recognize the people who were really good. The guy finally let go a last note that whined out at the end of a long bend. A few patrons clapped lightly. Oh, what they didn’t know.

A large knuckled hand was suddenly in his face and a deep voice behind it, “Elmer,” the bartender said.

Seth looked up into the man’s coffee eyes and absently offered his hand and they shook. “Seth,” he said.

“Whadya need?” Elmer asked.

Seth squinted, still getting used to the air of his past. Need? A good woman who could stand him, maybe? A good strong drink to make him forget, if only for an evening, the love of his life who did stand him, if only for three years?

Elmer waited, his hairless brows raised.

“Just a Coke.” Seth fished in his front jeans pocket for cash. He put two twenties on the bar. More than he’d need for a soda. He knew that and now Elmer knew that.

The band started again. The guitar guy started it with a whiney bend that sounded like a good steel guitar. How’s he doing that? Seth looked but couldn’t tell. The bass and drum then came in with a slow country shuffle and then the guitar guy was singing “I fall to pieces.” Patsy Cline he’s not. A rough, whiskey voice. Not particularly pleasant but Seth liked the song. At least the guy stayed in tune.

Seth looked around the bar. Locals mostly, it seemed, despite being a stone’s throw from one of the busiest interstates in the country. An older crowd, mostly couples. No one looked under 40 in this place. It felt comfortable even though Seth was a graze under 40 himself, though Tori always said that his tall thin frame made him look older. The place looked old—peeling pale green paint along one cement wall, the other too far away to see in the dark smoky din. The lacquered bar glazed smooth like an old river rock, pitted in places from scattered coins, glasses, and maze of yesterday’s memories. Seth ran his hand across the glassy surface, feeling the imperfections before he could see them, until every finger found a depression to rest within. It had taken Tori three years to find his imperfections. Less time than that, probably, but three years to dig at them until she was sure no amount of digging was going to get them out. The digging just made them deeper and more pronounced. Potholes that you know are there, but still jar you unexpectedly in the worst moments. Tori’s only blemishes, in Seth’s opinion, were her poor taste in music and her damnable ability to find his faults—laser lightening focus. She didn’t even cheat, as beautiful as she was and as many opportunities that probably came her way selling those Scottsdale houses. Seth had asked her if she cheated enough times that she finally said she wished she had. Seth imagined her with that guitar player, dancing near the front of the stage, watching his fingers. No, that didn’t fit Tori. She doesn’t like guitar players.

Elmer worked his way back to the end of the bar, sliding a cold glass of Coke into Seth’s hand and nodding, leaving the money on the bar.

“First one on me,” Elmer said, moving to fill a shot.

“Now you tell me.” Seth smiled. “I should have ordered champagne.”

Elmer grinned back, an eye tooth missing. “Then I wouldn’t have told ya.”

The band finished the Patsy Cline and moved right into “Six Days on the Road” without more than a hiccup of dead air. Several patrons whooped and the small dance floor filled quickly. Clearly, a crowd favorite.

Elmer moved back to Seth’s end of the bar, leaning on his elbows as if to take advantage of the brief respite. “Where you from?” he asked Seth without looking at him.

“I’m coming from the Phoenix area. Just driving through,” Seth answered, watching a stout, stiff legged man whirl a freckled blonde in a short denim skirt through a jitterbug, thinking the girl looked a little bit like Tori. A little bit.

“What made you stop here? Our reputation for free soda pop?”

Seth chuckled, “Yeah, that and the horse.” He took a long drink of the cold soda, still watching the girl move. Nice legs, curvy, a good dancer.

“What horse?”

Seth lost the denim skirt in the crowd. “The Marlboro horse.” That still seemed pretty weird when he let himself think about it, which he hadn’t. “The horse on the billboard just before the exit. It looked like it winked at me.”

“Sounds like you got a head start on your night before you even got here.” Elmer seemed to eye him a little closer.

Seth stopped looking for the blonde to dance back into his view and looked directly at the bartender. “Elmer, I haven’t had a drink in exactly two years, ten months and fifteen days.”

