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Thread: February 2018 - LM - GRAND FICTION CHALLENGE!!!

  1. #1

    February 2018 - LM - GRAND FICTION CHALLENGE!!!


    To enter this competition, you must have received an invitation

    Send your story to me via private message. Approximately 48 hours after you do so, I'll post it to this thread anonymously. Within those 48 hours, you may send any change you wish to make. Once your story is posted by me, no changes will be made. You have until the very last minute of the competition to send your entry, but you can't make any changes after the competition ends.

    The deadline is: 23:59 GMT on February 14th

    The prompt this year: Second Life

    Word limit: 1,000 (not including title)

    Your identity will be revealed upon release of the results.

    If you don't want your story to be viewable by the general public, please inform me when you send me a PM.

    The Judges

    • Moderan
    • Folcro
    • Clark
    • Eggo

    There'll be a fan vote (People's Choice Award) during the judging period.

    The Prizes

    First Place
    Year of

    Second Place
    Half a year of

    Third Place
    Month of

    People's Choice Award

    Month of FoWF

    Any question, please PM me or ask in the LM Coffee Shop.

    Good Luck!

    ETA: Prize Update

    All of the winners will receive an ebook bundle from Meerkat Press that includes:

    1. Smoke City by Keith Rosson
    2. Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts
    3. The Year of the Knife by G.D. Penman
    4. Retrograde by Kat Hausler
    Last edited by PiP; February 16th, 2018 at 08:53 PM.

  2. #2
    Link to secure entry - Steel Machines

  3. #3
    Link to secure entry - Rose Tattoo

  4. #4

    I had been waiting for what seemed like years for a new heart. My family and I were even beginning to go through the process of preparing for the worst when we finally got the call. In a neighboring town, a healthy, middle-aged man had been walking his dog and was struck by a city bus. He had died on the spot. His heart was a match, with a donor card, so that set the wheels in motion.

    Amy and I raced to the hospital; the kids were in school. She wheeled me in from the car to prevent any last minute taxation on my weary heart. We saw my doctor hurrying down the hall toward us.

    “This is it, Michael! We’ve got a match and by this time tomorrow, you’ll be a new man.”

    It was all a blur after that until I woke up in the Coronary Care Unit three days later, with Amy staring down at me and smiling.

    “How did I do?” I croaked out. My mouth was as dry as sand.

    “You did great! The doctors are all amazed. It was a perfect match, they said, and we should be able to take you home soon.” Everyone was smiling, including me. The kids came in then and we made plans for my first day back home.

    About a week later, Amy happily wheeled me out of the hospital’s main entrance. She left me at the curb with the kids and a nurse as she went to get the car. As we waited, there came a little shaggy dog walking slowly toward me. She went around to the side of my wheelchair and without warning, jumped into my lap. She immediately snuggled in on my left side, as if she had been there many times before; her body heat oddly comforting.

    “Can we keep her, daddy?”

    I hesitated. We had discussed getting a dog many times in the past, but because of my poor health we decided to wait. I had actually been planning on telling Amy that it might be helpful after I’m gone, to get a dog for the kids. At that moment, however, I wasn’t sure if this was the right dog for us.

    I looked down at my new cargo and she looked up at me. She licked my nose. A sweet face, I thought; shaggy eye brows, warm eyes. Then she placed her head over my new heart and closed her eyes; a wave of comfort and warmth spread through my chest.

    “Well,” the nurse said, “it looks like our little friend has found her new home. She’s been here for several days, waiting in the same spot by the main entrance. We’ve fed and watered her because she refused to leave, but we couldn’t get near her. I thought she belonged to someone who had come to the hospital, but wasn’t able to leave. We were going to call the animal shelter, but we just kept thinking there was a reason she was hanging out here. And now I guess we know what, or who, that reason was.” Her smile was huge as Amy pulled up to take us home.

    I remembered when the call came for my surgery, they had said that the man who was my donor had been walking his dog. Was it possible? Could this be the same dog that belonged to my donor?

    She sat on my lap the whole way home and I noticed that she had a tag hanging on her neck. It read, “My name is Comfort. I belong to George Oliver.” There were two phone numbers.

    Since that day, her favorite spot continues to be on my left side, over my heart. I had called the first number on the tag and found it had been disconnected. I dialed the second number and heard “City Animal Shelter. How may I help you?”

    “My name is Michael Andrews. We’ve found a dog with a tag that had this number and the name George Oliver.”

    “You found Comfort? George was one of our officers. He was struck by a city bus and died a few weeks ago. We were so worried about her. George and Comfort were very close.”

    “Actually, she found me. It was as if she was waiting specifically for me to come out of the hospital after I had had a heart transplant. As I was leaving to go home, she just jumped into my lap and has literally not left my side.”

