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Written by ErrBane in portal Simon & Schuster

The Black Orchid

Ch 1: A Seed is Planted

Blackened reeds bow to a gentle breeze. An emerald sky, rife with dark clouds, looms above. The stench of dried blood clings to the air—the hill is going to get another sacrifice, and it is glad.

The Dark Hill sits on the outskirts of the city of Arcana, its once vibrant veldt now a dreary shell of its former self: weeds choke the life from every tree and shrub, withering them away to nothing more than feeble stumps; blood spilled upon its once fertile soil has seeped into the ground, staining the grass black and the earth red; the melodious ditty of a hundred woodland creatures has been snuffed away and replaced by the faint shrieking of restless souls.

Along the crest of this dark, dreary hill is a very decrepit house, Mildred Manor, a thing made in the old Victorian style with broken shutters and crumbling steeples. From that home, that magnet of the macabre, comes most of the Dark Hill’s fetid food, the crimson elixir that smirches its once pristine grounds. Over the years, the house, cursed as it is, has become a nexus for grisly actions, each more gruesome and sinister than the last.

Every night, as the sun surrenders the skies to the moon, warbled screams, like some terrible lullaby, escape from the awful house. Many believe the sound to be a desperate call from the lonely manor, a dreadful bugle call only those with ill intent in their hearts can decipher.

On this terrible night, lonely and cold, as the sun’s final rays retreat into the horizon, one such soul heeds that call.

Cloaked in tatters as black as the grass upon which he walks, he carries a large bundle wrapped in dirty, yellowed sheets. This bundle, tightly wound, contours around a very human shape.

Up and up and up the hill he goes, coming to a stop in front of the mold filled door of the manor. He looks up at the broken steeples and the shattered windows. He takes a professional interest on the mark above the front door, the mark of Everything You Touch, the sign of the curse that plagues Mildred’s Manor—a decrepit, hovering hand with jagged lines radiating from it, and covering the whole exterior of the house.

With undue brutality, he kicks the front door, shattering it. Splinters fly in all directions. Upon entering, he staggers momentarily, as the cursed floor slants awkwardly to the left. Regaining his footing, he moves towards a vast, empty room on his right.

Awkward angles fill the room as the doorframe, fireplace, and windows are all slightly crooked. On the ceiling hangs a gangly, crooked mess of speckled bronze, a chandelier. Plumes of dust erupt every time the man takes a step.

Disgusted by the thing he carries, the man drops the bundle at his feet. From his pocket he removes a crystal vial, the liquid contents of which are suspended one over the other, orange and black, like water over oil. He shakes the vial until the contents fuse together. A bubbling sludge forms within the vial, and this the man pours over the top end of the bundle. Bubbles quiver and explode, others percolate through the dirty cloth. The man waits for some moments, making sure that the whole mixture soaks into the grimy sheets. When this is done, he exits the room.Ancient planks groan as he steps out of the room and throws away the vial in his hand. With a loud crash, it shatters upon a wall.

Once outside, the man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a gem in the shape of a tiny lion. With the gem in hand, he starts to swing his wrist, like a cowboy about to rope cattle. With each revolution, the gem fills with a dim, silver glow. The man raises his arm over his head and, with a snap of his hand, causes a flurry of silver flames to erupt from the crystal. The flames do not burn the mildewed wood of Mildred’s Manor—instead, the silver sparks seep into every wall, every window of the house.

The man flinches as silver flames make the crystal vibrate in his hands, breaking with an audible snap. He begins to massage his hurt hand, but he quickly forgets his pain. He takes a few steps back to survey his work.

Like a shattering clock revealing all its gears, the house creaks and cracks, its bricks, wood, and glass all suspended in the air. Each of its pieces begin to shuffle around in a blur of motion. The house seems to breathe as all the debris expands inward and outward. Suddenly, as though nothing has happened, each segment falls back into place. Every piece lays peacefully at rest for some moments. But as the man begins to walk away, the house once more splits into its component parts, caught in a never ending loop.

Inside the shifting walls of the house, the bundle begins to move. The dirty sheets peel back to reveal a naked man. Save for the fact that his eyes are missing, there is nothing to indicate that the man is dead. Indeed, the squirming in his throat, making his head move as though he were having a nightmare, gives a distinct impression of a man asleep. Only when his mouth peels back, revealing his chattering teeth, does anything appear to be amiss. With incredible force, the teeth, like tiny, white bullets, begin to shoot out one by one, as gray roots erupt from the man’s throat.

Like some great, molting insect, the man’s skin adapts a grey hue and starts to dry up and slip from his body. His veins, no longer red, look like pulsing rivers of lava, orange and hot. The veins convulse violently, their contents gush out and leak into the mildewed floor.

CRACK.

The man’s jaw breaks as a large plant slithers out of his mouth. Five stygian petals, like the limbs of a man, bob up and down. The black flower dances upon the chest of the dead man and the Dark Hill, after months of starvation, is finally satiated.

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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by ErrBane in portal Simon & Schuster
The Black Orchid
Ch 1: A Seed is Planted

Blackened reeds bow to a gentle breeze. An emerald sky, rife with dark clouds, looms above. The stench of dried blood clings to the air—the hill is going to get another sacrifice, and it is glad.

The Dark Hill sits on the outskirts of the city of Arcana, its once vibrant veldt now a dreary shell of its former self: weeds choke the life from every tree and shrub, withering them away to nothing more than feeble stumps; blood spilled upon its once fertile soil has seeped into the ground, staining the grass black and the earth red; the melodious ditty of a hundred woodland creatures has been snuffed away and replaced by the faint shrieking of restless souls.

Along the crest of this dark, dreary hill is a very decrepit house, Mildred Manor, a thing made in the old Victorian style with broken shutters and crumbling steeples. From that home, that magnet of the macabre, comes most of the Dark Hill’s fetid food, the crimson elixir that smirches its once pristine grounds. Over the years, the house, cursed as it is, has become a nexus for grisly actions, each more gruesome and sinister than the last.
Every night, as the sun surrenders the skies to the moon, warbled screams, like some terrible lullaby, escape from the awful house. Many believe the sound to be a desperate call from the lonely manor, a dreadful bugle call only those with ill intent in their hearts can decipher.

On this terrible night, lonely and cold, as the sun’s final rays retreat into the horizon, one such soul heeds that call.

Cloaked in tatters as black as the grass upon which he walks, he carries a large bundle wrapped in dirty, yellowed sheets. This bundle, tightly wound, contours around a very human shape.

Up and up and up the hill he goes, coming to a stop in front of the mold filled door of the manor. He looks up at the broken steeples and the shattered windows. He takes a professional interest on the mark above the front door, the mark of Everything You Touch, the sign of the curse that plagues Mildred’s Manor—a decrepit, hovering hand with jagged lines radiating from it, and covering the whole exterior of the house.
With undue brutality, he kicks the front door, shattering it. Splinters fly in all directions. Upon entering, he staggers momentarily, as the cursed floor slants awkwardly to the left. Regaining his footing, he moves towards a vast, empty room on his right.
Awkward angles fill the room as the doorframe, fireplace, and windows are all slightly crooked. On the ceiling hangs a gangly, crooked mess of speckled bronze, a chandelier. Plumes of dust erupt every time the man takes a step.

Disgusted by the thing he carries, the man drops the bundle at his feet. From his pocket he removes a crystal vial, the liquid contents of which are suspended one over the other, orange and black, like water over oil. He shakes the vial until the contents fuse together. A bubbling sludge forms within the vial, and this the man pours over the top end of the bundle. Bubbles quiver and explode, others percolate through the dirty cloth. The man waits for some moments, making sure that the whole mixture soaks into the grimy sheets. When this is done, he exits the room.Ancient planks groan as he steps out of the room and throws away the vial in his hand. With a loud crash, it shatters upon a wall.

Once outside, the man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a gem in the shape of a tiny lion. With the gem in hand, he starts to swing his wrist, like a cowboy about to rope cattle. With each revolution, the gem fills with a dim, silver glow. The man raises his arm over his head and, with a snap of his hand, causes a flurry of silver flames to erupt from the crystal. The flames do not burn the mildewed wood of Mildred’s Manor—instead, the silver sparks seep into every wall, every window of the house.

The man flinches as silver flames make the crystal vibrate in his hands, breaking with an audible snap. He begins to massage his hurt hand, but he quickly forgets his pain. He takes a few steps back to survey his work.

Like a shattering clock revealing all its gears, the house creaks and cracks, its bricks, wood, and glass all suspended in the air. Each of its pieces begin to shuffle around in a blur of motion. The house seems to breathe as all the debris expands inward and outward. Suddenly, as though nothing has happened, each segment falls back into place. Every piece lays peacefully at rest for some moments. But as the man begins to walk away, the house once more splits into its component parts, caught in a never ending loop.

Inside the shifting walls of the house, the bundle begins to move. The dirty sheets peel back to reveal a naked man. Save for the fact that his eyes are missing, there is nothing to indicate that the man is dead. Indeed, the squirming in his throat, making his head move as though he were having a nightmare, gives a distinct impression of a man asleep. Only when his mouth peels back, revealing his chattering teeth, does anything appear to be amiss. With incredible force, the teeth, like tiny, white bullets, begin to shoot out one by one, as gray roots erupt from the man’s throat.

Like some great, molting insect, the man’s skin adapts a grey hue and starts to dry up and slip from his body. His veins, no longer red, look like pulsing rivers of lava, orange and hot. The veins convulse violently, their contents gush out and leak into the mildewed floor.

CRACK.

The man’s jaw breaks as a large plant slithers out of his mouth. Five stygian petals, like the limbs of a man, bob up and down. The black flower dances upon the chest of the dead man and the Dark Hill, after months of starvation, is finally satiated.
#fantasy  #fiction  #mystery 
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Written by ErrBane

El Callejon

“I do it to help,” says the thirty five year old police officer, as she sits across from me. “I’ve known these people all my life. They sometimes hear or experience weird things--so weird and out of the ordinary that even their own families, friends, and neighbors don’t believe them. And if those they trust don’t believe them, why would the police? So they don’t bother going to them. Instead, they come to me. They know I’ll listen. They know I’ll believe them. In the grand scheme of things, it might not be that big of a deal. But that’s alright. If I can, at the end of the day, say that I’ve helped just one person, helped them even just a little, then it’s all worth it.” As she brings the smoking cup of coffee to her lips, she laughs and adds: “Plus, it’s really, really fun.”

There is something very coquettish about her smile which makes me feel like a teenager again. As the morning sun hits her glossy black hair, braided into an elaborate ponytail that hangs over her left shoulder, I can see why people flock to her with their problems: her plumb lips, colored with a maroon lipstick that beautifully compliments her mocha skin, and wide, warm smile, evoke a sense of familiarity, and thus, safety. And yet, the rich hazel eyes have an almost bewitching effect: they seem to want to draw out my deepest, darkest secrets, not so that she may hold some leverage over me, but so that I may rid myself of the burden.

From the second she entered the Café Cola’O, dressed in a very casual t-shirt and shorts, I found myself unable to stop talking. Such is her gift: instantly you feel like you’ve known her all your life.

On a Saturday morning, the Café Cola’O, on Pier 2 of Old San Juan, is not very busy. This suits the both of us; I want to be able to catch all that she has to say and she hates crowds. We sit on shiny silver chairs just outside the café, underneath the green metal arch that holds the stylized cup of piping hot coffee with the name of the place. I offered to meet her in her native Añasco, but she insisted on making the two hour trip through winding highways, bordered by massive mountains, covered in wire mesh to prevent the not uncommon landslide, over old bridges overlooking even older rivers, to Old San Juan because she really loves her coffee and Café Cola’O is her favorite place to get it.

Immediately after ordering, she began to narrate the history of coffee on Puerto Rican soil with the passion and expertise of a true connoisseur. All joy instantly left her face when I told her it all tastes the same to me. Realizing that she did not have a fellow coffee lover as company, she dropped the subject with the obstinate air of the child that is told she can’t have that really nice candy bar calling out her name.

But Rosa recovers quickly and her face is full of expectation with a look that seems to say: “Now that the pleasantries are over, we can get to the real point.”

Naturally, I didn’t need to remind her what that point was. In fact, I never had to tell her at all. Two days prior to our meeting, I had called her precinct, trying to schedule an interview. Having gotten wind of her latest “peculiar little problem”, I wanted to find out more about this intrepid officer. When she finally answered the phone, it took her no more than five seconds to figure out why I was calling. With nothing but my name and my place of employment, she instantly knew what I wanted and why. She has not stopped impressing me since.

“Oh, please”, she says, waving away my compliments. “There’s nothing impressive about knowing there’s a dog in the house when you hear barking behind the front door. N-not that you’re a dog,” she adds, hastily. I vaguely detect hints of blushing.

I can’t help but laugh at the remark as the confident and professional air of the officer vanishes briefly, giving me a glimpse of the somewhat awkward woman beneath.

With my question about the alley, her masterful demeanor swiftly returns.

“El callejόn,” she repeats the words with a faraway look in her eyes.

                                                                    ###

The cobbled streets of Old San Juan, indeed the whole barrio, seem like a scene frozen in time. Only the dozens of modern cars, with their drivers talking on devices foreign to the original dwellers of the city, break up the illusion. Colorful and evocative of a bygone age, its buildings are works of art that, one supposes, when seen in the hot Puerto Rican sun, must have sparked the idea that perhaps such artistic edifices should be put to good use. Thus, the modern version of the town arose: a thriving tourist trap built upon the shoulders of its natives, full of shops and restaurants that very few of the people living in the surrounding area can actually afford. Instead, they come to admire their heritage or to make a living--street vendors, with their homemade foods, litter the town square, battling for space against the hundreds of pigeons that make the city their home.

