Climbing the Ladder. Short Story.

John sat at his desk, around him he could hear the steady clack of typing and just ever so faintly, a radio playing classical music. He logged on and while waiting took a sip of coffee. It had been a late night, they had allowed him to come in late, but he hadn’t slept well. Not that he had expected to of course, you don’t see something like that and then go home and sleep like a baby, not if you were normal anyway. His desktop appeared finally and he went straight to his inbox, there he sorted through the various emails, three bullshit ones from HR about something or other that didn’t involve him, another from his boss asking him to pop in when he got a chance, a short “congrats!” and an entertain me email from Ellie. It didn’t take him long before he was done and left with a choice, boss first or Ellie, both could have consequences. Finally he stood and started walking towards Bob’s office. He ignored the people he passed as they ignored him, it was only right. He didn’t glance into any cubicles but if he had they would have been like his, bare of any mementos or pictures. It just wasn’t done here.
He knocked on the door lightly and waited a second, “Come in.”
Bob was sitting behind his desk, he had seemed to eschew the traditional keep your work life and home life separate ideal, on his desk were tens, possibly hundreds of little knick-knacks and, facing an angle so the entire room could see it, a picture of him smiling with his family. John had never really cared for Bob, he was hard to take in anything other than small doses.

“Ah! John! You got my email then? I just wanted to go over a few things about last night.”
John resisted the urge to sigh, it was all in his report and in the debriefing interview he had to undergo the night before. There was nothing he could add to anything. Bob gestured at the empty chair, John stayed standing.
“Well, it seemed to have went very well, but now that you’ve had a little time to think over things, is there anything you would, or could, have done differently?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
There was a brief moment of silence.
“Well good. I’m glad. Also, Mandy was talking to me, she wanted to talk to you about another assignment. What do you think eh?”
“Yeah, that’d be great. I enjoy getting out and stretching my legs.”
“Don’t we all. I don’t seem to have a list of previous courses you’ve completed though, I was hoping you’d be able to send me a list of them?”
“Yeah, sure, though you’d probably be better off asking HR, I don’t want to miss any.”
“Of course, of course, I’ll touch base with them, see what they’re at.”
Silence.
“Well, that’s all I guess. Job well done!”
“Thanks.”

John left, closing the door behind him. He felt bad for being stilted, but if you gave Bob the slightest opening you’d be stuck talking to him for the rest of the day and John didn’t have it in him right now to pretend to care. He drained the mug he was holding, then went to the break room, a fresh cup of coffee would be needed when dealing with Ellie.

 

He stood outside Ellie’s room for a moment, looking at the pink door that had a herd of white, cartoonish elephants playing on it . He didn’t like this place, no one did, but Ellie herself was usually ok. He took a deep breath and opened the door. Inside was completely black. He stepped into the room, ignoring the sudden churning of his stomach, his foot hit solid ground though it appeared there was nothing underneath him to support his weight. Ellie was sitting at a small table about twenty feet away, hunched over with a crayon gripped tightly in her little hand. He walked over and sat down across from her, he didn’t speak, she was concentrating and it wouldn’t do to interrupt. He didn’t bother trying to look at what she was colouring in, it would have just given him a headache anyway. After a few moments she put the crayon down and stared at the paper critically, deeming it done, it vanished and she looked at John, smiling.

“I hear you went on an assignment last night, did it go well?”
“Yeah, I enjoyed it, but it was a little gross at times.”
“They can be. Scott told me about this one time, when there was some kind of tentacle thing and a bunch of pregnant women.” She scrunched up her face “how yuck is that?”
“Scott?”

She waved a hand in the air, “before your time.”
“ah.”
“So, what happened?”
“Not much, some cult trying to summon a class six being.”
“I thought I felt something coming through.”
“Yeah, only for a moment though. It was a bit of a bloodbath though. I wasn’t able to safely stop them summoning it, but I was able to banish it pretty quick. Six of them survived.”
“That’s something at least. Heads scrambled?”
“Not all of them, two were completely unharmed.”
“That’s nice. Are they being sent to me?”
“I don’t know, I can find out if you like?”
“No, that’s ok. I’ll know soon enough I guess. How’s Becky doing?”
“She’s well, bit stressed from work, but other than that she’s pretty ok.”
“Have you decided what dog you’re going to get?”
“No, not really. Though we’re going to stop by a shelter soon to have a look.”
“When you do get one, can you bring it in? I’d like to play with a dog.”
“We’ll see, I don’t know if I’m allowed, but I’ll certainly ask.”
“Good.”
John took a sip of his coffee, not surprise to find it had turned to chocolate milk. Oh well. So far things were going well, it was a little unnerving to hear her ask about Becky, a name that no one else in the office knew about, and about their discussion on getting a dog, which had only happened the night before, but it could always have been much worse.
“They told me that Jacob has cancer of some kind again. I don’t know if they’re going to let me fix it. Apparently it did something to him the last time. They’re going to be looking for a new caretaker. Would you be interested in the job?”