    The woman then told me about George and Comfort.

    “She had been a puppy barely able to walk when George pulled her out from under a house. He had tucked her into the pocket of his flannel shirt under his jacket and then he brought her back to the shelter. He told me, ‘I put her in my shirt pocket, over my heart. It was like carrying a little hot water bottle inside my coat.’ He had laughed.

    “George adopted her and named her Comfort; they went everywhere together. He almost never used a leash; she always seemed to stay by him. But at the time of the accident, witnesses said Comfort was on the sidewalk, and George was in the middle of the intersection when they heard him call her name. That’s when he was hit.

    “Do you think you’ll keep her?”

    Looking down at her then, resting her head on my chest over my incision, I again felt the warmth and reflected on how the domino events in life can often appear coincidental or haphazard. But are they really?

    I said to the woman on the phone, “She knew George’s heart and waited for me to bring it back to her. I don’t know how she knew I had it, but it’s like receiving two gifts, isn’t it? George Oliver gave his heart to me, and then he gave me Comfort to help it heal.

    “Yes, she is home now.”
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  5. #5
    The Serpent and the Cockroach (1000 words) (Language alert)

    Imagine my consternation and complete confusion in finding out I was no longer human. I was transmuted into a fucking cockroach! Not just an ordinary little slippery slimy cockroach, mind you, but one ugly disgusting giant puss-filled bugged-eyed bug. This was against all the laws of nature. I was quite baffled, befuddled, and perplexed.

    Now, before you think my dilemma is some type of psychological metaphor like Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, let me assure you, it’s not. My mind hasn’t slipped into madness or became twisted in some demented psychotic delusion. I’ve become a cockroach in the literal sense. It’s my new reality, as well as it’s for my once adoring wife, Drusilla. She’s now a goddamn forty foot serpentine dragon out of Chinese myth. She too, is perplexed and in a perpetual state of rage, but her wrath is aimed not at what transformed us into these monsters, but at me, and I have no idea why? Maybe a little but--- Oh shit, I hear the flapping of her wings and that damn bloody roar of hers.

    The enraged dragon spotted her prey, swooped down on to the ground, and with her talons grabbed the giant cockroach by the balls, (or what she thought were his balls). The cockroach let out an agonizing yelp. Out of one of his foul smelling crevices; a recording device of sorts, popped out.

    With a look of disgust she said:

    “You lying piece of bug shit, you know damn well why I’m enraged. Your recklessness and goddamn ego are the reasons we’re in this freak show. I pleaded with you not to activate the dimensional portal until we were sure about the scientific parameters involved, as well as following the proper safety protocols. But being a foolhardy sociopathic narcissist; you activated the portal, jumped in, and pushed me in with you. And here we landed---transported in this Kafkaesque nightmare. I should flay you alive; you fucking bug-fucker.

    And who the hell were you talking too? I thought you were trying to hide from my wrath; you cowardly cockroach. It’s how I found you; I guess your bug brain forgot my hearing is quite acute. My appetite is large as well and it doesn’t discriminate against foul-tasting diseased-infested bugs.”

    The cockroach was in excruciating pain, (those indeed were his balls) but managed to keep his agony in check. Showing distress while trying to reason with her would only look like pleading and make him appear weak. He knew Drusilla abhorred weakness. He needed to appear confident and in control.

    The bug-eyed blue-balled cockroach mustered up a smile and in a jocular tone said:

    “Now, now, my gargantuan delight, let’s not be hasty. You know I’m putrefied; you’ll have an upset stomach for weeks and most of your scales will fall off if you start snacking on me.

    I was speaking into our quantum recorder. We need to make contact with our team. Hopefully the quantum signal can break through the dimensional rift so that our colleagues can be apprised of the dire situation befallen us. Maybe they can find ways to reverse engineer us to our original state. This second life of ours is not conducive to a balanced and harmonious life.”

    He paused, looked deeply into her eyes for effect and contritely intoned:

    “I’m sickened by your disparaging words. I know I deserve them. They cut to bone and make me weep. I’m devastated about the situation that I’ve put us in. Let’s not end it in this hideous way. I truly hope I don’t become lunch; but if you do decide to chew me to little bits and vomit me up, remember I loved you with all my heart when we were both human. You were quite beautiful. And although you’ve become a terrifying fire-breathing winged serpent that now hovers menacingly over me, I still love you, and find you as breathtakingly beautiful as ever.”

    Drusilla stared at him long and hard. She abruptly let go of his balls and placed him upright. She sat back on her haunches, let out a chuckle, and said:

    “You’re so full of shit. You could charm the devil and her demons to give up their horns. But I’m not the devil, nor a demon, and I’ve become immune to your charms.

