Serenity Senter. First Time, Every Time. Short Story.

“Hello and welcome to the Serenity Senter, how I may assist you?”
“Hi, My name is Michael Ward, I’ve an appointment for two p.m.”
“To see Dr. Peace?”
Michael grinned, “Yup, that’s the one.”
“Ok, perfect I have you checked in, if you would like to take a seat over there in the waiting room someone will be with you shortly.”

Michael went over and plopped down onto the soft, comfortable seat. It really was a relaxing building, large windows gave plenty of natural light, plants were dotted about the lobby, along with comfortable couches and fountains. The sound of falling water filled the air, along with the scent of orange and lilac. He took a deep breath and released it slowly, he knew the drill already, this would be his twelfth time returning. Not that he could remember ten of the eleven previous times of course. That was the beauty of Serenity Senter, it was the first time, every time.

“Mr. Ward?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Hi, I’m Dr. Peace,” Dr. Peace stuck out her hand and shook his quickly, she had long red hair and tanned skin, she wore a white suit, a red cross adding a splash of colour on her left lapel. Michael noted that she was different from the previous Dr. Peace he had met. He wondered briefly if they had changed every time.
“Now, I see you’ve been with us before, however I am required to go over everything with you again.”
“That’s fine, I only vaguely remember it from the last time anyway.”
“Ok good, please, come this way. The procedure is very simple, you’re going to sit into the machine, then there will be some loud noise, some people report a flash of light, and it will be over. During the procedure you will be injected twice, though at worst you will feel a slight pinch the first time, you will not feel the second. If you feel uncomfortable or frightened at any time during the procedure and you want it to stop, there is a large red button. If you press this button the procedure will stop, though it will take ten seconds for the machine to wind down. This is to ensure there are no side effects. Once the procedure is complete, you will be taken from the room and moved onto your package, I see you’ve chosen the relaxation set. This will consist of a massage, a bath set to your own liking. You will also have some options from a set menu if you want to try some new foods and there will be a preselected selection of Television shows and Movies, placed in the order of your own preference.”

As she had talked, Dr. Peace moved through the white corridors with ease, taking lefts and rights. Though the walls, ceilings and floor were all a bright white, paintings and more potted plants provided a break in the monotony. Finally they arrived at a room with a single door. Dr. Peace opened the door and stepped inside. There was a single, large chair in the centre of the room, to the left of the chair was a glass box, inside which were control panels.
“Please, take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Are you fine with restraints?”
“Yes, I am fine with it.”
Michael sat into the chair, Dr. Peace closed a large, padded ring around each of his ankles, then one band across his chest. “Is that too tight?”
“No, that’s ok.”
“Good. Now, I am leaving your hands free, as I said earlier here is the button. I will also be talking you through the procedure. It can be frightening but remember you are completely safe. Are you ready?”
“Yes. I think so.”
“Good. I shall see you in a few moments then.” Dr. Peace moved a large plastic pod over the top of the chair, sealing him inside. Michael took a few deep breaths, never quite sure what to expect.

“Ok Michael, you will hear a deep humming noise and some vibrations, that is just the chair starting to work.”
Michael gasped as something sharp jabbed into his leg, “That was the first injection and the only pain that you will feel. Now, the noise will get slightly louder, you might see a flash of light, and then it will be over.”
The humming increased in intensity, the chair shook, Michael took another deep breath.
“Ok, and we’re done. That wasn’t too bad, was it?”
“Um, no it wasn’t.”
“I’m Dr. Peace and you are in the Serenity Senter.”
“Yes, of course.”
She helped him out of his chair, “Now, we’ll be taking you to your relaxation suite, first up is a massage.”
“Oh, I’ve always wanted to have a massage.”
“I know.”

She lead him to another room and passed him off to a tall, smiling man. “Hello Michael, I am Ted, I will be giving you your massage. I will leave the room for a moment while you strip down, however much you feel comfortable, there is a towel there on the table for you to use, please make yourself comfortable.”

Michael sighed, he felt so relaxed after his massage. All the kinks and knots in his back were gone, even the ones he didn’t realise he had. Once the massage was over he had been brought to another room and left alone. This room had a large tub in it, filled with gently steaming water. He relaxed into it, after a few minutes he picked up the remote and clicked play on the first thing on the menu, he already knew that it would be good. To his left was a tray of fruits and pastries, along with a glass of water. He picked up a strawberry first and bit into it, savouring the burst of sweetness on his tongue. He knew he had eaten strawberries before, he knew he enjoyed them, but this time truly was the first time experiencing it.

