A Long, Long Flight

After a hectic day, you are looking forward to a long flight you have planned. It’s the first vacation you’ve taken in two years, so you’re extra excited. But when you get on the plane, you get seated next to a person who wants to tell you his/her life story (which you’re not in the mood for). But part way through the talk, you realize the story being told sounds familiar–in fact, you realize this person is revealing details from an unsolved mystery you heard on the news. What do you?

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

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130 thoughts on “A Long, Long Flight

  1. Neapoleon

    Two hours – that’s how much I have left until I see Luna again. I finally found my seat, put the bag over my head and sat down. God, how much I hated those airplane seatbelts; I could never get one to the perfect amount of tightness.
    – Pretty exciting things, airplanes.
    Next to me a man in his forties. Why would he start a conversation with me? And what is so exciting about airplanes? The regularity of the subject of his amazement made the man sound like a fool to me, as his redneck accent wasn’t enough already. Yet I had no choice but to respond, I mean, who likes an asshole right?
    – First time flying?
    – Well you could say that. Haven’t set foot in one since ‘Nam. Brings back memories, although unpleasant ones.
    ‘Nam? So now I’m having to deal with a veteran? Great. The inconvenience of having to be even more respectful now to this particular seat-partner of mine made me anxious.
    – Where are you going?
    – To my wife and daughter. Haven’t seen them in five years. My wife and I got divorced a couple years back.
    – Sorry to hear that. May I ask? Why have you decided to visit her now?
    – You see son, I got cancer, and I ain’t got much time left. Figured I should correct some of my mistakes.
    Oh man, the poor fool. He thinks the girls have just been sitting these five years waiting for him. I could bet a hundred bucks at that moment that when he got there, a hillbilly pretty much like him would’ve beaten his ass before he could even set foot on the porch.
    – I’m sorry to hear that mister.
    – Call me Will. And you are?
    Oh, now we’re getting on a first-name basis? The extent of this conversation was getting on my nerves. I just couldn’t wait to get to Luna.
    – Felix, pleasure to meet you Will. Have you thought of what happens when you meet your family? What would you do then.
    – Well, I may sound desperate, but I’ve practiced back at home a few times. Never got the setting perfect, but I’m pretty confident on this one.
    – Practiced? How exactly?
    – Oh, I’m too embarrassed to tell you that. Let’s just say seven is the lucky number, so I’m sure I’ll do good.
    Seven? What? What has seven anything to do with this? Is he playing with me? This conversation was giving me nausea. Better to spend my time in the toilet than with this man.
    – I think I’m gonna go to the bathroom real quick.
    – Do I annoy you that much?
    I decided to ignore that question and just ran off. The time has come. I’m coming Luna. As I sat there, during the last minutes of my misery, I saw an article in the newspaper: “The Navy Killer Daddy has added a sixth murder to his account, after last night’s incident with wife and daughter of another U.S. soldier Bryan Clarkson, who is away on duty”. Six. Seven. SEVEN. Ohohoh, I get it now old boy. Gonna correct some mistakes, are you? It felt good, I guess – to know that not all people are innocent on this plane.
    It was time to see Luna, but first I had to pay the pilots a visit. Upon exiting the toilet, I decided to shout:
    – Hey Will!
    – Yeah?
    – I’m sorry, but you won’t see your girls anymore.
    As I slam the door to the pilot’s cabin, I say one last goodbye to this world. I’m coming Luna, I’m almost there.

  2. TrntyLnd

    You sigh as you finally sit down. You’re all sweaty and flushed from the run you made from security to the airplane. Luckily you made it just in the nic of time otherwise you would have had to try to get a refund for a nonrefundable ticket and we all know how hard that is. You take a deep breath fanning yourself with your hand looking out the window just waiting for the plane to take off so you can get relaxed. Your looking forward to the nap you’ll be able to take seeing as you stayed out late last night. Thats what go you in this mess being too tired to wake up to you alarm clock. You see everyone still trying to get settled something you avoided as you only have a carry-on that you can tuck under your seat. You close your eyes for a moment just waiting to hear the pilots voice tell everyone that we were ready for take-off. As you rest your eyes waiting to hear the voice over the intercom you feel a delicate hand tap yours. You open your eyes to see a beautiful woman standing in front of you looking far more put together than than you in your sweats. “Yes?” You ask trying not to sound annoyed that she was bothering you. “Would you mind”, she started,” If we switched seats? I get a little claustrophobic when I’m in the middle.” Too tired to argue you just get up and slide your belongings under the seat next to you sitting down again. You expect her to go about her business but no she continues talking. “Hi my name is Elizabeth. Would you mind me asking your”, she asked sticking out her hand. You of course always the people pleaser take he hand and respond with your name. Again you expect her to stop talking. But no she goes on to try to make conversation with you. She’s not doing anything wrong really but does she think that the person with droopy lids and messy hair really wants to talk with someone at the moment. Especially since you respond in as little syllables as possible while closeing your eyes in between questions. She talks and talks and talks to you. Asking question after question and seeing as you weren’t answering but the bare minimum she starts talking about herself. You now know where she was born, raised, her birthdate, favorite color, job description, and all about a woman she apparently loathes. That is the main topic now that your in the air just waiting for her to shut up. “Yeah I really hates that woman,” she said scowling. “She would just not shut up and did not take the hint no matter how little I responded to her,” the woman vented rolling her eyes. You are paying attention now not understanding how this woman does not hear herself talk about this other woman describing herself perfectly. “Yeah”, she continued,” She just kept asking questions and nagging me about myself finally I just grabbed my pen, took off the cap, and stabbed her right in the neck repeatedly. That shut her up,” she said in a frighteningly calm voice. You finally interject about five minutes after she reveles this fact to you in the middle of her listing all of her past pets. “Y-yo-you stabbed? a woman in the neck? With a pen?” You ask nervously. “Oh, well yeah, she was getting on my last nerve,” she tells you like she just did something completely normal and not at all strange or psychotic. You start to panic slightly excusing yourself rather abruptly taking your bag with you. You move as fast as you can in the tiny plane aisles and finally reach little cuboard like room the the stewardess were supposed to be in. You bang on it probably startling them and the people in the seats around them in the process and keep banging until they open. Your panting if only for the reason that you scared that the woman was going to come up behind you and bash you over the head with her laptop. You finally catch your breath enough to tell the woman what you seat mate told you. By the time you get to the end of the story the woman is wide eyed and nervous. Obligated she tells you to take her seat as they were soon going to be landing soon and the stewardess was going to take your seat. By the end of that flight the woman had a pencil hammered into her thigh with a book and staples all over body. You have never felt more guilty and you will never forgive you self when you know that most likely nothing would have happened to you as the flight it only had thirty minutes left but because of you this woman will forever have a limp and a gastly scar from where they had to cut In to get the lead out of her blood stream. Your will Never. Fly. Again!

  3. BookwormTunnel

    Somebody just won a middle seat.
    I rushed through the plane, determined not to be stuck in the middle of two strangers, who’d either sit there the duration of the flight in awkward silence, or talk my poor ears off. I flew alone a lot, but mostly to travel between my two divorced parents, my mom in America, Dad in Norway, his home of many years. America was my home- most of the time.Today I was finally taking a vacation to visit my best friend Chloe in Florida. I nearly slid into the first aisle seat that I found, bonus- a cute college kid was occupying the window seat, typing furiously on his Mac Air. At 16, I wasn’t quite his age- but I wanted to be.
    I opened the camera on my phone, taking a fun selfie, to show Chloe my new blonde tips, and cute skater outfit. So plane chic, I texted, smiling. I couldn’t wait to see her again- the first time since she’d moved 3 years ago. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts, headphones in, laughing at GMM, that I didn’t notice when a frazzled looking woman edged into the middle seat. Her hair frizzed and floated above her head, and her eyes darted wildly. I watched anxiously as her mouth kept opening and closing. Like she wanted to talk. No way.
    The plane took off, flying into the dark night. I settled in for a short flight, only 2 hours. Little did I know that the woman would talk through all of it.
    ” My name’s Leah, yours?” she asked politely. Before I could even say “Emily,” she contiued talking. No way could I focus on my phone now. I nodded as she spoke. ” I’m on this flight to run away,” she confided.

    ” I was born in a test lab. A lab that tested everything and anything on me. I was exposed to all sorts of radiation, and” she leaned closer, ” I think that they are developing a new strain of the most fatal virus, Ebola, to kill those who get in their way. That’s when I knew I had to run away.” I sat, entranced, phone forgotten, as Leah’s story unfolded. ” The day I left the lab, I burned it down. I set fire to it so nobody would get hurt. I’m afraid. I’ve never been in the real world before.” The story got darker as she went along. ” These people, they will hurt anyone that challenges them. Maybe kill them. I don’t know- all I know, is they told me, if I told anyone they’d hurt both of us. In ways they said I couldn’t possibly understand.”
    As the tale went on, her eyes grew wilder and wilder, as if she was seeing something I couldn’t.
    ” They exposed me to gamma rays. I haven’t been the same since.”
    ” They kidnapped my parents a long time ago, just so they could have me. I don’t remember ever seeing my mom or dad.”
    ” I don’t know how old I am.”
    ” I don’t know who I am.”
    ” Oh, Meghan, I’m so scared.” I jolted. How did she know my name? Now that I thought about it, Leah’s story sounded a lot like a segment they ran on the news, about a missing woman, Leah Doe, and the lab she burnt down- releasing deadly Ebola fumes into the air.
    ” Meghan!” she screamed, and then her eyes closed, and she fainted dead away.
    I unbuckled, fearing for my life, and ran to tell the captain-
    Leah Doe was on the plane.

  4. wiedienacht

    You lean back into the seat, letting the cares of the day slip away. Still, there’s a nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that you should’ve taken a higher price on last week’s shipment, and that you forgot to change your inbox voice message. With herculean effort, you force these thoughts from your mind and smooth the wrinkles of your skirt. Vacation. This single word has become your mantra.

    The voice of the pilot crackles on over the intercom, and you catch a few words about the projected flight time and weather upon arrival. Passengers are still backed up in the aisle. You’re relieved to be seated already. Your eyes drift shut, a smell of cologne rolls over you. Someone is grunting nearby, shoving something into the overhead compartment. Your heart gives a protesting flutter, you hope no one is going to sit next to you.

    You open your eyes to a freshly pressed white shirt tugged from black slacks, exposing a tuft of midriff hair. The man gives one final grunt and then sighs, his luggage firmly wedged in the bin. You groan inwardly as he takes the seat next to you, and pointedly turn away before he can give you an awkward greeting.

    The runway is bordered by a handful of rectangular buildings, function over form taken to the extreme. Behind them, an almost endless field of dying grass stretches. You know because of the drive to the airport that this field is fenced in, but you can’t see the chain-link from this distance.
    “Do you mind if I close that?” Your unwelcome seat mate asks, and you watch in horror as he reaches a hand in front of you and slides the window shade down. “Just during take-off anyway.” He shrugs and gives you a half smile, noticing the aghast expression on your face. “I get a little sick.”