    You’ve never loved anything but yourself. I was your trophy wife, someone to massage and rub that inflated ego of yours. Granted that I had a few PhDs, actually one more than you, but you used my intellect and beauty to satisfy your nefarious needs. You raped my mind and body numerous times, subjugating my ideas and making them your own. You pimped out me to our colleagues for blackmail purposes. I let you manipulate, use, and humiliate me, because I was blinded by twisted love and needs. But no longer am I your adoring lapdog. To that, I say hallelujah! So even if our team is seeing and listening in, via the quantum recorder, I doubt they would even lift a finger to remedy our situation.

    After minimal deliberation, I’ve concluded that you’re well worth the loss of a few scales and an upset stomach. Say your prayers’ to the devil you adore---you putrefied motherfucker.”

    Taking wing she leapt upward, circled over him, swooped down, and belched out her elixir of fury.

    The cockroach’s eyes nearly popped out in disbelief as a ring of fire engulfed him. That crazy bitch was really going to roast him alive and eat his buggy ass. But to his relief his thick bug-skin was impervious to dragon-fire. Sure it was painful, but it didn’t turn him into cooked cockroach.

    He retaliated by regurgitating his bile and spewing out his pus-filled venom on her snout. She howled in agony and took wing. He wasn’t as defenseless as she’d thought. With a wicked grin on his cockroach lips, he shouted, “I guess this means you want a divorce.”

    The War between the Serpent and the Cockroach had begun.

    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  6. #6
    The Very Hangry Caterpillar (1000 words)

    Pat woke up to the the shaking of her twig. She opened up all six pairs of ocelli and saw it was still night. The shaking had a familiar guilty glutton quality to them.

    “Oh hell no!” She crawled towards the faint, sweet scent of juicy leaves. “Sammy! You better not be eating my leaves! You ass!”

    The shaking stopped for what seemed to be a remorseful second, and then started up again even more aggressively. Pat continued to wiggle and cuss and eventually bumped her head against a fat caterpillar’s behind.

    “Excuse you?” said Sammy in between giant mouthfuls of leaf blade. “I’m eatin’.”

    Pat reeled. “Excuse me? Excuse you! Didn’t we agree not to eat at night? And you’re eating my leaves on my branch! Boundaries Sammy! Boundaries!”

    “Don’t see no name on them,” said Sammy. Pat pushed Sammy out of the way and felt for her leaves, but her body felt open air.

    “Wait, where’s my goddamn leaves Sammy?”

    “What leaves?” said Sammy. He started moving back down the twig. Pat felt around some more.

    “Oh no you didn’t! You ate all of them! You fatso! I’m gonna run this twig through you and make you a vertebrate!” She wiggled as fast as she could after Sammy. “Damn it Sammy! Those were the last leaves on this branch! Now I’m gonna have to travel all day to another one! And you know how hard that’s gonna be since that bird ate half of my feet! And I lost those feet protecting you! You ass! You’re lucky I’m poisonous!”

    Pat just heard silence in return. She just felt the guilty vibrations of Sammy squirming away. She pressed on, and once again her head bumped into Sammy’s fat backside.

    “Excuse you?” said Sammy. “Imma take a nap.”

    “The hell you are!” said Pat. “You gonna collect some leaves and bring them to me, that’s what you gonna do!” Her antennae felt Sammy crawl to the underside of the branch, and she sensed him getting into a dangling position.

    “Imma sleep now,” said Sammy.

    “What?!” said Pat. “Didn’t you just hear what I just told you to do? Wake up!” She crawled down to him and smacked repeatedly into him. “Fess up, you selfish fatso! You’re gonna fix this!”

    Sammy just hung there silently.

    “Fine! Just dangle there like an idiot! I hope a bird gets you this time! I don’t have time to save your fat ass no more!”

    Her thorax felt hollow as she wiggled away and started the journey to another branch. As she lost her grip going up the tree and almost fell, she cussed out Sammy. She almost fell off the tree over and over. The day came and lengthened with each struggling step.

    “Damn it Sammy! I would still have sixteen feet if it wasn’t for you!” she cried. “I want my eight feet back!” Darkness came, and tired and exhausted, she finally found a new twig full of succulent leaves. She took her fill and was satiated. “If you’re still alive Sammy, I found some!” She called out. “No thanks to you, ya jerk!”

    At first, the following days seemed wonderful. She ate her fill of leaves every day, but she soon found it hard to rest contently.

    “Sammy’s life should have been ruined,” she mused as she tried to wiggle her sacrificed legs. “Not mine. Why did I ever protect him?” These thoughts spun around in her head. As they did, a cocoon enveloped around her. Inside the cocoon, she felt so content, so right about everything she thought about Sammy.