“I honestly don’t know, I’d never thought of it before.”

She nodded once, “I’ll have HR talk to you about it. I won’t be mad if you don’t take it, don’t worry about that. I do enjoy your visits.”

She smiled at him almost shyly, “I made you something.”
“Oh?”
A small box appeared on the table, “Go on, open it.”
John reached out, not sure what to expect. He opened the box slowly, revealing a mug. He took it out, obviously hand made and with a bright blue flower painted on the side. His other mug vanished, this one filled with chocolate milk.
“Thank you, it’s really pretty, I really like the flower.”
She beamed at him. He tentatively took a sip of the milk, ice cold.
“It’ll keep your drinks at what ever temperature you want. You just have to think about it. Go on. Try.”
He thought of warm chocolate milk, then took a sip, it was warm.
“Wow, that’s great.” The flower on the side had shifted to a light orange colour.
Some paper appeared on the desk again, a box of crayons beside it, the conversation was over.
“I’m afraid I have to get back to work, I’ll pop in later if I get a chance.”
Ellie didn’t respond.
“Bye Ellie.”
John left the room and walked back to his desk, as he set the mug down he noticed it had become filled with coffee again. That was nice of her. He sat at his desk, thinking. He didn’t know if he wanted to be Ellie’s caretaker, he wasn’t entirely sure what it entailed, but he imagined it would be a stressful job. She seemed to like him, but that in itself wasn’t any guarantees. Jacob had been her caretaker for a long time, maybe ninety years. He’d have to find him and have a chat about it. He’d get a considerable pay bump. He looked back at the computer, there was an email from HR already. Maybe he’d be able to look after her and go out on assignments too? He took a sip from the mug, his coffee was the perfect temperature.

 

 

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On the 400th Short Story Being Posted. Blog Post.

Holy fuck.

Four hundred short stories.

Four. Zero. Zero.

When I started this I remember thinking I just wanted to make it to three months and then I’d be over the hump of (apparently) the stopping point of a lot of blogs.

That was what? Three and a halfish years ago. That’s some large number times 3 months! (This isn’t a math blog for a reason people.)

In that time I’ve written and posted 400 short stories. Wanna know how many words that was?

I did, so I worked it out, cos I’m awesome that way.

it was approx 556,100 words.

That’s over half a million.

On top of that there were 3 series, which together spanned across approx 245,000 words.

In total I’ve posted approximately 800,000 words, that’s just fiction too. I’m not including the bits before stories where I drone on about stuff (frankly I’m far to lazy too lazy to figure out that one.)

I don’t even really know what to say to that.

I mean, in the abstract, I knew I’d written a fair amount, that it was probably a lot, but I never really stopped to think about how much it was exactly. It’s pretty mind blowing to be honest.

After a few months of this blog, when it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to just stop one day, I decided on a new goal. It couldn’t just be something small or piddling, like 3 months. No. It had to be bigger, better. So my new goal became to keep this going until at least 1,000 short stories and I’m well on my way towards that number, even if it takes five years from now, I plan to hit that number.

I enjoy doing this, I enjoy writing and I plan to keep going for a long, long time.

 

(This is now the point where something ironically happens to leave my hands crippled or I end up illiterate or something because I said that, isn’t it?)

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The Beach. Short Story.

Stacy stood at the sink, looking out the window at the back garden. She didn’t notice the kettle had started to overflow. Some cold water splashed up onto her hand, she looked down, startled, then shut the tap off. It was far, far too early for this. She had been up late the night before with work, but of course she was the one expected to do this, not Tom, it wasn’t like he got to have an early night last night. She flicked on the kettle and got out a mug, then, she started getting everything else ready.
First things first, while her tea was brewing she would make the kids sandwiches, get that out of the way. Ham and cheese, simple, easy. She was just thankful they both still ate ham and cheese. Todd was starting to get picky and she couldn’t figure out why, Anna had always been a bit of a strange eater. She had gone through a weeks phase of demanding pickles and only pickles for every meal. It hadn’t worked, but it had taken her the full week to finally give up on it. Stacy paused, knife halfway through the sandwich, diagonally of course, cutting it into direct halves would have made it worthless, lower in taste than even dreaded tuna. Was this her life? Was it all she was now? The knife finished it’s cut. She placed the halves into the lunchbox, then added some snacks. An orange for Todd, apple for Anna and a small bar of chocolate each. With that done she sealed the boxes and placed them in their usual places. She could hear the kids upstairs, getting ready. At least she wouldn’t have to go back up there to get them ready. She placed two bowls onto the table and put out the cereal and milk. They had cereal yesterday and she didn’t like giving it to them two days in a row, but she just wasn’t up for cooking anything this morning. She picked up her mug of tea and took a sip, testing it, finding it cool enough she took a longer drink.

