Finish This Sentence #4 – Unpredictable Moment

I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to __________. (Write a story that follows this line.)

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

writing-prompts

Download from our shop right now!

You might also like:

291 thoughts on “Finish This Sentence #4 – Unpredictable Moment

  1. randi100

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Lithuania.
    Not really a hub of excitement, beauty, or wonderful weather but off to Lithuania I went.
    Why you ask? Well, I will tell you. It isn’t all that random after all.
    It all started when I signed up on ancestry.com to research my family tree. That was 6 months ago. I went as far back as I could, all the way to my 5 times great grandfather on my father’s side. Then I hit a wall, nothing else to be found. It is so frustrating, I want to know more. So I decided to go to Lithuania to see if there is information there about my family.
    Luckily it’s summer and I am a teacher so I didn’t have to worry about taking time off from work. I had just enough in savings to cover my round trip ticket and hotel.
    I landed in Lithuania after an uneventful flight. After using Google translate I somehow hailed a cab and made my way to the hotel, I wanted to unpack and freshen up before I journeyed out.
    The hotel wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and after a quick shower I hit the street to see what I could find. After about 20 minutes of wondering aimlessly I came across a plaque on an old crumbling stone building. Of course I couldn’t read a word of it.
    I then heard a voice behind me say “Do you need some help?” The voice had an accent but it wasn’t Lithuanian, it was American. I heard a slight drawl. I asked the lovely young woman if she was from the American South. “Well bless your heart! I am!” She exclaimed loudly.
    I asked her if she could translate the plaque. “Oh no honey, I can’t do that. I’m only here for a few hours. I’m on a layover on my way to France. I’m a flight attendant.” “ I can however, tell you where the best restaurant is in town.”
    “No, thanks.” I said. “I’m not hungry, just trying to find out about my ancestors.”
    “Well” She said. “If you are ever in Georgia, look me up.” With that she was gone, her long blonde ponytail blowing in the breeze.
    I gave up on reading the plaque and I continued to stroll down the long narrow street.
    I stopped at the end of the road. I don’t even know what made me stop but suddenly all of the hair on my entire body was standing up. I felt as if I had seen a ghost or more accurately like I was looking in the mirror. I was staring at a man and he looked just like me.
    “Brother” he said. “What took you so long to get here?”
    “I…I don’t have brother.” I stammered.
    “ We have a lot to talk about. My name is Jacob. We are brothers. Can’t you see the resemblance?” My so called brother said.

  2. LeaneNC

    This wound up being an ode to my future, adult children. A tear jerking writing experience! Today, they are 14, 6, and 1.

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. May 8, 2033, a.k.a., “My Time”. At the tender age of 51, I have finally sent the last of you three to college. Parental obligation has kept me grounded in North Carolina for the past 30 years. I love you guys, and have never had second thoughts about sacrificing my own dreams to be your mom.

    In fact, I feel that I am digressing already. Please forgive my tone. It seems to imply that I am planning an escape route. Let me back up and make one thing perfectly clear. Being your mom has been the greatest honor and duty of my life.

    Darren: My first born. My hot headed, stubborn boy. My intelligent rebel. My gamer. My first best friend. Being a young mom, I made some mistakes at first. Our road has been the bumpiest. But God has worked in your life and in our relationship. You are a brilliant video game designer as well as a savvy business owner. You have people skills, and I am so proud of who you have turned out to be. Keep on waiting for the right girl. I love you so much.

    Annabella: My sweet baby girl. My beautiful, precious young woman. One week ago today, you graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill Summa Cum Laude. I can’t say that I was surprised. The nursing field doesn’t know what is about to hit them! Your love and compassion for people is a gift from God. Your engagement to Tucker has brought me joy as well as relief. You will be a wonderful wife (and one day mom?). I love you.

    Grady: My Grady boy. Are you 18 already? It’s so eerie. As I type this, I can’t shake this tingling sensation that you are still my precious one year old boy. I thought you would never stop goofing around long enough to finish elementary school! Now look at you, heading off to Juilliard. You truly have the voice of an angel, son. I am proud beyond words of your dedication to your art and your love for people. I love you.

    The truth is that your old momma is an empty nester now. I could either spend my time hounding the three of you for grandkids or follow my heart where I left it in 2014. I still have a ton of love and nurturing to give. I hope to get hooked up with a “kindergarten school”, as they call them, or an orphanage and maybe open my own place. If any of you ever feel the call for foreign mission work, I would have a stable place for you to serve in a few years’ time.

    Love, Mom

  3. moppagirl

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to… well, where I am is irrelevant; but I’ll never forget what happened on the way.

    The flight was pleasant. I sat in luxury and covertly put on airs as I dug in my faux Louis Vuitton bag for my ticket. According to its itinerary, I had exactly 7 hours to kill. This could be dangerous; because the last thing I wanted to do was think. What was the truth about my life that drew such criticism from those I sought approval from? This unexpected trip would prove my defiance and rejection of their resonating words of disapproval from those so unwilling to give it.

    The gentleman who sat beside me sneezed. “Bless you,” I said in a hushed tone. He thanked me as I put my bag under the seat in front of me. This was going to be a long trip and hopefully the Benadryl would kick in soon and I could sleep. Until then, I flipped through the channels to decide what movie to watch, finally settling on the first “Matrix”. As I searched for my ear-buds, the gentleman beside me said, “I would have figured you for Romance genre.” I nodded cordially, silently scoffed and didn’t look at him. The last thing I wanted to talk about or think about was romance. Science Fiction was what I needed at this juncture.

    I searched for my ear-buds. “What was so hard about seeing me for who I am?” The tone of my voice was getting louder in my head as I began frantically searching for my earbuds. Just as I was beginning to lose it, the hand of the gentleman who sat next to me came in to view. Laced in his fingertips were my ear-buds. I took a deep breath and in my embarrassment, didn’t look at him; but kindly nodded.
    “He thinks I’m a moron,” I thought as I plugged my ear-buds into the device. “No. This trip is about what I think!” The problem was – I agreed. Finally, the Benadryl started to work and the last thing I hear is, “The answer is out there Neo. It’s looking for you and it will find you if you want it to.”

    Seven hours later, I awoke refreshed. We had just landed. “Did you find it?” The familiar voice asked.

    “Find what?”

    “The truth.” He said as he skirted around my legs to the aisle.

    “Truth?” I asked.

    All I saw was the man’s torso as he reached for his bag. “Well, it’s out there,” he said as he gave a yank and then put his bag to the floor. He then bent down to look me in the eyes. “And it’s looking for you. It will find you, if you want it to.”

    I’ll be damned. It was Keanu Reeves, staring me in the face. I’ll never forget that.

  4. Chereda

    I’ve never done anything unpredictable… Well, wedding you three months after we first met was kinda easy to predict. I knew the moment we touched and I felt your body shiver from the cold… But all of that changed when… I guess it happened a long time ago. The slow dying out of the warmth, until I was the one left alone shivering in the dark, so… I packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to planet Marves.

    “There’s no coming back from this one”, I thought. It was just the way I liked it. The megaton explosion of the rocket engine exhaust blast burned the bridges within me, wiping clean all traces of you while the cosmic winds blew the ashes away.

    “Free at last, free at last. I’m free at last”, I murmured to myself, tugging at the gravitational pull of the nearby star and using it as a sling to propel myself out of this galaxy. The interstellar speeds stretched my body into a thin thread that hung suspended between here and there, unable to let go nor to grasp on to my destination. I lingered at the edge of the abyss for a second and with one last parting “Sayonarra muthafacka!” echoing in the void I went out in a brilliant flash.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a collection of wonderful imagery, Chereda; it could almost have been cast as a poem. I hope the ship taking off only metaphorically blew the MC’s past to atoms, otherwise that’s a bit harsh for the end of the affair…

      This is very enjoyable.

      1. Chereda

        Lol, no, the bridges were burned within, not without. 🙂 The whole thing is a metaphor for internal release, which is the only one that really matters. But I like your take on it. 🙂
        Thank you.

  5. Toni Smalley

    Stairway to Heaven

    I have never done anything unpredictable before…err, besides the penguin tattoo on my ass, but besides that, after years of working behind a desk, I changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Hell. I’ve been stuck on Earth so long, it was about time I saw the hotter, more miserable side of immortality.

    The airline employee was very nervous at the desk, which I can understand, boarding all those damned sinners condemned to torture for all eternity. As I waited before her (nametag “Merlaine”) I saw probably ten men walk by who were still sizzling from the electric chair. Is that still allowed?

    “Merlaine, do the states still allow capital punishment?”

    “A few do. And a few of those passengers have been in the waiting area for…awhile,” She sighed. “Ma’am, look, I’m telling you this is a full flight. You’ll have to sit on one of the demon’s lap, and he will give you wet willy’s the entire flight and probably chew half your hair off.”

    “I am on a soul journey. Brand new me when I return. So that is fine.”

    “Ma’am, there are no return flights from Hell.”

    I stared at her a moment before deciding if I was going to be unpredictable and become a whole new person. I shrugged. Sure, why let anything stand in my way? “Ya, and how do the demons get here to collect their souls? Mmmmmm???”

    “Uh…well, there is no protocol for this,” she raked her hair through her hair, “Why the hell do you want to go to Hell?”

    “Well, it’s free, isn’t it?”

    “Yes.”

    “Awesome. I’m broke. I need a quick vaca. Book me. I’m getting on that flight. By the way do you have a travel brochure? Sights to see?”

    She gawked at me before replying, “No. NOBODY EVER has requested that before, so no.”

    “Too bad,” I shook my head. “Well, flying by the seat of my pants it is then.”

    “Ya, you sure will be.”

    And I was.

    I was put in coach, sitting on a demon’s lap, who thought it was hilarious to give me a wedgie on every bounce of turbulence. But, hey, at least no wet willy’s. I’d rather have the wedgies than wet demon spit in my ear.

    Can you believe that all I wanted more than anything was to fly above some clouds? And I saw no clouds. Well, you get what you paid for…which was nothing for me. We flew below some lava, which boiled half my left arm skin, then a dragon decided to get nasty and fry us like French fries, but luckily, I was wearing sunscreen, THEN after traveling for four hours into the depths of the earth and entering a wormhole into some other part of the universe, I saw our destination.

    Hell.

    As our plane soared above the landscapes of Hell, I felt horror, I felt compassion, I felt recognition that these weren’t just condemned souls, they were people like me who had made mistakes in their lives, and now I had a front seat to their suffering, and I closed my eyes and rehearsed a tune to sing to them.

    I pulled out my pipe to play, ”There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold…”

    1. Observer Tim

      “… and she’s flying the airway to Heaven…”

      This is a really clever and entertaining take, Toni. I love your MC’s take on immortality, and her nonchalant way of addressing the whole idea of the trip. And that was a wonderful insight – if nobody gets out of Hell, how do we know what it’s like there?

      All in all, this is a good’un. Very well done!

      1. smallster21

        Haha! Love your reply 🙂 “and she’s flying the airway to Heaven.” Now that is clever! I actually watched Heart sing Stairway to Heaven before I jumped online and read this prompt, so rock n’ roll was on my mind. Rock on Observer Tim.

  6. Kinterralynn

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to New York City. I was standing in the security line from Hell when I started second guessing myself. Flying off into the sunset had never been my style, although I sincerely wanted to flee everything in this town, especially Bradley White. He actually used the “It’s me, not you.” Line to break off our five year relationship in a text message like we were Millennials and then promptly moved in with the much younger, Tiffany Reyes, whom he had been getting guitar lessons from. I wish I could say “Good Riddance, I’m better off without him.” However my heart doesn’t work that way and all I want to do is run as far as I can. Everything around me feels wrong and I know its my imagination but it feels like everyone who looks at me knows what Bradley did and they are judging me for it or worse, having pity for me.
    I did a quick survey of the terminal and spotted a sign pointing to the car rental desk. I have a car sitting out in the parking lot, but if I were to go rent a car then everyone would think I flew off to New York. No one had to know that I changed my mind and was going to go into seclusion in my own home. I would turn right onto Birch Avenue and go past the familiar stores, turn right on Walker and go past the abandoned grocery store, turn right on Elm and stop in front of the two bedroom rental house with the brick porch and broken screen door. I would get inside, close all the curtains and wallow in self-pity while sipping wine and watching sappy romance movies on Netflix. This was my second failed relationship ( thank God no kids with this one ) and I was too old and too tired to try again. A small part of me was waiting for Bradley to come running into the terminal and beg me not to go. I wanted to strangle that part of me for believing in such a romantic and silly thing. Reality reminds me I am an overweight, frumpy middle-aged woman and the Knight in Shining Armor turned out to be a Man-Child in Tinfoil who cared only for himself. If I wanted rescuing… I was going to have to do it myself. I stepped up to the rental counter with false bravado and set the wheels in motion to the start of a new life.
    This time, I was going to turn left.

    1. Observer Tim

      Like the one immediately below, this take is set early in the leaving process while the MC is still looking back and not looking forward. I love that little statement of resolve at the end; it tells me there’s a real chance everything is going to work out for her. It may not be what she expects, but she’ll grow because of it.

      The series of turns and directions in the second paragraph does a good job foreshadowing and setting up the final line. That’s a nice touch.

  7. cl91

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to the first tropical place that popped up….Bora Bora.

    When the beautiful ocean water popped up I couldn’t help myself. I just had to get away. I didn’t think it through and I didn’t care at that point. I needed some time. I needed to be alone with me and be happy.

    It’s a hard thing to live with a drug addict and with a person who refuses to work. Those are my kids. I have tried and tried to be a good mother. I thought I taught them the right things, but I guess somewhere down the road, something happened and it didn’t take.

    My son is 29 years old and he’s a drug addict. He’s been a drug addict for over 10 years. At first I didn’t see it. I never in a zillion years thought my child would be anything less than perfect but here we are, in full-blown addiction. He never got along with his real dad. His real dad and I divorced when he was four years old and then I met my husband. We dated and finally married. I had two kids and he had three.

    Because of the drugs, he now remembers things in a totally different way than I remember them. We allowed him to move in with us last fall because he had nowhere else to go. He had been staying in an halfway house in another city but after he went back to jail to settle some old legal problems left over from before he went to the halfway house, he was not given his medications in jail and boom….we went right back to square one with the addiction. You can’t just take someone off of psych medications. The jail didn’t give him his medications and when he got out he was all over the place.

    We let him move back in but he had gotten to some drugs when he left the jail and there we were. It’s a horrible thing to watch addiction up close and personal. He is working now but he is still struggling with this problem. I was at my wit’s end watching it. I don’t know if it will ever end. I can’t make it end or I would.

    The kid who refuses to work is my husband’s son. I raised him because his own mother chose not to. He got up every day and watched his dad and myself go to work. We’ve always worked. So, why does he think he doesn’t have to? He doesn’t have his driver’s license because the state took them due to his many traffic violations. He has had legal problems galore.

    He can’t seem to have a girlfriend without somehow it ending in some kind of confrontation where he has the whole family against him. Right now, I can understand how a whole family can be against him. If I could duct tape his mouth, all might be well.

    We allowed him to move in with us again on the promise he would get a job and keep it. He has worked, but not at the same job. It drives me crazy to get up every morning and go to work while he lounges. I get angry every time I see him do that because he knows better.

    So here I am…..relaxing in a beautiful hut on the ocean in Bora Bora. I feel happy. I’m at peace within myself.
    Do I have plans to return home. No. Maybe when my money runs out….

    Does anyone know where I am? My husband knows, but at this point I think he felt it better to leave me alone for a time. He’s a smart man.

    1. Observer Tim

      This seemed to me to be more about the reasons why she left than about what happened when she did; it’s a marvelous and emotional rant about the two young men who were trying to ruin her life by not living theirs. Very intense and enjoyable in its way. Nice one, CL.

    2. LeaneNC

      I know the ballpark you are in, friend. I myself have been in recovery for a very long time (no worries, I am a good mom, a teacher, a “normal” person). I am separating from a man who takes recovery as an “as needed, when wanted” prescription. My dad and brother? Both addicts. My greatest fear is that one of my three children will follow suit.

      As someone who used and abused the hell out of my parents (way back in the day), I will shout from the mountains: KICK HIM/THEM OUT!!!!! My parents should have, I was awful. It hurts but you ARE a good Mom. But it’s enabling. The money should have already run out.

      Like your Bora Bora, my happy place for this writing prompt was Haiti. I cannot imagine being on the Mom end of the addiction stick. I am so sorry, and saying a prayer for your precious family.

  8. FinnMacCoul22

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Buenos Aires.

    “Do they check your passport before you get on the plane?” I asked.

    “What?” She had been ready to help the next person in line.

    “I know they must check it at customs when you get off an international flight, but does someone make sure you have it before you get on the plane?”

    “Do you have your passport, sir?”

    “Yeah,” I pulled it out and showed it to her. “I’ve just never actually used it before. Always assumed I would, but just… didn’t.”

    “As long as you have it you’ll be fine.”

    “I know. I was just curious.” She expected me to move. I did not.

    “They do not check before you leave. The country you arrive in’s customs officials will do that.”

    “Ok.”

    “There’s a line behind you, sir.”

    “What? Oh. Ok, thank you. Have a nice day.”

    “Have a good trip, sir. Next please.”

    I jumped back. “What is the return policy? I just realized this is kind of crazy.”

    She stared at me. The cashier next to her whispered something to the cashier next to her, that that one did the same. It was like a game of telephone, and I felt pretty confident it was about me.

    “It’s non-refundable and non-transferrable. Sir, please, I need to help other travelers.”

    “Well, it’s just that I can’t believe I did this. Good lord, I don’t even speak Spanish. What would I even do there?”

    “Holy crap.” This was the lady behind me.

    “Sir, you need to move.” Her eyes flicked to one side. Looking for someone to come carry me away. But they must have been carrying someone else away right then.

    “Oh my god. The money. Oh my god the money. Money. Can I please have a refund? Is there really not any kind of grace period?”

    “Sir, no.”

    “Please!”

    “Sir, please lower your voice.”

    “What if I found someone with my exact name? Could they use the ticket? I know that would technically be transferring it, but would they check?”

    She shook her head and tried to think of something to say.

    “What if the plane doesn’t take off? Do I get a refund? Never mind, sorry. Sorry. Why am I doing this? Oh, god. I think I’m going to be sick. They can’t make me get on the plane if I’m sick.”

    “No one is going to make you get on the plane!” The lady behind me screamed. I turned around and buckled over, clutching my stomach.

    “Call your bank and tell them the card was stolen,” someone behind the lady behind me said.

    “Hey!” The cashier said.

    “That’s a great idea,” I said between fighting down surges of vomit.

    “Sir, just please go,” the cashier begged.

    “I’m on my way,” I said, then threw up all over the counter.

    I escaped in the confusion.

    1. snuzcook

      Good one, Finn! I think you chose the most perfect moment to describe for this scenario. Creating the bottleneck with sudden buyer’s remorse, lovely! His confusion about what language he will need to speak is a plus. The helpful suggestions from the people behind him in line are icing on the cake. Well done!

  9. ReathaThomasOakley

    A new mystery. I left comments on several stories yesterday morning, and actually saw them. Now they are gone. I’ll try again, later.