Maria Peña is among one of these vendors—-an unassuming woman of seventy two, she has, personally, manned her sherbet cart on that square for over three decades. Monday through Saturday, rain or shine, you can find the short lady, dressed in bright blouses, her short, curly hair white as the marbled statues of the Plaza de Arma fountain, behind her small, silver cart, underneath the massive, rainbow umbrella and smelling as sweet as the homemade confections she peddles--fruity concoctions blended in her own kitchen with the help of her children and grandchildren.

She shoveled out the treat, molding it into perfect scoops, and served it in a fragile paper cup, a welcomed rush of soothing cold in the Caribbean heat, as I asked her about her repeated calls to the police.

“Nobody except Rosa believed me, you know,” said Peña. “I called and called, but they never came. They didn’t call me crazy, but they might as well have. I knew what I saw.”

The opinion of the officers who spoke with Mrs. Peña was unanimous: “I mean, how could you not notice an entire alley? They just don’t spring up over night.”

I must admit that even I was skeptical at first, but there was genuine concern, and fear, in Mrs. Peña’s demeanor when she spoke, in whispered tones, about her experience with the alley. Rosa, too, had noticed this when she talked to Mrs. Peña. Rosa’s mother, being a childhood friend of Maria, asked her daughter to help her old friend, for Mrs. Peña was going crazy about the whole affair, telling everyone about it.

“She was losing her mind,” says Rosa of her first meeting with Maria. “She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Bags under her eyes. Yawning after every word. It was sad. And it wasn’t even the strangeness of the situation that was doing it. What was really bothering her was that nobody, nobody, believed her.”

And who could blame them? After all, it was a rather farfetched scenario.Rosa leaned in, readying her hands--she has a habit of gesticulating when she wants to make a point--and asked:”Do you climb any stairs where you work?”

I admitted that I did.

“How many steps are in those stairs?”

For almost ten years, I have climbed the steps leading to the bullpen of “El Boriken”, and, try as I might, I could not, for the life of me, answer her.

“What about this: Think of your childhood home. Presumably, you spent quite a few years there. Can you tell me if there were any lampposts on that street? And if so, how many?”

I thought of my two-story home, with its many arches, its light pink paint, the black, iron-wrought gates, and the massive mango tree in the backyard. The street and its lampposts, or lack thereof, were muddled in my memory, but Rosa’s point was clear.

“Do you understand now? A lot of us go our whole lives not seeing what’s right in front of our faces. So, was it possible that, after thirty years of working in the same place, she happened to notice a piece of the scenery for the first time? Sure. Was it probable?” She lifted her cup gently to her lips, and with a coy smile, said: “Eso es otro veinte pesos.”

Though Rosa had no reservations about Mrs. Peña’s story from the get go, I certainly did. It wasn’t until she started to describe the event that I really believed in her or, at the very least, believed that she believed.

“That day,” Peña recalls, “started out like all the others, I guess. Got up at five in the morning, even though people don’t really start coming to the plaza until nine or ten. Just a habit now, I guess. Been waking up before the roosters since I could walk. But, anyway. I made my coffee, got to have my coffee, woke up the grandkids. Around six, I usually head out. I live in Trujillo Alto, so it doesn’t take me too long to get to the plaza. Just another Wednesday. But I do remember something that made me feel strange. Going over the bridge (the Teodoro Moscoso, a bridge lined with Puerto Rican flags, connecting southern San Juan with Carolina) the clouds over the lake looked real scary, like a storm was coming. None of the flags on the bridge were moving either. Real creepy.”

The eeriness of that day, as Maria Peña soon found out, was just beginning. As she drove into the old fortified town, on the way to her usual spot, she saw it. Nestled between two rows of shops, restaurants, and apartments, barely noticeable, was an alley, winding up in sharp angles all the way to nowhere; for the alley, Maria observed, did not open up on the other side of the street nor did any roads lead to it. Curiously, none of the buildings that bordered it opened up to it, having no back or service doors to speak of. Up to that point, Maria had no cause for concern.

The matter was odd, yes, but nothing to be worried about. It was merely an unexpected break in her daily routine, a new potential topic for small talk. Or it would’ve been, had things not become much, much weirder.

Mrs. Peña parked her truck, opened the cart’s rainbow umbrella, took out her folding chair, and began her lonely vigil for customers alongside her little handheld radio. As she listened to the morning’s news, she could not help but think back on that strange alley. She looked around and, seeing not a living soul in sight, decided her cart was safe from potential thieves and made her way to the little alley.

Devoid of people, or even loitering pigeons and dogs, the lonely, narrow alley appeared far larger and more foreboding. Maria made her way up the steep alley, taking in each of its cobbled stones.

“It was so clean,” recalls Peña, as she walked to the end of the alley. “The stones were as old as those of any other road, all broken and stained black, but they were clean and smooth, almost as if no one had ever really walked on them.”

On her way back down the jagged path, she first saw the sight that would plague her for weeks on end. From the cracks between the cobbled, weathered stones, Maria heard a sound like a boiling kettle. Before long, bubbles of dark crimson oozed out of the ground and burst, filling the air with a heavy iron stench. As more and more of these bubbles emerged, the viscous red liquid began to flow down that desolate alley, like nearly unearthed lava carving out a path.

Screams that could’ve woken the dead rung out in that ancient city. Mrs. Peña ran as fast as her legs could carry her, not once looking back at the macabre alley. When she finally reached her cart, she got on her truck and headed home.

That day, she kept what she saw to herself. Her daughter and son-in-law asked her why she had returned so early, but the elderly lady gave no answer.

The following morning, though shaken up as she was, Maria got back on the saddle and headed to work.

“I had to know. I had to know if what I saw was real, you know. I thought maybe it was just rusty water. Or maybe I was seeing things. I don’t know. I just had to go back.”

When she returned, the same ghastly scene unfolded once more. There was no escaping it now: the thing was real.

So Maria Peña did what any of us would’ve done in her place--she told the people who she trusted the most. They ignored her.

“Threatened to take away her car keys,” says Kendra Peña, forty, about her mother. “I wanted to take her to a doctor. What was I supposed to do?”

Maria offered to take her daughter to the alley so she could see the thing for herself, but Kendra steadfastly refused. And then came the phone calls--dozens of calls to the San Juan Municipal Police, calls which were repeatedly ignored. At her wit’s end, Mrs. Peña tried one more approach.

“I went back with my daughter’s camera. If I couldn’t take people to the alley, maybe I could bring the alley to them.”

As if the whole situation was not already weird enough, Mrs. Peña now found that the alley was apparently camera shy. For an entire week she returned to that frightful spot, hoping to catch the walkway in the midst of its grotesque display, but she had no such luck.

Giving it up as a lost cause, she stopped bringing the camera and soon, just stopped going to the alley altogether. Days passed, and the strange alley continued to linger in her mind.

But just when she believed the whole affair to be behind her, a chance encounter brought it all back.

Maria had gotten back to work, taking pains to avoid the alley. As she sat at her usual spot, a certain gentleman approached her little cart. It was a regular customer, a favorite of hers in fact. The elderly lady began to blush when she told me about him:

“Alfonso coming by is always my favorite part of the day. I hadn’t seen him since the renovations on his house started.”

I remembered the occasion well, as I covered it at the time. Alfonso Soto, set designer of the Puerto Rican Theater, had returned from a brief stint on Broadway, a stint made even briefer by his unceremonious firing. A notorious prankster, it was this trickster spirit of his that lost him his prestigious position. At a rehearsal for a new show, he replaced the sound cue of a door shutting with that of a gunshot, giving the lead actor, a rather elderly woman who had, just weeks before, recovered from open heart surgery, a heart attack. Luckily, the lady survived but the managers of the production were none too pleased with Soto’s antics, the latest example of which almost proved fatal.

“A whole block got covered with huge barricades because of all the construction they were doing,” continued Peña. “Got dust everywhere. And oh boy, the noise!”

She further mentioned how she casually spoke of the alley to Soto, omitting the small detail of the flowing blood. But once more she was met with the usual dismissive attitude. This rebuttal brought all of the previous curiosity and anguish rushing back. Enter Rosa Vega.

                                                                  ###

I was eager to hear her explanation. Weeks had passed since I had first heard of the alley, or callejόn, from Mrs. Peña, months since that lady first saw the strange sight of the bleeding alley that led to nowhere. Dozens of people did I question, all with the same result: They couldn’t say for certain whether they had noticed the alley before or not. Repeated attempts to view the blood phenomenon with Mrs. Peña failed. So, as I sat across from Rosa that Saturday morning, I was quite curious to find out the truth behind the whole thing.

“So, where do you start with something like this? Are these the sort of ‘cases’ you normally handle?”

Rosa laughs. “I prefer to call them ‘peculiar problems’. ‘Cases’ sound too…fiction-y. I can’t tell you the last time I heard an actual detective call it a ‘case’. But yeah, this level of weird is what I deal with,’ she chuckles wistfully. “They’re weird and, more often than not, kinda silly. I prefer it that way. My apologies to Mr. Chandler, but a good mystery doesn’t always need a corpse. But to answer your first question, you start at the beginning.”

“The beginning. So, the alley popping up out of nowhere?”

Rosa nods as she sips her coffee as though she is tasting it for the first time. “El callejόn apareciendo de la nada. Obviously that doesn’t happen.”

“Then the alley had been there all along. Maria just failed to notice it?”

Her right eyebrow raises slowly, annoyance filling her face. “You want to tell the story?”

I make no comment.

“Good. No, the alley was a relatively new addition. In fact, it’s not an alley at all.”

“But I’ve seen it. Maria’s seen it. You’ve seen it. It is definitely an alley. Maria and I walked the whole length of it.”

“You’re half right. There is definitely something between the rows of buildings, but it’s not an alley. That part was easy to figure out. A quick trip to city hall, and a brief look at some construction plans was all it took.”

I can’t help but laugh at how simple the matter is when she explains it. Why I didn’t think to do that is beyond me. But now I was more confused than before.

“Wait, so the alley isn’t real?”

“Nope. There is no alley in any of the plans I saw.”

“So then what is it?”

“Let’s go back a bit. When Maria told me about seeing the alley, I was immediately suspicious. Sure, it was possible that she had just happened, after thirty years, to notice something new which is not that difficult to notice, but come on. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, but it immediately warranted a pretty good question: ‘How does an alley spring out of nowhere overnight? And then when I heard about the blood—-“

“How do you explain that? I never saw it ‘bleeding’.”

“Because you let the gazelle see you. I was the stealthy hunter. I told Maria to go into the alley and I filmed her doing so. As we both expected, nothing happened. But then I told Maria to go back the following day and, lo and behold, the rivers ran red with blood. So, it was a show. A performance. But for only one person.”

The more she explained, the murkier everything became. She saw my growing confusion, and smiled slyly. Suddenly, she plopped her leg on the table and she pointed to the bottom of her sandal. There was something dry, crusty, and red.

“Maria was right. There was something weird about the stone. And it was obvious from the second I looked at them: they hadn’t been walked on at all, though they appeared to be old and worn. That got me thinking. So, I stomped on one of the stones. And, voila!”

She wiggled her foot before removing it from the table. I was still uneasy about the dried blood, to say nothing of her foot so close to my leftover sandwich.

“Relax,” said Rosa, leaning back on her chair. “Pig’s blood. Had it checked. So, here we have an alley that’s not an alley, with stones that aren’t stones, and, on top of all that, it bleeds. For no other discernible purpose than to scare a sweet old lady. All of it seemed so juvenile and…theatrical.”

It was at that moment that the gears started turning. From the broad grin on her face, I could tell she knew it.

“There you go,” she said, holding up her coffee cup in a mock toast. “Told you it wasn’t that hard.”

“But it still doesn’t explain how it got there.”

“That was the one thing that bugged me. Until, that is, you helped clear it up.”

“Me? But we didn’t meet until--“

“Well, not you personally. One of your articles. See, there was no way that elaborate little set piece could’ve been built in secret. So how do you build something without anyone noticing?”

I almost want to slap my forehead when the epiphany hits me. “The reconstruction.”

“The reconstruction.”

I marvel at how easily this unassuming police officer managed to unravel a weird, seemingly random web. Satisfied that all questions have been answered, I thank her for her time and for allowing me to share her strange story. To close the interview, I ask what’s next for her.

“Oh, I don’t know. There’s a boy in Lares who thinks one of his customers is a vampire. Might so see what that’s all about,” she says in the most nonchalant manner.

Had the words been uttered by anyone else, I would’ve done a double take. But since its Rosa, I look forward to finding out how that “peculiar little problem” turns out. We say our goodbyes, but not before I suddenly remember one unanswered question. I shout after her as she walks down the pier, a little more crowded now than it was an hour ago.

“Why? Why go through all that trouble?” I ask as I finally catch up with her.

She laughs and begins to walk away. “’Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?’ I certainly don’t.”

I watch her navigate the increasing throngs of people, all the while thinking about the strangest interview I have ever conducted.

