Best Night Ever. Short Story.

Sherry looked down at the wine stain on her dress, that would never come out and of course she just had to wear white tonight, of all nights. She grabbed a handful of tissues and started blotting at it. The asshole who bumped into her had vanished, taking with him a now empty glass of wine, didn’t even have the decency to try and help. Prick. One or two people glanced her way and a few more chuckled, but none of them helped either. Sherry made her way to the bathroom, at least there she would be able to work in peace.

The bathroom had marble floors and counter tops, which was a little bit more upscale than Sherry had expected, when Diana had invited her out tonight she had really only expected the pub until Diana told her to wear a dress. Sherry knew then that they were going to be celebrating the promotion that Diana had been working her ass off for. Then of course Diana had to cancel last minute, Sherry was pissed, more at Diana than Todd this time. She knew the relationship wasn’t great and always tried to be there for her, but Todd was just too controlling and Diana knew it. Sherry grabbed a handful of tissues and continued to try and save her dress and salvage the evening. If Diana hadn’t given in and cancelled because of Todd’s whining then she wouldn’t have a big ass wine stain all down her side. Sherry looked in the mirror, it was as bas as she had thought. She looked from the stain to her make up, she looked good, if she did say so herself, she had really dressed up for tonight. She grabbed the tissues, threw them in the bin with a sigh and grabbed her purse from the counter. There was no point, she could deal with it when she got home, after all the night was just going from bad to worse, might as well head it off at the pass and just call it a night.

Sherry shivered in the night air, she put on her jacket and started to walk towards the bus stop. The busses were still running, and would be for another few hours, might as well save some money. A gust of wind blew past her, Sherry shivered as the breeze became stronger. It was supposed to be a mild night, but of course that would be wrong too. Sherry looked up and saw a taxi, “fuck it”, she stepped out to the side of the road and hailed him. He pulled over and she hopped in. She gave her address and settled back into the seat. She was planning on getting a taxi home later on anyway, might as well get home a little faster than the bus.

Sherry let herself into her house, everyone else was out for the evening, everyone but her. She threw her bag onto the table and shrugged off her jacket. Upstairs she quickly changed into some pyjamas. She brought the dress downstairs and after some quick googling, set to work on trying to get the stain out.
Sherry was finishing up cleaning when her phone rang, “Hello?”
“It’s me, I need your help.”

“Yeah. Look, I don’t want to talk about it over the phone. Can you come to mine? Please?”
“Yeah, sure, I’ll be over in a few minutes, are you ok?”
“I’m fine, just get here.”

Sherry hung up and ran upstairs to throw on jeans, she had never gotten a call like that from Diana before, she was always the suffer in silence type. Once she was dressed Sherry threw on a pair of runners, grabbed her keys and set out. She had already drank most of a glass of wine while out and helped herself to another glass while cleaning, so she chose to walk, and she jogged most of the short strip.

When she knocked on Diana’s door it opened immediately as though Diana had been waiting on the other side, she ushered her in and closed the door.
“What happened?”
“I’m in trouble, really bad trouble. It’s Todd. I stayed home because we kept arguing about it so it was just easier to stay but he just kept getting angrier and angrier, he left about ten minutes ago, but he said he’d be back.”
“Why are you still here? C’mon let’s go.”
“Where? He’ll check your place.”
“If he shows up I’ll say I haven’t seen you and if he won’t leave I’ll call the police, ok?”
“Ok. I don’t have any of my things though.”
“That’s ok, don’t worry, we can always come back for stuff another time. When will he be back?”
“I don’t know, he didn’t say where he was going.”
“C’mon, we’ll just get out of here, you can borrow my clothes for the next few days, ok?”
Diana nodded.

Diana was asleep on the couch, finally. She spent much of the night fretting or crying, or both. Sherry wondered if this would be it, if Diana would actually leave this time. Sure Todd was manipulative and awful, but he had never physically hit Diana. Not that Sherry knew of at least. Maybe this would be her wake up call and she’d be able to get out before anything truly bad happened.