 

The children thundered in and she became caught up in getting them to eat and making sure they had packed everything, then suddenly there was a knock on the door and it was time to go. Thank god for carpooling. With one final slam of the door the children were gone and off to school. Upstairs she could hear the shower, Tom getting ready for work. She’d have to start getting ready soon. She looked at the clock, then at her tea, making a decision she sat at the table and took another drink.
Tom came down a short while later and made some tea for himself, he talked while eating breakfast and Stacy knew she replied, but she couldn’t remember anything either of them had said. It must not have been important. Her phone rang twice, she glanced at it, work. She looked at the clock, she was already late. Oh well, not much she could do about it now. She went to sip her tea again but found that the mug was empty. Tom had left long ago, but she couldn’t remember him actually leaving. She stood from the table and went upstairs.

In the bathroom she stripped from her robe and nightie, then got into the shower. The water was hot and soothing, steam gently filling the room. She didn’t know how long she was in the shower, but when she stepped out her skin was wrinkled.

 

When she dried herself she dressed in a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a large t-shirt. Dressed, she went back downstairs and made herself another cup of tea. She glanced at the phone again, the missed calls had multiplied to seven, and Tom was getting in on the action too. They must have rang him. She’d get to it later. For now though, it wasn’t important.

At noon she considered going for a run, but she was comfortable just sitting. It wasn’t a day for expending energy, it was a day of peace and solitude. They kids had day care until four, then Tom was to collect them on his way home, she had some time left.
At three she scribbled a note and left it on the kitchen counter. Then, she took the car keys and left.

Stacy didn’t know where she was driving to, so instead she just drove. The car had sat nav inside it, she’d be able to find her way back. She took turns at random, sometimes doubling back for a while. It was peaceful, relaxing.

 

She ended up at the beach. She parked up, the only car in the lot, and got out. The sun was warm, but there was a faint bite to the wind. The beach was mostly empty which surprised her, surely there would be some families out, or people going for walks, but along the stretch of sand she could see only a man and his dog and a woman who was jogging away from her. Stacy walked down the beach, feeling the sand between her toes, how it shifted beneath her as she walked. Finally, she found the perfect spot and she sat, looking out at the sea, listening to the calm rhythm of the waves.
It was dark when she finally stood, dark and cold. Shivering, she started back towards the car. She hadn’t walked that far from it surely. The sand on the beach took a silvery sheen under the light of the moon, she was the only one on the beach, there were no fishermen, no parties.

 

She stopped for a moment, wondering how far she had walked, her legs had started to burn steadily, her breathing heavier. She could see no streetlights, no houselights, only the light of the moon. She started to walk again. She’d get to the car and drive home, heater up full blast, maybe get some fast food. She looked at her wrist, then realised she hadn’t put on a watch, she didn’t have her phone either. God, what time was it? It was late, Tom must but worried sick about her.
She started to walk again. It couldn’t be all that far, but then what if she passed it already? Were the streetlights in the parking lot? There must have been but she couldn’t remember seeing any.

 

She had been walking for what seemed like hours when she finally gave up and sat down on the cold sand. The warmth she had from moving quickly left, leaving her shivering. The sound of the sea was no longer calming and relaxing, it was mocking laughter, steady and cruel. Why had she come here? Why had she skipped out on work? She looked around, trying to see if there was any driftwood, perhaps she could make a fire, the deep and slowly shifting shadows of the beach revealed nothing. She’d go to the top of the dunes, from there she’d be able to see something or someone surely. Besides, people must be looking for her, her note to Tom had promised she wouldn’t be out that late, it must be at least one in the morning by now. She stood, her legs shaky and protesting, then she turned and began to climb.

The sands shifted underneath her as she went up the dune, sending her a little bit back with each step. Finally, she reached the crest and stood, breathing heavily and staring into the darkness. There was nothing but vague lumps and outlines. She turned slowly, scanning the area for some sign of life, but there was nothing. It almost looked like the dunes just continued to stretch on forever, but that must be the moonlight playing tricks on her vision.

 

She started down the dune again, resolving to walk along the harder surface of the beach. She was halfway down when the sands shifted again and she stumbled, running down the dune to stop herself falling, when she reached the bottom she tumbled forward and fell. Stacy groand and rolled onto her back, turning her head sideways, she spat the sand from her mouth as best she could. Her body was tired and sore, she didn’t want to get up, to keep going.

