Hallucinations Galore!

A ferocious storm is moving into your town: 40 mph winds, hail, the whole deal. But you are a postal worker, and you operate no matter the weather, out you go. As you drive along, a tree branch falls in front of you and you slam into it, knocking yourself unconscious. You wake up and start hallucinating. What do you see?

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

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215 thoughts on “Hallucinations Galore!

  1. wheeler04

    THE MAIL MUST GO THROUGH

    The rain had been coming down all afternoon, yet I’m compelled to finish delivering all the mail on my route. My route ends on Riverview Road, the last road you want to be on during a heavy rain storm being that it often closes due to flooding. Up ahead Blackwell Mills Rd intersects Riverview at the Causeway Bridge. At this point the Millstone River, which more or less runs parallel to the road, is only 30 feet from the road, making that intersection a prime location for flooding. Other areas along Riverview that posed a flood risk were reconstructed to alleviate the hazard. However this area, being in the middle of a rural area of Hillsborough, isn’t considered worth the price or time for corrective engineering.

    I approach Noreen Maslyn’s house as the rain becomes heavier. The flag is up on her mailbox meaning she has letters to be picked up. No problem. The wind almost separates the mail from my hand as I grab her outgoing mail and place her incoming mail into her box. After placing her letters in a white plastic tub that sits next to me, I pull away from the curb. My day is done and now I’m heading back to the office.

    A quarter mile ahead, at the Causeway Bridge, my fears come true as the road is already covered with water. I approach the intersection slowly, trying to gauge the depth of the water. Between the heavy rain and wind, it’s nearly impossible to do. I stick my head out the window and see that the water is only up to the hub. If I go slowly, I should be okay.

    I make it through the intersection and continue south on Riverview. The wind and rain has now intensified, making it nearly impossible to see through the windshield, despite the wipers working at feverish pitch. The road bends to the right slightly and I know that the road will soon begin to ascend. However, it’s here where my trip ends.

    The cracking sound gives me only a few seconds warning, not enough time to move out of my seat. The tree hits the front of the mail truck, crushing the hood into the motor. Its branch comes smashing through the windshield and catches me on the side of the head.

    “Greg! Greg! Are you alright?”

    I open my eyes as I feel the blood and rain cascading down my face. Through the leaves of the branch I see the face of my copilot, Bill.

    “What happened?” I ask.

    “Saboteurs! Fed Ex agents littered the road with fallen trees and UPS renegades blew up the dam, flooding the road. Those bastards are trying to prevent us from getting the mail through.”

    “Like hell they will,” I proclaim grabbing the axe from behind my seat. I step out into the pouring rain and with two swipes of the axe I disconnect the branch from the trunk. After dislodging it from the windshield, I then push the tree trunk off the hood of the truck. I check the propellers and wings for any signs of damage. Climbing back into the truck I give Bill the okay to take off.

    “Don’t have enough runway space.”

    I jam the gears into reverse and back the truck up about 10 feet.

    “That should be enough room!” I yell over to Bill, as the rain continues to pour in through the shattered windshield. The roar of the propellers almost drowns out the pounding of the rain on the truck. However, no matter how hard they strain, the propellers can’t lift the truck.

    “Too much weight. We can’t lift off.”

    I jump from my seat and climb to the back of the truck. I see about 30 tubs of mailed letters lined up. I grab an empty parcel sack and start dumping the letters into it. When finished, I place the sack into a brightly colored vinyl Express Mail bag. I raise the back door of the truck. The water level is even with the truck’s bumper, furiously flowing toward the bridge. I toss the empty tubs into the water and watch as they float down river.

    “OK, Bill, go now!”

    The propellers roar again to no avail.

    “Still too heavy! Jettison the Mail!”

    “No, Never! It’s our solemn duty to protect and deliver the mail! Remember, The Mail Must Go Through!”

    I glance out the back to survey the situation and find the entire area is flooded. To my left are the cliffs, which looks to be the only way out.

    “I’ll take the mail with me,” I yell to Bill. “Meet me at the top of the cliffs.”

    I grab hold of the mail sack and jump into the water. I can’t touch the bottom so I have to swim to the cliffs. It’s hard going, only swimming with one arm as I must keep the mail above the water level. My task is continuously hampered by debris floating into me. With a resolve of purpose, I finally reach the foot of the cliffs.

    The rocks are slippery, difficult to climb. Then a new threat. Saboteurs at the top of the cliff begin dropping rocks and logs down at me. I’m able to shift to the side and seek refuge under a ledge. At this point, pain and fatigue overcome me and I slip into unconsciousness.

    Patrolman Miller sits in the Postmaster’s office, continuing his report.

    “I had just put up the “closed road” barrier at the Causeway Bridge when I noticed a few white Postal tubs floating down the street. I drove south past the bridge and around the bend where I found the mail truck. A tree had fallen across the hood, smashing it and the windshield. The back door was open, but there was no mail or driver. I was going to drive away when I noticed the brightly colored mail sack. The carrier apparently climbed the embankment to carry the mail to the corner, but he passed out from the blow to his head. He was taken to the hospital and I brought your mail in.”

    “Well, thanks for your help,” the Postmaster says as he rises. “As soon as things settle down here, I’ll run up to see Greg. You say he’ll be okay?”

    “Yeah, he has a concussion and a lot of small cuts from the broken windshield, but he’ll survive. Funny thing. He kept fighting the medics as they were wheeling him into surgery, mumbling something them being saboteurs, trying to stop him. Kept repeating “the mail must go through!”

  2. cosi van tutte

    And one last one before the prompt changes. Sorry about the length. 🙂

    My boss is insane. Nuts. Coo-coo. He’s gone off his rocker and onto the floor crawling on all fours shouting “Gaa-gaa. Goo-Goo.”

    I mean, why else would he send me out to deliver mail during the worst storm of the century? What normal boss would do such a thing? Of course, I tried to object, but he launched himself face first into the Postal Delivery Person’s Life Motto. “In the rain and in the snow and in the hail and without sail, the postal delivery person will go out there and deliver the mail.”

    And he wouldn’t listen to any objections.

    So, yeah.

    It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, but the sky is so dark it might as well be midnight. There’s thunder and lightning and rain and just whole big buckets of fun.

    And here I am. Trying to deliver mail in my ancient Volvo with its one blinking headlight and one dead headlight. I’m trying to stay in a positive mental place, but I just keep thinking that I’m a horrible accident waiting to happen. All I need is for a random deer to pop out of nowhere or…

    A random guy.

    Lightning flashes and I see him. Just one small second before Whoomp! I hit him.

    I stop the car and sit still. I should go out and check on him, but it’s lightning out there! I’ve heard all the horror stories about lightning strike victims winding up with blackened feet and catching on fire and something about their hearts exploding. Nuh-uh. I don’t want to go out there.

    But I really should check on him. Not sure what I can do if he’s horribly mangled. I know I won’t be much help. I’d be too busy freaking out that I horribly mangled someone.

    But I can’t do nothing. And yes. Sitting here in the car counts as doing nothing.

    So, yeah. I get out of the car.

    Lightning flashes in bold purple streaks. I hop back in my car and slam the door. Maybe I can wait it out. A storm this bad is bound to blow over, right? Probably wrong.

    I give it another try. I get out of the car and run over to him. Please don’t let me be hit by lightning. Please don’t let me be hit by lightning. Please don’t…

    Well. Here’s some good news. He isn’t horribly mangled. But the weird thing is, he doesn’t seem to be hurt at all. As best as I can tell, anyway. But he is unconscious.

    So. Now, what do I do? I should probably drag him back to my car and race him to a nearby hospital. But he’s very well built. I am not so well built. I am built like a wimpy armed girl who can barely lift ten pounds, which is just about right.

    But I can’t leave him in the lightning and the rain. That would be outright inhumane. I shrug and decide to give it a try. I grab his arms and try to drag him to my car. All like five thousand pounds of him.

    I release his arms and they fall without any resistance. Which gets me all worried. Maybe my attempt to move him broke his spine or his spleen or something worse.

    I retreat to my car and call 911. But, believe it or not, the phone line is busy. Why is the 911 phone line busy? Don’t they have twelve thousand lines open all the time for such emergencies? I could call the emergency room, but I don’t know their number. So, what am I supposed to do now?

    I decide to check on him again. I get out of my car and shriek.

    He’s standing! What? How? And…How?

    He looks at me, but his eyes are unfocused. He staggers forward a couple of steps and then stands there, wobbling.

    “Are you okay?” The deranged stupidity of that question makes me blush. I mean, come on! The guy just got hit by a car in a thunderstorm and he’s standing there looking like he wants to tip over and die. I don’t think he’s okay.

    Lightning flashes.

    He stops wobbling and focuses on me. I have a strong desire to jump in my car and drive to Nebraska. But I feel responsible for him. I did hit him with my car. So, I reluctantly stay put.

    “Elsie.” He walks towards me. His gait is smooth and easy. Not at all the gait of a MVA victim. This is all too weird for me. I wish that this was a vivid daydream or some inexplicable hallucination, but I know that it’s real.

    to be continued…

    1. cosi van tutte

      He stops too close in front of me. Lightning flashes again and I can see that his eyes are black. “You will take me to Elsie Vansing.”

      He says it like he’s trying to use the Force on me. I’m tempted to ask him if he thinks he’s a Jedi Knight, but I have a strange feeling that he wouldn’t get the reference.

      “I should take you to the hospital first.” I can’t believe how rational I sound. But something in his gaze makes me feel calm and relaxed. I barely even notice the lightning.

      He frowns as if I’ve done an inappropriate ad-lib. “No hospital. They don’t…They can’t help me. I need to see Elsie.”

      “I don’t know her.”

      “I do.” He walks over to my passenger side door and opens it.

      “Wait! What do you think you’re doing?”

      He tosses my box of mail into the back seat, sits down, and closes the door.

      I open my door and poke my head inside. “Get out! This is government property!”

      He gives me a look that plainly says he don’t care one hoot about what is or isn’t government property. “I am not well.”

      “Well, that’s all the more reason to get out of my car. Besides, I’m not supposed to pick up hitchhikers.”

      He looks offended. “I am not a hitchhiker. I am a vampire and I need Elsie’s help.”

      Oh, great. He’s a crazy hitchhiker. Isn’t that my luck?

      “I’ve been imprisoned at some God-forsaken carnival.” His expression darkened. “In a freak show. Expected to perform to a paid audience. Even in daylight.” He leans my passenger seat back and closes his eyes. “I am not well. Elsie will be able to help me.” And, after that bout of exposition, he falls asleep.

      I sit in the driver’s seat and think it over. I can’t drag him out. But I do not want to sit right next to a crazy guy who thinks he’s a vampire and drive him to who knows where.

      I look at him, snoring away. Some vampire he is. He isn’t even wearing a cape. I poke him until he wakes up.

      “Whazza?” He clears his throat. “What?” He glances around. “Why aren’t we at Elsie’s yet?”

      “Because I have no idea who Elsie is.”

      He sighs like I’m being totally stupid. “She’s a vampire hunter. Take me to her.”

      “A vampire hunter? You sure she’ll be able to help you? I mean, isn’t it her job to kill vampires?” In the back of my mind, I realize that this is the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had with any guy.

      “She won’t kill me.”

      “Oh, yeah? Why’s that?”

      “None of your business.”

      “Oh, aren’t you the charmer. How do I even know that you are a vampire?”

      “You hit me with your car and I was able to walk away. Are you certain you need more proof than that?”

      “Well.” I think it over. “I don’t want you to bite my neck, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

      He looks disappointed, which creeps me out.

      “Do you have…” I shrug. “I don’t know. Some sort of vampire id card or something?”

      “No.” He smiles, baring his fangs. “How’s that for an id?”

      Could be a weird cosmetic surgery thing, but I don’t want him to try them out on me. “Close enough.”

      “Good. Take me to Elsie.” He leans back into his seat and closes his eyes. “I’ll direct you.”

      “What’s your name?”

      He sighs. “What does it matter?”

      “It matters plenty. Like I said, this is a government issued car and I’m not supposed to carry any passengers. I’d like to know who I’m breaking the law for.”

      He opens his eyes a peek. “My name is Ambrose. Now. Drive.”

    2. Observer Tim

      I find your MC/Narrator’s voice fascinating here, Cosi. I can almost feel the beaten-down civil servant in the writing style. It also shows in how she reacts to the presence of the undead in her life; do you actually work in a government office? Very well done! 🙂

      It’s great to see Elsie and Ambrose come back; looks like he needs her again. I get the impression that vampires in this world are not treated with the degree of fear and respect that is usually their due. It’s a very interesting concept. For some reason my mind was drawn to Grandpa’s quip at the end of the Lost Boys (One thing I hate about Santa Carla – it’s all the damned vampires.)

  3. catbr

    The winds are picking up some. Hell, the frigging branches are bending and swaying so much it looks like they’re going to break off of the trees. But at least it’s not hailing. Thoughts of the weather report on the noon hour local radio station were playing in Leo’s head. He had to make 3 more deliveries before he could finally go home. The morning had gone smoothly enough with calm weather and partly sunny skies
    .
    Holy crap, that hail is the size of golfballs. The thumping and smashing against the postal delivery van was getting noisier and way out of hand. Maybe I’d better pull over for a few minutes, Leo thought.

    Screech. Smash. Out of nowhere a huge branch had appeared in the middle of the road which was impossible for Leo to avoid due to the poor visibility and slippery road conditions.

    Never being the outgoing type, Leo was surprised to be in front of a large crowd. They were all looking at Leo and cheering him on. Well this is awkward. Leo had no idea why they were cheering, so he just looked at them and gave them his half grin smile and started waving at them.

    Bang. The punch landed on the side of Leo’s head, snapping it over. It threw him over quite a few a few wobbly steps and it stung like a bee. He was in a fight with a monster, it seemed, 8 feet tall and muscles the size of basketballs. Sweat was dripping from his forehead as well as blood. Monster man was going to pulverize Leo. Why isn’t anyone helping me? I’m too frail and young to die.

    “Hey mister T, er I mean, mister Hulk, uhhh, what was your name again?” Leo unexpectedly let out a nervous little laugh. He was trembling all over with fear.

    “Listen here you little piece of shit, don’t you try to antagonize me. I’m gonna rip ya apart at the seams, Ya hear me?”

    “Uh, yeah. I hear ya, er I mean you. Let’s be sensible shall we.” Leo whipped around and started running as fast as he could from the beast and the crowd. Today isn’t the day I want to die. The snorting and blowing sounds were getting closer and closer. “Get back here and fight like a man you little …..”

    “Nooo. Take your hands off of me. I don’t want to die. Please don’t hurt me.” Leo was crying his eyes out and squirming around.

    “Relax mister. Everything’s going to be okay now. You’re in the hospital. You only got a bump on the head and some bruises but the doctor ordered x-rays anyway just to be sure.” said the hospital aid.

    Leo never felt so relieved in his entire life. “What happened to that huge man that was after me.”

    The hospital aid looked at Leo and thought maybe they should be taking a brain scan instead. “There was no huge man but the police said that there was a small dog and some kids at the accident scene who found you after the storm let up. The kids said the dog liked you enough and wouldn’t leave your side.” the hospital aid rolled his eyes. “Maybe that was the huge man that was after you.” He chuckled at that one to himself.

    Leo just wanted to get the x-rays done and over with so he could go home.