Elmer took the two twenties on the bar in front of Seth, folded them twice then stuffed them into the one front pocket of Ed’s white oxford shirt. “Then Cokes are on me until you leave.” He took Seth’s half-filled glass and topped it. “Where you headed?”

The blonde and her partner were back in view now and the guitar player was singing about how it’s been about a week since he’d kissed his baby goodbye. “I’m going to Texas.” He hadn’t kissed Tori in at least a month.

“Why you wanna go to Texas?” Elmer asked.

“Ah, my wife,” Seth answered. Maybe she was still his wife. He wasn’t sure.

“Then you don’t need to flirt with that gal you’ve had your eye on.”

“What?” The blonde twirled and kicked up one leg and he found himself watching again. “She looks a little like my wife, that’s all.”

Elmer grunted.

The guitar player launched into his second solo of the song—a spectacular frenetic fall that started high on the neck and brought the band back down to one last chorus. “Who IS this guy?” Seth asked.

Elmer looked toward the band and scratched at his graying beard. “That’s Guitar George.”

“He knows all the chords?” Seth asked, chuckling as he finishing the classic Dire Straits line.

“He’s my therapist and savior,” Elmer said.

“What do you mean by that?” Seth asked.

Elmer smiled and spread his long arms out as the song ended to loud applause and the crowd milled back with renewed thirsts. “You should meet him. Tell him about your horse.”

“Thanks folks,” George muttered into the microphone. “We’re gonna take a little pause for the cause. Back in a few.” He unstrapped the lime green Fender and leaned it against his amp.

Music started up through the band’s P.A., but it was too soft for Seth to make out clearly. The bar filled quickly and Elmer poured drinks and filled mugs, moving like a large cat. He filled up a large glass of what looked like orange juice and slid it toward the end of the bar in Seth’s direction.

“Thanks, amigo” George said as slipped beside Seth and collected his drink.

Seth turned to look at the guitar player, watching him guzzle the orange drink, noticing his thin, dry, talented, fingers, a cigarette burning between two of them, fitting in like an extra digit.

“I sure enjoyed your playing,” Seth said.

George stopped drinking and squinted toward Seth. “Thanks, man. Glad you like it.”

“I used to play a little myself, nothing like you. But enough to know that you’re something special.”

“Thanks, man.” George finished the drink, took a long drag on his cigarette, and slid the glass back toward Elmer who caught it with his right hand as he continued to fill tap beers with his left and nod at a older woman in a pony-tail leaning across the bar giving drink orders. Elmer pulled a carton of orange juice from under the bar, refilled George’s glass and slid it back his way.

George caught the glass again and tipped it toward Seth. “What kind of axe you got, man?”

“Me? Well, I used to have a Strat, pre-CBS, American made.”

“Used ta?” George asked. “What happened to it?”

Seth went into his familiar line, “Ah, the wife made me sell all my good toys.”

George shook his head as he squinted through the smoke around his face. “Crying shame, man.”

Crying shame that the fifteen hundred dollars he got for it—probably half the true value—was mostly used to pay Tori’s little sister to house sit and take care of her King Charles Spaniel while they took that stupid trip to San Francisco. A thousand bucks for a dog walker.

“That’s a ’68 Strat up there I’m banging on,” George said. “You wanna play it?”

Seth chuckled into his Coke. “What?”

George took another drink of his orange juice. “You don’t lose a guitar like that and not lose something inside you, man.” He took another drag from his cigarette and offered his hand. “I’m George.”

“Seth.” George’s hand felt rough, dry, and prickly like tree bark. “But, I can’t play your guitar.”

“Man, it’s like swimming.” George made a motion with both hands in front of his face, one holding the glass of juice, the other holding the cigarette. “The bike will move, man, you just have to jump in the stream.”

Seth chuckled at the mixed metaphors as Elmer put another Coke in front of him and nodded.

“Tell him about your horse,” Elmer said, before moving away to fill more orders.

George swung the cigarette hand in a wide arc, bumping Seth’s arm and dropping ash on his shirtsleeve. “Music is inside you, man. Just gotta jump back in and see where the river takes you.”

