Parasite. Short Story.

Shelly’s stomach clenched as she heaved again, her stomach was sore and her throat burned, she gasped for breath, then threw up again. By now there was nothing but a thin, mucousy gruel, as it was there wasn’t much to throw up when she started, but her stomach kept clenching, there was something in there it was trying to get rid of. She hadn’t eaten anything off in the last few days, nothing that could have given her food poisoning, no one she knew had a vomiting bug and it wasn’t like any other time she’d had one. Tears were running down her face and thin strands of mucous dripped from her nose. She grabbed a tissue and wiped off her face, trying to slow her breathing as she did so. It seemed to be over, it had finally stopped. She felt weak and vaguely dizzy, she knew she needed fluids, but she didn’t know if she’d be able to keep them down. Her stomach clenched, this time something was coming up. When it finally stopped she looked in the toilet and saw a long, wriggling mass of white. It looked like a giant worm. She heaved again at the sigh of it. She flushed the toilet, horrified and wanting it away. The room started to spin, before she could do anything, Shelly passed out onto the cold tile floor.

When she woke again she didn’t know how much time had passed. She was confused and shaky. Slowly she sat up again. She had been sick, there had been something in the toilet. She shuddered and carefully looked inside the bowl. There was no sign of whatever had been inside her. Her throat was raw, but she felt much better. She stood and turned on the tap and took a drink of the cold water. Once she had drank enough she turned it off and waited. The urge to throw up didn’t come again. Shakily she let out a breath. She’d go to the doctor first thing in the morning, she definitely needed antiparasitics, that thing probably laid eggs. She felt like she had seen it before somewhere, maybe on TV. She turned and froze. It had attacked her, yesterday evening when she had been with Todd.

He had been in the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner when she had heard something fall. She went to check on him and that’s when she saw it. A mass of white, writhing tentacles wrapping itself around Todd, trying to get into his mouth. She had tried to help, but she didn’t see the other one that was sitting in the sink. Before she could help him it launched itself at her. Cold, slimy tendrils wrapping around her arms, forcing its way into her mouth. Before she had thrown up she didn’t remember any of it. All she could remember was having dinner, watching TV and going to bed because they both felt tired. She had no recollection of those things attacking them. What ever it was, there was one of them inside Todd still, she needed to warn him, help him.

She was reaching for her phone when she stopped. If it could make her forget about getting infected, what else could it do? They didn’t act any differently towards one another once they were infected, there was no talk of world domination, or plans to infect others. Life had continued on as normal. But what would happen if she confronted Todd? Would it know? Would it react? It was able to erase memories, god only knew what else it could do. No. She was being silly. It was just a parasite, probably released some kind of chemical that screwed with memory.

Todd picked up on the third ring.
“Hey, how’s things?”
“Uh, Hey, I’m not that great. I was just really sick.”
“Oh, that sucks, do you need anything? I know we were supposed to go out tomorrow, but if you’re not up to it we could watch some movies?”
“No, I’m feeling better now. But uh, I threw up something.”
“What kind of something? Are you ok? Do you need a lift to the hospital?”
“No,” Shelly took a deep breath, “I don’t know how to explain this properly, but it was like a parasite or something, but after I threw up I remembered the other night, when I was over, we were attacked by them in the kitchen.”
“These white things, they attacked us.”
“Are you sure you’re ok? Are you running a fever? I’ll be over in a few minutes, just stay on the phone with me, ok?”
“Look, I know how it sounds, I didn’t remember it at all until that thing was out of me.”
“Ok, well, I’m on my way, maybe if I see it it’ll jog my memory?”
“No, I flushed it.”
“Are you lying down? If you’re sick you should be lying down.”
“No, look, just listen ok? I didn’t remember being attacked. I think it released something to make us forget. I think you need to go to the doctor too.”
“And tell them what? I may have been attacked by some weird creature but I’ve no memory of it? Look, I’m going to bring you to the hospital once I get there ok? I think you might be really sick. Once we get there you can tell the doctors and if they think it’s necessary I’ll take what ever tests they say, ok?”
Shelly couldn’t tell the doctors, they’d think she was insane.
“I’m feeling pretty tired. I think I’m going to have a nap. How long before you get here?”
“Like twenty minutes or so?”
“I’ll be in bed, let yourself in when you get here.”
“Ok, I might pick up a few things in the pharmacy, do you want anything?”
“No, I’m ok. I’ll see you in a bit.”
“See you soon, love you.”
“I love you too.”

When she hung up she went straight to her medicine cabinet. She had some antiparasitics from a while ago, if she mixed them into a drink it might be enough to take care of whatever was inside him. She read over the instructions and took out the tablets, adding one more just to be sure. She filled a mug with some tea and waited for it to cool, glancing at the clock as she waited. Too hot and the tea might make the medication useless, too cold and he wouldn’t drink it. She grabbed out another mug and made a cup for herself.