    Refusing to let his ill manners further fluster you and thus detract from your much deserved vacation, you give him a cool smile and relax back into your seat.

    Before too much longer, the passengers have been situated, the emergency procedures have been explained, and everyone is strapped and ready for take-off.

    You smile as the plane’s engines whine and the jet begins to taxi. The man beside you turns a bit pale and grips the armrest between you tightly. You’re somewhat relieved, if he’s attempting not to vomit he won’t bother you with small talk. On the other hand, you eye him with worry, what if he loses the fight? The sight and smell of vomit aren’t exactly the heralds of vacation you expected.

    Thankfully, he keeps his stomach contents private, and does not object when you slide the shades back up. The view of the winding roads and specks of buildings pulling away beneath you is one that you hope never ceases to take your breath away. It’s been three years since you’ve last been in a plane, three years since you’ve taken time off. You make a mental note to not wait so long before the next one.

    “Well, we’re still alive.” The man beside you says, then chuckles.

    You nod and hope he’s done speaking.

    “You know, I haven’t been on a plane in… I don’t know. Almost ten years.” He takes a deep breath. “The last time was when my ex-wife got married to this doctor she met in Borno. You know where that is?”

    You stare out the window at the passing clouds and shake your head.

    “It’s in Nigeria. Awful place. Hot. Full of terrorists. Anyway, it’s not as bad as I remember it. Being on a plane I mean.”

    Pressing the call button on the dash, you not-so-patiently wait for the steward to arrive so you can order a glass of wine. It looks like this is going to be a “more than one drink flight.”

    “It’s the thought that counts, don’t you agree?”

    Having missed the first part of his sentence you nod your head in vague acquiescence. A tall man with a thick mustache arrives and asks you what you’d like. You order a white wine and some saltines.

    “Oh, how perfect! I’ll have a glass as well.”

    The steward informs you both that the drinks are served in plastic cups, not glass, and then retreats back up the aisle.

    “Name’s Thomas Harwick, by the way.” He sticks out a calloused hand for you to shake.

    Years of society training can’t be overridden and you clutch his hand briefly and announce your own name, “Nicolai Louden.”

    “What a beautiful name.” He smiles and you notice a single gold tooth, a glimmering canine.

    For the next half hour he regales you tales of his numerous ex-lovers, thankfully not in full sordid detail. You’re starting to drift off when something he says snatches you from the brink of oblivion and demands your full attention.

    “What did you say?” you ask.

    “Oh, I was just saying about how you can’t tell with some people, how they’ll turn out.”

    “No, not that. Before.” You take a sip from your third plastic cup of wine, trying not to look too interested.

    He’s taken notice of your shift, however, and eyes you with vague suspicion for a moment before relaxing into his normal talkative mode. “Before that, I was mentioning how I spent an evening at the Asiate, in New York City, over the Holiday weekend. You know where that is?”

    “In New York.”

    “Um, well, yes. Technically.”

    “Sorry, it’s in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, isn’t it?”

    He looked thrilled that you knew the place, and continued with vigor. “Oh yes! And it’s top knotch! The food is to die for, and the service will always leave you feeling like royalty.”

    Something about the reference to royalty triggered the same feeling as before. You take another sip of your wine. What is it about this story that seems so familiar? You struggle, but are unable to recall.

    He tells you about the Arctic Sea char with cauliflower and the cute oriental waitress that flirted with him until late in the evening. You’re about to check back out, when he says, “Too bad the night was spoiled by that obnoxious dignitary.” His voice dropped to a growl. You shift in your seat, suddenly uncomfortable.

    A silence spread between you. He looked down the aisle, his gaze lingering on a young woman with a small child. You study him more closely. There’s a thin pink scar across his cheek, shaped like a check mark. Silver stubble adorns his square jaw and meets his slim cut, straight black hair. The white dress shirt you first noticed is ruffled, as if he’d slept in it. He turns, catches you studying him and smiles, eyes dancing. “Of course, I took care of that.”

    “Oh?” You ask, hoping you sound politely interested and not terrified. You’ve finally realized why the story sounds familiar. Last night, while you were packing, you overheard a story on the news about a visiting dignitary disappearing from a famous New York Restaurant over the Holiday weekend.
    Apparently, the guy was some sort of African Prince, on his first visit to the states. He had some sort of official business, but you missed that part, being too busy deciding which shoes to bring.

    “Mmm. Yes. Yes I did. Anyway, I would highly recommend that restaurant to anyone visiting New York City. Simply to die for.” He seemed amused at his suggestive pun, and turned away from you to smile at the couple across the aisle. They gave him wary looks but did not return the smile.

    You try and think of an excuse to switch seats, but then wonder if he’d be offended. What might he do? This is just great, you think, sitting next to some nut case that quite possibly just admitted to killing someone. What a way to start your vacation.

    “But enough about me, you’ve hardly told me anything about yourself.” He turned back to you, leaning in and giving you another strong waft of his cologne.

    You laugh a bit too high and loud, then manage to say, “Me? I’m pretty boring actually. Ha.”

    “Oh, I shouldn’t think so. Pretty girl like you. I’m sure you’ve got some fascinating stories.” He paused, “I’m just dying to hear them.” It seemed like that particular joke wasn’t getting too old for him.

    “Well, I, um…” You decide not to task his patience, and tell him a little about yourself. “I work as head of sales in a marketing and brochure Distribution Company. I’m on vacation, actually.” You say too brightly.

    He grins. “Perfect! Me too.” He leans in closer, until you’re struggling to breathe with the scent of him.

    “Maybe I could take you out to dinner?”

      1. wiedienacht

        Thank you 🙂 I ended it there since I’d already gone way over 500 words, but I might come back to the story later and show what happens next. I love these little writing prompts, now I have no excuse not to write something every day.

    1. crosswaysnet

      from unease to disgust. a descent into the grotesque before the descent. It’s gonna be a good part of the vacation shaking off THAT bad start!

  5. Critique

    Sorry guys for this lame little story. I’ve missed you all and wanted to get a post in before the prompt changed.
    ************
    Lenora closed her eyes and let her head sink back as the jet powered off the runway into the skies. Two weeks of rest and relaxation at her cousin’s family cottage in Prince Edward Island. She couldn’t wait.

    “All you need is groceries. Everything else is there.” James had said handing her a note. “Our caretaker’s a great guy. Here’s his number. He’ll pick you up at the airport and drive you to the cottage. The Jeep is yours to use too.”

    “Thanks cuz.” Lenora had given him a grateful hug.

    “Excuse me sir. Would you like a drink?” Lenora opened one eye long enough to see the attendant addressing the passenger next to her, a round pot-bellied little man who had been hiccupping non-stop for the past few minutes.

    “Water.” He hiccupped. “Please.” Hiccup. “Sorry.” He gulped the water.

    “Maam? Would you like a drink?”

    “Coffee. Just black. Thank you.” Lenora took the hot cup and sipped carefully.

    “Runs in the family. The hiccups.” He set the empty cup down. “I couldn’t stop them if you put a gun to my head. Terrible thing.”

    “Drinking fast does the trick.” He mopped his chin with a napkin where water had dribbled. “Hiccups are a nuisance but can be a good thing you know.”

    Lenora faked a yawn.

    “Melody, she’s only five, had been there the whole time.” He twisted the napkin in his fists. “Three weeks and no one bothered to look.”

    “The boys next door were having a sleepover on the deck. They saw someone. But no one listened. Not their parents. Not the police.” He turned to look at Lenora. “Children tell the truth you know.” He whispered. “I know who they saw. I believe them.”

    The subtle hints to tune him out weren’t working plus he had piqued Lenora’s interest so she asked. “Who did they see?”

    “It doesn’t matter anymore right? They found Melody and she’s okay.” He whispered.

    Melody Rodale? The kidnap story that ran in the news for weeks. Daughter to millionaire Marcus Rodale?

    Lenora’s mind raced. She had to find out what this man knew and get that information to James, a policeman who worked tirelessly on the case.

    “Is this the little girl that was kidnapped….”

    “Shh.” He held a finger to his lips. “Those boys heard her hiccupping. They climbed through a window and found her trussed up like a turkey in a back bedroom. They saved her life.”

    “The kidnapper is still out there.” Lenora said softly.

    “That’s right.” He stared back at her.

    “And you know who he is?” Lenora asked.

    The man’s head bobbed. “It’s a she.” The napkin shredded in his hands. “No one will ever believe me.” He whispered. “Except the boys.”

    “My name’s Lenora.” She placed a hand gently on his arm.

    “I’m Stuart.” He said and hiccupped. “Marcus John Rodale is my twin brother.”

    Lenora had seen Marcus many times in the media and he looked nothing like Stuart.

    Several hours later and cups of water for the recurring hiccups Stuart confided in her.

    The boys saw a person leave the house that night, pull off a ski mask revealing long blond hair.

    “She’s a devil. I’ve seen her do mean things. Marcus divorced her years ago.” Stuart was convinced the woman was Marcus’ first wife, Helene.

    The first thing Lenora would do when they landed in Charlottetown was put a call through to James. Then, the vacation could begin.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Liked the detail of the hiccups, that made his story more believable. Still wonder why he didn’t tell the police. Or, perhaps Stuart isn’t what he claims.

  6. crosswaysnet

    OK, here’s mine:

    I tuned out as he yammered on about the beauty of a perfectly formed cube of ice. He proceeded to wax poetic on the fizz dancing over his ginger ale. I found myself forcibly engrossed in the route map on page 87 of the in-flight mag, finally nodding off as the cabin dimmed for the 2 hour polar crossing. I dreamt of orcas and leaping salmon. It had been ten years since those golden summers on the tidal flats of Campbell River. I woke up reminding myself it wasn’t summer, and the border crossing into B.C. was gonna be a bitch after a 6am arrival at SeaTac. And it wasn’t cold enough for snow.

    i looked around at the undulating sea of thin wool blankets and half-pillows. The ginger ale man was studying me. His business partner had vacated the seat next to him. I considered returning to the magazine but I’d already dismissed the long-format article on Micronesian scuba sites. Been there, done that… or at least read it all during hour one. I turned to face the man. Dark eyes. round pewter-tone spectacles. close cropped pepper hair and a returning grey shadow. Only his eyes seemed to react to my attention. Very precise, this one…

    “What’s so interesting?” I asked.

    “Your methods of evasion,” he replied without moving his head.

    “Is that so?” I didn’t bother with a follow-up. Began to reach for the magazine again. Reconsidered.

    “Either you’ve already explored the Micronesian reefs and found them wanting, or they remind you of something bothersome.”

    His accent was precise but indistinct. Educated. Europe? That would make sense, we were inbound from Helsinki. But not Finnish. Swiss? No. Not Germanic. Someplace… Middle Eastern. Maybe Iraqi. His coloring was certainly un-Scandinavian.