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Written by ErrBane
El Callejon
“I do it to help,” says the thirty five year old police officer, as she sits across from me. “I’ve known these people all my life. They sometimes hear or experience weird things--so weird and out of the ordinary that even their own families, friends, and neighbors don’t believe them. And if those they trust don’t believe them, why would the police? So they don’t bother going to them. Instead, they come to me. They know I’ll listen. They know I’ll believe them. In the grand scheme of things, it might not be that big of a deal. But that’s alright. If I can, at the end of the day, say that I’ve helped just one person, helped them even just a little, then it’s all worth it.” As she brings the smoking cup of coffee to her lips, she laughs and adds: “Plus, it’s really, really fun.”

There is something very coquettish about her smile which makes me feel like a teenager again. As the morning sun hits her glossy black hair, braided into an elaborate ponytail that hangs over her left shoulder, I can see why people flock to her with their problems: her plumb lips, colored with a maroon lipstick that beautifully compliments her mocha skin, and wide, warm smile, evoke a sense of familiarity, and thus, safety. And yet, the rich hazel eyes have an almost bewitching effect: they seem to want to draw out my deepest, darkest secrets, not so that she may hold some leverage over me, but so that I may rid myself of the burden.

From the second she entered the Café Cola’O, dressed in a very casual t-shirt and shorts, I found myself unable to stop talking. Such is her gift: instantly you feel like you’ve known her all your life.

On a Saturday morning, the Café Cola’O, on Pier 2 of Old San Juan, is not very busy. This suits the both of us; I want to be able to catch all that she has to say and she hates crowds. We sit on shiny silver chairs just outside the café, underneath the green metal arch that holds the stylized cup of piping hot coffee with the name of the place. I offered to meet her in her native Añasco, but she insisted on making the two hour trip through winding highways, bordered by massive mountains, covered in wire mesh to prevent the not uncommon landslide, over old bridges overlooking even older rivers, to Old San Juan because she really loves her coffee and Café Cola’O is her favorite place to get it.
Immediately after ordering, she began to narrate the history of coffee on Puerto Rican soil with the passion and expertise of a true connoisseur. All joy instantly left her face when I told her it all tastes the same to me. Realizing that she did not have a fellow coffee lover as company, she dropped the subject with the obstinate air of the child that is told she can’t have that really nice candy bar calling out her name.

But Rosa recovers quickly and her face is full of expectation with a look that seems to say: “Now that the pleasantries are over, we can get to the real point.”

Naturally, I didn’t need to remind her what that point was. In fact, I never had to tell her at all. Two days prior to our meeting, I had called her precinct, trying to schedule an interview. Having gotten wind of her latest “peculiar little problem”, I wanted to find out more about this intrepid officer. When she finally answered the phone, it took her no more than five seconds to figure out why I was calling. With nothing but my name and my place of employment, she instantly knew what I wanted and why. She has not stopped impressing me since.

“Oh, please”, she says, waving away my compliments. “There’s nothing impressive about knowing there’s a dog in the house when you hear barking behind the front door. N-not that you’re a dog,” she adds, hastily. I vaguely detect hints of blushing.
I can’t help but laugh at the remark as the confident and professional air of the officer vanishes briefly, giving me a glimpse of the somewhat awkward woman beneath.
With my question about the alley, her masterful demeanor swiftly returns.
“El callejόn,” she repeats the words with a faraway look in her eyes.
                                                                    ###
The cobbled streets of Old San Juan, indeed the whole barrio, seem like a scene frozen in time. Only the dozens of modern cars, with their drivers talking on devices foreign to the original dwellers of the city, break up the illusion. Colorful and evocative of a bygone age, its buildings are works of art that, one supposes, when seen in the hot Puerto Rican sun, must have sparked the idea that perhaps such artistic edifices should be put to good use. Thus, the modern version of the town arose: a thriving tourist trap built upon the shoulders of its natives, full of shops and restaurants that very few of the people living in the surrounding area can actually afford. Instead, they come to admire their heritage or to make a living--street vendors, with their homemade foods, litter the town square, battling for space against the hundreds of pigeons that make the city their home.

Maria Peña is among one of these vendors—-an unassuming woman of seventy two, she has, personally, manned her sherbet cart on that square for over three decades. Monday through Saturday, rain or shine, you can find the short lady, dressed in bright blouses, her short, curly hair white as the marbled statues of the Plaza de Arma fountain, behind her small, silver cart, underneath the massive, rainbow umbrella and smelling as sweet as the homemade confections she peddles--fruity concoctions blended in her own kitchen with the help of her children and grandchildren.

She shoveled out the treat, molding it into perfect scoops, and served it in a fragile paper cup, a welcomed rush of soothing cold in the Caribbean heat, as I asked her about her repeated calls to the police.

“Nobody except Rosa believed me, you know,” said Peña. “I called and called, but they never came. They didn’t call me crazy, but they might as well have. I knew what I saw.”
The opinion of the officers who spoke with Mrs. Peña was unanimous: “I mean, how could you not notice an entire alley? They just don’t spring up over night.”

I must admit that even I was skeptical at first, but there was genuine concern, and fear, in Mrs. Peña’s demeanor when she spoke, in whispered tones, about her experience with the alley. Rosa, too, had noticed this when she talked to Mrs. Peña. Rosa’s mother, being a childhood friend of Maria, asked her daughter to help her old friend, for Mrs. Peña was going crazy about the whole affair, telling everyone about it.

“She was losing her mind,” says Rosa of her first meeting with Maria. “She looked like she hadn’t slept in days. Bags under her eyes. Yawning after every word. It was sad. And it wasn’t even the strangeness of the situation that was doing it. What was really bothering her was that nobody, nobody, believed her.”

And who could blame them? After all, it was a rather farfetched scenario.Rosa leaned in, readying her hands--she has a habit of gesticulating when she wants to make a point--and asked:”Do you climb any stairs where you work?”

I admitted that I did.

“How many steps are in those stairs?”

For almost ten years, I have climbed the steps leading to the bullpen of “El Boriken”, and, try as I might, I could not, for the life of me, answer her.

“What about this: Think of your childhood home. Presumably, you spent quite a few years there. Can you tell me if there were any lampposts on that street? And if so, how many?”

I thought of my two-story home, with its many arches, its light pink paint, the black, iron-wrought gates, and the massive mango tree in the backyard. The street and its lampposts, or lack thereof, were muddled in my memory, but Rosa’s point was clear.

“Do you understand now? A lot of us go our whole lives not seeing what’s right in front of our faces. So, was it possible that, after thirty years of working in the same place, she happened to notice a piece of the scenery for the first time? Sure. Was it probable?” She lifted her cup gently to her lips, and with a coy smile, said: “Eso es otro veinte pesos.”

Though Rosa had no reservations about Mrs. Peña’s story from the get go, I certainly did. It wasn’t until she started to describe the event that I really believed in her or, at the very least, believed that she believed.

“That day,” Peña recalls, “started out like all the others, I guess. Got up at five in the morning, even though people don’t really start coming to the plaza until nine or ten. Just a habit now, I guess. Been waking up before the roosters since I could walk. But, anyway. I made my coffee, got to have my coffee, woke up the grandkids. Around six, I usually head out. I live in Trujillo Alto, so it doesn’t take me too long to get to the plaza. Just another Wednesday. But I do remember something that made me feel strange. Going over the bridge (the Teodoro Moscoso, a bridge lined with Puerto Rican flags, connecting southern San Juan with Carolina) the clouds over the lake looked real scary, like a storm was coming. None of the flags on the bridge were moving either. Real creepy.”

The eeriness of that day, as Maria Peña soon found out, was just beginning. As she drove into the old fortified town, on the way to her usual spot, she saw it. Nestled between two rows of shops, restaurants, and apartments, barely noticeable, was an alley, winding up in sharp angles all the way to nowhere; for the alley, Maria observed, did not open up on the other side of the street nor did any roads lead to it. Curiously, none of the buildings that bordered it opened up to it, having no back or service doors to speak of. Up to that point, Maria had no cause for concern.

The matter was odd, yes, but nothing to be worried about. It was merely an unexpected break in her daily routine, a new potential topic for small talk. Or it would’ve been, had things not become much, much weirder.

Mrs. Peña parked her truck, opened the cart’s rainbow umbrella, took out her folding chair, and began her lonely vigil for customers alongside her little handheld radio. As she listened to the morning’s news, she could not help but think back on that strange alley. She looked around and, seeing not a living soul in sight, decided her cart was safe from potential thieves and made her way to the little alley.

Devoid of people, or even loitering pigeons and dogs, the lonely, narrow alley appeared far larger and more foreboding. Maria made her way up the steep alley, taking in each of its cobbled stones.

“It was so clean,” recalls Peña, as she walked to the end of the alley. “The stones were as old as those of any other road, all broken and stained black, but they were clean and smooth, almost as if no one had ever really walked on them.”

On her way back down the jagged path, she first saw the sight that would plague her for weeks on end. From the cracks between the cobbled, weathered stones, Maria heard a sound like a boiling kettle. Before long, bubbles of dark crimson oozed out of the ground and burst, filling the air with a heavy iron stench. As more and more of these bubbles emerged, the viscous red liquid began to flow down that desolate alley, like nearly unearthed lava carving out a path.

Screams that could’ve woken the dead rung out in that ancient city. Mrs. Peña ran as fast as her legs could carry her, not once looking back at the macabre alley. When she finally reached her cart, she got on her truck and headed home.

That day, she kept what she saw to herself. Her daughter and son-in-law asked her why she had returned so early, but the elderly lady gave no answer.
The following morning, though shaken up as she was, Maria got back on the saddle and headed to work.

“I had to know. I had to know if what I saw was real, you know. I thought maybe it was just rusty water. Or maybe I was seeing things. I don’t know. I just had to go back.”
When she returned, the same ghastly scene unfolded once more. There was no escaping it now: the thing was real.

So Maria Peña did what any of us would’ve done in her place--she told the people who she trusted the most. They ignored her.

“Threatened to take away her car keys,” says Kendra Peña, forty, about her mother. “I wanted to take her to a doctor. What was I supposed to do?”

Maria offered to take her daughter to the alley so she could see the thing for herself, but Kendra steadfastly refused. And then came the phone calls--dozens of calls to the San Juan Municipal Police, calls which were repeatedly ignored. At her wit’s end, Mrs. Peña tried one more approach.

“I went back with my daughter’s camera. If I couldn’t take people to the alley, maybe I could bring the alley to them.”

As if the whole situation was not already weird enough, Mrs. Peña now found that the alley was apparently camera shy. For an entire week she returned to that frightful spot, hoping to catch the walkway in the midst of its grotesque display, but she had no such luck.

Giving it up as a lost cause, she stopped bringing the camera and soon, just stopped going to the alley altogether. Days passed, and the strange alley continued to linger in her mind.
But just when she believed the whole affair to be behind her, a chance encounter brought it all back.

Maria had gotten back to work, taking pains to avoid the alley. As she sat at her usual spot, a certain gentleman approached her little cart. It was a regular customer, a favorite of hers in fact. The elderly lady began to blush when she told me about him:
“Alfonso coming by is always my favorite part of the day. I hadn’t seen him since the renovations on his house started.”

I remembered the occasion well, as I covered it at the time. Alfonso Soto, set designer of the Puerto Rican Theater, had returned from a brief stint on Broadway, a stint made even briefer by his unceremonious firing. A notorious prankster, it was this trickster spirit of his that lost him his prestigious position. At a rehearsal for a new show, he replaced the sound cue of a door shutting with that of a gunshot, giving the lead actor, a rather elderly woman who had, just weeks before, recovered from open heart surgery, a heart attack. Luckily, the lady survived but the managers of the production were none too pleased with Soto’s antics, the latest example of which almost proved fatal.

“A whole block got covered with huge barricades because of all the construction they were doing,” continued Peña. “Got dust everywhere. And oh boy, the noise!”

She further mentioned how she casually spoke of the alley to Soto, omitting the small detail of the flowing blood. But once more she was met with the usual dismissive attitude. This rebuttal brought all of the previous curiosity and anguish rushing back. Enter Rosa Vega.
                                                                  ###
I was eager to hear her explanation. Weeks had passed since I had first heard of the alley, or callejόn, from Mrs. Peña, months since that lady first saw the strange sight of the bleeding alley that led to nowhere. Dozens of people did I question, all with the same result: They couldn’t say for certain whether they had noticed the alley before or not. Repeated attempts to view the blood phenomenon with Mrs. Peña failed. So, as I sat across from Rosa that Saturday morning, I was quite curious to find out the truth behind the whole thing.

“So, where do you start with something like this? Are these the sort of ‘cases’ you normally handle?”

Rosa laughs. “I prefer to call them ‘peculiar problems’. ‘Cases’ sound too…fiction-y. I can’t tell you the last time I heard an actual detective call it a ‘case’. But yeah, this level of weird is what I deal with,’ she chuckles wistfully. “They’re weird and, more often than not, kinda silly. I prefer it that way. My apologies to Mr. Chandler, but a good mystery doesn’t always need a corpse. But to answer your first question, you start at the beginning.”
“The beginning. So, the alley popping up out of nowhere?”

Rosa nods as she sips her coffee as though she is tasting it for the first time. “El callejόn apareciendo de la nada. Obviously that doesn’t happen.”

“Then the alley had been there all along. Maria just failed to notice it?”

Her right eyebrow raises slowly, annoyance filling her face. “You want to tell the story?”
I make no comment.

“Good. No, the alley was a relatively new addition. In fact, it’s not an alley at all.”

“But I’ve seen it. Maria’s seen it. You’ve seen it. It is definitely an alley. Maria and I walked the whole length of it.”

