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Random Fiction Stories & Other Writings

Three Wise Ones

This is part of what I was working on a few months ago; I plan to go back to working on it. The story is a bit long  for a blog, so I appreciate everyone who actually sticks with it to the end. 

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Three Wise Ones

  By Ronald Cypress

 

We all watched as much of the news that we could, absorbing and trying to comprehend as much of the incredible event as possible. If the experts were lost and dumbfounded on what had taken place, then us simple folk could only feign understanding the whole picture or come up with wild theories about what had really happened and what it all meant. The world had pretty much stopped on the day that the ship came crashing down to the earth. The few filmed shots of the landing played over and over again as the speculation about what it was and where it had come from built up.

The talk began with mentioning that the aircraft was likely one of ours. When it became clear that no agency could claim that the thing from space was one of theirs, talks about it being from a foreign country started up. We could only speculate until given more information by the government. The story was able to sustain twenty-four seven coverage, and the day after the aircraft landed in our country the public was told that three people had been found inside of it. They were regular human beings. We all saw the footage of the two men and woman who had been recovered from the aircraft, and that seemed to settle the debate about whether or not actual aliens had finally came to our world.

The three people from the aircraft were taken to a hospital not far from where they landed, and things began to quiet down, or there weren’t as many updates on the story as there had been when it first happened. We all wanted to know what was going on, but the government clearly wanted to keep a good deal of information away from us. With the way things are and how information travels, they could only do so much to stop us from finding out about where the three people had come from.

The first word that got to us was the ship and the three found inside had been part of an experiment. The three people were talking and giving plenty of information to whoever was interrogating them. Reports mentioned that they all seemed to be in fair health; that was all they would say but we all got the sense that something was going on with them. Then we found out that the ship was called Zeno and it had been designed to travel at warp speed.

Most of us figured that cleared up the picture a little more, though we still continued to superficially bicker about what it meant. Our government had created the ship, and it had been a top secret until its crash landing. But no one wanted to take responsibility for it. We heard that no such ship had ever been created by us, or anyone else for that matter. We also found out that the technology found on Zeno was absolutely unknown to us.

But the three found aboard the ship were insisting that they were one of us, had come from our country and operated the flight for it.

The people found aboard Zeno began to come out in public

We found out their names.

There was Raf Castle, the command pilot. He was a hard looking man, and many us decided that we didn’t really like him. He appeared to be the leader, and he was probably the most vocal member of the crew. He kept insisting that we were all mad, and he talked about some experiment to send a ship into warp speed for the first time. Castle insisted that he had flown for our space program and that we had been the ones to send him. Supposedly, there was man named Philip Lem who had designed Zeno and he was supposed to have overseen the entire project. This was Castle’s explanation, and the other two appeared to agree with his story though we didn’t hear as much from them.

The two other pilots that were aboard Zeno were Ren Stockland and Alisha Roy. They were both several years younger than Castle, and both seemed more hesitant to speak whenever they had their moment in front of cameras and reporters. But we knew they were in solidarity with Castle. All three were claiming that they had been part of a test flight to achieve warp speed for the first time. That is what they wanted us to believe.

If someone had lost interest in the Zeno story and the three pilots, they probably started paying attention to it again once reports started to come out about the three pilots. They were from this country, and the origins they had given to investigators turned out to be true to a certain degree. There had been an Alisha Roy with the same parents as the pilot, but she been killed in a car accident when she was seventeen. Ren Stockland, again with the same background, had been stabbed to death during a bar fight at the age of twenty-two, almost thirteen years younger than the Ren Stockland who had shown up on Zeno. Raf Castle, the one confirmed by our government, hadn’t even made it as far as the other two, dying from an aggressive form of cancer at the age of eight.

As for Philip Lem, the man who had supposedly been behind the creation of Zeno, we were told that the man who best fit the description given by the pilots was a scientist and engineer who had committed suicide nearly twenty years ago.

We realized that the pilots’ backgrounds seemed to check out, but they couldn’t be who they said they were, not if they died years ago. It was a simple thing to clear up. All they had to do was test their DNA. After the results came back, there was a breaking news announcement. Some woman from our government confirmed that the three pilots did have matching DNA to those who had perished long ago.

We all wanted to know what it meant.

No one had absolute answers, not even our greatest minds. There was just constant speculation and fears. This new truth proved to be a massive devastation for many of us. What did it all mean? How could these three be here?

The news began to withdrawal from the story. It was never said, but we all assumed that it would probably be best to just start pushing Zeno and it’s crews to the back of our minds. The proper people would study the whole situation, and eventually we would receive a resolved explanation for what had happened.

Until that time came, we would just pray and continue holding on to the same believes that had kept us safe for years.

 

 

Δ

 

 

“Are you sure there’s nothing I can get you?”

The nurse had tried to accommodate Command Pilot Raf Castle several times that day, but she couldn’t give him what he really wanted. No one he had met up to that point had been able to give him answers. All they had done was add more questions about the situation. Most of the people he met treated him with obvious suspicion. Castle could see the mistrust and hear the doubts when they spoke to him.

They kept him at a hospital, though every physical examination had proven that he was in good health.

“He’s absolutely human,” Castle had heard one of the doctor’s tell someone.

Initially, they were giving him physical examinations every day after recovering him from Zeno, giving the impression that they couldn’t be completely sure that Castle was a human. The physical exams were guaranteed to happen, as were the interrogations. They all wanted to know where Castle and the woman came from.

“Alisha and I are from Earth,” Castle insisted.

They had kept him from seeing Alisha, and all they would tell him was that she was in some type of coma.

They continuously asked about how the two and the ship had come to Earth.

Castle told them about the last moments that he could clearly remember. Zeno had just initiated the jump to warp speed. They were heading away from earth. The ship had lunged forward, and an iridescent circle formed around them. The next thing that came to mind was the ship hurtling towards Earth. Castle had heard Alisha cry out just before they went through Earth’s atmosphere. They crashed into a grassy field, and when Castle came to after briefly passing out it was just Alisha and him.

But there had been another pilot on Zeno. Ren Stockland had also been aboard the ship when they first left Earth but hadn’t been recovered inside Zeno after the ship came back down. At least that was what Castle had been told.

Castle was compliant with all the demands that were given to him after he was first recovered. He was ready to answer all their questions and explain as much as he possibly could. But they couldn’t seem to comprehend what he was telling them. The government and the space program hadn’t heard of Zeno. When Castle told them about Philip Lem the people interrogating him promised that they would look into the person. They were going to look into everything and everyone surrounding Zeno.

They moved Castle from the hospital to a nearby hotel, promising to take care of him until everything was straightened out. With a lawyer present, they allowed Castle to speak at a press conference. He had no problem with explaining his truth. He and the other two pilots had been assigned to pilot Zeno on its first flight to achieve warp speed. A man named Philip Lem developed Zeno and most of its technical aspects.

The press didn’t seem to know what to make of him, and Castle assumed that they all believed him to be lying.

Away from the public eye, they were quickly investigating Castle’s claims.

The results were crushing for him.

He had been married to a woman named Eileen Franks. Castle gave enough information to them so that they could find her. The two had three children: Raf Jr., Margarita, and Mary. They found his Eileen, and she was no longer his. Though she refused to meet him, they were able to confirm that Eileen Franks was married to another man and only had one child. After being shown a picture of her, Castle confirmed that they woman they showed him was his wife.

He had parents.

They were found and did confirm that they had a son name Raf who had been killed in a boating accident when he was twenty-five. Castle was forty-six. Raf pleaded for them to bring his parents to him, but because the man he had believed to be his father had passed away years ago the only person they could bring to him was his mom.

Raf saw her and broke down. They held him back when he rushed to hug her. The woman recoiled as the doubt and confusion remained clear in her eyes.

“Mama,” he called out to her.

“He looks like him,” the woman said. “Doesn’t he look like him? But it can’t be.”

The woman and Castle stared at each other until they both resigned to what appeared to be the facts.

“We’ll work this all out ma’am,” they promised her.

Castle had no doubt that the woman was his mom.

They moved as fast as they could. Soon, they had the DNA test results to prove that he was indeed related to the woman. They also had the results to prove that Alisha Roy hadn’t perished in a house fire fifteen years ago as her parents believed. Instead, she was lying in a hospital, still comatose after being found on Zeno.

“No one understands how this can be,” they told Castle.

He advised them to find Philip Lem as soon as possible. There was no record of him ever existing. They couldn’t find a single person that fit the description or a possible family member.

As for Ren Stockland, he was found in a bar, about one hundred miles away from where they were keeping Castle.

“The man definitely isn’t an astronaut,” they told Castle. “Just a man with a long rap sheet.”

They managed to cajole an intoxicated Ren into going to visit Castle for verification.

It was him and it wasn’t.

Finally, they began to sit down with Castle and talk to him about what they could for him the future. There was no doubt that a good deal of his story had been verified, but there didn’t seem to be much that they could offer him. Nothing like Zeno had ever been created in their world, and no one could comprehend how the ship and its crew he had come to be with them.

“If we could just find Lem,” Castle quietly said. “We need to find Lem.”

He would repeat Lem’s name numerous times, but the man didn’t exist, not in that time and space.

 

 

Δ

 

 

“Are you guys going to get Lem down here, or not?” Ren Stockland asked.

He was starting to grow impatient with the government and how he was being treated since landing back on Earth. It had become clear to him that they were never going to find the other two who had been with him when Zeno left Earth. They had brought him stand-ins for Raf Castle and Alisha Roy, but neither one of them had been the real person.

“Those were frauds,” Ren had told them. “That guy said he was preacher. I’m not bashing the guy, he was nice in his own way, but Castle would never be preacher. I don’t even think the guy believed in any god.”

The Raf Castle who had been brought to him had offered to pray for his soul.

The Alisha Roy whom they had introduced him to was pregnant with her fifth child.

“You don’t have any children,” Stockland had told her. “I don’t even think you want any.”

They had let him meet the two who were supposed to be his co-pilots before giving him the news about the Ren Stockland that had existed in their world. No such person had ever existed. They allowed Stockland to meet the people who were supposed to be his family. There was his mom, dad, and older sister. It had always been the three them and only the three.

“Lorraine, you have to remember me,” Ren Stockland pleaded. “I was at your house shortly before I left.”

He began going through memories he had of them together. The Stockland family just stared at him. He began giving them more intimate and personal details that only a close family member would know.

“I don’t know how he knows these things,” Mrs. Stockland said. “But we’ve never had a son. I’m sorry.”

The family stuck around to find out that Ren Stockland’s DNA proved that he was related to them. But they wouldn’t accept him.

It became clear to him that the only hope he had for having things set right was to find Philip Lem.

“The man is a genius,” Stockland told them. “One of the brightest scientist around. He understands how Zeno works, and he’ll know exactly what to do.

They found Philip Lem.

He was a scientist.

“Great,” Stockland said. “Have him come down here and work this whole thing out.”

They said that Lem had never heard of him or Zeno, and he didn’t want any part of the whole ordeal that had become very public.

Stockland had no choice but to wait while they tried to convince Philip Lem to at least come and evaluate the situation.