Afterwards, once he was dried and dressed, he felt so relaxed, so at ease. It really had been one of the better days of his life. On his way out he paused at the desk to make another reservation, two months from now. Perhaps next time he would choose something else, after all he didn’t have to decide until a week before the appointment. He stepped outside and took a deep breath of the fresh air, he felt like a new man.

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Beach Fun. Short Story.

“What’s wrong with the car?”
“I’m not sure, it just started slowing, I can’t seem to get it to go any faster.”
Bob turned on his indicator and pulled into the side of the road.
“I’ll call someone, do you want to ring Marcy? See if she’ll be able to give you and the kids a ride home?”
“Yeah, I’ll try to find someone. It’s not too far, if we need to we could always get a taxi.”
“Yeah, I’m going to go take a look, see if the problem is obvious.”

Bob stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him. He glanced around as he walked to the front of the car, it was getting dark, but it seemed to be a nice enough neighbourhood, a few houses and shops. There didn’t seem to be many people around, most of the shops were already closed for the evening. To his left was a beach, the water crashing over the sand. He took a deep breath of the salt air and opened the bonnet. Hopefully what ever the problem was it would be sorted quickly, and cheaply. He looked at the engine, scanning for anything that seemed to be out of place but it looked fine. He sighed, he wouldn’t be able to fix this by himself, not even close.

“Hi, is everything ok?”

Bob jumped, then laughed.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to startle you.”
“That’s ok, I was in my own little world. Our car broke down, don’t really know what’s wrong with it, I was just to about to call a mechanic.”
“Well, I know a few things about cars, want me to have a look at it?”
“That would be really great, thank you.”
“No problem at all, we all have to help each other out. Where were you and your family heading?”
“We’re on our way home, we were visiting some family, they’re about an hour from here. We still have another half an hour to go before home. At least I think. GPS brought us through here, haven’t been before myself.”
“It’s a nice place, quiet though, tourist season hasn’t properly started for us yet. In another week everywhere will be packed. I’m Tom by the way.”
“Bob.”
They shook hands, Tom was tall, taller than Bob had first thought when he had been looking in at the engine, well over six feet, he had broad shoulders and a quick, easy grin, his eyes glinting with good humour.
“Now, I will warn you I don’t know a whole lot about cars, just enough to get me out of a few small jams. There’s a local mechanic, Anthony, he’s good, fast and cheap. If we can’t figure it out I can give him a call, you and your family could grab some food while he looks it over. I’d bet he’d even do it for free.”
“Wow, that would be really great. We’re a bit tight on money at the moment.”
Tom smiled, “aren’t we all these days?”

Madeline rolled down her window, “Honey, I can’t get through to Marcy. Can’t seem to get through to anyone. I’m going to try again in a few minutes though.”
“Ok hun.”
“Well, worst comes to worst, if you need it I could always give you folks a lift home.”
“Oh no, we couldn’t put you out like that.”
“It wouldn’t be any trouble, I didn’t have any plans for the evening. Besides, it’s always nice to help out when you can.”
“Thank you, hopefully though it wont be necessary!”

After ten minutes Tom stood, “I’m sorry, but this has me beat. I’ll make a call to Anthony, your wife and kids should go on and find a place to get some food. We have a few good restaurants around here.”
Bob glanced at his watch, “Yeah, you’re right.” He went over to the window and leaned in, “Looks like we’ll have to get a mechanic in. Do you and the kids want to grab some food while we wait?”
“Yeah, it’ll give more time for Marcy to call me back. She probably didn’t hear her phone.”
Bob stood, as he turned something struck the back of his head. As he collapsed he heard a single scream, then darkness closed in.

He woke slowly, the steady sound of the sea matching the rise and fall of the throbbing in his head. In and out, in and out.
“Hey, Bob, are you finally coming around?”
“Huh?”
Another spike of pain dug into his head as he tried to lift it. He gasped as cold water washed over him, coughing and spluttering he opened his eyes, Tom was standing above him, did he faint and hit his head?
“There you are. I thought you were going to miss the show.”
“Show?”
Something wasn’t right, he wasn’t lying down, he was sitting. He tried to move, but his hands were tied, he tried to stand, so were his legs.
“Yeah, the show.”

Tom gestured to wards the sea, Bob looked, his brain taking a moment to fully process what he was seeing.