“You’re half right. There is definitely something between the rows of buildings, but it’s not an alley. That part was easy to figure out. A quick trip to city hall, and a brief look at some construction plans was all it took.”

I can’t help but laugh at how simple the matter is when she explains it. Why I didn’t think to do that is beyond me. But now I was more confused than before.

“Wait, so the alley isn’t real?”

“Nope. There is no alley in any of the plans I saw.”

“So then what is it?”

“Let’s go back a bit. When Maria told me about seeing the alley, I was immediately suspicious. Sure, it was possible that she had just happened, after thirty years, to notice something new which is not that difficult to notice, but come on. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, but it immediately warranted a pretty good question: ‘How does an alley spring out of nowhere overnight? And then when I heard about the blood—-“

“How do you explain that? I never saw it ‘bleeding’.”

“Because you let the gazelle see you. I was the stealthy hunter. I told Maria to go into the alley and I filmed her doing so. As we both expected, nothing happened. But then I told Maria to go back the following day and, lo and behold, the rivers ran red with blood. So, it was a show. A performance. But for only one person.”

The more she explained, the murkier everything became. She saw my growing confusion, and smiled slyly. Suddenly, she plopped her leg on the table and she pointed to the bottom of her sandal. There was something dry, crusty, and red.

“Maria was right. There was something weird about the stone. And it was obvious from the second I looked at them: they hadn’t been walked on at all, though they appeared to be old and worn. That got me thinking. So, I stomped on one of the stones. And, voila!”
She wiggled her foot before removing it from the table. I was still uneasy about the dried blood, to say nothing of her foot so close to my leftover sandwich.

“Relax,” said Rosa, leaning back on her chair. “Pig’s blood. Had it checked. So, here we have an alley that’s not an alley, with stones that aren’t stones, and, on top of all that, it bleeds. For no other discernible purpose than to scare a sweet old lady. All of it seemed so juvenile and…theatrical.”

It was at that moment that the gears started turning. From the broad grin on her face, I could tell she knew it.

“There you go,” she said, holding up her coffee cup in a mock toast. “Told you it wasn’t that hard.”

“But it still doesn’t explain how it got there.”

“That was the one thing that bugged me. Until, that is, you helped clear it up.”

“Me? But we didn’t meet until--“

“Well, not you personally. One of your articles. See, there was no way that elaborate little set piece could’ve been built in secret. So how do you build something without anyone noticing?”

I almost want to slap my forehead when the epiphany hits me. “The reconstruction.”

“The reconstruction.”

I marvel at how easily this unassuming police officer managed to unravel a weird, seemingly random web. Satisfied that all questions have been answered, I thank her for her time and for allowing me to share her strange story. To close the interview, I ask what’s next for her.

“Oh, I don’t know. There’s a boy in Lares who thinks one of his customers is a vampire. Might so see what that’s all about,” she says in the most nonchalant manner.

Had the words been uttered by anyone else, I would’ve done a double take. But since its Rosa, I look forward to finding out how that “peculiar little problem” turns out. We say our goodbyes, but not before I suddenly remember one unanswered question. I shout after her as she walks down the pier, a little more crowded now than it was an hour ago.

“Why? Why go through all that trouble?” I ask as I finally catch up with her.

She laughs and begins to walk away. “’Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?’ I certainly don’t.”

I watch her navigate the increasing throngs of people, all the while thinking about the strangest interview I have ever conducted.
#fiction  #mystery 
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Chapter 10 of Sins of the Father - Season Two - Unholier Than Thou
Written by Harry_Situation

MAJOR RAGER (Complete)

Part 1

Alone Rosemary sat in her living room with only the glare of the staticky TV to give her light— unaware of the encroaching shadow that drew itself from the dark depths of the hallway. The shadow crept along the ceiling like a spider after its fly. Burning, soulless eyes pierced through the darkness, locked onto Rosie.

Through the television's beaming light the shadow morphed into the form of a red-skinned demonic child with pointy ears, a messy patch of spiky, black hair, and a long, pointy serpentine tail. He also wore clothing that were every human from his blue jeans to his red-orange hoodie.

Dropping down from the ceiling he pounced on the couch behind the girl. Rosemary turned and locked eyes with the ominous, smiling creature. She did not flinch nor jump, but she smiled and greeted. "Hey Dominic. You bring your stuff?"

"Yup," the little demon boy responded. He pulled out a couple items out of his pockets, "Wireless controller and headset right here."

"Awesome. Let's get started."

The kids plopped on the couch and activated Rosie's Play-Box game system. A text then appeared on the screen.

Warning: This game contains graphic violence, blood and gore, adult language, gratuitous nudity, sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, inappropriate references, mayhem, explosions, genocide, blasphemy, kitten kicking, and t-bagging!

The television then spoke in a gravelly voice, "In the future, scientists tried to speed travel times up by inventing teleportation devices. But then things go to hell when they opened a portal to nightmarish realm, home to the most volatile monsters imaginable. Everyone is killed, except one. Lock and load as the ultimate killing machine..."

The game's title flashed on screen in a colorful aura of blood and explosions. Rosie and Dominic ecstatically joined the announcer, screaming out loud, "MAJOR RAGER!"

Part 2

Their gamer tags—DarkDawter11 and HLboy966—appeared inside the hub screen. Two other tags—BigBillionz and Eziekel2517—were already waiting for the duo.

"Hey bestie!" BigBillionz's voice called from her mic. "I see you brought Dominic with you. So cool!"

"Sup Krystal," Rosie answered. "How goes it, Josh?"

"Hey guys!" Eziekel2517 (Joshua) called out. "Just to clarify, my mom thinks I'm at Krystal's doing homework. So don't tell her about this."

The imp Dominic replied, "Secret's safe with us."

Then a fifth gamer tag appeared onscreen. This one was named MLPwny1123. Another girl's voice echoed over, "Hey everyone."

"Hey Kayleigh. You made it." Dominic said.

"Wouldn't miss this for the world!" Her voice cheered.

Finally a sixth tag popped into the party. Recognizing the gamer's tag Boomstick92, Rosemary gleefully said. "Hey, Ashley's here too. Hold on a sec!"

Rosemary attached a small keyboard to her controller and typed out a message to her friend. "Hey Ash!" she typed, "Ready?"

After waiting a few seconds, a message popped in the chat room. "Red-E 2 GO!"

"Alright everyone," Rosemary announced, "This is it. We are about to enter the Major Rager Shoot 'Em Up Tournament. If we win, we're gonna receive the best armor, the best weapons, and the best loot that will carry on into the next Major Rager game. We are gonna kick both inter-dimensional monster and noob ass."

"YEAH!" Her friends all cheered. Without hesitation the pressed start on their controllers. The next screen that appeared was the class selection, where the players could choose and customize their avatars that best represents them.

To start out, Rosemary selected the Combat Commando, a soldier class specializing in machine guns, shotguns, and dual wielding weapons.

Kayleigh chose the Boom Blaster. This tank class was an expert in heavy weapons and explosives, a feat that Kayleigh always enjoyed in these games.

Joshua chose the Engin-Fear, which specialized in hacking computer consoles and enemy robotic units.

Ashley picked the class everyone agree suited her the most, the Silencer. Feats in stealth, sniper, and swordsman made this one of the deadliest of the classes.

Dominic selected the Psycko, a spellbinder class, as his avatar. Dominic liked this one because of how much he and the game character had in common with dark magic and spells.

And for Krystal, the Chem Fatale, specializing in chemical weapons such as acid bombs, poison gas, and napalm mines.

Now the tournament began!

Part 3

Level 1.

Six armored avatars appeared at the center of a small empty room. They cocked their weapons as the metal door opened wide. The fireteam rushed inside to find themselves against a horde of horrendous, pixelated monsters awaiting them. The game's graphics detailed these beasts with green scaly skin, piercing red eyes, rotten yellow teeth, and large spikes protruding from their heads, spines, and arms.

The monsters shot fireballs from their mouths. The six players moved their avatars all around the room, dodging their attacks while shooting back. A hailstorm of bullets riddled the monsters, decorating the walls with animated blood and organs. Sometimes the glorious graphics generated the monster deaths to have their blood splatter over the television screens in divine detail.

Rosie and Dominic twitched their fingers on the game controllers as their video game characters assaulted the creatures. Their eyes focused on the T.V. set. They didn't blink or flinch when some monsters popped out of hidden corridors only to be gunned down without mercy. Their scores on the upper right corner multiplied with every kill they rallied.

The last monster was then executed by the young gamers. The stage was cleared and then the six friends moved onto Level 2. A similar firefight ensued in their progression, only with more hording monsters than before. The kids gunned them down when suddenly Rosemary and Dominic heard Mrs. Gravely call out, "Rosie, I need you to empty out the trash."

"Mom!" Rosemary complained, "My friends and I are playing Major Rager. It's the big tournament."

"It'll take less than five minutes." Her mother hollered back, "Then you can play your afterward."

"I can do it later."

"No, not later. Now!"

"But mom-"

"ROSEMARY LEE GRAVELY!"

Rosie flinched at the sound of her full name. She knew if she didn't comply she would be in for it. Dominic swiped her controller with his long, pointed tail and began operating it.

"Go ahead." the demon smiled and said, "I got you covered."

Rosemary thanked him and hurried off to her chores so the tournament can continue.

Part 4

Level 5.

The six gamers made their way down a long corridor, where giant cyclopian glob guarded the entrance to Level 6. The animated monstrosity puked a pool of acid at them, but they managed to dodge out of the way. Their weapons fired rapidly with little affect against the horrid blob.

Dominic's Psycko casted a spell, which emitted a screeching sonic sound. The powerful vibrations were too much for the blob as it died in a grotesque explosion of goo all around the corridor. His friends cheered his accomplishment.

"Awesome!" Rosemary said, high-fiving the imp.

"Nice one!" Joshua's voice called over the microphone.

A message from Ashley appeared in the text box depicting a thumbs up and a smiley face. The team then ventured to the next level, continuously gunning down more monsters that were in their path.

"You know, Dominic," Kayleigh spoke over her headset, "I'm surprised you play this game. I mean we're basically killing demons."

"Technically whether they are demons or other nefarious creatures is up for debate," the young demon corrected, "Besides this game is like a national sport down below. Everyone plays it."

Then Krystal's voice cried, "Incoming!" A rocket fired in their direction. They dodged in time but the impact knocked their avatars off their feet. Another player loaded his weapon up and readied to fire.

With quick thinking, Ashley commanded her Silencer to pull out her giant sniper rifle, aiming it at the opposing opponent. Taking a deep breath, she fired. The 50 caliber bullet hit directly between the eyes.

Deep in the depths of the Inferno, Ghuul's controller and jaw hit the floor at the same time.

"How did I die?" he whined, taunted by the "Game Over" text on screen.

"You suck, dude," his friend Balthazar commented.

Part 5

After much progression, after battling reptilian monsters, killer robots, mutated experiments, and other online players, they made it to the final round of the tournament, Level 10.

It was going to be their greatest challenge yet, but the grand prize that at the end was going to be worth all the hours spent sitting around a television set during the daylight over the weekend.

"This is it, everyone," Rosemary radioed all her friends, "This is what we've been building up to." Her avatar guided the others toward the doorway. "We've won many battles together, and now that grand prize is ours."

Her friends all agreed as their armored avatars raced down the dark hallway to the locked door. They listened to the mechanized whirly sounds as the gears started unlocking. The door opened its metallic maw and the six entered inside.

There inside was their greatest challenge. There it stood at the center of a lava chamber: a monster, half demon and half machine. Its muscles fused with tubes and wires, flames blazed from its maddening eyes like ritualistic torches. The lower half of its legs were not normal but a centaurian appearance complete with eight robotic legs that resembled spider limbs. Its hands were replaced by a pair of gatling guns that fired rapidly at the players.

The avatars ducked behind cover from the barrage of animated lasers. They fired their weapons back that the behemoth but it laughed as their feeble attacks took small pieces of its health. A carnage of rockets shot from its guns that hit around the players, dealing some damage to their avatar's health. All six friends frantically tapped the buttons on their controllers, trying desperately to stay alive and damage the final boss. Their eyes locked heavily on their screens. Their teeth ground tightly with each counterattack and quick dodging.

"Any ideas, anyone?" Joseph called out.

Ashley had her avatar scan the battlefield. There on the rafters was a glowing orb with an image of a mushroom cloud inside. Her avatar pointed at the distant object and her friends took notice.

"Ash found an F-Bomb!" Rosemary said. "Cover me! I'm making a break for it."

Her friends continued their assault on the final boss as Rosemary's avatar ran for the orb. The beast's guns were now aimed at Rosemary. Dominic's avatar protected Rosemary with a absorbent shield while the other focused on its head.

Their hearts pounded sporadically as they moved closer to the orb. Rosemary made her avatar dive at the shining object. A single touch then made it evaporate into thin air. Suddenly her avatar pulled out a gigantic bazooka and shot a single pellet, no bigger than a golf ball at the mechanized brute. It gulped when it felt the small object poke its sternum.

The T.V. screens gave a blinding flash. When the light ended a massive mushroom cloud formed where the final boss stood. The sole sound it made was an offensive term the kids dared not repeat.

Part 6

The smoke cleared and the flash faded. All that remained of the final boss was a pile of ash, scrap metal, and bloody organs. But hovering above the remains was a golden chest that shined brighter than the gates of Paradise.