  4. Katia.Snow

    The lighting flashed through my window and the thunder shook my house to the core. I was in my kitchen, flicking listlessly through the day-old newspaper. The coffee pot started to whistle. I yawned and took off the pot from the stove, pouring it into a cup of milk. Funny fact about me, I’ll always add the milk first, then the coffee. Tossing the newspaper into the garbage bin, I drank my coffee quickly and picked up my keys. The wind was beating outside, and the last thing I wanted to do was to go outside to my car, but unfortunately, it was my job to go out every day of the week except Sunday, to deliver mail. I fastened my coat on and slipped on my hood. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and stepped outside. The first thing that I felt was the wave of rain that hit my face. I quickly locked the door behind me and ran to my car. My keys slipped out of my hand. Cursing, I knelt down and searched through the mud until I found them again. I stood up and quickly entered my car, even though I was now sopping wet. I sighed, but started my ignition after wiping the mud off my keys. I slowly pulled out of my driveway, and started to drive to the post office. The weather slowed down my progress. Another boom echoed through the sky. I glanced up at the sky for a moment, pausing to marvel at the sheer beauty of a grey and stormy sky. I focused back on the road, realizing I was in the wrong lane. I swerved to avoid the car, and the wet and slippery road didn’t help. My car hit the curb, and the next thing I heard was a loud crash. The air bag popped out of nowhere, hitting me full in face. I groaned. My head hurt terribly, and that’s the last thing I remember…

    Beep! Beep! Beep!
    I groaned, and reached out to snooze my alarm clock. Only, I couldn’t reach it. I opened my eyes, and I was aware of two things at once: my head hurt, and there was something soft in my face. I pushed the soft material back. Oh, I thought. It’s the airbag. Then, it all came back to me! I took my eyes of the road, and then I crashed! Beep! Beep! Beep! I frowned. What was making that noise? I peered outside. All I could see was brown. I swung open my door and stepped outside. Beep! Beep! Beep! I looked around. My eyes fell on a red and blue flower, which seemed to be hiccupping each time, emitting the sound. My eyes widened. I decided I would investigate later, because I realized that my car was damaged. Looking back at it, I saw that I had slammed into a tree, causing a branch to fall down and completely shatter my windshield.
    “How much will this cost me?” I gasped.
    “Three hundred and two dollars,” someone said. I jumped.
    “Who said that?” I demanded.
    “Down here, genius,” the voice said again. I looked down and saw…a purple rabbit looking back up at me. He was wearing Harry Potter style glasses and had a carrot in hand.
    “Um…hello?”
    “Good day to you, Miss Davis.”
    “How do you…what…do I know you?” I said. “Wait, how are you talking?”
    “Oh, excuse me,” the rabbit said. “My name is Cornelius Phineas John Thomas the Third.”
    “Uh…right. Of course,” I stuttered.
    “Well, enough chitchat, let us go.”
    The rabbit started to hop away. I looked back at my car, but I stayed rooted to the spot. Cornelius looked back at me impatiently.
    “Well, hurry up, we haven’t got all day.”
    I frowned. Was a rabbit ordering me around? My legs moved against my own will. For the first time, I realized that no one was around, and the rain had stopped. Would no one come to my rescue?
    “Oh, they all think that,” the rabbit said.
    “Think what?”
    “That the town’s empty. But you forget, Miss Davis, that it’s six in the morning.”
    “Right. I’m dreaming, right?”
    “Hardly.”
    We walked into the Starbucks. I opened the door and Cornelius bounced in. At least someone was at the counter. I vaguely recognized him. Cornelius pulled on my pant leg, leading me towards a table. The first thing I noticed was the man sitting there. He looked like he belonged in 1939, because he was wearing an army uniform. He had a coffee in one hand, while tapping the table with his fingers. No one took notice of him. The guy behind the counter was looking at me with alarm.
    “Clara, are you hurt?” he asked, leaping over the counter and walking to me. Cornelius gave an impatient sigh, and held out his hind leg. The man tripped over it, hitting his head in the process. I cried out in shock.
    “Don’t worry, he’s fine. Just out cold,” the rabbit said, jumping onto the table.
    “What…okay, I am very confused right now,” I said. The soldier stood up and pulled up a chair for me, offering me a kind smile.
    “Please sit,” he said smoothly. I sat down, watching the strange pair warily. I noticed that the last seat was empty.
    “So… are you going to explain what is going on?” I asked. The soldier smiled kindly at me. He fished out a smartphone from his pocket, and handed it to me. I looked at it, and it seemed to show a picture of a hydra.
    “That explains everything,” I said sarcastically. I guess the soldiers didn’t get sarcasm, because he smiled even wider. “I was being sarcastic.”
    “Look, this hydra,” Cornelius said. “I dangerous.”
    “I couldn’t have figured it out on my own,” I muttered.
    “We need to stop it, and we need your help.”
    “Yeah, okay. Cornelius, you’re sure this isn’t a dream?” I interrupted.
    “No, it’s not. And my name is Cornelius Phineas John Thomas the Third. Please pay attention, Miss Davis.”
    “What we need, is your brain,” the soldier cut in. I laughed. The soldier frowned. “I…was being serious,” he said. I continued laughing, but I wasn’t sure why I found it funny. The rabbit tapped his foot impatiently on the table.
    “Where is that Bob?” he snapped.
    “Sorry?” I said.
    “Bob’s the guy who takes your brain out,” the soldier explained. My smile faded.
    “Oh. You’re serious.”
    To be continued…

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hey, Katia!

      This was wonderfully surreal in a messed up Alice in Wonderland sort of way. And just so you know, the description of the rabbit made me smile, especially the Harry Potter glasses. 😀

      I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  5. Blondy333

    This life was not for me, I did not choose the life of a postal worker. Why did I have to go to that family banquet, long story short I am drunk and signing a form saying ill be a postal worker for two years!
    Now in my best of luck here I am talking to myself… unconscious and in a van, under a tree. I feel funny can get out, yet I can see myself. But my sleeping, injured, unconscious self. This is not right.
    I cant touch the other me, but I can leave her. Am I dead? No it cant be, the body is breathing, I am obviously dreaming.
    I also see my thought dancing around me. No one sees the crash. I am in a neighborhood where they are paused but nothing else. This is no dream. Im hallucinating.
    Someone is now chasing me telling me im awake now. The apple on the girls pocket tells me im not outside. Where am I? I fall and when I look up im in a hospital. Of course the nice man wants me in a straight jacket, I keep screaming everything that comes to mind. Of course I cant control it im still seeing double and can only control half, of well me.

  6. JosephFazzone

    My head was pounding as my eyes tried to capture and hold an image, any image that didn’t reveal itself obscured and blurry. My fists felt like they plunged in drying mud as I raised them to my eyes and tried to massage them into functioning properly. The wind whipped at me in a parting good bye as they raced off to join the rest of the whirling vortex which recently wreaked havoc upon this tiny town.

    The streets were empty save the trash and debris that was blown everywhere and anywhere that would accommodate the randomness of their trajectory. They were pawns in a game of devastation, and they lay as broken corpses upon the now stillness that permeated the grounds.

    A tumble weed blew by, or did it just up and walk, I was sure I could detect a pair of boots and the sound of spurs jangling as it went down the street. The paved ground was now hard packed dirt, and I thought I heard a twang of a banjo in the distance. This wasn’t Kansas anymore. Come to think of it, it was never Kansas.

    A small broom ambled up to me, and said, “Buy you a drink, mister?”

    Well, yeah, the broom seemed sincere and friendly, but I think it was only fair on my part to yelp a bit in surprise that one, I didn’t see the broom sneak up on me like that, and two, brooms normally didn’t talk.

    “My brother’s a white oak barrel, charred, and currently sitting on a liter and a half of the finest bourbon Kentucky ever made.” The broom shook with anticipation.

    “Down into the belly of the beast lurks the demon known as inebriation”, a stray wagon wheel ventured an opinion.

    “Mind your own business”, the broom snapped, “your axle broke a year ago. It’s time to move on.”
    “As I am currently immobile”, the wagon wheel groaned, “I do not think I could make the journey you so speak of.”

    “Have a pint”, the broom barked, “and zip it!” To me it said, “Pay him no mind. Let us go.”

    My legs didn’t seem to want to move, and yet here I was in the saloon. It was a saloon, the wooden shelves kept bottles of all shapes and sizes, the solid wood stools, the piano in the corner, and the hat rack currently polishing an ivory stein with a clean rag stood their regarding me with an even temper.

    “Fancy a cocktail, sir?” it inquired of me.

    I looked to the corner of the now crowded saloon. There was furniture everywhere creaking and making scrapping downs as they moved about the room. The piano bench was currently playing some song, or perhaps it was just bashing the keys down in some form of pattern. It was discordant at best, although the armoire seemed to be enjoying the tune as it twirled on one of its legs.

    “Give him a bit of ole Pete with a single cube and an orange twist please”, the broom instructed the hat rack.
    The hat rack left for a moment, and came back with the bourbon poured into a rocks glass. I gazed at the pure amber color, and my mouth watered.

    “Hit it with some bitters”, instructed the broom.

    The hat rack complied splashing two dashes of the bitters on the drink. It became a darker reddish color. The hat rack then said, “That will be seven dollars please.”

    “It’s on Father’s tab”, the broom informed.

    The hat rack nodded, and left.

    I stared into the liquid mesmerized by the swirling amber and reddish hues. I sniffed the brilliant aromas of the oak and caramel notes, and as I put my lips to the glass, I allowed only a drop of it to touch my lips. The warmth burned my chapped lips, but the flavor was delicious as I licked them.

    “Here’s to bad decisions, and wrong turns”, the broom toasted.

    I raised my glass, and drank. I coughed, I sputtered, as the burning liquid rolled awkwardly down my throat. I coughed and I gagged, and I fell forward onto the wooden bar top. As I lay there fighting for my breath, I noticed branches slowly growing out. The sanded and lacquered wood of the bar top turned into a rough bark. I coughed up some more, and could taste copper and bitterness on my tongue, as more liquid kept coming out of me. My lungs were on fire, as I gasped and wheezed. The branches grew and grew as I could feel the wind pick up.

    I closed my eyes, and tried to lean back, but I couldn’t move. It was then I felt the onset of pain and fire centering on my chest. I looked down to see a branch had grown right threw it. There was blood everywhere. I closed my eyes as the rain softly tapped on my skull, and I could detect flashing lights through my heavy lids. I could barely hear muffled voices, and a car door shut.

    “Just breathe slowly”, said a calming voice. “Just breathe.”

    The idea seemed preposterous, and too difficult. I would rather just lie in the warmth of the bourbon and sleep in dreams of amber and gold. There was no pain. There was nothing.

  7. Dr.X

    /// I apologize for a test post here, but I want to make sure I can actually post something if I write it up. For days I haven’t been able to log into the regular Community forums here – it always offers a “log in” option, always says I “cannot” do any one of six things, always redirects me to my profile if I try (which does list me as logged in). If I try a reply while logged out, it offers me to chance to log in after which I see a “No post mode specified” phpBB error.

    If you’re reading this, that means this part of the site isn’t affected by the same bug.

  8. Observer Tim

    THE ONTOLOGICAL PARADOX

    “It’s all yours, Pete.”

    YEE-HA! I GET TO DRIVE THE VAN! Outwardly I said, “Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best.”

    I’m thinking about my future as I roll up A1A towards Patrick AFB. There’s good money in the USPS; if I’m lucky I could make postmaster in one of these coastal towns before too many years. Not too bad for a university dropout.

    The ocean’s looking pretty unfriendly today, but that makes sense with Hurricane Mimsy a few hundred miles offshore.

    I’m approaching the intersection with 404 when all hell breaks loose. A thirty-footer is climbing the horizon to my left; I have just enough time to say “Fu…” before the van tumbles and my face hits the steering column.

    Wave after wave of angry electricity smashes me in the head; all I can do is twitch and scream. I try to move but there are straps holding me in place. I tip my head forward and barf in my lap.

    The woman torturing me glares.

    “You will fix the machine! Either that or your girlfriend dies!”

    My voice comes out as though it knows what’s going on. Good thing one of us does. “Fuck you, Sela. Andy is already back at her ship.”

    “With no way to take off and nowhere to go if she did.”

    “I wouldn’t bet on that. We were able to get the thrusters working again and I found a way to reverse the Anomaly. She’s going home. August eighth, 2137.”

    “Why do I care what the date is?”

    “You don’t. I do. I’ve found a fourth type of Anomaly. One you can’t do a damned thing about. August eighth, 2137.”

    “Tell me now, Peter, or you’ll discover even more uses for a cattle prod.”

    “Doesn’t matter now. The ontological paradox has already happened. August ei…aaaaugh!”

    My headache is overwhelmed by the burning sensation in my nuts. My first words as me are a scream…

    …and the van is filling up with water. I fumble at the seat belt and it comes loose. In a second I’m swimming upward.

    My face breaks the surface of the water and it’s the apocalypse. A tiny corner of van is sticking out of the water hazard; fragments of shrubs are flying everywhere. The wind is trying to blow the entire golf course back to the mainland. Mimsy has come for a visit, and it’s that time of the month.

    A palm snaps off, bisected by a stop sign. Both take off into the distance. It may seem stupid, but part of me knows I’ll be safe here. I know because I remember it.

    I’ll find out when I get out of the water that the crash damaged my back. No more USPS; instead it’s back to school and a series of choices that puts me into theoretical physics.

    But I have a jump on it; I have his memories now. My memories. Thirty-two years into the future. I have to get to Mars.

    1. charkhanolakha

      I agree with Regis and Beeble’s comments that they’ve made after part 2! I am very curious about this universe; and love both the character’s voices.
      Looking forward to more parts!

  9. sudhiriyer

    “Open your eyes slowly”, I heard a gentle voice talk to me.

    I tried to open my eyes. I found myself on an infirmary bed in a busy room with a lot of people moving around in brown uniform and red sash worn across their shoulders. It didn’t appear to be an infirmary and therefore I found it odd to find myself there.

    “Congratulations Roman, you’ve worked your way up to this after 36 years of Postal service. You belong now to an esteemed unit – the unit that is the eyes and ears of this Government and keeping the country in the forefront, ahead of treachery, betrayal and sedition from its subjects”, said a man from whose countenance and body language I guessed was an officer.

    “What?”, I asked in surprise. No reply came.

    These were my last memories : The radio announces loudly of an approaching storm at 40mph and issues warnings of remaining indoors – I look at the last despatch bag for the day – I resolve to finish delivery before the storm approaches and return home – I start on my bicycle on Westway Boulevard towards Arrowtown – A strong gale starts – Loud thud behind me – I look behind me while still riding my bike – I collide with something strong – I topple over and in that instant of falling down while my torso was upside down I see that I rammed into a fallen Oak tree.

    The officer announced, “You had just met with a minor accident; minor injuries that is all. You’ve been checked and discharged by Doctor Colin and are now fit to resume duty. Eva will walk you through your new role and Roman, a man of your experience in postal service will need to be told just once and you will be on top of your job.”

    Eva took me by my hand from the bed and led me to an office room. “This is your desk. You’re the Divisional head of Postal Reconnaissance for the Government of – “.

    I just heard what? Where am I? And why? What happened to me? I questioned my very existence and could barely assimilate the status quo.

    “Your daily job is to manage the team of 100 workers who’re your direct reports and have every written correspondence in letters, airmails and telegrams scanned and report suspicious activities to the Centre for Intelligence. Be mindful that you will need to use the SAPR measures to open every piece of envelope and seal it back lest there be suspicion of tampering.” And while saying this, Eva handed me a booklet labelled SAPR – Standard Approved Postal Reconnaissance.

    “These are the keys to the laboratory. You will find the invisible ink scanner in the lab should you feel the need for one. Suspected cryptographic encoding must be reported to Department of Cryptology header by the Intelligence on the same day as receipt of the written material”, Eva concluded and took my leave.

    I sat on my desk, still confused. I saw a red sash and crisp, new brown uniform in a packet with “ROMAN – UNIF DOPR” written on it. A bulletin was lying on my table. I picked it up and read.
    The –- Herald [Restricted Circulation)
    14-Nov-1921
    – Department Of Postal Reconnaissance (DOPR) asked to up its ante in keeping sedition at bay. 5000 new recruits expected to join DOPR this month.
    – 4 nabbed in Arrowtown under suspicion of being spies.

    Thud! And a heavy bag of letters landed on my desk. A man stood behind it and spoke, “Suspect pack no. 1 for the day. All outbound. Need access to the lab, Sir. Probable cases of Invisible ink usage in all of them.”

    I reached out for they key in my drawer and walked him to the lab, unsure of what I am walking into. Unsure of my existence, really! I tried opening the door to the lab and the door wouldn’t open. I then tried to force it open. As the door opened the man nabbed me from behind and asked,” What’s up with you Roman, You OK?”. I looked at him and he was no longer in his unform!