Months passed before Lem agreed to come see Stockland. During that time, they had begun to limit the public’s access to Stockland. His movements were quietly restricted, and they kept him from speaking out too much about his dilemma. Not being allowed to talk to the press wasn’t a problem for Stockland, but he was growing frustrated with the fact that no one was able to help him.

They took Stockland to meet Lem at the hangar where Zeno was being housed. Lem instantly pronounced that he didn’t know Stockland and had never seen the man before in his life. He seemed to have very little interest in the fallen pilot but was very curious about Zeno. The all black, triangular ship didn’t look too special on the outside. They allowed Lem to go inside, hoping that he would be able to understand how the ship operated. Stockland had offered to give them a succinct tutorial on Zeno, but they had refused to let him touch anything inside.

“This is all very interesting,” Lem said. “But it’s nothing that I’ve seen before, and I have no idea how all this would work.”

Stockland offered to refresh Lem’s memory, but they hushed him.

Both men were escorted away from Zeno.

“I wish I could help you,” Lem said after they were all away from the aircraft. “But it’s beyond my comprehension. It is very interesting, though. And it is possible that this young man was part of an attempt to achieve navigating such an aircraft to move faster than the speed of light. Maybe they did do it, and things just didn’t turn out to be the way they expected.”

Stockland began to talk about how he could remember the jump forward, the variety of bright colors around them and then crashing back onto the planet. But Lem wasn’t interested in it. He was certain that there was nothing he could do for Stockland. No one could help him at that time.

They promised to take care of Stockland, and to find the best accommodation for him. Eventually he would find his home, they promised Stockland. In the meantime, they wanted him to get as comfortable as possible with his new life. It was a simple goal.

The land wasn’t completely foreign after all.

 

 

 

Δ

 

 

 

Alisha Roy was shaken by the press conference that had just taken place a few hours before. The question that had kept coming up over and over again was how she had made it back. How had she survived when everyone had been absolutely certain that all three members aboard Zeno had perished?

“I can’t tell you what happened,” Alisha said. “I don’t really have any recollection of the events you’re describing, and that’s not what happened to me.”

The public was certain that Alisha Roy, Raf Castle, and Ren Stockland had all been killed shortly after Zeno had left the Earth’s atmosphere. The public had seen the explosion on their TV screens. Just about everyone in the world knew about the grave news. Zeno’s first flight had been a tragic failure. And there wasn’t much they could do to get an answer about what went wrong. The decimated ship was out of their reach, and even if parts were pulled back to Earth it seemed highly unlikely that they would be able to diagnose the issue that had caused the explosion.

“It didn’t explode,” Alisha Roy told them.

The only person that they could turn to in order to figure out what had happened to the inspiring Zeno was Dr. Philip Lem, and he didn’t have any resolute answers for why the ship had exploded. He insisted that everything, ever little detail, had been absolutely perfect. They had run all the necessary tests beyond requirement. Everything appeared to be perfect. The launch had gone smoothly, and all was well until it came time for Zeno to speed forward.

Some assumed that too much was being asked of the spacecraft and of mankind. There were groups that believed it was beyond the call of human duty to do such things as achieve travelling faster than light. And of course some claimed that it simply couldn’t be done. It was people from this group that called for Lem to be arrested after they saw Zeno explode. Some people insisted that there was no way Lem could truly believe his ship was anything but a death machine.

“But it didn’t explode,” Alisha said.

She would keep insisting that Zeno had managed to start the jump to warp speed. She described everything going quiet before the whole spacecraft was suddenly jerked forward. Then there was a bunch of bright colors around them. Alisha told the public that was the last thing she remembered before she awoke and found Zeno speeding towards Earth.

People asked about Castle and Stockland, but Alisha couldn’t explain what had happened to them. The ship was still intact when it landed, and everything inside of it appeared to be normal but the two men were gone. A search team was sent to see if they could possibly still be floating around up in space somewhere, but the two were never found.

They wanted to know if Zeno had managed to travel at warp speed, and the people hoped that the suddenly resurrected Alisha would be able to answer the question. She told them and the public that she didn’t believe the ship had successfully completed its goal but something had happened.

“I don’t know what it could be,” Lem said when he and Alisha sat down in private. “We were all certain you were gone, but somehow you are here.”

Alisha opened up more than she had when questioned by the press. There was more that she could remember after Zeno had made the jump. Alisha told him about how all the colors had started to engulf them. She had felt the ship stop moving forward as they got sucked into the lights. Alisha recalled the feeling of her and all that was around her being slowly pulled apart.

“But it didn’t hurt,” Alisha said. “There was no pain. It just felt weird.”

After the strange sensation was done, Alisha had black out. A whole new world was waiting for her when she came back.

They held Alisha for a short period of time before allowing her to return to her family. There were some concerns that Alisha would have to slowly work herself back into their lives. Five years had passed with them believing that she was deceased. She would have to let her love ones gradually adjust to having her back.

People continued to have questions. It couldn’t be avoided. Some wanted to know why she had been the one to come back and not the others. A few rumors about sinister deeds and cover-ups began. The government was hiding something, some people said. There were people who had questions about what Lem and Alisha would do next. Was there going to be another Zeno? What was the real fate of the first one?

Alisha began to think about what she could do after returning to what she mostly believed to be the world she had left. What she had always known was still the same as far as she could see. The only thing that disagreed with her mind was what many had believed to be her death. She was certain that Zeno had never exploded, and she and the other two had survived in some fashion. They should have been there with her but it wasn’t to be. It didn’t completely feel right, but Alisha could only argue so much with the reality.

She tried to talk to Lem about it, but his mind seemed focused on designing the next Zeno.

“This one will work,” he said. “It has to. Everything is perfect, all of it. I just have to give it another try.”

Alisha was done with mission. They probably wouldn’t allow her to go on another flight. She knew that they still viewed her with suspicion. They probably weren’t convinced that she was supposed to be there. Their Alisha had died along with the other two. The one who reappeared was some alien being, an intruder who had mistakenly plummeted into their world.

 

 

 

 

Δ

 

 

We all watched as much of the news reporting that we could, absorbing and trying to comprehend as much of the incredible event as possible. A strange ship from space had come crashing down to Earth, and no one seemed to have an explanation for it. The first images came, footage shot by a few witnesses, and we watched the ship slam into a grassy field. The news played the scene over and over again as conjecture began about what had happened.

The first guess that most of us had was that the ship had been one of ours and had happened to crash. The news began to move quickly. It didn’t belong to us, and it was soon revealed that no other country was claiming ownership of the aircraft. The news reported that officials were on the scene and the proper people were dealing with the thing from space. It looked like aircrafts that we had seen in the past, a triangular one that sort of looked like a jet.

But it wasn’t a jet.

And there wasn’t a pilot.

We found out that there was no one aboard the ship, and then we began to speculate that it was some type of weapon or spying device. People started to demand answers from our government. We wanted to know if we were under attack. They told us that we were going to be fine, assured us that we weren’t under attacked and encouraged us to go about our lives. It was hard. The circumstances were too bothersome and alluring.

Had we been visit by a real alien being?

The chatter about there being viable life out there beyond our planet became increasingly popular, and a good deal of the population seemed to start believing that we had made contact with something from another planet.

They told us that there was no proof that the thing came from anywhere other than Earth. In all likelihood, they said, the thing did come from another country, one that was too ashamed to admit it had failed at whatever it was trying to achieve with the spacecraft.

More of us began to demand answers. We wanted more details about the thing that had fallen from space.

Again, were we under attack?

They had a way with assuaging everyone’s fears and quieting the story.

The spacecraft was taken away by them and put somewhere that was probably highly classified. Very little information was given about it. Wherever it had come from, they were taking care of it. The best thing we could do was move on with our lives.

So we started to forget about the thing that had fallen from space. It occasionally appeared on TV, mostly on shows that dealt with conspiracies, particularly ones involving aliens, but the majority of us began to forget about what had happened. The threat that had been felt steadily dissipated. They had been right; there was nothing to worry about. We weren’t under attack. More than likely the ship had come from this planet. Many of us started to settle on the belief that it had come from us. They just didn’t want us to know about it. That was fine with us, just as long as we were safe and happy.

The thing from space became forgotten, mythicized and neglected. For most of us, it was too inconsequential to give much concern. The proper people who knew what to do with it would take care of whatever problem had occurred. They would eventually get it right and there would be no more crashes.

Overall, no real harm was done and we all ended up feeling safe.

It was the same world we had always known.

Tomorrow

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Tomorrow

By Ronald Cypress

 

The lime and indigo smog was thicker than usual, and Charlus couldn’t see the entrance to The XXII until he was right upon the tavern. The smoke didn’t really matter; it could have been pitch black and Charlus still would have been able to find the place. He struggled with the door, falling back as he tried pulled it open.

“Praise!” Charlus shouted after he got back to his feet and stumbled in The XXII.

The door screeched as it slowly closed behind him.

“I’m here, Thomas.” Charlus began to drag his feet towards the bar.

His regular seat was waiting for him. A few seats to the right was Saturday, the old man who was usually in that location. The three other people in the tavern were vaguely familiar to Charlus, but he couldn’t recall any of their names at that moment.

“Praise!” Charlus pulled his seat away from the bar and sat down. Thomas XXIII started to walk towards him. “It’s almost thirty degrees at my house, but nearly ninety over here.”

“That’s happening more often,” Thomas XXIII said. “Which one do you want?”

“Give me something light for the moment,” Charlus said. “I stopped by a few places and consumed some on the way. I just need something gentle at the moment. Don’t make it too hard, Thomas.”

“They say some spots are going to see snow soon.” Thomas began to prepare Charlus’ drink. “It will be able to snow in one spot, like just over a few house, and the sun can be shining brightly with clear skies a few houses down.”

“Madness,” Charlus said “Absolute madness.

Thomas XXIII brought Charlus a small glass with a thick orange substance in it.

The ground shook for several seconds. There were two far away explosions. No one in the tavern was alarmed by the events. Charlus took his glass and sipped from it.

“How’s Bayla?” Thomas XXIII asked.

Charlus grumbled something that the bartender couldn’t hear. He stared at his glass for a few seconds.

“She’s fine,” Charlus spoke up.

“And the kid.”

“That thing is the same.”

There was another explosion.

“Praise!” Charlus shouted. “What the hell could they be bombing now? It’s not like there’s anything left. It’s not like…”

Saturday leaned towards Charlus. “I saw a child the other day.”

“Praise,” Charlus whispered. “What are they going to do to us next?”

“The child lives a few blocks from me,” Saturday said. “It’s a boy, I was told. Thing has the top of its head and face is missing. There’s a body, the bottom part of a jaw, and a clump of skin with some bone underneath, but it doesn’t really have a face. The kid talked to me. Had the voice of a man, but the parents said it was a seven-year-old kid.”

“I know them,” Thomas XXIII said. “They’re good people. Sweet kid.”

“Sure,” Saturday said. “It’s just doesn’t look right.”

“Saturday, you need another drink?”

“Nah.” Saturday sat back in his seat and looked at the tall glass that was in front of him. “I wasn’t trying to be rude. I’m just saying.”

“I get what you were saying,” Charlus said. “And I agree with you. But there’s no telling what we’ll see next.

There was a loud thud on the front glass of the tavern. The men looked towards the noise and saw a familiar face and mouth pressed against the window. The enormous mouth had latched onto the glass. A pair of big, brown eyes stared back at the men. The face slowly slid across the glass. The men watched until it reached the end of the window and moved on.