    “How interesting,” I said, dismissively. “Why don’t you tell me more about your bubbles. It seems the most interesting liquid you’ve ever seen.” I glared at him.

    “No, not the most interesting. But delightful in its romance of the nose. the scent of ginger – refreshing – teasing – they’re all the components of a good lover.”

    Oh, good Lord. He’s coming on to me.

    “No. the most interesting is blood.”

    It sounded cold and distant when he said it.

    Now I was cold, and wanted to be distant. I said nothing.

    “It has its own aroma, you understand?”

    I didn’t and didn’t ask.

    “You can smell the fear in some blood. The more the fear, the more the blood, the more the…”

    His voice trailed off. I studied those eyes, again. I knew those eyes. The name – the deeds – the horror came to my mind in a flash. A shadow came between us and fussed its way around the ginger ale man.

    “Pardon me, miss,” the deeper voice said, as he whipped a single handcuff out of his left sleeve. The ginger ale man quietly raised his right hand as the cuff snapped shut around it. The Secret Service agent used his right hand deftly to unlock the man’s other wrist from the seat on the aisle side. The agent returned to his seat on the right.

    I knew this terrorist mastermind was being transported back for the first civilian terror trial. I could not fathom his transport this way. Ginger ale read my mind.

    “It’s not so strange, is it? There is competition, my dear. Many other factions have already attempted to ‘remove’ me from ‘consideration.’ Your nation seems intent on meeting me face-to-face.”

    I stared for a good minute. “Have a nice flight” I grumped, returning to my magazine.

    “I had no intention to, but we shall have to make do,” he replied, flagging down the next flight attendant for his next glass…

  7. Ananfal

    “I can’t believe that our plane was delayed by a murder in the airport! What are the chances of that?”
    “…Very unlikely.”
    “Well, I tend to have some sort of luck with these things. Murder just seems to follow me!”
    “Then why do you fly places?”
    “Oh well, I’ve always wanted to see the world, and murder happens everywhere! I’m not doing anything wrong.”
    “… Whatever you say.”
    “Oh come on, don’t be like that! I’m a good guy, really. It’s not like they suffer!”
    “What?”
    “Oh, did I let that slip? Dear me, what should I do now?”
    “…You killed that man at the airport, didn’t you. And lots of other people – that’s why murder follows you.”
    “You’re a smart one, aren’t you! Very good…”
    “Are you going to kill me?”
    “Now, why would I do that? We’re having such a nice conversation!”
    “… Right.”
    “In fact, I really like you!”
    “Gee, thanks.”
    “I like you so much I might just have to take you with me!”
    “Wait, what?!”

    ———————————

    Just a quick something I wrote in less than half an hour. It’s pretty blah, but it has potential for more, I think.

  8. Observer Tim

    THE WOMAN NEXT TO ME

    It is a simple fact that any human male will ‘check out’ any human female he sees, even if he is totally exhausted after enduring nineteen hours of high-level business meetings and embarking on a long flight across the outer Solar System; it’s a Y-chromosome thing.

    She’s wearing one of the new snug-fit space suits and oh what it’s fitting snugly to! I can tell her figure is ideal in every proportion. Even her face, the only part of her I can actually see with the helmet off, is gorgeous: clear blue eyes, button nose, soft cheeks and gorgeous lips, all under an auburn halo in the current pageboy style so popular among spacefarers. I’m not instantly awake, but I’m well on the way there.

    We make small talk; she’s on her way home to Vesta after what can only be described as a disastrous honeymoon cruise. The man she was been traveling with left her partway through the trip, and on top of that her friends had died in a shipboard accident! A small light went on in my brain.

    “You were onboard the Queen of Centaurus? And you knew the Durhails?”

    “Yes to both, I’m afraid. I even met Doctor Alex Parker.”

    “The scientist who walked out the airlock?”

    “That’s what they say, though I have a confession: I’m fairly certain it wasn’t suicide.”

    “It wasn’t? But there was every reason for it! Everyone knew he felt extremely guilty over his failure to cure the plague and save the Artificials!”

    “Oh, but he did find a cure! The plague was an engineered variant of smallpox that only affected the clones; knowing that fact the cure was simplicity itself. He was ecstatic about it, which is why I doubt he killed himself.”

    “Too bad he didn’t find it in time; there are no Artificials left. I know because I’m responsible for distributing the warranty replacements, the new ‘Engineered Life Form’ models; it was a great stroke of luck they were nearly ready when the plague hit.”

    “Yes, it was.”

    “Wait, how do you know so much about Doctor Parker’s work?”

    “I was there; he was my fiancé.”

    “But the report said he was last seen in the company of a stolen Artificial.”

    “That ‘report’ hasn’t been released; the police are still investigating the matter. How did you know about it?”

    “Well, I… Rumours spread… “

    “Not yet they don’t. Nobody has been released from decontamination yet.”

    “Then how are you here?”

    “That rule only applies to humans.”

    “Humans? Oh, you must be one of the E.L.F.’s; I didn’t know there were any on the flight. I must say your appearance is rather different than I expected.”

    “I am not an E.L.F. Try again.”

    “You can’t be an Artificial!”

    “How do you think I know the cure works? Too bad there’s no cure for the poison.”

    “Poison?”

    She slaps a sweet-smelling handkerchief over my face and whispers “This one’s for you, my dearest Alex.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I loved this Tim, the setting perfect, the story entertaining. Too bad, he didn’t have a go with her before he died. At least the afterglow woukd have made it easier. Top drawer here.

  9. UnclePizza

    Of Sins and Ash – Part 6
    (Part 5, somewhere below, attempts a nod and a wink at the prompt while this part just jogs past it without so much as a glance…)

    The boy knew that something was wrong. He had lived with the old woman for a whole turn of the seasons now, and he had learned to understand her even when she did not tell him things. And as he watched her working silently by the stove, he knew.

    She worked with a sense of urgency this morning: reaching straight for small bundles instead of letting them invite her hovering hand as she usually did, stirring more quickly than usual, and at one point she nearly dropped a small bowl onto the floor. But what was especially different today was that she had not drank the blood of a lizard last night –there were no ashes to mix into her clay pot.

    It was midday when the boy watched the woman carry the clay pot outside and urinate into it. As usual, he watched from a short distance (a lesson he had learned during his first days with her, when he had tried to urinate in the pot after she did and had suffered his first rebuke at her hands). Also as usual, the old woman began to knead the mixture with her bare hands as she added small amounts of earth. Finally, she turned the lump of clay onto a large flat stone and began to shape it as a few dozen small creatures wandered into the yard and watched her from their shallow holes.

    The boy always wondered what she would make, but he never tried to guess. She had caught him guessing when he was still new to her home and she had made him understand that it was best to watch and wait. She told him, silently as always, that not even she knew what the earth wanted to become until it spoke to her, and that his guess might confuse it. The boy did not understand how the woman knew when he was guessing, but he did understand that he must always obey her, and so he was content with simply wondering.

    He watched the form take shape slowly. It was larger than a mouse, but smaller than a hare. Soon he could tell that it was taking the shape of a bird. The woman used fine bone tools to carve the bird’s features, etching with a practiced hand. Although she always took great care when creating a new creature, the boy sensed that today she was paying even closer attention than usual to every detail, down to defining the fine blades that made up the feathers.

    When she was ready, the woman stood and smiled at the boy. She told him that it was nearly time to go. He let her knew that he was confused, that he wanted to stay with her. She helped him understand that while it may seem as if he was being taken away, he was actually being sent, by her, and not to worry because she would keep watch over him.

    Then, the old woman shed her robe – the red leather one with the blue stitching – and gave it to the boy. She told him to wear it, which he did, although it felt strange since he only wore clothing in the winter. Holding her flint dagger in one hand and the clay bird in the other the old woman looked to the horizon and stared for a long moment before lifting her face to the sky and making the sounds come from her mouth. In a flash, she added one more cut to her scarred breast, and let the blood drip into the beak of the large, black bird.

    The boy heard the sound of horses approaching – horses with riders. This time, however, the woman told him to stay instead of hide. Although he was scared of the riders, he was even more scared of disobeying the woman, so he stood still as the horses filled the small yard, surrounding him. A tall man climbed down from his horse and walked quickly toward the old woman, and making the noises from his mouth, he pulled a long shiny stick from something hanging at his side and stuck it through her chest.

    Blood gushed freely from the wound as the woman fell to the ground, and the boy knew that she was badly hurt. He began to cry and run toward the woman, but one of the riders grabbed him and pulled him up onto his horse. The tall man climbed back onto his own horse, and the men began to gallop their horses toward the horizon. As they crested the small rise beyond the yard, the boy took one last look back at the old woman. He saw the raven rise up from the ground where the woman lay, and begin flying high into the sky above the riders.

    The woman’s voice came to him, but now it came from where the raven flew: go with them, she told him, and be patient.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Another fantastic episode. You continue to weave myth, some perhaps your own?, with reality in a way that makes it all real. I liked how the earth decides what it wants to become. Great job.

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Reatha. Aside from the historical concepts of the sin eater and the Spanish conquest of the New World, you’re right in that I’m making the rest of the “mythological” stuff up. I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but it came all at once. (Maybe La Bruja is putting them in my head? 😉 ) This is one of those times where I saw the whole story from beginning to end all at once. I have two or three more installments in mind (depending on how the prompts need to be accommodated). I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  10. cosi van tutte

    And here’s one more for the fun of it….

    ***

    The cat strutted down the airplane aisle, looking for a comfy lap or an attentive ear. He would have gladly taken both, if possible. But he knew people better than that. It was going to be one or the other. Not both.

    The cat murmured to himself, “Let’s see what my options are. Crying baby. Oh, that would be plural. Crying babies. Frazzled mother. Man reading a newspaper. Well, that does have some possibilities. Mmm. Lovely crunchy newspaper. I can almost feel it under my paws. He’ll be annoyed at first. They always are. Then, I’ll rub my face up against his chin…Oh. He has whiskers all over his chin. Well. Forget him.”

    He quickly ducked under a seat as the stewardess pushed a loaded tray down the aisle. “Hmph. You won’t roll that thing over my tail this time.”

    He waited for her to make her return journey before slithering out into the aisle again. “So, Forget whisker-chin. No to the mother. No to the crying babies. Now, if those babies were in a more pleasant state of being, I’d give it some consideration. But no. Tall boy with glowing device. No. He’s paying too much attention to it. He’d just shoo me away. Tall boy and tall girl pressing their lips together. No. Three small boys fighting over a ball.” He sat in the middle of the aisle and swooped his tail around his legs. “No. They’d probably start fighting over me and that would not be pleasant.”

    He flicked the tip of his tail in irritation. “Well, this is just a bad lot. Not one acceptable—wait.” He uncurled himself and strolled over to a little girl reading a picture book.

    “Hmm, she’s as distracted as the others, but I like this one.” He carefully looked both ways. “Good. No one’s looking.” He ran over to her and jumped on top of her armrest.