Most rivers he’s been in lead downhill, Seth thought. Fast, like waterfalls. He wondered what kind of rapids and rocks were waiting in Texas. Seth brushed at the fallen ash on his shirt and watched it disintegrate and disappear, leaving a freckled pale gray stain that would probably never go away.

George wrapped an arm around Seth’s shoulder and pulled him away from the bar and away from his thoughts of Tori. “Let’s go swimming, man.”

Seth protested as George led him through the crowd; most seemed oblivious, but two guys stood up from a small round table near the bandstand as they approached. The tall, dark-haired one looked like the bass player he’d seen earlier, though he seemed much younger than Seth would have guessed from a distance. The shorter, stockier man moved behind the drums.

“Really, George. I’m just a hack. I can’t play your guitar,” Seth said.

“Then let it play you, man.” George nodded at his band mates as he stepped up on the short stage, picked up his lime-green Fender Stratocaster and handed it to Seth. George reached behind his amp and retrieved a bright orange Fender Telecaster. “I’ll play the Tele.”

Seth held the Strat in his hands. It felt warm and alive, but the green paint on the body looked odd, uneven, and out of place, like a saguaro cactus in Houston.

“Painted it myself,” George said. “The Tele too.” He seemed proud of this? Probably lowered the value by half, in Seth’s opinion. He knew he was thinking like Tori. Practical. Purposeful. What did she call it? Pragmatic.

The bass player clucked his lips as he picked up a shiny, black Peavey five-string. “You should see what he did to his Martin acoustic.”

“Hot pink?” Seth asked.

The bass player and drummer laughed aloud. “Where’d you get this guy?” the drummer asked.

George threw the leather strap around his shoulder and hooked it to the Tele’s body in one seamless, smooth motion. Guitar George. He turned his ear toward the hollow body of the Telecaster and checked the tuning, adjusting the B-string slightly. He nodded to Seth. “You’re wireless, man, so jump in.”

Seth had the strap around his shoulders and his fingers on the buttery, rosewood fret board before he realized what he was doing. He couldn’t sit in with these guys. This was crazy. But he made the short step up to the bandstand and slipped between George and the bass man, feeling the hum of the amp tingle his skin as he held the lost friend in his hands. He felt fuzzy and happy, the foreboding Texas doom fading in the smoky haze of the bar.

George turned a knob and the music through the speakers disappeared. Another knob and the electricity of the stage heightened. Seth could see several bar patrons look toward the stage. George looked at the bass player and held up four fingers. He turned to the drummer and said, “a little 12-bar boogie.”

Seth looked at the bass player and whispered, “what are you playing?”

“I don’t know which song,” the bass man replied, “but four fingers up means it’s in E. Four sharps. Fingers up are sharps, down are flats.”
Seth felt confused, but he knew E. His fingers formed an open E chord on the Strat, waiting. Waiting for what? The next three minutes of his life held as much uncertainty as the last three years.

George leaned into his microphone as it crackled to life. “Like to introduce my friend, Ed.” A few people clapped lightly. “Just another cowboy the horse dragged in.”

“It’s Seth,” Seth whispered, but figured nobody cared anyway.

The drummer counted off, “One, two, three…”

The snare drum popped twice at four and then the bass started walking through the E chord as George stamped through a blues riff that sounded a little like Stevie Ray. Seth found a hollow place in their river of sound and strummed through the chord, remembering to dampen the strings with the heel of his right hand so they wouldn’t ring too loud and drown the lead. It seemed to work. It didn’t sound bad. George’s lime green guitar felt fluid and alive, the strings pulsing under Seth’s fingertips, sending a stream of syncopated infatuation through his body. It had been too long.

People shuffled toward the dance floor. They couldn’t resist either.

“Why do I need a woman,” George sang. He really didn’t sing very well, but his rough voice was soulful, more whiskey than orange juice.

“Tell me, why do I need a woman” he sang again, his guitar answering in a bluesy whine.

“Yeah, tell me why why I need a woman,” George grabbed the mic with his right hand, leaving his left to hold and hammer the Tele’s neck. He looked at Seth and winked. “When I got this old guitar.”