    The door wasn’t there either. I was standing in front of an Oak tree. The sky was above me and I wasn’t at the DOPR!

    Was I trying to push the Oak tree thinking it was a door? May be I was? Where’s the office gone? Where are the officers?

    “Nothing at all” I replied in embarrassment and walked away. I looked behind and realised that I have walked a few kilometres from Arrowtown and had to walk back to get my bicycle. A clean-up truck approached me and offered me to take me back to town. I jumped in.

    What just happened? I wondered.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is an interesting and strange vision, Sudhiriyer. I kind of wonder if Roman is seeing some kind of future dystopia or if his own fantasies are intruding on real life due to the concussion. Either way it’s a fascinating story and an interesting concept to explore. 🙂

  10. rle

    This got a little wordy. Please accept my apologies in advance.

    —————————————-

    Wayne Dixon loaded the last crate of neatly sorted mail and drew a deep breath of humid morning air as he slammed the hatch of his jeep shut. It should have been just another normal day on the mail route, but he had the eerie, uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him that today would be far from ordinary,

    As he wheeled the jeep from the back of the post office and out onto the street, he could already see a thin line of black clouds peeking over the western horizon and slowly marching their way toward town like the dark horse of the apocalypse. In his short tenure as a mail carrier, Wayne had been out in all sorts of weather: searing heat, bitter cold, snow storms, thunder storms, flooding rains, but something about today seemed out of place, although he couldn’t quite pin it down.

    At his first stop, he peered into the the valiant oak trees that lined the driveway of Mrs. Archers tidy two story home. He usually lingered there for a moment or two each morning to watch the squirrels as they chased one another through the dense foliage, dancing from branch to branch like tiny furry acrobats. Today he scanned the trees, but detected no sign of his daily entertainment. The only sign of life was the rich green of the leaves themselves which hung still as death.

    As Wayne proceeded on his route his mind drifted back, like it often did, to a place and time not so long ago, when he alone had been in control of his own destiny. From a young age, he had always wanted to start a business of his own and fifteen years earlier he and his young bride had the opportunity to purchase the local hardware store from it’s aging owner. It was then that his dream finally became a reality. Wayne and his wife spent the next ten years working tirelessly to spruce the place up and offer all of the goods and services the residents of their sleepy little town needed. The business thrived and afforded them the chance to have a nice home, new vehicles, a week in Florida each year, and all of the other things their growing family needed. Life for the Dixon’s was perfect, then 2008 hit.

    The market crash alone wasn’t enough to immediately have an adverse effect on the Dixon’s business, but it served as a catalyst for everything that would come in the following years. As the fallout from the crash ensued, the business began to change. In a matter of months, sales began to sag as they also began to feel increasing pressure from the big box stores. As time passed, his customer base continued to diminish. Eventually Wayne and his wife made the painful decision to close the store. Wayne took a job at the local Speedy Mart and his wife secured a position as a secretary for a little construction company. With their income slashed in half, they were finally forced to give up their home and all of their nice things and move into a little fixer-upper on the edge of town. Out of all the things he’d lost, what he missed the most was his pride, dignity and independence. He spent hours of his time just wishing he’d die. He didn’t even feel like a complete person anymore. Just as Wayne had hit rock bottom, he discovered an opportunity; a chance to go to work for the US Postal Service. Finally, something was going to go his way again.

    * * *

    As Wayne continued on , he watched mother nature unleash her fury. Quarter sized hail pummeled the jeep and nearly deafened him as ferocious gusts of wind buffeted the vehicle making it difficult to stay on the road. Just as he thought the storm couldn’t possibly get any worse, a giant elm tree fell across the road and blocked his path. Without any time to react, Wayne smashed into it head on.

    When he came to a few seconds later, Wayne could still hear the relentless rain bombarding the vehicle from every angle. He was immediately aware that even though his visible wounds were only minor, the pain radiating from his abdomen and chest signaled severe internal injuries. When he looked through the windshield the scene he found there was altogether different than what he expected. Instead of a mangled hood resting against a giant tree, his eyes fixed on the front yard of his home. It wasn’t the home of his former life either, it was the one they lived in now. The one with the peeling paint, the sagging roof, and the dog eared picket fence. His wife and two daughters frolicked in the front yard, searching for four leaf clovers. Wayne wanted to reach out and touch them and for a brief moment they seemed close enough that he could do just that, but then their figures seemed to fade and became more distant with every beat of his heart. Finally, they vanished completely and all he was left with was shredded metal and tree bark

    Wayne had been so enamored with the vision of his family that he hadn’t taken notice of the flashing red and white strobe lights, the harried cries of paramedics, or the masculine outstretched hand that reached for his. Now, here he sat at a crossroad. One part of him welcomed the opportunity to cross over into the afterlife. Another part of him begged for mercy and the chance to once again be with his family, to hold them, to love them.

    The time for deciding grew short. He reached out and clasped the warm burly hand. Wayne chose life.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m with Tim on this. The detail and length of the first part pf your story sets the decision to decide to live or die.I wouldn’t change a thing.

  11. Beebles

    The chaos comes to an end. Michael Jackson dies away and the inaudible buzzing static of the rain isolates me. I am alone in the silence. No, not silence. I sense a vast space, a cathedral bearing down on me, where a hundred people are holding their breath.

    Finally the streams of pixels part before an approaching figure. Tiny at first, growing, it is a child, running. Thin graceful limbs fly, dispelling the interference with an aura of joy to reveal our garden in breath-taking summer. It is my daughter. It is Jean. It is her sixth birthday. We never thought she would see it.

    She takes my hand and leads me to the garden’s edge. The grassy bank leads to a tow path beside a canal. Jean places her hand on my heart. My poor mended heart. Then on hers. A long dark tunnel stretches behind her. Her smile is gratitude. Quickly, she runs away into the tunnel and I follow, but she is gone.

    There is a strong beam of white light in the dark, flitting like a fly around the tunnel walls. Now green, now blue. My son Billy had a torch when he was younger that could change colour. He used to play at Peter Pan on the bedroom walls when he should have been asleep, chuckling with Jean. White is Tinkerbell. Blue is the Smee. Jean’s is always Wendy. He flicks the torch along the walls as the tunnel narrows.

    He has a beard now and is searching the seats of the passenger plane. Checking underneath: in the lockers. He shows me the ticket, the flight number; I remember it. His mother is there and she is crying and clinging to him, but all she holds is his suitcase, burnt and black.

    The suitcase is her belly, swollen with a third child. She is naked and we sit on the chair in Aunt Lauren’s kitchen. It is the only comfortable way to make love. I can smell the highland lavender scent on her neck. I cradle the unborn infant, but Mhairi is too heavy. Her weight presses down upon my legs, hurting me.

    Aunt Lauren shines Billy’s torch in my eyes from blue to red to blue. ‘That baby’s not cooked right. Do you hear me?’ she yells.

    ‘Can you hear me?’ she asks ‘He’s coming too. Get me a pethidine line will you.’ Her voice is lochs and kilts and whisky. ‘Can you tell me your name, lad?’

    It is raining again and the noise is deafening. There is something covering my mouth.

    ‘James,’ I mumble.

    ‘Ok, James. You’ve been in an accident. Do you understand?’

    I don’t, but I nod. The rain is pouring from her fluorescent jacket onto my arm. There is pain living in me.

    ‘Ok, the fire brigade are just going to cut you free, ok? Then we’ll get you into the ambulance. I’ll stay with you, my love, don’t worry. I’m Yvonne. How old are you James? Nineteen, huh? Ok, Do you have any next of kin we can contact?’

    ‘My m…mother, parents, that’s all.’ I’m shivering under their blanket. Then it dawns on me what I have just said.

    ‘Ok, James. We’ll let them know as soon as we can. Handsome lad like you not married then, eh?’ She squeezes my hand as the angle grinder eats into the van’s body. I am scared, flinching at the noise, waiting for the drugs to ease the pain. I am crying.

    I feel my hand swapped to someone else.

    ‘Just keep him talking. I’m going to check on the meds, ok? Just like in training, ok?’

    ‘James? James? Hi, my name is Mhairi. So you’re a postie?’

    I can smell Lavender as the drugs kick in.

    1. regisundertow

      Beautiful, stream-of-consciousness-like. Random images that shouldn’t make any sense together, but they do. We get just enough information to feel the full impact of what has happened to your MC. Really like this.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is touching Beebles; finding life among the death imagery, and the future among the ruins of the present, are particular devices that I’m a sucker for. I love the way you keep us guessing until the twist at the end. All in all it’s a beautiful story beatifully executed. This brought a tear to my eye. 🙂

    3. charkhanolakha

      You pulled me right in with the first sentence on this one Beebles; and it just kept on getting better from there.
      I loved the transitions from vision to vision,the detailing and the clever twist at the end.

  12. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    After the Storm [Part II]

    Hindsight has always been our bane as humans. We can look back and see our mistakes with sometimes-perfect clarity. We can judge our motives and ourselves. We can study our history and do things different. Despite that, we always end up screwing the pooch anyway.

    I wished I had time to clean up my bedding and scuff the dust to hide the fact that someone had been in here, but I didn’t have time. Although my uninvited guests were loud, I didn’t know where they were, and because I took temporary residence in the open walkway between desks, I needed to move lest they find and kill me.

    I slipped out of my warm comforter, and escaped into a nearby cubical. A dusty keyboard hung from the table by its cord, and above it was a toppled monitor. The computer might have worked had the screen not been smashed. However, when the monsters came, the energy plants soon died, plunging the world into a kind of darkness and disconnect, which no one was prepared for except those with foil hats. Therefore, using the computer earlier would have been impossible anyway had I the inclination to do so for some reason.

    I tucked myself under the table and listened. Their footsteps echoed from the walls offering me no way of knowing where exactly they were or how fast they moved. The only way I might gain a location is if I waited for them to find me or if I spied them. Glancing out seemed like a bad idea, but it seemed to me much safer than suddenly finding myself at the wrong end of a weapon.

    Although not particularly fond of exposing myself, I knew I had to do it. I moved out of the cubby below the desk, which I was surprised I fit into in the first place, and located myself just behind the wall adjacent to the walkway. Putting my hand on the wall to steady my balance caused a cloud of dust to powder my face.

    I argued with a very determined sneeze as their footfalls drew nearer and louder. I rubbed my nose with fury, staving off the sneeze for now, but I knew it would resurface. I had learned the unfortunate temperament of my nose when I was twelve and my body discovered both puberty and allergies. I had sneezed often, which agitated my throat causing a perpetual high-pitch whine when I spoke.

    While I wasn’t exactly a catch because of it, a cracking voice and a sneeze wasn’t going to get me killed unless for some reason I had a pencil or two stuffed in my nose at the time of the attack. I neither then, nor now, had an inclination to bolster my nostrils with wood, so I wasn’t in any danger of that, but a sneeze now would certainly give away my position. Even if it didn’t, they’d become wary that they weren’t alone, and search the place. The floor wasn’t that big, so it wouldn’t take them that long to find me.

    When the echoes ceased, I could tell they were close. It seemed like they were at the mouth of the walkway that led to the cluster of cubicles.

    One of them had a robust voice that was rough as if he’d eaten rocks for breakfast and they were stuck in his throat. He said, “We almost got caught in that fuckin’ rain.”

    The other one had a much thinner voice. “It don’t matter. With this bag of shit we got from that weed, we could take an army of them.”

    Weed is the name for non-aggressive people. All people can be aggressive, but the ones that were less prone to violence earned the nickname. These were the people that the violent ones robbed, usually tortured, and often killed.

    I don’t know why or how the name came to be. I didn’t care that there was a negative meaning to it. After all, words are just words. However, I loathed it because of what it represented. In its entirety, it meant the downfall of humanity. The unwillingness for people to come together and work against the monster that put us in this dark place. It was a stark reminder of why this world, compared to what the storm forced us to leave behind, was so very bleak by comparison.

    I had thought—when that first rain fell from the heavens and turned our world into some kind of Hell—that we might come together as one to fight our common enemy. I was hopeful, even if a little naïve. Unfortunately, there were people out there that used the emergence of the monsters to become monsters themselves, thus doubling the amount of evil in the world. Despite my cynicism, I had hoped these men were the good kind. I was wrong, which seemed to happen a lot.

    “No, we couldn’t take ‘em. Those bastards are too strong. Maybe we’d kill one or two, but the whole pack? Fuck no.”

    “Leland did it. Wasn’t you there the other night when he was tellin’ the story?”

    “I don’t listen to that idiot. All he does is lie.”

    I wondered if Leland was there with them. Maybe he was taking a walk around the building to make sure it was secure. Perhaps he lagged behind and the creatures got him. I don’t wish ill will on any man, especially becoming a meal for those monsters. However, two against one was bad odds for me. Add a third, and I might as well cut my own throat.

    For now, they were only two strong with the possibility of a third. I needed to figure out where they were and size them up so that I could know if I might be able to take them if I made a mistake. I’m not a big guy standing just south of five-foot-ten, but I can fight if my life depends on it. However, I know my limits. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good of a fighter you are if you have a mac truck barreling at you.

    I heard a bag unzip, and then the gruff man chuckled. “You shoulda seen the way this guy begged.”

    “Awe, man, I wish I was there.” The other had a much thinner voice. “Shit, I love it when they do that. It’s like, I got them in my hands like putty, ya know? I feel like God sometimes.”

    “God don’t exist no more.”

    In a way, he was right. These days, it was hard believing in a God when the world was so shitty. The anarchy brought murder, rape, and general dissonance among each community of people. However, it was the people of faith that remained mostly of the type you could trust. It wasn’t so much about whether God existed than about the fact that they remained faithful to a belief system that held high moral standards. Sure, they still had their bigotry and they often refused to help those that sinned, but it was still better than the alternatives. As long as no one started another crusade, I figured we’d be okay.

    “I know, man. I’m just sayin’. It’s like I’m God, ‘cause they’re beggin’ for me not to kill them.”

    “Whatever,” The gruff man said.

    “So, what you got against Leland, anyways?”

    “I don’t trust him. I’d kill the bastard if Keller told us to bring his sorry ass with us.”

    “That’s fucked up, man. What’d he do to you?”

    “Think about it. He keeps those slaves at his place, kidnapping women from other camps. Look, I got no problem pillaging, but that asshole is makin’ trouble. One day, someone’s gonna come lookin’ for their missing wife or daughter, and they ain’t gonna come alone.”

    “So? We got the numbers,” he said that’s when I heard them walking again. “Killin’ ‘em will be easy.”

    I couldn’t say I wasn’t a little happy to hear Leland wasn’t with them, but there were still two men. Moreover, I couldn’t very well ignore the fact that there could be others. Just because I didn’t hear them, didn’t mean they weren’t there.

    Nichole used to tell me that I worried too much. She believed that if you were good to the universe, it would be good to you, and if you worry, then you bring this sort of negative energy that will most assuredly bring negative things to you.

    For this reason, I stayed positive most of the time when I was with her. After the rains came, I relied solely on her advice to find her alive and well. Instead, when I finally got back to the house the evening of the storm, the house was a mess and she was gone. I didn’t know if it was my fault or not that she was gone because it’s hard to remain positive when the world is trying to kill you and your wife. I figured I’d never know, but I always tried to stay positive, even after she was gone, and even now with the two dangerous men nearby.

    At the risk of the men seeing me, I quickly glanced around the cubical wall toward their voices. In my mind’s eye, I had imagined a large man with a thick neck and tattoos standing with a thinner, lankier man who might very well be no threat at all. Instead, I got two giant men with tree-trunk necks, no tattoos, but plenty of scars and chewed up skin that they’d probably take quite the beating before going down. I, on the other hand, would not.

    The man on the left with the gruff voice wore a plaid porkpie hat. It rested at the crest of his skull because it was far too small for his head. In a world where you could take what you wanted, you’d think he could find a hat that fit bigger heads than Peewee Hermann’s tiny noggin. I guessed not.

    Because they were at the end of the room closest to the door and not moving, I figured I could make my way out of here if I could safely sneak into the cubical behind this one.

    Earlier when I’d searched the place for anything useful, I recalled that cubical as having an opening that led the one next to it, which I could then use to get out a side door or slip passed them through the shadows, unnoticed.