    She startled. “Oh!”

    He looked into her eyes. “Hello.”

    Her eyes widened. “You talk?”

    “Of course I do. All cats can, but we choose not to make exhibitions of ourselves.”

    “Oh, then why are you talking to me?”

    “You look like someone who will listen.”

    “Oh. What do you wanna talk about?”

    “Let me curl up in your lap and I will tell you.”

    “Okay.” She set the book on the empty seat next to her, which disappointed the cat. He had great plans of scratching his claws on the hard cover and then settling down on top of it. But he decided to let it go for now.

    He curled up in the little girl’s lap and purred a throaty burble of a purr. “This is comfortable.”

    “What do you wanna talk about?”

    He tucked his front paws under his white chest. “Are you travelling alone?”

    “No. Mom’s with me, but she’s in the bathroom right now.”

    He involuntarily shuddered at the word ‘bathroom’ and purred even louder.

    “Did you wanna talk to her?”

    “No. Just pet me right now. Yes.”

    Her hand ran up and down his back a little too hap-hazardly, but it felt good. “It’s been a long time since anyone has touched me like this. Most of the time, they tell me to get lost and eat a sheep. Oh, if only I could eat a sheep.” He looked up at her face. “I’ve seen a picture of those things. If I could catch one, I would have endless bragging rights amongst my fellow alleys.”

    “Alleys?”

    “Cats who don’t have rightful homes. We tend to live in gutters and alleys. No one owns us and we all walk where we please. But at night we all dream of comfortable beds and soft blankets. Of food that we don’t have to catch. Of water that’s as clean as our fur. And of someone who will pet us and tell us that we are home.”

    The little girl hugged the cat with tears glistening in her eyes. “Don’t worry, cat. I’ll take you home with me.”

    “Elissa.”

    The cat and the girl froze.

    She looked up at her mother. “Oh, mommy please. Please can we take him home? He’s a really good cat. He’s a nice cat. Look. He hasn’t bit me or scratched me or anything.”

    “Tell her I’m a good mouser. It’s the truth, you know. I am a champion mouser.”

    “He’s real good at catching mice. Please, mommy. Please.”

    “Elissa, honey. He might belong to someone else.”

    “No, he doesn’t . Look. He doesn’t have any collar or license or anything. Please, mommy.” Tears fell from her eyes. “Poor kitty doesn’t have any home at all.”

    The mother examined his neck.

    He purred his warmest, most hopeful purr.

    “You’re right. No collar.” The mother took the cat out of Elissa’s arms and looked him in the face.

    He stopped purring. He gulped and expected the worst.

    “Mommy?”

    She tucked the cat under her arm and carried him over to the stewardess.

    He wanted to squirm away and bolt, but he sensed that it would be in his best interest to just stay still.

    “Hello? Excuse me, miss. Do you know if this cat belongs to anyone?”

    “What/? That little moggie?” She raked her too long, too red fingernails against his head.

    He deeply considered hissing at her.

    “Naw. This little guy is an airport bum. He sneaks aboard planes every now and then. Maybe he’s looking for the people who used to own him. Maybe he’s just looking for a new home. Either way, he doesn’t belong to anyone. Or should I say no one belongs to him? Cats are like that, you know. You don’t own them. They own you.”

    Elissa joined her mother. “Mommy? Can we keep him? Please?”

    He purred all of his hopes at her.

    Elissa’s mother softened and smiled at the small creature in her arms. “I’m just really glad that we’re on our way home.”

    Elissa’s face brightened. “Then…”

    “Yes.”

    The cat rubbed his head against her chin and purred joy and happiness.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Miss Kitty read this with me, she says it’s enchanting, soft and lovely. She suggesteed I give you her email when you get home so she can drop him a note now and then. Miss Kitty wants to know one thing, now how do I say it? Miss Kitty wants to know if he has all of his parts…..blush.

  11. Witt.Stanton

    Courtesy of NASA’s greatest minds, the shuttle attempts to re-stabilize as we hurtle towards our reentry point. A second asteroid glances off the hull, spiraling off and into the darkness; another nail in our coffin.

    “We’re getting close,” I warn Dvorak over the static in the headset, trying to ignore the multitude of pulsing warning lights on the wall in front of us. Our craft steadies, and for a brief moment hope blossoms in my chest. “Try to re-establish contact with Mission Control. They need to reactivate thrusters –”

    The entire craft shudders as another splintering rock ricochets off the exterior paneling. My bulky spacesuit takes the brunt of the shock wave, but it feels like a punch to my gut. I gasp for air, fogging up my suit helmet. My head aches.

    Salvara curses as he watches our trajectory path coast another degree off. “We’re gonna be crushed like ants.”

    Volleys of fist-sized asteroids pound against the shuttle with a renewed vigor, issuing on more warning lights. For a second, I let my eyes fall closed. “It sounds like rain,” I whisper, half to myself. “God, two years in space. Rain. I can’t believe it.”

    “I grew up on a ranch,” Salvara says. “A fenced-off spit of land in Arizona. When it rained, the whole sky would just let loose. Black clouds, pouring buckets of rain over everything.”

    When I open my eyes, new lights have flickered on, red this time. “What’s your point?” I stare at the lights with dull eyes.

    “That’s complete nonsense, kid. Rain doesn’t sound like this. It’s not supposed to be pretty. The rain you’re hearing is as real as that freaking moon landing. You and me both saw no flag. Put the pieces together yourself.”

    I don’t have a suitable reply. As the seconds tick by, I can feel the small bud of hope inside of me wilting. My voice is quieter when I ask, “Don’t you miss it? Being home, I mean.”

    Just above the static I can hear him laugh, but not unkindly. “Not that much. They should’ve given Armstrong an Oscar.”

    “Quiet, both of you,” Dvorak orders, “save it for later.” I let out a choked laugh as I feel the rising G-forces pull my head against the back of my helmet. The moment we lost our comms unit our fate was sealed.

    “We were so close.” I grit my teeth against the tears. “So close to making it home.”

    “It’s one hell of a life, isn’t it?” I’m surprised when I hear Salvara’s voice over the headsets again. This time, it wavers ever so slightly.

    None of us say anything as we feel Earth’s gravity begin pulling us into orbit. Cradling that dying bud of hope in my hands, I close my eyes and listen to the rain.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is terrific, heart stopping and sad in a way. But what an adventure they had, two years in space. Can you imagine the views. The rain was a brilliant touch, brought reality of failure so close. It reminds me of an old space movie, one of the very first realistic fkicks. From ‘Earth To The Moon.’ 1950 or ’51.

    2. UnclePizza

      This was great – felt real – I can imagine the sinking feeling that comes with realizing you’ve been doomed but didn’t know it until now, and now time’s up. The fear, the anger, the resignation, the hope…

      Awesome job with this.

  12. cosi van tutte

    Kerry’s story inspired me to give this prompt another try. Plus, I got this first line stuck in my head and I decided to see where it would go. 🙂

    ***

    When you’re dealing with a double agent, you’d better be encased in Kevlar from crown of head to tip of foot. Otherwise, you wind up dead like Carl over there. Carl…Poor Carl. He was all too trusting.

    Not like me.

    I don’t even trust deer flies, much less a Russian women swathed up in rich white furs. Her call name was Ingrid and she reeked of men’s cologne – the cheap stuff, nothing good. And Ingrid was all manner of nothing good.

    Carl, over there, thought that she was in the up and up. He thought that she carried our backs and bags. Well, she did. Until that whole group of Russians burst into this garage and started shooting at us.

    We managed to down several of ’em. Then, Ingrid happened. She pulled out her high caliber Pistol Whopper and gunned down poor Carl.

    Well, I was steamed hot and outraged about that turn of events. I shot her square in the chest.

    I had no idea there was Kevlar under all that fur.

    The impact knocked her back and down, but that was all it did.

    I turned to shoot out the rest of the Russian squad.

    She thwacked me with a frying pan. I don’t even know where that thing came from. Maybe she had it hid under all that fur.

    I don’t know.

    I didn’t know much about much after that. Being knocked unconscious does limit your ability to observe stuff. Anyway, I came to and she was gone.

    Ingrid was gone.

    Ingrid.

    Lovely Russian no-good black-hearted men-cologned Ingrid.

    I can only assume she returned to Russia with her leftover comrades.

    As for me, I gotta get to Washington to be debriefed and told what to do next. Probably get a couple of days off to get my head back into the game. Yeah. That would be good. I need a day off. Been needing it for some time now.

    I can only hope they’ll assign me on the search and destroy Ingrid mission.

    I can only assume there will be such a mission. If not—

    ***

    “Hey, mister! Whacha writin’?”

    The agent raised his head and gave the blonde, gap-toothed little girl a blank stare.

    “You writin’ a ghost story? That’s what I’d write. A ghost story with oozing heads that scream “MURRRDERRRR!” at midnight.”

    “I am not writing that sort of thing.”

    “Oh? Whacha writin’ then?”

    He looked down at his journal. “I’m writing down my thoughts and memories.”

    She stuck her tongue out in disgust. “Well, that’s just dumb. What’s the point in writin’ down real stuff? That’s boring and dumb. No fun in any of that.”

    He thought of Carl and Ingrid. He thought of the comraderie they shared before she turned on them. “It isn’t all boring.” He thought about some of their misadventures. “Some of it is actually fun. Though, the rest hurts.”

    Her pigtails swished into her face as she shook her head. “Don’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me.”

    “You’re still so young.” He sighed and looked out the airplane window. “You should go back to your parents.”

    “‘kay. But you should write something a whole lot more fun than all that. Write something that’ll make you laugh crazy. But don’t go writing love stories. Those are just gross with all the kissing and stuff. Bleah!”

    He looked back at her. “What do you think I should write?”

    She shrugged a big little-kid shrug. “Like I said, something fun and funny.”

    “What about an adventure story?”

    “Adventure? Hmm, ‘kay. Only if it’s funny.”

    He smiled. “Yes. I think I can manage that.”

    “‘kay. Bye!”

    As she returned to her seat, the agent thought about Ingrid and Carl. He thought about everything that they had gone through.

    He thought about that little girl’s words and he smiled some more. “A funny adventure, huh?”

    He re-read his last entry until he was satisfied with it. Then, he flipped a couple of pages forward and wrote, “It wasn’t quite daytime when the little girl decided that she had had enough sleep. She rose from her bed and grabbed her trusty sword. She had never been on a proper adventure all by herself before. “How hard could it be?”

    “Well, she was all set to find out.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Poor Ingred, I could have handled her! So she killed Carl, that what double agents are supposed to do. Somehow I think you gave a clue. Imngred might have been a Persian cat. I loved the ending, the writer changing pace and writing a children’s story. Noice touch there.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Fun story. For some reason I kept seeing the little girl, maybe because of the pigtails, in black and white, licking a huge lollipop, from a 1950s family show, a female Dennis the Menace. For me, she’s more interesting than Ingrid.

