Attack. Short Story.

John sat down at the table, he only had a few minutes in which to rest. He had been preparing all week and now most of it was done. His stomach grumbled lightly, John stood and went to the fridge, there he grabbed out a sandwich that Melissa had made for him the day before. Most of the food was quick and easy, no reheating required, not that John minded eating things cold, he was well used to it before Melissa came along and he knew he would have no problem getting used to it again. He shook his head slightly, he needed to stop thinking like that. Melissa wasn’t going to go anywhere, not after she’d stuck with him this long and she knew most, if not all of his family secrets. She had a little difficulty in accepting them all, but she managed. With the sandwich eaten, he filled a glass with water and sipped it slowly. Once that was gone he placed the glass into the sink and went back to work. Time was pushing on and he didn’t want to have to rush the last few things. He checked the time and felt himself a little, he had plenty of time left to get things ready. Thankfully Melissa had agreed to go elsewhere for the night. She had insisted on staying last year, John didn’t think he could deal with that kind of stress again, not until she was better equipped and more knowledgeable on just about everything. Melissa had managed very well, but they agreed that it would be better if she gave this year a miss. John thought that by next year, the year after at the latest, she would be a pro. She was soaking up all the information quickly, startlingly so as John wasn’t the best teacher.

John finished lining the window, then he moved through the room checking all the doors and windows, making sure he had gotten them all. Basics first. They were simple but they worked, if the stronger ones failed at any point these could mean the difference between life and death. He moved through the rooms double checking that everything was done, then he began to move onto the larger protections. They would take a few hours, but the more there were the better.

John didn’t know why the demons hated his family so much, no one really did. All anyone knew is that about two hundred years back one of his grandfathers went out and didn’t return until the next morning. He refused to talk about where he was, and he spent the next year finding out how to protect himself and his family. Every year after that, on the night his grandfather disappeared, the demons would attack the homes of his descendants. Melissa would be safe until they were married. It had been a few years since anyone had been killed, but that just seemed to make the attacks more intense. Many of his relatives never married or had children so as not to curse them. A few had attempted to seek out the demons, to talk to them, bargain with them or try to kill them but none had returned. John didn’t want to try and talk to it, he just wanted to live for another year. He had read all about demons, he and his cousins researching, trying to learn as much as they could, the lesson that John took from his studying was that it was pointless to try. Demons were tricky creatures, they could twist and warp things so easily and so quickly, before you could even begin realise just how much worse you’ve made things. Sometimes the changes were instantaneous, other times it could take years before you realise just how badly you’d screwed yourself. John didn’t want to go down that path. The other two, Jessica and Tommy, they had tried. Jessica was living as a slave, she couldn’t see or speak to him. She had struck a bargain with another demon for protection, in Johns opinion the deal she had made was much, much worse than what he went through. Tommy had tried something similar, getting a bigger demon to kill the one that hates their family. That particular demon hadn’t been in the mood for bargaining. After extracting a promise that it wouldn’t harm him, Tommy released the demon. He died a week later in a car crash. John didn’t know exactly how the demon did it, but John knew it was the blame and technically, the demon didn’t kill him. The car crash did.

John preferred one night of misery a year. It was predictable and strangely comforting in its own way. John knew that this night would be the longest and the worst, no matter what else came his way through out the rest of the year. He also knew that he could take steps to lessen the impact, make it safer for himself and others. It helped him feel closer to his parents, who were long gone, as each ritual was something that they had taught him how to do and even though some of the rituals had changed and become more personal, the basics would always be there underneath it all.

The windows started rattling slightly in their frames, John took a deep breath, it was going to start soon. The sun was setting and the light was fading. There were candles about the house, ready to be lit if he needed it. The power to the house was turned off, a precaution everyone in his family still took on nights like these. He closed his eyes and calmed himself, waiting for the moment. Then it happened, the air changed, something shifted in the world. It was sunset. Outside the winds started to howl carrying with it the screams of the dead and dying. Something slammed against the window, followed by a loud crack. John released the breath he was holding slowly, then he started to get to work. He glanced at the window, a spider web of cracks filled it, he squinted slightly and the cracks started shifting, an illusion as he had suspected. It would be a long night, but he was up to the task.

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Meeting. Short Story.

Francine carefully poured the tea into the cups.
“So, how has everyone’s week been?”
“Tiring.”
“Busy.”
“Productive.”