“Thought you told him to stop doing that.” Saturday said.

“He doesn’t mean any harm,” Thomas XXIII said. “He can’t help it. And it actually cleans the windows.”

The ground shook.

“Wish we could get them to all go somewhere else,” Charlus said quietly.

“You don’t mean that,” Thomas XXIII said. “You know they’re part of our community now.”

There was a loud explosion, and a large flame appeared in the sky several feet away from the entrance to the tavern.

“I wonder what they’re trying to get,” Saturday said. “That must have been a stray.”

“Nothing probably,” Charlus said.

“There’s been some talk about a group of scalawags trying to get a coup going,” Thomas XXIII said. “They have to know it’s pointless.”

“With the way things are,” Charlus said.

He stopped and never finished the thought out loud.

“I saw a woman give birth on the streets not long ago,” Saturday said. “She just stopped walking, started grunting and making this howling noise with her legs open. Five, no six, little creatures dropped right out of her. Right there on the street. She was like us, but I don’t know what those things were that came out of her. Little gremlins if you ask me. Scared me to death.”

The entrance door swung open and a woman entered. She was holding something bundled in a blanket in her arms.

“Praise,” Charlus said when he saw the woman. “Bayla, what are you doing here?”

“It’s Morrow’s birthday.” Bayla began to walk towards her husband. “We were supposed to do something together for him. Did you forget what day it was?”

“Nah, I didn’t forget.”

“It’s your boy’s birthday?” Thomas XXIII asked. “Congratulations. How old is he now?”

“It’s two years old,” Charlus said. “That’s how old it is.”

A beeping noise came from the bundle in Bayla’s arms.

“I wanted you to stay home,” Bayla said. “I was hoping you could at least stay sober this one day.”

Charlus refused to look at his wife and child. He kept his eyes forward, focusing on an old liquor bottle. He recognized it as the first liquor he had drunk with his father years ago.

“I want you to come home right now,” Bayla said. “Thomas, no more drinks for him.”

“All right.”

“Do you even have money to pay?” Bayla asked her husband.

Charlus didn’t answer.

“Could I see the little guy,” Thomas XXIII asked. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.”

Bayla moved some of the blanket away from her child so that the bartender could get a better look. The head was long and shaped like an oval. The face was cover with a light amount of black fur. Six legs with pointed ends emerged from the child’s small and chubby body. The body was also covered with black fur.

The child beeped a few times.

Saturday glanced at the child and then made eye contact with Charlus. They both looked down at their glasses.

“He’s a cute one,” Thomas XXIII said.

“Thank you,” Bayla said. She covered her child up. “Let’s go, Charlus. I want to make a special meal for Morrow. And I’m sure he misses you. He was crying after you left him this morning.”

Charlus looked up at Thomas XXIII.

“Go ahead,” Thomas XXIII. “We’ll be here tomorrow.”

Charlus slowly rose from his seat. He moved to Bayla’s side and looked down at his child.

Morrow made quiet chirping noises.

“You coming back tomorrow?” Saturday asked Charlus.

“Maybe.”

The ground gently shook.

“I’ll have to see what happens,” Charlus said.

He put his hand on Bayla’s back and began walking with her towards the front door. Outside, the streets had started to fill with gray smog. The family left the tavern and disappeared into the haze.

What Does Your Daddy Do?

 

 

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Just dumping this here. It’s an old one. 

 

What Does Your Daddy Do?

By Ronald Cypress

 

The house was unusually quiet when Tim woke up in the morning. After getting out of bed, Tim went straight to his window and looked outside. The snow was still coming down, just like it had been doing the night before. His mom had promised him that he wouldn’t have to go to school the next day. That was what the snow did, allowed him to stay home and play. Tim stood by the window and stared outside for several minutes.

The six-year-old wanted to rush out of the room and go see his mom. She would make breakfast for him, and then he would go play one of his games on the computer. Tim looked at his bedroom door. It has been slammed shut during the night. Tim assumed that his father had been the one who closed it. Tim had been awake when the door was closed. There had been other noises before the slamming of the door, noises that sound like arguing. Louds sounds continued to be heard in Tim’s room. There had been some thudding noises.

The six-year-old worried about what was going on outside of his room, but he was too scared to open the door and peek out. The last noises he heard before falling back to sleep where the sounds of bad words coming from his father. The morning came and all the noises were gone. Tim went to his door and tried to listen for any sounds. The house was completely quiet.

He was just a little bit afraid to do it, but Tim eventually decided to open the door and step out into the hallway. Looking down towards the living room, Tim noticed that everything appeared to be normal. The only thing not right was the quietness. Tim knew that there should have been noise. His little brother, Marcus, was usually up and running around. Marcus, a few years younger than Tim, was always full of energy. The house was never quiet when he was awake.

Tim made his way down to Marcus’ room and peeked inside. The room was dark and empty. It looked the same as the last time Tim had seen it except Marcus wasn’t there. Tim looked around the room before continuing down the hall towards the living room. He listened out for any noises coming from his parents’ room, which was behind him. Tim knew that he usually heard his baby sister, Vanessa, crying in the morning. She would either be crying or his mom would be talking to her. That morning none of those noises existed.

The house was silent.

Tim made his way into the living room. Everything appeared to be normal there, too. The room was a little bit darker than usual because some of the curtains were still closed. The TV was on, but the sound was muted. Tim found the remote and turned the sound on. On the television screen there was a man discussing effective kitchen knives. Tim was familiar with the man because his dad had been watching a lot of cooking shows recently.

Tim wondered about where his dad and mom could be. No longer fearful of the quietness and calm, Tim decided to walk around the house and look for the rest of his family. It didn’t take him long to see that they weren’t in the kitchen and they weren’t in their rooms. Tim checked in the garage, but they weren’t there either. His family was not in the house.

Tim considered that they had gone out, but that would be odd. His mom wouldn’t have just gone out and left him alone. Tim looked outside the living room window so that he could see the driveway. Both his mom’s car and father’s truck were still in the driveway. That meant they hadn’t left him. But if they hadn’t left there where were they, he wondered.

Tim decided to go back to his room and play one of his video games. He would just do that until a parent showed up and explained what was happening. Tim had a bad feeling about what was going on, but he knew that once one of his parents appeared everything would be all right. Back in his room, Tim sat on the floor and played with one of his handheld devices. He had been sitting there for twenty minutes when someone suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“Tim!” his father barked out his name causing Tim jump.

“Dad.” Tim placed his device on the ground and stood up.

There was a look of anger on his dad face when Tim first saw him. The look quickly went away, his father’s face suddenly showing a lethargic sorrow.

“Tim, I need you to come along with me.” Tim’s father held out his hand. “We have to go somewhere, son?”

Tim hesitated.

“Come on, son,” his father said. “We’ve got to go. It’s time now.”

Tim went over to his father. With his hand on Tim’s shoulder, his father began leading the young boy down the hall.

“Where are we going?” Tim looked up at his dad.

“Out,” his dad looked straightforward. “Out for a little walk.”

“If we’re going out I’ll need my shoes and coat.”

The two stopped walking, and Tim’s father looked down at him.

“I guess so,” Tim’s father said. “Go get them. Be quick. We have to go now.”

“Okay.”

Tim rushed back to his room. He found his snow boats and heaviest coat. While he was putting them on, Tim thought about his father. He could tell that his father was in one of his strange moods. The moods had been going on ever since his father had to go away to the hospital. His father had never been the same since going away.

Tim worried about the man. The way his father would stare off into the space was weird. There were times that Tim caught his father talking to himself and that was weird. His father didn’t work anymore. Instead he just stayed home and had to be avoided. The man rarely spoke to Tim anymore. Tim could remember being younger and his dad being more talkative and happy. Things weren’t like that anymore. His father was weird. Tim didn’t even really like talking about him. When a group of kids were talking about their dads at school, Tim was cautious about discussing his father. The other boys talked about what their dad’s did for a living. All of their fathers had job. Tim didn’t know what to say when it came time to discuss what his father did for a living.

“My dad used to work on homes,” Tim told the other kids. “But he got sick and doesn’t do that now.”

Those were short versions of the truth. Tim’s father had worked on homes and he had gotten sick.

Tim’s mom told him that his father was just going through something and that he was going to get better, but Tim didn’t really believe her. He just acted like he did.

“Come on, Tim.” his father rushed him

Wearing his coat, snow boots, gloves, and wool hat, Tim was ready to go outside with his father.

“Where are we going?” Tim asked as he and his father exited the house.

His father began to lead him over to the side of the house.

“Out into the trees,” Tim’s father said. “Not far from where we went squirrel hunting that one time. Remember that?

Tim nodded, remembering how his dad had forced him to go into the woods and watch as he used a handgun to shot at least four squirrels. His father had bragged about how great his marksmanship was and how he had gotten each squirrel in the head. Tim remembered wishing that the squirrels would just runaway and stop showing up for his father to kill.

Tim inquired about the rest of his family. “Where’s mom, Marcus, and Vanessa?”

“They’re all out here waiting for us,” Tim’s father told him. “I already brought them out here. Your mom and Vanessa came out first. Then Marcus came out. They’re all waiting for us.”

Tim noticed that his father was walking fast. The boy was having a hard time keeping up. The snow was deeper than he could remember it ever being. His foot kept getting stuck. He was also extremely cold and tired, but his dad kept dragging him along. The two made it into the woods that were behind the house. Tim wondered about what some of his friends were doing. He felt slightly embarrassed even though they weren’t around to see what his father was doing.

Tim’s father took him into the wood, and the two kept walking until the finally reached the rest of the family. Before Tim saw them on the ground, he realized that he was indeed right back to where he been when his father shot those innocent squirrels. The first person Tim saw was his mom. Then he saw Vanessa and Marcus.

“Daddy,” Tim tried to pull away from the grip his father had on his arm. He couldn’t get lose.

Tim looked at the rest of his family

“Daddy,” he pleaded as his father brought him closer.

Soon Tim would be right where his father wanted him, and the young boy knew what he was going to do.

 

The Things They Would Call It

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The Things They Would Call It

By Ronald Cypress

 

Wesley Beaufort was sitting in his lawn chair, just a few feet away from the pool in his backyard, when there was a bright lightening flash and a loud—but brief—buzzing sound above him. The light and the noise didn’t get Wesley’s attention. He had been sitting in the same spot for nearly two hours. There was a beer bottle that was almost empty resting by his right foot; another beer bottle was lying close to the edge of the pool and one was floating inside. Wesley had been gazing at the water when the flash of lightning and buzzing noise happened.

His eyes would stay on the water until part of a shadow appeared in it. Wesley looked up and saw a body falling. The body landed violently next to his pool. Wesley remained seated in the lawn chair, staring at what had just settled in his backyard. It appeared to be a man. Wesley slowly stood up to get a better look at who had just fallen from the sky.

He was certain that it was a man, a man whose skin was dark yellow. Wesley continued to stare, waiting for the man to do something more than just lie completely still. Wesley took a few steps towards the man to get a better look at the person who had just fallen from the sky. He noticed that the man was wearing a sleeveless, black shirt that appeared to be made out of leather. The shirt was a bit puffed up, and it reminded Wesley of a bulletproof vest. Around the man’s waist, going down to his knees, was what appeared to be a black, leather skirt.