When she heard the key in the lock she threw the powder into the tea, everything else was cleared away. She stirred it in, trying to make sure all the powder was gone.
Todd rushed into the kitchen, “You should be in bed, what are you doing up?”
She smiled at him, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have worried you. I was running I fever, but I think it’s gone. I feel fine now, I think it was just some fever dreams.
“Ok, well I brought over some stuff to break the fever, you should still take some anyway.”
“Thanks, there’s some tea there for you, I figured it’d be the least I could do for dragging you over here.”
“Thanks.” He picked up the cup and sipped, Shelly took a drink from her own mug.
“C’mon, sit down at least. Did you throw up, or was that part of the dream as well?”
“No, I think I threw up. That part was not fun. My stomach has settled though. I’ve been sipping water and tea and I’ve been keeping it down so far.
“That’s a good sign,” he took another drink, “we’ll keep an eye on the fever, if it comes back or stays too high I’m bringing you to the doctor.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“No, I don’t want to risk it, safer to get you checked out, least now you can keep down-” Todd dropped the mug and grabbed his stomach, before she could say anything he ran to the bathroom. From the kitchen she could hear him heaving. She put down her mug and followed after.
“Do you need anything?”
“What ever it was you must have caught it too, here’s a glass of water, to help rinse.”
He heaved again.

Shelly was worried that maybe it had all been a fever dream after all when it happened, he was throwing up nothing but foamy phlegm, then it landed in the toilet with a loud splash, a wriggling mass of white.

“Oh god, what the fuck is that?” Todd pushed himself back from the toilet, he made it a few feet then passed out.
Shelly moved over and looked into the bowl, there it was. She reached out to flush, then stopped herself. What ever it was it seemed to be dying and they needed proof. She closed over the lid and pulled Todd away, closing the bathroom door behind her.

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Fortress. Short Story.

Helen pulled back the curtain and peered out onto the street. There was no one out there. At least, no one that she could see. She let the curtain fall back into place and opened her fridge. She would need to stock up on more food soon, but for now she was fine. Helen jumped as something crashed outside. There was yelling, though she couldn’t make out what they were screaming about. She moved back towards the window, moving slowly. Once there she peeked out again. Two men were walking down the street, they seemed to be yelling at each other. A woman was walking a few feet ahead of them, head down and weaving as she walked. Drunks. The lot of them. There was another smash, this time she saw it, the beer bottle glittering in the streetlight as it arced upwards. The woman stopped walking, turned around and Helen got a good look at her. She wasn’t less of a woman and more of a girl, looked all of about sixteen. The girl yelled something at them, then stormed off. One of the men started after her, but the other stopped him. The girl disappeared from view. The men stood talking for a few minutes before setting off in her direction. Helen wondered if she should call the police. No. Let them sort it out themselves. She didn’t want to get involved. It would be such a hassle if she did, they’d want a statement and she didn’t really see anything after all, all she knew was they were drunk. The girl could be of age for all she knew. She let the curtain fall back into place. Besides, she didn’t seem scared or anything, she had plenty of time to run away if that was the case. Yes. It was better to just leave them off.

Helen uncovered the TV and sat down. It was time for the news, and it was important to keep up with those things. Even if they were lies, it helped her sift out the truth. She watched as images flashed across the screen, scenes of violence and war. It was all terrible, but she knew that wasn’t the real danger. They were hiding something and she knew it, why else would they focus on death and murder so much? Obviously because there was something out there that was much, much worse. She didn’t like how the newscasters made eye contact with her through out the broadcast. They knew she was watching and they kept giving her subtle smirks. No one else would notice, but why would they? They were meant for her.

Once the news was finished she unplugged her TV and threw the blanket over it. It wasn’t one of those smart TVs, it was just a plain old TV she had for years, but she knew they were watching her. It could receive picture and sound, so it stood to reason it could send it back just as easily. She didn’t mind so much, she didn’t really talk so there was nothing to overhear, so she just covered it all with the blanket so they couldn’t see either. After all, she was a woman and she needed to keep her modesty. Not that she strutted around her apartment nude, mind you. It just seemed a prudent precaution.

She took a book from her bookshelf and started to read. Soon it would be time for her to note down the things she had seen, but for now she had free time. She used to have a computer, but she got rid of it when she realised how easy it was for them to spy on everything she was doing. Of course it all went into the mass void where everyone else was too, but why risk it? They had no reason to pay attention to her, but she knew how these things went. She was a woman who lived alone and had very little contact with people. She could disappear very easily and no one would notice and if they did, well, they wouldn’t care. Her family were dead or avoiding her. They wouldn’t notice. She didn’t have friends. They would come for her, use her in their experiments, conduct their testing then throw away her corpse. She knew there were many people out there, they had a great selection, but it just seemed prudent to remove herself from the pool of candidates as much as possible.

When Helen finished her reading she took out her current journal and started to write in it, short hand and brief. She never looked over past journals, but it seemed like a good idea to keep a record of things. Perhaps if they did come for her they’d realise how much of an asset she could be. After all, she was perceptive and she had figured out who their agents were, how they monitored people. Someone like her could be of use. If they came for her she would still have a chance, however small, to convince them of that and the journals were just written proof. She didn’t particularly want to work for them, but if the choices were that or death, she knew which one she’d choose.