“Ok, well, who will we start with this week?”
“I vote we start with Karen, she had a decidedly poor week last week, I want to know what kind of changes she made.”
“I agree.”
“You’re just saying that because you had a bad week.”
Josephine shook her head, “No Karen, I’m saying it because we all know you did badly. We’re not angry, just concerned. We’ve all be doing this for a long time, we all know what happens when someone gets burned out, we have your best interests at heart.”
Karen let out a small laugh, “Best interests? None of us care about each other. We tolerate each other, don’t deny it, we all know it.”
“I may not be fond of any of you, but I know you, I respect you and yes, I care about you. If you screw up and are replaced we’ll have to deal with a whole knew element. It will throw us all off and by extension, everything else. It’s better for business to care. Sure, we might try to get the upper hand, but that’s all part of doing business.”
Karen shook her head, “Fine. I’ll go first then.” She took a sip of her tea.
“Well, production is up this week-”

“Of course it was up, it couldn’t have gotten worse if you had tried!”
Karen frowned at Natalie, “Will you please let me finish. You’re the one who wanted me to speak first, so let me speak.”
Natalie dipped her head slightly, Karen sighed and continued, “Production is up, so were the outputs for everything else, they’re slightly higher than their pre-dip levels. We weeded out the troublemakers. A young couple. Nasty business. They were both taken care of as were everyone they had spread their ideology to and they won’t be causing troubles for any of us. Currently we’re looking into where they got those ideas. Someone had to have planted them and I want to make sure we rip up the dissention at its roots rather than pruning it back. Suicides were also down this week.”
“How many is down?”
“There were three. Down from twenty last week and seven the week before.”
“You really want to address it.”
“Why? It’s small numbers.”
“Yes Karen, but they add up fast.”
“The population is more than stable. It’s fine.”
“Anything else to report?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Karen reached out and took a sandwich.
“Are you sure?”
Karen shot a glare at Natalie, “Yes. Yes I’m sure.”
“Ok. If you say so, I guess we’ll be dealing with that next week.”
“Dealing with what?” Karen hated that squeaky, panicked tone that entered Francine’s voice when she was worried.
“Nothing Fran, it really is nothing. There was just a couple of spikes.”
“Spikes?”
“Yeah, it’s ok, I’m dealing with it.”
“You better be.”
“What about you Natalie? You’ve had some irregularities.”
“Yes. I have and I’m brave enough to admit them. I was just waiting for my turn to speak.”
Francine sighed, “Well, if you’re done Karen, we’ll move onto Natalie then. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” They spoke in unison, years of practise.

While Natalie droned on Karen looked about the room, curious as to how Francine had changed it since they last visited a month ago. They rotated where they held the tea. Next week was her turn. She wasn’t looking forward to that. It always made her so worried, she knew they were judging her décor just as much as she judged theirs. Besides that, she didn’t like having any of them, Natalie in particular, in her home. It just didn’t seem right, even though it was how they always did it. The room was still decorated in reds, a deep red carpet, light red wallpaper, accents of gold. It gave off an oriental feel, the designs Francine chose usually did. The chairs were extremely comfortable, which was more than she could say about Natalie’s choice of seating. Natalie seemed to prefer sitting on solid, unyielding wooden chairs. Josephine was a mix between the two. Comfortable, but only for a short period of time. Karen always thought it was a clever and subtle was to encourage the meetings to end quickly. In Karen’s opinion though it just made them drag on longer, she would have to spend every ten minutes or so trying to readjust herself to get comfortable. It always made her look like she was squirming from nerves or some such nonsense.

“So are we agreed?”
Karen snapped out of her thoughts and nodded along with the others, she wasn’t too concerned with what she missed, she could just scan through the minutes of the meeting later on.

“My week was good, everything is on the upswing, though I suspect it will dip down again to normal levels soon, that kind of output is only sustainable for so long. I have had no problems with any kind of dissenters. I’m almost positive we managed to root them all out from last years uprising.” Josephine gave an exaggerated shudder, “That was a particularly unpleasant time for us all, but I have taken care of it on my end at the very least, the last of the repayments shall be finished today.”
They all nodded politely. The penalties were steep for not keeping any form of rebellion contained to their own sectors.

Francine smiled before she spoke, “Everything is climbing, slowly but steadily. There are no problems to report.”
Josephine took a sip of her tea, “Good, I’m glad. On a more personal note, how is everyone doing? Last year took a toll on us all, some of us are still feeling the after effects.” She shot a quick glance at Francine. “and I just wanted to check in. I know we’re not exactly friends, but if any of you need anything please feel free to talk to me about it. I’ll see what I can do to help.”
“Please, stop with the whole “I care about you” shtick. We all know you just feel guilty over what happened last year.”
Josephine shot a glare at Karen, “You should know me well enough by now to know that I mean it. I do not feel guilty over what happened last year. It was a failure on all our parts, not just mine.”
Francine cleared her throat slightly, “How is everyone doing for tea? More food?”
“I’m fine thank you”
“Me too.”
“Good.” She glanced down at her watch, “oh, my! Look at how late it’s getting, I’m afraid I have work to do ladies.”
“As do we all.”
“It was lovely seeing you all, and I look forward to next week.”
They all stood in unison and bowed slightly, then they stood and left the room one by one, Francine leaving last and turning out the lights. Workers would escort the others from her home. As they left she felt herself relax, she always felt so tense when she had to host these meetings. Particularly after last year, the first time there had been an attack during a meeting. That had certainly been unpleasant. Her hand reached up unconsciously and her fingers gently rubbed the scar on her temple. No, that had not been pleasant at all. She still had some problems, though she was getting better every day. It was a pity the repairs couldn’t be carried out all at once, but there had been too much damage. Still, she was walking now and she had most of her facilities back. Of course the others were not quite aware of that yet, she might as well let them think she was feeble for a little while longer. Smiling to herself she turned and made her way deeper into the house, she hadn’t been lying, she had so much work to get done, it was never ending.