  13. Kerry Charlton

    NATASHA IVANOV

    THIRTY THOUSAND EMAILS

    PART TWO

    Natasha held Vince close in the plane rest room,

    “Our being together has been arranged by the Joint Chief Of Staff, and the Secretary Of State, high level stuff“.

    “You mean we‘re dealing with the Russians? Pardon me for asking.”

    “I understand the confusion, you see I’m a double agent working directly for the State Department.”

    “Why did you need to put yourself in mortal danger?”

    “Vince, thank you for being protective. I know you’re a retired Navy Seal with a brilliant record, but I’ll tell you why. I’m the one that hacked the Democratic National Committee.”

    “Did you do that to gain more trust?”

    “Exactly, but not completely. For over a year, I’ve been building a cyber juggernaut aimed at America, under direct orders from Putin.”

    “Did you leave some vital parts out?”

    “You’re catching on quick but my cover’s about to be blown and that’s why you’re here, to protect me while I finish my work.

    “But I’m by myself, you know.”

    “There are six men aboard this flight to help you. All have proven their worth.. Now we need to get out of here. I’m turning the scanner off. Make some noise and try to put some passion in it.”

    Between the moans and the slams against the walls, both Vince and Natasha were laughing like school kids wondering what the plane’s passengers were thinking. With his tie at 30degrees, his shirt stuffed halfway in his pants and his hair all messed, Vince left first and calmly walked back to his seat, with 150 sets of eyes glued on him. Natasha followed with the same experience.

    “Now make this look good,” she said as she cuddled, bit Vince on the ear and ran her hands all over him. Hw responded gladly until they heard an angry voice,

    “I’m the last one to knock love,” the stewardess said, “but you two are causing so much disturbance on this plane, the captain has suggested if you don’t stop, you’re going to be handcuffed and ride in the baggage department, Savvy?“

    “Is it air conditioned?”

    “Mr. Donahue, that’s not at all funny.”

    They settled from their antics and although Vince was dying for more information, he knew he couldn’t discuss it now with Natasha. His mind ran at full speed.. ’Why Fox News and why me?’ he thought. ‘This kind of skullduggery can’t be revealed to the public, even to Fox News. There has to be more to this than she’s telling me. And why am I totally captured? Do I miss the action I was trained for?‘

    His mind snapped back to attention with the first shot. And the second shot brought all the Adrenalin pumping. Three men, obviously hijackers ran through first class. One spoke in broken English,

    “Stay in your seat or you‘ll die”

    Two of them shot the lock off the pilots door, entered and gunfire erupted immediately. More gunfire rang out in the business class. The third gunman was distracted for a moment and Vince moved like a panther, delivered a killing blow to the highjack’s neck, took his gun and cautiously crept to the open cabin door. One of the hijackers in the cabin looked up and was greeted by a bullet between his eyes from Vince’s gun. The second burst through the cabin door, firing his weapon. Vince dropped him with one shot.

    Meanwhile, in the rear area, firing had ceased. Vince entered the flight deck, both pilots were dead, the plane had reverted to automatic pilot. Running to the rear, death was everywhere. One man stood, Victor leveled his pistol,

    “Raise them,” he said.

    The man did so,

    ‘I’m a federal marshal, there are six of us, the other five are down as well as three

    hijackers.”

    . The stewardesses checked all eight men, the hijackers were dead, three of the agents also, and two wounded.

    “Who is flying the plane,” the marshal asked, “the automatic pilot is not on, I can tell.”

    Vince ran through the aisle to the flight deck, the captain had been moved from his seat. In his place, Natasha sat, flying the plane.

    “My God, do you know how to do this?”

    “I am a licensed pilot, multiple engine but I’m not familiar with this large a plane.”

    . .

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Kerry!

      This is a really enjoyable continuation. This part in particular made me smile: “if you don’t stop, you’re going to be handcuffed and ride in the baggage department, Savvy?“
      “Is it air conditioned?”
      “Mr. Donahue, that’s not at all funny.”

      And, just so you know, I love how take-charge Natasha is. 😀

      I’m looking forward to the next part.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Cosi, I thought that part amusing myself, it just popped out. More adventure ahead. Let’s hope part three will post when I write it. Thanks for following along on our little adventure.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Uncle, I appreciate the comment. There certainly will be more coming if it will post. Writing part three today, hope to post it later this afternoon. Stay tuned.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, found part one, and Miss Kitty’s photo, yesterday. Both just great. I like how you’ve made this so timely. You’d better be careful, just in case this is all too close to the truth.

  14. thejim

    The cramped isle of planes always makes me nervous. I hate to make a choice; does this person get to look at my privates or my ass? As I stowed my bag in the overhead and make my way to my seat, I notice my traveling companion occupying the seat next to mine. Within seconds of me sitting, He opens his pie hole.

    “Hey, how you doing?” He spits out. The name is Chimer Teutlovski my friends call me Toots, you can call me Toot if you want or Steve I really don’t care.”

    With a forced smile, I nodded in his direction and glanced down at his hand.

    “Ahh… you see my hands, you’re probably wondering why I don’t have any fingers? I started chewing my fingernails one day and then just could not stop. Ha ha hhhaaaa. No, NO, nnooo. I cut them off, Yep, cut them right off. Used a big old knife, whack, whack, whack, every last one.

    “Okay that’s nice, I replied, but really, I am just going to sleep through this flight, so it was nice to meet you Ti…Ahh”

    “Toots, Toots, like a horn, toot toot,” he says while making the motion of a train conductor pulling his cord for the train whistle, except ol’ Toots here has no fingers to grab the cord.

    “Okay then, Toot, I…”

    “You wondering why I cut off my fingers? I bet you are. I had to cut them off, I had to cut them off, I had to cut them, Yep, I did, I had to.” He says and his stubs start to flail around in his seat. “See I like to shoot things. Live things, people things, I shoot them, But I had to stop so I cut off a finger each time. I did it till they were all gone.’ He lifted his hands up too close to my face, “See, their gone, look I am even wiggling them.”

    “The first one was in a car, a green car her brains splattered across the front window. So I said, you did bad Toots, and the next day I cut of my pinky. Another one was at the Burger King, I hate flame cook burgers so I shoot the window teller, you want some ketchup on those fries. Chop again. The twins at the Home Town Mall, one bullet crawled through both of their skulls. This time since it was one bullet is it one finger, no had to do two. Chop, Chop.” As he spoke, my mind recalled all these shootings and they had never caught the maniac who did it. “The last one was hard because it was really difficult to hold the rifle, and it was my last finger, which was my thumb, which I guess is not a finger, well we can call them all digits. I got him when he was feeding the pigeons in the park, free food for birds. Chop the last one, all gone.”

    After he finished his list of people, I looked hard at him, and looked at his fingerless hands I lifted my gaze slowly until I focused on his bloodshot eyes and asked, “So tell me Toots, How did you so cleanly cut off the last, digit, with no way to hold a knife?”

    I could see panic across his face, “I … Well, you see… “He stammered out.

    “Next time Toots, you should make up a better story,” I opened my book and settled in for a nice quite flight to Hawaii.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The very thought hit me when he was down to a thumb. I once flew from Dallas to Los Angeles sitting next to Tex Ritter. For three hours I thought he was about to break out into song. That would have been funny but not nearly as much as your story here. Loved Toot’s conversation antics.

  15. chandra_wd_writer

    Hi, here is my attempt. Went a bit long, but I hope you like the story.

    “You know what’s the toughest thing for the human brain to do?” he asked after a few minutes into our casual chat.

    “I don’t know. A lot of things, maybe. What are you? A neuroscientist?”

    “Heck, no. I am no scientist. I am just an old man with a lot of guilt. A lot of secret burden I had been carrying from the past thirty years,” he said rather contemplatively for his lifeless face. His gray beard and wrinkles on his cheeks suggested he must be in his late fifties or early sixties.

    “That’s more than what I would be interested to know about you now. But what’s the hardest thing for the human brain to do?” I asked, intrigued by his question.

    “Well, there may be quite a few things, but to hold a secret for long is the cruelest of all. As long as three decades, in my case. It’s like an eternity in brain’s timescale,” he said.

    “That’s tough. I have never held a secret in my life for more than a day. Or maybe I never had any secrets which are worth staying secret,” I said. Soon I regretted I was giving too much information to this crazy stranger.

    “Where are you headed to?”

    “Paris,” I said.

    “What’s Paris to do with an almost old man like you?”

    “Excuse me, is it any of your business?”

    “I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt you,” he said.

    The flight was empty in the last five rows, and I thought I should rather move to one of those vacant rows.

    “That’s okay. I can pardon an irritating old man,” I said. I was hoping a harsh remark like that would curtail this unpleasant conversation.

    “What is it with Paris?” he pestered again.

    “I prefer rather not talk about it,” I said.

    “How can you not have any secrets to keep for yourself? Haven’t you ever cheated your wife?”

    “I don’t have one.”

    “I had one until a month ago. She passed away. Finally. She was suffering from a strange disease for ten years or so. I am really happy she is no more suffering,” he said without a hint of sadness.

    “You don’t sound like you need a ‘I am really sorry to hear’ from me,” I said.

    “I have never told her my secret as well. She was a fine woman. For sure, she would never have forgiven me for what I did,” he said. This time, he sounded more sincere than he had been all this time.

    “Why would you bother me with all this?”

    “I don’t know. I had been thinking ever since my wife left me. All my life now looks like an empty lie.”

    Suddenly, for the first time, I was honestly sorry for this man.

    “What’s an old man like you going to do in Paris?” I asked him. He told me he was headed to Paris when he introduced himself.

    “I don’t know. A pilgrimage, maybe,” he said with a confused look.

    “Why would you keep any secret from your wife? I guess you did love her,” I said. For some strange reasons, I was now interested in his secret.

    “Fear. Just fear, but nothing else. I was afraid of losing her. All these thirty years I lived a life of a lie with her. How can I forgive myself? Both for doing what I did and keeping it a secret all these years?”

    “I can understand your feelings. If you never even told your wife, why would you start talking about it with a random stranger today?”

    “Well, my brain can no more hold it. The burden of it is too heavy for my aging neurons. I need to get this out even if what I did means nothing to a stranger like you. I am sure you wouldn’t care much about what I did. Nor would you remember this conversation after a few days.”

    “Well, I am no more interested in knowing your secret than I am interested in the American politics,” I said. I knew the old man would anyhow reveal the secret. I wanted to act as if I never cared.

    “I killed two people, thirty years ago on this very same day,” he blurted out as if that was the most notable thing he would put on his job application. No hint of emotion on his face, but a strange sense of burden vanished from his face. Suddenly his face looked more saint-like than it did all this time.

    “Well, I am sure why you had to keep it a secret, then,” I said as a matter of fact. I was surprised by his confession, but I knew the scene was building up to something revealing like this.