Much to Sherry’s relief, Todd didn’t show up at the house, neither of them heard from him until the Police arrived. Todd had been found in the kitchen, stabbed to death. Diana and Shelly never spoke of that night again, sometimes Sherry wondered if Diana had called because Todd had gone or if it was because she had done something truly awful. When ever that thought appeared she would push it aside carefully. There was no proof that Diana could have done something like that. Sherry hadn’t seen their kitchen, but Diana would have had some blood stains on her if she had stabbed him. No, it was better to think of it as a lucky escape for Diana, that it was simply a robbery gone wrong and Todd was just unlucky.

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Replacement. Flash Fiction.

“Have you got the replacement finished?”
“Almost just a few more tweaks and it’ll be ready.”
“Good, we need it done by tomorrow night at the latest.”
“We’ll have no problem having it done by then. Old one still holding up?”
“Well enough. No major glitches in the last day or two. Had a bit of a touch and go moment last night, but the wife just thinks he’s getting sick.”
“Want me to add a touch of the sniffles to this one?”
“If there’s time, if not don’t worry about it.”

Derek jotted a note down on his notepad, “should we get started on a back up?”
“No, no need, this one will fulfil its purpose in about a month or so. The one now lasted for what? Ten years?”
“Yeah, almost and with the advances we’ve made they last even longer now.”
“No back up is needed then.”
“Ok. Oh, about Project Sunshine, we’re ahead of the schedule on that one, will there be a chance of early deployment? I want to tweak things a little if there’s time, but it’s the kind of stuff that once I start it needs to be finished.”
“No, no plans to move up Sunshine, we’re dead set on that date.”
They chit chatted for a few minutes before Derek left. Everything was on schedule which was a pleasant change. He knew that something would happen to foul everything but for now he was content. The slabs were doing well too, with some remarkable improvements coming out of their facility in the last few years. They went from weak things with only a few months of life to strong, intelligent creatures that could live for decades. Derek was sure that in another few years the slabs would be able to live as long as humans, if not longer.

Derek walked into the room, beds lined each side. He went to Patient 9645, or as he would be known as once he woke, Jamie Franklin. The slab was breathing steadily without the machines. All the memories had been smoothly implanted and the body itself was identical to the old one, even down to the small nick he had gotten a few days back while cutting vegetables. He would go about his life, unaware of what he was, blending in with his friends and family until it was time for him to be activated. Derek didn’t know exactly what 9645 would do, sure he knew the general gist, but it was always interesting to see how it played out. It helped them move things around, reword commands to be better followed. This one was to murder his wife and then kill himself, how that happened would be up to 9645. There was no mention of the children, though Derek suspected it would be a murder-suicide involving the whole family.

The replacement happened with ease, they hit the homing beacon for 2673, he arrived within the hour. Once he was at their facility, he was brought down to the chair. He allowed himself to be strapped down and then, with the flick of a button, Jaime Franklin was gone leaving behind the husk of 2673. The body itself was taken away to be broken down for parts. The systems scanned the memory, searching out for ones the uplinks had missed. Once that was done 9645 was released into the world to complete his objective.

Jaime Franklin walked out of the building feeling great, the massage had really worked out the kinks that had been building in his back for a while. He hopped in his car and pulled out of the parking lot, not looking back at the drab, grey building behind him. He turned on the radio and sang along, loudly and off key, as he drove back to work. He still had a long day ahead of him, but soon he’d be home again and no doubt eating something amazing that Melissa had whipped up in the kitchen. He smiled to himself, his life really was perfect.



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Running the Gauntlet. Short Story.