***

 

Short Story Friday

Big Time Deals in the Big City

By Arbor Winter Barrow

 

Devina Gershwin knew every corner of the big city of Kestavan. It was a city the size of a small ocean and filled with just as many people as fish. Devi had been raised from birth in the slums on the outskirts near the deep, thick jungles of the rest of the planet. Kestavan was the only human habitable spot on the planet, everything else was ruled by the native species of wolflike packs that roamed the jungles. Large energy fields drew a line between the city and the jungle and neither mixed.

The spaceport at the center of the city was the heart of the tiny civilization in the middle of the galactic nowhere. The skyscrapers that had been raised around the spaceport turned the city center into a crown and the people who lived there were just denizens of a palace that churned around it.

The king of this place, the dealer of hands, of fate, and everything in between was named Gev Horrton. Gev Horrton was the oft-unseen king of this tiny patch of land, no one, especially as low class as Devi would ever get to meet him. Except under one condition. Every year on the summer solstice a city-wide card tournament took place and this year Devi was going all the way to the top. If she won every tournament from the lowest to the highest she would get the honor, if you could call it that, of playing against the king himself. That’s what she was going for, that was the challenge that was ahead of her. She was determined and driven to change her lot in life and she had the skills to do it now.

It had taken her nearly ten years to save up for the entry fee and the last bit came from the sale of all her worldly possessions. Her favorite speeder bike, her computer, her communicator, all of it was gone now. She had moved out of her apartment the day before the rent was due, and slept in the subway station that night. In the morning she had gotten up and taken the subway to the Central Office where entrants could apply for the tournament. In three short days she was going to the largest casino in Kestavan to crawl her way to the top.

Devi refused to be complacent anymore. This place was seen as a safe haven for every sort of crime and criminal and she had been raised as one of its pawns. Gev Horrton and his cronies had a tight grip on the city populace and anyone who dared try to change or question the tiny aspects of their society.

It wasn’t uncommon for feuds to end with one side ending up outside the energy field only to be eaten or killed by the native wildlife or just left to starve to death as little of the native plantlife was edible for humans. Her own family had gotten on the bad side of one of Horrton’s men and they had died out in the jungles. She had been left to fend for herself and if it weren’t for the kindness of a few strangers she would have died years ago.

She had a plan and that plan involved going all the way to the top and changing things from the top down. The populace was unhappy, but so few of them knew what to do about it. Devi had learned the hard way how to wheel and deal from the inside of the slums and the darkest corners of the city. She knew exactly the path she would have to take to get to the top, she had the play the game and had to make them believe that she was part of the game.

With her tournament entry fee placed Devi had only a handful of credits left.

Even with her skills and the amount she could make in one game it had still taken ten years to save up for the entry fee. It was a tournament for the super rich and a slumkid like her had a one in a billion chance at getting in.

This was the year, and in three days she was going to the top.

***

Devi spent her last credits on a nice, sleeveless suit and a nice meal. She was going to win in style and with a full belly. Nothing could crush her confidence. The day of the tournament she showed up to the entrance, flashed her entry chip and took her place among the other entrants.

Rithcards was the most popular and hardest card game in the galaxy. There were over a thousand cards in each deck and nearly as many ways to win the game. Each suit was four cards and the combinations you made from your hand over the course of the game determined the point values. Devi was good at it. She had been playing since her mother taught her as a child and she had learned to count cards before she had learned the names of the constellations in the sky.

She had supported herself for all of her 22 years by playing small games in the dark backrooms of the city. Even though gambling was far from illegal and most crime was given a pass, some of the games she had played were so high-risk Gev Horrton himself would have come down hard on the people playing. Devi had won just enough games to fill her pockets and keep a roof over her head but not enough to draw attention to herself. A master rithcard player would be easily noticed in this city and she wasn’t ready to make her name known until the day of the tournament.

The tournament bracket lit up the ceiling of the main room and Devi found her name easily at the bottom of the lists. She was an unknown and that was fine with her. A loud chime echoed across the room. “Places everyone!” A woman said over a loudspeaker and the room filled with the initial conversations and card shuffling.