What wasn’t covered by the two pieces of clothing was completely exposed. The man’s entire body was dark yellow. Wesley noticed that his arms and legs appeared to be fairly muscular. All four parts appeared to be normal for a human except that they were yellow. Looking over the man’s feet and hands, Wesley noticed that he had five toes on each foot and five fingers on each hand.

A loud gasp came from the man, and Wesley jumped back a few inches.

The dark yellow man from the sky continued to make loud gasping noises for a minute, and then the gasping turned into heavy breathing.

Wesley knew that the man was dying; it was obvious to him.

He took a few steps towards the strange man. Wesley noticed that there was something odd about the man’s head. Like the dark yellow skin, the man’s head indicated that he wasn’t a human. It almost appeared to be an acceptable human head, but it bulged out in several areas, mostly around the forehead and cheeks. Wesley considered that the head and skin could have been the result of an earthly disease or mutation, but more than likely the man wasn’t from Wesley’s planet.

The man from the sky continued to breath heavily as Wesley stared at him. He considered calling the police to inform them about the fallen man. He reached into his pocket and grabbed his cell phone. Wesley began to call the police, but he had a second thought. Wesley worried about what they were going to do to the fallen man. The man was an alien. They would probably want to call it that. Wesley imagined that the fallen man would eventually be put into the hands of the government, and there was no telling what they would do to him.

Another loud gasp came out.

Wesley jumped again.

The fallen man’s eyes were wide open, and he was staring directly at Wesley. The man took a few heavy breaths, and then his whole body turned blue.

“Jesus!” Wesley put his phone back in his pocket. “What are you?”

The fallen man was now dark blue, and Wesley began to have more questions and doubts about what was happening. He slowly backed away from the fallen man, returning to his lawn chair. Wesley suddenly had thoughts about the dead deer.

“The deer,” Wesley said.

He clasped his hands together as he continued to stare hard at the man from the sky.

“I can’t tell them about you,” Wesley told the fallen man. “I can’t mention this to anyone.”

Wesley observed the night sky. It appeared to be normal. He got up and quickly inspected what was around him. The neighborhood was completely quiet. No one else had noticed the fallen man landing in Wesley’s backyard. No one was around to look over the fence and see the strange man lying by Wesley’s pool. Completely alone, Wesley began to wonder about the existence of the fallen man.

“I’m doing it again,” Wesley said to the fallen man. “You’re just like the deer.”

The deer he was referring to was one he had seen several years ago. The dead deer had unexpectedly entered Wesley’s life at a time he was struggling with various personal problems. Wesley had been driving to work when he first saw the deer on the side of the road. There was nothing unique about the deer’s carcass. He was able to spot one at least once a week. Sometimes they were on the side of the road, and sometimes they were in the road. Wesley didn’t give the deer a second thought until he got to work and looked out of his office window. The dead deer was in the parking lot. He was certain that it was the same one he had seen in the road earlier that day. It had followed him to work. That wouldn’t be the only place it followed him. Later on, Wesley would see the deer lying in his front yard. For nearly a month, the dead deer continued to appear in his life. One time he even found it stuffed into his tub.

“And no one noticed it,” Wesley told the fallen man who had turned purple. “I was afraid to bring it up to anyone, because no one seemed to even notice the deer.”

It was true. The deer lay in the parking lot at work, and all of his coworkers completely ignored the dead deer. At home, his wife never discussed the fact that a dead deer was lying across their coffee table. No one paid attention to it, and eventually, after discussing it with his wife, Wesley was forced to see a therapist about the dead deer.

“I can’t let that happen again,” Wesley told the fallen man. “That woman wanted to put me away when I told her about the deer. I could see it in her face.”

Wesley had to learn how to lie and deal with the dead deer alone. Somehow, he was able to get the deer to go away. Wesley figured that it was a one-time thing, seeing something that other people didn’t.

“I’m not crazy,” Wesley told the fallen man.

The purple man was still breathing heavily and looking at Wesley.

“I’m not crazy,” Wesley said again. “Of course they won’t call it crazy. They call it other things. Try to put a name on it. But it will the same as calling me crazy and I’m not that.”

Wesley stared at the purple man, feeling sorry for the dying creature. He got up from his lawn chair and went over to the alien.

“They would call you an alien.” Wesley stood over the purple man. “If you’re real, that’s what they would call you. I bet you are real. You have to be real.”

Wesley wanted to kneel down and touch the dying alien, but fear kept him from doing so. Something bad would happen if he touched the purple man; Wesley was sure of it. He reconsidered calling someone for help. Perhaps the government would know how to keep the fallen man alive.

“Ooooooooh.” The purple man looked up at Wesley as he made the sound.

Wesley could see that the life was leaving the purple man’s eyes. He felt sympathy, but there wasn’t anything that he could do for the fallen man.

“It’s too bad you had to land here,” Wesley quietly said. “You should have landed in someone else’s backyard. They probably would have been able to help you. This coward can’t do anything for you. Either they’ll take me away, or they’ll take you away.”

Wesley went back over to his lawn chair and sat down. He picked up the beer bottle that was next to his feet and drank what was left in it.

“If you aren’t real,” Wesley said, pointing at the purple man. “I wonder why you…Why did you fall from the sky? Why not the deer again?”

Wesley placed the beer bottle down and thought about what his therapist had told him. She had something about symbols and what the dead deer could represent. Wesley knew that the deer wasn’t meant to represent anything. It was just showing up to bother him.

“She also talked about violence,” Wesley said. “Kept asking me if I wanted to harm anyone, including myself.”

Wesley smiled as he noticed all the stars in the sky.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone. I just want to live in peace. Peace. Solidarity. Understanding. Quiet. Understanding. But no one understands.”

Wesley looked back at the fallen man.

If he were real, which Wesley still thought was very possible, then he had probably been cast out from a group or accidently lost. Wesley wondered if the fallen man’s kind was still up there in the sky, searching for their lost companion. Wesley turned his attention to the night sky again. There were a bunch of stars up there, but he didn’t spot anything that looked like a spacecraft.

“I really hope they do come get you,” Wesley said.

Wesley saw that the man was no longer purple but had quickly turned green.

“You keep changing,” Wesley whispered. “I wonder why you keep changing.”

His past therapist would have had some extensive explanation for why the fallen man was turning colors. It was all part of Wesley’s mindset. The colors would represent something to him. She would ask him more questions about his past and what kind of childhood he had. The therapist was a hack, and she didn’t know what she was talking about.

“No one knows what they’re talking about.” Wesley stood up and went back over to the green man. “You know, I don’t know why your people were even hanging around this planet. It’s a piece of crap, you know. And now you’re going to die here. That’s pathetic.”

Wesley looked down at the green man who was still fighting to breath.

“No one will ever believe you were here,” Wesley said. “I could take a picture, though.”

Wesley brought out his phone. He accessed the camera on his phone and held it up to take the picture. The fallen man didn’t appear on the screen. Wesley took the picture anyway, hoping that the green man would still appear in the image on his phone. The only thing in the picture was the grass and cement around the pool, part of the pool and the beer bottle that was floating in the pool.

Wesley was disappointed by the results of the picture, feeling like it almost verified that he was digressing back to the state he had been in when the dead deer plagued his life. He went back to the lawn chair and sat down.

“This isn’t good,” Wesley said as he set his phone down on his lap. “This really isn’t good.”

Wesley remembered how distressed he had been when the therapist talked about something possibly being wrong with him, even mentioning that what was wrong could land him in the hospital. She had given him the names of a few diseases, but Wesley didn’t want to hear them. He didn’t care about what they wanted to call it. The dead deer was very real to him. The green man was real to him.

Wesley pointed to the green man. “If I can see it, then who are they to tell me it’s not real?”

He returned to the dying man’s side and listened to the breaths that were fighting out of the green being.

“I bet people would love to see you,” Wesley said. He thought about gently touching the man with his foot but decided that could bring as much harm as touching the green man with his hands. “They would call you all kinds of things. Alien. Freak. Creature. Invader. Demon. But I know you’re just a man. You’re just a man who fell from his home.”

The green man gradually began to change colors, going from green to a light brownish color.

Wesley sighed. It was obvious that the fallen man was close to death. Wesley decided that he would keep the brown man company for as long as he was alive. He grabbed his lawn chair and brought it closer to the dying man. The brown man kept his eyes on Wesley as he sat down and began to talk about his life.

Wesley told him about how he was in his late thirties. He mentioned his wife, Kitty, and how they had been married for almost fifteen years. Wesley talked about where he had been born, brought up, and how he eventually came to live in his current residence. The brown man breathed heavily and listened, and Wesley hoped that his story would help put the fallen man’s mind at ease as he passed on.

“I used to be really nervous as a kid.” Wesley went back to this childhood. “If something like this happened to me as a child, I would have freaked out. I would have been running down the street screaming. Everything frightened me back then. I used to be afraid of the weirdest things, like planes crashing into our house, vicious animals escaping from the zoo and coming to our home or animals coming out of the sewers. I was always afraid. Now, I don’t feel that fear anymore. I feel fear, but it’s a different kind.”

Wesley and the brown man stared at each other, and Wesley realized that the fallen man had a look in his eyes that was similar to one that the dead deer had in the past. It was a look of sadness and pity. Wesley remembered how he sometimes felt like the dead deer was watching him even when his body wasn’t around. He considered that the dead deer could be some type of guardian angel, but that notion went away after speaking to the therapist.

“She would never let me keep something like you,” Wesley told the brown man. “They would want you to go away.”

Wesley had started telling the fallen man about his work in real estate when his phone buzzed and lit up. He had received a text message from his wife, one inquiring about how he was doing.

“That was Kitty,” Wesley said. “She’s visiting her mom right now. Actually, she went to her mom’s house to get away from me. She said she really just wanted to help with her sister, but I know she just wanted to get away from me. I haven’t been doing well lately. The economy around here has really screwed up my life. How’s the economy on your planet? Hope it’s better than down here.”

Wesley began to respond to his wife’s text.

“I’ll just tell her that I’m doing fine,” Wesley said. “I won’t tell her about you. She wouldn’t believe it. She would just worry more. Then she would make me go back to a therapist. They would call me things, but I’m not crazy.”

Wesley sent the text message and went back to talking to the fallen man.

“We’re not crazy.”

Wesley and the fallen man quietly kept each other company. The brown man’s breathing had slowed and was barely audible. Wesley was starting to feel tired and wanted to go inside to his bed, but he couldn’t let the fallen man die alone. Wesley began playing a game on his phone when the fallen man suddenly grunted and started to shake.

Wesley rose from his seat and backed away from the man.

The fallen man was changing colors again. His skin turned red, a dull red at first but he gradually became brighter. The red man continued to shake and twitch on the ground. Wesley understood what was happening. The fallen man was finally dying. It would be all over in a minute.

The fallen man suddenly made a gurgling sound, and a yellow liquid began to leak out of the creature’s mouth.

“Poor thing,” Wesley said.

He took a few more steps away from the dying man.

Wesley’s phone suddenly began to ring, and he answered it after seeing that his wife was calling.

“Hi, honey.” Wesley turned his back on the dying man.