Once she was done filling in her journal she checked the food supplies again. She had enough stocked for three months if anything happened. There was no harm in making sure she wouldn’t be left without food. She made sure everything was still sealed and made sure the perishables were in date. After that Helen started making herself dinner. It was an easy affair, pasta with a meat sauce. After Dinner she carefully packaged up the leftovers and placed them in the fridge, they would do her for dinner for the next few nights.

With everything done she double checked all her windows and doors to make sure they were locked. At each window she pulled back the curtain, checked the lock and peered outside at the street below, making sure that everything was ok. With that done she sat down again with her book and started to read. She would have an hour of reading, then an hour of observing the streets outside before bed. She smiled to herself, today had been a good day.

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Aftermath. Short Story.

“Well shit.”
He looked down at her then pulled his phone from his pocket.
“Hi, I’ve got another one. Yeah. Same place.”
He hung up and put his phone away. They’d be here shortly. That was good at least. Matt carefully reached out and moved a strand of hair off her face, he didn’t know how it happened, she had been alive and then she wasn’t. He didn’t remember that part, he never did, but the blood and the dead body didn’t lie. At least it wasn’t too messy this time. There was some blood on her face from a split lip, a cut on her cheek, most likely caused by his ring, and a large hole in the side of her head. He knew how that one happened, he could see the gore that coated the bedpost, strands of her blood stained hair were still stuck to it. He looked down at his hands, there were some scratches on his knuckles, he must have punched her. There on the ring, blood and bits of what he assumed were skin. He shook his head and sat down at the small vanity. Why did this keep happening to him? Everything was fine, dinner had gone wonderfully, she had invited herself back to his place, and then they’d made their way to the bedroom, shedding jackets and shoes between heated kisses. He remembered pushing the bedroom door open, stepping inside and the lightweight feeling of falling as they collapsed onto the bed, still kissing, then there was only darkness. He could still taste her on his tongue, spicy almost, with an edge of sweet. His lips tasted bitter, like blood. He hoped he wouldn’t need a new mattress, though he suspected he would need a new bed frame at the very least. They were good, but he wasn’t sure if they were that good. It was better to be safer and just get rid of it. Someone banged on the front door. Matt stood and left the bedroom.

“Where is she this time?”
“The bedroom. On the bed.”
“Ok. You go into the kitchen. I’ll send someone in to clean you up.”

Matt sat at the kitchen table, solid mahogany, spot lights made the surface gleam. He wondered if the woman who sat across from his was frightened. If she was she didn’t show it. She dabbed as his knuckles carefully, the harsh tang of astringent in the air. When that was done she took out a piece of paper and laid it across the table, then she scraped underneath his fingernails. Afterwards she had him soak his fingers in some kind of solution. He didn’t know what it was, but it stung. Afterwards she made him strip in the kitchen, he showed no signs of embarrassment, nor did she. She took his clothes and put them into a bag. “Will you need these back?”
“No, there’s nothing of importance in there.”
“Are you happy that they be destroyed?”
“Yeah, sure.”
She stood over him as he washed his hands twice, then told him to go have a shower.

He stood under the hot water, letting it cascade over him, trying to piece the night together. What had been the trigger? What had set him off? Matt turned off the shower and after a moment, stepped out and wrapped himself in a towel. By the time he was dry and dressed in loose fitting pyjamas they were finishing up. There was no signs that anything had happened.
“There will be no trace that she was ever here. After dinner you dropped her home and after waiting for her to get inside you drove home. We’ve sent her a text saying you had a nice time and that you’d like to do it again sometime. Someone will find her body. There will be no traces of you on her. You kissed and nothing more.” Matt nodded and he left.

Matt sat on his bed, staring at the bedpost. Wondering just how it happened. Had she been expecting it? Was she frightened? Did she tremble in his grip as he smashed her head against the bedpost? He would probably never know. He shook his head, at least this one had been quick, some of the others had gone through much worse. Usually they weren’t women he knew, they were ladies of the evening, or women he met while out. Ones that couldn’t be traced to him. This was the first time he had screwed up so badly. She was last seen with him, they had been at a restaurant together, cameras would show them arriving and leaving together. He knew the company were good, but he hoped that they were good enough. He lay back on the bed, half expecting it to be still warm from her body, but it was icy. He slid under the covers and positioned himself over where she had been lying. He could feel her, he didn’t know what it was, a soul, essence, something. There was something of her still here, in his bed. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, and he caught it, so faint, just a whiff over the tang over cleaning fluids, a hint of flowers and grass.

As he lay there he wondered what would be delivered to his home in the morning. They always sent furniture, well crafted but extremely overpriced. It always matched his décor, they had yet to send him something he didn’t like. He understood the need though, an excuse for the large payment to them. Over the years they had practically decorated his house. Anyone investigating the purchases would find a legitimate business that sold furniture at a high mark up. He knew that what ever it was, it would suit her. It would be a perfect match, they always did manage to do that somehow. The furniture always reminded him of the woman. Smiling, he drifted off, in the morning he would welcome Cindy back into his home, whether it was as a table, or a set of drawers, or even a new couch, she would stay with him and be a part of his home, forever.

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The Smiles. Short Story.