  10. LucieC

    I’ve never done anything impulsive, but that changed untill one day when I was walking in a park and saw some art students painting a grey wall.
    I used to lived in country side with my mom. I had a small room with a small window and I liked sitting there on my grandfather’s chair. However, I didn’t see anything but a grey wall. I imaged many pictures that i could paint on it. Sometimes it could be a grass field and kids playing with their kites, or an ocean with a tiny red boat…
    Once I created 19, I was admitted by two Universities. I also fight with my mom to choose one of them. I had stayed in my room for 2 days but that time a woman taking care about her daughter is the only thing i wanted to paint on the grey wall. After all i chose a school calling “mom’s decision”.
    We moved to a city and no more grandfather’s chair or a grey wall. Day by day I went to school then worked in a coffee shop still late. And it had happened that way for about 2 years. I didn’t realize that my life was very very bored. I remembered the day i looked at that painting on a grey wall in the park, something i could not call its name, something inside me made my tear drop. I walked home and had a long conversation with my mom. But that time, she let me do what i wanted and i was really really happy about that.
    Three weeks later, I booked a ticket to Singapore, bought some sketch books and started my journey. I drew a lot and sent them for my mom instead of photos. After the first trip, I backed to school, changed the major to graphic design and continued working to save money.
    I’m now sitting at a coffee shop in the 10th country i have visited, writting this. I want to tell you that nothing is too late. And you can just be you when you do what you want. Even when you do something for somebody but you was not happy doing that, it could be nothing.

  11. cosi van tutte

    With apologies to Snuz, but her hooded Jawas kind of inspired me….
    *****

    I’ve never done anything unpredictable. I’m kind of a boring guy. But today is my birthday and durn it. I want to do something rash. Something exciting. Something fun.

    So, I’m gonna go on a plane trip to Nebraska. I’ve always wanted to see the Nebraska Mud Flats.

    They’re fabulous and mysterious and altogether ooky. They’re accessible to the public only once every twenty years. It used to be open every day. Then, some kook jumped into the mud because he thought it would be therapeutic for his rheumatoid arthritis.

    The mud flats never were the same after that incident.

    The park officials had to close the place down while they rehabbed the flats.

    They opened it again and the same guy pulled the same stunt.

    So, now they open the place once every twenty years.

    And it’s open this year.

    On my birthday.

    I’m so excited.

    This is gonna be the most epic and awesome moment of my life.

    It’s gonna be a religious experience.

    Forget about witnessing double rainbows. I’m gonna go to the Nebraska Mud Flats! Yes!

    I’m here at the airport.

    I’ve surrendered my luggage.

    Done all of the security checkpoint rigmarole.

    I am so freaking excited! I think I’m gonna scream.

    No. Keep it bottled up.

    Keep it bottled down.

    Don’t want to freak out the nice airport folk.

    My plane has arrived.

    I’m boarding the plane!

    I’m gonna do it!

    I’m gonna go to the Nebraska Mud Flats. After dreaming about it for so long, I’m gonna do it for real!

    “Eeeee.” Ooops. Keep it bottled up. Don’t squeal. Don’t scream.

    Don’t….

    What?

    What?

    WHAT?

    The whole plane is…Well. I don’t know how to say this, but durn it! There’s Jawas and ewoks
    everywhere. What the…What…What???

    There must be some mistake.

    There must be.

    “Please, sir.”

    I look at the stewardess.

    WHAT? WHAT? WHAAAA?

    She looks at me with fifteen eyes.

    “Uhh. I think there’s been a mistake. I’m supposed to be on the plane to—-”

    “Yes. Yes, sir. Please have a seat.”

    “But…this isn’t my plane.”

    She smiles.

    With both of her mouths.

    She pushes me into the nearest seat and buckles me in.

    Under normal circumstances (whatever that would be), I would have struggled and resisted being buckled in by some strange hat lady.

    But my brain is currently out of order.

    She could probably throw me out the door without a parachute and I wouldn’t resist.

    “Does this plane even go to the Nebraska Mud Flats?” My voice cracks.

    “Yes, sir.” Both of her mouths smile far too wide. “The Nebraska Mud Flats in the Klataari System.”

    “Wha?”

    “It’s a very popular tourist spot this time of year.”

    “WHA?”

    Her communicator belt beeps and bloops in some mechanical language. “Yes, sir. Our last passenger is all seated. Please proceed with take off.”

    “But…but…but….”

    “It will take us 53,000 lightyears to get there. We will have to put you in suspended animation.”

    “But..but…but…”

    She presses a button on the ceiling and races into the captain’s area.

    “But…” The gas seeps up from the floor and woomps me in the face.

    I’m out faster than I can scream.

    Durn it! I wanted to go to Nebraska!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        More than chuckle, it’s the DT’s of a story. What was so fascinating about the stewardness? I know, I know, the double mouth meant double trouble and he’s a fiend for double punishment. Very funny snuz.

    1. snuzcook

      Wonderful story, Cosi! Your talent for telling the story through fast reactive inner and outer dialog is clicking on all cylinders. Talk about being h*jacked!

    2. Observer Tim

      It’s amazing how much trust we put in our ability to choose between close names. Looks like your MC didn’t read the fine print. I hope he brought a bag lunch; he’ll almost certainly be peckish after 50,000 years asleep. Lovely story!

  12. Smileyface256

    I’ve never done anything unpredictable, but that changed when I packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to some place in Italy (it’s not Rome…I think it’s Varsailles? No, that’s France. Whatever.) I mean, I don’t even know French–I mean Italian. All I knew was that my life sucked and I had to get away.

    Some people enjoy talking on the phone, or just talking in general no matter who has their ear. Some people don’t. I’m an introvert, so figure that equation. Unfortunately, I work at a call center. Or, well, worked.

    Just imagine handling two to three hundred calls per day from random strangers, when you already hate talking on the phone. Freaking nightmare. When I applied for the job, I didn’t think it would be too bad, and I would make good money. I made good money…but I hated my life. Which resulted in me going completely nuts and buying a plane ticket to France–I mean Italy.

    Perhaps this is what I need to realign my priorities for my life, get back in touch with the soul that my job sucked out of me. Of course, there’s the possibility that I don’t have a soul based on my ginger hair. If that’s true, I’m surprised the sales department at my dearly departed job wasn’t full of gingers.

    I look forward to experiencing the culture and scenery and/or architecture of Fr–Italy, once I get there. Hopefully it’s obscure enough that there won’t be that many tourists. Yes, this will be a nice vacation…once I figure out where I’m going.

    Note: I’m a ginger, so I’m allowed to joke about not having a soul. Also, if any of you who read this managed to work at a call center for more than seven months, I applaud you.

    1. Beebles

      From the tone of this you’re in Fritaly right now. What’s the weather like? I liked that you couldn’t remember where it was, brought home what the prompt was all about. We were just talking about red/ginger genes recently, wondering if they are recessive and if there are other nations in the world beyond the Scots and irish who are renowned for it. Mine manifests in my beard.

    2. snuzcook

      Love how you worked the Fr-Italy thread here. I really feel for your MC. Must say, tho, that it has never been my experience that ‘gingers have no soul’.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is wonderfully strange and surreal, Smileyface. You do scattered and fed up well, and your prose style is naturally entertaining. I love the France/Italy confusion.

      On the soul front, I’d guess from the gingers I’ve known that the actual number is random, somewhere between zero and three, and that decimals are allowed. 😀

  13. A.S.P.

    “…not fleeing the scene. Certainly not the country.” The golden voice of America’s favorite rehabilitated criminal rings behind me as Sylver struggles to wedge his nose up the insurance lady’s ass while keeping my pace through the crowded terminals. “…understand your concern, Diane, but I promise this has nothing to do with the accident.”

    “Accident my ass.”

    A woman and her annoying kid are too distracted searching for their gate to notice the kid’s pink cartoon character luggage is in my way. I kick it over and keep going. She’s got the nerve to look offended.

    “Hey!”

    “Just a second, Diane.” Sylver swoops in to save the day. “So sorry, Miss.” I hear him say with a snake charmer’s voice. Knowing him he’s already righted the stupid luggage and’s flashing the woman an easy grin that’ll make her blush down to her toes. “My friend is blind in one eye.”

    “Oh, dear.” The woman coos.

    Thank Christ the airport noise drowns out the rest of Captain Bullsh*t’s rescue. He yells, “Jonah, stop.”

    F*ck off. Gate 39…gate 39…gate 39…

    Sylver snatches my elbow in a hold so tight the sleeve of my leather jacket groans and I’m forced to jerk to a stop. “The hell—“

    “Of course, Diane. Yes. Tomorrow at 8.” A throaty chuckle. “Will do. Take care.”

    The second he kills the call I yank my arm out of his grip.

    “Confronting Royce isn’t going to accomplish anything.” He says.

    “It’s going to accomplish everything!”

    “Ambush him at a memorial and you’re going to get yourself arrested. Again.” He’s got his big brother tone on full blast. “We’re going to cut our losses, Jonah. Rebuild and move on. We’re doing things the right way now.”

    “You’re f*cking delusional. He owned us for ten years! Caused that fire to prove he still does and I’m sick of it. I’m not going to talk to him.” Sweat beads on the back of my neck. Inside, my blood seethes. “I’m going to kill him.” I step closer to the man who’s my brother in every way but blood. “Help me.” I whisper. “Please.”

    Something in my gut sinks to the floor when he looks away and shakes his head. When he finally bothers to meet my eyes again, his expression is firm, but confident. “Jonah, I started the fire.”

    1. snuzcook

      Very tight, great pace (as Beebles said). Took me a second read to realize that there were just the two of them in the airport and Diane was on the other end of the phone, but then it all came together. Great!

  14. snuzcook

    Just having a bit of fun here

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I went online and randomly browsed Writers Groups. Within a couple of minutes I had bought a ticket to The Mystery Writers Mile High Marathon.

    Arriving at the small air field in a neighboring town, I was greeted by a very business-like gate attendant, who checked my reservation, then handed me a FedEx box and envelope addressed to me. He directed me to a nearby cubicle where I could read the letter and examine the contents of the box in secret.

    Five minutes later I was back at the gate where, following the instructions, I was to wait to be personally directed to board my flight when it arrived. I was now wearing the a long and very roomy, roughly woven monk’s habit with a deep cowled hood. The gate attendant spotted me and indicated by a terse finger-crook that I should approach. Wordlessly, he handed back to me my boarding pass and ID. Raising an eyebrow, he reached up and raised the hood and pulled it forward until it blocked my peripheral vision. Positioning himself so he could now look up into the hood to make eye contact, he said, “Ya’ll have a nice flight,” and waved me through the ground-level gate.

    I felt like an over-sized Jawa right out of Star Wars walking the short distance to the antiquated DC4 on the tarmac. I had never boarded a plane using the old fashioned rolling stairway, but it gave me a chance to get a good look at this aircraft right out of the 1950s. It was definitely an antique, but fresh and shiny like it had come out of a museum. The big engines were winding up as I ducked in through the door.

    For a second I was disoriented to see the plane infested with nothing but hooded figures. It was like I had joined some kind of religious order. Silly thoughts bounced around my head. A brother hood—or was it a sisterhood? Brothers and sisters in hoods? It was tempting to peer into the other faces, but the hoods were designed to make that difficult. They could really all have been Jawas, or robots for that matter.

    It actually felt comforting and slightly intoxicating to realize that no one could see my face. It was like being a kid pretending to be asleep in a room full of adults as they moved about unaware they were being watched.

    A male voice announced crew to stations and a soft melodious ‘bong bong’ preceded the ‘fasten seat belts’ signs lighting up. There was a sensation of movement as the plane taxied, accompanied by changing vibrations and engine sounds. I tried to lift the shade on my window but it wouldn’t budge. All of the shades were down. The heads and shoulders of the thirty or people I could see in the seats in front of me all mutely jostled in unison as the plane accelerated and then leapt into the air.

    1. snuzcook

      Another ‘bong bong’ and the seatbelt sign went off. One of the hooded figures stood, moved to the front of the aisle and turned to face us. He dropped his hood, revealing a boyish face and glossy pate with a friendly little soul patch beneath his bottom lip. He had an infectious grin.

      “Thank you all for coming on this first annual WD Mystery Writer’s Mile High Marathon. We’ve just picked up our last participant,” he nodded in my direction, “so I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Brian Klems, and I am an author and instructor in the field of writing. I am not usually associated with the mystery genre, but this Marathon Flight is a long held dream of mine, and I really hope you will have as much fun participating as I have had helping put it together.

      “At this time I invite you all to drop your hoods, if you want to, and take a good look at your fellow passengers. You will all be identified for the purposes of this event by the nicknames you chose when you signed up on the WD site or at the time you registered. Introduce yourselves to each other, but please nicknames only.

      “If you’ve read your informational packet, you already know that some of your fellow passengers will become victims of cruel murder during our 20 hour flight. Some of you will be the murderers. And some of you will be tasked with discovering the identity of these perpetrators and save as many lives as possible.

      “The windows are covered so we can create night and day scenarios throughout the flight to serve the purpose of the scenario. The flight is 20 hours but it will feel like a couple of days. At the end of the flight, we will be landing at a small isolated airfield, where this aircraft is committed to appear at a local air show. If anyone is left alive (Klems made air quotes) at the end of the flight, WD will pay for your transportation back home. If not, only the murderers and some of the victims will get off scot free; the rest of you will be on your own. Are there any questions?”

      I pulled my hood down and looked around. An older gentleman with a wry expression had his hand in the air.

      “You, Sir?”

      “Yah, I was wondering if you’re planning to feed us anytime soon.”

      “The crew will be coming around with the meals and beverages in just a few minutes.” Klems said. “Oh, and if I were you, I’d stay away from the lemonade.”

      I looked down at the list of attendees’ nicknames that had been included in my packet. There were a lot of them that I recognized form the weekly writing prompts site. This was going to be interesting putting faces to pen names.

      Someone screamed. “Oh my God! Someone help her!” A slight, dark haired woman had collapsed four rows up.

      “Oh, this is going to be so much fun!” one of the women in the seats in front of me said to the man sitting next to her.

      “I’d hate to be that lady,” he said. “She’ll have to play dead for the next 20 hours.” He turned to look back toward the galley. “And she didn’t even get her lunch yet.”

      Klems had gone to the collapsed woman and now he stood. His face was pale. “Is anyone aboard a doctor, or does anyone have medical training?” The young woman seated behind me and a couple of other people responded and quickly had a whispered conference around the patient. The young woman came back to her seat to get something.

      “What’s going on?” I asked.

      “Klems is worried,” she said. “That woman really is dead. And she isn’t on the passenger list.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great Scott, Kerry to the rescue., I know it’s Brian no doubt, I think you need one more segment. Write me into your story and I’ll prove it. What fun, I always wanted to be a monk running a tax free business in how to solve murders.

        1. snuzcook

          All in fun–feel free to write yourselves into this if you want. Aside from KC’s request, no attempt was made to match up any other WD personalities here.

          The cabin filled with conversation as word of the situation spread. Voices began to rise but were hushed abruptly when the flight attendant, dressed in a vintage pencil skirt, did her best to hurry up the aisle carrying a folded blanket. Klems took it from her and ceremoniously draped over the dead woman. Then pandemonium resumed.

          “Just a dog gone minute!” An tall, slim gentleman stood. My Aunt Rebecca would have described him as having snow on the roof but fire in the furnace. His eyes blazed as he swept his gaze around the cabin. “We’ve got to get organized.”

          “And who the hell are you?” A young man in his twenties demanded, his words betraying a slight accent.

          “Many of you know my as Kerry.” He turned to the flight attendant. “You, Ma’am. What’s your name?”

          The flight attendant turned her green eyes to him gratefully. “Colleen.”

          “Lovely name. Colleen, could you notify the captain of our situation and request that he turn this crate around?”

          Brian stood. “I’ve already done that. We can’t. The radio’s dead. Even if it wasn’t, between freak weather conditions all around us and the special needs of this plane for landing, we couldn’t safely set down anywhere but our intended destination.”

          “That’s crazy!” A young woman in a blond ponytail piped up. “There must places closer than 20 hours!”

          “We were never going 20 hours in a straight line. Our destination is only three hours away at our slow cruising speed. We were intending to do several wide circuits over 20 hours, setting down at May Field a couple of times to refuel.”

          “And with the shades down, no one would have been the wiser,” a large, middle-aged woman with cat eye glasses commented. “Brilliant.”

          “Well, then,” the white haired gentleman said, “Everyone can just calm down and enjoy the ride,” he cleared his throat with a glance at the blanketed figure, “So to speak.”

          “Er, not exactly.” Brian was mopping his forehead with the sleeve of his robe. “We can’t be sure exactly where we’re headed. The pilot’s hatch is locked.”

          Colleen nodded in response to shocked exclamations. “I didn’t recognize the copilot when I was up there informing them of our situation—he wasn’t one of our regular crew. Captain Nelson asked me to go get him a diet soda from the galley. He hates diet soda and I thought it was odd, but there was so much else going on… When I came back, the door was locked.”

          “Nice little fiasco you’ve got us all into, Brian.” This from a man in his thirties with dark wavy hair and thick glasses. “Now what?”

          “As I see it, we can just wait and be taken for a ride,” Kerry said. “Or we can take control of this situation.” He made a sweeping gesture with his arm, but was hampered by the excess fabric of the arms of his robe. “And we can drop these ridiculous trappings!”

          He tore off his robe revealing an attractive cardigan. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater and rolled his shoulders. “Who’s with me?”

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Gosh Snux, I’m glad to.be in your story.but I think lyou:re going to get me shot. Not on.purpose of course, but a buillet is s bullet. I ‘ ve run out of free time today but early tomorrow. I will assume my character in.your story and see how all of us can.be rescued. O am honored to be there
            If I.remember a DC 4 is an upgrade from a DC 3. DC 6 is the four engine model and a real work horse

          2. snuzcook

            Hi Kerry, I’ve got a wonderful photo of a DC4 — four engine prop. According to my sources, top speed 280 mph, range 4200 mi or about 15 hours. But then, the venerable old lady in my story was not going to be pushing the envelope on range or speed.

            I agree–let’s try not to get you shot!

          3. Kerry Charlton

            IS ANYONE VOLUNTEERING?

            Kerry spanned the cabin, most passengers diverted their vision. Finally Brian stood up,

            “I’m in, it’s no worse than facing my critics.”

            “Amy one else?’

            “A brunette close to the rear f the plane, raised her hand.

            “Young lady. You don’t need to do this?”

            “I know,” she said, “but I’m trying to redeem myself.”

            “Are you sure, we’d be happy to have you?”

            All eyes were on her, especially the men. She looked like Ava Gardner’s sister in her prime.

            “I carry a derringer,” she said.

            “What is your name miss?’

            “It’s Alice DoWorthy and I have fired it.”

            “May we see it,” Kerry asked.

            She revealed a double barrel 38 derringer in solid silver.

            “May I ask why you fired it?”

            She hesitated, “I shot my first husband, the judge ruled it as an accident”

            Kerry hesitated for a moment, “And the second time?”