 

The sky was lightening, she didn’t know when she had fallen asleep, but she must have at some point. Stacy moved slowly, her muscles uncooperative. She rubbed her arms along her body, trying to get some warmth into it. She looked around in the light, there stretching back were her footprints, in front there was nothing but smooth sand. The beach stretched on and on, there was no car park, no sign of buildings. Stacy took a deep breath, she was tired, confused. She probably passed the lifeguard hut in the dark without realising it. She didn’t look behind herself to confirm it.

 

People would be looking for her now, they’d be able to track the car down easily enough, she knew that much. They’d start searching the beach for her, then she’d be saved. But now, now she had a choice. She could wait here and hope someone came across her, or she could keep walking and hope she finally came to the car. The sun was fully up, it was warm, but there was still a chill in the air. Finally making her decision Stacy started to walk. She’d get to the car soon, she’d have to. As she walked she kept her head up, scanning the distance for any signs of people or the parking lot. She walked until the sun was high in the sky, until it was starting to sink again, but there was nothing on the horizon, just more sand, stretching out for what seemed liked eternity.

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Stuck. Short Story.

I’m watching as they check in, trying to find someone who might be worth it, but so far there’s nothing. Families and couples and businessmen all stream through the lobby, checking in and out. You’d think this would be an interesting place to stay, I mean I get to see all kinds of people every day but it get’s a little old after a while. Though in all fairness it’s not like I can really get to know these people, this is just one short stop in the rest of their lives. Oh sure some of the workers stay for a while, the manager has been here going on twenty years now, but it doesn’t mean I know him, like actually know him. I’ve never witnessed any of his intimate moments, I’ve never seen him cry or shout with happiness. It’s those things, those moments that allow you to really know someone and frankly, I know no one. There are others here, people, can we be even called people? Though they’re not always that welcoming. We live here permanently, but I never really see them that often, I suppose there might be some kind of irony to that. Of course the people who come streaming in and out, they know nothing about me. They might when they leave, but that isn’t the real me, it’s part of some ghost story. Even the workers have their own versions of who and what I am when the truth is much more mundane. I didn’t OD, I wasn’t murdered, not technically anyway, I didn’t kill myself. No. I was just a lonely businessman, traveling alone and far away from everyone he loved, who died of a heart attack. In the normal world it wouldn’t be considered murder, here, it was a bit iffy. I get why he did it now, I didn’t then, when I first died I was scared and angry, but I understand. I wasn’t the first and I wasn’t the last that he took. Brought us here and kept us like pets. Really he was just lonely, he wanted companions, friends. He might have gone the wrong way about it, but realistically in the end it worked, didn’t? He might be gone but we’re all still here. Just hanging around. Trapped.
The life of a ghost isn’t that dreary and depressing, I do get to go on ride alongs occasionally, that’s fun and it breaks the monotony. I don’t know if the others do it, but I assume everyone does and that they just don’t talk about it. Ride alongs are like possession, but I’ve no control over what happens. It isn’t all freaky movie special effects. You’ve probably had it happen to you before. That feeling, you get in the back of your throat and you’re worried you’re getting sick, then you go to bed and wake up fine the next morning? That was me, or someone like me. Sometimes the feeling doesn’t go away and you actually do get sick. Sorry. I can’t really help that part. I get to go where you go for the day and night, at least until dawn. I usually get out when you go to sleep, but sometimes I get treats, people who stay out and party. I get to sample things I’d never have tried while alive. I’m still looking forward to the day someone tries mushrooms in here. I’ve always wanted to try when I was alive, but I was too scared. That’s the beauty of being a ghost, I can’t be killed again, not by normal means anyway, so I can tag along for the ride and be completely safe. That kind of ride along is rare though, maybe once every few years. The rest of the time I look for simpler things. The taste of food and drink, the warmth of a shower or bed, the coldness of the breeze when you open the window, the soft touch of another person. You won’t notice much, they won’t be as important to you as they are to me, but they really make life worth living around here. Heh.

 

I read books about ghosts when I was still alive, I wasn’t like some kind of weirdo about it, more so just stuff I came across. Most of it is a lie. I’m not constantly cold, but nor am I hot, I’m not hungry or thirsty. I feel emotions sometimes, but they’re dulled. I can move stuff if I really try, and it isn’t born of anger, but I never really bother, there isn’t much point. You’d think I’d feel some kind of contentment with that, but it’s worse. If you’re cold at least you know you’re feeling something. The monotony piles on and on and on until it just stretches out for eternity. It’s almost worse knowing that I’m going back to nothing once the ride along ends. Maybe some of the others like it, maybe I’m weird that way.