    “No. I had to keep it a secret because I had a family. Two toddlers to care for. A wife. You know a family who totally depended on me. But our twin boys were taken away from us before they turned teens. Both died of some health issues a year apart,” he said with visible hints of tears under his thick, slim-rimmed spectacles.

    “But why did you murder when you had a family? What were you? A drug dealer then? Or a contract killer?” How could I be so insensitive?

    “Well, it was an auto accident, to be precise. I hit a car while I was driving. I saw there was a woman in the passenger seat. There was a baby in the back seat. That’s all I saw. I thought they were dead for sure. There was no one on the road as a witness. It was a hit and run. I was a bit drunk that day. I managed to get to my house without getting noticed in the dark. It was raining on that night. I still get nightmares every other day. The helpless woman and the baby. On this very same day,” he said. He wiped his tears after he removed his spectacles.

    “On this same day? Where?”

    “A small town in Northern California,” he said. “Why would you care?” he added as he was surprised by my rather emotionless question to his dark confession.

    “Do you remember the car? Do you remember how the woman looked?”

    “Why would you care? Yes, it was a black car. I still remember her face. It stared at me helplessly out of the broken glass. She had blond hair and neatly dressed in white. How can I forget something like that? How can I? All these years, I had been too afraid. I was too selfish to save my own family. Now I am left with nothing, nothing but lifetimes of guilt.”

    I did not speak a word after that for five minutes or so. I finally met the man I had been waiting for all my life. A man who left my beautiful wife, and our daughter to their fate on that fateful evening. A man who never cared to call cops at least. Finally, I had a face to associate with. All these thirty years, I lived a life of regret. Why did I ask my wife to come home late that day? I wanted to surprise her on our anniversary. On this very same day. And on this very same day thirty-three years ago, I met her in Paris for the first time. On this very same day thirty years ago, fate took her into darkness. And our beautiful daughter. All these years I lived a life of nothing but guilt.

    “What happened to your wife? Are you alone?” he asked. By this time he had composed himself.

    “Nothing. Some disease. You know,” I said. Then I moved to the window seat in the last row behind us. I stretched my legs and stared into the darkness out of the window. Then I drifted off into sleep before I knew.

    Thank you for reading.

  16. igonzales81

    The seatback tray in front of me is crowded to overflowing with my laptop, several empty plastic cups, and the discarded containers of several small bags of mixed nuts, aka my in-flight meal. There’s barely enough room to breathe in the cramped seat at the very back of the plane; I haven’t been able to feel my legs since about ten minutes after takeoff. But that’s okay, because I’m on my way someplace sunny and warm in Southeast Asia.

    “We’re live at the suburban home of Dr. Mathias Lundberg, at what local police and FBI spokespersons are calling a shocking scene of butchery.”

    I tune back in to the news program I’ve been watching. It only caught my eye because the headline mentioned my home city. Now I can’t sum up the energy to look for something a bit less disturbing.

    “Reports indicate that sometime between two and five this morning, Mrs. Rachel Lundberg was savagely murdered.”

    Thank God they aren’t showing any pictures of the crime, just shots of a very nice house, the fleet of police cruisers and federal sedans surrounding it, and crime-scene tape stretched between two trees, swaying in the breeze.

    “Mrs. Lundberg was the long-time wife of Dr. Lundberg, a respected plastic surgeon and a man many described as a pillar of the local community. At the time of this report, Dr. Lundberg was not available for comment.”

    Well, that must have been disappointing. I’m sure the press would have loved to grill a man whose wife had just been gruesomely murdered.

    My concentration on the story is broken as the man next me shifts in his seat, leaning forward and stretching his back. He notices my look and smiles, mouthing an apology. He’s a probably forty-something, with hair that’s both thinning and graying and sharp grey eyes under sloping brows. He looks back to the movie playing on a screen on the back of the seat in front of him. He’s been watching the same flick for hours; he must’ve restarted it at least twice. I’m not interested in it, myself—slasher horror isn’t my thing—but this guy’s been staring at it like a starving man confronted with a bacon cheeseburger. To each his own, I guess.

    “CNN has just received breaking news. The FBI has just issued a material witness warrant for Dr. Mathias Lundberg. He is regarded at this time as a person of extreme interest.”

    A picture comes up on the screen, and my mouth goes dry. It’s a good photo, taken recently. It really captures the man’s sharp grey eyes and sloping brows. My eyes travel slowly and inexorably to the man sitting next to me.

    Feeling my gaze, he glances over. A smile flits across his face. “Pretty good movie, huh?”

    Just then a scream rings out from somewhere forward in the plane, followed by a loud voice.

    “No one move! Stay in your seat and do as we tell you! You will not be harmed. We are taking control of the plane!”

    Now all I can do is hope that I’m dreaming…

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very well done. Your description of plane travel is spot on. I’m very curious about who now has the plane and how the fugitive is involved.

  17. Witt.Stanton

    Hey, Brian. It looks like my response-to-the-prompt comment again has been sucked into the SPAM folder, or whatever’s going on. Could you please find a way to get it posted? Thanks!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Witt. I struggled two prompts ago. I finally rewrote one word, p##n, and it posted. The word was only used as a reference to something else, but it seems that stopped it from posting. Good luck.

  18. UnclePizza

    Of Sins and Ash – Part 5

    The soldiers rode to the small church at midday, arriving in a thick cloud of dust that hung weightless in the still air. The lead rider dismounted, and ordered the rest of the men to take their horses to the nearby river. “Water them and let them rest in the shade. And take my horse with you,” he said, handing the reigns to his lieutenant. “Come back and meet me here in half an hour.”

    As the others rode off, the tall man walked to the church entrance, paused to remove his conquistador’s helmet, and stepped through the great wooden doorway. He stood still for a few moments appreciating the cool air while his eyes adjusted to the dim light. As his vision returned, the soldier could see that the new priest was kneeling before the sanctuary, deep in prayer. Not wanting to disturb him, the soldier took a few quiet steps up the aisle and sat at the end of a pew.

    After a few minutes the priest spoke a few words of Latin, crossed himself, and stood. Turning toward the soldier, he said “Thank you for coming. Please, come with me to the rectory where we can talk.”

    As the men entered the small dwelling the priest gestured toward a table where there was a pitcher of water, along with two clay mugs, two wooden platters, a loaf of bread, and a slab of cheese. “Sit,” the priest gestured. “You must be hungry after your ride.”

    The soldier sat and drained his mug thirstily and set it on the table where the priest immediately refilled it. “Thank you, Father,” the soldier said as he looked around the sparsely furnished room. “It is good to have a priest in the village again. As you know, we have not had one here since your predecessor died last year.”

    “Thank you, my son. The villagers have been welcoming, although there seem to be quite a few who have not been converted to the Faith yet. But then I suppose that is why God has sent me here.”

    “And your journey? I hope you had smooth sailing.”

    “It was delightfully uneventful, and in fact would have been outright dull if not for an insufferable merchant who talked for nearly the entire two months it took us to cross the ocean. He told me his life story along the way, and it took all of my patience to politely humor the ¬fool.” The priest frowned and cut a small piece of cheese for himself before continuing. “There was one thing he told me as we neared land, though, that seemed absurd when I heard it but, I fear, actually appears to be something that may warrant, shall I say, intervention.”

    The soldier waited patiently as the priest ate his cheese and sliced some bread. He had only known this priest a week, but had already learned that he was one of those who emphasized his point by taking his time to make it.

    “What this man told me,” the priest finally continued, “is that some of the heathens in this new world claim to be able to cleanse the sins from one’s soul, thus allowing them to die sin-free. At the time I initially thought that this was just more of the old fool’s gibberish, and put it out of my mind.”

    The soldier cut some bread for himself, and chewed silently while waiting for the priest to continue. The priest also remained silent, looking sternly at the soldier as if daring him to ask the logical question. But the virtue of patience was well ingrained in the large soldier, and he used it well. “Imagine my surprise,” the priest finally continued, “when I heard about an old woman who lives in the high desert beyond the river. I assume that you know of her?”

    “La Bruja? Of course Father, everybody knows of her.”

    “And they ask her to cleanse their sins?”

    The soldier shifted uncomfortably. He had bristled at some of the local customs himself when he arrive in this strange land ten years ago, but soon came to appreciate how some of them helped keep the natives peaceful. Still, he knew that the Church considered such practices to be blasphemy. “This is an ancient country, Father. Some of these people have ancient ways.”

    “So, it is true.”

    “Father, ancient customs are not always necessarily evil. In fact, some of our own people have adopted some of them as they make their homes in this new world.” Remembering the splendidly decorated box that he had set on La Bruja’s doorstep seven years ago, the soldier continued, “In fact, one of your own predecessors…”

    “Blaspheme!” shouted the priest, his face now crimson as he jumped to his feet and slammed his fist to the table. “Need I remind you that only God can cleanse a soul of its sins? Claiming to do the same is an attempt to usurp the hand of God, and anyone who commits such sacrilege is guilty of the mortal sin of blasphemy!”

    The soldier sat, stunned to silence, as the priest began to pace, his voice suddenly calm. “You know the penalty for blasphemy, do you not?”

    “Yes, Father. It is death and eternal damnation.”

    “And did you yourself just defend blaspheme?”

    The soldier, who had never wavered in life-and-death struggles, was nonetheless shaken by the thought of being damned to hell. “Father, I…”

    Knowing that the soldier would now do whatever he was told, the priest began to speak in a calm, nearly soothing voice. “Fear not, my son. I know that in your heart you serve God. I know that in your heart you seek only to rejoice in the kingdom of heaven, and that you wish to avoid eternal damnation in the pits of hell. I know that in your heart you will gladly perform your penance and rejoice at your chance for salvation.”

    The sound of hoofbeats could be heard approaching outside as the soldier rose from his chair and faced the priest. “And my penance?” he asked the priest.

    “La Bruja is guilty of sacrilege and blasphemy. For that she must be put to death. On your return, I shall hear your confession and absolve you of all your sins. Now, go in peace. I shall expect to see you here again by dusk”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Uncle for taking the time to look my story up. I’m already started part two and an having a war in my mind whether to go a certain way or not. Look for it Monday or Tuesday.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      UP, this is just so great from opening scene to final sentence. Placing your story in this place, at that time, brings to mind the shameful history of Europeans in the Americas, bringing civilization, and salvation, to the heathen hordes. La Bruja is their personification. Waiting for the wolf boy to reappear.

  19. Kerry Charlton

    I can’t post my story, “Thirty Thousand Emails”. I have posted it to my blog, kerrybcharlton.blogspot.com. If you care to read it, let me know if you’re able to find it. Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying. Kerry

  20. ReathaThomasOakley

    Celia’s Bus Ride
    1970
    (Related to last prompt and to several stories written about a year ago that take place in the museum a few months after this.)

    She was exhausted, two months on the job, and this was her first time away. And, it’s still work, Celia thought as she closed her eyes and settled into her seat at the back of the tour bus, chosen with the hope of no seat mate.