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Desertion. Short Story.

Coffee. Coffee first, that was the important thing. Janice checked her phone, the emails were already building up. There was no point in reading any of them, not when she was only half awake. Of course today would be the day that her damn coffee machine breaks and all she had in the house were those annoying capsules. Why did she ever buy the damn thing? Sure it was supposed to be easy, but she should have taken Mary’s advice and gotten a French press. Even if that broke she could have done something with the beans. The line was moving, but it was doing so so slowly that it may as well not be moving at all. While she waited she scanned the menu, it had been a long time since she had been in a coffee shop, was this one of those places that used different words for the sizes?

Finally it was her turn. “Good morning, what can I get you?”
“Can I have a large coffee, black.”
“ok, anything else?”
“No, that’s it.”

“Do you want room for milk?”
“Sure.”
Janice paid then moved out of the way, going towards the counter where everyone else was waiting. This part shouldn’t take too long, everyone here looked like they were in a rush, she hoped that meant none of them had gotten anything complicated. When her order was called she moved to the front and grabbed the cup, then moved over to a little station with milk, she added some to her drink and left, pleased that the entire thing had been fairly simple, even if it had been expensive. As she walked she sipped her coffee, it was starting to wake her up a little, maybe she’d be fully functional by the time she arrived at the office.

When she reached the large glass doors she pushed through them and continued to the lifts. The reception desks were empty. Janice glanced at her watch, it was almost 9, they should be manned by now, and it was far too early for a cigarette break. Even if one of them had gone off someone should have stayed behind. It wasn’t like all three of them would be out sick. They’d have someone covering if that was the case. She shook her head, sloppy, they were reasonable receptionists, not amazing but not terrible, still she’d have to have a talk with Tony, let him know that’s unacceptable. What if a client walked in right now? They could be left standing around for god knows how long. She took another drink of her coffee and stepped into the elevator, pressing the button to her floor. The doors closed and she took a deep breath. At least something was going right. She loved that small golden window in the office where there were no people scurrying in and out of the lifts, clogging everything up. As the lift ascended she ran through a mental checklist of the things she had to do, then started sorting them out into groups of importance. The elevator stopped on her floor and the doors opened, Janice stepped out, then stopped. The office was silent. There was no sound of phones ringing, people talking, people typing. Nothing. She frowned, was there a meeting she didn’t know about? She looked around the room, there was no sign of anyone at all. She took another stepped forward, then stopped. Was it a Saturday? Though she would never admit it, it wouldn’t be the first time it had happened to her. Though she had always found the door locked on those days. No, that wasn’t right, today was Friday, people should be here. Janice started walking towards her office, she’d check her planner. Maybe she missed something. Were people starting late this morning?

Janice let herself into her office, she set her coffee down on the desk and went to her drawers, she pulled open her planner and flipped to the day. No, nothing listed. Had something happened? She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, had there been some kind of terrorist attack somewhere? She pulled out her phone, she’d check the news, if something happened it’d be all over it. She took out her phone and opened the browser. Page not found. She checked the signal, there was none. Something really bad must have happened if the phones were out, she always had perfect signal in her office. Feeling shaky, Janice sat down on her desk. The Wi-Fi, it wasn’t connected, sometimes that happened. She went into her settings and opened the list of networks. None were found. Her heart started beating faster, what could have taken out the Wi-Fi? Some kind of EMP? But then the lights were still on. She stood and went to her window, she looked down at the streets. She could see people streaming passed the office, no one seemed to be in any kind of rush or panic. If something happened there would be panic, right? Maybe it was something strange with the building? Some kind of maintenance on the floor that no one told her about. Janice took a few deep breaths to compose herself then went back to the lifts. She went to the floor above, then the floor below. Both were empty and there were no signs of workmen. It almost felt as though she was being watched. It was eerie being in the office while it was so empty and sunlight was streaming in.