Madeline and the kids were sitting in the ocean, water lapping around them, they looked frightened and their mouths were covered. Why were they there?
“See the tide is coming in and I’d hate for you to miss it. They’re tied down, just like you. Can’t go anywhere at all, all they can do is wait. Well, wait and hope you’ll save them.”
“Please, we don’t have much but I’ll give you anything you want.”
“There’s only one thing I want Bob. You’re going to answer some questions for me.”
“Anything, I’ll tell you anything you want to know just please let them go.”
“No, see that would ruin the fun of the game. If you don’t answer right, or if you take too long, well, you’ll just have to say bye bye to your family.”
“Please, let us go, what ever you want to know, I’ll tell you, just let them go.”
“Oh don’t worry. I will, if you’re truthful. First question, do you love your family? Really love them? Would you be willing to die for them.”
“Yes, I do, I love them, please, I’ll do anything.”
Really?”
“Yes.”
Tom bent down and picked up a gun, “Will you really die for them?”
“Yes, I would”
“Would you be willing to be shot, if that meant I would let them go.”
“Yes.”
“Say it.”
“If you’ll let them go then just shoot me, please.”
Tom smiled, then pulled the trigger, Bob flinched as it clicked.
“Oh please, where would the fun be in just shooting you? But then you knew I wouldn’t have done it. I said I had two questions. I want the answer to the second one, so you knew I wouldn’t have killed you. So, onto my second question and this one is a little bit of a doozy, if you love them so much, why did you have the affair?”
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve never had an affair.” Bob struggled at his bonds, trying to break free, feeling for a weakness, but he was shivering and his hands already started to feel thick and slow from the cold.
“Oh please, we’re all friends here. Isn’t that right Maddy? Did you know Bob here was out fucking around? I did. So did Marcy. She was one of his whores. There were a lot of them. Marcy, that slut you never liked from HR. The list goes on. Even your own sister.”
“That a lie! I would never cheat!”
“Wow, and you said you loved them. I’m shocked. Shocked at your behaviour Bob. Why not admit it now? Cleanse your soul, save your family. Tell your children why Daddy wants to screw women that aren’t Mommy. Is she lousy in bed, is that it? Or is it the secrecy? All that sneaking around get your dick hard? Is that it?”
“No, I swear to god, I’ve never been unfaithful.”
“Really? Never even a little crush on someone?”
“No. Never, please just let us go, please just untie my family and let them walk away, they won’t tell anyone, I know they won’t, just let them go.”
“Well, that’s all up to you Bobby. All you have to do is admit it. Say those few little words. I cheated. The truth will set you free.”
“But it isn’t the truth!”
“We both know it is.”
“If…if I say that, even if it isn’t true, will you let them go?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“I cheated.”
“See, I knew you had it in you to tell the truth. Don’t you feel so much better, see how easy it was? But tell me, how can you live with yourself? Knowing you betrayed your wife like that? Betrayed your vows? Hell, betrayed your children.”
“You said you’d let them go, please the water’s getting higher.”
“Wouldn’t it be better for them to drown, to be cleansed by the waters of the sea, then to live in a world knowing that the man they loved, the man they called husband and father had absolutely no regard for them.”
“No, please you said if I said it you’d let them go, I did, I said it, please just untie them.”

Tom smiled, “Well, I did say that, didn’t I? But then I’m like you Bob, I’m a liar. I cannot be trusted to keep my word.”
“No!”
“Yes. See Bob I really want you to understand, it’s your fault that you’re all here today. Your actions and yours alone are hurting your family, they’ve been caught up in all your lies for so long. Tonight they’re going to be set free.”

Bob struggled at his ropes, but they were too tight, too strong, he watched with horror, screaming, begging as the tide came in. When it was over, Tom patted him on the head. “Don’t worry old chap. You’ll be with them soon. We haven’t hit high tide yet. It should just be enough to cover you. If you tried though, really tried, I’m sure you could manage to keep your head up, keep breathing for the most part. The final decision will be up to you. I just have one last question and then this will all be over. Can you really live with yourself? Knowing you killed your family? All you had to do was confess to your sins. What is worth it in the end? Keeping those secrets?” Tom squeezed Bob’s shoulder once, then he turned and walked away.

The cold water lapped at his feet, rising steadily. As it reached his face he felt himself relax, he was already so cold, there was no point, no point in prolonging the inevitable. He looked over to where his family were, he would be with them soon.

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Empty House. Flash Fiction.

He was alone. He should have know, everyone always left him eventually. Natalie didn’t have the balls to say it to his face, instead she wrote him a letter, a goddamned letter, he didn’t even rate a phone call. He tore the letter up then gathered the scraps and threw them into the back garden. The wind caught a few and blew them away, the rest scattered across the grass. He slammed the door and went back to the table. How could she have left him like this? Things were good between them, they always were. Sure they had a few ups and downs, everyone did, but there was nothing that warranted a break up. They had been on the same page about everything, they both wanted two kids, they both wanted marriage, they were even looking at buying a house together. Hell, just the day before Natalie was talking about how much they should budget for new furniture for when they found a house. To go from that to a letter? A letter that didn’t even explain anything, just a long rambling “I’m sorry. I don’t think this is working.” She didn’t even try to give him a reason why. He stood from the kitchen, maybe it wasn’t from her, maybe she was made to write it. He went upstairs, taking them two at a time.