            “Second husband, the judge ruled self defense.”

            “Well obviously Alice, you know how to use t. Let’s move.” Kerry whispered,

            “Alice, make it count, shoot the lock off.” Wham!

            They rushed the door, the copilot had no time to draw his gun as Brian and Kerrj jumped him. Alice put the pistol to his ear,

            “Move and I’ll blow your head off Tom.”

            “You know him? Brian asked?

            “My worthless third husband, I would have killed him when I found out he was going with Jennifer, but that would have made a black widow out of me.”

            “Who’s Jennifer?” Kerry asked?.

            “That no good floozy I poisoned, The dead girl in the cabin“

            Brian grabbed her gun and karate chopped the copilot. Meanwhile the captain no longer under threat, positioned the aircraft to the nearest suitable runway.

            When the plane landed safely, to a hoard of reporters, Kerry quietly slipped away, not wanting the publicity. And so ended the jaunt.
            .

          4. ReathaThomasOakley

            What a ride! I wanted to write myself in, but…

            Ten minutes into the flight the passengers started noticing the gorgeous brunette with hazel eyes, busily writing in purple ink with a real fountain pen in a leather bound notebook with a subtle Coach logo. Even a rough monk’s robe couldn’t hide her classic beauty and sophisticated manner. “Who could she be?” they whispered to each other, unable to keep their eyes off her.

            But, suddenly they all gasped as they heard, “Where the h*ll’s the dead horse? Gotta be a dead horse, all these buzzards flappin’ around.” The writers gasped, but looked a bit ashamed as a graying, roundish woman stood from the seat next to the mysterious beauty.

            “Now, get back to whatever you were down’ before you noticed my granddaughter.”

      2. Observer Tim

        Meanwhile…

        The man with the scruffy moustache and beard somehow managed to move toward the front of the plane without being seen, despite a pronounced limp. He just seemed to be one of those people who faded into the background, now incongruously fading into the foreground.

        He paused by the seat where the dead woman had been strapped into one of the seats. He checked the body over, even placing a hand on the dead woman’s chest. That drew a scowl and a snort from the woman in the seat across the aisle from the corpse.

        “I’m making sure she’s dead. It beats using a truncheon for the same purpose. No marks, no wounds, no protruding weapons. No detectable heartbeat or respiration either, but she hasn’t made the Scream face. I think she might be comatose.”

        “How would you know that?” asked the hooded woman.

        “Been there, done that. Anyway, whatever you do don’t tell the others?”

        “Why not?”

        “Because their collective reactions are fascinating. I’m going to return to the back row again and be a quiet Observer.”

        1. snuzcook

          I thought you were there, O.Tim! I believe there were a few passengers who had opted not to un-hood themselves–perfect for unobtrusive observation and drawing their own conclusions. Hmmm

          1. jhowe

            Meanwhile…

            Another man decloaked himself near the back of the plane. He handed the Observer a Norelco Trac II model 3445. People whispered as he walked toward the cabin.

            “There’s that guy that mixes past and present tense indiscriminately.”

            “Sometimes he makes no sense.”

            “I liked that one with the Lobsterman.”

            “I take it you don’t read much,” a woman said.

            The man looked back and the woman looked skyward and started whistling. The man continued walking and stopped in front of Brian.

            “Mr. Klems?”

            “Yes, what is it?”

            “Why don’t our posts go through sometimes?”

            “No comment.”

          2. snuzcook

            snicker snicker This is starting to look ugly. Our host is having a very uncomfortable afternoon. Maybe it’s time for him to do his secret knock on the pilots’ door that will end the game and let him join his cohorts behind closed doors.
            Uh oh…

            The large lady with the cat eye glasses rose. She placed the mass of gray wool she had been knitting onto her vacant seat, where it looked remarkably like an obese long-haired cat impaled by chopsticks. The roomy on-size fits all robe she wore seemed to have been designed for her dimensions as she moved with amazing grace toward the WC at the back of the cabin.
            “EWP! AWK! Oh my God!”
            All heads swiveled in her direction. “We’ve got another one,” she declared. “What’s her name, the pretty little stewardess…Colleen? She’s in here. She’s been murdered!”

          3. snuzcook

            snicker snicker This is starting to look ugly. Our host is having a very uncomfortable afternoon. Maybe it’s time for him to do his secret knock on the pilots’ door that will end the game and let him join his cohorts behind closed doors.
            Uh oh…

            The large lady with the cat eye glasses rose. She placed the mass of gray wool she had been knitting onto her vacant seat, where it looked remarkably like an obese long-haired cat impaled by chopsticks. The roomy on-size fits all robe she wore seemed to have been designed for her dimensions as she moved with amazing grace toward the WC at the back of the cabin.
            “EWP! AWK! Oh my God!”
            All heads swiveled in her direction. “We’ve got another one,” she declared. “What’s her name, the pretty little stewardess…Colleen? She’s in here. She’s dead!”

            “Harold!” said a woman to the man, apparently her husband, sitting next to her. “You were just in there. I told you this could happen.”
            “It wasn’t me,” he replied indignantly. “I turned on the fan!”

            “It wasn’t me,” declared the host, touching his soul patch as he brushed past the man with the menacing electric razor. “None of this was in the script.”

            “Geez, this is terrible.” Another man half rose, looking around the cabin. “Who’s going to serve lunch?”

  15. Jay

    Flight 213, Part III

    Someone once told me that bad things happen in threes. One moment you’re living life normal and smooth, the next minute fate decides to bend you over and give you three good, hard smacks back into reality. This is all relative, of course, because not every person will see the same thing the same way. For me, the first bad thing was my fiancé leaving me. The second thing was the world going to waste before my eyes. The third? Well, that happened shortly before reaching Bodensee and entering Switzerland.

    Nina was asleep on my arm. She had no way of contacting her family, and the sun had gone down already. To top it all off, she had wearied herself through several bouts of weeping.

    I wept, too, but only after she fell asleep. I was sad because I didn’t know how my sister faired. I thought the worst, and expected even worse than that. She was a strong girl; in fact, she was the only reason I made it to adulthood as well-adjusted as I did. That didn’t mean that she was the type that could fend off whatever was happening down there. She was human, after all. The only things I could see from here was the smoke, the fire, the bodies on the ground, and that was enough to worry me. Still, I hoped beyond all other hopes that she made it some place safe, but I had my doubts because statistically, there was no way both of us could make it as well as I had made it thus far.

    As for my parents… well, I didn’t much care. My mother was institutionalized by the time I was sixteen, and a year later, she chewed the skin off her wrists until she bled to death. The rivers of blood didn’t stop there when my father tried killing my sister when she visited from college. He was in prison, probably as screwed as everyone else.

    Nina was asleep no more than fifteen minutes when she woke up. I was staring out the window at the blackness below, the outskirts of Germany passing us slowly but surely. Silver clouds floated by, sometimes obscuring my view of the distant flickers of light. I tried to stop thinking about my family, but it wasn’t working. So I was glad she joined me, which put my mind at ease.

    She tightened her grip on my arm and said, “Where are we?”

    “The pilot said we’re about to leave Germany airspace. Said we’d be landing in a little while.”

    “This isn’t a dream is it?” she said flatly, and sat up. “I keep thinking about it, you know?”

    “Me, too.”

    “I keep thinking that maybe none of this is happening. That this can’t possibly be real, but then I look out that window, and it reminds me of how fragile this life really is. How quickly everything we know and love and crumble. Makes it all seem so surreal.”

    I wanted to meet her eyes, but I kept looking out the window because what she said affected me. A thin line of tears laced each one of my eyes. This vulnerability was something I never had with my fiancé, and I suspected it didn’t have much to do with Nina, either. I mean, she brought something else out of me, but for the most part, this was all related to the world beyond, this unknown thing happening, and I think that coupled with my past had a prodigiously crippling effect on my emotions.

    I continued to stare through the window, and said, “When I was little, I learned just how fragile everything was. People especially. Our life and our routines can be pulled apart and destroyed without hesitation. The only guarantee in our life is that we’ll one day die, and regardless of how we choose to live our lives, we don’t solely determine the outcome. Just like the things that shaped my life to this point, this, whatever this is, has changed all of us forever.”

    She kissed my shoulder and rested her head against it. She didn’t have much to say because I likely said everything she was thinking.

    After a moment of silence, she said, “Do you think we’ll ever get through this?”

    “I don’t know,” I said, unwilling to lie to her. “The real question, I guess, is do we have to fortitude to persevere despite whatever we may face when we land?”

    Another long pause. “I think we do.”

    “You think so?” I asked.

    “I do. I haven’t known you long, but you don’t seem like the type of person that will just let things happen. I can tell because I’m the same type of person. Truly, I’m a mess right now because I have zero control. I can’t take over and pilot this plane wherever I need to go, and so I’m stuck thousands of miles from home. Worrying my head off, terrified of the truth.”

    I nodded. She was a strong woman. Stronger than me, even. Strength was never a show of whether or not you exemplified your emotions by physical reactions. It was not about being able to take a punch or how far you can stick your foot up a bully’s ass. It was about the willingness to confront the things surrounding you, and how you handle it. You might be one to cry when something bad happens, but if you push through the madness and make the situation better despite the odds, then you’ve become the strongest person in the room, which eventually bleeds to those around you. Nina was that person, and she didn’t know it at the time, but she was doing wonders for me and my strength. Making me a better man than I knew how to be.

    Earlier, the flight attendant had come around and offered peanuts or crackers to the guests. I took one of each. I dug them out of my lap.

    I said, “Want one?”

    “No, thank you. My stomach’s still in knots.”

    There was no way I wanted to let go of her, so I managed to tear open the peanuts with my left hand and teeth. As I put the bag to my mouth, a sudden rise and drop of turbulence made me drop all of them all over the place. Nina laughed, as did I. At least until the hull shuddered, and then we suddenly dropped a ton of altitude.

    Many of the people started screaming, and Nina shouted over the noise, “What’s happening?”

    The pilot said, “Brace for impact. I repeat, brace for impact.”

    The rule of three hit hard just then as we dropped harder than the first time. There was no bang. No warning. Probably the pilots knew something was going to happen, but they didn’t tell us. All I know is that everything suddenly went silent, and I don’t remember much after that. The quick drop in pressure caused me, Nina, and likely many other people to lose consciousness. When I woke up, the law of three had upgraded its tally.

    1. Observer Tim

      Wow. From good to better to best, Jay. With the action and the scene-setting taken care of, you pulled out all the stops for the personal reactions in this part. It was nice to get a glimpse of the form of the destructor, and you did a great job weaving that into the anxiety of the characters. I get a sense that this story will go on, and I hope it does. 😀

    2. jhowe

      This story has been great. There’s still hope for our hero since he woke up from the altitude drop. If you survive the law of three, does it get better after that?

  16. Kerry Charlton

    ROME MISADVENTURE

    CONCLUSION

    Part one and two below

    The force of the storm was so powerful, the Boeing 720 shook like a wet dog and Robert could hear a scream from a woman at the very rear of the sitting area. The plane pitched wildly but still Robert unbuckled his seat belt and moved carefully through the fuselage, he saw the terror in her face,

    “Are you alright, any injury?“

    She turned and faced the wall across the aisle,

    “It’s not me but look at the crack on the wall of the plane and it’s getting larger.”

    “Stress point,” Robert said, “it’ll be okay, we’ll get out of this.”

    “I know better,” she whispered to herself. and closed her eyes.

    The plane shuttered again and fell off the right side in a straight drive toward the ground. Robert made his way to the cabin and saw the captain slumped in his seat. The copilot, Daniel wrestled with the controls, trying to tame the aluminum beast headed to destruction. The altimeter spun like a 45 record as Robert’s eyes fixated on the gage. Seven thousand six, five, four,

    “Well that’s it,” Robert mumbled.

    “Not yet,” Daniel shouted. “Help me with the Yoke.“

    Both men pulled with a determined goal, the altimeter leveled out at 500 feet,

    “We need altitude, there’s a mountain ridge around here,” from Daniel.
    Seven hundred, thirteen hundred, a ridge came in view in the windshield, Twenty three hundred. registered on the altimeter. The plane clipped a snow drift off the mountain as it struggled over it.

    “Wo-eeee,” Daniel sang, “we crop dusted it.”

    The plane exited the storm, Robert heard the radio cracking the sounds, the sweet sounds of the twentieth century.

    “We have you, flight 1130, set course east by north east at six thousand, your 38 miles from Assisi, how’s the fuel?’

    “Empty, we’re coming in dead stick, do you understand?”

    “Roger 1130, we’re clearing traffic, I’ll lead you in, cut speed to two fifty and pray.”

    Daniel looked at the captain, “Is he alive, I don’t think he’s breathing?”

    “He‘s not. He died instantly, .probably a heart attack, doesn’t matter he’s the best pilot in the airlines.“

    ‘I agree, bigger than life he was, I’ll miss him. Uh oh, have to shut down #2 and #3. Tanks are empty, it’ll still fly. See the runway ahead? Pray for a minute more worth of fuel. The two could hear cheers coming from the passengers, but held their breath,

    The plane was over the runway and the other engines ceased. Silence as the plane hurtled to the concrete.

    “Come on baby. lift your nose. You can do it.”

    Flaps working furiously the huge plane landed hard, so hard the tail broke off.

    “I forgot to tell you Daniel, the tail’s been ready to fall off for thirty minutes. I figured you had enough on your mind..” .

    “Thanks, you better introduce me to the girls, I earned it.”

    Smoking brakes squealed a tune of anger trying to stop the plane without engines. Finally the tailless hunk of aluminum stopped twenty feet from the end of the runway.
    Robert hugged Daniel and left him for history to remember. He hugged all four of
    his new friends and as they left the plane an eager mob of people descended upon them. Twenty minutes later they were safely in a secured room. Rossano took all of them to breakfast and you know the rest of the story. The movie “Rome Adventure” was released later that year and in the credits as assistant producer, the name Robert Bringham appeared.

    1. Jay

      Wow, Kerry. Amazing. Just what I expect from you. 🙂 I really enjoy your stories, and I think you hit the mark with this one. You have a flair for adding such deep personalities to your characters, and I think it really shines in this one. Well done.

    2. Beebles

      IMP.CAES.AUG. KERRIANO as it will say on your triumphal arch Kerry. Not only a cracking read but I also enjoy tracing the characters. I say, that Rossano turned up in a few … spicy films. I have to say though I was disappointed they didn’t land, just to see the look on the faces of those jumped up aristocrats in the senate. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Beebles, I.thought long and hard about their landing in 75 AD Rome.
        But I would need an entire novel to do it so I brought them back to 1962

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Once again you pulled everyone, including your readers, through to safety. I really like how your knowledge of old movies is on display. I now must google Robert Bringham.

    4. snuzcook

      Wonderful, Kerry! I had such an adrenaline rush reading this. Great visual of the final landing. Even though Robert was made up, it will give me a special grin when I next see Rome Adventure thinking of the ‘what if…’

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I had a rush writing it. Thank you for your wonderful comments
        I came close to setting the plane down on the Appian Way but didn’t want to turn this in to twelve chapters.

    5. Observer Tim

      Speaking of things I’ve missed, I still absolutely love the way you weave together your stories with the history of show business. I had to look up “Rome Adventure” and was surprised to find it was a real movie. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Robert Bringham somewhere in the credits, but you’ve blended things so well I wouldn’t be surprised if he was entirely your creation, too. Fantastic, Kerry! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Tim, I came withing 2 millimeters of dropping the Boeing 720 down on the Appian Way and having it surrounded by roman war chariots. Can you imagine the Romans looking up and down at Angie Dickerson. I could have written a scene to melt the writers digest web site for at least a week.

    6. cl91

      I was getting worried they weren’t going to make it! Good heart-pumping story! I don’t get a chance to look at everyone’s stories because I have limited time online, but I enjoy the ones I read!

  17. Beebles

    More of a start than a story.
    —————————

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Dalriada, a cloud continent, currently floating across the forests of Elere.

    The rocket plane is a shard of sun on the launch pad with jagged wings of lightening. It makes my mouth dry just looking at it. I’ve never been to the airport before. My mother offered to take me once, but Daisy was ready to whelp so I stayed. That was the day the sjkall took her.

    I thought I saw one last week. I was at the telescope in the observatory of the treehouse. It appeared around the waterfalls of the cloud continent of Scaupion, forty thousand feet up. I could make out the gas envelopes on its abdomen and its mouth, like the entrance to a cathedral. It was silly, I was so scared I ran down the stairs and hid in the paper chest.

    Mr Scrupe dragged me out when he came by, his old lungs rattling from the ascent into the house. He had been my mother’s agent; now he was mine. The bag of guineas he brought was light.

    ‘People pay you for Geography, not History, Gilmott my boy.’ He absently opened one of my books with a lean hand. The paper-cut map unfolded, spreading up like the foliage of the house tree. It depicted the blue sea and the purple sparkling coast of Calere, the archipelago of Tassia floating above it, just as mother had surveyed it thirty years ago. It is one of my best. Scrupe’s coal eyes lit up for a moment, before he shut it, the world collapsing between its covers. He fixed me with those black orbs. ‘The world moves on, Gilmott, but your maps, as beautiful as they are,’ – he spread an illustrative hand across the stacked tomes on my bench – ‘do not. If you do not get out surveying, your work will only be fit for the archives in the university.’

    And so I am here, late, apprehensive, scurrying after the stream of people with suitcases already boarding the brazen craft; men in fedora’s and women in heavy shoes and furs. Inside, I squeeze and shuffle up the aisle, clutching my leather case to my waistcoat as if it is armour against my anxiety, aware only of the cramped space, my beating heart and trying not to think of how many rockets could fit inside a sjkall’s belly. I find my seat and slip into it.

    It takes me a moment to notice the girl sat next to me. She stares straight ahead, the corner of her mouth twitching as if she wants to smile or laugh. She is a bit younger than me, seventeen I guess, hair in waves and ringlets. I relinquish my case to the stewardess, who stows it for me. I fasten my belt and try to breathe slowly, hands clutching both armrests. My heart skips as the doors slam and the ship begins to tilt to bring her nose up ready for launch.

    Suddenly the girl looks at me. Her eyes shine, like someone seeing fire for the first time. ‘Is this your first trip on a rocket plane?’

    I nod and swallow hard. ‘Er … yes. Yes it is. You’re … you’re not worried about skjall are you?’

    ‘Skjall?’ she says dismissively. ‘Just you wait till the engines come on, that’ll take your mind off skjall. Besides I read in a lantern reel they brought down the last one a year ago.’

    ‘Last year? But I-’

    At that moment there is a roar behind me, louder than the water cascading from Scaupion. The plane judders. The girl gives a little squeak and her hand latches on to mine. The buildings disappear from the port holes in an instant as we are pinned to our seats.

    And we are both screaming.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This world is fascinating, and beautiful, in so many ways, loved the cloud worlds, and paper-cut map. I recently watched a documentary on origami and how ancient techniques are being used to create fantastic objects. I could see your map folding in on itself. I’m very curious about Daisy. Please continue.