 

I can’t move on from here, I’ve tried, how I have tried, but nothing works. I’m stuck, possibly forever. I’m a bit concerned about what happens when they close this place down, it has to happen eventually right? Will I be stuck here, in the dark corridors until the building just falls down? Then what? What if they knock it and build something else? Usually the concern fades and it just becomes and idle thought exercise. The others don’t know, there are a couple who were here before the hotel, or came from elsewhere, but they’re hard to talk to, a bit loopy, they find it hard to concentrate. One doesn’t even speak or acknowledge you, I think she can, but she’s just being a bitch.
In the time I’ve spent here, three people have seen me properly and I don’t think any of them realised what I was, why would they? I’m not some chick in a big ass ball gown, or dressed up like some weird turn of the century soldier. I’m just some guy in a business suit. I suppose there are worse things to be stuck in, I mean, I sleep naked, if I had of died lying in bed I’d have had to spend eternity nude, how awkward would that be for those that saw me? I get some dignity this way I guess, which is kind of nice. Some of the others around here can change their clothes, I don’t know how they do it, I don’t really care. I’m happy dressed as I am. It reminds me of the family I had. The cufflinks were a gift from my children, the tie was bought by my wife. It’s the little things, when you’re dead. I haven’t seen them since before I died. I used to hope that maybe they’d visit, the place where their father died, now I’m glad that they haven’t, I hope it means they’ve moved on. I want them to be happy. Why wouldn’t I? They have lives to live. I don’t.
Maybe someday I’ll learn how to move on, maybe I’ll be stuck here until there’s nothing left. If you do ever come here and get a bit of a throat tingle, don’t worry too much, it’s just me saying hi and I promise I’ll be gone by morning.

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The Cost of Living. Short Story.

Fiona looked down at the coffee, then took a sip. It felt like everyone was looking at her. She took a deep breath, no one cared what she was doing. Besides, it’s not like she was some giant loser, she was actually waiting for someone. She glanced around the coffee shop, scanning the people coming in. No sign of her yet. No worries, she wasn’t too late. Only like ten minutes or so. Fiona pulled out her phone and checked for messages. Nothing yet. She went into the message chain and saw that her last message had, in fact, been sent. Ok. She probably hadn’t seen it because she was in such a rush to get here. She took another sip of coffee, just remain calm. She’d arrive any second now and people would stop thinking she was some weirdo just sitting there by herself.

twenty minutes later Fiona stood from the table and head down, cheeks bright red, she left the shop. They were probably all talking about her, about how she’d been stood up, but like that was any different from every other day. Outside a cold wind was blowing, she paused for a moment, enjoying how cool it was on her face. She sent a quick text, then started walking again. It didn’t matter anyway, she had to go into town to get a few things so it wasn’t like she came in specifically for the coffee. She wove through the crowds, going towards the bookshop.

She was reading the back of a book when her phone beeped, she checked the message:

Omg! I’m so so so sorry, I got held up. Are you still around?”
Fiona felt her heart thud heavily in her chest. What should she do? She took a calming breath and with shaking hands she sent back the response.

Twenty minutes later, Fiona arrived in a different coffee shop. She had been purposely late this time and had already decided that should Debby be absent, she was just going to go home, it wasn’t worth it and there were other people she could see instead. There she was, sitting at one of the tables, reading a book, looking calm and relaxed. Damn, why hadn’t Fiona thought of bringing a book the first time? She looked like she belonged in the coffee shop, no one would think Debby was just some friendless loser. Fiona joined the queue and ordered a drink, hot chocolate this time, she didn’t want to be too jittery, then she approached the table.

“Hi”

“Hey Fiona,” Debby stood as Fiona put down her cup, then she pulled Fiona into a hug,

“I’m really sorry, I lost track of time completely and then I ran into traffic, it was ridiculous.:

“It’s ok, I had some stuff to do anyway.”

They sat down at the table and after a few seconds it was just like old times, except of course for the snide looks Debby threw her way every now and then, not that Fiona had expected any different. Fiona had missed the times she spent with Debby when they were younger, but that was in the past now, there was no point in trying to capture it again. The entire conversation she felt nervous, Debby didn’t notice though, she never noticed things like that, why would she? She was just selfish. Everything was always about Debby, it had to be or she’d freak out. Finally, the coffee was over, they stood together and Debby again went for a hug, Fiona smiled, expecting it this time.

When they parted, Fiona took out a small bag and carefully deposited the hair she had gotten and smiling, she started to walk towards the bus stop. It had been a good day. On the way she stopped into the bookshop and bought the book she was looking it, she was elated, it didn’t matter if people looked at her now.