Back in the lobby there was still no one at the desks. It seemed that the stream of people had died off while she was upstairs, there was no one walking by the office now. Janice had been checking her phone periodically and there was still no signal. She stepped outside and shivered as a cold breeze swept past her. It had been warm earlier. She was staring at her phone screen, waiting for the moment when the signal would return, but there was no change. She looked up, the street was empty. Another gust of wind blew past, tugging at her skirt. She shivered in the cold. She had never seen this street empty before. There was always someone, she thought back to the crowd of people, were they walking faster than usual? Janice hadn’t thought so at the time but now she wasn’t as sure. She took another breath, she was just freaking out, that was all, nothing was wrong. She just needed to stay calm. Keep herself collected. She’d find that there was some reasonable and mundane answer to all this and then she and whoever she told about it would laugh at how silly she was being. Janice started to walk back towards the coffee shop, there would be people there, she remembered seeing a guy that had claimed a corner for himself with his laptop, he looked like he was going to be there for the day. Maybe there was some kind of event on that she had missed somehow.

The streets remained empty as she walked to the coffee shop, her phone still didn’t work and there was no sign of anyone inside the buildings, though Janice didn’t go into any of them. The only place she could think of getting to was the coffee shop.

The coffee shop was empty. There was still a strong smell of coffee in the air, but it had a slightly stale quality to it. There was a laptop sitting on the table that the man had been at, along with a back pack, there were a few purses and bags around the floor, as though the owners had put them down and just forgotten to pick them up again. The place didn’t look like people had ran from the room, nothing was knocked over or too far out of place. She looked back at the counter, the baked goods were still in the display cabinet, but they were mouldy, she couldn’t remember if they were fresh or not this morning. Surely they wouldn’t put out stuff like that, it would have to violate some kind of health and safety codes. These places usually had Wi-Fi, didn’t they? She checked on her phone, again there was nothing. She went over to the laptop, it was still on. The lights in the place were still on too, she spotted the charger, it had been plugged in when the man left. She looked at the internet pages already open, there was nothing to suggest that there had been any breaking news or attack. She tried to refresh a few, but again she was told there was no connection. There was a TV placed on one wall, it had been off this morning and it was still off. She dragged a chair over to it and using the chair as a ladder, reached up and pressed the on button. The TV turned on and Janice let out a sigh of relief, she could flick to the news and find out what was going on. The first channel was nothing but static, same with the second, she flicked through ten before she gave up. Perhaps the TV was just broken, after all it had been off this morning. Janice stepped off the chair and looked around again, not sure what to do. There were no signs of any kind of panic, nothing to tell her which was she should be going. After a moment of indecisiveness, Janice started walking to the right, it was towards her home and if she met someone on the way they might know what happened.

The walk took her a half an hour, but during that time she saw no one. Once she thought she saw someone in the distance, but what ever, or who ever it was was gone when she got there. In her apartment she took the stairs for fear that the electricity could cut out any moment. She changed into some comfortable and warm clothes, then threw on a pair of runners and packed a bag. She brought a few changes of clothes, a few bottles of water and some cans of food. Janice paused in the sitting room and turned on the TV, again there was nothing but static on every channel, she checked every one, then she turned it off. She settled the backpack securely onto her back and left, locking the door behind herself. She felt a little silly doing it, but it helped her feel a little normal.

Outside she checked her phone once more, still nothing, and after a moments hesitation she scribbled an arrow and a brief message onto the wall. If someone else did come along and see it, they might go after her. Once she had finished her message, Janice started to walk, she didn’t know how long it would take her to find someone, but given how utterly deserted the city seemed, she thought it might take a good while.

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Trapped. Short Story.

Tom sat at his desk, there was no point in running, no real point in leaving at all. Already he was feeling sleepy. That was how it was supposed to start, wasn’t it? Others around him were moving towards the door, some were yelling, but most were calm. That wasn’t right at all. Everyone should have been screaming, running, trampling one another. No, they were just kidding themselves. They were already dead. Tom knew better, so why would he stress himself out? Right now the thing to do was sit tight and hope for the best. Maybe one or two would survive. He wasn’t sure if the buildings protocols kicked in properly, everything should have shut down. Lifts, doors, everything. Though of course something somewhere had probably screwed up. He looked at the message again. He wondered when it was written and how long it was before they sent it. Would have been easy, after all the phones were down and who knew how long ago that happened. They probably gave themselves a few minutes to get everything secured before sending it out. The message was brief and to the point.

“There has been a containment breach on level 5, it has entered the air vents. Building security has been activated. Please wait at your desk until a quarantine has been put in place and medical personnel can be dispatched to your area.”

Tom knew there were no medical personnel coming. There wouldn’t be a quarantine. The entire building was the quarantine. No one was getting out until everyone else was dead and the incubation period had passed. Even at that any one who survived would probably die soon after anyway. Contract some disease from the rotting bodies or starve to death. How long would someone be able to survive on vending machine food? That seems like something he should have known.