    The only problem I faced now was getting back there without them spotting me. I couldn’t climb over the wall, but neither could I go around it. However, I had to pick one, so I decided going around was my best choice. Therefore, I moved close to the wall to get ready to slip around at my first chance.

    The thin-voiced one said, “Look, I know you don’t like Leland, but you gotta admit, that Nichole bitch is pretty smokin’. She’s hotter than all get out.”

    My heart thumped in my chest. It usually did when I heard her name or thought about her.

    The other said, “What, the ginger?”

    Bullshit. There was no way it was my Nichole. I didn’t believe it, but that didn’t stop my heart from slamming harder or keep my emotions from turning my skin hot and clammy.

    I positioned myself on the other side of the cubical again so I could hear them better, and that’s when I saw something move on my right. The storm had earlier dimmed the light of the world, and thus darkened the office by a small amount. There was enough light for me to see the thing from my peripheral, but—as usual—I couldn’t see it head-on. It was there, though, because I heard its quiet ululation before it attacked.

    1. Observer Tim

      Okay, definite ramping up of tension here, Doc. I love the way you built the hopelessness and the desperation of the MC’s situation together. The trouble with being a tough guy is that there always seem to be tougher guys around. As for what’s next:

      Option 1 – game over for the MC, but we do get a good sense of the monster.

      Option 2 – MC draws the monster down on the bad guys, either (a) successfully or (b) not.

      Option 3 – MC escapes and leaves the bad guys to the monster.

      Option 4 – MC warns the bad guys and they all fight the monster together, discovering the true unity of humanity. And then the Titanic sails safely into New York harbour.,

      Option 5 – something far more interesting and thrilling that Doc comes up with…

      🙂 O_o 🙂
      ___

      There are a few word things (e.g. cubicle, not cubical) but one stands out: not particularly fond of exposing myself runs a real risk of breaking context for the reader.

      1. regisundertow

        I, on the other hand, am more interested to see how this fits into the hallucination theme, if at all. If this is indeed a hallucination, then we’re talking about a pretty messed up head with some serious issues to work over concerning Nichole. I may be reading this in an unnecessarily artsy-fartsy manner, but I get echoes of The Descent (with the original ending), that suggested the monsters are metaphorical demons of a fractured and guilty mind. Maybe Nichole up and left him, causing the end of his world, in which case both the monster and the bad guys need to die in a very bloody manner 😀

  13. nean

    A Collision with Prayer

    I can’t think, can’t hear past the Cicada…good golly, they’re so loud…but it’s Fall. Something’s wrong, Cicada this time of year? I just want to get home. I want to get home and take off these wool britches that suddenly became two sizes too small. My mouth is dry and it tastes of tin.

    Dear Savior, show me the way

    Thankfully, I’m alive enough to stumble through all this wreckage. Packages and mail are strewn everywhere. I can’t think much about that now, I’m hurt and need help fast! My cellphone must have flown out of my chest pocket. Even with help from the now brightened sun, I don’t think I have time to find it. It’s best I give up the search and try to walk the road. Not sure that’s going to happen, everything’s covered in fallen trees, besides, I worry phantom darkness might overcome me again. I’ve never been this close to death. A swollen belly and this knot on my head can’t be good. There’s a clear path to the left, it leads to that open field, the one that overlooks town. It shouldn’t take too long for me to get home if I go that route. I feel so weak.

    Heavenly Father, please give me strength

    Okay, what’s with the two figures wrestling here on the path? The closer I get the more they resemble Renaissance marble sculptures, perhaps naked or only groin-clothed, who cares at this point? I need to move on! Okay, maybe they’re not marble, but they’re not flesh, either. It’s clear they are mysterious living beings caught up in some sort of territorial battle. Masculine, sort of, but not human men. Absolutely powerful and frightening, but seemingly controlled by an invisible force. I carefully and painfully tiptoe right through them, even though I know I could never disturb them. I stop and waste precious time watching. I’m captivated at how they are so evenly matched, each barely moving, holding one another in such tightly powerful clutches, neither giving way to the other. There’s nothing but an air of pure determination on both sides. Somehow I know that I cannot stop them or encourage them to call a truce. It is apparent they are on a mission. I get hold of myself and turn away, stumbling down the path, toward home.

    God, please heal me

    Finally, I can see down the hill our busy town! The mysterious noisy Cicadas have been replaced with emergent siren sounds as townsfolk everywhere scramble to clean up the storm’s big mess. I turn around to catch a final glimpse of the strange musclebound wrestlers, but their match must have finished because they are gone, as though they never existed.

    I wondered for a moment who had won the match, pondering the winner’s prize.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is very nice, Nean, and more than a bit surreal. I love the allegorical image of (Jacob wrestling with the Lord)? and how it shaped the MC’s vision. You painted the image in its stark unreality so beautifully. 🙂

      One thing I hope was intentional because it’s absolutely brilliant: you cued the MC’s sex with one word. A man sees his ‘stomach’ or ‘gut’; normally only a woman sees her ‘belly’. 🙂

      1. nean

        Thank you, Tim. I’m far from dazzlin’ 🙂 I hadn’t thought about the cue, but you are right about that, fellas do say gut and stomach & us girls say tummy or belly! I’m learning and certainly appreciate your input! Blessings sent your way!

  14. Reaper

    Yay! Part 34. I’ve had this idea since Tuesday and finally got to writing it. Now if I can just find some time to do some reading.

    In the Beginning – The Seventh Sign

    Bob wondered, why the hell did they still make him go out on days like this? Most people had their mail delivered electronically and the important packages delivered by one of the “premium carriers”. Still, it was in the creed. With the storm of the century barreling down on his home town… he still had mail to deliver.

    Little old ladies got their social security direct deposited these days, but still depended on the coupons in the mail to feed their gaggle of cats… and themselves from the same cans.

    The wind kicked more, approaching a hundred miles an hour. One of these errant breaths of Zeus struck an old maple at just the wrong angle. The limb, torn asunder, whipped through the air to smash into the grill of the postal vehicle under Bob’s care. The force of the collision crushed the front end until the engine rode shotgun. It continued its brutal and unwarranted assault by grabbing the vehicle and flipping it, wheels over tea kettle, to drop it on its roof.

    Having thus had its fun, the branch danced merrily down the street to wreak vengeance on some other innocent. The engine continued to purr and sputter, unphased by such rough treatment.

    Bob was not so lucky.

    When the truck crashed to a rest, so did he. His head thumped brutally against the roof, causing him to gray out for a few minutes. Bob assumed the encounter was the strangest thing he would see that day.

    If only he had been right.

    When he regained himself, Bob took rapid inventory of his body. Finding only a goose egg sized lump on his head he considered himself fortunate. His first muddled thought was, are the circulars okay? A quick glance back confirmed they were, other than being upside down.

    His second thought was to wonder why the engine would not shut up. It chose that moment to die, leaving him in, not silence but, that sound one only knows when experiencing a storm from inside a steel drum.

    His third thought was to wonder… when had it started raining toads?

    The critters plopped to the ground and onto the truck. Peering through the ichor covered windows, Bob saw stranger things still.

    He witnessed a man straight out of a pulp detective magazine leading a young boy down the street. They hurried as if escaping something.

    He saw ethereal fire consuming the buildings and the few unfortunates caught in this biblical plague.

    A blood red moon rose at noon to blot out the blackened eye of the sun.

    Angels soared through the sky, doing bloody battle, not with demons or humans but with each other. Was heaven as divided by politics as humans were? He stopped that thought though. If he continued he would rage to himself about possible funding cuts.

    Bob saw many strange and wondrous things that afternoon. Impossible things.

    The strangest of all was the sad, beautiful woman walking through it all with a young girl holding her right hand and an infant clutched to her breast with the left. She walked through the chaos like she owned it.

    Then the infant turned its head and pointed at Bob. The child spake in the voice of judgment.

    “Mommy, that man sees too much.”

    Bob passed out from fear, and maybe a little from the head trauma. He woke in the hospital to find the world back to normal. Realizing nobody else spoke of strange events he, wisely, decided to keep his mouth shut.

    Even a week later, when they fired him and took away his pension for operating a government vehicle under the influence of drugs.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Whoa, this is epic. I loved the visuals, the overall feeling that the reader is sitting in the cab with Bob. I also thought the cutting edge mention of the rage to defund was a slight relief from the seriousness of your tale and left a light touch in the middle which happened to highlight, “Mommy, this man sees too mych.” This has everything in it to keep the reader pondering until 35.

    2. Observer Tim

      Major league creepy vision, Reaper. I love the way you manage to keep tying in the disparate prompts. I love the figures of speech, “errant breath of Zeus” and “wheels over tea kettle” especially. In the re-edit for joining I’d suggest adding more to the vision sequence to make it truly stand out as different from reality. 🙂

      (one that came to mind: the circulars were okay, “other than having turned over”).

    3. charkhanolakha

      “Was heaven as divided by politics as humans were?” ahhh, brilliant.
      I agree with others: loved the imagery, and the vision was seriously creepy.

  15. max hobby

    A ferocious storm is moving into your town: 40 mph winds, hail, the whole deal. But you are a postal worker, and you operate no matter the weather, out you go. As you drive along, a tree branch falls in front of you and you slam into it, knocking yourself unconscious. You wake up and start hallucinating. What do you see?
    ‘Purple People Eater’ was playing on the radio as I hit the tree.
    “No!”
    I didn’t get the flash backs everyone is supposed to get.
    “I’ve been robbed!”
    “No God. I didn’t mean You.”
    Resignedly, I tried to accept my death.
    “Oh God!”
    I had fox hole religion worse than my last year in combat!
    “I believe,” my mind screamed.
    ‘What do you believe?’ the high pitched, squeaky voice of the musical personality, asked. I knew I was a goner! Gone. Dead. Since when does Gabriel send Purple People Eaters down to get the deceased?
    “I believe in God.”
    Better not lie. You know where liars go.
    My head ached. Blaring, screaming sounds around me. Insistent hands pulling at me, tearing at my clothes, dragging me under.
    “Oh God, save me! Forgive me my trespasses. I believe!”
    Again merciful, black nothingness. How long was the trip to hades? What foul, degrading job would Lucifer give me?
    I saw the lights, the tunnel before one goes. Voices again. Combat, again. Shot up, blown apart, dying. I’d relived it so many times.
    Fireman’s carry to the LZ, dust off and flight in a shot up chopper. Science fiction space movie pilot. Flesh on his face falling off, his bones showing. God! It was the Purple People Eater! He’d saved my young life before, was this a repeat?
    The blackness again.
    Was he experimenting on me, was I a guinea pig for the four armed, horn blowing, freak’s sideshow?
    ‘Johnny, you’re going to have to come to grips with reality, sooner or later. Want me to start from the beginning?’
    I did want to know if I was nuts, or had a purple Guardian Angel.
    ‘I’m not sure you’d call me a Guardian Angel, but if it works for you, okay.’
    How could he read my mind? I was nuts.
    ‘No, you’re not nuts. Remember Vietnam, the flight out? First time I’d flown one of those, pilot several days’ dead. What a stench. Once the medics had you on the stretcher I burned the chopper to the ground. The pilot’s dog tags survived and he got a hero’s reward, posthumously.
    “Why me, God?”
    “Shalom. Why not you?” a heavy accented voice asked.
    I opened my eyes. A doctor’s face looked down at me.
    “It was nip and tuck there, but I think you’re out of the woods. It’s been a tough week, but I think you’ll be fine. Head injury full recovery can take a while. I see you’ve had some experience there before. You just relax and we’ll take good care of you.
    Thank you for your service.

    1. nean

      I liked the story but I think the format threw me off a little, but that is me, I have difficulty with comprehension on most levels of life, reading more than writing. The words definitely showed the subject had the emotion of wild panic! I could picture myself there and the subject (I assumed male) reminded me of folks I know.

    2. charkhanolakha

      hey max 🙂
      I loved the internal religious conflict and the traumatic war time flashbacks. They give very interesting insights into your protagonist’s character.
      I enjoyed this, thanks for the read!

  16. cosi van tutte

    This came out a little different from what I was planning and my Internal Editor doesn’t quite like the last two lines, but *shrugs*

    Thunder rumbled.

    “9332 Ferns Sway Drive.” Amber stuffed three lipstick dotted envelopes that reeked of Birdie #3 perfume into the mailbox.

    Lightning flashed.

    She inched up to the next mailbox. “9333.” A Wordly Woman catalog, an envelope marked “Please Open Me Fast!”, and a manila envelope with no return address.

    Raindrops fell.

    “9334.” A travel brochure for the Sekanuathia Mudflats in Nebraska, a Diggity Shoe Dog catalog, and an envelope marked Return to Sender.

    Amber turned on her windshield wipers. “I hate the rain.”

    She pulled up to the next set of three mailboxes and tried not to think of Jeremiah.

    “9336.” A gardner’s catalog, an advertisement for the Fox Theatre, a cardboard box from Madame Sniffley’s.

    Jeremiah had loved the rain more than Amber knew why.

    “9337.” A pamphlet about the End Times, a pamphlet from the Who Said It? Society, and a tube shaped package.

    Jeremiah had loved getting wet.

    “9338.” Three envelopes with hand-drawn hearts all over it.

    Jeremiah had loved the ocean.

    She moved up to the next set of three.

    “9340.” A blue envelope from the Catholic Aid Society, a red envelope from the Heart’s Glee Club, and another “Please Open Me Fast!” envelope.

    Jeremiah had said that he loved Amber, but he had left her for the sea, for a mermaid’s love.

    “9341.” An advertisement for the Detroit Zoo’s newest facility, a pamphlet promoting Andy Serkis as Detroit’s new mayor, and two manila envelopes from Venezuela.

    The sea had claimed him and held him tight in her selfish, heartless grip, leaving Amber with nothing. Not even a body to bury.

    “9342.” A Weekly Shocker magazine, a Calamari Fix-It! catalog, and a navy blue envelope from the Schlaar’s Honorary Funeral Parlor.

    She sat still with the navy blue envelope in her hand. Schlaar’s. They had performed the honorary funeral for him. “For me.” They had been kind and understanding, but she had wished for a true funeral. She had wished for him.

    Amber put the envelope into the mailbox. “I still wish for you. Jeremiah, I wish that you were here.”

    “9343.” A brown box which rattled and ticked. Ticked. Ticked. Tick—

    It exploded and Amber’s world stopped.

    She opened her eyes.

    Light filled her world. Perfect light. It surrounded her and comforted her. All of her sorrows and regrets faded into yesterday’s nights to be lost and forgotten.

    And he was there. “Amber. I’ve been waiting for you.”

    Joy banished all of the anger she should have felt. Brilliant, heartfelt joy. She ran to his open arms.

    The thunder and lightning were gone.

    And so was the rain.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I see nothing wrong with the last two sentences. In fact I consider the last perfect. I liked the story unfolding in between the descriptive mail delivery. One tint,tiny thing, if the mail is being distributed by drive, on the same side of the street, the numbers should read all even [ 9332, 9334, 9336 and on the other side, [9333, 9335, 9337]. I may be the only one would notice. Is this a continuation of the crab prompt???

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, Kerry!

        Sorry about the numbering thing. 🙁 I didn’t really think about that.

        As for whether this was a continuation of the crab prompt, hmm. I wasn’t deliberately aiming for it, but I think it might have come out that way. 😀

    2. gamingtheblues

      Your internal editor needs a nap. I thought the last lines of the piece were my favorite, bringing together her obvious disconnect and sadness caused by her loss and the feeling of euphoria at being with him again.

      1. nean

        Wow, this was a very cool angle. I never thought much how a letter carrier might think between boxes, but it makes a lot of sense. I agree with what Kerry said about the numbers. I was distracted right away and had to begin at the top and ignore it through the read.

        Cleverly written, and I like the last lines, too, because we don’t forget the heartfelt thoughts of the carrier.