Kitty just wanted to speak to him and make sure that he was truly okay. She also wanted to inform her husband about what was happening at her mom’s house. Kitty’s sister had left her husband again, taking their two children with her, and they were all staying at her mom’s house. Wesley listened carefully as Kitty went on about the chaos that was happening around her. The phone conversation lasted for several minutes, and after it was over Wesley turned around to look at the fallen man.

The man from space was no longer there. What was there was a deer’s head. With a grin on his face, the deer stared at Wesley. Shocked by what he saw, Wesley knew that it was time to go inside and head towards his bedroom. He kept his eyes on the deer’s head as he slowly moved toward the patio door.

“Someone is behind this,” Wesley said, continuing to move towards his house. “I never should have told you about him.”

Wesley stopped tiptoeing and pointed at the deer’s head.

“I did tell you about him!” Wesley yelled. “And I never should have told you a thing!”

Wesley opened the patio door, went inside his house and slammed the patio door shut. He rushed back to his bedroom, ready to lock himself away and forget about whatever it was he had encountered that night. The thing that came from the sky had meant to cause him more stress and personal harm. It was just as bad as the dead deer. Maybe it was the dead deer, back in a new form and ready to cause more torment.

Safe in his bedroom, Wesley wondered and worried about what he had come upon that night. He didn’t know what to call it but knew that other people would have names for it. They would want to call it certain things. He didn’t want to hear them.

“I’m not crazy.”

No. There was no need to hear them. Wesley would just go to sleep and forget about the fallen man and what he had turned out to be. It was a bad thing that had come to vex him. A bad and nameless thing that he hoped was really dead.

Mr. Livingston

An experimental piece I wrote for a college class 

 

Mr. Livingston

By Ronald Cypress

We come upon Mr. Livingston on a mundane evening, one where we can find him sitting at his desk in the room he turned into an office years ago and reading a book that he has already read several times. The room is not adequately lit for reading, but this does not seem to bother Mr. Livingston. His body sits completely still as his eyes go over the printed words, and there is a look on his face that suggest Mr. Livingston is thinking about more than what is on the page. This is how we find Mr. Livingston.

The phone began to ring just as Livingston was close to finishing a chapter. It usually only took a couple of rings for his wife, Minnie, to answer it. More than likely it was someone calling for her. This time the phone rang longer than usual, and it was during the fourth ring that Livingston hurled his book across the room and into the wall. He mumbled a few obscenities to himself after the act. The fifth ring came, and Livingston sat still, appearing to be baffled. Minnie answered the phone before the sixth ring came.

“Oh, Sue. Hi.” Minnie’s voice traveled from their bedroom. “I was waiting for your call. I just need to go over something with you real quick. It’s about your order.”

Livingston didn’t move. He stared at the book he had just thrown, still confused about what had caused him to do it. The outburst wasn’t him. He didn’t know what it was, but it wasn’t him.

“Great,” Minnie said. “I’ll talk to you about it more tomorrow.”

Livingston remained frozen until his wife appeared in the doorway.

“That was just Sue,” Minnie said. “She placed a pretty big order today. It was for her cousin’s wedding. Honey, are you all right?”

Livingston rotated his chair so that he was facing his wife. He didn’t know what to say about what he had just done. He couldn’t explain what he felt.

“I’m fine,” Livingston said. “I was just thinking about something.”

“Okay. You kind of look like you just saw a ghost.”

Minnie left it at that because there was nothing else to say. She moved down the hall and left her husband alone to ponder more about what he had just experienced. It was like Mr. Livingston to think extensively about the smallest things. When he was working as a high school teacher, Mr. Livingston had constantly worried and wondered about the people around him. Years of being a worrier had played a big role in Mr. Livingston retiring earlier than he planned. It was something that could have possibly been changed, but ultimately it was part of Mr. Livingston and would never go away.

Livingston got up from his chair and walked over to the book he had just thrown. He bent down to pick it up, and as soon as his hand touched it a strong feeling came over him. Something terrible had just happened; Livingston was certain. He dropped the book and walked out of the room. A call was about to come, and Livingston knew it. The phone began to ring just as he entered the kitchen. It rang once and that was all.

Livingston answered the phone in the kitchen. “Hello?”

“Mr. Livingston?” It was a female’s voice.

“Oh, God. What is it? What happened?”

Livingston began to weep.

There was no explanation for how he knew about his daughter’s accident.

He and Minnie rushed to the hospital after Grace’s friend informed them that Grace had been run off the road and her car had flipped over. Grace had managed to make it out of the car and had called the close friend after speaking with police. The friend had driven to the site of the accident to check on Grace, and when she arrived the friend discovered that Grace had suddenly lost consciousness and had been taken away in an ambulance. The car that had sideswiped Grace was gone, and the only person at the accident was a tow truck driver who had informed Grace’s friend about what happened and then refused to talk anymore. The whole thing was quite strange and obviously unfortunate.

By the time they got to the hospital, the Livingston’s were able to see their daughter who had been placed in a room where she was the only patient and plugged into what was needed to keep her alive. The doctor informed the Livingstons that Grace was in a coma and assured them that the hospital staff was going to do everything they could to save her. She spoke some about the possibility of brain damage and the chance that Grace would never wake up. It was just a matter of waiting and seeing what transpired. It was all they could do.

Livingston tried to explain the premonition he had to his wife as they were standing by Grace’s side.

“It’s the strangest thing,” Livingston said. “I just knew.”

“Those things happen,” Minnie said. She was too devastated to give much thought to what her husband was saying.

The couple remained at the hospital for a few hours before returning home. They were both tired, and Minnie went straight to bed, quietly sobbing as she went through her usual nighttime process. Livingston went back to his office and paced around. He kept thinking about what had happened earlier. Livingston was a very suspicious man, and if something didn’t seem right he couldn’t just let it go. Many would call this a drawback to Mr. Livingston’s character, but it was part of his nature.

Eventually he got too tired to stay up and continue thinking. Livingston quietly went to his bedroom, changed clothing and got into the bed. Minnie was already asleep by the time he lay down. His mind kept going over that day. Livingston had a feeling that something else was getting ready to come into his life, something he couldn’t explain. It stayed on his mind until he fell asleep. He was asleep for a few hours when the phone began to ring. It was the normal ring, but something was different. The phone in the bedroom was silent; only the phone in the kitchen was ringing.

Livingston checked on his wife and saw that she was still sleeping. He got out of the bed and began to make his way towards the kitchen. The phone had rung several times before Livingston got to it. And it kept ringing, going well beyond the amount of rings that were necessary before the answering machine took over. Livingston stood by the phone for a few minutes, listening to the ringing and contemplating whom it could be. He stood there until he no longer had an option and was forced to answer the phone.

We are here.

 

“Hello,” Mr. Livingston says.

“Hello,” I say.

“Who are you?”

“I am a friend. Just a friend.”

“Are you…” he starts and pauses. “You are him?”

“I am just a friend, Mr. Livingston.”

“What do you want?”

“I just wanted to let you know that.”

“You’re something else,” he says.

“I am just a friend,” I say. “That is all.”

“Are you going to kill Grace? Why did you put her in an accident?”

“Those sort of things happen, Mr. Livingston. It’s beyond my control.”

“You can make her better,” he says. “You don’t have to kill her.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I think you’re giving me a power I don’t have.”

“But you do, and you know it,” he says.

“I just called to tell you I am a friend, Mr. Livingston. That is all.”

“I’m going back to church,” he says. “I want you to know that my wife and I have talked about going back to church regularly again. We’re really good people. Hello? Hello?”

 

Mr. Livingston took the phone away from his ear and stared at it. The voice was gone, and Livingston knew that it wouldn’t call again that night. He returned to bed and quickly went to sleep. He and his wife got up early in the morning and began preparing to return to the hospital. It wasn’t until they had gotten in the car and were driving to the hospital that Livingston asked his wife about the possibility that she had heard the phone ring during the night.

“I didn’t hear it,” Minnie said. “Did it ring?”

“I thought I heard something, but it was just a dream. That’s all.”

The two arrived at the hospital and found Grace in the same condition that she had been in the previous night. The doctor working that morning gave the Livingstons an update on their daughter. They were still just waiting to see if Grace would come out of her coma. The Livingstons waited around the room, both believing that their daughter would wake up soon and recognize them. One of them was completely sure that Grace would be fine; the other one was filled with doubts and anxieties.

Mr. Livingston tried to sit still and wait for his daughter to awake, but something was nagging him again. The unknown thing was coming back to him. Suddenly, Livingston sprang from his chair as his wife was telling him about her job and how she had called her boss and explained why she wouldn’t be at work that day.

“I need to get something,” Livingston said. He rushed out of the room, leaving his wife alone and puzzled.

Livingston was frustrated as he unwillingly walked towards the elevators. He got on, and once he was on the ground level he continued walking without a purpose. Someone had control of him again. Livingston felt that it wasn’t fair, being forced to move against one’s will.

“For God sake.” he spoke out loud. “There’s nowhere to go.”

A thought came to Livingston, and he suddenly had a new purpose in his life. Livingston wanted a red bowler hat. It was just what he needed at that time. Where could he find one?

“No.” Livingston almost whined.

His walking pace began to slow as he moved away from the hospital. He wasn’t too familiar with the area around the hospital, but he believed that there had to be a clothing store nearby. The hard part would be finding a store that had a red bowler hat in stock. The hat was a necessity. Livingston thought about how he would acquire the hat and then go back to sit by his daughter’s bedside with the red glory on his head. He would smile and tell Minnie that everything was going to be just fine. Grace would slowly start to open her eyes. They would open, and she would look directly at him.

“Hello, my dear,” Livingston would say.

Grace would look at him for a few seconds, her eyes still adjusting. Then she would break out in laughter. Minnie would start laughing a few seconds after her daughter did, and then he would join them. They would all be laughing, and everything would work out for them.

“No.” Livingston wanted to fall to the ground and cry. He didn’t want to move anymore. There were two types of pains fighting within him. “You’re a monster.”

The red bowler hat would have to wait. Livingston needed to get back to the hospital to support his wife and daughter. He turned around and slowly walked back. The red bowler hat remained on his mind as he dragged his feet.

“Honey, are you okay?” Minnie asked as soon as Livingston entered Grace’s hospital room.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled.

“Where did you go?”

“Made sure we were parked legally.”

Minnie left him alone, understanding that her husband wasn’t in the mood to be bothered with answering questions about his odd behavior. The two sat quietly and watched Grace. After he became assured that no one else was going to take over him, Mr. Livingston asked his wife about his appearances.

“Do you think a red bowler hat would look good on me? One that’s all red?”

“A bowler hat?”

“A red one. Would that look good on me?”

“I don’t know. I guess it depends on what else you’re wearing.”

“My head is kind of big, so it might be hard to find on that fits me.”

“Your head isn’t big.”

“I feel like I have a pretty big head.”

“What? Your head is a perfectly normal size.”

“Well.” Livingston’s voice got lower. “Something is telling me that I’ve got a big head.”

The Livingstons remained at their daughter’s bedside until that evening.