All six friends gazed at the object with great awe. The vast prizes was just in their reach. Rosemary and Dominic smiled the largest. But they both felt something odd. Looking down they noticed that their hands were gently clinging together. They flinched away, embarrassed by the compassionate act. Both the human girl and the demon boy tried to keep their eyes on the television, neither one noticing their faces blushing red and small smiles curve their lips after they touched.

The six players slowly approached the chest. Their minds raced with all the treasures they would earn. The new armor and armor upgrades, the best weapons, unlimited ammo, and thousands of credits—the game's currency—was about to belong to them.

Suddenly, they heard a gunshot. Blood and brain bits splattered out of Rosemary's avatar and it dropped dead. Soon Dominic's followed beyond with a similar fashion. And then Joshua, then Krystal, then Kayleigh, then Ashley. All avatars were dead. Their prize just short from their reach.

Rosie and Dominic dropped their controllers. Their jaws followed too.

"WHAT THE HELL?!?" Rosie angrily screamed.

"THAT'S BULLCRAP!" Dominic also ranted.

Rosie shouted again, "WHO KILLED US?!?"

A single armored avatar, with the gamer tag MOTHERMERCY, stepped onscreen, claiming their prize. Inside the privacy of her office at Brimestone Elementary, Mrs. Wordworth laughed as the in-game riches now belonged to her.

"Oh, bless you, Lord," she gave a fiendish cackle, "Bless you for giving me the strength to pwn these noob suckers! Ahahahaha!"

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Chapter 10 of Sins of the Father - Season Two - Unholier Than Thou
Written by Harry_Situation
MAJOR RAGER (Complete)
Part 1

Alone Rosemary sat in her living room with only the glare of the staticky TV to give her light— unaware of the encroaching shadow that drew itself from the dark depths of the hallway. The shadow crept along the ceiling like a spider after its fly. Burning, soulless eyes pierced through the darkness, locked onto Rosie.

Through the television's beaming light the shadow morphed into the form of a red-skinned demonic child with pointy ears, a messy patch of spiky, black hair, and a long, pointy serpentine tail. He also wore clothing that were every human from his blue jeans to his red-orange hoodie.

Dropping down from the ceiling he pounced on the couch behind the girl. Rosemary turned and locked eyes with the ominous, smiling creature. She did not flinch nor jump, but she smiled and greeted. "Hey Dominic. You bring your stuff?"

"Yup," the little demon boy responded. He pulled out a couple items out of his pockets, "Wireless controller and headset right here."

"Awesome. Let's get started."

The kids plopped on the couch and activated Rosie's Play-Box game system. A text then appeared on the screen.

Warning: This game contains graphic violence, blood and gore, adult language, gratuitous nudity, sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, inappropriate references, mayhem, explosions, genocide, blasphemy, kitten kicking, and t-bagging!

The television then spoke in a gravelly voice, "In the future, scientists tried to speed travel times up by inventing teleportation devices. But then things go to hell when they opened a portal to nightmarish realm, home to the most volatile monsters imaginable. Everyone is killed, except one. Lock and load as the ultimate killing machine..."

The game's title flashed on screen in a colorful aura of blood and explosions. Rosie and Dominic ecstatically joined the announcer, screaming out loud, "MAJOR RAGER!"

Part 2

Their gamer tags—DarkDawter11 and HLboy966—appeared inside the hub screen. Two other tags—BigBillionz and Eziekel2517—were already waiting for the duo.

"Hey bestie!" BigBillionz's voice called from her mic. "I see you brought Dominic with you. So cool!"

"Sup Krystal," Rosie answered. "How goes it, Josh?"

"Hey guys!" Eziekel2517 (Joshua) called out. "Just to clarify, my mom thinks I'm at Krystal's doing homework. So don't tell her about this."

The imp Dominic replied, "Secret's safe with us."

Then a fifth gamer tag appeared onscreen. This one was named MLPwny1123. Another girl's voice echoed over, "Hey everyone."

"Hey Kayleigh. You made it." Dominic said.

"Wouldn't miss this for the world!" Her voice cheered.

Finally a sixth tag popped into the party. Recognizing the gamer's tag Boomstick92, Rosemary gleefully said. "Hey, Ashley's here too. Hold on a sec!"

Rosemary attached a small keyboard to her controller and typed out a message to her friend. "Hey Ash!" she typed, "Ready?"

After waiting a few seconds, a message popped in the chat room. "Red-E 2 GO!"

"Alright everyone," Rosemary announced, "This is it. We are about to enter the Major Rager Shoot 'Em Up Tournament. If we win, we're gonna receive the best armor, the best weapons, and the best loot that will carry on into the next Major Rager game. We are gonna kick both inter-dimensional monster and noob ass."

"YEAH!" Her friends all cheered. Without hesitation the pressed start on their controllers. The next screen that appeared was the class selection, where the players could choose and customize their avatars that best represents them.

To start out, Rosemary selected the Combat Commando, a soldier class specializing in machine guns, shotguns, and dual wielding weapons.

Kayleigh chose the Boom Blaster. This tank class was an expert in heavy weapons and explosives, a feat that Kayleigh always enjoyed in these games.

Joshua chose the Engin-Fear, which specialized in hacking computer consoles and enemy robotic units.

Ashley picked the class everyone agree suited her the most, the Silencer. Feats in stealth, sniper, and swordsman made this one of the deadliest of the classes.

Dominic selected the Psycko, a spellbinder class, as his avatar. Dominic liked this one because of how much he and the game character had in common with dark magic and spells.

And for Krystal, the Chem Fatale, specializing in chemical weapons such as acid bombs, poison gas, and napalm mines.

Now the tournament began!

Part 3

Level 1.

Six armored avatars appeared at the center of a small empty room. They cocked their weapons as the metal door opened wide. The fireteam rushed inside to find themselves against a horde of horrendous, pixelated monsters awaiting them. The game's graphics detailed these beasts with green scaly skin, piercing red eyes, rotten yellow teeth, and large spikes protruding from their heads, spines, and arms.

The monsters shot fireballs from their mouths. The six players moved their avatars all around the room, dodging their attacks while shooting back. A hailstorm of bullets riddled the monsters, decorating the walls with animated blood and organs. Sometimes the glorious graphics generated the monster deaths to have their blood splatter over the television screens in divine detail.

Rosie and Dominic twitched their fingers on the game controllers as their video game characters assaulted the creatures. Their eyes focused on the T.V. set. They didn't blink or flinch when some monsters popped out of hidden corridors only to be gunned down without mercy. Their scores on the upper right corner multiplied with every kill they rallied.

The last monster was then executed by the young gamers. The stage was cleared and then the six friends moved onto Level 2. A similar firefight ensued in their progression, only with more hording monsters than before. The kids gunned them down when suddenly Rosemary and Dominic heard Mrs. Gravely call out, "Rosie, I need you to empty out the trash."

"Mom!" Rosemary complained, "My friends and I are playing Major Rager. It's the big tournament."

"It'll take less than five minutes." Her mother hollered back, "Then you can play your afterward."

"I can do it later."

"No, not later. Now!"

"But mom-"

"ROSEMARY LEE GRAVELY!"

Rosie flinched at the sound of her full name. She knew if she didn't comply she would be in for it. Dominic swiped her controller with his long, pointed tail and began operating it.

"Go ahead." the demon smiled and said, "I got you covered."

Rosemary thanked him and hurried off to her chores so the tournament can continue.

Part 4

Level 5.

The six gamers made their way down a long corridor, where giant cyclopian glob guarded the entrance to Level 6. The animated monstrosity puked a pool of acid at them, but they managed to dodge out of the way. Their weapons fired rapidly with little affect against the horrid blob.

Dominic's Psycko casted a spell, which emitted a screeching sonic sound. The powerful vibrations were too much for the blob as it died in a grotesque explosion of goo all around the corridor. His friends cheered his accomplishment.

"Awesome!" Rosemary said, high-fiving the imp.

"Nice one!" Joshua's voice called over the microphone.

A message from Ashley appeared in the text box depicting a thumbs up and a smiley face. The team then ventured to the next level, continuously gunning down more monsters that were in their path.

"You know, Dominic," Kayleigh spoke over her headset, "I'm surprised you play this game. I mean we're basically killing demons."

"Technically whether they are demons or other nefarious creatures is up for debate," the young demon corrected, "Besides this game is like a national sport down below. Everyone plays it."

Then Krystal's voice cried, "Incoming!" A rocket fired in their direction. They dodged in time but the impact knocked their avatars off their feet. Another player loaded his weapon up and readied to fire.

With quick thinking, Ashley commanded her Silencer to pull out her giant sniper rifle, aiming it at the opposing opponent. Taking a deep breath, she fired. The 50 caliber bullet hit directly between the eyes.

Deep in the depths of the Inferno, Ghuul's controller and jaw hit the floor at the same time.

"How did I die?" he whined, taunted by the "Game Over" text on screen.

"You suck, dude," his friend Balthazar commented.

Part 5

After much progression, after battling reptilian monsters, killer robots, mutated experiments, and other online players, they made it to the final round of the tournament, Level 10.

It was going to be their greatest challenge yet, but the grand prize that at the end was going to be worth all the hours spent sitting around a television set during the daylight over the weekend.

"This is it, everyone," Rosemary radioed all her friends, "This is what we've been building up to." Her avatar guided the others toward the doorway. "We've won many battles together, and now that grand prize is ours."

Her friends all agreed as their armored avatars raced down the dark hallway to the locked door. They listened to the mechanized whirly sounds as the gears started unlocking. The door opened its metallic maw and the six entered inside.

There inside was their greatest challenge. There it stood at the center of a lava chamber: a monster, half demon and half machine. Its muscles fused with tubes and wires, flames blazed from its maddening eyes like ritualistic torches. The lower half of its legs were not normal but a centaurian appearance complete with eight robotic legs that resembled spider limbs. Its hands were replaced by a pair of gatling guns that fired rapidly at the players.

The avatars ducked behind cover from the barrage of animated lasers. They fired their weapons back that the behemoth but it laughed as their feeble attacks took small pieces of its health. A carnage of rockets shot from its guns that hit around the players, dealing some damage to their avatar's health. All six friends frantically tapped the buttons on their controllers, trying desperately to stay alive and damage the final boss. Their eyes locked heavily on their screens. Their teeth ground tightly with each counterattack and quick dodging.

"Any ideas, anyone?" Joseph called out.

Ashley had her avatar scan the battlefield. There on the rafters was a glowing orb with an image of a mushroom cloud inside. Her avatar pointed at the distant object and her friends took notice.

"Ash found an F-Bomb!" Rosemary said. "Cover me! I'm making a break for it."

Her friends continued their assault on the final boss as Rosemary's avatar ran for the orb. The beast's guns were now aimed at Rosemary. Dominic's avatar protected Rosemary with a absorbent shield while the other focused on its head.

Their hearts pounded sporadically as they moved closer to the orb. Rosemary made her avatar dive at the shining object. A single touch then made it evaporate into thin air. Suddenly her avatar pulled out a gigantic bazooka and shot a single pellet, no bigger than a golf ball at the mechanized brute. It gulped when it felt the small object poke its sternum.

The T.V. screens gave a blinding flash. When the light ended a massive mushroom cloud formed where the final boss stood. The sole sound it made was an offensive term the kids dared not repeat.

Part 6

The smoke cleared and the flash faded. All that remained of the final boss was a pile of ash, scrap metal, and bloody organs. But hovering above the remains was a golden chest that shined brighter than the gates of Paradise.

All six friends gazed at the object with great awe. The vast prizes was just in their reach. Rosemary and Dominic smiled the largest. But they both felt something odd. Looking down they noticed that their hands were gently clinging together. They flinched away, embarrassed by the compassionate act. Both the human girl and the demon boy tried to keep their eyes on the television, neither one noticing their faces blushing red and small smiles curve their lips after they touched.

The six players slowly approached the chest. Their minds raced with all the treasures they would earn. The new armor and armor upgrades, the best weapons, unlimited ammo, and thousands of credits—the game's currency—was about to belong to them.

Suddenly, they heard a gunshot. Blood and brain bits splattered out of Rosemary's avatar and it dropped dead. Soon Dominic's followed beyond with a similar fashion. And then Joshua, then Krystal, then Kayleigh, then Ashley. All avatars were dead. Their prize just short from their reach.

Rosie and Dominic dropped their controllers. Their jaws followed too.

"WHAT THE HELL?!?" Rosie angrily screamed.

"THAT'S BULLCRAP!" Dominic also ranted.

Rosie shouted again, "WHO KILLED US?!?"

A single armored avatar, with the gamer tag MOTHERMERCY, stepped onscreen, claiming their prize. Inside the privacy of her office at Brimestone Elementary, Mrs. Wordworth laughed as the in-game riches now belonged to her.

"Oh, bless you, Lord," she gave a fiendish cackle, "Bless you for giving me the strength to pwn these noob suckers! Ahahahaha!"
#fantasy  #fiction  #horror  #comedy  #sinsofthefather 
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Avante Garde.
Written by ishika_kiran

A Message From Catspurr

Bonjour! Namaste! Hello! It fascinates me sometimes how you, the humans have so many ways of greeting, addressing, dressing etc. You might be wondering why I am referring to the human race in second person, I’m a cat, by the way. Don’t be so surprised, I come from a place named Catspurr where we, the cats are the beings of the highest order and the humans serve us. Your world and our world are set very far apart. Normally, the humans are unable to reach this hidden world of ours and if some very adventurous person happens to arrive here by accident, he’s caught, obliviated and then is kept is a source of entertainment for our kind (like how our kind is treated in your world, right?)