    3. Observer Tim

      This manages to be both strange and adorable at the same time. I can easily see some of this going through the head of a postal worker while making her rounds. I’m filing this one in my “ideas for future stories” file; it’s a great take and beautifully executed. 🙂

      I noticed the thing about the numbers, but it was miniscule in relation to the power of the story. Also, most ticking packages would have been x-rayed and disposed of at the sending depot – unless the bomber was someone who worked at the sorting plant where Amber got her deliveries. Hmm; never mind, you didn’t see that criticism… 🙂

    4. regisundertow

      I really saw nothing here to get your internal editor riled up over. Pain and the mundane mix together to tell the story of someone who needs to move on but isn’t sure how.

  17. Kera

    I breathe out and in with quick bursts- my head feels like a fucking dart board, and my ribs are (ouch!) definitely bruised. Slowly I open my eyes, colors dance between my lids and then spread out with the vibrancy of a kaleidoscope. The light over stimulates my brain and I cringe, suddenly feeling sick to my stomach.
    After a good amount of time with my eyes closed, I dare to open them again, and then close them and open them again to be sure I’m seeing what I’m really seeing.
    Large snow packed men with knapsacks bouncing against their blue tinged flesh step over the road carefully, not paying any mind to me. Even though it hurts, I gasp audibly. They’re the size of the Burger King sign always looming above, illuminated even when the place is closed. The clothes they wear appear to be that of the native peoples before the European invasion.
    I try to get out of my car, but the buckle isn’t reachable, a stack of mail had been thrown forward and on top of the important stuff I needed to get the-
    Suddenly, a woman (are they trolls?) with muscled shoulders and thick rope like scars around her neck steps onto the road and kneels in front of my vehicle. Her face shape reminds me of diagrams of Neanderthals from elementary school, and her eyes are a vivid dancing cosmos of greens, browns, and golds. She cocks her head to the side and puts her massive hand on the windshield, I stare back at her in awe and fear. A few warbled words come out of her mouth- it sounded flowing like a Nordic dialect.
    Just as suddenly as she appeared, she’s ripped away by a collar around her neck that I hadn’t noticed. One of the large men ahead spits something at her, and she removes the sack upon her back and reveals an infant as large as a fully grown Grizzly. She smiles down at the child and replaces it upon her back.
    Next thing I know, she’s disappeared into the snow fall, and the wildly flashing red and blue lights of an ambulance fill my mind.

    -KL

    1. gamingtheblues

      I found your take on the prompt one of the more “realistic” if you will, versions. I say this because your descriptions have the feel and weirdness of a dream. I could well imagine having a dream like this after falling asleep or being knocked out. Some prompts are very well written but “feel” like a story if you know what I mean. Nicely done.

    2. nean

      THAT was a(n) hallucination! The description of the woman with the thick ropelike scars was very cool. I had to think a bit about the snow packed men, maybe since their backpacks were bouncing they weren’t being too careful? Perhaps they “tried” to step over the road carefully? But it’s an hallucination, so who knows. The write put me in a colorful place where everyone was doing their own thing and nothing made much sense, which is probably how a hallucination would be. Thanks for the read! Very imaginative.

    3. madeindetroit

      Great description!
      You have a knack for creating powerful word pictures with your words.
      Loved this: Her face shape reminds me of diagrams of Neanderthals from elementary school, and her eyes are a vivid dancing cosmos of greens, browns, and golds.

      Great job!

    4. Observer Tim

      This stretches into a story once told by a friend of mine, who had drifted into a sleep-deprived dream state while riding in a car. He described the giant policemen reaching down for them, which later turned out to be streetlights.

      What I’m trying to say is that you captured the feel of a real-life hallucination wonderfully. I’m a bit curious what triggered the elements of the vision, but the thing about it is he (and we) will probably never know. Powerful writing, Kera. 🙂

  18. WritingKittenOfLoki

    Hello, everyone! Unpredictable me is back for this one!
    I hope you enjoy the silliness – I kinda got carried away. It’s somewhere around 800 words.

    In Search Of Adventure

    You are a Rural Mailperson, driving your blue Jeep Liberty down a dirt road. The wind is roaring, the heavens are throwing down more hail than you’ve ever seen, and the roads that are bad enough on good days are well nigh treacherous. But you are a mail deliverer, and “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

    You are still minutes away from the next box. Lightning strikes not too far away. You still proceed.

    As you near a large tree, the wind picks up even harder. In front of you, a large branch falls and smashes into the front of your car. The collision causes you to pass out. Everything fades to black.

    Your eyes flutter open and the light sends shooting pains through your skull. You lift your head and look around.

    The tree on your jeep, is pink and covered in butterflies. Your jeep itself is soft and white. You climb out of the driver’s seat. 

    The ground all around you is green with the most fertile grass you’ve ever seen. More pink trees dot the fields. The air smells like cinnamon and joy. You feel a grin bursting forth from your face. 

    Your pointy ears pick up on a distant sound. It’s music. You run towards it, your feet don’t even touch the ground. Soon you approch the traveling band, comprised of: an acoustic guitar, a violin, two pairs of maracas, and a conga drum; all wearing brightly colored sombreros. 

    “Hello,” you say

    “Hello my friend,” the guitar replies 

    “Fine day isn’t it? The perfect day for music!” The maracas’ say in unison.

    “I agree.” You say, “By the way, can you tell me where I am?”

    The violin answers, “Why, France of course! Can’t you see the leaning tower?” She points toward the horizon.

    You look where you are directed to, and you see the Leaning Tower of Pizza standing proudly.

    “Ah, yes, of course!” You smack your forehead. “I should have known when I saw the butterflies.”

    “Well, good day my friend, we must be off to see The Wizard, and he does not like it when we are late.”

    “Goodbye,” You say cheerfully. “I’m going to find an adventure!”

    You wave, and the band waves back, then you go your separate ways.

    As you run through the countryside you spy a castle. It’s beautiful spires point down into the moat, and it’s flat top, is adorned with flying machines.

    “There must be an adventure worth having there!” You declare and you skip up to the door and ring the doorbell. The door opens with a whoosh, and you slide inside.

    A butler in green robes comes up to you and guides you along the corridors. He takes you through rooms with wondrous machines and brings you at last to a room with a huge bed fit for a king.

    “Someone will be with you shortly,” The butler says. He then leaves the room.

    You walk around the room, the mural covered walls feel like silk. You walk to the bed and throw yourself onto it, the cloud-like mattress and covers, catch you.

    Just as you are drifting off to sleep, a heavenly being enters the room, and you cannot take your eyes off of the gorgeous form. They approach your bed and your breathing becomes audible, you tremble at the gentle touch of their hand; their smile is like water to a parched soul. You had been in search of an adventure, but now you find that all your heart longs to do, is to love this person.

    You say, “You are far more lovely than anything these eyes have ever seen,”

    The one you love merely smiles in response, but in that smile you see that they too are in love.

    “Come away and live with me forever,” You plead

    Then, you hear the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard. “I cannot leave this place, for a curse has been put upon me.” Says the one you adore.

    “Do not fear, my love, I shall rescue you. I shall take you away and we shall marry and live as one.”

    “Many have tried, but none have succeeded,” they say.

    “But none of them were me! I know that we are destined to be together! Now, allow me to pledge my love to you with a kiss on your sweet lips.” You rise and begin to place the promise, when another person bursts into the room.

    You are taken aback and say “leave us! Can you not see that we require solitude?”

    But the intruder pays no heed to your words and grabs the arm of your beloved. You realize that this must be the guard, set to watch over your angel and keep them away from you.

    You step towards the evil one but they draw a magic wand out of their sleeve, and they cast a spell forcing you stop still in your tracks. They drag your beloved away, and you can do nothing to resist. You soon lose consciousness, the world goes black.

    You wake up in a hospital bed, the beeping of the monitors fills your ears. The white walls have pictures of far off places. The nurse enters the room and you ask, “What happened?”

    1. regisundertow

      Whatever drugs your MC has been taking, I’d like to place an order for a container. The butterfly line had me cracking up, this is some manic magic realism and I love its whimsical feel.

      1. charkhanolakha

        lol thats exactly what I thought when I reached the soft white jeep. Gotta get me some of that.
        Also, love the choice of using addressing the protagonist as “you”. That really heightened the surreal-outside of yourself feel the piece has.
        Really enjoyed this, Loki. Thanks for the trip.

    2. Observer Tim

      The nurse answers, “That’s what we’re trying to figure out, along with the police officer, the firefighters and everyone who was in Madison Square Garden last night. You seem to have had some kind of adventure.”

      This is brilliant, Kitten. I could easily see this being expanded on and made into a truly surreal stoner story told with a Princess Bride style wraparound. Wonderfully literate silliness! 🙂

  19. bfarlow

    Joseph leaned against the concrete barrier as the cacophony roared about him. His heart pounded in his chest. His breath came in short, panicked gasps. Sweat trickled from under his Kevlar covered brown curly hair and down his forehead. Sweat dampened his bruised, calloused hands making it hard to hold his M-4. He grasped the weapon as close to his chest as his armor would allow, hugging it like a new found lover while trying to control his breathing.

    Calm down, focus. Calm down, focus. Calm down, focus. He repeated his mental mantra trying to control the panic rising in his chest. This was not supposed to happen. It was supposed to have been a simple patrol through the valley. Talk to some villagers and show the flag. The Taliban weren’t even supposed to be in the valley, according to intelligence.

    The opening shot had taken out First Sergeant Patterson. Lieutenant Daniels didn’t last much longer and now the platoon was fighting in isolated squads. Somewhere, they had a Dushka trained on the road. Joseph could almost feel the deep rapid thuds of the rounds being fired.

    “RPG,” someone yelled. Joseph jumped up from behind the barrier and ran as fast as he could down the ditch. He fervently wished that he had run more in his armor during PT like the other guys. The weight of the ballistic plates dragged him down, threatening his fragile balance. RGP’s were no joke. The one that came through the windshield of his Humvee must have taken out the rest of his squad. He hadn’t seen any of them since he jumped from the still moving vehicle.

    A rock in the ditch snagged his foot. His fragile balance, at last, failed him and he fell to the ground. His armor pulled him down with ungainly speed. Joseph’s breath escaped him with violent force as he hit the ground. Pain spiked across his chest as he gasped for air to refill his vacant lungs. He covered his face with his hands in anticipation of the blast from the RGP. Joseph waited for his life to end.

    “Sir, are you okay,” A voice said above him, “can I get you some help?”

    Joseph felt drops of windblown rain hit his back. The sounds of a busy city street filled his ears. He looked up. Standing over him was a police officer, his NYPD badge prominently displayed on his chest. Joseph sat up. Behind the officer was his mail truck, halfway through the storefront of a coffee shop, a tree branch sticking out of the windshield. Joseph looked around. Everywhere people were staring at him. A construction worker stood across the street behind a Jersey barrier, his jack hammer idle, shaking his head.

    1. regisundertow

      I don’t generally like military fiction, but this…There’s something about the juxtaposition of a mundane job vs someone trying to kill you with fire and lead that makes this piece for me. It obviously brings up questions of how does a veteran ever go back to civilian life. I enjoyed this.

    2. Observer Tim

      Welcome to the world of PTSD-based flashbacks. This is powerful, bfarlow. You did a great job portraying that confusion of realities where memory and senses collide.

      It took me a split-second to refactor RPG from “role-playing game” to “rocket-propelled grenade” but that just adds to the individual POV sense of the piece.

  20. jhowe

    It was late November and the storm raged cold and furious. My mailbag dripped in the corner and my insulated raincoat hung near the fireplace. We were having coffee in the parlor as rain pelted the window glass. When she asked if I’d like to add some Irish whiskey, I should have declined.

    I’ve never consumed six cups of coffee before. I remember thinking that I should get back to my rounds, but the whiskey took hold and that flew by the wayside. I also remember asking about her husband, the professional boxer. She said I needn’t be concerned. He was in Dallas, promoting his next fight.

    What happened next was intense, and for delicacy’s sake, I’ll refrain from divulging the details. I could, however, give a hint and say, if I were asked if I enjoyed the ride, I’d answer indubitably.

    But then things started falling apart. She broke out a vial of Coke and that led to another go-round of the delicate stuff. That time, I had a little trouble in the performance department. Not to worry, she said, try a hit of this. Never hit on an unknown substance after consuming alcohol, caffeine and cocaine. Take my word on that.

    When I returned to the post office without pants, I was grateful for the oversized mailbag. When my supervisor wrote out the report, he hinted that a mandatory drug test was inevitable. It was then that I had the epiphany. Why not start hallucinating right there in his office? After three weeks of paid administrative leave and four sessions with a government appointed phycologist, I was back on my rounds. I did, however, refrain from adding Irish whiskey the next time the opportunity arose.

    1. gamingtheblues

      After spending some time flirting with the married HR Girl 😉 , this story hit just the right spot. I enjoyed this little story much much more than I should have, that morally ambiguous postman guy. I loved it.

    2. Observer Tim

      Now THIS is making the best of a bad situation. Brilliant comeback on the part of the MC, JHowe. I love the unrepentant repentance, and that the hallucinations really had nothing to do with the storm (except that it kept him inside where the hallucinogens were). 🙂

  21. ShamelessHack

    The wind came whipping out of the north, tree branches slamming the truck.
    One of them crashed through the windshield, hit me in the mouth, and I blacked out.
    I awoke on deck, the wind and rain whipping out of the north, mackerels slamming into the boat.
    One of them got jammed in my open mouth and I said, “Mm-pphh-mn-nmp-p-ptooey!”
    The one-legged Captain loomed over me. “Augghhh! Avast, Ishmael, the white devil lies alee!”
    What? “My name is Irving—”
    “God rot it, man! We need bait!”
    The Captain grabbed me by the collar of my USPS jacket and tossed me overboard.
    Something large and white the size of a bus came swimming at me out of the deep and I blacked out.
    I awoke in a long white column of text.
    A flurry of prompt entries were above me, below me, all around.
    A round, balding head came leering at me out of a digital cloud.
    “I am Brian Klems,” the head said, “Author of this idiotic prompt.”
    I tried to free myself from the column of print, but to no avail.
    “Anyone else wanna get high?” I managed to say before I passed out for the last time.

  22. Observer Tim

    AFTERMATH

    I grab the control stick, which is a huge mistake. Now in addition to free fall and red lights all over the control console, the ship is reacting to my movements. It jerks in all directions as I try to get control of my own motion. And where the fusion are my clothes?

    A bra floats into my peripheral vision; that’s one answer, but not the one I needed. I let go of the stick and take a deep breath; the ship stops shuddering and starts falling again.

    Training kicks in: I need an anchor point. The flight chair is there, but the six-point harness is still locked. I sit in it anyway, using my legs to hold myself in place. The primary buckle feels like a frosty enema but I try to ignore it.

    Next, the ship: I grab the control stick again. Point-four standard gravity starts pulling things down, but the ship is no longer plummeting and the red lights are turning green.

    Throneworld is gone, replaced by some rusted desert planet. The last thing I remember is a searing flash and the planet literally exploding underneath me. A chunk of rock the size of Adrasta was about to paste the ship when I fazed out for a second and came to here.

    The hyperdrive is off, but the telltales show I’ve just been through a fold. Where in the Four Clusters am I? Radio traffic is nil and the planet looks barren.

    Three seconds later the nav computer announces I’m at Throneworld, about twenty kilometers from where I was before all this. But where are the green fields, the lakes, …the cities? This is just some blasted red desert with a super-thin carbon dioxide atmosphere.

    I send out a comm signal. Maybe there’s somebody around who knows what’s going on. To my surprise, it’s answered. A middle-aged man’s surprised face is looking back at me from the screen.

    “Hello? I’m Doctor Peter Kensington. To, uh, whom am I speaking?”

    “This is Andy …Cassandra Biel, on the April’s Child; I think I misfolded. Where am I?”

    I hear another voice in the background, a woman.

    …is that? What’s a misfold?

    He turns away. “I don’t know! Any of it! But she appears to be a humanoid and the things behind her are complete science fiction. Shh!

    He looks back at me. “Assuming this is short range, you’re very near the planet Mars; we’re colonists from Earth.”

    “What’s Mars? I just left Phobos Depot after picking up a parcel for my dad, then everything kind of exploded and I ended up here. Either that or I’m dead and somebody else’s life is flashing before my eyes.”

    “Are you on a spaceship? Perhaps if you land we can sort things out more efficiently.”