Days would pass and Grace’s condition would remain the same. Friends and some extended family came to visit her. The Livingstons were usually there when visitors arrived. They would all say similar things; they were going to keep Grace in their prayers. Every time Livingston heard about prayers he nearly scoffed. There was something wrong with Livingston’s faith. It wasn’t as strong as it had been in the past, and he seemed to hold some resentment towards a higher power.

As the days went on, Mr. Livingston withdrew more from his wife. After returning home from the hospital, Livingston would often retreat into his office. He would sit alone at his desk. Sometimes he would quietly weep, trying to hide his face and tears. But he was crying. It was easy to see. Sometimes, after his wife had gone to sleep, Livingston would go into the kitchen and pick up the phone even though it hadn’t rung.

“Hello?” he said. “Are you there? Can you hear me?”

No one responded to Livingston, and he was left feeling disappointed.

He found it hard to sleep. Grace was on his mind. The red bowler hat was on his mind. Both of them caused worrying and doubts. Livingston began to wonder about his brain. He considered the possibility that he could be going insane. Livingston tried to rationalize his thoughts, but his mind was against him. The desire for the red bowler hat wouldn’t go away, and he couldn’t convince himself that Grace would survive.

Almost two weeks had passed when Livingston managed to finally get ahold of the hat he desired. After stopping by several stores that did not carry red bowler hats, Livingston realized what he needed to do. He would have to get on the computer and order the hat online. That was exactly what he did. A few days after placing the order the hat arrived in a box; it was waiting for him when he got home from the hospital.

“What is that?” Minnie asked when she saw the box.

“Just this thing I ordered.”

“What?”

“It’s a surprise.”

Livingston took the box into is office and opened it. The red bowler hat glowed from inside. He slowly removed it from the book and placed it on top of his head. The hat fit perfectly. He didn’t even need to make any adjustments; it just fell right into the proper place. Livingston smiled as he walked out of the room and towards his bedroom. Minnie was standing by bed when he entered. She immediately looked up at the hat.

“So,” Mr. Livingston said. “How do I look?”

Minnie remained silent for several seconds before bursting out into laughter. She laughed and laughed without saying anything else besides, “Oh, honey.”

The laughter went on even after Livingston exited the room. He returned to his office and sat down at his desk. He took the red bowler hat off of his head, set it in his lap and began to cry. It didn’t make sense to him. Livingston cried until he was ready to go to bed. He left his new hat sitting on his desk and exited the room.

The phone in the kitchen—only the one in the kitchen—would ring that night. Livingston woke up knowing who it was. He made his way to the phone and stood by, allowing it to ring and ring. He didn’t move until this: Livingston grabbed the phone and answered it.

We are here.

 

“Hello,” he says.

“You sound tired,” I say.

“I am tired,” he says. “You know that.”

“Well, I’m sorry to bother you.”

“What are you doing to me?”

“I want you to know that I feel for you,” I say. “I’ve come to really like you. I almost love you in a way, but it won’t be long. This has to end.”

“Are you going to let Grace live?”

“I’m really not a bad person, Mr. Livingston.”

“Why the hat?” he asks.

“Symbols, Mr. Livingston.”

“What?”

“Or maybe the subconscious. I saw this picture recently. Never mind, Mr. Livingston.”

“I love Grace,” he says. “You can’t take her away from me.”

“You could have been an absent father,” I say. “You were almost a drunk who didn’t know his daughter even existed until she was an adult.”

“No.”

“It’s fine, Mr. Livingston,” I say. “You are who you are now, and soon you will be indelible to a certain extent.”

“Let Grace live,” he says.

“Whatever happens, I do care.”

“Then let her live.”

“The story will go how the story goes. We should get back to it. Goodbye, Mr. Livingston.”

“So long,” he says.

 

Mr. Livingston hung up the phone and went into his office. He picked up the red bowler hat and carefully examined it, trying to figure out what it could mean. Livingston worried about the possibility that he was missing something. He considered the chance that the hat could be the key to Grace’s survival. Livingston lifted the hat into the air with both hands and placed it on his head. The hat no longer fit well. It was too small for his head. He tried to pull it down to squeeze more of his head inside, but the hat was too little. Livingston removed it from his head and examined it. The red bowler hat appeared to be almost half the size it was when he first took it out of the box.

“Damn fool,” Livingston said to no one in particular.

He dropped the hat on the ground and left the room.

Both landline phones rang the next morning. Mr. Livingston answered the phone in the kitchen. It was the doctor who had spent the most time with Grace in the hospital. She was calling to let the Livingstons know that Grace had woken up for a brief period and had responded to a few questions.

“She asked about you guys,” the doctor said. “I told her you would be over really soon.”

“Thank you,” Livingston said, tears coming from his eyes.

He would continue to say thank you after the phone conversation ended.

The Livingston went to their daughter’s side. She awoke again when they arrived, and they were able to speak for a few minutes before Grace went back to sleep. The doctor told them that Grace would need some time, but she was expected to make a full recovery. Livingston was suddenly filled with faith again. He believed that everything was going to work out. Later that morning, he stood by the window in his daughter’s hospital room and thought about all the things that could have happened and all the people he could have been. The concluding thought was that he was happy to be who he was, and the story wasn’t so bad. There were things he didn’t comprehend, but Livingston still felt as if he were in good hands.

 

We leave Mr. Livingston sitting at his desk on an average morning. The office is well lit, and he is reading a book that he has never read before. The entire house is quiet, and it provides a good atmosphere for reading. There is a look on Mr. Livingston’s face that suggests he is thinking about more than what is on the pages he is reading. The look indicates that the thoughts he is having are quite pleasing. Mr. Livingston is almost smiling, and this is how we depart from Mr. Livingston, a good man for these times.

Run Along

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Part of a science fiction collection I am working on at the moment. 

 

Run Along

By Ronald Cypress

 

The doctor told May Gardner that she and her daughter looked as if they are both doing well. She sat down next to May on the couch. May knew that the doctor was only being partially truthful. There was a look of concern on May’s face, and she knew that it had been there each time the doctor had come to see her during the past five years. The look came mostly because there was still so much doubt.

Alexia hopped up from where she had been playing on the floor and ran out of the living room.

The doctor commented on how much energy the girl had. She asked if May could remember being as energetic when she was that age.

May nodded but fought the temptation of reminiscing or thinking too much about what she had been like when she was Alexia’s age. Since the child had come along, May had tried to constantly push her past away.

The doctor opened her case and began going through the usual papers. The routine was getting ready to start. Both of them already knew what questions the doctor was about to ask, and they both knew the answers. The two knew what May would mention when asked if she had any concerns.

The doctor commented on how it had been raining so much that week. May turned her head and looked out living room window to see that it was a bright day. The women agreed that the sunshine was a nice break.

Alexia ran into the room with a small, blue box in her hand. The box was closed, and on top of it was the picture of a smiling parrot. Alexia wanted to know if her mom could help her open the box. May took the box and quickly worked the faulty latch that kept the box closed. The top popped open, and she handed it back to her daughter.

“Here you go, Alexia. Now run along and play somewhere else until we are done here.”

Alexia took the box and followed her mother’s instructions.

The doctor wanted to know if Alexia’s looks ever freaked her out. She pointed out that the girl was starting to look more and more like May. Eventually the girl would come to look exactly like her. May said that she didn’t mind. She had always known that the girl would be identical to her. But she wouldn’t be her.

The doctor asked about Alexia’s behavior. She wanted to know if the child was still behaving normally and how the last physical exam had gone. Everything had been just about the same as last time; everything was fine. May never had any notable physical ailments, and she knew that her daughter would be the same.

The doctor wanted to know about how May was doing. She asked if May’s mind was still all right with what they had done.

May didn’t give an answer.

Instead, she inquired about the other parents who had gone through the same procedure as her. She wanted to know how they were doing.

The doctor claimed that they were doing fine as far as she knew.

May wanted to know if they faced any scrutiny.

There was going to be scrutiny until the procedure became more frequent and the public had a better understanding of what they had done.   At the time, it was still unnatural.

May couldn’t say that she completely disagreed with those who viewed it as something that went against nature. She often questioned if what she had done was right. Alexia could easily end up having a tainted future simply because of who she was and how she had been conceived.

May told the doctor that she just kept telling herself that her intentions were honorable, and all she really wanted to do was protect the girl. That was her strongest ambition. Alexia had to be protected.

The doctor complimented May on how well she was doing raising the girl.

May began to ramble about men and father figures. The doctor smiled and nodded a few times as she listened to May express some concerns, but there was mostly relief that she was going to be there to make sure what had happened before didn’t happen again. She had mentioned it many times in the past, but May had to bring it up again: her father had been horrible man.

The doctor assured her that the past had no way of completely repeating, not if May continued to be such an outstanding parent.

May’s mind seemed to start drifting off as she began talking, her eyes looking past the doctor, about how hard things had been for her and how she always wished that she could go back and change things. She mentioned that she had wanted to be an astronaut when she was a young girl. The last time she had seriously thought about that being a possibility was when she was a teenager, strung out and begging to die young.

May insisted that she had been really smart when she was younger. The doctor could observe Alexia for the proof of that. The doctor believed it. May wondered if she would still be able to become an astronaut in the future. The doctor said it was still possible. She, herself, would probably never reach the goal, but she, the girl, could.

May began to talk about her brother, and she told a story about how he had once saved a woman from drowning in a lake shortly before taking his own life. May believed her brother had been an outstanding person, and she hoped that one day he, too, would be able to experience a future that didn’t exist at the moment. The doctor told May that they weren’t quite there yet.

The doctor asked if there was anything that May wanted to tell her so she could relay it to her colleagues.

The two heard Alexia’s voice coming from down the hall.

May said she just hoped the child stayed healthy and that they hadn’t pushed nature too far as some had suggested. The doctor promised her that the child would grow to be just as healthy as May was, if not healthier.

Alexia appeared at the entrance of the living room. She wanted to know if it was okay to come out.

The girl’s face brought temptation, but May quickly struck down the past. It wasn’t really there anymore, not for Alexia.

It was a whole new start and another chance.

Only one entity would remain the same.

Self-Control

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Self-Control

By Ronald Cypress

 

The killer slowly put on their brown jersey gloves as they allowed the urge that had been growing for weeks to elevate even more. They had tried determination and will, telling themselves over and over again that they would remain in control; they wouldn’t let the impulse win again. The tension inside had grown too much and had taken over their entire body, leaving no doubt about what was going to happen later on that night. There was going to be a climax; it was necessary. The killer could feel their chest starting to rise more. Sweat was beginning to flow down past the cuff of the long black sleeves that covered their arms. Their jaw clenched, and for a moment it almost felt as if they were going to crush their back teeth together.

You don’t have to do it, the killer thought over and over again.

But the night was too perfect, and the feeling was too much to adequately handle. It was a warm night with a slight breeze. People were going to be out and about, and surely someone would be alone at an unfortunate time. The killer kept their pace slow as they began to walk around the neighborhood they had scouted in before. No one noticed them as they strolled around with a hood covering the top of their head. No one looked in the killer’s eyes to see the hunger and frustration that was growing. The killer was inconsequential to everyone that passed.

Several blocks from where the killer had parked, they came upon a house that they had stopped by before. An elderly woman lived there with an elderly gentleman. The man was in bad shape and had been walking around with an oxygen mask the last time the killer saw them. It wasn’t him that caught their eye. What they really wanted was the woman. The killer knew she would either be in the kitchen or the living room, completely alone with a few windows opened. They knew that she would be there that night.