Tom took a moment to gather his energy and stood, then he stumbled towards the window, he leaned against it and looked down. There were no flashing lights, no emergency services, no news crews. Not yet at least. People were streaming past the building, unaware of what was going on. There was no sign of people leaving the building though, that was reassuring. Sure, he might die but Alice and Gina would be safe. They’d get a good payout from the company and from his life insurance. They’d be all right. They’d make it. It would be nice to talk to them, but the phone system was down. His breath started to fog up the glass until he couldn’t see anything anymore. He moved his head back, his forehead was slightly sore from the pressure and the cold of the window. He had his own phone with him. Tom checked his pockets, patting them down, but it wasn’t there. Did he put it in his bag? He turned back to his desk, people were still crowding around the lifts and the door to the stairs, only one or two were still banging, it was slow though, rhythmic. Others had sat on the ground, tired from their brief panic. A few people seemed to have barricaded themselves into the small kitchen. He wasn’t sure if they were sick or not, maybe they were just optimistic about their chances. Tom went to his desk, a short walk that felt far, far too long. When he got there he sat down into his chair and let out a sigh of relief. He was supposed to be doing something. He wanted to get something from here. Phone. He looked around for his bag, then spotted it under his desk. He dragged it out and opened it, it took him a moment to find his phone, when he did he turned it on. No signal. None at all. He tried to ring anyway, just in case, but it didn’t work. They must be jamming the signal.

Someone started retching, the noise was quickly covered by screams and shouts as people tried to scramble away. The sickly sour stench of vomit quickly started to fill the room. Tom wasn’t feeling sick yet, but he knew he would be soon. Others started throwing up, one or two collapsing. He couldn’t see much of those who had remained sitting, they were blocked out by the partitions between the desks. Maybe they were already dead. If they were it was quite lucky. The chances of survival were slim. Tom would prefer to be one of the ones taken out early rather than suffer for a few hours. Vomiting, cramps, shooting pains, fevers, swelling. It wasn’t pretty.

Tom was sick. He was certain of it now. Sweat was coating his body, he had stripped out of his suit entirely, down to his underwear. He was cycling between too hot and too cold. Around him people were lying on the ground, no one cared that he was almost naked. He didn’t care either. There were more important things to worry about. He had a bottle of water in his bag, now it was almost empty. He had been sipping it steadily. He knew once the water was gone he wouldn’t be able to get more. The kitchen was still blocked off despite attempts to get in, there was a water fountain but it was on the other side of the room and Tom wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it that far. He hadn’t soiled himself yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time. He thought he heard some sirens a short while ago, but they might have just been passing by. It was still early enough, no one would be missed for another few hours. By the stage the story broke and people started turning up most of them would probably be dead. He had tried to write a note, there was no guarantee it would actually make it to anyone, but he had tried. It hadn’t gone very well. Eventually he had just decided on writing that he loved them both on his phone and sent the message to the outbox. It would hold its charge for a while, it wasn’t a fancy smart phone or anything, once it went outside it would send. He thought it would make it that long. He didn’t think they’d give any personal effects back. They’d probably just incinerate everything.

Tom lay his head on his desk, he was too tired, far too tired to keep his head up. It was hard to stay awake, very hard. He wanted to surrender to the darkness but he was afraid that if he did he wouldn’t wake up. No one was really making much noise anymore. Occasionally there was a small moan from somewhere. He took a deep breath then allowed his eyes to close. He thought of Alice and Gina, he wanted his family to be the last thing he thought of. He released his breath and the darkness closed in.

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Strength. Short Story.

Sarah looked at herself in the mirror, everything looked good. She still wasn’t sure about the dress. She had chosen the black to make her look thinner, rather then the red. The red was a nicer colour and gave a hint of passion, but it wasn’t as forgiving as the black, though it did fit slightly better. Sarah checked her phone, there wasn’t time to change out of it now anyway. She quickly glanced over her make up, everything was still in place. She left the hall and entered the kitchen, high heels clacking against the ground as she went. Dinner was well on its way to being done. It wouldn’t be finished before Jacob arrived, but then that was part of the fun of a home cooked meal. They’d have a glass of wine and a chat, plate it together, eat, then afterwards, Sarah smiled to herself, she was particularly looking forward to that part of the evening. She had made sure that dinner wouldn’t be too heavy either. Better to be able to it than be too full to do anything.

Sarah opened the door, “Hi” Jacob stepped forward and kissed her, they kissed for a moment before Sarah stood back and let Jacob in. She closed the door behind him and followed him to the kitchen. He had been here many times in the last few months and he knew his way around.
“Would you like some wine?”
“Yeah, I’d love a glass.”
Sarah stepped around him and grabbed out the corkscrew, “Want me to do it?”
“Nah, I can do it.”
“Are you sure?”
Sarah pulled the cork from the bottle and smiled at him, “Yep”
She poured two glasses and passed him one.
“How was work today?”
“Ugh, horrible. Everyone’s stressed out the last few days.”
They continued to chat as Sarah began slicing a small roll, then placed the slices into the grill. She had already diced the tomatoes and had everything ready, it just needed to go onto the toasted bread. They both liked bruschetta and Sarah always thought of it as the perfect starter as it was so easy to make.