    “I have your position; I’ll do that.”

    “I look forward to meeting you. By the way,” he purses his lips, “here we normally wear …uh.”

    The background voice says, “At least we know they can blush.

    1. Observer Tim

      It’s good to be back full-time. The project I’ve been on has finally slowed down enough to let me think. I look forward to some good reading.

      P.S. Adrasta is a corruption of Adrastea, one of the moons of Jupiter. It’s potato-shaped and about 20 km long on its big axis.

    2. Observer Tim

      Part II

      I’m naked; why am I floating naked in zero gravity? I can’t feel the lower half of my body; it must have gone numb.

      I look down. My legs haven’t gone numb, they’re just gone. Fractal trees of flash-frozen blood extend from the rips where flesh ends.

      Shreds of Phobos Depot float around me like tangled hair. I’m not naked; I’m wearing tatters of my Imperial Post uniform and an emergency oxygen mask. If I weren’t a Series twenty-seven ELF I’d be dead already from vacuum exposure. As it is I have minutes to find shelter, less the time I was unconscious.

      Through the wreckage I see a light: power! I pull myself hand over hand towards it. As I get closer I can see the red-and-white stripes that signify an emergency pod, somehow still functional amid the remains of an entire planet.

      I climb in and seal the pod, then locate the medkit. Dermalath on my leg stumps should stop the bleeding and, more importantly, stop my body from cannibalizing tissues to make more blood. The brochures say a Series 27 can regenerate fully from anything that doesn’t kill it; I didn’t think I’d be putting that to the test in such an extreme manner.

      I slap on a sedative patch once I’m stabilized. I hope it gives someone time to rescue me.

      Doctor Kensington and the woman, Sela, greet me at the airlock and take me into a cave. They lead me through a cave filled with incongruous objects, including some kind of wooden sailing ship, and down to an underground habitat. I can feel the thrum of a fold engine idling. We go into a lounge area and Sela gets us each some coffee, which is a good idea because I need something to calm my nerves.

      “Where in space am I, Doc? What system?”

      “We’re from Earth, Andy, just like I said. We’re just starting to explore space; it took us over a year to get here. You, obviously, are not from here: the ship you flew in on is evidence enough of that.”

      “Then how are we in an advanced habitat?”

      “I was hoping you could tell us that. There’s a huge device out there that somehow draws in matter from other periods in time.”

      “Time travel is impossible.”

      “Apparently not. But we were hoping your knowledge of future technology could… is everything all right?”

      The room is pulsing and throbbing. As everything fades I hear Sela’s voice.

      The sedative is working perfectly.

      I come to on a table. A nurse is working on me, and two guards stand at the door.

      “Seven-oh-Three? That is you, correct?”

      I shake some of the cotton out of my head. “Yes. Where am I?”

      “On the Imperial Majesty. We found you in an emergency pod among the wreckage of Throneworld. Are you functional enough to report?”

      “I’m not sure; I’m getting memory engrams from someone else… a human… which might be a hallucination of some sort.”

      1. regisundertow

        This story is turning out to be a pretty amazing thing. From the ship on Mars, to the woman masquerading as a pirate, to this. I’m finding myself wondering how the world works, the characters and how they fit together, everything.

        1. Observer Tim

          The woman masquerading was actually unrelated; it was another Tale from the Foam about Cap’n Bastord’s crew-“man” Busty Bob, but with a more serious tone. But most of the others from the past few months tie in. And there’s still more; I’m a fan of James Burke, after all…

  23. regisundertow

    Bah humbug…This writer’s block thingy sucks, so I’ve reverted to bad habits and written something I’d have created 6 months ago. Hope you enjoy regardless, I’ll probably take another crack at the prompt.

    *****************************

    FURIES OF THE APPROACHING CURVE

    This is not the first time I’ve been here.

    The stars have been wiped from the sky and the clouds are so low I could run my hand underneath them. Ahead of me, I can only see what the headlights show me, the street line running underneath the truck and swaying trees on either side of the road. Flashes of bark and root, ghosts of ash and cypress. Forest that’s been here before I was born.

    I’ve seen this happening before. There is no sense of deja vu, no tingling in the back of my head from imaginary fingers, no trick of brain chemistry. Only flashes of knowledge of what is to happen, like a dancer anticipating the next step. I’m going around the curve slightly faster than I should, but I know these roads better than anyone. It’s not the speed that triggers what happens next. It’s not the rain either. An out-of-towner would have trouble making the turn in this rain, with such little visibility, but these are my parts. I could make it with my eyes closed, even in this post truck. It’s not the rain.

    The radio is crackling, broken arpeggios and drugged-out crooning breaking through the static. The noise mixes with the rain drops hitting the truck and the screaming wind and the throbbing in my head, and somehow the cacophony feels like it has always been blanketing the world, filling out every crack and fracture. I am vaguely aware of holding my breath and the smoke in my lungs. A cigarette filter is burning between my fingers. I study the pain with curiosity, as I exhale and cover the dashboard with ash.

    I reach the apex of the curve and the edge of my vision collapses in sharp focus. A black shape flies towards the car, silent and meteoric, wobbling up and down as it approaches. It’s riding gusts of wind but in my inebriated mind it appears as if it has a will of its own. It grows from a pinpoint to a mass full of horns and thorns, floating towards the truck as time winds down. Rain drops remain suspended in mid-air, as a lightning freezes somewhere beyond the mountains. The broken branch touches the windshield. The wood contorts and cracks, the tension shooting splinters into the wind, until it decides something else must give way. I watch the glass spiderwebbing, spokes radiating. I’m surprised, but part of me expects that. Part of me knows without knowing that I’m meant to be here in this moment.

    I turn to my right, knowing who I’ll find in the empty seat. I hope beyond reason this is not how things are meant to play out, but she’s there and now I feel less like a dancer and more like a marionette. She hasn’t seen the branch. She’s frozen, her mascara threatening to succumb to the wetness in her eyes. Her lips are half-open, forming words that painted the world black in another lifetime, her confessions and dilemmas evaporating in the air even as she breathes them out. Her hands cover her belly protectively as the crooning picks up in intensity. Why are you doing this to us, she echoes in my head. I want to convince her I’m right, that this is for the best, but I struggle to remember the words. I’ve lost track of how long ago this has been, although my body still remembers. She’s not supposed to be here tonight. We’ve already gone through this.

    She still stares at me as broken glass caresses her cheek and the branch kisses her temple. A red flower blooms underneath her ashen hair and she closes her eyes. I don’t take mine off of her, even as I’m impaled to my seat. I lose control of the truck and we’re falling upwards as it tips over. I see her body lurching forward, her head connecting to the dashboard. Her neck breaks by the impact, joints pushing against the skin and tendons snapping and rippling free like guitar strings. Her light is snuffed out as it did before.

    Before I black out, a tear escapes the pit of my eye.

    This time, I hope there are no survivors.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is so far from my own reach, I look upon it like it might be a work of art in a museum. And yet it’s not that which I see. The hopeless pain of a relationship gone to ruin is more evident than the actual scene. The more intense the love, the harder the fall. This is tragegy in a Shakespearean form.

    1. Observer Tim

      Wow. In a short space you’ve painted a very dark story with strong feel of hopelessness. I read the story in washed-out grays, not from black and white film but in the washed-out cinematic manner of gray being presented in full vibrant colour. I wish I could describe the world around me with such emotion. 🙂

      Now cheer up.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Regis, others have commented my thoughts on this, I can only add that your attention to detail here pulled ime right into the truck, I shuddered at the “sound” of what happened to her body. Masterful writing.

    3. Beebles

      Yep. Done it again Regis. I read this first on my phone – rubbish for comments – and reread it now. Even more impressive. All the spikiness in the imagery brought to mind the forest of thorns in sleeping beauty which enhanced my sense of the MC being trapped. And beautifully, simply finished off.

  24. Kerry Charlton

    THE SUMMER OF ‘46

    Earl Williamson had spent his whole life on the island. He knew in his mind the golden ring had slipped from his grasp when he stayed and took the only job available, postmaster to Avalon. But as he approached retirement and his brother had passed, he was the only one left from a lost era. And that chip in history was firmly embedded.

    Substituting for a missing postman, the nor’easter had grown stronger than he had seen since the hurricane of ’45. He gingerly drove fourth street as a huge elm crashed in front of him, and swallowed his car with broken branches.

    He heard his brother’s voice,

    “Earl you’re not pulling your share of the wagon.”

    He was barefoot and the hot asphalt burned his toes,

    “Okay Bill, there’ll be plenty of ice left for the box, I’ll try harder.”

    The half mile from the island’s ice house to their small raised cottage seemed forever since it was a daily chore. Up seven steps through the screen door, both brothers carried the slippery ice. The boy’s mother showed relief when the two boys wrested the ice to the galvanized top shelf of the oak box.

    “If you want to walk to the shore, I’ll be along as soon as I clean up,” Mother said “Billy look after Earl until I get there.”

    “I’m tired of looking after him, why me?”

    “You know why, your Father’s only here on weekends, he has to work in Philadelphia .”

    They walked the four blocks quickly, raced across the hot sand to the shore. The beach being partially deserted due to the early hour, allowed the two boys, one four years older to search for rare sea shells and driftwood.

    ‘The waves are high Earl, stay by me and don‘t mess around.”

    “When I‘m older, I‘ll gonna beat you up“

    “Fat chance, I‘ll be you big brother, don‘t you forget it..”

    Bill had taught Earl to swim away from the rip tides but still watched him carefully. They swam side by side to the first sandbar. It was close to low tide and the water ran across a foot deep. Still, they were 100 yards off the beach and the winds had risen.

    “Better get back,” Bill said.

    “I’m scared, the water’s choppy.”

    “Don’t worry, you’re a good swimmer .”

    As they neared the beach, waves increased and Earl thrashed the water.

    “Hold on to my neck, I’ll help you,” Bill said.

    When the two hit the sand, Earl fell to his knees, “Thanks.”

    “Don’t worry about it, I would have caught hell if I let you drown.”

    Resting on the beach Earl studied his older brother. Bill could run like the wind in a storm while Earl with flat feet, never could stay up. He was proud of his big brother but shy to tell him. Shortly their mother showed up,

    “Have the two of you been behaving yourself?”

    Bill looked at Earl and winked,

    “Of course Mother.”

    ……………………………..’

    “Earl, Earl can you hear me? Earl?”

    He opened his eyes and saw Tom Burnish, the police chief hovering over him.

    “What happened?”

    “A tree fell on your car and crushed it. You have a broken shoulder and left arm and quite a bruise on your noggin. It’s a miracle you’re alive.”

    “Not really Tom.”

    “What makes you say that, it was a gift from God.”

    “Do you have a big brother Tom?”

    “Unfortunately, no.”

    “Well then, you wouldn‘t understand.”

    And he fell back to sleep.

    Dedicated to the memory of William Charlton Jr.

    .

    1. Still JM

      Beautiful job portraying the complex bond of brotherhood in such a touching way. You have written before of your brother, but I didn’t realize he had passed. I am so sorry for your loss, especially since it seems like this might be a fresh wound.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you so much JM. My brother passed three weeks ago in Miami. It was during the terrible storms that devestated the state of Texas. For two days, four flights were cancelled, one after another, and I didn’t make there for his service. Couldn’t drive, it’s 1450 miles. I felt totally helpless.

    2. Observer Tim

      You’ve left a lovely story half untold here, Kerry, and the writing is stronger for it. I get the sense of another piece of the Charlton history coming out, not so much a memoire as the life of an entire family. I thoroughly agree with both of the earlier comments, and any other praise that comes as well… 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim. Smetimes you preclude me in my own thoughts about the Charlton saga. When my sister and I are gone, a entire era goes with us. The three of us have 13 children but not a one understands what we have seen and experienced. I have bombarded all 13 with history of our family, stories good and bad, [We had a few slightly unappropiate in their actions]. My Father used to tell me, “There would be more ancestors if tree limbs and rope hadn’t been an issue.”

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, you really can’t tell now if the next generation is understanding your stories. I’ll bet in the future they will think back on what you’ve told them and tell their children. My father was a great story teller, the greatest legacy he could have left.

        2. Observer Tim

          You’d be surprised, Kerry. My guess is one of the grandchildren will be hoarding your stories as they can get them.

          Part of what make a family real is memory of the misdeeds of our ancestors. Why have closets if you can’t put a skeleton or two in them?

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thanks for your advice,Tim. With my ancesters, I’ll need an entire row of closets to deal with all the miss-steps.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you WritingKitten. It is hard when you lose one of your siblings. So we pick up and start over, that’s the way life’s supposed to be. At least it’s my impression.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks charkhanolakha, I can imagine my brother reading it as I wrote it. I know what his thoughts must have been

        “Are you sure this story is about me?”

  25. thatbillguy

    Flames roiled from under the hood.

    Paint cooked at the searing touch of burning fuel. The battery detonated in a shower of bright sparks, opening a hole in the dying jeep.

    Darrel fought to draw clean air through the thick smoke.

    A tongue of fire erupted through the passenger door, licking wildly, melting the vinyl and plastic.

    The world exploded.

    Blackness.

    Pain skated on his nerves. Fists of nausea pummeled his stomach and his breath came in short, shaking gasps.

    He was alive, he knew. Dead people didn’t feel pain, or fear, or loneliness.

    He strained, listening for some sound that might indicate someone might have discovered the crash. All he could hear was the pop and crackle of something burning in the darkness. The smell of bacon made his mouth water. Sick rose in his mouth. He sobbed. Stomach acid burned in his nose and throat.

    He forced his eyes open. A blurry world surrounded him. His head throbbed. He blinked forcing thick discharge from his eyes.

    The fog faded. Darrel saw the extent of the damage.

    Flames burned all around him. Twisted metal and the day’s deliveries lay beneath the morning sun.

    He strained his neck to see the extent of the wreckage scattered around him. It felt as if a heavy weight sat on his chest and he could not move his arms or legs. He imagined the worst; that he was broken, paralyzed for the rest of his natural life. He could learn to live with that… if he lived.

    He heard a rustling, a clang of metal on metal just beyond where he lay. He turned his head in the direction of the noise.
    An old woman with long locks of scraggy gray hair and layer upon layer of ragged miss-matched clothes poked around and pushed at the wreckage with a booted foot. Her craggy face would light up in delight and reveal brown jagged teeth in her broken smile when she would find a small souvenir in the packages and letters. She knelt and tugged at a box crushed beneath the spare tire. She flustered and cussed and strained. Once free, she held it up, tore it open and examined the contents with a critical eye.

    Satisfied she added the items to the layers of clothing on her body. She continued this for, collecting as much as she could from the scattered mail.

    “Help,” Darrel said.

    The old woman’s head spun and fixed a hard glare on him. Seeing her face fully for the first time made him cringe.

    “Help,” he said again.

    The old woman smiled broadly revealing her dirty teeth through her dirty face.

    Darrel shuddered at the site. She was old and frail but something underneath was energetic and evil.

    She stepped carefully through the wreckage, her eyes scanning over him. Her smile broadened.

    “You seem to of gotten yourself into a little bit of a mess,” she said.

    Darrel managed a small whimper through the pain and panic.

    “You are beyond my help, little man.”

    Darrel wanted to shout at her, but only managed another weak whine.

    “Please,” he managed to say.

    “But there’s not really enough of you left for me to do anything with.”

    She reached down and lifted something. Darrel stared at it. His eyes went wide. She held his severed arm in one of her twisted hands, his wallet in the other.

    “This is just a piece I could reach,” she said.

    “Oh God,” he cried. “Please kill me!”

    “Oh I am sorry, but I’m afraid you’re going to live forever. Time to wake up.”

    He was falling through a sudden blackness.

    1. Observer Tim

      This reads like the opening chapter of a post-mortem thriller; I can see Darrel fighting to come back to the land of the living and get away from the old woman. Either that or he is having one ‘Hell’ of an hallucination! Either way, great job crafting it. 🙂

    2. charkhanolakha

      I agree with the other comments! The old woman is seriously scary, especially “she was old and frail but something underneath was energetic and evil.”
      I really hope he’s hallucinating.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I don’t know how I feel, I’m still shaking from the story. It is definitive horror done in a marvelous way. I almost expected to see the old woman eating his severed arm. Gad, I need help!