In the bedroom he found her clothes were gone, as was her jewellery and laptop. He sat on their bed, her chargers were all gone, she had taken everything of hers, leaving behind only the big things. How long had she been planning this? She couldn’t have packed in the time it took him to get home from work, she must have taken the day off. Or had she been slowly packing and he was just too thick to notice? He put his head in his hands. They had been so good for one another. He had thought they were going to grow old together, he had been planning on proposing soon, they both knew that, she had even helped pick out the style of rings she liked. He was just waiting for a good time, a romantic time, to propose, even if it was already practically agreed upon.

Downstairs he sat in the kitchen, a cold cup of tea in front of him. He had made it to keep himself busy, but he didn’t actually want any. There was nothing to do, the house seemed so big and empty. He looked at his phone, still sitting on the table. He had hoped that maybe she would ring or text, but there was nothing. He knew he should call someone but who? And what would he even say? His relationship of four years just crumbled over night, that Natalie ran away from him, leaving nothing but a letter. What would they even think? He’d have to tell them sooner or later, but he didn’t think he could face saying the words out loud, not to himself, not to someone else. He took a drink of his cold tea. Tomorrow. He’d tell someone tomorrow. Tonight he needed the time alone, he needed the time to think.

The next morning he rang work to tell them he was sick. He knew he’d be useless for the day, as it was he barely slept. He hadn’t heard from her, he was starting to accept that he probably wouldn’t. She was gone and she wasn’t going to come back. Even if she did, could he forgive her? He still loved her but he could never have done something like that to her, to just up and leave. He took a sip of his coffee, hoping it would perk him up a little, then he picked up his phone. He didn’t want to be alone anymore, sitting in the house. He’d make a few calls, someone would be around, even if they just came by for a little while, it would be better than this. He wanted something, anything to take his mind off things. He took a deep breath and started dialling.

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Voyage. Short Story.

“You do not have enough.”
“What? That’s plenty! I brought more than needed, there’s enough there for fifteen people and we only have twelve!”

“It is not enough.”
“What else do you want?”
“One of you.”
“You can’t have one of us. That is completely out of the question.”
“One of you, or you all die.”

Daniel put his head in his hands, “How long do we have?”
“Three hours. If we do not receive payment you will all die.”
Daniel watched as it stood, then left the room, not needing to open the door, just sliding right through. He pulled out his phone and started dialling frantically, the prices had changed, when? Why was he not informed? This had to be some kind of underling trying to pull a fast one on him, it had to be.

“They’re saying I don’t have enough.”
“The prices went up.”
“What? When? I checked just before we left and we were fine, the treaty clearly states that the what ever price is there when the ships leave port is the one that is valid for that ships journey. We have more than enough.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. Really there’s nothing stopping them from just killing you all. Take the deal.”
Daniel made a few more calls, every conversation as the same. Take the deal and be thankful it was offered. He hung up the phone and sat for a moment, trying to think, to figure out a way out of this mess. He couldn’t just decide for the crew, that wouldn’t be fair. The passengers all paid for safe voyage, they couldn’t be chosen. Even if he did choose one of them once word got out his business would be ruined. As it was he would be lucky if the crew didn’t jump ship once they arrived. He looked at his watch, half an hour had passed. He stood from the table and left the room.

“They’re saying we don’t have enough.”
“So what does that mean?”
“They want someone, one of the crew or they’ll kill everyone on board.”
Everyone started talking at once, Daniel banged on the table for silence.
“We don’t have much time here, we need to figure this out.”
“We’ll draw lots. It’s the only fair way.”
“What about those that are necessary? Some of us are vital to keep the ship running.”
“Oh, of course you would say that, the engines will survive a few days without you.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Yeah. Sure. Everyone here is vital to keep the ship running, but it will keep going fine until we make port.”
“She’s right, none of us are that important. The ship will make it if any one of us is gone. Everyone has enough basic training to figure out something if there are any emergencies.”

Everyone fell silent. Daniel looked at them all, a lottery would be the fairest way to decide, much better than having everyone vote. He looked down at the table, it was his fault they were in this mess, even if the prices had changed mid journey, he should have had enough for them all twice over. He was just being sloppy.

“I’ll do it.” No one spoke, “It’s my fault we’re in this mess. I’ll get us out of it.” Daniel stood from the table, “Make sure this ship gets there safely. The company will go to Jeremy. Everything should be in order.”