Brad took a deep breath, They had all warned him how the pictures and videos weren’t enough to prepare yourself, that seeing it was so different from looking at them through a lens. “C’mon man, shake it off, you can do it.” He realised he spoke out loud then quickly looked around, he was still alone. He could do it, of course he could, hell he was the one who applied for the promotion and gotten it. They said there wasn’t even a question as to who it would go to once he applied. Johnny, his buddy, still wasn’t here. That was part of the many rules, you could never enter the prison alone, you always needed at least one other person with you. The guards did their rounds in pairs. Johnny had been doing this job for almost two years now, so Brad knew he was good at it. Half of the people quit within their first week, but if he could get past that then he was safe and only five years away from being able to retire with a very nice and very large payment to thank him for his service. Brad looked around again, wondering where Johnny was, they were going to have to go in soon and Brad couldn’t go in by himself. He took another breath, Johnny would be here. Brad knew very little about Johnny’s life, hell, he didn’t even know Johnny’s real name, but then no one knew Brads either. Also part of the rules, you had a new name once you were accepted into a position in the facility, you were never to speak your real name in the building, either first or last. No one had explained why to Brad, but he had never asked. There was another, separate building about two hundred feet from this one where all that stuff was taken care of.

Brad jumped as a hand clapped down onto his shoulder, “You ready for show time?”
“Yeah. Yeah I think so.”
“They all say that. If you’re gonna puke though, try aim for one of the trash cans ok?”
“I’m not going to puke.”
“OK, just aim for the trash can.”
Brad nodded once and felt his cheeks redden.

“Ok, did they warn you about the smell?”
Johnny sighed, “Yeah. I keep telling them to warn people about it. It’s not very pleasant in there. Here” He held out a tub of Vaporub, “Smear a bit under your nose. It’ll help. It won’t make it go away, but it’ll help.”
Brad reached in and grabbed a blob with his finger and smeared it on his upper lip, instantly he was assaulted by the smell of menthol, the air he was breathing turned cold and after a second it passed. “Ok, I think we’re all set here. Let’s go on in.”
Johnny put the vaporub back in his pocket, grinned at Brad then took the key from his belt.
“You haven’t gotten a key yet, but you will. It’s all bullshit really, they won’t give you a key until your first week is out. They’ll act like they forgot and they’ll get right on it, but they won’t. Once you get past the week you get a key. Don’t take it personally.”
“I won’t.”
“See you say that, but we had a guy who thought all the office admins were out to get him, personally. If you start feeling like that you let me know ok, right away. Anything like that at all.”
Brad nodded, he couldn’t speak, his mouth was suddenly dry and his stomach was churning. He could do this. Johnny opened the door and together they stepped inside.

The smell hit him immediately, the vaporub did very little to curb it. A thick miasma of body odour, human waste and blood hit his nostrils and crawled their way deep into his lungs. Brad couldn’t move, he was stuck. His breathing started to quicken, what if he couldn’t do this? What if-Johnny clapped him on the shoulder again, “C’mon man, lets get this over with, the first times always the worst. And see what I mean about that smell? It smells like a dead hooker in here.” Johnny chuckled and stepped inside, Brad gave a weak grin and followed. Johnny was right, it didn’t seem so bad now that he was actually in here. The layout was simple, Two doors, an entrance and an exit, only the exit could be opened from the inside. There was the main corridor and eight others branched off from it. All of the cells had a clear glass wall facing the corridor. Brad couldn’t remember what they told him it was, just that it was strong enough to stop anyone getting out. Brad stepped through the door and behind him he heard Johnny locking it, followed by the mag locks engaging, which were operated in the security room. Now the only way out was through. Brad kept his eyes on the floor, he knew that if he looked at any of them, something bad will happen. He would just walk along beside Johnny and stare at the floor. Easy enough, right?
“Hey, are you ok?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. It’s just. No, I’m fine.”
“Ok, we’re just going to do a quick run through, no stops, just keep walking at a steady pace. I know you’re probably thinking it’s better to look anywhere but them, but trust me, it’s best to get it over with.” Brad nodded and raised his head. He looked to the left, a little girl was sitting on a chair, pale faced, eyes wide and clutching a teddy bear. A wave of blood hit the glass as she exploded, Brad let out a shriek before he could stop himself. Johnny chuckled, “She does that every time. It gets old quickly.”