      1. Beebles

        Thank for reading Reatha. My mother took up paper cuts recently – she’s a very good artist – and I was leafing through one of her books, which were most impressive and must have stuck in my head. Daisy is a black and white springer spaniel who bounds around the tree house, but has been left with friends for the purposes of this trip. 🙂
        Yes I might keep this one in my pocket … as Wellington said.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I am just amazed by your creativity with the story. If I were to write it, I would have made the girl 18. remember on this side of the pond, 17 is jail bait!

    2. Observer Tim

      I love this Beebles, especially because it gives me the Victorian Gothic feel of a really good retro sci-fi story. It’s great to see the fantastic concepts put in and explained implicitly while still preserving a human story of time passing and growth. I can so easily see this story in a black and white serial reel at the Bijou, or maybe a pre-Technicolor epic. Bravo!

    3. pvenderley

      “Judder” is my new favorite synonym for shaking – an example of how words can be English and seem alien at the same time. I truly appreciated this story’s unique imagery. You did a great job creating an alien landscape, then making it believable, relatable, and full of wonder (the paper-cut map is especially wonderful).

  18. Kerry Charlton

    ROME MISADVENTURE

    PART TWO

    Throughout the cabin people began to whisper to each other as if they were in prayer to make the nightmare disappear. Robert, even though he managed but thirty years to learn something, was a pragmatic person used to tricky problems to work through. He knew circling the sky above Rome of two thousand years ago wasn‘t going to solve anything but finding the storm they had managed to escape from, was the real issue.

    So if they landed, perhaps the Romans would consider them enemies in some kind of disguise. He headed toward the captain’s area with help from Margaret,

    The captain swirled in his seat when Robert came through the door,.

    “What are you doing here? The cabin is off limits.”

    “Never mind that captain, does your radar work on it’s on power?”

    “Yes, it does, I’ve been thinking about that…..”

    “Locate the storm while you still have fuel and enter it again”

    “We could lose the plane you know.”

    “You have no choice sir. If you try to land perhaps on the Appian Way, we might survive it but we’ll be met by Roman war chariots. Is that an alternative?”

    “Your name son?”

    “It’s Robert.”

    “Thank you, radar shows the storm now about seventy five miles east of us traveling North East. I can catch it in twenty minutes. We have forty eight minutes of fuel left, perhaps enough to reach Assisi, the runway is long enough..”

    “How can I help captain?”

    “I’ll send my copilot with you, explain to the ship’s passengers what our plan is, our only hope. Meanwhile I’m changing course. Do you agree with us Margaret?”

    “Absolutely, I see no other course.”

    When Robert reopened the door to first class, he led the passengers into the larger area of the plane. Most of the main cabin were in a frenzy. He raised his arms and a hush settled in the area, one elderly woman posed a question in an age tested, calm voice,

    “Are we going to die in a time forsaken land?”

    “Not hardly, to our best knowledge we are flying over a Rome that has entered the latter part of the first century. Now please listen.”

    “We can not land, if we do, we give up all hope of returning to our loved ones. We have less than an hour of fuel and the captain is chasing the same storm we left. Questions?”

    He answered them in a calm, soothing voice and the passengers remained still,

    “Now if we enter the storm again, the plane is strong enough to survive and just possibly we can return to our time. There is an airport at Assisi that’s close enough for our fuel to reach. Questions.?“

    “Now listen carefully, raise your hand if you’re brave enough to try.”

    At first only a few rose but eventually all hands pointed up.

    “Okay, strap in, any thing that may fly loose, store above. The captain will let us know the time.“

    Robert escorted the actors back to their seats, but they objected,

    “You won’t live through it unless you’re strapped to the seat, there are none in the main cabin, now move.”, Robert stated..

    The Boeing 720 approached the soaring storm and dove into the fury they had already experienced.

    [TO BE CONTINUED]
    ,

    .

    1. Observer Tim

      This continues fascinating. As a note, if he tried to land on the Appian Way he’d probably take the wings off the plane and kill thousands on the ground. Given how populous Rome was even two millennia ago, there was literally no safe place to land. Robert was giving some incredibly sage advice (especially for a man who’d been reduced to his B.V.D.’s by two starlet card-sharks…).

  19. E.C

    Marbeline had never done anything unpredictable in her life, but that changed today when she woke up, packed a bag, went to the train station and bought a ticket to Midtown.

    “Midtown? What are you looking for in Midtown?” Her mother had urged her to stay.
    “I dunno, but it’s calling me.” Marbeline buttoned up her topcoat and slipped on her cap. Two seven inch horns stuck out of the pre-cut holes in her hat.
    “There are too many humans around Midtown, Mar.” Her father glanced up at her from behind his newspaper, his forked tongue grazing his dry lips. Mar’s mother stirred her pot of stew silently, her tail flicking in disapproval.
    “Times have changed in the past 500 years! Monsters are accepted everywhere now.” Marbeline shook her head. Her tail unfurled behind her and wrapped around the door handle. The door opened with a creak. A warm mountain breeze sifted through Mar’s wine red hair, her golden eyes shimmered as she smiled a toothy grin.
    “I’ll be back one day. Don’t worry about me.” She closed the door behind her and stared lovingly at the gentle sloping hills dressed in green and purple from the spring rains. The sun had risen just a few minutes ago. Mar gripped the golden ticket in her hand and fastened her satchel to her belt and strode down the mountain, passing neighbors and goats. Butterflies filled the crisp air as the sun crawled across the sky. At its highest point, the sun warmed Marbeline’s rosied cheeks, causing her to shed her coat at the train station. The large bulking steam train came hurdling across the tracks and slowed to a halt in front of her.

    “All aboard to Midtown!” The train doors opened as a warm mixture of monsters and humans poured out of the cars. A pale blue lizard man outstretched his hand to Mar, helping her onto the train.
    “Ticket ma’am?” He wore a neatly pressed vest with a shiny silver badge reading “Conductor Jargo.”
    “Oh! Yes, here you are.” Marbeline handed him the ticket as he called a lackey to carry her luggage.

    Once seated, Mar stared in awe as the train lurched forward.
    “May I sit here?” A gentle and melodic voice called. Mar tore her eyes away from the window and stared up at a cat faced man. His fur was a chalky black, his ears gray at the ends. Whiskers protruded sloppily from his cheeks as his pink nose twitched. His tail swayed in satisfaction.
    “Yes of course.” Mar motioned to the seat in front of her. He was neatly dressed in a white dress-shirt and a dark gray vest. He lacked pants, but when you were from Animalia people didn’t often wear them.
    “You’re very pretty.” The man said as Mar jumped. “What is taking you to Midtown?”
    “The train, duh.” Mar thought his question was foolish. A blank stare overcame the man’s green eyes. He suddenly laughed.
    “I mean, what is your reason for going?” He smiled charmingly. Marbeline’s tail flickered as her heart fluttered.
    “I don’t really know. But what I do know,” she began with a shy smile, “is that I want to invent myself there.” A soft purr reverberated through the cat man as he rested his head in his paw.
    “Then I hope to see you around.” He spoke softly.

      1. E.C

        I’m glad that you find the story needs a continuation! Ask, and you shall receive!

        The sky had darkened, deep hues of indigo dominated the sky as the lights on the train flickered on. Marbeline sat in silence, staring at the empty seat in front of her.

        “Until we meet again sweet Marbel.” The man had said as he stood and departed at Animalia’s train station. That had been hours ago.

        The train slowed again at a small quiet town that Mar didn’t recognize. A single human man entered the train, pulling his coat around himself. He awkwardly grunted while thrusting his ticket at Jargo, the train conductor.
        “Enjoy your ride, sir.” Jargo said wearily. His coat was so long, it seemed as if he glided across the train aisle. Without a word he plopped down in front of Marbeline.

        “Uhm, hello sir.” The man looked in her direction. Mar’s heart stopped, she noticed the man’s venomous stare with one cherry red eye. His left eye seemed to almost loll in its socket, it sort-of stared at her with its milky white tone. A gravelly sound omitted from his coat, it could only be described as a chuckle.
        “Aren’t you pretty.” was all he said while straightening himself out. He lifted up his long hat, letting strands of golden-blond hair fall over his hazy eye. Mar smiled gently. The train lunged forward. An unbalanced Mar fell forward, into the stranger’s lap.

        “Oh! I’m so sorry.” She stood stiffly and seated herself again. The man took off his hat to reveal his face. A jagged scar stretched along his one gray eye. A ghost of a smile spread across the man’s lips.
        “What’s your name?” He asked while shedding his coat. He too wore a neatly pressed vest, however his dress-shirt seemed old. Mar’s lips tightened, she figured the man had been attacked by a monster long ago, before peace settled around the continent. She figured this was no ordinary human.

        “Marbeline.” She said quietly. He smiled more obviously. “You’re a bounty hunter aren’t you?” She asked without thinking. She covered her mouth, her tail quivering next to her.

        The man laughed hoarsely. “Good heavens child! No. My name is Lord Allistair Etrama. I’m a royal official from Midtown.” Mar’s eyes glimmered.
        “Really?” He flashed a golden badge with the royal seal etched onto it.
        “Indeed I am.” He smiled as Mar leaned forward in her seat. “What brings you to Midtown?”
        “I’m going to invent myself there!”
        “Then let me ask you, would you like to join the Etrama family?”
        “You mean,” She leaned forward on the edge of her seat, “become an heir to the Etrama house?”
        “I’m not getting any younger,” the man’s smile drooped, “Unfortunately, I spent my days out adventuring, not worrying about carrying on the Etrama name. But I see your soul and want you to have it.”

        Suddenly, Jargo’s voice erupted through the train car, “Welcome to Midtown! Etrama District.”

        1. Observer Tim

          What a fantastic place you’ve created here, E.C. I like the mix of the normal and the fantastic, and how you explain that Marbeline is a ‘monster’ without going into detail about what makes her one. I’m guessing that she’s a beautifully carved stone maiden of some sort. Of course, thinking that through made me start to wonder about a bunch of stuff that goes beyond a PG-13 understanding of the universe…

          I sense that Marbeline has a VERY steep learning curve ahead of her, and she’s rushing toward it at breakneck speed. I would be very interested in seeing where you might take this…

  20. Kerry Charlton

    ROME MISADVENTURES

    Robert never had done anything unpredictable but that changed one morning when he woke up, packed a suitcase, went to the airport and randomly bought a first class ticket to Rome. There was high security at the airport and he thought, ‘how unusual for 1962,. Some bigwig perhaps.’ There were five seats available up front with a curtain drawn by the purser.

    “Mr. Bringham, we oversold first class but there is one seat in our executive suite.“

    “That’s fine with me, I’d enjoy the company.”

    “Wait here, I’ll ask.”

    She walked back quickly,

    “They said okay, they’re movie stars from Hollywood.”

    “And how did you talk them into it?”

    “There’s two beautiful women in there and I told them you’re the best looking man I’ve seen in ten years. Can I have your phone number?”

    Robert looked at her badge hanging precariously on the best set he’d seen in twenty years,

    “Of course Margaret, I live on fifth avenue in the big apple, call any time.”

    He heard shuffling and a little complaining before he pulled the curtain back. On one side, sat two men, a blond kid about twenty three and he recognized Rossano Brazzi sitting next to him. The two women sat thirty inches apart, one looked like an angel from heaven, a petite brunette and the other, well he thought, ‘it’s hard to say. Remarkable isn’t good enough for Angie Dickenson‘, so he sat down barely able to squeeze between the two girls.

    Troy Donahue introduced himself, he was in one of his first movies and the glamour feeling hadn’t descended yet Robert was quite amused at the small talk, when Rossano pulled out a deck of cards,

    “Poker anyone, we won’t need chips.”

    “And why not?” Angie said. “I’ve played with John Wayne and we always had chips.”

    “Well Angie, it’s Italian poker.”

    “And what is that?”

    “We play for clothes.”

    “I’m a little nervous,” Suzanne Pleshette said.” I’m not wearing anything under my blouse.”

    “Naughty, naughty,” Angie replied. “neither am I.”

    “I’m in,” Robert announced.

    An hour went by. Both girls were fully dressed, Rossano was down to his shorts, Troy was in the same condition and all Robert had lost was his tie and jacket.

    Angie’s turn to deal,

    “Seven card stud, we aim to get you boys naked.”

    Seven deals later Robert stood, shorts only, ready to peel them off.

    “Give quarter, “ he said.

    “To the death,” Angie replied.

    Rossano to the rescue,

    “He’s going to be nailed girls for indecent exposure, let it go.“

    Groans and cat whistles were heard through the little suite. The airline hostess, Margaret stuck her head in,

    “Everything all right in……whoa, boy are you having fun.”

    She left as quick as she entered.

    Dinner was served and they settled for a little sleep. The 720 Boeing pierced the
    night air at thirty one thousand feet and had caught a tail wind and flew an hour ahead of schedule. As dawn arrived so did a message from the captain.

    “This is Brian Boswell your captain. Ahead of us is a massive cold front soaring to forty thousand feet. We will detour as much as possible but I see no end to it. Strap in everyone and stow your small items. This plane is built to take this kind of weather.”

    The sounds became unbearable as the plane entered a revolving descent toward earth. Oxygen masts hung down and were strapped on. The plane continued to spiral downward to five thousand feet and then righted itself. The captain again,

    “Well that’s over. We lost all radio and directional beam. We are an hour to Rome and have reduced our speed. I have no idea what kind of storm it was but my watch has stopped. Will keep you in touch.”

    Angie and Suzanne had clung to Robert all during the storm and Suzanne started to sob,

    “I thought we were going to die, I’m sick in the stomach.”

    “We all thought the same,” Rossano said. “Just afraid to admit it.”

    Captain again,

    “Don’t mean to worry you, we have reached land, off course according to my calculations. Heading north to Rome but I don’t recognize anything and can’t connect to the airport. I’ll keep in touch.”.

    Ten minutes went by, the curtain opened,

    “Strap in, seats up please, the Captain is going to make an announcement,”

    Captain again,

    We are in Rome or what I thought was Rome. The coliseum is off the right side of the plane for those that care to watch it. I’m at a loss to explain it“
    .
    Suzanne‘s face was frozen to the window and she started to cry,.

    Can you see it. Is it Rome?” Rossano asked quietly.

    “It’s Rome alright, I can see the coliseum easily.”

    “Well then what’s the matter?”

    “The coliseum, the coliseum is brand new, that’s what‘s wrong.”

    {TO BE CONTINUED]

    1. snuzcook

      Wonderful ’60s from head to tail, Kerry! Looks like Brassi and Donahue will be taking lessons from Robert in this one. BTW love it that the ladies won at cards–I believe that how to win at strip poker was one of those required secret classes for aspiring actresses and models in the 60s. 😉

    2. Observer Tim

      I am very glad that by the time I got off my butt and started reading you had the whole story posted, Kerry. That way I didn’t have to wait for the subsequent parts. I’ll comment more fully after the last one.

  21. chandra_wd_writer

    I was going nowhere with this prompt for more than a day, but decided to post it anyhow.

    “You are too predictable, Kat. It does get boring. I just feel like I can look into your thoughts and know exactly how you would react in any situation. It’s almost like living with a computer program, you know.” And then there was a long pause on the phone, and I wondered if Rob wrote those words down and rehearsed a few times.

    “Kat, are you there?”

    “Yes. Yes. Of course! What do you think I will do now?”

    “You will drive home in anger and cry through the evening.”

    “I am human, Rob. I am predictable, but I am sane. What do you want? Do you want to marry a lottery ticket? Go to hell, Rob! You don’t even have the courtesy of breaking up in person.”

    And that was it. I hung up the phone. I did drive home in anger, and I did cry through the evening and then into the night as well.

    Rob was right. I had never done anything unpredictable in my thirty years of existence. But that changed the next day when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Paris. San Francisco to Paris that is.

    I never traveled alone to a foreign country before. Paris is exciting, but probably not for a sad, lonely woman. From when did I start calling myself a woman and not a girl? Anyhow, I had nothing to expect from this trip. It was an impulse decision, and I just hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be a disaster; nothing would be as disastrous as what Rob did to me after being together for five years.

    “Are you an American?” asked the cab driver.

    “Yes,” I said.

    “I am from New York,” he said and smiled as he glanced over his shoulders.

    “I am from California,” I said. He looked to be in his mid-twenties.

    “Are you visiting?”

    “I don’t know. If you consider staying in Paris for a month after a break-up as visiting, then yes, I am visiting Paris.”

    “I am sorry to hear that. But Paris is beautiful. It will heal you. Like it did in my case.”

    “Beautiful? Paris is eternal. Why is a New Yorker driving a cab here?” I asked as I got curious about this handsome man. Paris probably is already at work and started healing me. Else, why would I think about a man so soon?

    “I am a student here. And I drive in my free time to make a living.”

    “And what are you studying? If I may ask.”

    “Master of Fine Arts in Painting.”

    Then we heard a honk from behind. Neither of us noticed that the signal turned green. As he let the brake go, he looked over his shoulders into the car behind us and then stopped momentarily and looked into my eyes for the first time.

    “Why artists flock to Paris?”

    “No city celebrates arts and artists like Paris does.”

    We did not talk much after this. We reached the hotel in ten minutes.

    “Would you be my guide? I would love to visit a few museums while I am here. And I guess I will appreciate art better if I am with an artist,” I said surprising myself and probably him.

    “Yes, of course. I have no classes tomorrow. Does that work?” he said and looked straight into my eyes.

    “You know where to find me then. See you tomorrow at ten. I left a note in the car,” I said as I handed over my backpack to the security.

    Paris was definitely at work.

    1. snuzcook

      Bon Voyage, Kat! I love a story about taking chances and finding love along the way. Though the protective mother in me is shouting ‘caution!’

    2. Observer Tim

      You can’t beat the magic of Paris. I love the take on travel as a step in the healing process, and you did a great job showing how the city was working its magic less and less subtly as the story progressed. All in all, wonderful!

      I have one small suggestion for you – use more contractions. This helps give a “natural” feel to a narrated story. For example, in speech we normally only use the drawn-out phrases like “I am” and “I do not” when emphasizing a point; the more informal “I’m” and “I don’t” are the most common. It’s a little thing, but an important part of polishing the gem.

      1. chandra_wd_writer

        Great suggestion, Tim. Thanks for sharing it. Being a non-native speaker, I find it challenging to make narrators sound more American or which ever country they belong to. I will keep the contractions in mind. I should watch more TV shows and movies and pay close attention to dialogues 🙂 I am glad you liked the story.

  22. igonzales81

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Hong Kong.

    I don’t know what it was about Hong Kong that fascinated me, but it had been on my bucket list for a while, something I intended to do at some amorphous point in my future. Maybe.

    That someday became today, when I found out that Jenny didn’t love me.

    I needed to get away. And so I did.

    I sat in my seat in the “economy” section, almost looking forward to the next thirteen hours, in which I would have no choice but to stay in one place. I couldn’t tell you what I was feeling.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” the professional yet warm voice of the flight attendant came over the PA. “We’ve reached our cruising altitude of thirty-thousand feet and in just a moment we’ll be coming around with our complimentary snacks and beverages…”

    The voice faded into the background as the plane hit turbulence, and I instinctively clutched at the armrest.
    The passenger next to me looked up from the paperback he was reading. An older man, dark blue eyes sparkling behind bifocals, smiled at me. “Nervous flier, eh?”