They continued to talk and drink as they ate, and when the main course was ready, they moved back into the kitchen as Sarah put everything onto the plates, then they returned to the dining room. As they ate they talked about a seemingly endless array of topics. That was what she liked about Jacob, he could talk about almost anything and make it seem interesting to her. When they had finished their meal, Sarah returned to the kitchen.

She placed the desserts onto the table carefully, “I made these earlier, this is my second attempt, they were finicky.”
“I’m sure it will be delicious.”
Jacob took a bite, “This is really, really good.”
“Thanks, usually it isn’t that hard but I haven’t made it in a while.”
“Well, you’ll have to teach me how to make it some time. It’s so good.”
Sarah ate hers slowly, watching as Jacob ate his, when he was done he grinned up at her, “Is there any more?”

“No, sorry, I only made the two.”
“well, I guess you’ll just have to make it up to me somehow.”
Sarah smiled, “I’ll think of something I’m sure.”
Jacob reached for his wine, his hand hit against the glass knocking it over, he frowned at his hand, then at the glass.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it.”
Sarah stood from the table, Jacobs arm fell to the table, “I’m sorry, I don’t…” His words were slurred, but understandable, Sarah stopped, “are you ok?”
“I…” Slowly Jacob shook his head, it felt light and vaguely dizzy. He slumped forward, head hitting the table with a thud. Sarah smiled, she had expected him to be out halfway through the dessert, but obviously he was enjoying it too much. She slipped her feet from the high heels to make things easier for herself. She didn’t want to be dragging around his dead weight with heels. She was strong, but why make things more complicated? Sarah took a step towards him, then saw the wine. First things first though. She went into the kitchen and grabbed a towel, after making sure the table and floor were clean and dry, she patted him on the head, “Don’t worry, I’m not mad. I know it wasn’t your fault.” The floors were wood, but Sarah was almost certain the wine wasn’t there long enough to cause any problems.

Sarah lowered Jacob to the floor and grabbed him underneath his arms. It seemed kinder to pull him that way than to allow his head to bang against the stairs on the way down. Sure, she was going to be doing much worse to him, but it seemed somehow impolite. Especially when they had spent so much time together in recent months.

Sarah slid Jacob onto the table, it really had been a genius idea to have a table that slanted like this. She remembered all those times of having to heft who ever it was onto the table. Always leaving her sweaty and tired. The straps were securely tightly, she injected a small amount of anaesthetic in his wrists, to ease the pain a little. She didn’t do this for everyone, just the ones she liked. Then she cut along his wrists. Not too deep, but enough to get the blood flowing. She wanted him woozy and able to actually wake up, but she didn’t want to prolong his suffering. She watched as the blood lazily flowed from his wrists and into the small channels in the table. It would drain it away into the large bottles she had already set up earlier. She would dump the blood somewhere else then burn the containers.

He was coming to slowly, he had already lost a lot of blood, she gently patted a cold wash cloth onto his face, “what…What happened?”
Now came the hard part.
“Thank you for the sacrifice you are making. Thank you for giving your life for mine, for allowing me to take your power into me.”
He still looked confused when she made the cuts on his wrists deeper. He struggled weakly at his bonds, then slowly the struggles stopped. He didn’t give up until the end, he was determined. She admired that about him. Now, it was time to work quickly. It didn’t take her long to remove his heart and give it a rinse. The blood continued to drain slowly, it would start to congeal soon. She wasn’t too worried about that either.

The body was still downstairs as she cooked the heart. It was best to eat it as soon as possible, while it was still fresh. She cooked it quickly, just minute or two in a hot pan, then she let it rest for a moment. As she ate she thought of all the qualities that Jacob had that she had wanted, all those that she was taking into herself. She ate slowly, chewing well. When she was done she sat in the kitchen for a moment, head bowed, thinking about him. She always did this for those who gave themselves to her. When she was done she stood and went downstairs. She was tired, but it would be best to have him gone before morning came and people wondered where he was. She would get him out before then though, she was determined to get the whole place cleaned within the next two hours and be in bed at a reasonable hour.

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Gone. Short Story.