  26. charkhanolakha

    Pete’s favorite childhood memory was waiting in the cool crisp morning air for the post man to arrive.

    Maybe there would be a letter for Pete; maybe a parcel; maybe a card with a ten dollar bill inside. Grandma was a regular correspondent; though he had never met her.

    So was dad, though he had never met him either.

    Mom would appear at the door step; dressing robe wrapped around her; hair tangled up in wiry mess.

    “Come back in Pete”

    “Don’t talk to the post man!”

    “It’s not safe outside!”

    Mom seldom changed out of that robe; or brushed her hair. She rarely left the house. A kind neighbor would bring groceries by, or drop off mom’s prescriptions.

    At school, he was the weird kid. The one whose clothes were too small because his mother wouldn’t take him
    shopping. Who avoided people’s eyes because he had been told talking to people was dangerous.

    His only real source of communication with the outside world was through the post. Through letters; and parcels. Through written words, and gifts.

    The day after his high school graduation; he walked to the post office, and signed up as a post man. It was the only world he knew after all; the only world in which he was able to function.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————
    When Billy asked him to stay in that day because of the storm alert, Pete shrugged his shoulders.

    He had been working at the post office for twenty years now. Twenty years, and not a single holiday,

    He alone knew the anticipation; the excitement of waiting for a letter. Bill could never appreciate it; he thought. The disappointment of watching the postman’s van drive by your house. Of waiting for human interaction that did not come.

    He was driving quickly; he wanted to deliver every last letter before the storm hit.

    When the winds sped up; he did too. He was pushing the van as quickly as she could go now.

    That is why even though he saw the wind rip the branch from the tree; even though he heard the tree groan in protest; even though he saw the branch fall, as if in slow motion, he couldn’t swerve away fast enough.

    The branch landed with thud on his bonnet; the car stopped; he lurched forward. His head hit the steering wheel.
    ——————————————————————————————————————–
    “The parcels; I have to make sure they’re okay…” was his first thought on regaining consciousness.

    He stumbled out, staggered to the back of the van.

    He opened the door, and an avalanche of letters, parcels, and boxes came bursting out; burying him under their weight.

    He groaned; brushed them of his face. Lying on the ground now; he opened his eyes.

    Golden light filtered through the trees; the envelopes, large and small floated around his head in slowly spiraling circles. Envelopes, brown parcels, large card board boxes. Going around and around and around.

    As he started at them he began to decipher faces, eyes, noses mouths.

    They were alive, alive! He could to them now; talk to them in his human voice; rather than through ink and paper.

    He reached for one; a large manila.

    The envelope opened its mouth; and laughed. A loud, large mocking laugh. The other envelopes joined in.

    “Pete, Pete, Pete…”

    “You aren’t worthy of speaking to us!”

    “You think we would talk to you?”

    “You stole us, yes, from our owners, gave us to others!”

    “No!!” Pete said. “I couldn’t have!”

    “YES!”

    “I was meant for ten year old James; for his birthday! I have passes to his favorite show! You delivered me to
    Kimberly instead.”

    “She loved the show, Pete. She laughed so loud. You should’ve seen her!”

    “Oh, James though, Poor James.” The envelope shook its head sadly.

    “James cried that night; cried himself to sleep.”

    “Another promise daddy didn’t fulfill!!”

    “YOU”RE LYING” Pete yelled.

    A package had begun to speak now. It was tied with a red bow; it spoke with a woman’s voice.

    “HA! Call yourself a postman?”

    “I’m the makeup Cassie ordered online. When you hit that road bump yesterday, I bounced and crashed against the door!”

    “LOOK at me now!” She turned around, showed him a derrière with the wrapper torn; cardboard bruised; while the other packages whistled and cat called.

    Pete was sobbing now.

    “You’ve broken the compact; smashed the lipstick. The eyeshades have all shaken loose.”

    “She saved her pocket money for me; Cassie did.”

    “This is what you did, Pete. This is what you do.”

    They were leering at him now; jeering, moving closer. Getting larger, so that they were all he could see.

    Blocking out the trees, the sky, the sun.

    They began to spin faster and faster; whirling dervishes; their colors merged so he could barely tell them apart; he was trapped in a kaleidoscope of spiraling colors.

    “No!! Get back! Please! Get back!” He was getting nauseous from their motion.

    “You’ve failed us Pete.”

    “You fail us, again, and again”

    “Pete the post man, Pete the post man” They begin to chant; mockingly, twisting their ugly faces.

    “NO, NO, STOP!!”

    Pete folded himself up in a tiny ball, hands covering his head; sobbing.

    “Go away, go away, please, leave me alone!”

    “End this, then Pete!”

    “End your misery”

    “It’s in your hands, Pete”

    “I have a cutlery set inside of me Pete.” A grey package says.

    “Can you hear the cutlery rattle?”

    “I have a knife.”

    They were all laughing now.

    “Who are you, if not a post man?”

    “What can you do, if you can’t even deliver packages right?”

    “They’ll be better off Pete; they’ll get in their letters in time.”

    “No more waiting, nor more disappointment.”

    “They’re packages will be delivered in one piece.”

    “STOP IT! STOP IT! BE QUIET! Please…” Pete was begging, whimpering now.

    “END IT PETE, END IT PETE, END IT PETE.”

    “I’ll help you, I will” the grey package said.

    It held its breath, began to swell. Its edges started to come apart. The strain, the pressure built; slowly a tear
    formed.

    The cutlery slid out of the rip in the packaging, one by one.

    Spoons. Forks. A knife.

    “See how easy it is, Pete? How easy to make a tear, to slice something open?”

    “You’ve done that before haven’t you?”

    “Sliced packages open; to see, to smell, to steal”

    “You’ve read letters that weren’t meant for you, so you could feel closer to the words; to the people they were for!”

    “Well, you have the knife now, Pete”

    “You know what to slice”

    He makes one final effort to swipe them away. They laugh; louder and louder and more raucous. He can’t bear the noise anymore, it’s moving through his ears and into his brain.

    “Stop…” his brain thinks, but its’ too weak now to get his tongue to move. “Stop” it pleads.

    “DO IT, PETE! Pick up the knife.”
    ————————————————————————————————————–
    They found a pile of letters next to the van the next day, like a heap of fallen leaves. The letters covered Pete’s body like a grave; their white envelopes stained red by his blood.

    1. regisundertow

      I’m in two minds about the length. Halfway through the taunting, I was ready for the story to conclude. On the other hand, the relentless assault made me feel for your MC, so it worked well in that regard. I’m a sucker for interesting characters and you created one that has a lot going on in his brain, not all of them good. I enjoyed this.

      1. charkhanolakha

        I struggled with trying to decide which part of the taunting was necessary; and which part I could remove. In the end, it all went in, simply because I couldn’t reach a decision. So lol yeah, I was in two minds about the length too.
        Also, I really appreciated the feedback, Regis, so thank you for that!

    2. Observer Tim

      This one kind of hurt to read, Charkhanolaka, mostly because I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of hallucination. You did a great job capturing the emotive feel of a crippling anxiety attack in the internal taunting. I felt it went on too long, but that is EXACTLY how an anxiety attack feels as well; had he lived, I’m sure Pete would have had the mental aftershocks, too. I very much pity Pete, and am sad for the choice he drove himself to. 🙂

      1. charkhanolakha

        I am really sorry you’ve had to experience this, Tim, and that this story reminded you of it.
        I’m also really grateful to you for sharing your insight.
        I’m part of a project that deals with removing the barriers to discussing emotional health; and I think one of my subconscious aims while writing this was to create empathy for what Pete was going through, and the possible consequences of not addressing that in time.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I want to get in here with my two cents worth About 2/3 through I was ready for closure, But then the words kept coming and I didn’t want it to end. It certainly is a powerful piece of writing and the visuals were outstanding. I’m breathless.

          1. charkhanolakha

            Thanks, Kerry! I agree with you, I think I need to smoothen the transition from the first set of taunting-dialogues to the second.

          2. charkhanolakha

            Hmm.. I think I need to smoothen the transition between the first and second set of taunts. Thanks for your input Kerry!It means a lot.

        2. Observer Tim

          I take the sorrow in sympathy; the fact that you were able to do this in writing is a testament to both understanding and skill; I’m very impressed. You absolutely nailed it!

          The next step is to try to address the nigh-insane optimism that people use to combat it (including yours truly). 🙂

          1. charkhanolakha

            Optimism is too sacred to address; I’d be scared of diluting it! Lol I’d say the optimism is the sane part :).

      1. charkhanolakha

        Lol I’m sorry about the tenses. My brain thought it would be fun to switch from present to past halfway through without letting me know. I had to go back and convert the tenses and I am sure I missed a couple of spots because I was at work, and distracted. Thanks for the feedback reaper, I really appreciate it!

    3. Beebles

      I don’t know that I can add anymore to the comments below, only how different it was to your previous couple of pieces that swung me in a gently moving hammock of prose and this one tossed me out of it! I am rubbing my bruised limbs. Nice work Charkha.

      1. charkhanolakha

        Lol thanks beebles!! I’m very impressionable, and what I’m reading tends to affect my writing more than I would like. So you can use my stories as a sort of gauge of what type of book I have in my hands at that point in time.

  27. cosi van tutte

    Mariah tore through the town with vandalistic fury. She yanked the leaves from the trees and from the ground and threw them like oversized confetti. She tossed papers into the air and watched them twist and fly. She tangled swings around their metal frames. She pushed cars and threatened buildings.

    And, oh, how it all made her laugh. But her laugh wasn’t a happy sound. It was a howl. It was an unyielding scream.

    Hail pelted through her. Yet, still she laughed. No one would stop her. No one would ever contain her. She was free. She was as wild as she had been from her birth.

    She bellowed, “I am Mariah! Beware of me! I am Mariah!”

    And people hid deep inside their basements, inside their shelters. No one wanted to witness her power. Their cowardice pleased her. “I am Mariah!”

    Then, one garage door squeaked and rattled its way upwards.

    “At last, an audience.”

    A sky blue hatchback pulled out of its home.

    “Watch this. Watch me!” She threw all of her wrath at Old Man Begarass’ black walnut grove.

    The trees gave up their leaves as fast as they could in hopes that she would spare their lives. She laughed and pummeled her way through their branches and into their hearts.

    The sky blue car backed out of the driveway with clattery determination.

    She waited for it to set all four tires onto the street. Then, she dove at it, screaming with all of her might.

    The car didn’t rush back into the garage as she had expected. It puttered down the road, stopping at this mailbox and the next mailbox and the next.

    “I am Mariah!”

    Her declaration did not impress the sky blue car. It stayed on its pokey mission.

    She flung leaves and branches at it. “Look at me! Look at me! I am Mariah! Fear me! Tremble and hide from my power!”

    And the car moved onto the next house.

    “That does it.” She grabbed a large section of one of the downed walnut trees and hurled it at the car.

    It smashed in the driver’s side door. And the car stopped.

    And the car held still.

    “I’ve won.” She laughed, wild and hard and shrill. “I am Mariah!”

    A woman tumbled out the passenger door and sat on the wet street in a daze. Hail bounced all around her, but none of them hit her small form.

    “Behold my power!”

    The woman raised her head and looked straight at her. “I know you.” Her voice was as warm and as grave as a hot summer morning. “Mariah.”

    The hail stopped falling.

    “You can see me?”

    “Of course.”

    “How? No one can see me. No one knows my name. How do you know my name?”

    The woman raised her hands for Mariah to touch.

    Mariah grabbed them with a powerful gust and lifted her off the ground. “Wait. I know your name. I know you.”

    The wind stopped blowing.

    She set her back down. “Rae. You left us. I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

    “You were looking for a hot summer wind. I am human now.”

    “Change back! Release your hold on this human form. Come home.”

    A sorrowful expression came over the Rae’s face. “There was a time when I could do that. I can’t do it anymore. My spirit is tightly woven into this form. If I release it, I will die.”

    “Die? What does that mean?”

    “I will leave this world and never return. Not as a human and not as a wind spirit.”

    The heavy clouds broke apart and scattered.

    Mariah smiled. “But I’ve found you. And you can still see me. I can come visit you whenever I wish and spend time with you.”

    Tears filled Rae’s eyes as she shook her head. “You don’t understand what this transformation has done to me. Every day that I spend in this body, I lose something of who I used to be. A memory. A power.” The tears fell down her face.

    Mariah touched the wet streaks with a soft breeze.

    “A day will come when I will forget you. I won’t be able to see you. I won’t be able to hear your voice.”

    A light rain fell.

    “I will visit you until that day comes.” said Mariah. “And, when that day is finally here…oh, my dear sister!” Her voice dropped into a broken whisper. “I will miss you.” She dissipated into a light fog and disappeared, leaving Rae sitting alone.

    1. Observer Tim

      I love the slow build in this, Cosi. Pretty much from the beginning you can tell something’s up, but you kept me guessing until right near the end when the pieces fell into place. The dark ending is very fairy tale (original style, not watered-down Disney version). I never thought I’d be empathizing with a windstorm. 🙂

    2. charkhanolakha

      Enjoyed this, CVT! Loved how you described Mariah. I’m curious about Rae’s decision, if you ever end up writing a part two I’d love to read it.

    3. Reaper

      This is gorgeous and felt very eastern to me. In the sense of god trying to know himself through interacting in many forms. I liked it a lot, especially the humanization of the storm while leaving it wild and unknowable.

  28. Trevor

    Word Count: 595

    Fading In

    The storm hadn’t even gotten bad yet. I had just finished delivering some envelopes to an apartment complex and was anxious to speed up my pace, as I was nearly done with the day’s load. I was so foolish to think being a postal worker would be easy. The hours are long, the pay is lousy, and in the age of e-mail and Skype, what’s the use for postal services? But with the economic state of our country, I guess I could consider myself fortunate to even be employed.

    Anyway, I was just heading out on the road when it started to drizzle. The forecast showed that a strong thunderstorm was headed our way, carrying with it the chance of a possible tornado. That, plus the fact that I wasn’t in the nicest part of town, made me eager to get some speed going. As the drizzle turned into light rain, I put my foot to the gas.

    Just when I was rounding the corner, I heard a loud snap and a tree branch fell right on the hood. Usually, I wouldn’t have panicked the way I did. But with all the stress of a hard day’s work and my increased speed, my hands took control of my brain and spun the wheel to the right.

    Sending the truck right into an electric pole.

    When I woke up, I had no idea what was happening to me. I knew my eyes were open, but it was like I was submerged in a sea of darkness. I saw no lights, no colors, no faces. I began to wonder if I had died and was in some sort of Purgatory. Then, the swirls came. They were bright and overpowering to my senses. Every color of the rainbow was before me. Tints of red, yellow, green, and purple were mixed together in a mish-mash of swirling colors. It was so strange, yet so peaceful.

    Then, I heard the voices. I couldn’t understand what they were trying to say, but I could make out some familiar words like “plan” and “money” and “perfect”, like someone was picking words from a dictionary at random. Colors continued to shift and mix together before my eyes. I was starting to wonder if I had suffered some kind of severe brain damage from the crash when the colors began to fade-and the voices began to gain coherency.

    “I just hope this is all going to be worth it. I nearly cut my damn finger off cutting that branch loose!”

    “Relax, my friend. After tonight, you’ll have enough money to last your whole life.”

    That’s when I realized I was wearing a green hospital gown, lying on a hard metal table. I looked around and saw the blurry faces of several men, who were all talking casually as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I heard a gasp and assumed one of the men realized I was slowly regaining awareness of my surroundings.

    “He’s waking up! He’s waking up!” A panicked voice announced.

    “Calm down! Just put him back under before he starts to panic!” Before I could comprehend the man’s orders, I felt something being put over my mouth. Something made out of clear plastic. As my eyes darted around the dimly lit room, I began to feel lightheaded. My eyelids suddenly felt like they were made of lead. I heard one last thing before I slipped back into the darkness.