    I shook my head. “Just not used to flying, period.”

    He nodded. “Going swimming then, taking a flight across the Pacific.”

    “I always wanted to see Hong Kong,” I shrugged. “Have the time now, before college.”

    The flight attendant was pushing the cart alongside our row, one wheel squeaking. “May I get you anything?” she asked, her gaze flicking between us.

    I shook my head.

    “Some peanuts, please,” the other passenger said, with another smile. He glanced back toward me. “Low blood sugar; have to keep munching on things or I’m unbearable.”

    “Okay.” I turned to look out the window, not really interested in talking.

    “You know,” the older man said, opening the package and popping a handful of peanuts in his mouth. “Taking a flight like this is something everyone should do at least one. Gives a person perspective.”

    I shrugged. I guess I could see where he was coming from.

    “I remember the first time I took a flight across an ocean,” he drew a breath to say more, but it came out as a gag. Suddenly, his hands went to his throat.

    I spun to face him. “Are you okay?”

    Now his face was darkening, eyes bulging. It was pretty clear he was choking.

    For a second, I froze, utterly uncertain what I should do. Then all the things I’d seen on TV came back to me. Climbing out of my seat, I grabbed the man’s arm and pulled him upright. Then I wrapped my arms around his chest and pushed my fists up under his breastbone. It took a couple of tries, but then he coughed violently, and a wet peanut went flying down the aisle.

    As the man sagged and coughed, catching his breath, I looked around. Everyone was staring at me, and several other passengers were on their feet, looking at me in a strange way.

    The man whose life I had just saved straightened up, coughed one last time, and turned his smile on me again. “Thank you, young man. You’ve done a great deed today.”

    Then he reached into the waistband of his pants, pulled out a handgun, and pointed it between my eyes. ““No one move!” he shouted. “Stay in your seats and do as we tell you! You will not be harmed! We are taking control of the plane!”

    1. Jay

      I like it. Classic trope of saving someone just to watch the world burn because of your good deed. His comment at the end..

      “You’ve done a great deed today.”

      ..felt a little fake, mostly because your dialog up to that point was excellent and felt real, but overall, I really liked the story. Well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What a ride, what chance this would happen? I bet he’s kicking his butt as they grab the plsne. You might continue, with the idea of a flight marshall on the plane also anb build the MC into the action. Cool story and well written.

    2. snuzcook

      Nice! You’ve set up our MC as a person who sinks into introspection, but leaps into action when needed. And is a risk taker, at least in a small way. You’ve got me hooked.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      No! No! The saved man is wealthy, even though not in first class, and will reward your MC for saving his life, that’s what really happened. That ending did surprise me, so very well done.

    4. Observer Tim

      That was quite the surprise at the end, IGonzales! Why do I sense the “choking incident” was his cue to the others? Another thing I read is that the hijackers are part of an organization with a grand world-changing socio-political agenda (at least in their own minds). Otherwise the “great deed” comment sounds a little odd. All in all it’s a nicely done presentation of what will become a very tense situation for those involved.

  23. Kerry Charlton

    ROME MISADVENTURES

    Robert never had done anything unpredictable but that changed one morning when he woke up, packed a suitcase, went to the airport and randomly bought a first class ticket to Rome. There was high security at the airport and he thought, ‘how unusual for 1962,. Some bigwig perhaps.’ There were five seats available up front with a curtain drawn by the purser.

    “Mr. Bringham, we oversold first class but there is one seat in our executive suite.“

    “That’s fine with me, I’d enjoy the company.”

    “Wait here, I’ll ask.”

    She walked back quickly,

    “They said okay, they’re movie stars from Hollywood.”

    “And how did you talk them into it?”

    “There’s two beautiful women in there and I told them you’re the best looking man I’ve seen in ten years. Can I have your phone number?”

    Robert looked at her badge hanging precariously on the best set he’d seen in twenty years,

    “Of course Margaret, I live on fifth avenue in the big apple, call any time.”

    He heard shuffling and a little complaining before he pulled the curtain back. On one side, sat two men, a blond kid about twenty three and he recognized Rossano Brazzi sitting next to him. The two women sat thirty inches apart, one looked like an angel from heaven, a petite brunette and the other, well he thought, ‘it’s hard to say. Sex on a stick isn’t good enough for Angie Dickenson‘, so he sat down barely able to squeeze between the two girls.

    Troy Donahue introduced himself, he was in one of his first movies and the glamour feeling hadn’t descended yet Robert was quite amused at the small talk, when Rossano pulled out a deck of cards,

    “Poker anyone, we won’t need chips.”

    “And why not?” Angie said. “I’ve played with John Wayne and we always had chips.”

    “Well Angie, it’s Italian poker.”

    “And what is that?”

    “We play for clothes.”

    “I’m a little nervous,” Suzanne Pleshette said.” I’m not wearing anything under my blouse.”

    “Naughty, naughty,” Angie replied. “neither am I.”

    “I’m in,” Robert announced.

    An hour went by. Both girls were fully dressed, Rossano was down to his shorts, Troy was in the same condition and all Robert had lost was his tie and jacket.

    Angie’s turn to deal,

    “Seven card stud, we aim to get you boys comprised.”

    Seven deals later Robert stood, shorts only, ready to peel them off.

    “Give quarter, “ he said.

    “To the death,” Angie replied.

    Rossano to the rescue,

    “He’s going to be nailed girls for indecent exposure, let it go.“

    Groans and cat whistles were heard through the little suite. The airline hostess, Margaret stuck her head in,

    “Everything all right in……whoa, boy are you having fun.”

    She left as quick as she entered.

    Dinner was served and they settled for a little sleep. The 720 Boeing pierced the
    night air at thirty one thousand feet and had caught a tail wind and flew an hour ahead of schedule. As dawn arrived so did a message from the captain.

    “This is Brian Boswell your captain. Ahead of us is a massive cold front soaring to forty thousand feet. We will detour as much as possible but I see no end to it. Strap in everyone and stow your small items. This plane is built to take this kind of weather.”

    The sounds became unbearable as the plane entered a revolving descent toward earth. Oxygen masts hung down and were strapped on. The plane continued to spiral downward to five thousand feet and then righted itself. The captain again,

    “Well that’s over. We lost all radio and directional beam. We are an hour to Rome and have reduced our speed. I have no idea what kind of storm it was but my watch has stopped. Will keep you in touch.”

    Angie and Suzanne had clung to Robert all during the storm and Suzanne started to sob,

    “I thought we were going to die, I’m sick in the stomach.”

    “We all thought the same,” Rossano said. “Just afraid to admit it.”

    Captain again,

    “Don’t mean to worry you, we have reached land, off course according to my calculations. Heading north to Rome but I don’t recognize anything and can’t connect to the airport. I’ll keep in touch.”.

    Ten minutes went by, the curtain opened,

    “Strap in, seats up please, the Captain is going to make an announcement,”

    Captain again,

    We are in Rome or what I thought was Rome. The coliseum is off the right side of the plane for those that care to watch it. I’m at a loss to explain it“
    .
    Suzanne‘s face was frozen to the window and she started to cry,.

    Can you see it. Is it Rome?” Rossano asked quietly.

    “It’s Rome alright, I can see the coliseum easily.”

    “Well then what’s the matter?”

    “The coliseum, the coliseum is brand new, that’s what‘s wrong.”

    {TO BE CONTINUED]

  24. pvenderley

    Two Jimmy Buffett songs have been playing in my head since the wanderlust struck me: “He Went To Paris,” and “Twelve-Volt Man.” Which explains why, at 8:36 PM, my feet touched the tarmac at Fa’a’ā International Airport, stepped past the trio cheerfully greeting the tourists with song and ukulele, declared nothing to customs, and took a taxi to the Hotel Le Mandarin.

    OK. Maybe it doesn’t.

    We’d come here for our honeymoon, one of the few international trips my wife and I had managed to plan. The customs officer had commented on my passport’s crisp, blank pages then, just as he commented on them last night.

    I imagine much has changed over the past thirty years, but I can’t imagine what. More shopping, perhaps. The only place my bride had been able to find back then was a warehouse-style store that sold everything a Tahitian could want — we had visited it almost daily. More resorts, definitely. That’s where we had stayed: fighting the boredom that welled up from not having something to do or see every moment of the day. Tahiti was a place trapped in island time — you could stare at the beach, or stare at the mountain. Or visit a Polynesian Cultural Center. We stared at each other, yes, but we had never been the type to sit still.

    I visit the same Botanical Gardens we had passed through during our honeymoon and stare at the tortoise. It’s probably the same one we’d seen back then, still plodding around its enclosure in search of something to chew on. Although I think there had been two: a mate or companion.

    “Remember me?” I ask. Then: “You lost her, too?”

    The tortoise stares at me, moving its jaw in slow, deliberate thought — two old fogeys reminiscing about years long lost.

    Tahiti isn’t my final destination. Moorea is. A smaller island an hour’s ferry ride to the north and west. A short taxi drive from the port, some enterprising fellow had had the inspiration to drag a net across the outer edge of his lagoon, trap a bunch of fish within the confines, and invite tourists like us to snorkel through them. The business had made him enough money to keep him in Hinano beer and twelve-volt batteries.

    It’s either gone now, replaced by a string of villas, or I’m just not looking in the right place. The taxi driver keeps telling me I want to go to Motu Ahi, a small island in the bay, where a new Lagoonarium was created, but I’m not interested in seeing fish.

    I want to talk to the twelve-volt man.

    I want to talk to the guy who’d figured it out. Figured how to live simply on the beach in paradise with nothing but a small corrugated roof over his head for when it rains and a string of lights for when skies are clear. How to take one moment of standing on a white-shelled beach watching clouds sprint past Mount Rotui, and make it last forever.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It is a touching piece of work. Obviously his whole life was built around the relationship had and then lost it. You point out the tragedy of life not responding the way you want it to. It made me think how lucky I am to still have her in sight. More people need to read this. Hohn is right, the bach story carried a lot of finesse.

  25. Jay

    Flight 213, Part II

    When I was a younger, I had to have a babysitter, even though I was far more capable of taking care of myself than my parents were of taking care of me. Her name was Alyssa, and she was one of those women that loved to play with kids. She could easily fall in line with any number of my trips down imagination lane, playing right alongside me as if she, too, was inside me head and could see everything I could.

    One day, I was sitting in my room, and she burst through the door. She started screaming about how a man was outside the house trying to get in, and she had the police on the phone. They advised us to lock ourselves in the room and wait for the patrol unit to arrive. In those ten minutes, I grew more and more terrified of what might be lurking outside that house as each second passed. I had never been more afraid in my life, until now.

    When the plane was only a couple hundred feet from the ground, the pilot pulled back into the air. I had no idea what was going on, and Nina was just as confused. We held each other’s hands, her fingers laced so tight through mine that her knuckles were white with only small fragments of pink. We sat in silence while people around us whispered their theories and fears, and then about ten minutes later, the pilot broke through the whispers.

    Nina softly sobbed as he spoke. “Fifteen hours ago, something bad happened. We don’t know what, and we didn’t have enough time to ask, but it’s safe to say bad things are happening down there. It got progressively worse over the last ten hours, and it keeps getting worse. All we can do it pray. We don’t have an answer, and we wish we could give you one. We’re all in this together, though, and we have a difficult choice to make.”

    Nina turned to me, “What’s gonna happen?”

    Before I could answer, a nearby passenger, a man in his thirties said, “Didn’t you hear him? We’re all gonna f*ckin’ die.”

    “Knock it off,” I told the man, but I couldn’t disagree with his assertion. There was a good possibility that we’d all die, and maybe I was prepared for it because I understood that all life eventually ends, but Nina didn’t need to be any more upset that she already was. “Leave her alone. You don’t need to talk to people like that.”

    He said, “F*ck you. I’ll do whatever I want.”

    A child started wailing in fear, crying tears that were very much understandable, but no one wanted to hear it. The mother said, “You’re scaring my child.” She ten pulled her son closer and rocked back and forth saying, “It’s gonna be okay, baby. Shh. Shh. Shh. It’s gonna be all right.”

    The man huffed, through his arms over his chest, and said, “Whatever. I don’t give a f*ck about ya’ll anyways.”

    I rubbed my eyes in frustration as the flight attendant hushed everyone. The pilot hadn’t finished talking. He said, “The bad news is we’re circling the airport with very little gas. We can try to fly to another country, but we might not make it. So, the attendants will count the hands of those who want to try it. I’ll give you a few minutes to decide, but that’s all the time we have if we’re gonna do this.”

    The intercom clicked and popped, and we were left to wonder what we should do.

    Nina said, “What should we do?”

    I shook my head. There are few choices in your life that are as important as the ones that decide your fate. Staying in Germany meant succumbing to whatever ravaged the country, but heading to another airport on low fuel meant we could crash land at a moment’s notice. I trusted that the pilots could get us where we needed to go, and supposing they could, was this issue isolated to just Germany? Was it worldwide? Did we even have a chance?

    After a few moments, the attendants stood at the front of the cabin and said, “Raise your hand if you want to try to land in Germany.”

    Six people raised their hands. One of them was an elderly woman who was staring at a picture of two young children. Probably they were her grand-kids, which I suspect were in Germany somewhere. Maybe all these people had a good reason for staying, but because I didn’t have one, I waited.

    The attendant said, “Okay, now, who wants to try to reach a nearby airport?”

    Nearly everyone raised their hand, including me. Nina didn’t. I wasn’t sure if it was because she didn’t want to let go of me, but I suspected it was something else. Something was bothering her.

    I leaned close to her. “Are you okay?”

    “I’m fine. It’s just… I don’t know what’s right. Where should I go? Stay here or hope we’ll find a safe place to be in a different country.”

    “I know. I feel the same, but… I feel like our choice is made for us.”

    “How?” she asked, and snuggled into my shoulder.

    “Well, we know for a fact Germany is screwed right?”

    “Yeah, I guess.”

    “We don’t know what, but something is happening down there. What we don’t know is if it has spread.”

    She nodded, and he sniffling slowed. “So you think it’s possible we’ll be okay in another place?”

    “Sure, why not? Until we know for certain, we can’t assume it’ll be bad.”

    “Well, we could assume, but you’re right. We gotta stay positive.”

    “That’s right.”

    I felt her kiss my cheek at my jawline. Maybe it wasn’t exactly the first kiss I wanted, but it sure as hell felt good.

    She said, “I wish we could know what was happening.”

    “Me, too.”

    We had all tried our cell phones, but nothing worked. Wi-Fi was down, and the cell towers just weren’t communicating with each other. Even standard radio wasn’t working. It wouldn’t be until later that we would learn why, but at that moment, we were all in the dark. Terrified. Perhaps we were all together, but together, we were all alone.

    We felt the plane turn. The pilot informed us the closest airport was in Switzerland. Some people prayed. Nina and I didn’t, but we held on to hope because when the world around you seems to have come upon bad times, the only way to survive is to be strong. I only wished the airplane was a strong as we were.

    To Be Continued

    1. snuzcook

      This is an intriguing ride, Jay. The first section I couldn’t help thinking of The Langoliers, and wondering what the heck the other passengers in your story were seeing through the windows.
      Eager to see what happens!

    2. Observer Tim

      This gets more intriguing, Jay. The one thing missing to me is a hint of what people saw out the windows of the plane that caused the initial distress – was it flames, flashing lights, flooding, rapidly moving chaos, an ineffable unlit blackness, or something even stranger? At this juncture I get the impression you’re deliberately holding back information. But part 3 is still to come…

  26. JosephFazzone

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to the first place heading out.

    Described as a flight of fancy, it felt more like a bumpy ride with stale peanuts.

    When I arrived, I was met by a troop of smallish, brutish, shortish and bossy light brown furry creatures. They spoke of mystical trees, humming fish and these birds called Swomee swans.

    The air smelled different to me. I sniffed deeply trying to ascertain what it smelled like.

    But those trees, those bright colored Trees, never have I seen trees such as these.

    “Greetings!” The leader of the goggly eyed frumpy furry creatures intoned, “That is fresh butterfly milk you are smelling.”

    “Of course,” I answered. “What else could it be?”

    “Well, well,” he barked as he laughed. “We haven’t seen someone as green as you in a great while.”

    “Well, the one before the deforestation,” a lanky one volunteered.

    “The Onceler is once upon time,” the leader snapped. “No longer our problem, and as I said, a great while ago.”

    “Who knew the Brown Barbaloots ate more than Truffula fruit?” Laughed a rather pudgy one.
    A few of them snickered.

    The leader clapped his hands, and the gathering grew silent. “So, are you for Operation Unless?”

    “Unless what?”

    The leader’s brown eye grew concerned. “Oh dear, oh dear. Are you, or are you not here for rebuild?”

    “I’m on vacation,” I answered.

    “Well, well, well,” he muttered. “We only want people here who care a whole awful lot, or nothing will get better.”

    “It’s not”, added another.

    “Look, guys,” I admitted plaintively. “To be honest, I don’t know why I came.”

    They looked at one another, a tennis match of blank stares, returned and volleyed. They leaned in close to each and began to converse in low tones.

    “Do you even care?” Asked the Leader.

    “Not even a little,” I confessed. “I just came here to clear my head. I don’t care about your Butterfly Milky Fruity Trees.”

    “Truffula trees,” another one of them corrected me with a snarly stare.

    “And that’s whatever one needs,” yet another added.

    “Not me,” I winced putting my hands to my head. “Now please go away before I chop one of your trees down and shove it up your…”

    They gasped in shock.

    With a disapproving frown, he pointed off into the distance. “Send in the Barbaloots.”

    That was weeks ago. I’ve been on the run since. Luckily, I found this abandoned factory, and a diary written by the late Onceler, containing plans for a modification of the Super Axe Hacker. I’ve been working on it day and night. Soon the Grickle Grass will run red with the blood of those pesky Lorax and Barbaloot suits.

    I’ve never done anything unpredictable, but that changed that one fateful day. If I survive it, I swear to live a life of predictable redundancy sans butterfly milk.

    1. Jay

      How quickly they turn, indeed. They do so wish to protect their forest, though, those trees mean a lot to them, you see?

      Nice story, JF. Very much enjoyed that. 🙂

    2. snuzcook

      Sometimes if you’re really not into the trip, everything goes south. Kind of like being at D*sneyland and getting mugged by the Seven Dw*rves because you were smoking in public. This is why virtual vacations are so much safer for all concerned!

      Enjoyed the story, JF!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Joseph, A+ for imagination
        Funny, and scary at the same time
        I almost expected the Mad Hatter to jump into your story
        I really enjoyed it, especially the pace of writing.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      We should ask ourselves if Dr. Seuss would approve of this backstory. One of my younger son’s favorites, and mine. Fun take on the prompt.

    4. Observer Tim

      As I was reading through this, a little voice in the back of my head was screaming to me that I should know this setting. The reveal at the end was priceless. Great job drawing me in and issuing the sting, Joey. 🙂

    5. Beebles

      Hi Joe,
      I mean who better to reference Seuss than yourself. I loved the way the mc fell into the patter, almost as if once confronted with a truffula you just had to speak that way.And yet such a dark piece. Frisking about in their barbaloot suits is one of my all time favourite phrases.