Jane fell backwards, landing on the ground with a painful thud. She barely noticed. She watched with dazed eyes as the house burned, it was going up quickly, much faster than she ever would have expected. She didn’t think anyone was coming, even if they were they wouldn’t make it, not in time to save the house. The roar of the fire drowned out all other noise save for the occasional pops and crashes that emerged from the house. Thick black smoke was rolling into the sky. The wind shifted, blowing the smoke into her face, Jane covered her suddenly streaming eyes as she started to cough. The wind shifted again, sending the smoke away from her. When the coughing stopped her throat felt raw and scratchy. She jumped as there was another loud crack, then the roof gave way, sending ash, dirt and dust exploding from the house. Jane winced and covered her head as the cloud blew over her, bits of splintered wood and hot ash peppering her skin and clothes. She raised her head and looked at the burning rubble. It was gone, it was really, really gone. She giggled once, then started to cough again. The fire was starting to die down a little. She wasn’t sure how long it had been raging for. It had been early morning when it started, wasn’t it? She looked up at the sky, a dull grey, was it already sunset? Could she have been sitting here for that long? She looked down at her watch dully, she had been watching for almost three hours. In the distance she could finally hear the sirens approaching. She stood carefully and stumbled, her legs were numb, after a few seconds pins and needles shot up and down both. Slowly she limped from the driveway and off to one side, there she leaned against a tree and waited. It wouldn’t do to be run over by the very people sent to rescue her.

The sirens were louder than she would have thought, particularly after the fire. They hurt her ears a little. The lights were much brighter too. She squinted, her skin felt tight and a little sore. She reached up gently and touched her face. It felt hot. Had she been burned? She realised how thirsty she was, how dry her lips and throat were. Someone was standing in front of her, dressed in yellow, They were speaking but it took her a moment to understand. She nodded as they asked if she was ok, she was, wasn’t she? She didn’t have any injuries, at least she didn’t think she did. Was there anyone else in the house? No, it had just been her as far as she knew. Someone was helping her, guiding her over to somewhere. They sat her down and two people started fussing over her, she tried to tell them she was fine until one of them gave her a bottle of juice, so Jane contented herself with sipping it from the straw. It tasted good, and it was cold.

They asked her questions, but she wasn’t sure how to answer. The day seemed to be a bit of a blur. She wasn’t sure when the fire started, or how, she only knew that she was able to get out of the house. Her hands had burns on them, it must have happened during her escape. Maybe the doorknobs or something. She didn’t recall having to open any doors, but she didn’t recall actually leaving the house either. The last thing she could really remember properly was brushing her hair and running through a list of things that needed to be done, then she was outside, sitting on the ground as everything in front of her burned. They asked if she had someone to call, and while Jane was sure she did have someone to call, she didn’t know who. She had friends, she knew that, she had some very good friends too, but their names seemed to be just out of reach. It took her almost five minutes to remember Anna’s name and another ten to recall her phone number. Jane didn’t feel to bad about that though, who remembered phone numbers these days? They were all in her phone after all. Her phone that had been sitting on the nightstand. Her phone that had burned with the house and the rest of her belongings. The enormity of what had happened hit her and she spent the next few hours in a daze, even deeper than the one she had been in.

Anna was sitting across from her, both of them were picking at their food, not really eating. Some movie was playing on the TV, Jane knew she had been given a choice, but she couldn’t remember what she had chosen. She took a bite of her food, they were eating Chinese. She liked Chinese. Her hands felt clumsy and sore, they were both wrapped in bandages and her face still felt tight, only now there was pain too, like she had a mild sunburn. When they finished eating, Anna cleared away the plates, forcing Jane to stay seated. She returned with snacks, chocolate, ice cream and soft drink. Jane hadn’t eaten much dinner and she picked at the goodies as well. She didn’t really want any, but Anna had gone to so much trouble it almost felt ungrateful not to eat any of it.

Jane didn’t sleep that night, at least it felt like she didn’t. She spent the night tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, to ignore the dull throb in her hands, the almost gentle by comparison sting of her face. She knew she needed to sleep, that it would be a long, long day tomorrow, but that just made it all worse. Anytime she closed her eyes for longer than a few minutes she could see the flames and the almost impossibly loud roar filled her ears again. What if she hadn’t gotten out? What if she had done something even slightly differently? Jane shuddered and then threw the blanket off herself, she was suddenly far, far too hot.

Morning took forever to come, but when it did it came far too quickly. She dragged herself out of bed and into the bathroom, eyes blurry and puffy, she showered, scrubbing at her skin, trying to remove the faint traces of smoke that still remained in her skin and hair. It felt as though she’d never get that smell to leave her alone. When she was done, Jane stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at herself, her skin on her face looked slightly better, it would heal up in another day or two. She looked herself in the eyes, trying to steel herself for the day to come. Finally, she took a deep breath, looked away and opened the door.

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The Gods Themselves. Short Story.

He sat looking at the small vial, watching as the light bounced off the liquid. When it settled, Jason picked it up and shook it again, then set it down and watched as the colours rippled through it. It was quite pretty, he’d give it that much. The rest of it however, he still wasn’t convinced. There had been plenty of things like this throughout his life and none of them had worked. Perhaps it was wrong of him to want this, but it was his life. Everyone and everything else was unimportant, the only thing that mattered was his happiness and he hadn’t been happy in a long, long time. He paused, trying to remember the last time he had been happy. He couldn’t do it. That just made things worse somehow. He was happy once, he knew it, he had happy memories, but the last time he was happy he hadn’t realised it was the last time. If he had maybe he would have cherished it more, committed it to memory more thoroughly. Instead, it was gone. Carried away by the rushing rivers of time.