Daniel left the room, no one said anything, no one tried to stop him, he didn’t blame them.

He entered the room and closed the door behind himself, “I have decided.”
It walked through the wall and stood before him, grinning, almost leering. “And who will be sacrificed?”
“Me.”
It nodded, “Are you ready?”
“Yes. I think so.”
It reached out for him, long claws gently caressing his cheek, Daniel didn’t flinch, but he waited for the pain. It didn’t come. A coldness came over him, he started to shiver violently, after a second it stopped.

“That…That’s it?”
It shook its head, still grinning, “The change will come in time. The call will come too and you will answer. You will not be able to stay away. We look forward to you joining us brother.” It turned and left the room, leaving Daniel alone. He reached up and felt along his cheek, expecting to feel a wound, or a mark, but there was nothing. He had never heard of something like this, the toll was paid or everyone was killed, but never had they let someone go.

He left the room feeling shaky, everyone was still sitting in the meeting room, when he entered they all stood up, “What happened?”
“Are you ok?”
“are…are they going to kill us?”
“No, it’s fine. It was weird it” Daniel stopped talking, it felt as though his tongue was too big for his mouth, “They said there was a mistake. They were wrong and we had enough.” He felt a shiver race across his back. He could feel the tension in the air dissolving as everyone relaxed. “We’ll be getting underway soon, everyone get ready.”

Daniel turned and left the room before anyone had a chance to speak to him, he didn’t want to talk to anyone, he needed some time to be alone, to think. In his office he deleted the message he recorded for Jeremy before he could think about it. He had told him everything that needed to be said, apologising for the choice he made, begging for forgiveness. That didn’t matter now. He was alive. He looked out the window into the darkness, his stomach clenched, he felt a deep longing to be outside in the coldness, in the dark. He turned himself away from the window and just as quickly as the feeling came it went. He shook his head, he was fine. What ever that thing had said to him, what ever it had done to him, it was just messing with his head. They were cruel things, sadistic. What ever those feelings were they weren’t real. He was alive, that was important. He felt a faint tugging at him, a need to turn and look out that window. He took a deep breath and without turning Daniel left the room, and the window, behind.

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A Trade. Short Story.

“So I just have to sign this and it’s all done.”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“And it’ll be sealed right, no one will ever know what’s in this?”
“Yep. No one but myself, yourself and my boss.”
“And nothing can ever change that?”
“Nope.”

Darcy picked up the pen and with a flourish signed the paper.
“Ok, great. Let me just double check here.”
Bob, the lawyer, typed some things into his computer, “Ok and we’re all set. You should be receiving you’re money within twenty four hours. It was a pleasure doing business with you Ms. Lane.”
“No, thank you.”
“And remember, we’re always here if you want to make another deal.”
“Thank you, but I think this one will be plenty.”
Bob nodded, “Of course.” He shook her hand and opened the office door. Darcy walked out, passing by a line of people sitting in chairs, each one waiting to finalise their own deal. Darcy kept her eyes on the ground, as did those in the chairs. None of them wanted to be seen here, no one wanted to be recognised and if anything did come of it, well, they wanted to be able to deny everything. Darcy had spent some nights wondering what other people were getting, mostly out of fear that she was getting screwed over, but the terms of the contract prevented anyone from talking about it. Oh sure, you could say where you got your stuff and that you made a deal, but you couldn’t tell them the price that you paid. For Darcy it was simple, there was no real dilemma or choice. She wanted the money and she wanted it as fast as possible. So what if they were asking for something that would seem awful to most. The first born child was a small price to pay for twenty million dollars. She never even wanted children in the first place, so it wasn’t like she was going to lose out on anything. All she had to do was go to some bar, get knocked up by some halfway decent looking dude and go on her way. Nine months later out it would pop and then she just have to hand it over. The contract had left two options open for her for when she gave them the child. She could go with option A, which was that everyone would think that the child was stillborn, or option B, no one would even remember she was pregnant. She already knew what option she would go for. She knew her parents wouldn’t be impressed if they found out, but she was relatively sure she could avoid them for nine short months. They never visited her anyway. The most she got was a phone call or two. Maybe they’d make more of an effort now that she had money. They didn’t seem like the type, but money did change people.