She was standing in the kitchen when the killer looked in on her through the window. The woman was standing at the sink, completely oblivious to what was lurking around her. The killer began to shake, their teeth began to grind and their fists tightened. They could hear the woman humming. The killer reached down into their right pocket and grasped their usual weapon, an eight-inch chef’s knife. The woman turned away from the sink and went into the living room. The killer was ready to pounce and be upon the woman. They could already feel their hands around the woman’s neck and the knife plunging into her skin.

They wiped the sweat away from their face.

It didn’t have to happen. The killer took deep breaths, an attempt at restraining what was driving them. They moved away from the window and fell down to the soft grass that was outside. Inside the home, the elderly woman was still humming. It was a happy tune that the killer didn’t recognize. There was no need to hurt the woman. The killer grasped two handfuls of the grass. The ground beneath them began to waver, and it started to feel as if the whole world was about the tilt over.

They lay down and closed their eyes. Their thin legs suddenly jerked, and they’re jaw clenched again. The killer began to lose track of time, and at one point it felt as if they would just fall asleep and not wake until the sun was back above them.

Several loud voices woke them.

The killer rose and started to walk away from the house. They focused on the way they were feeling as they went down the road. The urge was still there. It had to be satisfied. They continued walking around the area. Part of it was aimless, but there was also a small amount of instinct involved with how they were moving. The killer could sense that they were getting closer to what they wanted.

The killer made a sudden right turn and started to walk down into a neighborhood that was very well lit. The homes on the street were older ones that retained a strong sense of nostalgia.

A man carrying a brown paper bag started to pass them.

“Hey you got a light on you?” the man asked.

The killer walked past them. They were getting much closer.

“Hey, a light?”

They began to walk faster, rapidly moving away from the man.

They were almost there. The killer’s eyes began to scan the whole area that was around them. Their mind started to ignore the buildings and objects, focusing solely on the people. There was a couple on a porch, a woman walking her dog, and a young man looking under his car. Then they saw her. She was on the parallel sidewalk, walking in the same direction as the killer and talking on a cell phone. She was young, and the killer saw something in her. It was a familiar essence.

The killer’s entire body briefly trembled.

They began to follow the young woman.

It was as it had been in the past. The killer started off with some distance between them and the young woman. They gradually began to get closer, close enough to touch and smell the other person. The killer always went unnoticed. The young women never paid attention to them until contact was made. That night the killer would make their move as soon as they had an opportunity to find themselves alone with the young woman right outside the house she was about to enter. The young woman had just reached the front door when a forceful figure took her from behind, covered her mouth, scooped her up and took the victim off to assuage a craving.

The sun came up and nearly ten miles away from where the young woman had been abducted a person slowly removed their brown jersey gloves and dropped them on the backseat of their car. They removed their black hoodie and threw it in the trunk. They tucked a stained eight-inch chef’s knife underneath the hoodie before closing the trunk and walking away. Their feet dragged as they moved towards the front door of the place they called home. They took out a key and used it to unlock the door.

An elderly woman wearing a cross around her neck was there to greet them.

“Mary, where have you been all night?” the elderly woman grabbed her.

“Auntie Belle, I’ve been—”

“What were you doing, you little whore?” Auntie Belle’s right hand went up, a wooden cane in its tight grip. She began to strike her niece on the head and neck. “Why do you do this to me, Mary? Why?”

“Auntie Belle, please—”

She continued to strike the young woman.

“You whore. Do you even know how dangerous it is out there? Come look at this.”

Auntie Belle dragged her niece into the living room.

“Look at this!”

She pointed the television.

The news was on, and they were reporting on a homicide.

“Some little whore like you was murdered last night,” Auntie Belle said. “Not far from here. Is that how you want to end up? Because that’s how you’ll be. Stabbed and dead as can be. Do you get it, you whore?”

Auntie Belle began to strike Mary with the cane again.

“No!” Mary pushed her aunt away, ran out the living room and rushed up the stairs.

“You don’t know what’s out there for you. You don’t know what this world can do to you.”

Upstairs, locked away in her room, Mary dropped to the floor.

“You’ve got to practice self-control, you whore!” Auntie Belle was screaming from downstairs. “I know you’re out there sleeping around with those men. One of them is going to leave you just like this dead girl here if you don’t shape up.”

Mary stared at the wooden floor and took deep breaths.

“I’ll pray for you, Mary. I’ll talk to the Lord for you.”

The suggestion wasn’t a bad one. Mary closed her eyes and mumbled.

“Our father in heaven.”

She barely said the rest of it, mostly praying in her head. Mary prayed and prayed for forgiveness. It was all she needed at that moment, forgiveness and a stronger resolve.

Intruder

Intruder

By Ronald Cypress

 

The first call Minnie Sinclair made to police came shortly after five in the evening. Minnie informed the operator that she was certain that someone was inside her home. She was calling from the master bedroom, breathing heavily into the phone as she whispered about the threat that was in her home.

“I can hear them moving around out there,” she said. “I think they’re trying to come kill me.”

She had been advised to stay in her room until the police arrived, but by the time two police officers showed up at her home Minnie was standing on her front yard, shaking and frantically looking around for assistance. The first officer to speak with her assured Minnie that everything was going to be fine, and she escorted the shaken woman away from the house and towards her vehicle.

“They’re in there,” Minnie said as she started to cry. “They’re planning on killing me, and they were in there waiting for me.”

“Everything is going to be fine,” the officer said.

With Minnie away from the house, the other police officer cautiously entered the house. Minnie watched him as he stood at the front door with his gun drawn and called out to whoever was in the house. Her whole body began to tighten up as the officer entered the home.

“I don’t know why they want to kill me,” Minnie said. “I haven’t done anything to anyone.”

“It’s going to be all right, ma’am. I just need you to stay here until everything is checked out.”

Minnie was more than happy to follow the officer’s directions. She didn’t want to go anywhere near her own home, not until they took care of whoever was in there. The officer who had escorted Minnie away from her home began to walk towards the house, leaving Minnie alone. Looking around the neighborhood, Minnie could see that some of her neighbors were starting to observe what was happening.

“I haven’t done anything to anyone,” Minnie said to herself. “I keep to myself. Don’t bother anyone. It’s wrong to want to kill me. It’s not right.”

She started to shiver.

Time went by slowly, but Minnie started to feel it passing. She wondered about the officers who were inside, and she figured that it was just a matter of time before there were gunshots.

“People have gone mad,” Minnie said.

The officers were taking too long inside her home, and Minnie considered the possibility that she might have to visit a neighbor’s house to call the police again and inform them that two of their own had been murdered.

The officers finally emerged from the house. The two walked towards her.

“Ma’am. ” the officer who had escorted Minnie to the car spoke first. “We looked all over the house and didn’t find anyone inside.”

“You didn’t?”

“No, ma’am. Are you sure you heard someone inside the home?”

“I was absolutely certain.” There was a little doubt in Minnie’s voice. “I know someone was in there.”

“Well, we didn’t see anyone. And we didn’t see any signs of someone breaking in.”

“So…”

“I would say it’s safe to go back into your home, Mrs. Sinclair. It’s completely empty.”

“Do you live by yourself?” the other officer asked.

“I do.”

“Okay.”

“One of us could hang around outside here if it will make you feel any better.”

Minnie thought about it. She shook her head and started to slowly head back to her house.

“It’s not right,” she said.

“Ma’am?” One of the officer’s called out to her.

Minnie continued walking until she was back inside her home. She closed the door behind her and locked it.

They must have missed something.

Minnie began walking around her home. She started in the living room, the first room one entered after going through the front door. Nothing looked as if it had been moved. Minnie looked behind the TV stand, inside the fireplace, and under the couch. She didn’t see anyone. The bathroom also appeared to be normal. Minnie looked in the shower and under the sink. Then there were the bedrooms. One was completely empty, and Minnie didn’t find anyone there. The other bedroom had a queen-size bed, a wooden dresser, and large cardboard box in the corner of the room. Minnie checked all around, including the almost bare closet. She didn’t find anyone. The investigation moved to the master bedroom, and once again Minnie looked all over.

No one.

She left her room and headed towards the kitchen. Minnie checked the stove and the refrigerator. She looked in all the drawers and under the sink. The search came to an end, and Minnie made her way back into the living room.

“I guess that settles it.”

 

It was shortly after nine at night when Minnie called the police. There was someone in her house, and she believed it was the same person who had been there earlier with plans to murder her. The police had to get there right away.

“I’m in the kitchen right now,” she said on the phone. “I can hear them moving around in the my bedroom. They’re going to come kill me.”

The operator advised Minnie to get out of the house if she could. Minnie followed the advice.

The two officers, neither the ones from before, arrived to find Minnie standing in the street, a few feet away from her property, her entire body trembling.

“There’s someone in there,” Minnie told the first officer who approached her. “They’re trying to kill me, and I don’t really understand. I haven’t done anything to anyone.”

Minnie was once again escorted towards a patrol car and told to wait until the house was checked out.

Both of the officers went inside. They moved faster than the two who had been there earlier, and it didn’t take long for them to come out and announce that they hadn’t found anyone inside the home.

“I heard them moving around in there,” Minnie said with defiance. “They were in my home, and I know they’re trying to kill me.”

“Why would anyone want to kill you, ma’am?”

“That’s a very good question, and I would like to know the answer just as much as you.”

“How old are you, ma’am?”

Minnie was shocked by the question. Her face contorted to show the aghast.

“I don’t see what that has to do with this horrible situation. Why would you ask me such a question?”

“We’re just trying to get a feel for what’s going on here, ma’am?”

“What does my age have to do with it? Maybe you think I’m so old that I should just let whoever’s coming into my home go ahead and kill me. Maybe I don’t deserve to be alive.”

“Ma’am, we’re definitely not saying that.”

Minnie shook her head. She opened her mouth, but the indignation was just too vigorous for her to speak.

“Are you taking any medications, ma’am?”

It was only getting worse. Minnie figured they were just a few questions away from asking about her sex life.

“I think I should just…”

“Are you okay, ma’am?”

“I should just go back inside, and you two should just go.”

Minnie began to walk back towards her home. She would do another search.

“We’re here,” she heard one of the officers say. “We didn’t find anything, and the woman that called is behaving kind erratically.”

Minnie was almost at the front door. She would have already been inside if her legs weren’t shaking so bad, preventing her from moving faster.”

“It’s an elderly woman. I would say about seventy. She wouldn’t tell us her age.”

She reached the front door and pushed it open.

The house quietly waited for her. Minnie decided that she would be more thorough when she looked around the house. She wouldn’t just look under the beds, but she would also check underneath the mattresses. She would look behind the refrigerator and stove. In the two bathrooms, she would go behind the toilets. Someone had been in her home, and they had wanted her dead.

But no one was found.

After her search was over, Minnie drank a small cup chamomile tea and prepared for bed. She was still trembling some, but whoever had been there before was no longer around.

“A good night’s rest is what I need.”

It was close to two in the morning when the police arrived at Minnie’s house. She had told the operator that someone was moving all over her house.

“They were in the kitchen,” she told the operator. “But now they’re in the bedroom across from mine. Wait. I hear them in the fireplace. They’re coming down the hall.”