    “That was close. Now let’s prepared for surgery…”

    I was wrong. I guess there IS still a need for postal service.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Huh, interesting. I feel like this could go two way. One, the main character could be harvested for monies. Or two, the people are talking about an unrelated thing while they just so happen to be taking the main character to surgery to be saved.

      Personally, I’d like a more clear indication of what’s going on, but that’s just me. Some people might like that there’s room for interpretation.

      Descriptions are good, Trev, as usual. Although, there was no real hook at the beginning, and the only reason I kept reading was because of your track record here. It’s just my opinion, but if you add a hook in there somewhere, this would be a pretty slick story about harvesting (or not!) haha

      Thanks for the read, dude!

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Trevor!

      This was an interesting story. I loved the description in this whole part:

      “I was submerged in a sea of darkness. I saw no lights, no colors, no faces. I began to wonder if I had died and was in some sort of Purgatory. Then, the swirls came. They were bright and overpowering to my senses. Every color of the rainbow was before me. Tints of red, yellow, green, and purple were mixed together in a mish-mash of swirling colors. It was so strange, yet so peaceful.” I could totally see what you were describing.

      My only nitpick is with the very last line. I understand why you wanted to end on that line, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit. Somehow, it feels like the story would be stronger if you just ended it with “That was close. Now let’s prepare for surgery.” But that’s just my twenty-five cents. 😀

      1. Trevor

        Thanks for the feedback. For the issue about the last line, I decided to add that in to make the situation the MC was in clear, but I can agree in hindsight that the ending would be better without it.

    3. Observer Tim

      You did a great job capturing the feel of the hallucination, Trevor; the slow build of returning reality gave a perfect atmosphere to the story. Like others, I’m a bit confused about the last line – I think a longer treatment could cause it to make more sense in context. 🙂

    4. regisundertow

      That made me skin crawl. I think I cringed when I realized what was about to happen to your MC, I’d piss my pants if I were in his place!

      I’ll echo the Doc’s comments insofar as things taking off halfway through the story. I felt that the story was clear enough, but it needs something in the opening lines to hook the reader, maybe some foreshadowing or seeding for what’s about to happen. It works as it is too, but a stylistic “statement of intent” in the beginning would elevate the piece even more.

    5. Reaper

      Interesting. Normally I’m a big one for the ambiguous ending. On this I felt conflicted on that score. I kind of wanted to know what the conclusion was, and your ending sentence gave me the idea they are transforming him into something.

  29. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    After the Storm [Part I]

    I often wondered what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to work that day. Would I be dead? Would I be one of them? I didn’t even know what they were or even if they had anything to do with us. I did know those things were not human—or if they were, they weren’t anymore.

    Back then, before it all went to hell, I was Kaden Stone, a postal worker from a small town in Arizona. While I shared the same name and the same memories as that man, we’re as distant as strangers on different continents are.

    I had a wife, too. Her name was Nichole, and she was everything to me. I was lucky to have such an amazing woman in my life. She was strong, yet elegant. Cuddly, yet fierce. She was the last reason I smiled, but unfortunately the last reason I wept as well.

    It was for all those reasons I sometimes thought she made it through okay. Two years had passed since the end of the world, and I often dreamed that she was out there searching for me, dredging through this wet, bloody world to find the man she loved.

    Nichole and I were grade school sweethearts. We’d endured everything from puberty to college. We watched each other go through defeat after defeat, always there to help the other when it was needed the most. Therefore, unreasonably, I imagined that when the world collapsed, she would find her way to me.

    I often told her she was too good for me, and in many ways, it was true. Her positive nature always saw the good in people, and allowed her to see beyond the kind of man I was. Don’t get me wrong. I was neither violent nor mean, and especially so when it came to Nichole. I loved her with my heart and soul, and would’ve offered her more if I could. I just mean that where she saw the beauty of life, I saw nothing but darkness. I was, and remained, a cynical man.

    When I was younger, my mother had left to avoid her abusive husband. This left me behind to fend for myself against the bastard. Occasionally, someone would come along and attempt to help me, but always it was for their own personal gain. They never had me in mind, which often left me more broken than when they found me. After a while, I learned to trust no one, and often even doubted my own decisions.

    I don’t claim to excuse my behavior; this is just so you can understand how different she and I were. She made me a better person. She started a small fire in me that grew ten times, a bonfire if you will. The world inside me burned, and that made me the luckiest man to have the kind of woman about which every man dreamed.

    Now, as I laid on the cold concrete floor, I thought about my dreams. Specifically, the one I had last night. Sometimes I dreamt about my wife, but never is it good for me, because dreams those days came not as refuge but as silent nightmares. They told stories of what I remember before the storm, before all the death. These are the worst kind of nightmare because I know they’re not true. I know that when I wake up, I’ll be back where I laid my head to rest. Alone and without Nichole.

    Sometimes I wished for death so I could see her again. Conversely, I’m too cowardly to allow someone to kill me or to allow the creatures to feast. You can see the dilemma, I’m sure.

    When I woke, I was alone in a worn out building that people had once used for their daily duties. There were fewer people working now as opposed to before it all happened, but that was only because there are fewer of us now.

    I couldn’t say how many people survived the storm, but I do know that it wasn’t very many. Traveling, you come across more cold bodies than warm, and of those warm bodies, few are the kind you can trust. And of those you can trust, you might be lucky enough to find one that won’t stab you in the back.

    As you can imagine, things like that kept me from getting a good night’s sleep. Waking after only a couple hours was a typical night for me.

    Laying on that office floor surrounded by desks and cubical walls, I kept my eyes closed and my mind firmly planted in the past. I thought about the small house Nichole and I shared. The warm sun buttered the cream stucco with its golden glaze, and I could smell the sweet vernal grass accenting the fresh aroma from Nichole’s flower garden. I saw her kneeling in the grass and digging into the soft, chocolaty soil with a spade.

    In this memory, which had now become more of a daydream, I silently called out to her. She turned, smiled. She waved her gloved hand at me as the sky began to darken and as her fiery red hair danced behind her. A gust of cold wind ruffled her sundress and her hat tried to take flight, but she quickly grasped it as she gazed up to the heavens. Dark clouds now mottled the once blue sky, and a crescendo of thunder forced me to open my eyes.

    Sometimes I hated the way my mind made me think about things in a shitty way. I’ll never understand how the love of my life, the woman whom, despite my cowardice I would readily give my life to protect, could appear in such dismal daydreams. Never once could I dream about the simpler times when we cuddled up to watch a movie or the day I professed my love for her through vows I would never break. Always it was about that damn storm and about how it tore us apart.

    The thunder boomed again. A threnody of wind moaned through a broken window. The storm hadn’t followed me from my nightmares. These small storms came and went. Sometimes they were only thunder and lightning, and sometimes they carried with them rain.

    The rain was what started all of this. Well, I don’t know if it was the rain or something else, but it seemed the rain brought the monsters with them. It changed the world. When the rain fell, they came out of the shadows, and they fed.

    When they came out, that’s when people hid. That was also when you found yourself cornered with people you know but can’t trust or strangers that most assuredly will kill you. This was how our world worked, and that was why when I heard the door slam open at the other end of the office in which I took refuge, I knew my life was in danger.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reaper.

      Good. I see you marked this as Part 1. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

      Just so you know, I loved the details in your MC’s dream. They’re so vivid. Great job!

    2. regisundertow

      If this story is about hallucinating, it’ll be even darker than its excellent prose reveals come part II. Lots of elements I like about this one. Post-apocalyptic setting? Check. Vague monsters? Check. World-building? Check too. I’ll need to read the continuation, before commenting on the structure and the plot, but I’m liking the story so far.

    3. nean

      I see you found the prompt useful! AFTER the Storm. I enjoyed it. I’ve read it a few times since you published it. I like how you reveal just enough character that many of us reading might somehow relate to a part of him. The only thing I questioned was the vernal grass, soft chocolaty soil, the flower garden, and the cold wind ruffling her dress in Arizona. But you certainly took me there! Your writing is clean, I didn’t stumble. Thankfully, easy to read and enjoyable.

      1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

        Good catch, nean! You’re right about the chocolaty soil not being indigenous to Arizona, but at that moment, she’s working in a personal flower garden. If tended to correctly, you can have a pretty nice garden. It does take a lot of work, though.

        Where I grew up in Az (Gilbert), many of the homes had vernal grass, but most lawns there are filled with either rock or a more robust grass. So, you are correct there.

        The most important thing here is that you noticed that the cold wind isn’t common to Az. Some areas, like Flagstaff, it still snows. However, he did not live in Flagstaff, and this is a very important thing. The storm is an unnatural storm that comes, bringing with it something dangerous.

        Thanks for reading, nean! I haven’t seen you around here (probably because I’m blind), so welcome to our little corner of writing fun! (If you’ve always been here, well… shoot. Nevermind. haha

        1. nean

          Thanks for the welcome. I am new. I am enjoying your writing. I have had difficulty with reading and comprehension since taking on age…but your writing is so clean and clear I am faring very well reading it! Thank you!

    4. WritingKittenOfLoki

      The vagueness of the monsters is quite terrifying.
      I found Kaden to be very relatable; I also had an abusive dad, so I can definitely relate on that level.
      I can’t wait to read part two.

    5. Reaper

      Please sir… I want some more. Great beginning that has me looking at other stories and thinking this world is the prompt. Man, I wish more people would confuse us at the bookstore. 🙂

  30. ReathaThomasOakley

    Horace delivers 1905

    (Morning after last week’s armchair story)

    Grove mules, stubbornest creatures God ever made, Horace thought as urged the pair pulling the wagon along the washed out road. The storm that had raged during the night left damage everywhere, but he had to get to Sarah.

    He looked at the darkening sky and shuddered at the memory of Cletus Fuller standing at his door, his banging’d forced Horace out of a fitful sleep.

    “Mornin’, Horace,” he’d said. “Sorry to get you up, figgered most folks is awake this time a day.” He tried to look into the house.

    “Storm kept me awake. What you want, Cletus? Just leave the mail in the box.”

    “Oh, you ain’t got no letters today, I’m deliverin’ a message, deliverin’ a message,” Cletus laughed at his feeble joke, “message from Stanley down to the depot. A wooden crate come in on the 4:40 yesterday, Sarah Carter’s name on it. You better wake her up, she gotta get that crate.” Horace grabbed the front of his shirt and yanked Cletus right up to his face.

    “Sarah ain’t here, don’t you go tellin’ folks she is. I hear you done that, swear to God I’ll kill you.”

    Now, Horace was on his way to Sarah’s aunts’ house, her crate, under a tarp, in the back of the wagon. He shivered as the wind picked up and rain moved like a dirty sheet through the old grove on his right, the grove where some folks swore they’d seen lights at night. Horace pulled his hat brim down over his eyes as the rain reached the wagon.

    “Hey, mules, you gotta see the road for me,” he was shouting when there was a loud crack, the smell of burning, then blackness.

    Horace could see nothing. Must be the hat, he thought, as he tried to sit up.

    “What the…” he said out loud as he realized his clothes were dry. He was sitting up, but still couldn’t see.

    Suddenly there was light, so bright it burned his eyes. Then the light turned into fast changing images, like the stereopticon his mother’d loved. He saw Sarah, looking out a window in his house, a baby in her arms. “Our baby!” Horace gasped. Then Sarah lifting a little girl in the air, both laughing so that he could see the child’s tiny extra teeth. Darkness again, then he saw himself handing his daughter to Sarah’s aunts, all of them crying.

    As the images faded he saw his house, painted a different color, roses blooming against a sign that said, “Hightower Museum.”

    The last thing he saw before the dark came again was a young girl, sitting cross legged on a floor, humming. In her hands a string of beads she kept pulling apart and putting back together. Suddenly she looked straight into Horace’s face and smiled.

    “Extra teeth,” Horace heard himself saying as the image disappeared and he realized he was lying on the wet ground, the wagon several yards down the road. Horace grabbed his hat from the mud and ran after the wagon. He had no idea what had happened, but after seeing his lovely Sarah, smiling and happy, he vowed even if he lost his house and his groves, he was going to make her his wife.

    1. regisundertow

      Another Reatha Special. Loved the different perspective. The piece has its own voice, but fits unquestionably within the larger saga. I’ve said it before, I’d buy whatever book you decided to publish.

    2. Observer Tim

      Brilliant as usual, Reatha. Now I have to go back and read the last 2 or 3 posts so I can see what I missed. I love the way you capture the essence of the setting between the lines of the story, and the characters are fascinating. 🙂

  31. Pete

    They called it a Derecho. And the sucker came out of nowhere on a hellish hot day in August. No rain. No thunder. Just wind. Tree-bending gusts that roared like a train pulling into the station.
    I’d just finished up my route and was dreaming of Canada when it hit, taking my hat.

    I hopped in the truck. Punched the gas. A flutter of junk mail took flight out the window when a maple tree slammed down on the hood of the truck and the airbag sent me packing. When I came to the tree had me pinned in from all directions. My head reeled. Mail was everywhere. I was able to retrieve my phone but the service was out. From what I could see of the crumpled truck I was lucky to be alive. I fought to wiggle free from the airbag.

    The howl of wind. Tree limbs scraping the truck. But the sound of something moving around in the back was what got my attention.

    “Who’s there?”

    I swirled around to see it was the big package with the Russian address. Needed a signature for pick-up.

    FRAGILE.

    Хрупкий

    Now, it was dark in the van, under that tree. And this is the part no one believes, but on my grandmother’s grave I watched a blinding light peer out from the seal.

    Lit up the whole truck.

    I wiped my face. My mouth went to sand. There, in the midst of that mountain moving storm, that package slunk to the front of the truck where it burst open, spilling blonde hair and dripping with a heavy accent.

    “Could you give me a hand?”

    Two of the bluest eyes—eyes like someone had taken a crystal clear day and doubled it— found my own. I helped a woman out of the box. Moved my jaw to form words. Nothing emerged.

    She untangled herself from the shipping paper. Packing peanuts clung to her wedding gown.

    “You are my husband, no?”
    I rubbed my goatee, blinking to focus. Being divorced and a bit soft in the middle, I don’t often hear proposals from gorgeous Russian women on a Tuesday evening. I felt my head nodding.

    “Uh huh.”

    Her English was tangled in a heavy accent. Like that of a Bond girl. Not that it mattered, I was speechless. She pouted at her gown. Took notice of the tree.

    “What has happened here?”

    Me, without looking away “Well, we’re stuck.”

    “On the vay to our honeymoon?”

    Oh man. Finally my luck was turning. One look at the future Mrs. Travis Cutler and I was happier than a three day weekend. I thought about seeing Shirley again, maybe at WalMart, chugging along, scooping up boxes of Hamburger Helper so that she could feed that gaggle of freckled-faced stepchildren she’d married into. Then I’d roll up with Edita on my arm, all six foot of her, say something like, “Why hello Shirley. I’d like you to meet Edita. Did you get your wedding invitation?”

    Then Edita would flash that smile, the one that looked like it belonged on a stamp. I hand combed my hair into place. She leaned over to me.

    “Vat shall we do?”

    I had some ideas. But just as soon as I started in with it there was a crash. Someone bashed in the door window. Flashing lights Help had arrived.

    “Take the girl. Take Edita first,” I implored. But they all just sat around laughing.

    “What’s that?”

    “Edita, my bride.” I motioned to my fiancé. But my dream girl was gone. Replaced by a rumpled heap of new plastic. Humiliation. The hiss of air, leaking from the lifeless doll.

    The EMT’s were still doubled over, something I found less than professional.

    “Okay, pal. We’ll get your bride. Right this way.”

    I was okay. Two broken ribs. Bruised forearm. Nothing a few days off didn’t fix. Only by then the news of my “bride” had reached Post Office #4 on Williamson Road. And offices #1, #2 #3, along with #5-#100 for that matter.

    The guys asked how my airbag was doing. How was she in the sack. Endless jokes about my package. A blow up doll found its way into my locker. Oh and I got docked for the Russian princess. Then I saw Shirley at WalMart.

    She had a blast.

    1. Observer Tim

      I was really wondering where this was going, Pete; great twist at the end. The reactions, and how they spread through the public service, was spot on. Luckily, all he has to do is live down his new nickname and wait for the next humorous screw-up… 🙂

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