Here, we are called “khoshpa”, “cat” is a name that the “klums” (the humans) have given us, though they do not call us by that name when they serve us, as their memories had been erased. Honestly, we hate it whenever you people give us all sorts of weird names, would you like being called "fat Louie" all your life? We have very dignified names here, at Catspurr. Our king being Lord Catatouille and the queen, Madame Mushper.  Ah! such beautiful names!

I'm Coushnum, the prime minister of Catspurr.

It is quite impossible to reach Catspurr, unless you forget your way in some unknown place, like a forest, desert, anything and give up all hopes of your survival. You must have noticed your pet cat or any other cat sleeping the most part of the day, well they aren’t actually sleeping, that’s just how they reach here. They’re our agents who give us some updates on the outside world and sometimes, they lure some klums into reaching Catspurr, remember that friend of yours who followed her cat (whom she used to beat for fun) into the woods and was never heard of again? She’s here now and is one of our best light chasers.

I’ve heard from my agents that you, the humans are treating the animal in the worst manner possible. You’d be surprised to know that the way you treat your fellow creatures there, is same way we treat the klums here. A long time ago when animals were treated with compassion, we used to make sure that every human who happened to reach Catspurr returned their home safely, but we don’t do that now. By seeing the way you treat your fellow beings, we think the klums are better treated here. So, care to treat an animal with compassion next time? ‘Cause, who knows? Our next source of entertainment might be you.

 

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Avante Garde.
Written by ishika_kiran
A Message From Catspurr
Bonjour! Namaste! Hello! It fascinates me sometimes how you, the humans have so many ways of greeting, addressing, dressing etc. You might be wondering why I am referring to the human race in second person, I’m a cat, by the way. Don’t be so surprised, I come from a place named Catspurr where we, the cats are the beings of the highest order and the humans serve us. Your world and our world are set very far apart. Normally, the humans are unable to reach this hidden world of ours and if some very adventurous person happens to arrive here by accident, he’s caught, obliviated and then is kept is a source of entertainment for our kind (like how our kind is treated in your world, right?)

Here, we are called “khoshpa”, “cat” is a name that the “klums” (the humans) have given us, though they do not call us by that name when they serve us, as their memories had been erased. Honestly, we hate it whenever you people give us all sorts of weird names, would you like being called "fat Louie" all your life? We have very dignified names here, at Catspurr. Our king being Lord Catatouille and the queen, Madame Mushper.  Ah! such beautiful names!
I'm Coushnum, the prime minister of Catspurr.
It is quite impossible to reach Catspurr, unless you forget your way in some unknown place, like a forest, desert, anything and give up all hopes of your survival. You must have noticed your pet cat or any other cat sleeping the most part of the day, well they aren’t actually sleeping, that’s just how they reach here. They’re our agents who give us some updates on the outside world and sometimes, they lure some klums into reaching Catspurr, remember that friend of yours who followed her cat (whom she used to beat for fun) into the woods and was never heard of again? She’s here now and is one of our best light chasers.

I’ve heard from my agents that you, the humans are treating the animal in the worst manner possible. You’d be surprised to know that the way you treat your fellow creatures there, is same way we treat the klums here. A long time ago when animals were treated with compassion, we used to make sure that every human who happened to reach Catspurr returned their home safely, but we don’t do that now. By seeing the way you treat your fellow beings, we think the klums are better treated here. So, care to treat an animal with compassion next time? ‘Cause, who knows? Our next source of entertainment might be you.






 
#fantasy  #fiction  #childrens  #cats  #animals 
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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by ishika_kiran in portal Simon & Schuster

Call Of The Howrah: Chapter Two (excerpt)

It was three forty five when the train reached Howrah station. As their compartment was close to the exit door, the Mehtas conveniently moved with their luggage out of the train. Once getting everyone out, Tia’s father, Alok Mehta got back to their compartment to check if they had left something behind and found out that the careless little Kiara Mehta, Tia’s younger sister had left her teddy bear, owing to her being in a state of sleepiness. She never went anywhere without one of her ‘favourite’ teddies. As it was platform number 19, the Yatri Niwas or the railway guest house was nearby. They had to walk a lot before reaching the place where all the platforms met. Then they moved inside the passage which led to the guesthouse. They reached the door but only to find it closed. A passer-by, who looked like a local resident, said that the guesthouse would open only by 6 AM.

“But it’s only four now”, said Mr. Mehta looking at his watch.

“You’ll find a lot of hotels nearby”, said the dhoti-clad man, somewhat comfortingly. Then they quickly moved out of the station after thanking the man.

After walking for about twenty minutes, they came across a hotel which was closed as well. Outside it there was a board which read: HOTUL 6 O’CLOCK OPAN. Tia started to giggle at the broken English of the sentence, knowing that its meaning was understood. Then she stopped at the thought of all the people in India who can neither read nor write English, of all the people whom she had spoken for at different debate competitions. She had started feeling bad, like she was somewhat neglecting all the values she had been taught, “oh, I shouldn’t have laughed at this, at least they’ve tried”, she said to her mother, Mrs. Rashi Mehta.

“No problem dear”, she replied with a smile, that smile suited her round face.

It was really cold at that hour of the day and they had already checked every hotel nearby, they were either closed or didn’t have any vacant rooms. “Listen Alok, everybody is tired of roaming around this place. You have already exhausted Tia, didn’t you think how she is going to give the exam now!” Mrs. Mehta said with a big frown on her face.

“I’m okay momma, I’m not tired. But I think we must go back to the station and check if that guest house is open now or not “

“But Tia ,it’s only four thirty now”, said Mr. Mehta.

“ I had told you to book the hotel beforehand, how can you expect a hotel to be vacant in such a big city and that too, in this age of online booking”, Mrs. Mehta fired at Mr. Mehta.

He was feeling guilty and promised himself and everybody that he would do all the preparations beforehand for any trip from then on. As everybody was tired, there was no option but to walk back to the station. Just half an hour ago there were many a taxi stopping and asking for hire, but now there were naught. So they waited there for about five minutes.

“I think we’re only wasting our time by waiting for a taxi here”, said Mr. Mehta, wearily.

“Yeah, we should try to get to the station on foot; we might get a taxi on our way, too.”, said Tia enthusiastically.

“Okay”, Mrs. Mehta said warily as she nudged Kiara who was staring wide-eyed at a poster advertising the latest Barbie dolls available at some mall.

" I think there's a hotel over there", Mr. Mehta said while pointing towards an empty street.

"And how do you know that?", Mrs. Mehta inquired as she crossed her arms.

"My instincts"

"I think we should go and check if dad's right"

"Okay, let's get going then"

The family started moving towards the empty street.

Mr. Mehta was right. There was a hotel at the end of the street.The only problem was- it was close.

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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by ishika_kiran in portal Simon & Schuster
Call Of The Howrah: Chapter Two (excerpt)
It was three forty five when the train reached Howrah station. As their compartment was close to the exit door, the Mehtas conveniently moved with their luggage out of the train. Once getting everyone out, Tia’s father, Alok Mehta got back to their compartment to check if they had left something behind and found out that the careless little Kiara Mehta, Tia’s younger sister had left her teddy bear, owing to her being in a state of sleepiness. She never went anywhere without one of her ‘favourite’ teddies. As it was platform number 19, the Yatri Niwas or the railway guest house was nearby. They had to walk a lot before reaching the place where all the platforms met. Then they moved inside the passage which led to the guesthouse. They reached the door but only to find it closed. A passer-by, who looked like a local resident, said that the guesthouse would open only by 6 AM.


“But it’s only four now”, said Mr. Mehta looking at his watch.


“You’ll find a lot of hotels nearby”, said the dhoti-clad man, somewhat comfortingly. Then they quickly moved out of the station after thanking the man.


After walking for about twenty minutes, they came across a hotel which was closed as well. Outside it there was a board which read: HOTUL 6 O’CLOCK OPAN. Tia started to giggle at the broken English of the sentence, knowing that its meaning was understood. Then she stopped at the thought of all the people in India who can neither read nor write English, of all the people whom she had spoken for at different debate competitions. She had started feeling bad, like she was somewhat neglecting all the values she had been taught, “oh, I shouldn’t have laughed at this, at least they’ve tried”, she said to her mother, Mrs. Rashi Mehta.


“No problem dear”, she replied with a smile, that smile suited her round face.


It was really cold at that hour of the day and they had already checked every hotel nearby, they were either closed or didn’t have any vacant rooms. “Listen Alok, everybody is tired of roaming around this place. You have already exhausted Tia, didn’t you think how she is going to give the exam now!” Mrs. Mehta said with a big frown on her face.


“I’m okay momma, I’m not tired. But I think we must go back to the station and check if that guest house is open now or not “


“But Tia ,it’s only four thirty now”, said Mr. Mehta.


“ I had told you to book the hotel beforehand, how can you expect a hotel to be vacant in such a big city and that too, in this age of online booking”, Mrs. Mehta fired at Mr. Mehta.


He was feeling guilty and promised himself and everybody that he would do all the preparations beforehand for any trip from then on. As everybody was tired, there was no option but to walk back to the station. Just half an hour ago there were many a taxi stopping and asking for hire, but now there were naught. So they waited there for about five minutes.


“I think we’re only wasting our time by waiting for a taxi here”, said Mr. Mehta, wearily.


“Yeah, we should try to get to the station on foot; we might get a taxi on our way, too.”, said Tia enthusiastically.





“Okay”, Mrs. Mehta said warily as she nudged Kiara who was staring wide-eyed at a poster advertising the latest Barbie dolls available at some mall.

" I think there's a hotel over there", Mr. Mehta said while pointing towards an empty street.
"And how do you know that?", Mrs. Mehta inquired as she crossed her arms.
"My instincts"
"I think we should go and check if dad's right"
"Okay, let's get going then"
The family started moving towards the empty street.
Mr. Mehta was right. There was a hotel at the end of the street.The only problem was- it was close.
#fiction  #adventure  #india  #kolkata  #howrah 
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A secret is only safe if the other person is dead.
Written by sandflea68 in portal Horror & Thriller

True Confessions

I shouldn’t have done it! Why oh why did I confess to my psychiatrist what I had done? It had been my own little secret for years but I knew I had to get it off my chest before my acidic thoughts destroyed me. What else could I do? I had tried writing it down on paper as a release and then burning my confession but it didn’t work as well as I would have liked.

I had spent almost a year getting nowhere with my doctor. He was watching me closely and saying nothing as I began my story.

“I had a boyfriend named Darren who treated me like an angel. But I made the mistake of telling him about the baby I had when I was sixteen which I had given up for adoption. Because of this choice, I was able to finish school and become a physical therapist and even my parents didn’t know. But now Darren knew and he kept harassing me to tell my parents and try to find the baby. I didn’t want to. I was happy, making good money and respected in my field. But he wouldn’t let up and I was desperate, afraid that he might tell my parents. It really was his fault because he made me feel guilty as I relived that terrible time in my life.” Tears were coursing down my cheeks as I made this confession to my doctor.

“How did you resolve it?” asked Dr. Ogden.

“Well,” I sighed, “I had no choice but to get rid of the problem. Darren and I were mountain hiking when he slipped and fell off the cliff. The rocks were loose and the authorities agreed that it was an accident. I never knew how terrible it would be to see his crushed and broken body at the bottom.”

“Was it an accident?” Dr. Ogden looked at me closely as I answered.

I knew he suspected that I had pushed Darren to his death. “I won’t admit that I had anything to do with it.” But I knew he had come to his own conclusion.

I remembered feeling a small sense of relief when I burned the paper earlier in which I wrote my confession about giving up my baby. So what could I do? He now knew about Darren. I must ‘burn the doctor’ so to speak. I took out my pistol and shot him. Dead men tell no tales.

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A secret is only safe if the other person is dead.
Written by sandflea68 in portal Horror & Thriller
True Confessions
I shouldn’t have done it! Why oh why did I confess to my psychiatrist what I had done? It had been my own little secret for years but I knew I had to get it off my chest before my acidic thoughts destroyed me. What else could I do? I had tried writing it down on paper as a release and then burning my confession but it didn’t work as well as I would have liked.

I had spent almost a year getting nowhere with my doctor. He was watching me closely and saying nothing as I began my story.

“I had a boyfriend named Darren who treated me like an angel. But I made the mistake of telling him about the baby I had when I was sixteen which I had given up for adoption. Because of this choice, I was able to finish school and become a physical therapist and even my parents didn’t know. But now Darren knew and he kept harassing me to tell my parents and try to find the baby. I didn’t want to. I was happy, making good money and respected in my field. But he wouldn’t let up and I was desperate, afraid that he might tell my parents. It really was his fault because he made me feel guilty as I relived that terrible time in my life.” Tears were coursing down my cheeks as I made this confession to my doctor.

“How did you resolve it?” asked Dr. Ogden.

“Well,” I sighed, “I had no choice but to get rid of the problem. Darren and I were mountain hiking when he slipped and fell off the cliff. The rocks were loose and the authorities agreed that it was an accident. I never knew how terrible it would be to see his crushed and broken body at the bottom.”

“Was it an accident?” Dr. Ogden looked at me closely as I answered.

I knew he suspected that I had pushed Darren to his death. “I won’t admit that I had anything to do with it.” But I knew he had come to his own conclusion.

I remembered feeling a small sense of relief when I burned the paper earlier in which I wrote my confession about giving up my baby. So what could I do? He now knew about Darren. I must ‘burn the doctor’ so to speak. I took out my pistol and shot him. Dead men tell no tales.
#fiction  #challenge  #NoTales 
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Written by WistfulThinker in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Maker

She built you from clay.