Devi looked at her first opponents and breathed a sigh of relief. As much confidence as she had in her abilities as a rithcard player she could see the green gills on these people. They had the money to get themselves into the tournament, but not the skill. She would defeat them easily, but at the same time she didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself too quickly. There was a chance that if she displayed too much skill too early on that the tournament heads would find a way to eliminate her from the game permanently.

The tournament had five rounds, of seven games each, and for the first round the tournament room had over 1000 tables with 5 people each. In the fourth round, the winners with the highest skill points over the course of the tournament would be in the fifth and final round. The winner of the tournament would get to play one-on-one with Gev Horrton himself.

Here’s what you need to know about Devi’s skill, she was a thinker, she was a skilled card counter, and capable of figuring out the micro-expressions of the players around her.

The first round she didn’t wipe the floor with her opponents but let them think she was struggling along with the rest of them.

The second round she was in a whole other world of competition, these people actually had money and skill. But all the same, she hid her abilities. WIth the second round Gev Horrton’s men were watching her and every other player. One of these people, the best of the people, would be the one to go against Horrton. It was their job to look for possible opponents that might actually be a threat to Gev Horrton. She nearly lost as many times as she won, she let herself float in the middle of the pack, letting others take the limelight and yet others to crash and burn. As the fifth and final round began Devi didn’t let an ounce of fear mar her confidence.

In the fifth round, all her opponents were long time players, skilled, and probably nearly at the same level of criminal renown as Gev Horrton himself. It wasn’t uncommon for an unknown like herself to rise in the levels, but it happened rarely and with every round she won, she saw the attention wavering in her direction.

One of her opponents in the final round suddenly stood up and threw up all over the table. The woman was staring at her drink like it had betrayed her. Devi was suddenly aware of the fact that Horrton’s men had been the ones bringing the drinks. This woman had done little to hide her very significant skill and therefore was now being taken out of the game for it. She was eliminated from the game as she fell to the ground and started having a seizure.

Devi grasped her cards and breathed deeply.

And she triumphed. She won the tournament by what most would call the breadth of a hair. Devi had played the game. But she hadn’t won yet. They weren’t worried about her, they weren’t even concerned that some unknown player that had apparently lucked her way to the top. They all assumed that she would be defeated by Gev Horrton. That was their mistake, that was Horrton’s mistake.

They began the one-on-one, and Devi paid little attention to the crowd that milled around watching them. She knew some of their faces from having played against them, and others she didn’t. She put all her focus on Gev Horrton. He walked down the aisle of tables waving at everyone like the king he thought he was. She knew the moment before he sat down what his tells were, she knew the moment he was given his cards, what weaknesses he would have, she knew when they put down their first suit of cards just what she needed to do to win.

They played seven games. She won some, she lost others. And as he did, in the final game, in all his arrogance and hubris Gev Horrton pulled his gold plated owners chip out of his jacket and placed it on the table.

“If you win this round, you win it all,” he said. The move was supposed to make his opponents nervous, to make them make mistakes, and to push too hard. Devi had watched all the games on the GalaxNet in the past 15 years and knew this tactic so well.

“I have a philosophy, Mr. Horrton.” Devi said, looking at her cards. Her face betrayed none of the emotions she felt roiling in her gut. She would only have one chance at this.

“And what’s that, Miz Gershwin.”

“Devi, please,” Devi said amiably.

“Devi it is then.” Gev Horrton nodded his head.

“Power without compassion is the heart of a dying star.” Devi placed one card down face up and began the flip the next. “Eventually the equilibrium breaks and the star goes nova.”She didn’t break eye contact with Gev and saw his face begin to pale. She placed a finger on her last card and turned it over.

“A system that is so unbalanced cannot be sustained. And your system is now mine.”

The four cards on the table were one of the most unlikely combinations in the game, and also the most valuable. She had won by a landslide and the open-mouthed horror on Gev’s face was so sickly satisfying.

“Impossible! No! You’ve cheated!”

Devi raised her hands and wiggled her fingers. She had intentionally worn a sleeveless shirt that day so as to prevent any worry of cheating.

Gev looked at his secretary but the man was as ashen faced as Gev was. Gev had arrogantly walked himself into a corner and Devi had trapped him.