Brad stood on the other side of the door, shivering. “Congrats, you survived your first run. You coming back tomorrow?”
He felt his head nodding, but he honestly didn’t know. The stuff he had seen in there, the people screaming for help, people with their insides ripped open. He had seen one woman eating her own intestines. The worst was a little girl in a tattered dress, screaming and pleading for help while a very naked and very aroused man advanced on her. Her screams followed them through the halls. Even Johnny looked away as they passed.
“Is it…is it always like that?”
Johnny smiled at him, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes, “No, most of the time it’s worse.” Johnny turned and left, Brad watched him leave. He felt like he needed a shower, the smell of the place clung to him, infected him and his clothes. He let out a low shaky breath, at least he didn’t throw up. No sooner than the thought occurred his stomach twisted and Brad went running for the trash can. He made it just in time, his stomach clenching and heaving until there was nothing left.

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Safety. Flash Fiction

Samantha wasn’t paying attention when it happened. She had her heard buried in her phone, texting Jason who seemed to be angling for a third date, but hadn’t quite come out and said it yet. Samantha was trying to think of the perfect witty reply when the woman in front of her let out a cry and fell over. Samantha rushed to her side, the woman groaned and sat up, “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I think so. Damn shoes, I’m not used to heels these high.” The woman prodded at her ankle, “I don’t think I twisted it, though it feels a little tender”
Samantha helped the woman stand, she carefully put her weight down on it, “Well, it seems like there’s no real damage, thanks for helping me. I feel like a bit of an idiot.”
“Ah don’t, it happens to the best of us!”

Samantha felt a buzz in her pocket, she reached in for her phone, “Will you be ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, I might get a little bruise, but mostly I’m just glad there wasn’t anyone else around to see that.”
Samantha smiled, then took out her phone.

“Thanks again!”
“No bother.”

Samantha started walking and looked at her screen, there it was, finally, she started typing out a reply. Samantha collapsed as her entire body was flooded with pain, she writhed on the ground, teeth clenched. The woman was standing over her, taser gripped in one hand, “I’m sorry, I have to, he said if I didn’t…I’m sorry.” The woman reached in and tased her again.

A man stepped out from the bushes and onto the path. Samantha couldn’t see what he was doing as he moved around her, her muscles were starting to relax, so far she hadn’t screamed, she had only been able to make a faint whining sound. Something was shoved into her mouth, harsh and bitter. She tried to spit it out but before she could duct tape was over her mouth. The man quickly grabbed her arms and tied them behind her back along with her legs. He picked her up easily and carried her back into the bushes. The woman, who had spent her time nervously looking up and down the path for anyone who might stumble upon them followed. She slipped the taser back into her bag. She looked behind at the path one more, a thought flitted through her mind, so fast she almost didn’t register it. She should run. Now while he was distracted, run and get help for them both. She turned back and continued into the bushes. She wouldn’t be able to escape. She knew that, to think otherwise was stupid. He’d just catch her.

The woman joined the man and Samantha, she could see that the drugs were already starting to work, Samantha’s eyes looked unfocused, they moved slowly as she tried to look around. The man had placed Samantha down, he was standing over her, smiling. He looked at the woman, “you did a good job today.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re very welcome. If you keep it up soon you’ll get your reward.”
The woman felt a shiver of anticipation move through her body, then felt it die as she looked at Samantha. Her reward was release, but would it be worth it after all this? This wasn’t the first woman they had taken together and it wouldn’t be the last. She didn’t know what he did with them, oh sure she could guess, but she didn’t know, nor did she want to. That wasn’t her concern. He kept her safe, he kept her fed, he looked after her and she only had to follow a few rules in return.

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Guiding Hand. Short Story.