She carefully shaped your limbs, your smile, your eyes.

She made you strong with fire.

And she told you, "You'll always be mine."

You happily believed it, 

For she had even crafted your mind. 

She made every little, beautiful thing about you.

She raised you right.

But your heart was out of her control.

And on one fateful night,

You met your doom.

You took her home that night,

Said you couldn't have imagined such perfection.

She put words in your mouth and you stripped yourself of any true love.

You unremorsefully said goodbye to your maker,

And walked off a cliff, holding the wing of your love. 

She laughed as you fell, and she flew too close to the sun.

There lie two blinded souls, bounded by the holy union of death.  

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Written by WistfulThinker in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Maker
She built you from clay.
She carefully shaped your limbs, your smile, your eyes.
She made you strong with fire.
And she told you, "You'll always be mine."
You happily believed it, 
For she had even crafted your mind. 
She made every little, beautiful thing about you.
She raised you right.
But your heart was out of her control.
And on one fateful night,
You met your doom.
You took her home that night,
Said you couldn't have imagined such perfection.
She put words in your mouth and you stripped yourself of any true love.
You unremorsefully said goodbye to your maker,
And walked off a cliff, holding the wing of your love. 
She laughed as you fell, and she flew too close to the sun.
There lie two blinded souls, bounded by the holy union of death.  








#fiction  #romance  #philosophy 
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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by JimLamb in portal Simon & Schuster

Chapter One

Linda Hughes-Reed owed me big time, and I was about to collect. My wide-bottomed, rear end lodged deep in the leather passenger seat of a triple-black ’86 Corvette convertible; top down, music blaring; heater cooking my deck-shoed, sockless feet; cool, misty midnight October air waving wildly through what was left of my thinning brown hair. Flying low on I-4, eyeballing the Bee Line Expressway. Heading to a near-mystical place called Eckler’s in Titusville on Florida’s East Coast. Going to the 1992 version of “The Reunion,” a gathering that this year would celebrate “America’s Sports Car” reaching a milestone: the one-million mark. Thinking to myself, “Life is good” . . . and it was.

My pilot for this ground-level flight was Martin (pronounced Mar-teen) Gonzales, a Tampa native who’d parlayed his late father’s failing Spanish AM radio station into an all-talk, all-English, powerhouse that featured (among others) a controversial syndicated host named Rush Limbaugh. Ybor City’s Cuban community hated that Marti had dropped the money-losing, Spanish-language programming that had railed against Castro and Communism. Tampa’s media elite hated that he broadcast Limbaugh’s fiery brand of conservatism. He casually dismissed the criticism.

Cada cabeza es un mundo," Marti said, translating (for me) this Cuban proverb as, “Every head is a world of its own.”

I’d met Marti as a result of an article I’d done for Florida! magazine—an article Linda nearly spiked. I wondered how things would have turned out if she hadn’t listened when I told her to push off her annual hurricane edition until the September issue. She thought I was crazy and said so—in that earthy, slice-and-dice way that only a former cop-shop reporter can convey. But I pushed back (I’d shoveled through a few miles of police logs myself.) Sold her. Cajoled her. Won her over to a cover story called “When the Big One Hits,” convinced it would sell issues of her magazine, and, after all, I asked, “Isn’t that why you became a publisher in the first place?”

In the end, she agreed, but not before threatening to throw me off the St. Petersburg Pier if the idea flopped. I ended being right—and lucky. It wasn’t the first time I’d been either.

When Linda’s September issue hit newsstands in mid-August, nature had yet to produce its first named storm of the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The magazine cover featured a stunning, computer-generated illustration of a massive storm bearing down on South Florida. The graphic, done by a student at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, had a wonderful trompe l'oeil quality: It seemed to float above the page.

The day after Florida! hit shelves, Tropical Storm Andrew hit radars, following the same path as the magazine’s faux storm, which I had christened “Zoey.” Issues of Florida! were tossed into shopping carts along with shrink-wrapped batteries, bottled water, and duct tape. For the first time in the publication’s history, it sold out.

People dubbed Ms. Hughes-Reed a journalistic genius. Shrewd. Crafty. Prescient. Fans of Florida! (her hip, breezy state rag) wined-and-cheesed her. Critics, who had smirked at the idea of publishing a hurricane edition halfway through the season, just whined. It didn’t matter. She’d made the right call. Gutsy. Now she basked like the Florida Gator she was, even though her success had come about because she’d listened to an FSU drop-out like me.

All I asked in return was for Linda to accept from me (her favorite freelancer) a trinket of a story titled “Fantastic Plastic, Florida’s Corvette Connection.” It was a serendipitous by-product of my meeting Marti. He’d read my hurricane article and hired me as a commentator during his around-the-clock Andrew coverage. (When I noticed framed photos of his beloved six-speed “Belleza Negra” plastered around the studio, I sensed a story.)

“If you like Belleza, you should join me for a little party I’ve planned,” he said.

I did not know, at the time, the party was for a car.

CHAPTER TWO

A crowded donut stand, a country block from the Eckler warehouse entrance, would have been an ideal place to stop, had there been parking, but Marti, who I’d long since learned to trust regarding planning ahead, was prepared: He stopped behind a beat-up trailer that appeared abandoned beside the unadorned, whitewashed building—then hopped out of the Vette, flipped down the fold-up ramp, and drove aboard, wisely letting me disembark first, for he knew that coordination was not one of my gifts-on-loan from God.

We headed inside.

A thin, golf course-tanned, hyper-manicured man who’d been saving a table for us stood up and waved. He wore a pastel creamy-green Polo shirt, perfectly ironed white Bermuda shorts, a toasty-brown, intricately knotted belt with a wrought-iron buckle, and fancy air-friendly shoes that look like they’ve been wicker-woven by fussy elves.

“Here’s Jack Sanders,” Marti said. “They call him Smilin’ Jack. He used to do PR for GM. He’ll answer all your questions.”

“At least some of them,” Jack said, “And you must be Sam, Marti’s writing friend.”

“The very same . . .”

“What’ll you have?” Marti asked as he headed to the counter, where a long line corkscrewed through the aisle.

“Plain cake donut. Black coffee,” I said

I pulled out two pens, a small notebook, and my portable tape recorder.

“Do you mind?” I asked.

“Not at all,” Jack said. “Marti prepared me for your interrogation tactics. Plus, I spent time in a German prison camp, so I can endure just about anything.”

I understood why they called him “Smilin’ Jack.” He bore an uncanny resemblance to Zack Mosley’s World War Two cartoon strip aviator, right down to the square jaw, pencil-thin mustache, and slick-combed hair, neatly parted in the near-middle. The only difference: Jack’s turf had long since turned Dover white. And he was more on the wiry side than his pen-drawn counterpart, but even at age 71, he looked formidable.

“Where do we start?” he asked.

I flipped on my recorder.

“Wherever you like.”

* * *

On September 30, 1938, Neville Chamberlain talked of “Peace with honor” and “Peace in our time.” The Sanders family pondered those words as they crackled through the cloth-covered speakers of the large, majestic, wood-encased, Silvertone radio that dominated the living room’s north wall of his Indiana home.

While the broadcast commentators droned on about what the Prime Minister’s Munich agreement with the German Führer might mean, Jack’s eyes shifted from his father’s tense expression to the radio’s ornate, softly lit, golden dial, with its stylized numbers grandly surrounding an Art Deco sun and stars. Three elegantly scripted words on the Silverstone’s face jumbled inside his head: “American,” “Foreign,” “Aviation.” It seemed a cryptic puzzler. What apocalyptic vision might this trinity foreshadow?

“The commentators all sound hopeful,” Jack said.

“Means war,” his father growled, puffing on his well-worn, hand-crafted, walnut root Castleford pipe. “You can’t surrender to a bloody lunatic like Hitler.”

Then he puffed, deeply.

“Means war,” he repeated.

Jack knew better than to disagree with his father, a veteran of The Great War, and a successful businessman whose Buick dealership had survived the Great Depression.

Though Jack was American by birth, the family had deep roots in England. His paternal grandfather was born in Cardiff, but his ancestors were all Devonians. Jack’s father left Great Britain just after the First World War for reasons unstated, but it had something to do with his having no desire to undertake a career in civil service. (He was the only Sanders with a keen entrepreneurial spirit.)

John worked his way to the States as a cook on a decrepit freighter, saved enough money to buy a fine suit, then trudged around trying to find a job before walking into a Buick showroom just as the Roaring ’20s unfurled. The Englishman’s handsome looks and dignified manner belied a slim purse, but he had determined that the streets of America were paved with gold, and he would mine the former colonies to their depth. The Buick would be his shovel—and an able tool it proved.

By the time Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., took over as GM president and writer/traveler Lowell Thomas was traversing Afghanistan’s tough terrain in a Buick circa 1923, the popular marquee’s top salesperson was a Brit. Within five years, he opened the doors of Sanders Buick, bankrolled by shrewd business maneuvers, not the least of which was marrying the daughter of a banker, one of his customers.

Jack saw in his father the foundational strength he knew England would need if war came. He felt he had an obligation to defend a homeland he never knew. But how?

The following year produced answers.

* * *

Harley J. Earl, GM’s first design chief, created a concept car called the Y-Job. Thanks to his father’s friendship with Earl, Jack feasted on it firsthand.

Y-job was like nothing he’d ever seen: It was long and low—20 feet from stern to bow, yet less than five feet tall. While other cars were square and boxy, Y was curved, black and beautiful. The crisp chrome grill was horizontal with thin, vertical bars. Headlights were hidden and power-driven, as was the convertible top, cleverly covered by a wide, smooth lid that slipped into a space behind the passenger compartment. It had electric doors and windows. Recessed taillights. Power steering. No running boards. An advanced braking system. Plus, it boasted just two seats.

“How do you like my baby?” an obviously proud Earl asked.

“It’s beautiful,” Jack said, exhaling the word in a way typically reserved for Hollywood starlets.

“Would you like to take it for a drive?”

Jack nodded.

“Jump in.”

Jack could not remember where they drove, only that he felt like a character in a Jules Verne novel who'd slipped into the future.

“Can I tell my father he’ll be selling these, soon?”

“No,” Earl smiled. “But tell him he’ll being seeing details from the Y here and there.”

Earl asked Jack about his future—and if he’d considered a career at General Motors.

“After the war, perhaps,” Jack said.

Earl’s face tightened.

“Years away, if at all,” he said.

“Not for me,” Jack said. “I’m trying to find a way to go to England. Fight the good fight.”

Earl’s smile returned.

“When you come back, see me.”

“I will,” Jack said.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Jack’s father was right. War came and, by May 10, 1940, Chamberlain was gone, a victim of his appeasement policy. As Sophocles wrote, “The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.” Meanwhile, Jack was encouraged by the reassuring words of  Winston Churchill, the new Prime Minister:

"Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valor, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar."

Jack vowed that day to become a “man of valor.” It took awhile to make good on that promise.

By Thanksgiving, through his father’s contacts, Jack learned that Americans were covertly being recruited for the Royal Air Force at the Grand Central Aerodrome in Glendale, California. With his father’s support, but against his mother’s wishes, he headed West. (She would die before his return, a passing whose pain never fully healed.) RAF pilot testing was collegial, sprinkled with nods, winks, and humor. No mention of the mission was made. (America was, after all, neutral.)

There were British instructors as well as Americans; Jack scored well with both.

“You’ll do fine,” quipped Clyde Becker from Sutton Bridge, an Operational Training Unit on England’s east coast. “At least you shouldn't have much trouble with the language.”

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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by JimLamb in portal Simon & Schuster
Chapter One
Linda Hughes-Reed owed me big time, and I was about to collect. My wide-bottomed, rear end lodged deep in the leather passenger seat of a triple-black ’86 Corvette convertible; top down, music blaring; heater cooking my deck-shoed, sockless feet; cool, misty midnight October air waving wildly through what was left of my thinning brown hair. Flying low on I-4, eyeballing the Bee Line Expressway. Heading to a near-mystical place called Eckler’s in Titusville on Florida’s East Coast. Going to the 1992 version of “The Reunion,” a gathering that this year would celebrate “America’s Sports Car” reaching a milestone: the one-million mark. Thinking to myself, “Life is good” . . . and it was.

My pilot for this ground-level flight was Martin (pronounced Mar-teen) Gonzales, a Tampa native who’d parlayed his late father’s failing Spanish AM radio station into an all-talk, all-English, powerhouse that featured (among others) a controversial syndicated host named Rush Limbaugh. Ybor City’s Cuban community hated that Marti had dropped the money-losing, Spanish-language programming that had railed against Castro and Communism. Tampa’s media elite hated that he broadcast Limbaugh’s fiery brand of conservatism. He casually dismissed the criticism.

Cada cabeza es un mundo," Marti said, translating (for me) this Cuban proverb as, “Every head is a world of its own.”

I’d met Marti as a result of an article I’d done for Florida! magazine—an article Linda nearly spiked. I wondered how things would have turned out if she hadn’t listened when I told her to push off her annual hurricane edition until the September issue. She thought I was crazy and said so—in that earthy, slice-and-dice way that only a former cop-shop reporter can convey. But I pushed back (I’d shoveled through a few miles of police logs myself.) Sold her. Cajoled her. Won her over to a cover story called “When the Big One Hits,” convinced it would sell issues of her magazine, and, after all, I asked, “Isn’t that why you became a publisher in the first place?”