Darcy pressed the button to the lift and waited, people in suits scurried about the place, heads down, hands full of stacks of paper. She had asked them, when she first came, how they managed to keep everything in order. After all if they gave everyone huge sums of money or massive mansions the economy would tank. They had some kind of system in place though, making sure that everything was given out equally. Some things held more weight than others. A new born baby was worth more than a soul, which was worth more than a sacrifice and so on. The elevator doors opened and Darcy stepped in, she pressed the button for the first floor and waited. The doors closed and elevator music started to play. She had struggled with the idea of giving up her child, but then was it really her child if she wasn’t having it for herself? It would be like she was a surrogate. She didn’t want the child after all. She didn’t know what they were going to do with it exactly, but she had guarantees. The best education, nutritious meals, the child would not die in an untimely manor and would survive until they were at least sixty. It would be a good life, better than she could have provided otherwise. She wasn’t exactly poor, but the strain of a child on her finances wouldn’t allow her to give her child the best things in life. This way, everyone won. The company got the child, the child got an extravagant life and all the opportunities they could want and she got her money.

The doors opened revealing the lobby, Darcy stepped out onto the tile floor, her high heels clacking as she walked. As she approached the door a receptionist pressed a buzzer, allowing it to be opened. Darcy took a breath then stepped outside. There were crowds of people, some were yelling, others were just watching. She knew those that were watching were trying to screw up the courage to come in. She had been one of them not too long ago. The ones who were shouting could go fuck themselves. They didn’t know what she had given, they didn’t know what anyone had given, they just decided that the company was evil. They were just pissed that their God hadn’t set up a company and started offering deals. As she walked through the cordons there were flashes of light. Darcy ignored them, photos taken of anyone entering or leaving the building were always blurry, and if someone took too many of them it seemed to screw up their camera permanently. If the idiots wanted to blow through their electronics like that who was she to stop them. One or two people from the groups branched off and started following her. She wasn’t worried about that either. They’d get confused in a block or two and lose sight of her, within ten minutes they’d forget what she looked like, no one would be able to find her. After all, she planned to be one of those quiet rich people, the ones that you never knew were rich.

Darcy hailed a cab, when one pulled up she hopped in and gave her address. As it pulled out into traffic she checked her bank details on her phone, a huge grin appearing on her face. She wanted to scream and shout and jump up and down, but she needed to remain calm. She could celebrate when she got home, with the bottle of champagne that was chilling in her fridge. She would enjoy it, it would be her last drink for another nine months.

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Weekly Shop. Short Story.

Brendan looked at his list, he was almost done. He always hated shopping but the supermarket was empty enough today. Normally the place was packed and he found himself having to weave in and out of peoples way. He much preferred to do his shopping when the place was quiet, only another week to go before he was back on night shift and could do his usual early morning shop when he was done work. That was always better, he practically had the place to himself then.

Brendan picked up a can of soup and put it into his cart, smiling to himself as he did so, it was the last thing on his list and he was finally done. He turned the cart around and started heading towards the checkout. Behind him something clanged to the ground, he looked back and saw a can lying in the centre of the aisle. He must have knocked it over when he was getting the soup. He went back and bent to pick it up. As he did so something hit him in the back of the head. Brendan felt a sharp pain before darkness surrounded him.

Brendan opened his eyes, groaning. His head was thudding and he was very cold. He was lying on the floor of the grocery store. Another can must have hit him in the head. He sat up slowly, wincing as his head gave another throb and his stomach clenched. Gingerly he felt around the back of his head, there was a large lump, he couldn’t feel any dried blood on his hair and a brief inspection of his fingers showed they were clean. At least he wasn’t cut. He stood up and leaned on his cart for a moment, breathing slowly. He mustn’t have been out too long, there was no one around and his cart hadn’t moved. He saw the can sitting on the ground, he started to bend over to pick it up, but his stomach lurched again, so instead Brendan kicked it off to the side. The can could go fuck itself. He rubbed at his head again, it was starting to feel a bit better. As he stood there he wondered if he should talk to a manager, it would probably be a good idea to go to the hospital to get it checked out, make sure he had no problems, though he didn’t exactly want to waste his day there. No doubt the store would pay for any bills too. He looked around again, the aisle was empty still. Of course to find a manager he’d have to track down someone who actually worked here. He sighed, might as well get it over with. He took a step, then another, already he was starting to feel a bit better. By the time he left the aisle his head had stopped aching and he felt fine. Maybe he wouldn’t need to speak to anyone after all. He mulled it over while he scanned the aisles, deciding it would be a good idea to talk to someone about it, just in case.

Brendan stopped in the fruit aisle, no sign of any workers yet. This was getting a bit ridiculous. Surely someone must be monitoring the cameras at least, he had seen some security guys around the place before. He would definitely be complaining to corporate now. What if he had been seriously injured? How long would he have lain there before someone found him? He turned his cart down the aisle and started walking towards the tills. There would have to be someone there.