He closed his eyes and leaned back into the couch, calling up his favourite memory. One where he had been truly and completely at peace. It had been so long ago and he no longer gained any small amounts of contentment from it, but still, the faint pangs of sadness and regret were nicer than the numbness that usually coated him. Huh. Was happiness a finite resource? Or was this just what happened when you had lived a life like his? He opened his eyes and pulled a journal over to himself and jotted that down. It would make some people think. Even if he was gone, his thoughts would still live on. He placed the journal on the table again and sat back, he closed his eyes and let out a little sigh as he relaxed down.

It had been at the fountains, with Trina. They had been laughing and splashing. They had the entire area to themselves. It was a welcome respite to the crowds of people. Light glittered off the water, casting rainbows all around. The water cascaded and splashed and crashed down into itself, creating a pleasant melody. They were laughing and splashing one another, the water was deliciously cold against their skin after the long, hot day they had had. Trina splashed water at him, and as he turned to splash back she tackled him, driving him under the water, arms wrapping around him. They playfully wrestled for a moment before parting and surfacing, both gasping for breath and giggling. They continued playing for what seemed like days, but was only a few hours. They waded out of the water and collapsed onto some beach chairs, spreading out and allowing the sun to dry their skin. As they lay in the sun they talked about nothing and everything. Someone appeared briefly and dropped off drinks and a platter of food before respectfully leaving again. They talked and ate and drank until the early hours of the morning, when the sun was gone and the air was finally cooling. It had been the last time he had seen Trina alive.

No one was entirely sure what had happened to her, she had disappeared the next day and three weeks later her body was found. The autopsy showed no signs of damage, nothing that would cause her death. It was as if she had just decided to stop. Her body did not rot, her skin still felt soft and supple with a faint warmth to it, the cuts of the autopsy had slowly healed over the course of a few weeks. They had displayed her in the temples for two years before Jason was driven almost mad with grief. Seeing her lying there, day after day, not moving, not speaking, an empty husk. He had burned her and the temple to the ground. During the fire, when the flames were at their peak, they flashed a deep blue, Trina’s favourite colour, then they raged even higher and calmed a second later. Jason found it both terrifying and comforting. He had wondered if she had still been alive, if it was some kind of hibernation, if it was he who had killed her. In the end though he realised that he had just watched as her soul was freed from the confines of her body. That was what was keeping it from rotting. It was her thanking him as she left. That was all. That had been almost four hundred years ago and he had been alone since then. The last of his siblings. Over time the others had gone. He didn’t know where. Perhaps they were living on other parts of the globe, blending in, pretending to be normal, to be human. If so, none of them had tried to reach out. They had all found ways to escape, but he never had. He never could. He was too well known, to beloved by the people. But that vial, the vial of shifting liquid, that could be his escape. He had tried many times in the last two hundred years. Still no one could figure why he lived and others died. He had taken potions and poisons, always in secret, and none worked. Sometimes he would feel sick or tired, but that was all.

Jason wondered what would happen if he ever succeeded, he and his siblings had been worshipped as gods, still were. Theories abounded as to where his siblings went, what happened to them all. He wondered what would happen when someone read through his journals. There were thousands of them, some in conditions that made them illegible, but they were there. They contained his inner thoughts, his fears, his worries, the things he wasn’t supposed to feel, the things he wasn’t supposed to show.

Jason picked up the vial and uncorked it. He gently brought it to his nose and smelled the fumes wafting from the bottle. They smelt bitter, but there was a sweetness to them too. It was pungent, but in a pleasant way. It smelt almost refreshing, like a cold drink, just a bit too sour, on a hot day. He took a deep breath, and before he could reconsider, he downed the contents in one swallow. He placed the vial down carefully and sat back. As he did he shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable, Jason closed his eyes and waited.

They found him two days later. Not breathing, his body still slightly warm. Just as the records had claimed of his sister. There was no apparent reason for his death, it was as though he had just stopped. Carefully they carried him down to the temple and set up a lavish bed and display, allowing the worshippers to come and view the body. They came in droves, standing in lines for weeks just to touch his body, hoping it would bring them luck and blessings.

Jason was could still hear and see, but he was unable to move. His body no longer responding to him. He felt the people as they brushed their hands over his body, praying over him, crying over him. He wanted to recoil from their touch, to brush away their tears, to cover his ears and block out their cries, but he couldn’t. As he lay there he realised that his soul was trapped, it couldn’t escape alone. It needed help as Trina’s had. He thought back to that first night, as they discussed what they would do with the body. They had all agreed that he should be displayed, just as his sister was. They had wanted to display her indefinitely then, keep her for all the people to come and visit. He lay there, day in and out as the never ending stream of people visited, unable to move, to speak. Stuck.

Forever.

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