It was the dog that signalled the start of it, though I didn’t realise it at the time. I was sitting in my kitchen, having a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. The neighbours dog was at it again, crying at their backdoor. Not that it would do him any good, they would be in work for another five or six hours. At first it was heartbreaking, that high pitched, yelping cry, then after the third day it became annoying and after the second week it was just tuned out, it became a part of the background noise of the neighbourhood. The dog was crying, as usual, but then the cry changed, there was a high pitched yelp, then silence. I looked up from my paper briefly wondering if the dog had hurt itself. I had met it a few times, small little dog, very friendly and always eager to say hello. I didn’t particularly enjoy the noise it made, but it didn’t mean I wanted it to be hurt either. I stood from the table and opened the backdoor, listening. There was the scrape of Mrs. Bensons trowel as she gardened away as usual, the hum of a lawn mower in the distance, but no sound of the dog. After a few seconds of silence I decided that my neighbours must have just come home early, after all, if it had been injured it would be whimpering still.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t paying all that much attention, I was suffering with some kind of cold and had called into work. I wasn’t bad enough to call out, but I felt miserable enough that I just couldn’t face the day of bullshit that awaited me. The plan for the day was simple, read the paper, have some coffee, maybe watch TV or play video games. I had a long waiting list of chores to be done too.

I went back inside and finished off my paper and my coffee, then I went upstairs to shower. It was already well past noon and I knew I should at least pretend I planned on doing something productive for the day. I felt refreshed after the shower, they always made me feel better when I was sick. Once I had dressed I decided I should go do some shopping, my cupboards were starting to look a little bare. I threw on a hoodie, grabbed my keys and headed for the door. That was when I first saw him.

He wasn’t immediately threatening. My first thought was “Shit. Now I’m going to have to deal with someone.” I already knew what he wanted, to sell me something ridiculous and pointless. I wasn’t paying much attention, I was running through the list of things I needed so I gave a brief wave, yelled something like I was in a rush and hopped into the car. I didn’t get a particularly good look at him, he was standing to the side of my driveway and I gave him another wave as I reversed out, a little thank you for waiting.

I picked up most of what I needed in the shops, I forgot a few things, as usual, but they weren’t important. When I returned home he was still standing at the edge of my driveway. I chuckled a little, obviously he was desperate to sell whatever it was if he was waiting for me. I dismissed the entire thing of course, he just happened to be walking back and it was a coincidence. I got out of the car and grabbed the bags, I didn’t bother looking at him, after all that would be an invitation for him to start his sales pitch. I gathered the few bags and brought them in, then I unpacked them in the kitchen, I’d already forgotten about him.

After everything was away I made myself a sandwich for lunch, just something quick before I went into the sitting room to watch some TV. I had a few TV shows I wanted to marathon, and there was nothing else I had planned for the day.

I walked into the sitting room and froze. He was standing at my window. Staring in at me. It was the first time I properly looked at the man. He was dressed in a suit, charcoal grey. I don’t know what kind it was exactly, but it looked expensive. He looked to be fairly well off too. I assumed on my way out that he was just in a cheap suit or something. He didn’t react when I went into the sitting room, didn’t flinch, didn’t even turn to look at me. He just stared. Arms down by his sides. The worse part was the manic smile. It was far, far too wide. I stood, frozen too, unable to move or look away. His eyes were dead. There was nothing in them. They weren’t cold or distant, there was obvious that there was nothing going on in that mans head. His grin trembled every so often, like his muscles were trying to relax but something was preventing it. I snapped out of it and stepped back through the doorway and out of the sitting room, wondering what I should do. The man obviously had some kind of mental break, but was he dangerous? I’d have to call the police and let them know. I peered around the doorway and jumped as his eyes immediately snapped to me. What ever fugue state he was in he was starting to snap out of it. I didn’t know much about mental disorders, other than what I saw on the news or TV shows, but I knew that when people were insane they could be stronger than usual and that was my fear. What if he broke through the glass? I mean, I wasn’t exactly weak, but I wasn’t in any condition to fight off a crazed attacker, at the very least I’d be injured, probably badly.

I had the phone in my hand, fingers hovering over the buttons when I knew I needed to look again. It sounds stupid, but I was going to call the police, he knew I was in the house, what difference would it make? I stuck my head around the doorframe again, his eyes didn’t snap immediately to me, but I could see he was alert. And that grin, still smiling away. I didn’t know how he could stand it, my own cheeks hurt just from seeing him.

I dialled 911, I was sure the dispatcher would think I was a bit unstable myself as I started to explain, but she didn’t. She told me to close the door to the sitting room and asked if I’d be able to barricade myself upstairs. The instructions were weird, but I was already freaked out so they seemed reasonable, the thing that frightened me the most was the tone of her voice. She seemed frightened. She was trained to be professional, to stay calm, and she sounded scared for me. I wanted to have another look, make sure he was still there but I restrained myself. If he was crazy, anything could set him off. I didn’t bother closing the door the sitting room, the movement might set him off, besides the door didn’t lock and it was flimsy enough. I went upstairs to the front bedroom. I knew I’d be able to see the front garden from there. It seemed like the best place to be. That way I’d know where he was. If he moved from the window I’d see him and if he broke in, well, I’d definitely know. I was assured that police were coming, they’d be here shortly and everything would be fine. The dispatcher didn’t want me in the front room, she said it wasn’t safe. So I opened the attic stairs. Stairs is a bit of s stretch really, it was just a folding ladder. Still, I could pull it up and be relatively safe in less than ten seconds if he broke in.