There was no one at the tills, each one was empty. He looked towards the store entrance, normally there was a security guard just inside, monitoring cameras, but the station was empty. Brendan approached it slowly, wondering what he should do, he needed to talk to someone about this, it was unacceptable, but how could he get someone’s attention. He noticed a sign about good service, as he moved closer he saw that there was a phone number, he took his phone from his pocket and dialed quickly, least he wouldn’t be left standing around like an idiot for god only knew how long. After a second he looked at his phone, the number wasn’t dialing, he checked and saw there was no signal. Typical. He shoved his phone back into his pocket, anger was starting to build, this was getting farcical now.

Brendan approached the tills and saw what he was looking for, the microphone. It took him only a second to figure it out, “Hello? Is there anyone in this damn shop? I’m hurt, I need some goddamned assistance.” Silence followed. He looked around, expecting someone to come running, but there was no one. Somewhere fridges started to hum. Brendan held the mike closer to his mouth, “Hello? Anybody?” Still nothing. He put the mike down before sitting in the chair behind the till. His legs were getting tired and he was feeling a little weak. No doubt from the head wound. Someone would get out to him, someone had to have been alerted that he was screwing around at the tills. Even if they were afraid he was crazy, they’d have called the cops or something. The cops. That was it. All phones were supposed to be able to ring emergency services. He would call for an ambulance. Probably the safest thing to do, it would certainly speed things up. As he reached for a his phone wave of nausea washed over him. He closed his eyes and started taking deep breaths, he was feeling dizzy too. He sat forward until his head was between his knees and kept breathing slowly. When the dizziness passed he sat up carefully. A spike of pain burst through his head. Wincing, Brendan grabbed his phone and dialed, but it was the same as last time, the phone didn’t ring, no service.

After five minutes Brendan started feeling nervous, did something happen while he had been knocked out? Did someone rob the store or take hostages or something? He shook his head, no that was crazy. It couldn’t have been anything like that. But what if it was? What if there had been a terrorist attack? That would explain why there was no one around, they could all be in the break room watching it on TV. Brendan looked out the double doors, he couldn’t see any cars in the parking lot, maybe everyone rushed home. He stood, using the counter for balance, slowly he started to walk towards the doors, using his cart for support. He walked over to the mat, then stopped as the doors didn’t open. He waited a second, then tried again, but the same thing happened. He turned from the door, someone had to be screwing with him, there was no other option. This was some weird kind of a prank, maybe for one of those annoying TV shows. He looked around, “This isn’t funny! I’m actually hurt.” Nothing.
“If it turns out that the delay in getting medical help has made it worse I’m going to sue!” Brendan shook his head, he thought for sure that would get some reaction.

“Oh my god. Someone else is here!” A woman came running from one of the aisles, her clothes wrinkled and disheveled. She ran right at Brendan, but stopped just out of reach. “How did you get here? We have to get out, show me how you got here.”
“What? I drove here.”
“No, not here, here here.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
Brendan started scanning the area around the woman, hoping that someone else was here, someone who wasn’t crazy.
“The doors, they don’t work, none of them do, the phones don’t either. Some of the food is poison. We’re trapped here. There no way out. Tell me, please. Just tell me. You came in here to do your shopping, then what happened?”
“I knocked a can off the shelf and when I picked it up another one fell onto my head. I was passed out for a little while.”
The woman groaned, “Fuck.”

“What do you mean trapped here? And how can some of the food be poison? It’s a super market, everything is tested. Look, I don’t know what kind of weird thing you’re trying to do here, but I don’t like it one bit.”
“You might not believe me now, but you will. Try break down the doors, it’s just glass, right? At the very least you should be able to scratch it, but nothing will happen. You’ll see. Tinned food seems to be ok. Don’t eat any of the fresh stuff. The last guy that ate any of them died a few hours later.”
“Are there any other people around that I could talk to?”
“No, it’s just me. Been just me for a while now. I’m not sure, no one else since Angela disappeared during the night. I don’t know where she went to, but I don’t think she’s coming back.”

Brendan nodded, he needed to humour her for a little bit, at least until he could find someone sane to help.

“You said you got hit in the head?”
“Yeah, but I think I’m ok.”
She nodded, “Look, I didn’t believe it at first too, but you’ll see. I wont hurt you or anything. Just so you know. Like I’m not crazy, even if I seem it.”
“Ok.”
She nodded, “It’s just, it’s nice to see someone. Someone new. Even if it does mean you’re stuck here now.”

Brendan spent the next hour trying to find someone, then the one after that trying to get out, to make any kind of dent in the glass, but nothing worked, no matter how hard he hit it, or what he threw at it, there was never any damage. He checked the doors and the phones, but nothing worked, the doors didn’t open and the phones were all dead. She was right. There was no escape.

 

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For Him. Short Story.