It didn’t take her long to get home. Her parents were both at work, she still had a few hours in the house by herself. She went the kitchen and got a glass of water, then she went up to her room. How sad was that? Her tiny, little room that had a single bed (Why would she need a double? Wasn’t like guys were queuing up to ask her out or anything), a small desk with a small light and a few shelves where she could store her things. The rest of her stuff was boxed up in the attic. There since she had moved back in three years before. She had a life then, a boyfriend, a job. Now she had none of that. She lived at home for Christ sakes, at twenty eight she was just some unemployed loser. She could see it in her parents eyes when they looked at her, how ashamed they were, how disappointed. She could hear it when they talked about their friends children, how they’d always say something positive about them, then pointedly looking at her. They thought they were being subtle. Ha. They couldn’t have been more obvious if they tried.

 

Fiona closed the door to her room and sat on the bed, still covered in the bright pink duvet she had when she was a teenager. She took the small baggie from her pocket and studied it closely. It had the root and as luck would have it, it hadn’t been dyed, that made things a bit easier apparently.
She lay out everything she needed carefully copying it down from the book, realistically she didn’t need the book now, she could do it from memory, but it was better to be careful, she didn’t want any mistakes. She couldn’t risk herself like that.

 

It wasn’t long before he was sitting in the centre of a circle. He wasn’t what she had expected the first time she did it, though the first time she did it she never really expected anything to happen at all. He looked like a regular man, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a black hoodie, handsome enough if you liked the rugged side of things, the only strange thing about him was his height, he was perhaps twelve inches high in total. Apparently if the circle was bigger he would be taller when he appeared, this height was just for “comfort”.

 

“did you get it?”
She held up the baggie.
“Good, brilliant in fact, you’ve everything you need now.”

He grinned up at her, she smiled back.

“So how long will it take to work?”
“Oh, it’ll be almost instantaneous! It will be great, I promise. You’ll have money again, your own place to live, friends will be back in your life.”
She looked at the hair, it was such a little price to pay and really, she wasn’t the one going to be paying for it. Debbie would have a few surprises in store for her.
“No tricks? It’ll be real and legal?”
“Completely. You have my word that everything that happens to you will be completely legal and no one will come after you for anything.”

“Ok, so do I just pass it to you or?”
“Yes, exactly as we discussed, just that one tiny little hair and in exchange, you get everything you wanted.”
Fiona carefully moved the hair over the circle, not letting her fingers pass the barrier. He reached up and took it, it seemed comically oversized in comparison to him, he opened one side of his hoodie and suddenly the hair was gone. He smiled up at Fiona, then clapped his hands, rubbing them together furiously.
“There we are. Done and done. Enjoy.”
Downstairs someone was knocking on the door. She frowned at the noise, but the little man just continued to grin.
Fiona opened the door to two police offices.
“Fiona Stephenson?”
“Yes.”
“I’m afraid there’s been an accident. Your parents were in a car crash, they died on impact.”

The policeman had expected grief, tears, he didn’t expect her to begin laughing. He took a step back, unsure of himself.
“Are you all right? Is there someone you want us to call?”
Fiona managed to choke out that she was all right between laughter. It had really worked, the demon had fallen for it. They were dead, really dead. She’d get it all, the house, the life insurance, the extra car. It had really, really worked and it had cost her nothing at all.

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One Last Job. Short Story.

Ugh.

Just.

Ugh.

I’m sick. All drippy mucous and dizziness (sexy eh?)

The dizziness is that feeling when your drunk that everything is just slightly off kilter but without the funner side effects of being drunk.

Bleh.

_________________________________________________________________________

Adam had gotten the assignment two days before. Two days since he was given the order to kill his own mother, two days since his final visit with her began.

It was nice. Sure, it was probably a fucked up thing to think, but it really was. He had spent years travelling the world, never settling down for too long. He had a house but it was empty most of the year. His mother used to nag him about it, that he should settle down, give her some grandkids. She’d never get to see that happen now.

He didn’t really understand it, she wasn’t anyone after all. There was no reasons given, sometimes it was easy to see, the target was a prick, a murderer, fucked with the wrong people, but not his mother. She was kind, generous, always smiling. She couldn’t have pissed off the wrong people, she wouldn’t even know the wrong people. Still. It was his job. He had some professional pride. He didn’t revel in it like some of the sick fucks in the industry, but he was good at what he did, he was the best. The instructions had told him to make it look like a botched robbery. He’d do it, but he’d make it quick. That was the least he could do for her.