In the end, she agreed, but not before threatening to throw me off the St. Petersburg Pier if the idea flopped. I ended being right—and lucky. It wasn’t the first time I’d been either.

When Linda’s September issue hit newsstands in mid-August, nature had yet to produce its first named storm of the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The magazine cover featured a stunning, computer-generated illustration of a massive storm bearing down on South Florida. The graphic, done by a student at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, had a wonderful trompe l'oeil quality: It seemed to float above the page.

The day after Florida! hit shelves, Tropical Storm Andrew hit radars, following the same path as the magazine’s faux storm, which I had christened “Zoey.” Issues of Florida! were tossed into shopping carts along with shrink-wrapped batteries, bottled water, and duct tape. For the first time in the publication’s history, it sold out.

People dubbed Ms. Hughes-Reed a journalistic genius. Shrewd. Crafty. Prescient. Fans of Florida! (her hip, breezy state rag) wined-and-cheesed her. Critics, who had smirked at the idea of publishing a hurricane edition halfway through the season, just whined. It didn’t matter. She’d made the right call. Gutsy. Now she basked like the Florida Gator she was, even though her success had come about because she’d listened to an FSU drop-out like me.

All I asked in return was for Linda to accept from me (her favorite freelancer) a trinket of a story titled “Fantastic Plastic, Florida’s Corvette Connection.” It was a serendipitous by-product of my meeting Marti. He’d read my hurricane article and hired me as a commentator during his around-the-clock Andrew coverage. (When I noticed framed photos of his beloved six-speed “Belleza Negra” plastered around the studio, I sensed a story.)

“If you like Belleza, you should join me for a little party I’ve planned,” he said.

I did not know, at the time, the party was for a car.

CHAPTER TWO

A crowded donut stand, a country block from the Eckler warehouse entrance, would have been an ideal place to stop, had there been parking, but Marti, who I’d long since learned to trust regarding planning ahead, was prepared: He stopped behind a beat-up trailer that appeared abandoned beside the unadorned, whitewashed building—then hopped out of the Vette, flipped down the fold-up ramp, and drove aboard, wisely letting me disembark first, for he knew that coordination was not one of my gifts-on-loan from God.

We headed inside.

A thin, golf course-tanned, hyper-manicured man who’d been saving a table for us stood up and waved. He wore a pastel creamy-green Polo shirt, perfectly ironed white Bermuda shorts, a toasty-brown, intricately knotted belt with a wrought-iron buckle, and fancy air-friendly shoes that look like they’ve been wicker-woven by fussy elves.

“Here’s Jack Sanders,” Marti said. “They call him Smilin’ Jack. He used to do PR for GM. He’ll answer all your questions.”

“At least some of them,” Jack said, “And you must be Sam, Marti’s writing friend.”

“The very same . . .”

“What’ll you have?” Marti asked as he headed to the counter, where a long line corkscrewed through the aisle.

“Plain cake donut. Black coffee,” I said

I pulled out two pens, a small notebook, and my portable tape recorder.

“Do you mind?” I asked.

“Not at all,” Jack said. “Marti prepared me for your interrogation tactics. Plus, I spent time in a German prison camp, so I can endure just about anything.”

I understood why they called him “Smilin’ Jack.” He bore an uncanny resemblance to Zack Mosley’s World War Two cartoon strip aviator, right down to the square jaw, pencil-thin mustache, and slick-combed hair, neatly parted in the near-middle. The only difference: Jack’s turf had long since turned Dover white. And he was more on the wiry side than his pen-drawn counterpart, but even at age 71, he looked formidable.

“Where do we start?” he asked.

I flipped on my recorder.

“Wherever you like.”

* * *

On September 30, 1938, Neville Chamberlain talked of “Peace with honor” and “Peace in our time.” The Sanders family pondered those words as they crackled through the cloth-covered speakers of the large, majestic, wood-encased, Silvertone radio that dominated the living room’s north wall of his Indiana home.

While the broadcast commentators droned on about what the Prime Minister’s Munich agreement with the German Führer might mean, Jack’s eyes shifted from his father’s tense expression to the radio’s ornate, softly lit, golden dial, with its stylized numbers grandly surrounding an Art Deco sun and stars. Three elegantly scripted words on the Silverstone’s face jumbled inside his head: “American,” “Foreign,” “Aviation.” It seemed a cryptic puzzler. What apocalyptic vision might this trinity foreshadow?

“The commentators all sound hopeful,” Jack said.

“Means war,” his father growled, puffing on his well-worn, hand-crafted, walnut root Castleford pipe. “You can’t surrender to a bloody lunatic like Hitler.”

Then he puffed, deeply.

“Means war,” he repeated.

Jack knew better than to disagree with his father, a veteran of The Great War, and a successful businessman whose Buick dealership had survived the Great Depression.

Though Jack was American by birth, the family had deep roots in England. His paternal grandfather was born in Cardiff, but his ancestors were all Devonians. Jack’s father left Great Britain just after the First World War for reasons unstated, but it had something to do with his having no desire to undertake a career in civil service. (He was the only Sanders with a keen entrepreneurial spirit.)

John worked his way to the States as a cook on a decrepit freighter, saved enough money to buy a fine suit, then trudged around trying to find a job before walking into a Buick showroom just as the Roaring ’20s unfurled. The Englishman’s handsome looks and dignified manner belied a slim purse, but he had determined that the streets of America were paved with gold, and he would mine the former colonies to their depth. The Buick would be his shovel—and an able tool it proved.

By the time Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., took over as GM president and writer/traveler Lowell Thomas was traversing Afghanistan’s tough terrain in a Buick circa 1923, the popular marquee’s top salesperson was a Brit. Within five years, he opened the doors of Sanders Buick, bankrolled by shrewd business maneuvers, not the least of which was marrying the daughter of a banker, one of his customers.

Jack saw in his father the foundational strength he knew England would need if war came. He felt he had an obligation to defend a homeland he never knew. But how?

The following year produced answers.

* * *

Harley J. Earl, GM’s first design chief, created a concept car called the Y-Job. Thanks to his father’s friendship with Earl, Jack feasted on it firsthand.

Y-job was like nothing he’d ever seen: It was long and low—20 feet from stern to bow, yet less than five feet tall. While other cars were square and boxy, Y was curved, black and beautiful. The crisp chrome grill was horizontal with thin, vertical bars. Headlights were hidden and power-driven, as was the convertible top, cleverly covered by a wide, smooth lid that slipped into a space behind the passenger compartment. It had electric doors and windows. Recessed taillights. Power steering. No running boards. An advanced braking system. Plus, it boasted just two seats.

“How do you like my baby?” an obviously proud Earl asked.

“It’s beautiful,” Jack said, exhaling the word in a way typically reserved for Hollywood starlets.

“Would you like to take it for a drive?”

Jack nodded.

“Jump in.”

Jack could not remember where they drove, only that he felt like a character in a Jules Verne novel who'd slipped into the future.

“Can I tell my father he’ll be selling these, soon?”

“No,” Earl smiled. “But tell him he’ll being seeing details from the Y here and there.”

Earl asked Jack about his future—and if he’d considered a career at General Motors.

“After the war, perhaps,” Jack said.

Earl’s face tightened.

“Years away, if at all,” he said.

“Not for me,” Jack said. “I’m trying to find a way to go to England. Fight the good fight.”

Earl’s smile returned.

“When you come back, see me.”

“I will,” Jack said.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Jack’s father was right. War came and, by May 10, 1940, Chamberlain was gone, a victim of his appeasement policy. As Sophocles wrote, “The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.” Meanwhile, Jack was encouraged by the reassuring words of  Winston Churchill, the new Prime Minister:

"Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valor, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar."

Jack vowed that day to become a “man of valor.” It took awhile to make good on that promise.

By Thanksgiving, through his father’s contacts, Jack learned that Americans were covertly being recruited for the Royal Air Force at the Grand Central Aerodrome in Glendale, California. With his father’s support, but against his mother’s wishes, he headed West. (She would die before his return, a passing whose pain never fully healed.) RAF pilot testing was collegial, sprinkled with nods, winks, and humor. No mention of the mission was made. (America was, after all, neutral.)

There were British instructors as well as Americans; Jack scored well with both.

“You’ll do fine,” quipped Clyde Becker from Sutton Bridge, an Operational Training Unit on England’s east coast. “At least you shouldn't have much trouble with the language.”



#fiction  #culture 
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Written by brieannekt

upgrade patch

A parasite is crawling into my mind, eating away my creativity.

Original thoughts are now devoid.

I've become sick from a dis-ease called atrophy, death of spirit; due to this parasite.

I called the exterminator to kill "it."

he said it costs money to "kill these lil' buggers."

Money it is then!

Please and thank you!

I regressed back to my natural untainted musings.

Now, that it's been plucked out of my psyche.

I've got my grit back ready to take over the creative realm with ease.

Be brave. Be bold. Take these worlds of words and shape your own mould.

Some other writer's told me they have to call the "bug doctor" once a year.

I said, "As long as there is no glitch in my musings," I'll keep on trekking down writer's valley.

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Written by brieannekt
upgrade patch
A parasite is crawling into my mind, eating away my creativity.
Original thoughts are now devoid.
I've become sick from a dis-ease called atrophy, death of spirit; due to this parasite.
I called the exterminator to kill "it."
he said it costs money to "kill these lil' buggers."
Money it is then!
Please and thank you!
I regressed back to my natural untainted musings.
Now, that it's been plucked out of my psyche.
I've got my grit back ready to take over the creative realm with ease.
Be brave. Be bold. Take these worlds of words and shape your own mould.
Some other writer's told me they have to call the "bug doctor" once a year.
I said, "As long as there is no glitch in my musings," I'll keep on trekking down writer's valley.
#fiction 
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Part 6 of the 6 part challenge Please see details and - (Please do part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 first) We are writing a short story 300 words or more at a time, give or take a few words.
Written by Harry_Situation in portal Fiction

MAJOR RAGER Part 6

The smoke cleared and the flash faded. All that remained of the final boss was a pile of ash, scrap metal, and bloody organs. But hovering above the remains was a golden chest that shined brighter than the gates of Paradise.

All six friends gazed at the object with great awe. The vast prizes was just in their reach. Rosemary and Dominic smiled the largest. But they both felt something odd. Looking down they noticed that their hands were gently clinging together. They flinched away, embarrassed by the compassionate act. Both the human girl and the demon boy tried to keep their eyes on the television, neither one noticing their faces blushing red and small smiles curve their lips after they touched. 

The six players slowly approached the chest. Their minds raced with all the treasures they would earn. The new armor and armor upgrades, the best weapons, unlimited ammo, and thousands of credits—the game's currency—was about to belong to them.

Suddenly, they heard a gunshot. Blood and brain bits splattered out of Rosemary's avatar and it dropped dead. Soon Dominic's followed beyond with a similar fashion. And then Joshua, then Krystal, then Kayleigh, then Ashley. All avatars were dead. Their prize just short from their reach.

Rosie and Dominic dropped their controllers. Their jaws followed too.

"WHAT THE HELL?!?" Rosie angrily screamed.

"THAT'S BULLCRAP!" Dominic also ranted.

Rosie shouted again, "WHO KILLED US?!?"

A single armored avatar, with the gamer tag MOTHERMERCY, stepped onscreen, claiming their prize. Inside the privacy of her office at Brimestone Elementary, Mrs. Wordworth laughed as the in-game riches now belonged to her.

"Oh, bless you, Lord," she gave a fiendish cackle, "Bless you for giving me the strength to pwn these noob suckers! Ahahahaha!"

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Part 6 of the 6 part challenge Please see details and - (Please do part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 first) We are writing a short story 300 words or more at a time, give or take a few words.
Written by Harry_Situation in portal Fiction
MAJOR RAGER Part 6
The smoke cleared and the flash faded. All that remained of the final boss was a pile of ash, scrap metal, and bloody organs. But hovering above the remains was a golden chest that shined brighter than the gates of Paradise.

All six friends gazed at the object with great awe. The vast prizes was just in their reach. Rosemary and Dominic smiled the largest. But they both felt something odd. Looking down they noticed that their hands were gently clinging together. They flinched away, embarrassed by the compassionate act. Both the human girl and the demon boy tried to keep their eyes on the television, neither one noticing their faces blushing red and small smiles curve their lips after they touched. 

The six players slowly approached the chest. Their minds raced with all the treasures they would earn. The new armor and armor upgrades, the best weapons, unlimited ammo, and thousands of credits—the game's currency—was about to belong to them.

Suddenly, they heard a gunshot. Blood and brain bits splattered out of Rosemary's avatar and it dropped dead. Soon Dominic's followed beyond with a similar fashion. And then Joshua, then Krystal, then Kayleigh, then Ashley. All avatars were dead. Their prize just short from their reach.

Rosie and Dominic dropped their controllers. Their jaws followed too.

"WHAT THE HELL?!?" Rosie angrily screamed.

"THAT'S BULLCRAP!" Dominic also ranted.

Rosie shouted again, "WHO KILLED US?!?"

A single armored avatar, with the gamer tag MOTHERMERCY, stepped onscreen, claiming their prize. Inside the privacy of her office at Brimestone Elementary, Mrs. Wordworth laughed as the in-game riches now belonged to her.

"Oh, bless you, Lord," she gave a fiendish cackle, "Bless you for giving me the strength to pwn these noob suckers! Ahahahaha!"
#fantasy  #fiction  #horror  #comedy  #sinsofthefather 
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