    “Hello,” a cheery voice disturbed her reverie. “Saving this seat, or may I join you?”

    Celia opened her eyes to see a grey haired woman awkwardly maneuvering two briefcases and several bulging tote bags.

    “No…I mean I’m not saving it, please sit.” Celia caught a bag before it fell. “Looks like you brought some work with you,” she said.

    “Oh, yes,” the woman replied, with enthusiasm. “I can get a lot done on a three hour ride, but I’m more excited about this opportunity to see the historic restoration in St. Augustine. Just think, over 400 years of history. The 1965 celebration must have been something.”

    Celia smiled and nodded, not wanting to tell this woman she’d been born and raised in St. Johns County.

    “So, where are you from and what are you working on,” Celia asked to change the tricky subject.

    “Well, I manage a small museum in Cedar Key, drove over to catch the bus, thought it’d be a good way to meet other directors.” she patted a briefcase. “But, this is all my own project. I’m writing a book on obituaries from the turn of the century. You would not believe how interesting most are.” She pulled a yellowed clipping from a bag. “Just listen,” Celia nodded and closed her eyes, “this is my favorite.

    “November 13, 1915,” the woman began. It can’t be, Celia thought, just a coincidence. “Horace Eustis Hightower, aged 43 years, 8 months, and 2 days, died in the wee hours of Tuesday last of a tragic fall from the steps of his twelve room dwelling, in full view of his beloved wife, Sue Ann Hightower, née Palmer, daughter of the late lamented John Palmer, community leader and past president of Third National Bank.” Celia groaned, she knew these words, saw them every working day, the centerpiece of the permanent exhibit.

    “Are you ill?” the woman asked. Celia shook her head.

    “Good, because this gets better.

    “Mr. Hightower, though often called upon to take up Mr. Palmer’s mantle of public service and philanthropy eschewed all such calls, rather devoted his life to improving the citrus groves for which he was renowned. According to his daughter, Mr. Palmer thought of Mr. Hightower as he would a son. Such was Mr. Hightower’s place in the community that his death shared space on the front page of this newspaper with reports from the Great War raging in Europe.” The woman paused.

    “Can you imagine what men these must have been. But, the best part is coming.

    “Mr. Hightower, the only son, and namesake, of the late Horace Eustis Hightower, Senior, and his wife Sadie, leaves behind, in addition to his grieving widow, three daughters, the lights of his sadly shortened life.

    “Mrs. Hightower reported that at the hour of her husband’s death she had been seated on the front porch of their majestic home, dutifully awaiting her spouse’s arrival from his office where he often spent hIs evening hours, studying the latest agricultural publications. It is speculated that his demise was caused by a fit or sudden paralytic stroke.

    “In the midst of her desolation Mrs. Hightower rejoiced in the knowledge that Mr. Hightower’s passing occurred at the house he lovingly built for her with his own labor and that his final view was of her.

    “How wonderful that Mrs. Hightower was comforted by that thought,” the woman sighed, then continued reading.

    “Mrs. Hightower scoffed at the rumor of a marriage Mr. Hightower entered into previous to hers. ‘There is no record of such a marriage, it’s an evil tale spun by two women who have nothing better to do with their idle days,’ she adamantly declared. A question of another daughter went unanswered. She did state that had her father been living he would have put an end to such stories with a horsewhip.

    “The widow went on to emphatically state that, ‘I shall spend the remainder of my days devoted to my daughters, instilling in them the values held dear by their father and grandfather. I shall also pray that future generations will never forget Horace Hightower and our great love and will view our home as a monument to his devotion.'” The woman finally stopped reading.

    “I understand Mrs. Hightower’s prayers have been answered, that the great house is now the Horace Hightower Historic House Museum.”

    Celia struggled to speak. She had to introduce herself, and her new position as the museum director. But, she could never say that Horace was her great grandfather and that her true mission was to expose the truth of the terrible wrong done her great grandmother, Horace’s beloved Sarah Carter.

    1. Bushkill

      Oh a tangled web be here woven. I love your vignettes into the lives of these people and their stories. So life like and real, I can almost close my eyes and see it happening.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you so very much. I don’t write a lot of description, stick mainly with dialogue, so when you say you can “see” the action, I’m very, very pleased.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      I enjoyed this story a lot, especially these two lines: “According to his daughter, Mr. Palmer thought of Mr. Hightower as he would a son.” It’s a good thing he never had a son, then. 😆

      “She did state that had her father been living he would have put an end to such stories with a horsewhip.” Or maybe he would just play creepy mind/intimidation games to put an end to such rumors. That seems to be more his style. 😉

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Cosi, thanks for keeping up with these characters for so long. I truly appreciate that. Last prompt’s story was the last for the living Horace, he will reappear soon at finale.

    3. igonzales81

      That was a very good job of tying it all together at the end. The old woman’s character really comes through in the words she uses. Great job.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you so very much. I did research on obituaries from about 1900-1920, and I think they could make an interesting book, so much detail about each person’s life.

    4. UnclePizza

      Reatha, you’ve done a great job of tying all of the various threads together over the decades – you can write one week about 1906, 1970 the next, 1940 the next, and so on, yet I’m able to follow everything clearly. Great job keeping everything so clear as we move back and forth through time.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, UP. I’m so glad you can follow the story. We are finally in Wyoming, so this week I’ll get back to pulling all the episodes together. Now to read what has been posted since last I looked. I see you’ve got something, so I’ll be commenting in a bit.

    5. jhowe

      I think we should bring back creative obits, and who better to write them than you. Nice way to get out a lot of information in your story, and fun to read too.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks. I know newspapers, for a price, now allow longer obits. I read one where a 64 year old woman died before she could enjoy a large inheritance. A mystery just waiting to be written there. In another a 26 year old mother of five, aged seven to 13 months, died of pneumonia. I could imagine her just worn out and ready to go. Others, like Horace’s, sounded just a bit like trying to rewrite the truth.

  21. cosi van tutte

    I hate that I have to travel just so I can discuss business with my clients. Why can’t we handle business over the phone? Why do they delight in inconveniencing me?

    So much to pack and unpack.

    So many preparations to make and money to exchange.

    So many irritating small details to fuss over.

    I could complain, but I just don’t think they will care.

    Werewolves are notoriously selfish like that. Especially around their time of the month.

    Only good part of the trip is this. This sublime moment of pure, unadulterated travel. A very long flight of no action, no need to hop hop hop to orders. No need to do anything, but sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s a luxury and a relief.

    It’s an honest to goodness vacation. Minus the swimming pool.

    Let the pilot and the co-pilot fuss over details and such.

    I can close my eyes and just veg out into a peaceful mental state.

    “Hello.”

    I startle and open my eyes.

    A man with black eyes and shockingly blue hair sits next to me.

    “Uhh, hello. I’m just going back to sleep.” I lean my head back.

    “Isn’t it interesting? So many people, so many complete strangers travelling together. It’s a temporary comradery. As soon as we land, we will all go our separate ways to our separate locations. Including you and me.”

    “Yeah, it was nice talking to you. Good night.”

    “There are so many variables: personalities, hair colors, nationalities, temperaments, religions all stuck inside one vehicle. Yet, as long as we remain together, we’re all the same. We are all travelers.”

    “You should write an essay about this and post it somewhere. Just let me sleep.”

    “But none of us are the same. We all hide secrets. We are all individuals with pasts that we don’t know about one another and will never share with each other. You could be anyone, from a Maharaja’s ex-wife to a poetry chapbook writer who sells her self-published books on e-bay.”

    “Such an astute observation.” I yawned.

    “And I…I could be anyone at all. But I’m not. I am one person to myself and another person to society. They think they know me. But, don’t you see? They don’t. How could they when they don’t even know me?’

    I leaned my seat back. Only to get squawked at by the passenger behind me. I reluctantly pulled it back up.

    “But if I told you my name, you would say things. You would say things like, ‘Oh, I know you. I read about you in the newspaper’. But no. You don’t know anything about me. That me in the newspaper is not a real person. It’s a figment. A caricature. An utter fraud and fabrication by the media to make people like you hate me. That is not me.”

    “I hate to be rude, but I am not interested. I’m tired. I’m in desperate need of quiet time. I—”

    “I could tell you my name. Just to see your reaction. I know what your reaction will be. Shock. Dismay. Fear. Yes, the lime-gutted media mongrels want you to fear me. They want you to believe that I am evil in a handbasket returning to hell.”

    “Mmm. Do you always download philosophy at random people?”

    “I might tell you my name, but I shouldn’t. I like this. Just being anonymous. Nameless. Historyless. I could be anyone. I could even be a long lost relative. To you. Or to someone else. I’m just someone else as long as I don’t tell you my name.”

    I sighed. “Fine. You don’t have to tell me your name if you don’t want to. I’m not even asking for it. I’m just asking for some quiet time so I can sleep.”

    “But I will tell you my name. If I don’t, I’m honoring the media’s perception of me.”

    “I don’t really care.”

    “I’m lending credibility to their outright lies. I will not…I cannot do that. You deserve honesty. You deserve to hear the truth.”

    “Still don’t care. Not even curious.”

    “Then, yes. I will tell you my name.” He whispers his name in my ear.

    I open my eyes wide.

    He smiles.

    I shrink away from him. If only the seats were a little wider, I’ be able to get further away from him.

    “So. Now, you know who they say I am. You’ve believed their lies.”

    I wonder if I should scream for help. Would it do any good? We are on a plane. The best they could do is lock him in the bathroom and he’d probably escape. And then he would—-

    “Listen to me. I will tell you my truth. I will tell you everything that the media has not told you. Will you listen?”

    I nod. What else could I do? Shake my head and be turned into something unnatural?

    “Good. Then, listen. I will tell you everything. Listen and believe my truth. Are you ready to hear it?”

    No. Not really. But I’ve spent most of my life dealing with werewolves and their annoying contract disputes. I know when to speak my mind and when to refrain.

    I look at this villain, this escaped wizard, and I know what to say. “Yes.”

    “Then, I will begin. Listen to every word. Believe that I speak the truth. Listen. Listen. Listen…”

    1. Bushkill

      I love it, Cosi. The “listen’s”, repeated at the end, give weight, gravity, to the situation and scream for attention. he needs someone to hear. he needs someone to believe. He hardly believes in himself anymore. It even sounds like the media’s persona is starting to crack through and stick to him.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Cosi, I see so much in this that is fantastic. Loved the moon cycle quip, as well as blue-hair’s take on the media. Even though your MC calls him a wizard, I suspect politician, some of whom I think are werewolves.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, Reatha!

        I’m glad you enjoyed it. As for your comment about politicians being werewolves…Yeah. I can totally see that. 😆

        By the way, believe it or not, I’m up to Part 44 in my Ambrose story on my blog ambroseandelsie.wordpress.com 🙂 <- (This emoji is smiling, but it's really shocked. It just doesn't know how to express shock appropriately) I've been filling in a lot of the blanks in between my Ambrose and Elsie prompt stories and having way too much fun.