Jacob took a sip of his coffee and grimaced. He always hated the stuff, the most he could do now was tolerate it, but it helped focus him for the day ahead. “How are things down there?”
“They seem to be normal, well, normal enough. Another war broke out yesterday, but it was a fairly short one, insignificant countries. Well, they were insignificant. Blew each other up.”
“One. Won’t affect the rest of the world too badly.”
“Ok. That’s a bit of a pity, but what can you do. Are tensions still high?”
“Yeah, everyone’s on edge down there.”
“Ok, perfect. Maybe we won’t have to step in at all then.”
“How often does that work?”
Jacob sighed, “I think maybe three or four in all our time doing this.”
“Out of how many?”
“…I’ve lost count.”
“Shut up.”
Annie grinned at him, “it’s best that we do it anyway. Less painful than fire and radiation, besides it makes it easier for them to catch up again.”
“That is true.” He looked down at his coffee, “So do you think there’s no hope for them at this point?”
“There’s always hope. Look at X92-15, they sprung back and look at them now. I thought for sure they’d be gone.”
“True. Just, sometimes I wonder if we’re doing the right thing.”
“Of course we are. Look, it’s better for us to take care of them now when they’re small rather than waiting for them to launch an armada at all of us and you know that’s what will happen. It’s happened thousands of times before. Sure each time we won, but what if we hadn’t? It’s us or them unfortunately. Besides, there’s upsides, like the good planets, the ones full of life that isn’t violent and just smart enough to get themselves into trouble.”
“I guess.”
Annie turned back to the computer, “They’ve just launched a satellite.”
“Anything we need to worry about?”
“No, they won’t be able to spot us.”
“How are they going on space travel?”
“Not well. They didn’t have a space race, they’re both just kind of limping along.”
“Well, that could be a good sign. They’ll focus their aggression on each other, get it out of their system then focus on getting into the wider universe.”
“I don’t think they’ll get that far. Hostility and tension are high. They’ll destroy themselves before they unite to destroy anything else.”
“So it might be worth our while to do it now? A pre-emptive strike.”
“You know that’s against regulations.”
“I know, but still, sometimes I wonder. If we could stop them killing themselves they might get passed whatever it is that’s causing them to act like this.”
“That’d take a long time and it would be wrong of us to interfere when they are not any kind of a threat to us. We should just observe for now, besides if we did use any biological outbreak they’d all just blame each other.”
Jacob nodded, she was right after all, it would be wrong of them to interfere. Still, they all knew where this was heading by now. He had done thousands of these missions and only a few were spared. Of course those few became valuable and well liked members of the core nations, but still. It all seemed a little morally iffy to him. He could never get past the conundrum of killing one to save thousands. Sure in the long run it’s better, but does he really have the right to make that call? He took another sip of his coffee. It didn’t matter if it was his right or not, it was his job and he would damn well do it to the best of his abilities.

“How are they doing today?”
“Pretty good actually. They’ve signed some peace treaties.”
“How long do you think they’ll hold?”
“Pretty long so far. They’re fair, no one is getting the short end of the stick here. Unless one betrays the others this might stick for a bit. I think those two countries destroying each other made everyone nervous.”
“Ok, great, hopefully they’ve turned it around.”
Annie nodded, “At least they have a chance now, right?”
“yeah. Yeah they do.”

Jacob ran through the checklist in his head, they had a few more boxes ticked off than he liked, but hey, maybe they’d managed to dig themselves out of the hole they’d created.

“Bad news. There’s a famine.”
“Yeah, everyone else is pretty much ignoring them. We’ve some token food donations and pledges to help, but nothing more than that. Reading their internal reports everyone is pretty much waiting to let the problem take care of itself.”
Jacob shook his head, “No other country is trying to help?”
“One or two are making legitimate efforts, but they’re small, unlikely to make a difference and most likely they’ll be annexed in the next few hours to days.”
“Ok, well, we’ll just see how this play outs.”
Annie looked at her screen, “Another war has broken out. Seems to be only a skirmish but each side is ready to escalate if they…and we have missiles launched all across the planet. This seems to be a wash.”
“damn. I thought for sure they’d make it off the damn rock first.”
Annie shrugged, “they’ll take care of themselves quickly enough. I recommend we watch to be sure, then if necessary we can apply clean up measures.”
“do it. And write up the report for me, I want it by tomorrow.”
“No problem.”
“Oh and don’t forget to scan the local area before we leave, some local wildlife might have popped up while everything was in the bubble.”
“Of course.”