I looked out the window and there he was, standing in the middle of my driveway, beside my car. He was staring up at the window, like he knew where I was. I didn’t jump back, I didn’t try to hide, what would be the point? The grin was the worst part, at some point his lip had split open, blood was slowly running down his chin. It was awful. He didn’t point, he didn’t make any gestures, he just stared. I could see now that the dead sheen in his eyes was gone, there was something else there, not the bright awareness there had been earlier, but something else, I couldn’t quite pinpoint it.

The police arrived after half an hour. At some point the dispatcher had told me to go into the attic, then she was cut off. I don’t know if I hung up or if she did. Afterwards I suspected that she did. There were a lot of calls that day. They didn’t try to talk to him, they didn’t try to reasons with him, they didn’t even try to arrest him. They got out of their car and while one scanned the road, the other shot the man. Right in the chest. The smiling man dropped almost immediately. The officer walked up to him, he was still alive and moving, and shot him again.

I was hesitant to answer when they knocked on the door, they had just shot a man in cold blood. They called through the door that it was safe and if I saw anyone in that condition again I was not to approach them, I was to call the emergency services immediately.

I was frightened. Of course I was. I told them that I wouldn’t and that I would. Then they left. They didn’t even take the body. An ambulance must have come sometime during the night to collect him as his body was gone the next morning. It wasn’t on the news, not then. I saw nothing about it at all. I told my neighbours about it, to be on the look out, the ones with the dog. They told me someone had killed him the day before. They came home from work to find him dead in the back garden, his head twisted almost clean off. I tried knocking into Mrs. Bensons, she was getting on in years and I occasionally did her shopping. I wanted to check on her. There was no answer, I didn’t think much of it at the time, why would I? She probably saw what happened and went to visit one of her sons, too frightened to stay in her home. I wouldn’t see her again until a week later, standing in her porch with that awful, awful smile, her chin stained with blood, congealed into the wrinkles of her face, her eyes dark but glittering with life.

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The Flash. Short Story.

So writing stuff down is supposed to be a good way to get your thoughts in order and I really need to get them all in order because what I’m thinking makes no sense but it feels right. It sounds crazy, I know. I’ve no proof but I know I’m right. I know I sound just like every other screaming lunatic out there, but this is different.

Ok so it’s about one hundred and eighty days since the Flash. Wait, I should explain the Flash, shouldn’t I? In case you’re the only person who never heard of it. Or maybe you’re reading this in the future and the Flash is just some weird little footnote in history. Well, I guess if this is the future then I’m wrong. Unless, after everyone who was here first goes on and then everything here just disappears. Poof. Wait. I’m getting distracted. This is starting to feel a little disjointed. I’m going to start again.

The Flash occurred at 12.01 P.M GMT on the 23rd of October, 2016, everyone saw it. A bright, blinding flash that lasted what seemed only a second. It didn’t matter where you were or what you were doing, you saw the flash. If you were asleep, you were jolted awake, if you were in an office with no windows it looked like the lights exploded, but everything was fine. No broken glass, no injuries, no radiation. No one had any explanation for what the Flash was. The only thing we knew was that everyone had seen it. It was big news for the first few days, then it died off until it became nothing but throwbacks or fluff pieces. “Was the Flash caused by ALIENS!?” “12 things you did after the Flash” “Recreate the flash in your very own home for only 129.99, great for parties!”

Most people just moved on with their daily lives, including me, I mean, what else were we supposed to do? All the talk of terrorists and nuclear war, everyone thought that it was an attack, or it signalled one. But nothing ever came of it. At least not yet. The world moved on. No one really noticed, not even I noticed until I looked back at stuff, but the talk of terrorism and war kind of died down afterwards. I can’t say it for sure or not, but I think it was because everyone saw the Flash and knew with complete and utter certainty that they were going to die and there was nothing they could do about it. That kind of feeling is intense, I’m sure you’re all aware. I think it put things in perspective for a lot of people. Of course you have your cults, worshipping the flash as a sign of a deity come to earth, or believing that it was aliens or something. I don’t think it was aliens, I don’t think it was a god. I think it was all out nuclear war. I think that I and everyone else here, is dead.

I know. I know how absolutely batshit crazy that is. Just, finish reading and think about what I’m going to say.

First of all, someone in your life is gone. It’s happened to everyone and ok, it happens all the time, but don’t you think it seems a little odd? Sure, some people moved away and lost touch, but more often than not they were big parts of your life before, not just acquaintances that could drift away. Some have simple gone missing, this is mostly true with minors, those who couldn’t just simply move away, those who needed an explination for why and where they were going. The others, well they always moved away without any real fanfare, a few tearful goodbyes and they were gone, never heard from again. You think of them every so often. Not much, usually just a fleeting idea that you should call them, but you never do. I’m sure that at the holidays you’ll send them a card, maybe even receive them in return, but if you ever actually try to call them they will never answer, if you try to write they don’t reply. It’s not just them either. Then there’s the third kind, the ones that have an all out blow up. They start some petty argument that definitely does not seem petty at the time. Then, before you know it, everything has spiralled out of control and they never want to see or speak to you again.