  22. Bushkill

    A Long, Long Flight

    I glance at my chronometer. There’s time. Stopping at the brew pub had been a mistake. Seconds sped by.

    Swiping the pay card through the handle of the mug both paid for my drink and freed the sync-grav system of the seat to let me leave. I tucked the card back into the rear pocket of the moon-miner next to me and walk-hopped from the room. My flight to Io departed soon, too soon for a beer run, likely.

    The vids were talking about the falling out of some corporate Bigs and the imminent collapse of one of the largest mining conglomerates in the Sol system. Seems someone had been skimming accounts like a June-bug on a pond. Trillions in SolCreds were gone and trillions more in materials couldn’t be accounted for. The whole thing was a house of cards waiting for a strong wind. Auditors would come and with them the wind. There would be changes in the regs governing the Bigs for certain.

    I hoped to be gone by then. I had already had facial reconstruction and I had started hormone therapy weeks ago. By the time my pod opened on Io I would be a smashing brunette with a head for diving under the ice of a foreign moon, not some desk-jockey fighting middle-age paunch and a hair line reminiscent of the allied battle lines in the Ardennes, late December, 1944.

    Outfitting the stasis pod had been fiendishly expensive, but it was the only way to verify the gender change. I had even had it tested twice in the past two years for others who were looking to make a transition. It worked for them. It would work for me.

    My chronometer squawked; first boarding. I am going to make it and be just fine. Just something I liked to tell myself. There were stares from the people along the causeway as I made my way to the launch pad. I could feel their eyes on me.

    The stewardess treated me kindly, impressive, and I didn’t have to jostle for my “seat”. Transport pods were made for specific individuals so they all looked a little different. I knew the look of mine and climbed in as adroitly as the gravity would allow me. The stewardess helped.

    Seconds later, the ectro-mags fired and my pod rocketed into orbit above the moon to be collected by the ferry ship and transported to Io.

    My intercom buzzed to life just after I hit the master switch to start the transform, “This is the Captain, I am sending a statement about a person of interest on the moon and details of the incident. It will be on repetitive loop until our arrival.”

    I tried to hit the button to turn it off, but the drugs in me were powerful sedatives. I heard the voice droning as darkness surrounded me. 6 months of listening to the soft murmur of crime and misdeeds. I didn’t have any meds for my fragile mental state. Pity.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Bushkill, you’ve created an entire new world in a few words. All the details make it so very real, and it also makes me want answers to all the questions I now have. Very good job.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Bushkill!

      This was an excellent story with just the right amount of details to make it feel real.

      And just so you know, I really liked this line: “…and a hair line reminiscent of the allied battle lines in the Ardennes, late December, 1944.” I don’t care if the character would or wouldn’t know about the battle lines in 1944. It’s a good line. 😀

    3. igonzales81

      That was certainly an good take on the prompt. I really like the part about how the seat won’t let the character get up until the drink is paid for. I’ve been on planes like that.

  23. dustymayjane

    What does he mean, he’d taken precautions and no one will pin it on him? Why was he talking to me? It seemed that if it were me, I’d keep my mouth shut. Of course, I would never hide a body in the trunk of a car.

    I tried to appear uninterested. He wore dark glasses that reflected the sun in the window. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me. He surely knew my face by now. I looked at my watch. Only nine more hours before I would arrive in Tokyo. My family was so excited when I told them I was coming home and would stay for two weeks. Mother and Father were aging and my sister said I better not wait another year. I smiled at the thought of seeing them again.

    “I’ve never done anything so brazen before. I wiped for prints and knew I would be long gone…”

    The incessant drone of his monotone voice ground at my nerves until I couldn’t take it. How could he continue sharing the details of some very unpleasant criminal activity to a total stranger? It was as if he were confessing. I stood and nearly toppled into his lap.

    “Excuse me, I need to… just, use the lava..” He kept droning on while I climbed out from my window seat. I chose to head towards the back of the plane to scan for a different seat. As I walked down the aisle it looked like the plane was full.

    Oh wait, there’s an empty seat! Just as I was about to nab it a woman sat her baby’s diaper bag there. She was nursing the infant and must have thought I was trying to peek. I got a dirty look before she rolled her eyes.

    “Sorry… Ma’am. Cute kid.” Yikes, that was uncomfortable.

    “May I help you Sir?” The elder of the four flight attendants stood behind me with her hands on her hips. Her mouth pursed, bright pink lipstick had spread into the creases that surrounded her thick lips.

    “Oh, no thank you. Unless there is a different seat I can have. Mine is quite uncomfortable.” I smiled pleasantly in hopes to ingratiate myself to her.

    “We’re full Sir. Please take your seat if you’re done with the facilities.” Her long fake lashes were at half mass as she brushed passed me, her ample bosom brushing my shoulder as she passed.

    I took my seat regretfully. My neighbor snored softly. His eyes were probably closed behind his dark glasses. I noticed a small microphone attached to his device, the kind writers use to record notes and transcribe from. Hmm, that’s interesting. A book on his lap showed a picture of a man with a close likeness, slightly younger perhaps, to the man holding it. The book’s title ‘Crime of the Century, Tokyo Style’ by Han Yung Lee

    Mr. Han Yung Lee was working on the next in the series, ‘Crime of a Lifetime in Tokyo’ and I realized I had been privy to a preview. Maybe if I coughed loudly he’d awaken and continue!

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, dusty!

      Ahh, the dangers of dictating a crime novel in first person on an airplane. 😀 Question is: Why am I imagining the flight attendant looking like the Hello Nurse from Animaniacs? (Maybe it’s just me?)

  24. Pete

    Of course my seat is next to John Hinckley Jr—the guy who shot the president thirty-five years ago.

    I blame my wife. I’d wanted to splurge on first class, but she’d made a fuss about how I’d maxed out the cards for this extravagant vacation—Cayman’s baby!—and told me to suck it up and fly commercial.

    You know who flies commercial? John Hinckley Jr., that’s who.

    He regards me with long dull stare. He’s a chubby guy, a glaze of sweat on him as we sit on the tarmac amongst the murmur. But I know it’s him because I’d just watched 60 minutes for like four minutes the other day.

    I text my wife just to let her know that I’m sitting with Taxi Driver. She asks me to get his autograph.

    I text back.

    Not Deniro.

    ???

    I’d have better luck playing Dina-Bones on my phone. (Hey, at least it’s not Pokepon Go). Anyway, Junior sees what I’m doing and leans in. He smells like Spam if you cooked it on the dashboard of your car. I’m in sales, so naturally I do well with people. Just not this well.

    “Uh, do you need help?”

    “Uh, what’s that?” he says, like a guy who just woke up. I realize “do you need help?” is probably the wrong question to ask a man who found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity. He shakes his head. Then, “It’s fascinating.”

    It’s a blank stare he’s got working. Not menacing, but not smiling either. I nod along, “Yeah?”

    “A computer. In the palm of your hand.”

    I do that grimace thing people do when they want smelly crazy guys to go away. He tilts his head.

    “And you can make calls?”

    “Well, not on the plane.” I try to change the subject, realizing that small talk with John Hinckley Jr. is excruciating. “Heading home?”

    He nods.

    I pocket my hand computer and were quiet through take-off. He’s child-like, his eyes wide and fidgety hands. The hands have my attention. The same ones that held the gun that shot Reagan and crippled Brady.

    I try to take a nap. Not happening with the Hinkster over there. Sixty Minutes said he was heading to Williamsburg. He asks to see my phone. I see myself talking to authorities. One of them asking about calls made to Jodie Foster.

    “So, any big plans?”

    “I’m going to shoot Donald Trump.”

    My throat starts to close. I can’t tell if it’s altitude but my ears pop and never return. Hinckley points at my face and let’s go with a wheezy cackle. “Oh man, I got you good.”

    “Yeah, I guess you did.”

    Hinckley looks back to the next row. Two guys in suits who look as though they’ve never laughed a day in their lives. Hinckley sticks his tongue out at them. Somehow they’re unmoved. Hinckley rolls his eyes, flips around and crosses his arms. “I have to go live with my mom. Sucks.”

    “Right.” No sales seminar has prepared me for this. My new best friend turns to me with a big smile.

    “Hey, want to take a selfie with me?”

  25. jhowe

    I’ll do the research when I get back, but I’m quite certain I’m the first person born on an airplane in route to Bora Bora who had his first child on an airplane in route to Bora Bora. My wife could care less at the moment. I’m dying to text my mother and tell her the news, but the flight attendant is watching me like a hawk. I should probably go back to my seat, but it’s much quieter here in row 32. I’m pretty sure that’s why the flight attendant is watching me, being all judgmental, like she wouldn’t do the same thing.

    I’m actually rethinking my decision to text my mother. She’ll probably blame me for arranging a vacation so close to Becky’s due date. I really thought we could make it. All she had to do is hold off a couple more weeks. As it turns out, I’ll probably be famous. They’ll all choke on their ‘jump to conclusion’ rhetoric then. It’ll also take a lot of the heat off Dad as well. He’s heard it all about irresponsible traveling plans since 1985 when I was born. Pan Am was still in business then.

    I wish someone had taken a video back then. I bet my mother wouldn’t have bit the head off someone trying to capture the moment on his cell phone. Once the commotion recedes a bit, I’ll go up and apologize. And now this Bozo in 32 B is asking me about citizenship. Saying things about geographic details and the country the plane is registered in. I’ll have to bring that up to my mother and see what she did about that. I wonder if I have cell service up here. Don’t they have air conditioning on these planes?

    Now what? The captain wants to see me? Isn’t he supposed to be flying the plane? The attendant informs me the captain is a woman. Oh great, she’ll probably be all judgmental like the rest of them. Bozo says she probably has some forms for me to sign. The attendant wants me to follow her to the cabin. That means I’ll have to walk past my wife. My head is hot. Is the plane spiraling? Are we going to crash?

    I wake up in a room. I’m certain it’s a hospital room.

    “You fainted,” Becky says. She’s holding our baby. “You’ve been out a long time?”

    “Is it a girl?”

    “Yes.”

    “Is she American?”

    “Yes, I took care of that.”

    “Am I in serious trouble?”

    “Nothing you won’t be able to dig yourself out of, in say, two or three years.” She’s smiling. She’s so beautiful.

    “What’s her name?”

    “Chloe”

    “That’s the name I wanted, if it was a girl.”

    “I know,” Becky says.

    “I’m a mess.”

    “You’ll do just fine. Do you want to hold her?”

    Becky sits beside me and places our daughter in my arms. She’s so tiny. Now’s not a good time to tell her I wished we’d named her Bora. I wonder if anyone from People Magazine has called.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I really enjoyed the ride you took your readers on, just not certain how much is true, how much Walter Mitty, and how much is the faint/dream, but, it doesn’t matter, it’s all great.

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