Jacob had really been hoping they’d be able to pull it together. He needed a win. It was demoralising watching planets destroy themselves, or attempt to destroy the ship. Sure each visit only took a few week or months to a year at most, but when each one ended in countless deaths. He shook his head. He didn’t kill anyone this time, they did it to themselves. Once they managed to repopulate they’d check back in. He had no doubt that someone else would get the posting, he’d most likely never see this planet again. They’d leave the time distortion field on when they left, help speed things up a little.


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Life Soda. Short Story.

So it occurs to me I haven’t done one of these in a while. I’m coming off a week break from writing, it was kind of weird as its been almost a year since I’ve taken a break from the 3 short stories a week thing. Still, good to do every now and then to recharge a little. I’m planning on doing it again in a few weeks, (The stories here won’t stop, don’t worry!) with the aim of getting a lot of writing done during a quiet period. I’ll pretty much be away from distractions and the like, so my plan is to try and blast through a few ideas I have and see where they take me. I’m really looking forward to it too because it’s been a while since I’ve exclusively focused on novels rather than doing both or doing it in an episodic format.

Also, I finally made Hurricanes. I’ve been wanting to make them for a while, but passion fruit juice doesn’t seem to be available to buy in my country and grenadine is ridiculously hard to find for some reason. I ended up making passion fruit juice myself and found grenadine in the end luckily! They were nice, though a little too alcohol-y for my taste. I think that was down to the rum I used (which was what I had on hand, Bacardi and Captain Morgans), there was an almost chemical taste to it, rather than just a strong alcohol burn. I think if I was to make it again, I’d up the juices a little and take out a bit of the booze to tone down the taste a little. Also, passion fruit juice is delicious! I highly recommend you try it or make it fresh. It’s pretty damn easy to do!


The meeting was running way, way over.


Bob started bouncing his legs up and down, it wouldn’t be too much longer now. He watched as Shelly stood from the table and poured herself a fresh cup of coffee, she gave him a little smirk and sat back down. She knew he was jonesing for a can. Of course she did. He took a sip of water, hoping it would help relieve some of the dryness in his throat, but it did nothing. He could already feel the headache beginning, the low, dull ache forming at the back of his eyes. They were still talking, why were they still talking? Everyone had gotten the entire point after what? Fifteen minutes, yet here they all were almost an hour and a half later. At this point it was less a meeting about the project and more just being talked at. Darren was explaining something, Bob missed the question, and most of the explanation, but he already knew it was Cindy that asked it. It was her kind of question, the stupid kind that could be solved with a quick Google or even just reading through the goddamned notes in front of her. Bob took a deep breath and released it slowly, then he forced his legs to stop. Mostly because Shelly was smirking at him again. She took another sip of her coffee. He should have brought a can of it with him, he was an idiot. He had the can in his hand and ready to bring with when he had second thoughts, surely a can of soft drink was a little inappropriate for a meeting, when everyone was drinking tea or coffee out of mugs. In all his time here he had yet to see one person drinking a soft drink in a meeting. He should have just brought it, to hell with what everyone thought. Hell he could even pour it into one of the water glasses, fancy it up a little bit. Bobs attention snapped back to Darren, he was saying something, obviously it wasn’t too important, the important part was that he was starting to shuffle his papers together. C’mon, C’mon, hurry it up already.
“I’ll see you all here again next week to talk about how far we’ve gotten. Everyone know what they’re doing?”
Bob nodded vigorously, “Great, if anyone needs me you know where I’ll be.” People started gathering there things too, Bob swept his pile of papers off the desk and rushed out.