  27. snuzcook

    The Journey Begins

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Billings, Montana. After a rocky flight playing tag with towering storm clouds, I sat in the airport waiting for my connection. Lightning and curtains of rain sweep across tarmac, obscuring the high country terrain beyond. I wondered if I shouldn’t just turn around and go back. Small commuter craft coming in to land, like the one I would soon be boarding, bounced like rowboats tossed around in the wind. I could only hope that the weather would clear before my flight to tiny Dawson County Airport was scheduled to take off.

    Two hours later, the sun in a postcard blue sky was raising clouds of steam from the pavement as I boarded my flight. There was a metaphor in all this. I had left the gray, moderate weather and my gray, moderate neighborhood and my gray, moderate, solitary existence for this realm of extremes and constant change.

    And I had left it on a whim. No, not exactly a whim; it was more of an epiphany. Call it inspiration. You might even say I was ‘called’ to come. And the voice was the voice from a grave. After four years, Mike was calling me to a place I have never been to find him. Up to now, the journey was clear and straightforward. Once I touched down at Dawson County, I would be off the grid and on my own.

    There were only six of us on the plane that could hold about two dozen passengers. I probably should be chatting up one or more of them to get some idea where I was going to go and how I was going to get there. Instead I found myself paralyzed by the sudden conviction that I had made a huge mistake. I pressed my forehead against the window and watched the immense rectangles of wheat fields march by below, interrupted by feather boas of trees where small rivers wandered between them.

    The Badlands emerged from the orderly fields. They were like the rubble left over from creating the rest of the landscape. Somewhere in that expanse of rock piles and scrub Mike had vanished. I saw a jeep clawing its way across a dirt track between eroded hills. Mike had driven a jeep like that; it had been found with debris washed out by a flash flood. Had he been caught by the rising water, or was the jeep already abandoned before the water took it? The experts had said more likely than not his body had washed away into some sink hole or arroyo, and the bones scattered by animals. I had accepted that truth, and gradually adapted to a smaller world, a gray and moderate world without him, a world half asleep and undirected.

    Yesterday, I had woken up. A tiny article, barely three lines, mentioned the discovery of the skeleton of a previously unknown Cretaceous period bipedal dinosaur. The bones they showed were the same as in the photo that Mike had sent me from his phone before he disappeared, the find he had been so adamant to keep secret until he could document it. But the place where the article said the bones were discovered was 15 miles away from where Mike’s jeep was found. A quick online search told me the name of the man who had found the bones: Dale Kriegre, the very man Mike had suspected was dogging his trail and might try to steal his discovery.

    I looked down as we circled the tiny airport with a terminal that looked like a gas station. The gray doubt was starting to overwhelm me. What was I doing here? What if this trip was nothing more the desperate action of a woman losing her grip on reality? In the distance a band of receding clouds still bristled with lightning. Nothing from this moment forward was going to be easy.

    1. jhowe

      This story took place almost completely in the MCs head and it was very well done. You moved it along nicely and left us with both hope and dread as to what will happen. Good one.

    2. snuzcook

      Thanks, J and J!
      BTW my inner critique HAS to correct the record–the paleontological discovery would have been fossils, not skeletons!!! but perhaps the creative license could be allowed for the thread…

      1. snuzcook

        Reatha, I read your story just as I was prepping my to post and was dismayed at choosing the same town. But I loved your story, and they were so different I decided to leave as was. The destination for my MC was really Dawson County, literally the smallest airport in the US according to my google search!

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Snuz, I thought it was great to see Billings as the destination. Montana is a big state, with lots of contrasts, so your description of the gas station/terminal was spot on.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is the opener of a suspense-filled thriller about archaeology, intrigue, betrayal, murder, and, possibly, the rebirth of a woman’s life. At least that’s what it’s foreshadowing from here; I would read this book. I love how you painted the Montana wilderness from a distance with so few words, Snuz. The florid descriptions can come later, when the MC is on the ground and seeking. Great job, great pacing, and a catchy intro!

  28. qwert

    I stir my coffee, letting the elegant leaf swirl to a pale brown. The tears blur my vision and huddle in the corner of my eye but are stubborn enough not to fall.

    I don’t think there was anything unexpected about it. People will say it was though. I’d say that everything that preceded it was unexpected and what I did just had to happen considering the course of events, considering that my life had hurdled downward drastically.

    The idea was to leave everything: Mom, siblings, family, friends and wander. Wander until I reached the place where Dad was. It’d take some time, money, my life. But it didn’t matter, really.

    It could have been worse though. Dad could have taken off himself and left a message behind saying he’d had enough of it. Enough of his life, enough of us.

    There’s no usual buzz of voices, footsteps, wheels on marble. The air-conditioned airport is hallowed by the new born day slowly loosening the tightened envelope of darkness around it.

    I would have liked the buzz and the light.

    A stocky man has alighted softly into a seat next to me. Dark brown hair oiled down except for a small tuft that brushes the eyelashes of his right eye. One side of his buttoned shirt is tucked in and the other hangs loose probably on account of his hanging belly. The baby blue against the dark shade of his jeans reminds me nothing of Dad. I slide my phone from out my pocket and have just unlocked it to take particular interest in nothing in particular but am interrupted: “Where you goin’, son?”

    I have to smoothen out the ticket in my hands and read the letters one at a time to comprehend and remind myself. Just like how I still have to remind myself where Dad is now. And how he’s never coming back. Unless I go to him. And even then—?

    A single tear rolls down my cheek. I look down and clear my throat as if it will help, “France.”

    “Sightseeing, huh?”

    My laugh washes away my tears, “Not that I know of.”

    I think of Mom who’s now probably throwing bed sheets over her head to find me. She must know I’m not that young anymore. Eddie would be crying already. Losing two of the closest people to him in the span of a few days; must be hard.

    But I don’t care now. Sometimes you’ve got to be mean and think about yourself.

    I realize the man is still watching me with an arched eyebrow. “Any plans?” he asks.

    Just then we hear an announcement to board plane J-8. The plane headed for France. My plane.

    I take a look at my unsipped coffee for just a moment before I get up. I swing a bag over my shoulder and pull up the handle of my suitcase. Turning to the man, I say, “I’ll know when I get there.”

    The man laughs, teeth hidden, and gives a slight nod of his head, “Maybe we’ll meet again and you can tell me then.”

    The wheels of my suitcase squeak as I walk slowly away, dragging away what little now belongs to me.

    As I am about to turn the corner and vanish out of sight, I hear the man say, “Oh, almost forgot! The name’s Mike.”

    Dad’s name.

    I don’t offer my name back. Only nod, still facing away from him, and turn the corner.

    I’m hoping that tomorrow when I wake up, I won’t be in France without a home, without a way to live.

    I’m hoping I won’t be in France at all.

    I’m hoping that when I wake up, they’ll tell me that Dad isn’t dead.

    1. Observer Tim

      This a lovely story about loss, with several deep ideas lurking below the surface. It’s never the right time to lose a parent, but when you’re young it’s more wrong. I hope that when the MC manages to get through this phase of grief (one way or another) he will be able to return home a better, stronger, and more mature person.

  29. Peri Winkle

    DEPARTING

    Anthony hadn’t planned on flying. At least, not today. What had begun as a fleeting wish, a wistful “what if,” had somehow, just this morning, become an irresistible calling. And now, here he was, aloft in a dreamlike cocoon of icy clouds and infinite sky and white noise from the whooshing air vents. Anthony wondered if this was what heaven was like.

    He closed his eyes. It would be hours until Bosnia-Herzegovina, and he hoped to pass them in unconsciousness, thanks to his pain meds and a layover cocktail. Fortunately, his seatmate seemed absorbed in her book and not the least bit interested in Anthony.

    When sleep wouldn’t come, he opened his eyes to find her staring at him through huge, tortoise-rimmed lenses.

    “You’re going to Sarajevo,” she said, more as a statement of fact than a question.

    “Um… yes,” he said, “and then on to Mostar.”

    “I am too.”

    He wondered if they were heading to the same destination, but decided he didn’t want to know.

    “I’m meeting an old friend,” she offered.

    “Yeah, me too,” he sighed, “One I haven’t spoken to in a very long time.”

    The beverage trolley appeared, and Anthony thought another gin and tonic might hasten the oblivion he sought.

    “What do you do, Anthony?” she sked as he sipped his drink.

    “I’m an investment banker.” This wasn’t exactly true. It had been, but that life seemed so far away now. “And how did you know my name?”

    She nodded at the luggage tag on the carry-on at Anthony’s feet. Anthony appraised her with a quick glance. She was small and pale, with nondescript clothing and close-cropped dark hair. But there was something else, something familiar in her eyes, which were surprisingly luminous behind her enormous specs.

    He thought of Amanda – gorgeous Amanda with her spray-tanned, pilates-toned body – and of the pitying look she had given him when she left.

    “I just…can’t,” she had said. “I’m sorry.”

    And how he was more alone than he could ever remember being in his thirty three years on earth.

    “Aren’t you going to tell me your name?”

    “You wouldn’t be able to pronounce it,” she smiled. “Call me… Nix.”

    “Nix?” he pondered. “As in ‘no, not, nothing, never, nada’?” He immediately regretted his rudeness.

    “As in ‘Snow’,” she gently corrected him. “It’s Latin.”

    He nodded, thinking of the blanketing stillness that seemed to surround her. “It suits you.”

    They sat in silence for a while as the gin and pills began to blur the edges.

    “You’re going to Medjugorje,” she said finally.

    “Now, how could you possibly know that?” he said thickly.

    “Why else do people go to Mostar?”

    He was going to Medjugorje, but he didn’t want to discuss that with a stranger on a plane. And he really didn’t want to be that guy — the poor desperate sap, out of luck and out of time, and willing to fall for anything.

    His mother had begged him not to go. “The Pope says the visionaries are a hoax,” she said. “The Virgin Mary is not a postmaster who delivers messages on schedule. It doesn’t work that way.” Still, with a terminal diagnosis, and at best three, maybe six months to live, Anthony was no longer concerned with how things are supposed to work.

    “You wouldn’t understand.” Anthony stared out at the stars in the darkening sky.

    “I understand you are searching for something,” said Nix. “But you won’t find it on a mountain top.”

    “Oh, really, Miss… Nix,” he said, dimly aware that he was beginning to slur. “Well then, please, enlighten me. Where should I look?”

    “Seek and you shall find,” she said softly.

    Anthony was tired. Tired of grief and pain. And tired of this guessing game. He closed his eyes.

    “Don’t be afraid,” he thought he heard as the blackness overtook him. “I’ll be right here.”

    He woke to the chiming of the seat belt warning , seats being returned to their upright position, and a throbbing head. Sarajevo was looming large, and Nix’s seat was empty.

    Maybe she’s in the lavatory, he thought. But as the plane went into its final descent, he knew she wasn’t coming back.

    At least, not tonight.

    But he would see her again. He knew it. He had to.

      1. Jay

        The most common reasons:

        1) You have language that’s banned in the story. All these words and more need to be censored: sh*t, f*ck, d*mn, c*nt, s*x, s*xy, g*d*mmit, etc…

        2) You’re too new and your story got lobbed into limbo until Brian can approve it.

        3) WD website is acting up. (rare, but it happens)

        1. Peri Winkle

          Thanks for the response, Jay. I’m definitely not new – it’s me, JM, from about two years ago. I didn’t use any of the seven deadly words, so I’m stumped. Actually, this happens a lot, which is one of many reasons why I rarely post anymore. Maybe I need to move on and find another writing forum.

          1. Jay

            Oh, hi! 🙂

            Send me your story and let me read through it to see if I can find the culprit. There’s a form on my contact page that you can use. Id post my email on here, but spambots will find me. (Shifty eyes)

            Find my contact page at http://www.mrjaywilson.com

  30. MoiraiTQ

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to The North Pole.

    You see, I’ve been wanting to find out if Santa Claus really exists. Yes, Santa Claus. I’ve already hunted for Big Foot. I wasn’t able to find any evidence of him in any forested region in the US and Canada. All those big foot prints that you’ve seen on those reality shows are all done by people with over-sized shoes. The noises? Their friends are about 100 feet away and yelling in the woods.

    Unicorns? I wasn’t able to find any when looking on Google Earth. When I was looking for Big Foot, I didn’t find any rainbow poop. Plus, there wasn’t any white fur stuck to any trees or bushes. No rainbow colored mane hair, either.

    No Unicorns. No Big Foot.

    I already know that there is no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. When I was younger, I saw the grocery bags with the chocolate bunnies and candy. That same candy appeared in the woven basket the next Sunday. My mom never noticed the little X I had written on the side of the bunny box. The Tooth Fairy? Well, I pretended to be asleep one night and caught my dad taking my tooth out from under my pillow and putting money there.

    The horrors of my youth when I discovered Mom and Dad were bunnies and fairies! I thought I was scarred for life!

    No Easter Bunny. No Tooth Fairy.

    So, I sat in the airport waiting for my plane for the North Pole and thought about Santa. Would he, too, just be a myth? Is there a Mrs. Claus? What about the elves? Do they have medical insurance? Is there a hospital? Will there be a hotel up there in the NP? Would there be an available room? Oh! I really need to plan more!

    1. JosephFazzone

      Sad and hopeful! It really speaks about the waning of our innocence. Definitely evoked some melancholy feelings. I remember when I discovered that Santa wasn’t real. I was like, “YES I KNEW IT!” and then felt that fantasy die. I remember being really sad. Not always fun to be right. Great story!

    2. Observer Tim

      I sense your MC is in for a real disappointment, MoiraiTQ, except for one detail: there is a commercial flight to the North Pole available. That one bit of passing strange manages to throw the entire story into a surreal place that sounds like it would be fun to explore. This is a nice little brain-unraveler you’ve created. 🙂

  31. dustymayjane

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket home. I hadn’t been back there for over a decade. Close to two if I’m honest. I’d attended the funeral of late Uncle Joel. That was back in ninety nine. Before Joe’s death, he drank from dawn to dusk and back again to dawn. A tumbler of vodka sat by his bedside, emptied by the time his cloudy eyes cracked open to greet the morning. Coffee, always black, turned Irish before a first sip.

    Crazy Uncle Joe, Pa’s youngest brother, the last of the Williams clan. A junk dealer, slash inventor. Joe’s brilliant mind and able hands of his youth should have made him millions. But he never could catch that gold ring. The break he needed had always managed to allude him. A childless bachelor, like myself, the family lineage was going to die with me.

    An early retirement package from Mid-Atlantic Steel had just been forced down my throat but I wasn’t ready to hang it up yet. As soon as my plane landed I retrieved my inheritance from the safe deposit box where I’d left everything from my mother’s wedding ring to Uncle Joe’s drawings. I looked at the plans willed me and a bubbling of excitement grew in my gut. Uncle Joe’s intelligence was no secret, but no one had ever placed enough faith in him. Why, I wondered hadn’t I looked at the plans before?

    I spent most of the night making calls, one to a colleague, also dubbed ‘of age’ to retire. Hyrum flew down to meet me and after one look at the plans, he was convinced we had something special. A meeting with banker and long time friend Vinnie, precluded a visit to a patent lawyer. Patent pending, the three of us were thrust into the search for warehouse space, and used machining tools and other equipment. We hired Hyrum’s son Calvin to engineer a viable fuel system. Vinnie’s nephew was an expert in aeronautics and we hired his sister May to keep the office organized and documentation in order. She surprised us with a working knowledge of 3D imaging and printing which saved time and money waiting for production parts.

    Nine months later, we gave birth to our proto-type. I invited May to join me for a maiden voyage. I let her push the on button and together we watched the digital numbers flip back in time. After only moments of darkness, her hand was in mind. We were both a just little scared. I thought of the ring in my pocket from Mother and closed my eyes and prayed that my plan would work.

    When I opened my eyes to a view of 1962 hometown America I pulled May close. It had worked!

    She looked at me with glee in her eyes and planted a kiss on my lips. “It worked Henry!”

    We decided to stay in 1962. May wore my mother’s ring and we raised two strong boys. Hank and Marty Williams. I was a stranger to Uncle Joe but I had faith in him and he never did find a need the vodka or whiskey. We started a business building airplanes. May and I knew the world wasn’t ready for our secret just yet. The boys could introduce time travel to mankind…if it was ready.

    1. Observer Tim

      This reads the first act in a strange story of repeated history; you’ve created a fascinating setting here with a plausible story of a “backyard” inventory. The take on rebuilding a future for “the last of the Williams clan” is heartwarming in a slightly twisted way.

  32. Jay

    Flight 213, Part I

    I had never done anything unpredictable in my life. I was perfectly fine with the daily routine. All of that changed one day when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Germany. The reason? Well, there’s no need to lie. It was about a woman. She broke my heart, and I needed a new place to be. Something different. I’m sure you can understand. Unfortunately, I managed to pick the worst day to get adventurous, or depending on how you look at it, it was the best decision of my life.

    At first, I was a bit apprehensive about getting on the plane. The idea of going somewhere foreign was, at its core, against everything I liked about my routine. I enjoyed knowing that my toothpaste would always be in my bathroom, to the left of the mouth wash, and sitting about six inches from the edge of the marble counter. Everything else was like that, too. I knew where my breakfast was, and what I planned to have. I knew where the coffee maker was, complete with measure spoon for the cream. I was in control of everything.

    Boarding that plane meant leaving all that behind. It meant anxiety. It meant panic. It meant fear and excitement. It meant turning away from the old me and finding a new man that was always there but buried so deep, I didn’t even know he existed.

    I knew beforehand that the trip would be long, and I wanted to make sure the ten hour flight would be nice. Booking first class was expensive, sure, but I could afford it. I didn’t have a job that paid enough to drop so much on a whim, but when you’re boring enough to live comfortably on a very tight budget, you have quite the nest egg tucked away. Splurging was almost as hard as taking the trip, and maybe it was a lot of money, but in the end, it paid off more than I could have ever hoped.

    During the flight, they pampered me. I got three full meals, two of which were perfectly cooked steaks with all the right trimmings: garlic seasoned mashed potatoes, broccoli and melted cheddar, and half a cob of corn. I had a steady supply of Moscato, Primo Amore. After each meal, they brought me a hot towel and two cold, wet hand wipes.

    The best part? My seat. It was roomy. I didn’t feel the least bit cramped. Even if I did, I wouldn’t have cared, because the seat’s location made it top notch. No, it wasn’t an aisle seat, and there wasn’t a million dollars stuffed inside the cushion. It was the beautiful woman named Nina who sat next to me the entire flight.

    During that trip, I learned a lot about her. She was a student at Harvard who was working on her law degree, she went to the same high school as me, and we even lived in the same neighborhood. She was on this place because it was summer, and rather than staying home to study like a recluse, she decided, at the spur of a moment, to take a random plane to random place she’d never been. It was a lot like me, and in those few hours we clicked in a way that I had never experienced in my lifetime—and one I would never experience again.