“Impossible!” Gev said and shot to his feet. He yanked at the gun on his secretary’s belt and pointed it at Devi. “You won’t get away with this!”

Devi slowly lifted herself to her feet and let a smile twist her mouth. It was not a kind smile. “I have won fair and square, Mr. Horrton. You agreed to this, and I think they are ready for a change.” Devi nodded at the men and women who made up Gev Horton’s cohort of bodyguards. She knew all their faces, all their names. They had all been children like her, torn from their families because of Gev’s tyranny, thrown to the literal and metaphorical wolves. It had taken ten years to save up for the tournament and ten years to recruit and maneuver over 300 men and women into the service of Gev Horrton. She had done more than won a card game and the city, she had won the hearts of its people. Two of the bodyguards were holding a vid camera and the feed was broadcasting across the city. Horrton had been in his castle and on his throne for so long he had lost touch with the elements that had gotten him there, and Devi had taken full advantage of that.

Gev’s hand shook and the gun trembled. His finger was dangerously close to the trigger. Devi just continued to smile at him and reached over the table where he had placed the city control chip. The gold glinted and the cool metal felt heavy in her hands.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’re taken care of for the rest of your life somewhere where you can’t hurt anyone else.”

***

“Devi of pack Gershwin,” the wolf-like creature said and stood on its hind legs. The Veskers towered around her but Devi wasn’t afraid. She had been friends with these people from a very young age when they had saved her from the treacherous jungle where her family had perished.

“I have done as I promised. The city is yours,” Devi said and held up the gold chip.

The Vesker leader was named Kissk. He had been no more than a pup when he had found her as a child and brought her to his people. She had befriended them all and grew to love them as her own family.

“No, Devi of pack Gershwin. It is yours. We are a simple people. Now that we know of the worlds beyond the stars we too would like to become part of this society. Some of us will return to the jungles to live out our lives, but others, like myself will integrate into this society and make it ours from the inside out.” Kissk waved a paw at the Veskers behind him and they howled in agreement.

In the years since Kestevan had been built one of Gev Horrton’s primary suppression tactics had been on the sentient species of the Veskers. If the United Planetary Society had found out that this man had built a city on planet belonging to a civilization of pre-spaceflight peoples they would have sent an army to stop him and liberate the planet. Anyone who found out about the sentience of the Veskers or tried to send information off-planet was killed before any information they had could reach the responsible people.

“You will be our liaison, you will be our teacher, and you will be the leader of this city until such time that one of us understands it enough to take over. This is your oath?”

“This is my oath,” Devi said and grinned up at Kissk.

Devi waved at them to follow her and the pack of Veskers trailed after her past the opening in the shield wall and into the city.

The End

 

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Short Story Friday

New Orleans Tripping

by

Christian Terry

 

A snore awoke George as he rolled over on the cold concrete ground in an New Orleans alley. The sweet after taste of raspberry pie that he had many hours ago lingered in his dried mouth. His head throbbed. The chirping birds and the rising sun signaling the new day didn’t make it any better. “Ugh,” He groaned as he turned on his side. “What did she slip me?” He asked to the man that awoke him perched on the wall in front of him.

Instead of getting an answer the man gave him a shrug and drank out of a wrinkly brown paper bag before falling asleep. George peeled himself off of the ground to his feet then made himself leave the alleyway. Once he left he had found himself in the middle of a busy street corner where a multitude of people marched down the streets and sidewalks. While gathering his bearings a gang of musicians rushed behind him.

Each of them carrying instruments from saxophones to snare drums. This concerned George as he cleared his throat. “Can I help y’all?” He asked. The band immediately began to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” causing a scene in the center of the very busy street. George was aghast at the scene. People never did things like this in Atlanta, only in New Orleans.

He looked at his watch, it was just seven thirty in the morning. Way too early for this, he thought. George took off into the middle of the street dodging several cars as he weaved through the traffic. He made it across the street and continued to run until he could not hear any music behind him. George ducked around the corner of a building to catch his breath. At this moment he saw the flashing lights of a neon sign that read twenty four hour fortune teller. This was familiar, he thought as he brushed through the wooden door.