At his own desk he dumped the paper down and reached into his bag, already he could taste the sweetness on his tongue. His bag was empty. What? He had put it right there this morning! Bob grabbed his bag and started dumping the contents onto his desk, it was in here somewhere, he knew it was. The bag was empty, pens, pieces of paper, tissue and loose gum were scattered across his desk, but no can. Shit.

The break room.

Of course, he had put the damn thing into the fridge, what the hell had he been thinking? He stood from his desk, leaving the mess behind and quickly walked to the break room, trying not to run. His mouth was dry, so very, very dry. He swallowed almost compulsively as he went. The headache was getting worse, each step setting off a heavy thud inside his head.

The break room was empty when he arrived, Bob pulled open the fridge and there it was, like manna from heaven, he grabbed the bright yellow can, pulled the tab, he felt a little tension leave him at the hiss of escaping air. He brought the can to his lips, eager to just start gulping it down, but he held off. He took a sip and swirled it around his mouth, feeling the tang as his mouth tingled pleasantly, already he could feel the headache starting to recede. He took a gulp, let out a belch, then sighed and shivered slightly. He closed over the fridge and made his way back to his desk, cold can clutched tightly in one hand.

He had started drinking Life Soda about a month before, when someone was handing out free samples on his way to work. It was strange, he couldn’t quite describe the flavour, a mix of citrus tang and sweetness along with hints of other fruits, but without being definable. He had read over the ingredients but they left him equally puzzled, with Flavourings being the only thing listed. The can itself proclaimed its flavour as “The Taste of Life!” Still, it was tasty and it wasn’t ridiculously high in sugar or caffeine like other soft drinks. One his way home that evening he stopped into a few stores until he found one that stocked it and bought a six pack. His limit of one can a day was quickly upped to three. One in the morning on his way to work to perk him up slightly, one at lunch to get him through the rest of the day and finally one when he got home, to relax in front of the TV with. He was aware that it probably wasn’t the healthiest habit, but it was tasty, not too high in calories and it was better than drinking a beer or three every day. He had told a few other people in the office about it and it seemed like it was starting to catch on, he had seen one or two people with a can stashed in their bag, if he was lucky they’d start stocking it in the vending machine, would be good to have a back up like that. They were allowed leave for lunch if they wanted to, but no one ever did so he knew it would look bad if he went out to the shops to pick up a can or two.

Bob knew the headaches weren’t a good thing, but they weren’t necessarily a bad thing either, it was just because he had gotten used to the caffeine, small amounts though they were. Hell, if he wanted anarchy he could just switch the coffee to decaf and see how everyone dealt with the cravings. He took another sip from his drink and felt a wave of calm sweep over him. What did it matter? He had his drink, he was working well on the project, everything up to date. What did it matter what the others did or did not drink? He was happy and so were they, what ever the choices. He took another sip and smiled. Before he knew it the can was empty, he looked at it for a moment, he did want another one, but he said he’d limit himself to only three a day, but one more now and then wouldn’t hurt, would it? He nodded to himself, sure, no harm at all. He’d have an extra one when he got home today, a small treat for the stress of earlier on, just a little pick me up to brighten his day a little. That was all. He picked up the can and gave it a shake, making sure there was nothing but dregs left, sighing he threw the can into the bin and got back to work. As he did so he glanced at the clock, only a few more hours and he’d be at home, with a nice cold can of Life.

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Dimming the Light. Short Story.

“How is she doing?”
“Still the same.” He stood over her, looking down at her body. Her eyes were open but she didn’t look at him or anyone else, her lips moved constantly, as though she was muttering to herself but no sound came out. Wires snaked from her body to the various machines that were keeping her alive.
“Well, she’s doing better than the previous test subjects.”
“Yes, she’s surpassed them all. The longest one we had was a week, she’s been stable for almost a month now.”
“Good. When do you think she’ll be adjusted?”
“We don’t know. This has never been done before, we don’t even know if she will adjust. We have people in with her every day looking for a response, we know she’s in there, her scans are lighting up, but she just isn’t responding.”