Adam sat at the kitchen table, the same kitchen table he’d eaten thousands of dinners at, the same kitchen table he used to do his homework on. His mother would help him, leaning over his shoulder, her long hair tickling his cheek and just the faintest whiff of her perfume. He took a sip of coffee. He was waiting. His mother had gone out and now the countdown was ticking. He had three days in which to kill her. He’d postponed it as long as possible, it was kill or be killed. Besides, she was getting older now, her hip was starting to act up again, she didn’t go out that often. Sometimes he had wondered if maybe she was depressed. It was always a thought at the back of his mind, occasionally it would occur to him while they were on the phone, but there was no real way to broach it. She didn’t have many friends left, and she had been a bit subdued since his dad died three years before. He tried to stop in as often as he could, but it was never as often as he liked. When they talked she used to tell him about her day, about the people she knew, the general gossip, but over the weeks and months her details became scant, she would avoid answering questions, try to find more about him. He felt bad lying to her but it was already second nature. He was surprised he hadn’t noticed that she was putting him off, trying to redirect the conversation, but why would he look out for things like that? She was his mother, she wouldn’t lie to him.

He sighed and took another drink. He was really going to do it, no matter what he felt about it personally, it was just another job. He could try to convince himself she was depressed, that she was going to die soon anyway, it wouldn’t make a difference. Could he live with himself after this? Not just the death of his mother, but giving up his career? He didn’t have any hobbies, not really, they were all just an extension of work. What would he do with his days? He couldn’t just get a regular job, beyond it being soul destroying and mind numbing, he couldn’t put anything on his CV. He’d been killing for fifteen years now, fifteen years was a helluva long resume gap. He looked around the kitchen, virtually unchanged since he was a child. Was this what he had to look forward to? Sitting alone in a kitchen, wondering what he’d done with his life? He shook his head.

No.

He was just a little blue about the last contract, but it was time to be strong about it. He needed to get the job done like he always had. He drained the last of the coffee from the cup and stood from the table, it was time to prepare.

June entered the kitchen, walking slowly. Her goddamned hip was aching, a deep, steady throb. She hobbled to the table and emptied out the bag, putting away the few things she had bought in the shops. Adam had offered to drive her to the market, but she wanted to go herself, he was a good boy, but she wanted a little space. She hadn’t expected him to visit, why would he? He was off jetting around the world with that fancy job of his, he never visited anymore. It was terrible timing really, but that couldn’t be helped. She turned, then jumped slightly. “Oh, hello dear, I thought you were out. I got a few bits in for dinner, but I’m craving a bit of take away, maybe Chinese? The place I like doesn’t deliver to here though, would you mind picking it up? I thought we could…Adam? Are you ok?”

“Yeah mom, I’m fine. Sorry. Just a little distracted.”

She frowned at him for a second, “Well, if you have to jet off again, don’t worry, I know you’ve a stressful job.” She smiled at him, “will you be able to stay the night?”

“No, I don’t think I can.”

“That’s a pity, but surely you’ll eat something before you go? You didn’t eat much at lunch today and… Adam, is everything ok? You don’t look very well and I….oh…it’s you, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

June shook her head. “Those bastards. Those absolute bastards.”

“Mom!”

“Well. They are.” She dropped the bag onto the table and lowered herself into a chair. Adam stared at his mother, that was the first time he’d ever heard her curse. He shook his head, his mother knew, knew someone was coming.

“They didn’t tell me who it’d be. I was so worried when you arrived. Feared that you’d get caught in the cross fire or something.”

“You paid them?”

“Yes. It was me.”

“Why?”

She sighed. “I was diagnosed with cancer three months ago. I know I don’t have long left, but I couldn’t allow myself to live like that. Not after seeing what it did to your grandmother. With your father gone it’s just too much. I don’t want to end up in lying in a hospital, machines doing everything for me as I cling to life. I don’t want to go out like that. I can’t. I thought this would be best. I’m sorry. I knew it would be hard on you, but I had to be sure. I didn’t want them to find me, hanging from something. It seemed better this way. Less shameful.”

Adam sat across from her, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to burden you I guess.” She brushed away a tear, “load of good that did. There’s insurance money. If I” she took a breath, “If I had killed myself you wouldn’t have gotten it, the hospital bills would have eaten it all, I didn’t want you to have to pay for anything. I’m sorry that I put you in this position. I know how it works. They told me it would be certain. I didn’t know they’d send you. You know that right? I really didn’t know.”

“I know mom, I know. I’m here, I’m not going to leave you.”

He stood from the table and walked around it, there he bent and hugged her, she was trembling, crying. He took a deep breath and pulled the gun from his holster.

He could make it quick for her at the very least.

 

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Voices. Short Story.