    As the plane made its descent, Nina had her hand laying comfortably in mine. Because I was in the window seat, I enjoyed being able to look into her caramel eyes as the sun cast its golden bars of light into them. Her brown hair shimmered like silk cloth, the air from the vent teasing it ever so gently. She smiled; genuine, perfect. Maybe I was broken when I entered that plane and maybe a part of me needed her for my own selfish reasons, but at that moment, looking at that killer smile, I didn’t give a d*amn.

    This was the moment I had been waiting ten hours to do. I didn’t know what was going to happen when we got off the plane. Maybe she would go her own way and I’d never see her again or maybe we’d stay in touch. I didn’t know, but so far I had relinquished my previous hat and donned a new spontaneous one, I threw caution to the wind and kissed the hell out of her. The only problem was that she didn’t kiss me back. She didn’t pull away. She did nothing.

    I backed off, my face no doubt burning red with embarrassment. I looked at her ready to ask her what was wrong since everything felt so right, and I was silence by her face. She had this look of horror and fear all over it. I didn’t think my kiss was that unwelcome, but at that moment, there was no other explanation.

    After nervously scratching the back of my head, I asked calmly, “What’s wrong?”

    She said nothing. She only stared passed me as if she couldn’t even make eye contact. I looked passed her, too, because I couldn’t face her like this. I didn’t know what I had done, but it was quickly reminding me why I preferred living the way I did. Why I should have just stayed home with control.

    That’s when I noticed the other passengers looked like she did. Many of them peered over others looking through the windows with faces that screamed terror. It didn’t take me long to follow Nina’s gaze out the window behind me and to behold the frightening truth with my own eyes.

    To Be Continued

    1. jhowe

      This started out so nice. Semi-normal guy with a few issues gets on a plane and starts to feel good about himself, all warm and fuzzy like, and Bam. The whole time I was thinking, is Jay getting soft on us…. perhaps not.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I am intrigued to the ninth degree. A plane load of flesh eating zombie’s just hungering for live human flesh to satisfy their urges. Well on to part two to see if I’m correct. Marvelous, nail biting prose from a master.

  33. jhowe

    I’ve never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, drove to the airport and bought a ticket to Hell. Actually, I had to fly into Detroit and rent a car. Hell was 40 minutes from there.

    A few days ago, when I was feeling blue, I typed ‘go to hell’ on my tablet browser and ended up on Hell’s website. Their slogan got me right from the start: “More people tell you to go to our town than anywhere else on Earth.” I had, in fact, been told that more than once. I thought the next time I could say, no thanks, I’ve been there.

    The town wasn’t much. I figured I’d kill a few hours and drive back to the Motor City and visit a casino or two. I grabbed some lunch at the Hell Hole Diner and contemplated spending a hundred bucks to be elected Mayor of Hell for a day. There were some semi-unique privileges, including a tee shirt, but I passed. I looked around: a souvenir store, an ice cream parlor, a putt putt course, a bar… no brainer, I walked into Hell’s Saloon for a pick-me-up.

    The semi-cute barmaid was dressed as a she-devil, complete with horns and a red jumpsuit that fit her pretty good. She was serving a flaming concoction to the only other patron in the place. I stole a glance and jumped a little, either inwardly or bodily. I hoped he didn’t notice. Even sitting on a tall stool, I could tell he was short. He was older with thin gray hair, longish, slicked straight back. He sported a permanent scowl, dressed all in black and he wore a cape. A somber Grandpa Munster came to mind.

    “Please serve this gentleman whatever he’s drinking,” the man said, his voice booming, slightly accented.

    The barmaid came to me and I ordered an Inferno Ale, tall, since I wasn’t paying. The man raised his smoldering glass and we drank. He soon finished and jumped from the stool, threw back his cape and strode out the door. I thanked him as the door was closing. The barmaid raised her eyebrows.

    “What’s with him?” I said.

    “Oh, he’s just the mayor.”

    “I wouldn’t think a town this small would need an actual mayor.”

    “No, we don’t have a real one. He’s mayor for the day. He comes to town a few times a week and pays his hundred dollars. He doesn’t even take the tee shirt.”

    For some reason, this saddened me. I drained my glass and nodded for another. “You’d think he’d get a discount, you know for being a regular.”

    “Oh, we’ve offered. But he knows it’s a major source of income for the town.”

    As I was driving out of town, I saw the man lined up over an orange golf ball. His cape disguised his unusual putting form as he tried to hit the ball through a spinning windmill. As I went by, he turned and I waved. He gave a slight nod, threw back his cape and marched away.

    1. Jay

      It’s all about the experience. The people. I can only imagine what his line will be now.

      “Go to hell!”

      “Sure, it’s lovely there during the summer.”

      Excellent story, jhowe. Very much enjoyed it.

    2. snuzcook

      What a clever idea! I love the visuals of the townsfolk. I was waiting for evidence that the mayor’s cape was hiding a devilish tail or some such. Love this: “More people tell you to go to our town than anywhere else on Earth.”

  34. socialleper

    I bought a ticket to Memphis. I’m a musician, and musicians are supposed to like Memphis, right?
    Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and I bought the ticket on United. So instead of seeing the Mecca of American Delta Blues, I got kneed in the groin and punched in the kidney so a stewardess could make her connecting flight.
    On the upside, the experience inspired me to write a new song. It is called “The Ruptured Testicle Blues.”

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      What an enjoyable read! I do like the song title to be honest. It’s both invigoratingly close to the truth yet truly bold and upfront.

      1. socialleper

        I find that I have the most trouble with “normal” prompts. I write what I want to read, which is usually a little wilder than standard fiction fare. I’m more of a Sci-Fi or Fantasy guy. It is hard for me to think of anything exciting about someone taking a trip anywhere, so that leaves me with off kilter comedy.

  35. Pete

    I have never done anything unpredictable. But that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Los Angeles.

    Gary thought it was perfectly predictable. He called it a textbook case of escapism. But that’s Gary for you, he predicted all my behavior patterns. Like when I stopped stalking Tina, he said it was a sign that I was getting better. I told him it was the restraining order. When I told him how my probation officer, the Czar of Glasgow was following me, he nodded, finger to chin, and upped my medication.

    But this was different. I’d gone to the airport. I’d purchased the ticket. I’d watched those massive collections of sheet metal and bolts take flight before I had to rush to the bathroom and vomit. There I’d blacked out in the stall.

    “You understand you wasted $400, right?”

    I pretended not to hear Gary. Or that uptick of urgency in his voice today. And while I was convinced I could do Gary’s job by now, I secretly enjoyed our chats every Tuesday at four, which, besides vomiting on the floor and passing out is the reason I’d never fly to Los Angeles. But the ticket was in my coat pocket. A jolt of magic against my ribs. It made the world feel tingly. That I could show this to people and board that deathtrap. That I could crash and burn and fall to the sky and explode. My back was sweating just thinking about it.

    I must have been talking out loud because Gary untangled his elbows and let go with a sigh. “John. Listen to me.”

    I turned my face but my eyes lingered on his shelf of books. What Gary called the ghost ship.

    “John.”

    I got my eyes around. Gary did that peering over his glasses thing he thought projected authority but instead made him look like a kid playing doctor. He was a tiny man, so unintimidating you wanted to grab him and toss him aboard the lifeboat with women and children. Now he was reaching for the phone, threatening to call the czar. Even his wedding ring was too big for his finger.

    Behind him sat a picture of him with an equally diminutive olive-skinned woman. Like two kids playing house. I tried to imagine Gary on top of her, the gentle missionary, rocking in such a way that his bony hips wouldn’t dig into her pelvis. He was probably a selfless, albeit boring lover, I’d guess.

    “Gary. I’m going to call.”

    I shook my head.

    “You’re not allowed to leave the state. So let’s talk about why you would buy a ticket to Los Angeles?”

    I shrugged. He shifted again. Tonight, Gary will have dinner with his (Indian?) wife. He’ll cook, tilapia, something colorful on the side that goes with the wine. He’ll ask about her day—because he was accustomed to asking questions. To listening. Perhaps that’s what she loved most about him. She looked like a professor, maybe an admin, at the college, something intellectual—a small source of both friction and pride between the two of them—and so she was accustomed to hearing her colleagues going on about themselves.

    Gary shut down my thoughts. “What about your job?”

    “What about it?”

    “Do you still have it?”

    “The ticket?”

    “The job, Gary.”

    The job. “Yeah. I still have my job at the Dollar General. I still watch fat kids come in with fat parents and buy enough candy and junk food to feed a movie theater for six bucks. I still want nothing more than to bludgeon the next person who walks in wearing jogging pants asking if we drug test. I still feel a small, yet vicious rage trying to claw its way out of me and into the world at the very sight of the color yellow. I still want to drive over to Tina’s house and ask her why she doesn’t come in the store any more. I’m still afraid to fly.”

    Crap. I was talking out loud again. Gary sat up, fixed his glasses and reached for the phone. “I should call.”

    “Gary, what are you–”

    The last thing I remembered was Gary’s yellow shirt.

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      Loved it Pete!
      Nicely written.

      I laughed at this part: “You understand you wasted $400, right?”
      Mainly because I don’t even have that kind of money.

    2. Observer Tim

      It sounds like John has some serious issues to work through; you did a really good job portraying someone who is not mentally stable, not willing to admit it, and totally unapologetic. I’ve dealt with people like him a few times in my life; this could turn extremely scary extremely quickly. Good job, Pete.

  36. thirstycactus

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The thing is, I was already in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Apparently you can’t buy a plane ticket when you’re already at your destination. It’s a rule or something. The woman with the mossy-green eyes and navy blue pant suit said, “You can’t do that sir,” as if I should already know that. As if it was the dumbest thing she had ever heard.

    I liked that she would be talking about me later to her friends. Amy, her name tag said Amy, her conversation would start out, “You wouldn’t believe what some idiot asked me today.” I imagine her using the word, idiot, but she’d probably use something more fowl like, dickhead. I smile, knowing that I would be traveling through people’s conversations and perhaps by the end of the week I’d be in Australia.

    My friend Tony tells me that the best part of traveling is riding down the escalator to pick up your bags. He says that while he’s floating down towards the baggage carousel there’s always a group of people waiting for someone. He says the best part of traveling is coming home. Each time he steps on that metal floating set of stairs he looks down at the crowd looking up at him, and it gives him the feeling that he’s important. That they all showed up for him. He tells me that’s the best part. The feeling that you’re back home and you have someone who’s cared enough to meet you.

    I decided that’s all I wanted, so I said good bye to Amy and went to Arrivals. A crowd had already started to gather at the bottom of the escalator. This was my chance. I carried my empty suitcase towards the moving stairs and I started to walk up. It was harder than I thought because each step I took I was carried back down. People were talking, I could hear them mumbling to one other saying, “What a dickhead.” I picked up the pace, but I wasn’t gaining. “Flight 215 from Halifax has arrived” announced over the intercom. I’m sweating, breathing heavy. The summit unattainable. I start to run, my suitcase flapping around as I wave my arms trying to gain much needed leverage to pull my heavy frame up the moving mountain. I threw the suit case away, a hindrance, it soared through the air and landed on one of the baggage carousels. I’m grunting, panting, almost running, almost screaming, and as I get closer to the top, reaching, using my last bit of energy, I make it, exhausted, the people from Flight 215 already making their way towards me. A security guard shaking his head at me. I turn around, and the crowd waiting rips into applause. They cheer while I float back down, smiling, thinking, it’s great to be home.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, I really, really enjoyed this. So many great lines to savor, like “…perhaps by the end of the week I’ll be in Australia.” I could see that epic climb to the top. How wonderful your MC can now claim her/his bag. Fun piece.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is truly and pleasantly odd, Thirsty. I love the way you painted a portrait of someone with a worlview canted about 20° off normal. In trying to catch one feeling, he became a sensation in his own right.

  37. ReathaThomasOakley

    1971 Billings, Montana

    “Oh, Lord,” Tommie whispered, as she tried to warm her hands with her breath before pounding on the metal door again. “Open the door,” she pleaded. “Open the dang door.”

    She pulled her sweater closer, and sat down on the concrete stoop, partially protected from the snow. The cold seeped through her thin slacks, but if she stood, the wind could attack from all sides. She pulled her legs close to her body and hugged her knees. Since she’d trudged down the alley to the restaurant back door the black asphalt had turned white, the stacked cardboard boxes were nearly covered.

    As Tommie watched the swirling snow she thought about the previous two months. Papa was right, she thought, but I won’t never tell him. Edwin was no good, just after my money.

    Hot tears warmed her icy cheeks as she remembered the $500 carefully saved from years of birthdays and Christmases. Folks don’t know what to give old maids, she’d told herself.

    She’d met Edwin at a church singles social, the only place she went without her mama and papa. Edwin was nice, didn’t seem put off by her halting way of talking, said he understood everything she said. She’d told him about how the polio froze her vocal cords, about the speech therapy, about how Papa said it was just money wasted, she wouldn’t ever get a job.

    Tommie’d tried to talk to Mama about being in love, about getting married, but she’d just told Papa.

    “Ha, ha, ha,” he’d laughed in her face. “You think that man’s gonna marry you? He knows I got money, thinks I’m gonna leave it to you. That ain’t gonna happen, church gonna get it all.” Papa didn’t know about her money, so she’d run off with Edwin to Atlanta. But, he didn’t marry her, said he had a wife in Galveston, was just in Jacksonville for a job at the shipyard, thought he’d find him a woman, that churches were good places to look.

    When Tommie’s money was gone, Edwin took off. She’d got a job at Denny’s, washing dishes, about all she knew how to do. She got a meal every shift, but the pay only covered rent, so when she was about broke, she called home.

    “Your papa’s still put out,” her mama’d said. “If I wire money for a bus ticket, you gotta apologize to him and get saved again Sunday morning.” Tommie agreed to everything.

    But, at the bus station ticket window next morning, Tommie just couldn’t say ‘Jacksonville’.

    “Sir, l ain’t never done anything like this before, just now decided. Sir, what’ll it cost to get to Billings, Montana?” Tommie could feel her voice quivering, but couldn’t stop. “I got a cousin there, married, with a little boy. I could take care of him, clean her house, wash her dishes,” she laughed, she knew how to wash dishes.

    “Mam, you gotta slow down so I can understand. You want to go to Billings?” Tommie nodded, ashamed of rattling on.

    That was ten days ago.

    “I heard they moved to Wyoming,” the woman living at her cousin’s address told her, “don’t know where.” Now Tommie was back to washing dishes, but something was wrong today. The restaurant door was locked and she was cold, so very cold, too cold to walk back to her room.

    Maybe they closed ’cause of the storm, she thought. Next payday I’m gonna get me a phone, next payday.

    As the snow blew over, then settled on Tommie, she thought back to before she’d run off with Edwin, to when he was so nice to her, was a real boyfriend. He didn’t call her stupid, didn’t mock her voice. Tommie smiled and settled back against the door that didn’t seem so cold now.

    For a while the snow slid off Tommie because of the heat of her body, but later, while the blizzard raged and the temperature dropped, it didn’t.

    1. Observer Tim

      Reatha, while I was away uber-busy I didn’t realize how much I missed your beautifully-told tales of the human tragedy. It’s nice to read the stories of damaged people, especially those who don’t wallow in their infirmities, even though this comes to an untimely end.

      My personal hope would have been for a rescue, or for her to have found someplace open to collapse in, but life doesn’t always work that way. However, those would have seriously weakened the power of the story. Wonderful job.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Tim, your much appreciated comments made me think about damaged people, and some of the characters I’ve written about. Lots of damaged folks along the way, even though that was not intentional. My goal is usually to combine tiny incidents with people whose stories are often ignored. I’m always amazed at, and envious of, how you, and others here, can write fantastic descriptions of characters and places, something I have difficulty doing. Thanks again, and great to have you back.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Hmmm, should I point out the flaws that appear as soon as something is posted? No, I think I’ll just thank you for your comment. Thank you.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you. Tommie is based on a cousin who was about my mother’s age. She had polio, strict father, left home with a man she hardly knew and wasn’t heard from for a year or so while I was living in Billings. I would often wonder where she was during that time. She eventually went home, married a much older man, almost as controlling as her father. Funny, right? Thanks again.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      Wonderful as always Reatha. I had to re-read the whole thing just to grasp your story fully because I was sleepy when I read your work. I do feel sad for what happened to Tommie though. There’s a little part of me that wants Tommie to be saved, but then there’s this bigger part of me that says, life doesn’t always work the way you want them to.

      I have to admit I do feel jealous that I could never do the way you guys describe every detail and moment. It’s very much sophisticated yet clear enough to me to comprehend, compared to what I write, hopefully in the future (near would be nice), I do get better. Splendid job with this!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Raf. This is a great place to try new things, so keep writing. I’ve also learned a lot from reading other stories. Thanks again.

    3. Beebles

      A nod to the little matchgirl and so beautifully told once again. I am a sucker for tales of injustices, of betrayals of innocence, of inescapable dilemmas – victims of circumstance and forces beyond the mc’s control. I can still feel the sense of desperation at the plight of the MC (whose name escapes me) and her friend in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase when they were in the children’s home – I may be misremembering details – but such a powerful feeling of helplessness against authority. Much as I feel when charged hidden fees by big corporations (but enough of my politics) I have to say its one of the driving forces in my longer work. I’ll shut up now.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you. I’m also moved by stories of injustice, both in fiction and real life. I don’t know your reference, but will try to find it, and reread little match girl.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, Joseph. This is much appreciated, and I miss your stories when you don’t post, but I truly understand how busy life can get.

  38. cosi van tutte

    Jeeves tucked his blonde hair behind his ears. He wasn’t sure what was harder to get used to: the color or the length. Both made him feel all wrong and twitchy.

    It was, of course, Wooster’s fault.

    Wooster had said the wrong thing one too many times. He had worn that cheap bolero jacket one too many times. He had worn that straw boater one too many times. He had to be rescued from Honoria Glossop, Madeline Bassett, and Aunt Agatha one too many times. He sang insipid, mindless songs and insisted that Jeeves sing along one too many times.

    Jeeves couldn’t take it anymore.

    He snapped.

    His mind snapped.

    He had gone upstairs to his quarters, packed a bag, went to the airport without Wooster, and randomly bought a ticket to Tahiti.

    And now.

    Jeeves buried his face in his hands and sighed. A deep, deep sigh that only disgraced butlers can truly know how to do.

    And he felt like the worst kind of disgrace.

    The kind of disgrace that enters a barbershop and insists on a bleach and dye job.

    The growing out hair thing had happened while on the island. It only added to his current disgrace.

    Wooster was going to be confuddled beyond all reasoning. He’d probably stare at Jeeves with that stunned codfish face of his, open and close his mouth far too many times, and declare that the whole matter was all quite smashing.

    Jeeves didn’t consider it smashing at all.

    Leaving Wooster had gone against his personal code as a gentleman’s valet. There were sure to be consequences and none of them would be pleasant.

    As the plane started down the runway, Jeeves wondered if it might be too late to stay in Tahiti a bit longer.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      cosi, you’ve been missed! Great story, I’ve loved Wooster and Jeeves for forever, and adore the actors in the TV version. You captured them beautifully.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Aww! Thank you, Reatha!