He nodded, “Well, we’ll continue the tests on other subjects, see if we can start perfecting it in the meantime. Call me if there are any changes at all.”
“Will do.”
The man left the room, the doctor looked down at her and shook his head. “Such a waste of a life. I don’t know if you can hear me or not, if you can, you should really try start speaking soon. I don’t know how long they’ll keep you like this, whatever they told you before was a lie and-” He picked up her chart and made a quick note, “just double checking she’s getting everything she needs.”
The nurse nodded and started fussing around the body. The doctor put the chart back on the bed and left the room.

The nurse hummed to herself as she worked and after a few moments her job was done. She left the room, leaving the woman alone.

It was too much, all of it was too much, she couldn’t move, could barely breath. Everything was happening and nothing was happening, what was real and what wasn’t? She couldn’t tell, was any of this real? Was she even still alive? She watched herself as they unhooked the machines, as her body thrashed and died, as they incinerated her corpse, saw herself standing, walking, talking. Saw herself married with children, old and alone, sitting in a garden, struggling in a wasteland. She saw them all one by one and all at once. She saw the lives of her family, her friends, those around her, all spiralling out every possibility and none of them. The constant barrage stopped, she could breathe, her eyes were open but everything was dark, a voice, somewhere in the darkness, “you can control it. Use it. Save yourself.” The blessed dark was gone and everything came crashing back. She could feel the pressure of it all on her, she couldn’t breathe again.

A nurse rushed into the room as machined beeped and whined, She saw it happen and nothing happen but the pressure eased a little bit, one of the lights winking out of existence forever. The room came in to focus, everything was blurry, but she could see and she could move. The nurse was on the floor, a pool of blood steadily spreading around her. She looked down at her hand and saw the needle, grasped tightly, blood splattered her hospital gown. Things should start happening soon. She tried to think, no one would know for five minutes. She stood from her bed and started walking. Her legs felt slow, weak, but they were working. She moved thought the hallway calmly, she would either escape or be caught, there were only two eventual outcomes. It was soothing. As she made her way through the halls she slipped in and out of offices, after each trip she felt stronger, she was able to focus just a little more as another light winked out from existence. As each light was extinguished another rose to take its place, but the new light was smaller, dimmer, easier to push away and ignore. Every second that passed new lights were igniting, but they too were easy to ignore, they were meaningless noise in a sea of static. She had at least a minute before the alarm would be raised. Either an intern sent on a coffee run, or Janice on the 3rd floor would need to use the bathroom and come down to use the ones on this floor as she thought they were nicer. She hoped it was the intern, his light was quite bright, a shining thread that weaved its way through others. He would be important one day, not as important as she was, but important nonetheless. She smiled, the intern it was.

She made her way to the elevators quickly, it would be here that he would notice the smell of blood, that he would move down the hallway and see the body. He wouldn’t get that chance. As he rounded the corner she launched herself at him, the scalpel quickly finding his throat. She shuddered in delight as his light vanished. Others filled in the massive void but none were so bright. The elevator doors opened behind her and she stepped in, the elevator would bring her to the first floor, but the alarms would be sounding by then. A part of her knew that had she done any of this before she would have been horrified, unable to continue but now it was a matter of life and death. She couldn’t function, let alone live, with all that constant noise. She needed to do something to make it stop, to thin out the herd. There were far to many people, too many futures to deal with. The doors opened a second after the alarms started. There were people behind the reception desk, security had already sprinted towards the stairs. She stumbled out of the lift, one of the receptionists ran over to help her, “What’s going on down there?” She shook her head and let out a sob, the receptionist helped her outside, muttering meaningless platitiudes as they went, once outside she pushed the woman away and started running, a slow, shambling run. She was outside, they wouldn’t get her, not now. She would be able to avoid them easily. Already the paths were starting to limit themselves, the billions of possibilities wittled down to a mere few million. She smiled, soon she there would only be one.

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