A very pale woman that sat behind a purple clothed round table jumped to her feet. ” Oh no, no,no, you need to leave right now!” She yelled as George looked on in confusion. In the distance a microwave timer chimed.

“Excuse me ma’am, I think I was in here last night and you put something in my drink. You said it was a magic elixir. After I drank it I awoke on a side street with a bum. I think you owe me an apology.” He said.

The woman’s eyes almost bulged out of her head. “An apology?” She screeched. “You owe me one!”

“How so?”

“Sir you barged in here yelling, ‘Who Dat?’, went into my kitchen and ate almost all of my raspberry pie by hand without cutting it. Asked me for a healing elixir. When I said I didn’t know what you were talking about you took the bottle of vinegar that sat on my counter and drank from it. Then you broke the bottle on my floor and began to dance with the band you had following behind you.” The fortune teller said almost in a single breath.

“Impossible.” George said to himself.

The woman handed him her smartphone where there was video of George clear as day doing what she had depicted in high definition video. Guilt had struck him. It was all coming back to him. George had hired a band to follow him around the French Quarter. It just cost a total of a hundred bucks to have an mini parade at the courthouse. Two hundred for the police escort which he didn’t think he needed. At the time it was the best hundred bucks he could spend. He must’ve been really wasted that he couldn’t recognize his own actions on the video. “Did…did I choose to leave?” He asked.

“No, I showed you my baseball bat and threatened to call the cops, you took off like an Olympic sprinter.” The pale lady said.

A doorbell rang and the marching band appeared, surrounded the two, and began to play. George flashed the store’s matriarch an awkward smile.


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Short Story Friday

The Supernatural Invades the Everyday

by

Victoria Clapton

On a sleepy Southern Sunday morning, the magnolias are in bloom. Goldfinches flock to feeders as a solitary salamander bakes in the warm sun. Two writers scribble notes in spiral notepads, soaking in nature’s serenity. A perfect summer day surrounds them, igniting the creative juices while squirrels dance in trees and Toshi, the wise gray cat, snoozes.

“How about another glass of fruit tea?” Edwina Alice Poe asks, pausing her meticulous scribing of verse.

Marietta Shelley shrugs, never pausing the jotting of her horror-filled prose, “Sure, might I have an extra lemon?”

“Good choice. Get those enzymes working.” Edwina refills both of their tea glasses, while popping in an extra lemon wedge into each one before returning to the work before her.

Such a quiet day with only the music of a light breeze and twittering birds to accompany the sounds of ink pens scratching against paper.

The ladies write and sip tea for hours, basking in their day of harmony and peace, never expecting their day to be invaded.

KABOOM! KABAM! KABOOM!

A loud noise sounds in the distance and a mysterious wailing begins.

Tea glasses topple. Animals screech, skittering in fear. Toshi, the gray cat, stands tall, hissing at the rustling bushes in the distance. All at once, the day metamorphs into chaos.

Edwina curses in poetic prose, while Marietta scans the horizon. Like Toshi, she waits, listening, her hackles raised, to deduce what all the commotion is about.

High-pitched shrieks of laughter, like that of a maniacal chimpanzee sound off all around them. The authors are surrounded, but by what, they do not know.

With a brave glance to each other and a pat on Toshi’s head, the women make their way off their porch to see the ruination heading straight towards them.

The mysterious creaking of old carriage wheels sloshing through water merges with the shrill calls of the unknown. Wailing, wailing, the phantom comes closer and closer.

Edwina and Marietta watch with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity. It is a fine summer day, or at least it was. Now, all is askew. The women know that no water pools in the lane, and the time of wooden carriages passed long ago. The strange sounds they hear now have no place in the current everyday.

Marietta bends down to sooth Toshi, and with a resound sigh, she waves towards the bushes and the old, unused lane. “Welcome, all you ghosties. It is a nice place to stay, but please try to keep the noise down. This is a perfect sort of day.”

The caterwauling subsides, and fresh fruit tea is served. As the ladies resume their writing on their sunny back porch, the cat settles to slumber once more.

Peace returns on this sleepy Sunday morning as Edwina observes, “It seems the supernatural have come to stay.”

 

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