I have talked to people and it has always been one of those. Dissapearance, fade away, or relationship ruining argument. I think those people, the ones that disappeared and never came back. I think that they were the ones who survived the attacks.

The first time I realised something was wrong was when Christy came back. Christy was my best friends fiancée. She dumped him, spectacularly, I mean the full ten yards. Destroyed his car, burned his clothes, even let his dogs out as she was leaving. Bitch.

I, like everyone else had been shocked. She had always been a nice, level headed girl, not prone to big freak outs. She was always lovely to everyone. Whatever, she was obviously hiding some severe issues. We brought him out, we got him drunk, I remember this bit very well, he even went home with a smoking hot brunette. I know this for a fact. I know because he was staying with me for a while and the next morning I cooked breakfast for them both and I made sure he got the bonus points for the cooking.

Two weeks later everything was back to normal. I woke up one day and Frank wasn’t in my apartment, the spare room was empty. I assumed he slipped out during the night and moved home or something like that. No big deal. Then I met up with him for lunch a day or two later and ask him how he’s doing. He looked at me then, a little weirdly, and told me he was great, why? Now, obviously he didn’t want to talk about it, so I didn’t pry. A few minutes into the conversation he mentions the upcoming marriage. I tried to gently remind him what had happened, but he was incredulous, then angry. I figured maybe he just got back with her and was embarrassed by the whole thing, that he just wanted to forget about it. I couldn’t though, I remember how much of a wreck he was and I didn’t want him to go through that again. I rang all our friends, thinking that we should have some kind of intervention or something, but none of them remembered the break up either. Eventually it was passed off as some weird dream and it was easier just to go along with it. But I didn’t forget. I started paying attention. As time went on people started showing up in lives again the reason that they left was forgotten about entirely or just glossed over and life moved on like nothing had happened. I think we are the originals, those wiped out first in the blasts and the ones who return, they survived initially but died later due to sickness or radiation or starvation.

Now, this all sounds crazy, but the next thing, well, everyone can try it and see for themselves. This will prove it to you. Are you hungry? No, just think about it. Don’t think about the big lunch you just had, don’t think about the snack you were reaching for, just stop and think. Are you actually hungry, at all? I wasn’t. I realised after I had to work through lunch to get some work done, when I finally clocked out I headed for the nearest sandwich place because I knew I was starving. Every time I worked through lunch I went to this place and I always went straight there without deviation, I needed something, anything to fill the gnawing hole in my stomach. I was walking there when I stopped at the lights. While there I remembered that I had left some files sitting out on my desk and they were supposed to be put away. I ran back to the office, I didn’t want to get reamed out the next morning. I put everything away, sighed, yawned, then went and got the bus home.

At about nine I realised I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and that I had completely forgotten to get my sandwhich. I knew I should have been hungry, but I just wasn’t. I had a small snack, expecting to wake my stomach up and then find myself needing to eat everything in sight, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t feel any better, I didn’t feel any worse. I just figured I was stressed.

The next morning I was running late for work so I skipped breakfast, I worked through lunch again and found that I wasn’t hungry. At all. Sure, I could eat if I wanted to, but those signals, the ones telling you to stop and refuel just weren’t going off. So I stopped eating. Just to see how long it would last. I didn’t eat for a month. I didn’t lose weight, I didn’t feel sick or pass out. I was fine. I stopped drinking water after week one. No ill effects.

At the end of the month I was getting truly afraid, so I ate some food. It didn’t hurt, my stomach didn’t groan for more, I didn’t throw up. I gave myself a few days of eating to be sure I was fine, then I headed to a buffet. I filled plate after plate and not once did I feel full. I still didn’t feel hungry, but no matter how much food I ate, I was fine. I knew, knew that I should be throwing up from eating too much or just shitting my brains out, I knew there simply wasn’t space in my stomach for the fifteenth plate, but it never happened. I reached twenty five plates before I stopped. Each one filled to the brim with everything on offer.

I don’t know what we’re supposed to do here, just live out our lives? Perhaps this is Heaven or some kind of protective feature of our minds. I think we all died six months ago, I think that flash was from the bombs dropping, from our lives being ripped away from us. I think that each and everyone one of us is dead. I don’t know what it means, I don’t know why, I just know I’m right.

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Clean Break. Short Story.

Charles stopped digging, his hands were sore, in places blisters were starting to form. He wiped the sweat from his brown, covering his forehead in muck. He leaned against the shovel, panting heavily. He didn’t know how long he had been out here, but his back was killing him. He had started during the morning and already it seemed like it was late afternoon. After his breathing was somewhat back to normal he started to dig again. He didn’t want to stop for too long, if he stopped he would start to think and that was the last thing he wanted to do. He wanted to just forget the whole thing and move on with his life. He had done enough thinking earlier, when everything was panicky and white hot, when his stomach was fighting to be let out of his body, when he was sweating and shaking and barely able to breathe. He had come to a decision then and he knew it was the right one. No one would believe what happened. No one would listen if he told them about how she attacked him, how he had pushed her away and she tripped. They’d think he was just some woman beating murderer who deserved everything he got and worse.