My weekend was pretty awesome. On Friday a friend came over and we watched movies, then Saturday I went trampolining, laser tagging and bowling with some friends and their younger siblings. It’s been a while since I’d done any of it either, I think I was maybe ten or eleven the last time I played laser tag. Definitely a nostalgic event.

hope everyone else had a good one!
On with the show!

_______________________________________________________________

Jane was sitting on the couch, head in her hands, trying to ignore the cries from outside. They’d leave soon, she just had to hold out for a little while and then they’d be gone. She dug her nails into her scalp, using the pain to help block out the noise. They had caught her unaware, if they heard her moving around inside, they’d become louder, more insistent, stay for hours and hours. She knew it wasn’t them, that what ever it was had stolen their voices, but that didn’t make it any easier. She had tried everything to block them out but nothing worked, it was like they were speaking directly into her ears. She had tried headphones and earplugs, but they were worse than useless, they gave the voices importance, blocking out everything but the voices.

When they finally left, she unclenched her fingers and slowly sat up. She was tired and stiff, but it was over for another few days. She had been about to start making breakfast when the voices started, but now she wasn’t hungry. She walked shakily into the kitchen and turned on the kettle. A cup of coffee would do her some good, with lots of sugar and a dash of cream. Despite it being bright and sunny out, Jane felt cold, as she waited for the kettle to boil she tried to stop shivering. When the coffee was made she took a slow, almost tentative sip, warmth flooded through her, hands wrapped around the cup she sat at the kitchen table.

The voices had started about six months back. No one knew the danger then, that’s why it had so many voices now. Even now they didn’t know exactly what it was, but one thing was clear, if you opened your door you’d disappear. Poof. Gone. No signs of struggle, no evidence of any foul play, just an empty house. Before it started Jane had a husband and a son, now though, now she was alone. Their son went first. Jane didn’t know exactly who he heard, but she suspected it was one of his friends who’d recently vanished. At that stage everyone knew something was wrong, but no one was sure what. A few weeks later Tom, her husband, had told her of the voices he was hearing, the voice of their son, of friends and family who had already gone missing. At that point there were rumours, saying those who vanished came to take those who were left. He had held out for a month before he finally opened the door. At the time Jane hadn’t heard the voices, they seemed to choose one person in a house and focus on them. She had thought that Tom was weak, that he was a coward, abandoning her. Now she understood.
The world continued on as people slowly disappeared, people still went to work, out to the shops, went to the pub with friends. Scientists were trying to figure out just what was happening and how, but no one seemed to care, the answer was simple, don’t answer the door. No one knocked anymore, no one called out, they rang or texted someone to let them know they were outside.
Some religious groups claimed it was the rapture, they didn’t make a huge fuss about it, they couldn’t as the groups never seemed to last long as members opened the door one by one.

The voices had been coming to Jane for six weeks now. She held out against the pleading and begging of her husband, son, mother, father, friends. It was endless. Sometimes they screamed in agony and terror, begging to be let in, other times they called out they escaped, others they told her how wonderful it was, how she should join them, how she’d love it as much as they did. She didn’t know what was on the other side of the door, but she knew it wasn’t her family and friends. She knew it wasn’t good, but there was only so much she could take. Sometimes when she listened to them all calling out or seductively whispering she considered ending it all, just taking the gun from the upstairs closet and silencing the voices forever. But she couldn’t do that. She had to remain, she still had faith that they might return to her someday, they might escape.

 

When she had finished the coffee she felt somewhat normal again. Her stomach gave a little grumble, but she couldn’t face food, not yet. She always needed time afterwards for things to settle down. She hated the time afterwards, it was always filled with self-doubt. What if she was wrong? What if it really was them? What if it was better? There was only one way for her to find out, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She fought against it, even when part of her wanted to give in.

 

The voices came again later that night. It wasn’t right, there was supposed to be a gap, a few days of blessed silence. They started up just after nine, whispering so softly, so sweetly that she found herself walking towards the door before she realised she was hearing them. She sat against the door, head against knees. Would it really be that bad? It would be over at least, finally over. She could hear whimpering on the other side of the door, even with the chorus of voices she could still recognise the sound of her son crying. Her stomach twisted, she wanted to go to him, comfort him. She stood slowly and turned to face the door. Her hand reached out and gripped the handle. She took a deep breath and began to turn it. She understood now, it wasn’t weakness opening the door, it wasn’t cowardice, it was bravery.

The door swung inwards, Jane didn’t scream, she closed her eyes and accepted her fate. It didn’t matter, not really, one way or another, she’d be with them again. It was over quickly and silence reigned, sweet, gorgeous silence. There was a faint whisper, then the voices began again.

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