Minnie had somehow managed to make it out of her bedroom and out of the house.

The one officer who showed up took Minnie over to his car before going inside to look around.

“I suggest you really give it a good look, and don’t just skim over the place like I suspect your comrades did.”

The officer assured her that he would look all over the house.

He moved even faster than the last officers had, and Minnie began to cry when she saw him leaving the house and walking towards her.

“Ma’am,” the officer said.

“Don’t!” Minnie screamed. “Just don’t. I know you didn’t really look around. You don’t care that there’s someone in there trying to kill me.”

Minnie moved away from the patrol car and back towards her front yard.

“I don’t understand why this is happening to me,” she said. “I’ve done nothing to deserve this.”

A few neighbors started to come out of their homes, including the woman who lived next door.

“I’ve worked hard all my life,” Minnie said. “And I deserve to be left alone in peace.”

Minnie wiped away her tears and took a deep breath. She couldn’t stop shaking. She knew that she would have to go back into the house. The person who had been there was probably gone again, but they would be back. They would keep coming back until they finally got what they wanted.

“She’s been changing for about a year now,” a voice said behind Minnie. “She’s really kept to herself and hasn’t spoken to us as much as she used to.”

“Do you know if she has any relatives nearby?”

“Her grandson was living with her, but he took off. Shortly after that some teens followed her home after an incident on the road and threatened to kill her. I heard them calling her all kinds of horrible names, and they said they were going to burn her house down with her in it. It was terrible. I wanted her to call the police, but she didn’t.”

Minnie couldn’t believe all the talking that was going on behind her. All that chattering wasn’t going to fix her problem.

Her neighbor kept babbling.

“I think that incident and being alone have really shaken her.”

Minnie heard a noise coming from inside her home. Someone was still in there. She knew that the officer hadn’t searched with sincerity. He didn’t care if she were killed. What difference would it make to him or the rest of the world?

“Ma’am, are you okay? Are you sure you want to go back in the house?”

Minnie’s shaking legs had to go step by step.

“Minnie, is there someone we could call?”

Minnie thought about turning around and telling her prattling neighbor to shut up.

“Minnie?”

She would go back in the house and lock the door. There wasn’t going to be another search. Instead Minnie would just settle down somewhere, likely in the living room, and wait for the person who was breaking into her home to reveal themselves. They might be in for a surprise. Minnie knew she still had some fight in her. They weren’t going to get rid of her with ease.

Minnie locked the front door once she was inside. No one was going to leave until the thing was settled. She brewed more chamomile tea and prepared for the confrontation. A few noises from just outside the home started up as she sat down on her couch. They were trying to find the best way to get back into her home. The noises gradually picked up volume, and Minnie eventually realized that they were there with her. She took a long sip of her tea.

It was time for the showdown.

The Bug

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The Bug

By Ronald Cypress

On the day that she finally moved into her apartment, Valerie happened to look up at the eleventh floor while she was walking towards the main entrance. She could see the windows of the apartment that was across from hers. The whole area that encompassed her neighbor’s apartment was different from the rest of the brick building. The section seemed to protrude from the structure, and the bottom part appeared to be melting down to cover the rest of the apartment building that was beneath it. Valerie stopped and blinked her eyes a few times. The building went back to being normal.

The apartment was small, having just enough room to fit a kitchen, living room, bathroom and one bedroom. Her aunt had helped her find the building, and once her parole office approved Valeria was allowed to move. She had been there for almost a month and still hadn’t managed to really know anyone else who lived in the building. It was just how she had hoped it would be. She could keep her head down and avoid talking to the other people. Most of the people in the building had the same type of mindset—they just wanted to be left alone. The landlord was easy, the type that wouldn’t do too much if something had to be fix but also wouldn’t make too many moves if a tenant was doing something that others might not appreciate. Most of the building was quiet. The halls were dark. Much of the walls were stained, but the carpeted floors were always kept clean. Some people would have been perturbed by dim, quiet atmosphere at night, but the mood was what Valerie needed.

Everyone went about their private lives without interrupting each other, and the only person who caught Valerie’s attention was the man who lived across the hall from her.

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There was something wrong with the apartment and the man who lived there. Valerie had first noticed it about a week after she moved in and noticed that the apartment door kept opening and closing. It didn’t open and close in normal manner. It was closed when she arrived home after going shopping for a few items. She put her key in the lock, happened to look behind her and see that it was suddenly completely open. She turned around, unlocked the door, looked behind her again and saw that the door had been closed without making sound. Her door cracked open. The door across the hall was open again. Valerie noticed the door open and close no less than ten times before she entered her apartment and closed her own door for good. She looked through the peephole to see the door continuing to open and close without going through any motions. Some time passed, and suddenly she saw a man appear in the doorway. Then she could see more than just the man sitting in an armchair. The whole apartment opened up, and Valerie could see a large room with just an armchair and a waterfall behind him.

Valerie closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, the door was closed. It remained that way, and Valerie went back to her own life.

There were other oddities about the man across the hall, but Valerie chose to ignore them.

One night, Valerie was awakened by the loud voices. They were all men’s voices, and at first they sounded as if they could speaking from inside her apartment. Valerie got up from her mattress and went out into the living room. The voices were coming from outside her apartment. Valerie opened her door. They were coming from the apartment across the hall.

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Valerie couldn’t resist any longer. She slowly approached the door and knocked.

A wind blew, and Valerie was suddenly sitting across from her neighbor with a long wooden table between the two of them. They were in a kitchen that was much too grand and luxurious to actually be a part of their apartment building. The wind continued to blow. Soon she knew his name.

“Jett.”

And as the wind went on, she began to find out a great deal about him.

“I’m not supposed to be here.”

He couldn’t really remember being born or ever having a childhood.

“I can make parents, but they can be anyone in this whole world.”

He had an unlimited amount of power, yet he was completely powerless. With the things he could do, Jett should have been considered a god but he was a mistake.

“Our world is part of a calculated and programmed system.”

He didn’t belong. Something had gone wrong, and he had been created. Or he had been created, and things went wrong.

The wind stopped, and they were siting in Valerie’s apartment. She was aware that at least a few days had passed since she first knocked on Jett’s door, but she couldn’t completely recall ever leaving his presence and doing other things besides talking to him. The two sat on the floor in her living room. Jett wanted to know about her.

“I just got out of jail not long ago.”

The law had found her responsible for the death of her brother. They had been together when he died, and they both had injected the same amount of the drug they had used for years. But he was the one who died.

“I’ve been clean since then, but I don’t know how much longer…”

Jett suggested that the leave the apartment building. He took her hand and they both sank through the floor, continuing to fall and slide until they were standing at the front door. Jett continued to hold her hand as he flew her down the streets. The people around them didn’t seem to notice as they went by. They would finally come to a stop on a park bench. Rain started to fall around them, but they remained dry with a luminous light coming down on them.

Valerie wanted to know if Jett really didn’t know where he came from.

“I’m just a hiccup in the system.”

He wasn’t supposed to be there.

Jett wanted to know about Valerie’s brother.

“He was a few years older than me.”

He had been completely straight until she introduced him to what would eventually cause his death.

The rain around them stopped, and the wind began to blow again.

Valerie awoke in her room on her mattress. She rolled over and fell to the floor. The mattress was no longer on the ground as it had been before. It wasn’t even her old mattress, but a king-size bed. The bedroom was still hers, but it felt like it was just a little bit bigger. Valerie began to think about Jett. She went out into the living room area and approached her door. Looking through the peephole, all she could see was a blank white wall. Valerie opened the door. There was a janitorial closet across from her apartment.

Valerie’s parole officer came to see her.

0000

That was the number on Jett’s apartment.

The parole officer wanted to know about how Valerie was doing. She wanted to know if Valerie was having any luck finding a job and if she had been attending anonymous meetings to help her combat the problems of the past. The woman felt that it was important for Valerie to keep herself busy and away from temptation. There wasn’t much to tell. Valerie frequently went to her door and looked through the peephole. The first time there was a hallway that didn’t seem to have an end. Then there was a dark hole that also appeared to be endless. Then: a forest, a room full of smoke, a large mouth with all thirty-two teeth, and a green plain.

The parole officer eventually left Valerie alone to watch Jett’s door.

She watched it for years without time actually passing. Suddenly, she was outside the door, and they were standing across from each other. Jett was apologetic about revealing himself to her.

“It’s not going to help anything.”

All he could do was leave her damaged and unable to recover from what she had found out about their world. Jett promised to move and to leave Valerie alone.

She begged him to stay.

A wind blew, and she was sitting in her living room. It didn’t look like hers, furnished with an expensive couch, an expensive TV and TV stand, and pictures on the walls. Valerie stood up and began to look over the framed mementos. They were all pictures of her and her brother, pictures that she knew had never actually been taken and had never existed in the past. They were both smiling in the photos and appeared to be genuinely happy. Valerie removed one of the pictures from the walls. She and her brother were standing together in front of their old house. She could hear his laughter, and in her mind she could clearly see how things had been, or could have been.

There was a knock at her door.

Jett stood before her as a much older man. He was nearly unrecognizable, but Valerie knew it was Jett in a form that he wouldn’t keep for long. He would move on and try to hide away somewhere else. Valerie worried about what would happen to him.

“I was never really born, and I’ll never really die.”

Jett suddenly reached out and took her hand. The building around them disappeared, and they were standing in front of Valerie’s old home.

“I was never meant to be, but here I am, a terrible mistake.”

Jett let go of her hand and began to walk away from her. Then he was gone.

Valerie heard a voice coming from inside the house. She instantly recognized who it was, and she slowly began to walk up the porch steps and towards the open front door. His voice grew louder, as did the nervousness she felt about seeing him again. The wind began to pick up as she stepped into her old house. It continued to blow until she was back in her apartment.

Everything was still.

A cell phone sitting on the couch began to ring.

Valerie stopped listening for the rush of the wind and walked over to the phone. A woman was on the other side.

“Are you coming to work today?”

Valerie didn’t know who it was.

“We could use you at the office.”

Valerie looked down at herself and saw the black business-like attire she was wearing.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

The woman didn’t say anything. Suddenly, Valerie heard Jett’s voice.

“You know what to do now.”

It was a new life that had somehow and for some reason been given to her.

Valerie wanted to know about her brother.

“Is he alive?”

Jett told her that complete resurrection was beyond his control. The complete essence of her brother had been almost entirely erased, and one day it would be the same for her. But her destiny had been disrupted and reprogrammed. It was another life, and soon it would come to her so that Valerie knew whom she was and what she was supposed to do.

Valerie ended the phone call and walked over to her door. She looked through the hole.

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The door opened and a young couple emerged.

Valerie had to restrain herself from rushing across the hall and into the apartment to search for Jett. The problem had moved away from her. Her world would go back to being straight and well defined. But someone had made a mistake, and it appeared that they were closer to human than what may have once been thought to be. The glitch was out there, and Valerie considered that maybe there were more.

It was possible that they whole system was faulty, and people like her were just stuck with the consequences.

As she rode the elevator to the bottom floor and casually walked out to the street, Valerie wondered about what the new world would be like. The wind began to blow as she walked down the street, but it was just a simple yet pleasurable element.

And that’s what she would be.

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