Beth had been angry, going off on another jealous rant, telling him that he should have been home faster, demanding to know who the slut was. She wouldn’t listen to him as he tried to explain that the traffic had been bad, that someone had an accident. She just kept shrieking and shrieking. It had happened before, hundreds of times, probably thousands. She’d scream herself out, then he would apologise, maybe buy her something and they’d go out to dinner, or order in and act like everything was fine, because it was fine. Really, it was his fault, after all he should have rang and told her the traffic was bad, that he would be late. He shouldn’t have made her worry like that. But this time was different, this time she didn’t start winding down, there was no sobbing, no crying, only screaming loud and louder as she moved closer, getting right into his face. He didn’t expect it, her hand lashed out so quickly, she hit him in the side of the head with an ashtray. It was cheap and plastic, but it still hurt. He stumbled sideways, stunned. Then she laughed at him, invited the room to look at what a man he was, almost taken out by a woman. She had gone for him again, lunging forward, arm swinging. He reached out to stop her, grabbed her arm and she struggled, shrieking for him to let go, screaming at him to go on and hit her if it made him feel like a man. He had seen her then, all wide eye’d and mouth frothing fury and he felt nothing but disgust. He pushed her away, he needed to get out of the house, he needed to think, he needed time away, anywhere that wasn’t here. She stumbled backwards and tripped over the hoover, she was always leaving it out.

Then the world slowed, he watched her eyes widen in surprise as her body betrayed her, she fell arms pin wheeling, trying to regain her balance, her head smacked the table with a meaty thud and she was on the ground. Eyes closed, chest still. Then everything became a bit of a blur, he checked her pulse, there was nothing, there was blood from the wound, not as much as he would have expected, not enough to kill her. Then he had tentatively probed her scalp, the area around where she had hit gave in with frightening ease, like gently prodding at a bruised peach and he knew. There was no coming back from a wound like that, nothing could be done. He had panicked and he didn’t know what to do, by the time he thought to call 911 it was already too late, they’d want to know why he didn’t call sooner. They’d say he was trying to get rid of evidence. There was no way they’d believe him. So he did the only thing he could think of.

Beth didn’t have too many friends, in fact, she had none at all. The closest thing she had were acquaintances, a steadily rotating group of women, none of whom seemed to stick around very long. He knew no one would miss her and if they did, well, she just ran off, like she had threatened to do every week since they had first started dating. He didn’t know where she went, probably off with some man she was having an affair with. Those who were acquaintances with her knew that she would just drop them without a word. There would be no questions there. He packed up a suitcase with as much as her clothes as would fit, throwing the jewellery in on top. It would look like she ran off, grabbed her clothes and went. Yeah. He’d get rid of the table, say she destroyed some things before she left. Say that she left a note telling him she’d run off with some man and that he had torn it up. People would believe it. They weren’t close to anyone, she had driven everyone away one by one and he didn’t see it until it was too late. He used to have friends, real friends, and family. But she had started too many fights, caused so many rifts that he hadn’t spoken to most of them in years.

Charles stood in the shower, he was too tired and sore to wash properly, instead he let the water just run over him. He stood like that for almost half an hour, his mind was quiet.

He stepped out of the shower and dried himself carefully, then fell into bed. As he fell asleep he decided, in the morning he’d make a few phone calls, arrange a boys night, apologise to his friends, celebrate his new found freedom, after all Beth had left him and he knew that she was never going to come back.

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Clean Up. Short Story.

Stacy bent to examine the body, he were huddled over, long gouges ripped from his arms and legs. “It looks like he did it to himself.”
“Why would anyone do that?”
“I don’t know, maybe some kind of rash or fungus?”
“Maybe he was just crazy.”
“Yeah, there’s always that option too.”

Stacy shivered slightly and ignored the sudden and steady itch on her arm. Sure, scratching an itch was satisfying, but at that point he wouldn’t be able to feel anything but pain. “It looks like he tried to dig something out.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know, I don’t see anything. Maybe it was some kind of infection?”
“Or infestation. Might have been some parasites under his skin, something harmless enough, but throw in some mental disorders and you’ve got all you need to get this mess.”
“Yeah. Maybe. I just don’t get how someone could do that to themselves.”
“Luckily, you’re job isn’t to understand.”
“True. Look, are you sure this is ok? Like completely sure, before I actually touch anything?”
“Yeah, it’s fine. Look, some rich dude owns the island, a couple of hippies were squatting out here, they ended up dying and he just wants to get rid of it all before there’s a scandal and the families sue, ok? Nothing bad happened here, like you can see he did that to himself.”
“I know, but we’re not going to get in trouble, are we?”
“No. Definitely not. No one will ever know.”
Stacy stood and stepped away from the body, it didn’t smell as much as she thought it would.
“Where are the others?”
“There are three of them. I think one is over in the small cabin and the third is in the pool.”
“Oh yuck.”
“Yeah, definitely won’t be swimming in that ever, there isn’t enough bleach in the world to get it clean again.”