Janice took a deep breath, the air was thick with that hot, coppery smell. She released the breath slowly, feeling her stress just melt away. It had been so long since she had a chance to indulge like this. She stripped out of her robe and carefully hung it up on a hook, then she moved towards the bath.

Already the bath was full with blood, thick and perfect. The donors body was already long gone, someone always took care of that. Janice never really cared to learn the specifics. She stepped into the bath and lowered herself, sighing as the warm blood washed over her, shuddering in delight. She leaned her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes, luxuriating in it. It was so perfect, thick and warm. She took a slight breath, then lowered her head under, covering herself entirely. When she rose she reached out and felt a soft towel under her hand, she used it to dab at her eyes, then she lay back and relaxed.

When she stood up from the bath, two servants rushed over and helped her out, she walked to the small shower and carefully rinsed off, she didn’t want to wash it off, but she knew that it didn’t matter. Everything important had already been absorbed by her body. When she was rinsed the two servants carefully patted her dry. Always patting, never rubbing. Rubbing would dry out her skin and make it rough. With that done she put on her soft, warm robe and left the bathroom. The servants would clean up the bathtub, get everything spotless again. They always did what was commanded of them, after all they knew what awaited them if they failed.

Harold was downstairs in the library, Jane didn’t want to disturb him, besides dinner would be soon and she would be able to talk to him then. For now though she needed to look nice. She went to their room and carefully picked out a dress, deep, dark blue with a plunging neckline, it contrasted well against her pale skin. Once in the dress she carefully pinned her hair up, Harold liked it that way, then she put on her jewellery, the necklace that Harold had recently bought for her and a single bracelet. She didn’t like to be too flashy with jewellery, less was certainly more in her mind.

Janice entered the dining room to find Harold was already seated, “Hello darling, did you enjoy your bath?”
“Yes my love, I did. It was wonderful, thank you.”
“I’m glad, I got him especially for you. When I saw him I knew you would love it.”
“You were right.”
Janice sat down at the table, it was small, intimate. They had the larger table for guests and for parties, but tonight it would be just the two of them.
Janice reached out and picked up her glass, then she took a sip of the wine, savouring the flavour.
“I think you will enjoy dinner tonight too.”
“Oh yes?”
“Yes, he was a particularly beautiful young man.”
“I’m not surprised, my skin feels so soft after bathing.”

The ate their salads in silence, once they were done the plates were whisked away and the main course was brought out. Janice’s mouth started to water as the plates were brought in. The plates were filled with thick slices of meat, mashed potatoes and broccoli. Carefully she cut off a piece of the meat, the knife slid through it easily, she put a piece into her mouth, it was so juicy and tender, bursting with flavour.
“Oh darling, this is wonderful. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome my dear.”
Harold was working his way steadily through his food, not looking up, Janice was taking tiny bites, savouring it. She was only able to eat half before she was too full.

When he was done Harold looked up from his plate, “is it too much for you my sweet?”
“Yes, I could hardly eat another bite.”
He reached over and took her plate, swapping it for his empty one. She watched, a slight smile on her face, as he ate the rest of her meat. Occasionally he would pause his eating to have a sip of wine, then he would continue. When he was done he sat back and sighed contentedly.
“This is really all a man needs, good food and a beautiful wife to share it with.”
Janice smiled at him, “I love you too darling.”

Dessert was a selection of fruit, Janice nibbled at a few strawberries while Harold ate his, going through it quickly. Their plates were taken away and the table was cleared. Janice and Harold sat, looking across at one another, not saying anything. Their love didn’t need words.

There was a brisk knocking at the door, “I’m sorry to disturb your meal Sir, but there is an important phone call.”
Harold sighed, “I’m sorry my pet, I must deal with this. Wait for me?”
“Of course.”
Harold stood from the table and left the room. If Janice was being honest with herself, she was curious as to what Harold’s business was. When they had first met he had always answered the question with “a bit of this and a bit of that!” followed by a hearty laugh. They had been married almost two years now and she still didn’t know. She didn’t mind though, it wasn’t her place to know these things. Janice took another sip of her wine, careful not to drink too much. Harold had been talking about having children soon and she had to be careful, wine would be bad for the baby.

Janice sat at the table for an hour before Harold returned, “I’m sorry it took so long darling.”
“That’s all right, I know it was important.”
He smiled at her, “You really are the perfect woman, you know that right?”
Janice smiled at him as he approached, he reached out and gently took her hand, massaging it in his. “Come my sweet, let us go to bed.”
She stood and allowed herself to be brought to their bedroom.

In the bedroom he unzipped her dress, Janice felt that faint pang of fear as always, but as her dress slid from her body she felt herself relax and melt into Harold’s arms, she really was so lucky to have found him.

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