        Sorry I’ve missed the last three prompts. I’ve been sidetracked by a particular vampire with a bad attitude. He’s been insisting that I work on just his story. 😀

        I will try to keep up with the prompts, though. 🙂

    2. Observer Tim

      I’m only passing familiar with Jeeves and Wooster, but this still strikes my funny bone. I love the way you created the running gag with repetition of “one too many”. As usual, your understated wit is showing through! 🙂

  39. ShamelessHack

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to Mordor.

    Face it. It’s not that the Shire is boring as hell (it is), but Heidi, who lives in the bungalow down the lane, claimed I fondled the hair on her feet while her husband Blotto was out drinking with the other hobbits. Whether that’s true or not (she came on to me) is up to you to decide. But when I woke up this morning to find a troll’s head at the foot of my bed, I decided to grab an Uber for MKI (Middle Kingdom International) and hop on the next plane outta there.

    I’m met at Sauron Airport by a three-foot-tall limo driver holding up a sign with my name, Dildo Baggins. The driver’s a strange little fellow—pale skin, a Calvin Klein loincloth, obviously wasted on ale or something. I actually have to load the little sot into the town car along with my luggage. I should have stuck with Uber.

    “Where to precious?” he hisses over his shoulder from behind the wheel of the Caddy.

    “The nearest Hilton will do,” I say, absently twirling a gold ring on my third finger.

    “Yaaass, of course,” the driver grins.

    As we set out for Merlintown, I think, what can go wrong?

    Fast forward to now, and Gollum and I are locked in a life and death struggle on the edge of Mt. Doom.

    “Give me my precious,” the nasty little psycho is screaming as he tries to bite off my finger.

    “Not in this trilogy,” I inform him as I pull out my .38 and show him who’s lord of the rings around here. He falls into the steaming, bubbling magma a mile below. I toss the gun in after him, and hope they don’t have cameras in this volcano.

    I make my way down the mountain to the limo, get behind the wheel, and set off for another mythical realm. Miami will do just fine.

    Lots of hairy feet in South Beach, I’ll bet.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Oh. My. Gosh! I loved this!
      This line in particular cracked me up: “Not in this trilogy,” I inform him as I pull out my .38 and show him who’s lord of the rings around here.” 😆 This Baggins means business! lol

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      This reality bending story is just wonderful, I like it very much! Though I gotta admit, I haven’t watched at least one movie of the lord of the rings, still, your story was too good to not keep on reading. Great job!

    3. jhowe

      Brilliant episode. Very creative writing here. Cool way to bring up Dildo’s name with the airport sign. (Isn’t that a city in Newfoundland or something?) Thanks for the ride.

  40. cosi van tutte

    Jeeves tucked his blonde hair behind his ears. He wasn’t sure what was harder to get used to: the color or the length. Both made him feel all wrong and twitchy.

    It was, of course, Wooster’s fault.

    Wooster had said the wrong thing one too many times. He had worn that cheap bolero jacket one too many times. He had worn that cockamamie straw boater one too many times. He had to be rescued from Honoria Glossop, Madeline Bassett, and Aunt Agatha one too many times. He sang insipid, mindless songs and insisted that Jeeves sing along one too many times.

    Jeeves couldn’t take it anymore.

    He snapped.

    His mind literally snapped.

    He had gone upstairs to his quarters, packed a bag, went to the airport without Wooster, and randomly bought a ticket to Tahiti.

    And now.

    Jeeves buried his face in his hands and sighed. A deep, deep sigh that only disgraced butlers can truly know how to do.

    And he felt like the worst kind of disgrace.

    The kind of disgrace that enters a barbershop and insists on a bleach and dye job.

    The growing his hair out had happened while on the island. It only added to his current disgrace.

    Wooster was going to be confuddled beyond all reasoning. He’d probably stare at Jeeves with that stunned codfish face of his, open and close his mouth far too many times, and declare that the whole matter was all quite smashing.

    Jeeves didn’t consider it smashing at all.

    Leaving Wooster had gone against his personal code as a gentleman’s valet. There were sure to be consequences and none of them would be pleasant.

    As the plane started down the runway, Jeeves wondered if it might be too late to stay in Tahiti a bit longer.

  41. RafTriesToWrite

    It’s decided then.

    I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to the next immediate and available flight to wherever. I didn’t even checked where I’m going when I booked that flight, I just know that I’m gonna be out of here in the next three hours.

    I drove my worn out scarlet Chevy Sonic to LAX, but I kept feeling that I may have forgotten something. Did I forget to water my bonsai tree? Did I forget to feed my stubborn peeing everywhere cat? Or did I leave a faucet open again? I can’t remember.

    My determined self disappeared at the the thought of the last problem. What if I did leave that darn faucet open again? I can’t have my landlord angry again or else I have to move out of there. But I’m so close to the airport.

    “Whatever” I said to myself in defeat. I don’t care anymore, I just want to get out of here, away from my problems, away from that stupid cat that pees literally everywhere even on my laptop that I always put at the top of the bookshelf in an attempt to make it stop from peeing at least from my laptop. I can’t even tell if my cat is stupid or just has an awful distaste for me being it’s owner.

    I felt like an accomplished man when I set foot on the airport doors, I’ve never done something unexpected as flying off to a random country by myself. I did went to Singapore once with my parents, just to see what’s in their Universal Studios, fun times.

    As the time for boarding slowly approached I looked at my itinerary to see where I’m going to.

    “Philippines. Huh.” I murmured. I don’t even know where that is, but I don’t care. I got up, bought some coffee from the nearest mcdonald’s I could find and boarded my plane.

    The plane took off smoothly and the flight seemed to have no end to it. How far is Philippines anyway? When I was about to search it in my phone our plane suddenly hit a bump. A quick bump in mid-air, which was very unsettling and disturbing.

    “Attention passengers this is your captain speaking, we are currently having some air turbulence, please stay on your seats and buckle up and this will be over before you know it.” The voice in the speaker stopped. Air turbulence they say?

    I swallowed as I closed my eyes and held firmly on my seat, my stomach not being cooperative, I felt that I’m about to puke, I struggled to find a paper bag to puke on, until the plane hit more bumps, this time more frequent, vicious and very unforgiving.

    “Why didn’t you tell them that the engine’s failing?” The voice in the speaker said, his voice full of anxiety and worry, it wasn’t the captain.

    “It’s better to keep them calm in situations like this” Now this was the captain, sounding all calm and in control.

    Only then it resonated in my head what the other man said to the captain. The engine is failing!

    “But we might fall any second now!” The other man said through the speakers, a little bit louder than before. The people around me started to panic, whispers turned into screams, laughter turned into weeping and I felt like there’s nothing I could do. I fear that we’re at the mercy of the winds now.

    “Wait what’s that?” The other man in the speaker said.

    “You left-” The captain started but it was cut off short. I suppose their conversation wasn’t meant to be heard by the passengers. Now I really started to panic, my sudden urge to barf disappeared as we his a big bump and felt an explosion coming from the back of the plane.

    It was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time, dark clouds, the tail of the plane missing, the back of the plane now looks like a portal to hell with the fire around it and the darkness that followed.

    I then felt the heat coming from the bottom of my feet, that irritating heat, it’s as if I was standing on cat pee.

    I opened my eyes, sweat surrounded my face, sat up straight and saw my cat still peeing on my foot, not caring if I saw it or not.

    I’m glad though, the cat saved me. What was I even dreaming about?

    “Flying out of the country? Pffft!” I shrugged it off knowing my shift is about to start at the toll booth.

    Who was I kidding!? I can’t even afford a boat ride to Hawaii without starving myself to death, let alone a plane ticket to whatever country was it in my dream.

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      Sorry for the typos and everything else. I never knew how hard it was to write under pressure. I did this before going to work, I was, so to speak, tardy.

    2. Observer Tim

      Nice take, Raf. As authors we have to be careful with the dream motif, but you kept it low key enough that it works. The story is an interesting study of a man whose worldview keeps him at home.

      The only downside I can see were some grammar issues and a bent idiom or two, but given you were in a rush that’s to be expected. Nice job.

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Hey Tim! Yep, I see the grammar issues, sorry ’bout that. As for the “bent idiom or two”, I wasn’t even aware that I used an idiom, I just wrote what came to mind. Gonna inspect my work again in search of that.

        Thank you for your candor, I appreciate it very much.

        Just gotta keep writing ’till I get better. 🙂

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Raf, I like how you turned the dream thing so I didn’t suspect that’s what it was until your reveal. I also really like how your peeing cat saved the day. Keep it up!

    4. jhowe

      I really dislike this peeing cat. He’s gotta go. Cool little piece. I didn’t see the dream coming until the end. Since it’s a dream, you might want to consider shaving down some of the details that might not be recounted with the telling of the dream such as the color of the car and so on. You mentioned the typos and the pressure of getting to work. I always write my story and then come back to it to try to get it as clean as possible. It doesn’t always work, but I catch a lot of things. Good writing and keep it up.

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Hey jhowe, I disliked our cat as well when it was peeing like crazy but it wasn’t as extreme as the cat in my story, it was a tad exaggerated compared to our cat when we had him. I wanted to, if I’m being totally honest.

        As for this sentence: “Since it’s a dream, you might want to consider shaving down some of the details that might not be recounted with the telling of the dream such as the color of the car and so on.” English is not my first language, though I do understand reading English, but I’m afraid I can’t decipher what you’ve just said, can you perhaps, if it’s not too much, put it in layman’s terms?

        Perhaps I should’ve done what you’ve said, I could’ve saved it in Microsoft Word and come back to it later after work or during my downtime from work. I’ll definitely try not to rush it the next time I write.

        Thank you so much for the advice, I truly appreciate it. I’ll be taking notes from all of you guys who helped me and will help me construct better stories in the future. Write on! 🙂

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Thanks Beebles, I do wanted the cat to do something but I never expected it to steal the show, I was just writing what I felt and bam! There it went.

  42. jhowe

    Delightful. Love how you just dig right in like we spend a lot of time on the moon, and when the story’s over, it seems just that. Excellent example of show, don’t tell.

  43. Cceynowa

    All’s well that ends….

    “I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport, and randomly bought a ticket to Madagascar. Well, not really bought, I exchanged our two tickets to Bora Bora for one last minute flight change. “

    The man offered me a coffee, and I requested two sugars and a creamer. Black coffee tended to upset my stomach. The man had made a few notes on the pad of paper beside him as we spoke. His handwriting was far too small for me to clearly make out. “So, buying the ticket was the most unpredictable thing you’ve ever done?”

    “Well, yeah. I mean, I know Madagascar is a little out of the ordinary, but have you Googled it? The beaches are beautiful, and the wildlife, and… well, do you have kids?”

    “No.”

    “But you know the movies, with the zebra and the lion? Madagascar is fun, and inviting, and totally what I needed. The exchange price was right with no overage. I used what I had.”

    A woman came into the room and whispered into the man’s ear while I sipped my coffee. The stuff was awful, but it was at least warm in my hands. My short sleeved sundress was designed for comfortable travel and exotic beaches, not cold metal chairs and harsh lighting. The man made a few notes and nodded as the woman continued. Her eyes never ventured to my face, even as she was leaving.

    “I really don’t understand why I’m here. Buying a ticket out of country isn’t illegal. And people call off weddings all the time. AND,” I emphasized this since the man didn’t seem to get it, “catching my cheating fiancé with his sleazy secretary certainly warrants calling off the wedding. Nothing unpredictable about that.”

    “Ms. Daniels,” he spoke slowly with an irritating southern drawl, “as you were informed at the airport, you are being held in connection to the disappearance of Mr. Roger Phillman and Ms. Abigale Jones. Again, walk me through finding the two of them together. That was two days ago? Friday night?”

    I sighed and set my coffee aside. “Yes. I had gone to Roger’s apartment, and let myself to drop off color samples for the pew-ends’ bows. He said he was going to be out of town on business. I was supposed to be at my mom’s all weekend, but left early cause her and I fought over the wedding dinner entrée. I entered the apartment and though I heard him in the bedroom. I found him and her. I screamed. She screamed. I threw my ring at his bare ass and ran out. I cried and drove for hours. No, I can’t tell you where I went. Sometime around three in the morning I went home and looked up what I could exchange the tickets for. End of story.”

    “And you did not think to tell anyone the wedding was off?”

    “I couldn’t face the shame. Have you interviewed my mother? Do so. You’ll understand.”

    “So you were just going to disappear? To a country that enforces non extradition?”

    “I guess if I’d of flown to Bora Bora and cashed his ticket in it wouldn’t have been a big deal?”

    “It would have been far less suspicious.”

    “Duly noted. Now, charge me or let me go.”

    Three months later I was soaking up the sun at the Laguna Blu resort. I knew I was never going to see my family again, but, then again, neither was Roger or Abigale.

    ###

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Loved it. Any man who cheats that close to the wedding deserves whatever he gets. Plus, I’m certain he’d never have chosen the right pew-bow color.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great entertainment Coey
        Fast paced, interesting, story moves well. Reader gets inside of main characters.and realizes whatever she did to then was deserved
        Just make sure if I meet you, not to let me double cross you.

  44. Observer Tim

    WHEREVER
    by Derryn 417

    I’ve never done anything impulsive, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the spaceport and bought a ticket to Wherever. I messaged work that I was leaving before the company went down like New Atlantis and telling them where to send my severance; they sent back an automated thank-you note. It was typical of them: equal parts cheeky and clueless.

    The three-hour shuttle flight up and around to the far side of the moon was pretty dull; I was seated next to a pair of teens in VR rigs, literally in a world of their own, so there would be no conversation. Looking out the window showed the endless dark of space broken by brilliantly-lit advertising satellites. One series of signs caught my eye for a few moments, reading “DON’T LOSE / YOUR AIR / BECAUSE OF / CHIN HAIR / LUNA SHAVE.”

    The port of Wherever is located on the side of the Moon directly opposite Earth which makes the gravity calculations for interstellar travel easier; at least that’s what the eggheads say. To the casual traveler it’s a chaotic shantytown of about four million people, all on their way somewhere else. Many don’t make it.

    I quickly attracted a small cloud of people intent in separating me from some credits. The locks on my bag were new and secure, so I was relatively immune to pickpockets, but that same new gear brought the attention of the beggars. They couldn’t actually block my way without drawing the attention of the gendarmes, but weaving my way through the crowd was by no means hasty or direct.

    A woman fell in step beside me; she was my age give or take five years, clean and fairly neatly dressed but with a look that said she’d been here a while. I was about to move away when she spoke to me.

    “Hey Nub, looking for something?”

    My brain raced. What was she? Scammer? Prostitute? Huckster? Tour guide? I used my best snappy comeback. “Huh?”

    “You look lost. Buy me lunch and I can set you straight.”

    So, she was a scammer, or a tour guide. Or something. The less time I spent around her the safer I was. “Look, can you just tell me where the Tick-O-Mats are?”

    Her laugh was clear and musical, but mocking all the same. “I don’t sell it for free, Nub; I’m a registered sophistute. I can help you get around, but there’s a price. And that price starts with lunch. Don’t worry, I can see that you don’t get totally ripped off.”

    “What’s a, a sophistute, did you say?”

    “You are a newbie. Prostitutes sell their bodies, sophistutes sell their brains. I’ve been here three years, and I can get you on a ship out if you want. But right now I need lunch, so that’s where we start. Let’s go.”

    That’s how I met Rina, and where the long strange trip began.

    1. Observer Tim

      FIRST LESSON

      Rina led me to Khun’s, which is a restaurant only because people eat there and they charge money for it. We each got a brick of something greenish-teal and about twice the size of a deck of playing cards, with the consistency of wet bread and the taste of synthetic corn. Once we’d found a place to sit she started.

      “What’s your name, Nub?”

      “Derryn. I’m from Earth.”

      “Yeah, that’s kind of obvious. I’m Rina, short for none-of-your-business. Let me guess, you took the tube to the wrong level.”

      “I went to the one marked ‘Temporary Accommodations’. I thought I’d take a few days and sort out my next destination.”

      Her incredibly green eyes widened. “You came here deliberately?

      “I didn’t think it would be like this…”

      “Obviously. Most people with enough money to buy a ticket head straight to the Departures level where the hotels are. Anyway, have you ever used a sophistute before?”

      “I’ve never even heard of a sophistute before.”

      “It’s like this; I charge ten creds an hour, and during that hour I help you think more clearly. I keep you out of the trouble ignorance causes; we can also chat for entertainment, whatever powers your hyperdrive. And despite the similarity of names, there’s no physical stuff involved. Clear?”

      “So you’re sort of like Rent-a-Friend?”

      “I guess, but without the corporate backup. Now, how far in advance would you like to pay?”

      “In advance?”

      “I can’t exactly take things out of your head if you refuse to pay.”

      “Look, I have a better idea; I’ll set up an auto-transfer to your account.” I mated our wrist-computers and arranged for a transfer of 10 creds, once an hour until I stopped it. When the action was up and running I looked up at her. “There, it’s done. Now what do I need to know to stay safe?”

      “Well,” she polished off the last of her food brick and looked me square in the eyes. “the first thing is never set up credit auto-transfers. What’s to stop me killing you now and just waiting for your account to run dry?”

      “What!? You wouldn’t do that!”

      “I wouldn’t, but there’s a lot of people here who would; this place isn’t safe. If you want to be safe, get your pasty Earth arse up to the Departures level and don’t let off the gee’s until you’re past Alpha Centauri. Or go back down the well to Earth and wait for the economy to finish collapsing. But if you want to live, stay here with me until you’ve got your feet under you. What’ll it be, Ryn?”

      “Ryn?”

      “That’s what I’m calling you; Derryn is a nub name. So, are you going to stay here or go running back to the Mommy world?”

      When she put it that way I really didn’t have a choice; I hate having pride. Anyway, her estimate of where things on Earth were headed was pretty accurate.

      “I’m staying.”

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Tim, great to have you back. The world you gave us this time is darker and bleaker than usual, but fascinating, and I like Rina. I do hope there is more.

      2. RafTriesToWrite

        I’m pretty much hooked on your story Tim! It’s both exciting and mysterious, I’d love to know what happens next to be honest. 🙂

      3. calinamircea

        I loved the story, I want more! I like the sophistute concept, sounds like a life coach, but more affordable and practical. And with a more appropriate name.

      4. Beebles

        A pleasure to read. Your phrasing seems to make reading easy, like Dr Seuss for adults – not that he isn’t anyway. However, i digress. I got a good impression of what a wicked wicked world it is out there.

      5. JosephFazzone

        Tim!!! Hey man! Great story! I love the line about being without the corporate backup. There are freelance and corporate, lawful and vagrant people running around offering this service. I see this story expanding. Great concept!

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      I do enjoy me some outer space adventure. I really love this Tim! Your descriptions are quite exquisite, it’s almost as if I’m there with your MC Nub. Onto the next one!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I thought your story and approach to that type of world was excellent. I’m also happy to have you back while reading, the bar scene from the first stat wars kept pushing my mind. Are you sure your mind hadn’t been taken over by an evil empire
        It’s just possible you have no memory of the last six weeks while your mind had been altered by these things that exist. Consider it possible.

COMMENT