Mark peered over Stacy’s shoulder at the body, “I think the one in the pool is the grossest. All bloated and stuff. The one in the cabin is easy enough to look at.”
“So what’s the plan here?”
“Well, we wrap him up in some plastic sheeting, bring them to the shore and dump them in, the currents will take care of the rest. Then we come back, wash everything down and burn everything we used. We’ll be done in a few hours and rolling in cash.”
“Which one do you want to do first?”
“Well, seeing as we’re here might as well get this prick into the ocean.”

Mark went outside, leaving Stacy alone with the body. She looked around the room, anywhere but the corpse. It was a small enough space, definitely not somewhere she’d like to go to die. The door had been locked too, she didn’t want to think about how creepy it would have been to be the one to find the body. It was probably Mark who found him, he was always doing jobs here and there for Anthony Linton, the owner of the island, a man Stacy only knew by reputation.

Mark had called her this morning, telling her he had a job for her, paid well would only take a few hours. He didn’t go into specifics over the phone but when he told her how much there was no way she could say no. He didn’t tell her about the bodies until they were already on the boat and practically at the island.

Together they lifted the man onto plastic sheeting, he wasn’t as heavy as Stacy had expected him to be. After they wrapped him up they carried him to the boat. “You get started on wiping everything in there down, I’m going to bring him out and dump him.”
“I thought we could just shove him in the water.”
“Yeah, but we don’t want him coming back here. Besides, do you want to wade out into the water with him?”

“Ok, I’ll only be like twenty minutes.”

The room felt creepier without the body. Stacy knew it didn’t make sense, but she felt as though someone was watching her. She grabbed out the scrubbing brushes and gloves and got to work, scrubbing at the stains. She would get most of them out, then they’d bleach it. Mark had said that Mr. Linton would be getting a professional cleaning service in soon, as he did every year. They were just here to clean up the bulk of the mess and to make sure any evidence was gotten rid of.

Mark was back a little faster than Stacy had expected, she had thought he would come back after most of the cleaning was done with some lame excuse, but she was only halfway done when he returned. He grabbed a brush and started cleaning.
“Did it go ok?”
“Yeah, fine. He’s the ocean’s problem now.”

They second one was the pool, that was easily the worst. Whoever it was was bloated, a thin layer of something floated on top of the pool water, when they tried to grab out her, or perhaps it was a him, bits flaked off in the water. They finally wrestled them out, Stacy was still unsure of the gender, they were so bloated and swollen. The worst part for Stacy wasn’t the smell of it, it was the squishing gurgles the body made as they carried it, the water that dripped steadily from the bag. There was nothing to do but drain the pool, the professional cleaners were going to be told that some animals had drowned in it and rotted, they would take care of the rest.

That just left the last one. She was so thin and emaciated Stacy wondered how she managed to even get out to the island without getting blown right off the boat. The woman was lying on a sun lounger, a blanket thrown over her. Mark was looking through a box that was on the ground beside her.
“Score. There’s like every kind of drug here, plus some pipes and a big ass bong.”
“Really? You want to use the drugs of the dead people? Did you not see the guy who ripped off his skin? What if there’s something wrong with all of it?”
Mark frowned, “Yeah, good point. This’ll be going overboard with her too.”
She was the easiest to carry, though Stacy was afraid that the woman would just fall apart, crumble and blow away on the breeze. As Mark loaded the woman on the boat, Stacy felt nervous, she didn’t want to be left alone on the island.
“I’ll be back soon, that room didn’t look to bad, just give everything a wipe down with the bleach, I’ll be back to help rinse it all off.”
Stacy stood and watched Mark sail away in the boat. She knew it would be pointless to ask if she could go with. It was getting late and she was tired, the faster she did this the faster she would be home.

Back in the room she started wiping everything down, working quickly. That feeling of being watched was back and worse than ever. At first she kept throwing glances over her shoulder, but now she worked facing the door. She heard Mark whistling and started to relax, a moment later he stepped into view.
“Right, just need to finish up here and we’re done.” He walked in and grabbed a cloth.

The feeling of being watched didn’t leave her until she was on the boat again, even then Stacy didn’t feel safe until she was back on dry land with the money in her hand.

As Stacy walked back to her place she started to feel sick, what had she done? She was just taking it on faith that those people died naturally, why wouldn’t he have just called the police to report that some people had trespassed and died. Sure he was rich and the families might sue, but it wouldn’t have been that big a scandal. That woman had been so thin, she couldn’t have eaten anything substantial in a long, long time. That sort of thing didn’t happen over night. The money in her bag was a heavy, comforting weight. It didn’t matter now, it was done. She just had to put it out of her mind, not think about it. She would be fine, she wouldn’t get caught. She looked out over the water and she wondered, just how many times has he had people like her and Mark clear out bodies? Couldn’t be many, after all, too many people would mean the secret would be spilled. Maybe who ever he normally used couldn’t do it. Maybe it was just a one time thing. Maybe they got rid of whoever did it.

No. That was stupid. They couldn’t do that, they’d be caught. People knew her, they knew Mark, they’d notice if they went missing. As she walked the weight of the money started to grow and it was no longer comforting.

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