    “I hope I see Sammy again,” she said after many days. “So I can surprise him that I’m still alive after what he did to me.” She wiggled inside the cocoon and felt something crack. She gave a stronger wiggle, and as she felt something split, light exploded onto her compound eyes.

    And with the light, vision came to her.

    Unimagined beauty, finest details, and ultraviolet colors flooded her multifaceted orbs. A new range of smell wavelengths tickled her antennae. She counted six long slender legs.

    “Wait! What the hell? Somebody stole two more of my legs! Damn it!” she grumbled. There was something new pressing on her back. Something huge, colorful, and beautiful. She extended them, and they tasted the breeze.

    “I know, aren’t wings wonderful?” said a familiar voice. Pat looked across from her, and there sat a fat, grey moth.


    “It’s Sam now.”

    “Sam? Well, I’m still Pat the cripple, Sammy. Why the hell did you take away two more of my legs when I was sleeping?!”

    Sam kneeled. “Listen Pat, I had some time to think. You’re right. I was acting like a dung beetle. I shouldn’t have eaten your leaves, and I should have thanked you for saving my life.” He paused. “I was selfish, and I decided now would be a good time for us to start over. So here.” He extended a leg to a pool of sweet-smelling liquid in a curved leaf. “I got some nectar for you. It’s what we eat now, and it’s amazing.” He bashfully looked away. “Like you.”

    He looked back at Pat, but she was gone. “Pat?”

    “How do you like me now, bitch?” Pat screamed as she dive-bombed Sammy. She knocked him off the twig. Both of them tumbled through the air as they fought to flap their wings.

    They both stabilized before they hit the ground, and Pat started to chase Sammy. “Get back here you ass! I want my legs back!”

    “Pat! Your new legs are better than those old stubs you had!”

    “So you admit you stole them!”

    Sammy flew quickly behind a bush and settled on a flower. Pat was close behind when a bird dove out of the air and swallowed her whole.

    Sammy saw the bird relish its meal. He moved his wings slightly just to remind himself that he was alive.

    “Thanks for everything, Pat.”
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  7. #7

    word count: 984

    One moment Marlene was walking through the door of Old Navy into the mall thinking a comfy name like Old Navy deserved a grey plank door with rusty hinges not gleaming chrome and glass then she was lying on the cold tiles she couldnít move and in an overhead mirror she saw her own body on the cold tile her skirt up to her waist everyone looking at her pink bikini panties why didnít someone pull her skirt down she couldnít move but oh oh she was moving she moved up saw everything clearly saw her body lying stark her eyes staring unblinking a Paramedic bending over her a heavy zapping sound as he shouted something an ambulance right there in the mall red light an eerie bounce off the glass shops her body wrapped onto a stretcher and she shouted Iím right here you idiots canít you see me and she had to shoulder her way past the paramedic to get in the ambulance but he didnít seem to notice he was talking on his cell phone yes doctor no pulse no breath my partner driving . . . CPR. . . Emergency sixty seconds around corner. . .yes will paddle again and she saw him place the paddles on each side of her chest and the ambulance siren in the middle of the mall was deafening but she still heard the high-pitched whine of the defibulator suddenly screech as he hit the switch and she watched her body spasm like a giant fish flopping on a grey-plank dock and she heard him shout to his partner going again at the max nothing to lose gone anyway and twice more he jolted her as she hovered at the front of the ambulance and urged them on crying Iím here goddamit I need that body so do your fucking job and get it back she apologized for her coarse language but they didnít seem to hear her or notice her hovering in the ambulance and as the back doors opened and her bed on wheels was whirred into an operating room she followed her body but now she was fading fading drifting towards her motionless body and as she flowed into the body she was heavy with a crushing cold desperately heavier than polar ice and she felt her body cooling and then there was the light the soft light it embraced her like a gentle lover the smile no face just that smile of absolute peace how she longed for the smile to have a face it floated in the light in front of her suddenly she couldnít see anymore and the antiseptic smell of the hospital was gone and the last words she heard were a flat male voice a ritual chant nineteenth January twenty-eighteen time of dea. . . then a bottomless silence enveloped her she felt the dark as a deep weight pressing down down her blood slowing the weight of the dark the crushing dark her blood compressed the dark beyond dark then nothing then nothing ______ I feel the deep weight of tons upon tons of the color black no substance I have no substance I am heavier than the heaviest dark matter but I have no substance a blob of me placed on the ground would fall through the granite earth and explode through the ground of some Asian village and plunge down into the limitless universe I hear sobbing Marlene Marlene I am blind and deaf crushed to tissue thinness under the deep weight of tons on tons of black wool pressing me through the gurney through the floor through the earth grinding down I feel the heat of the center of the earth rushing up to flame me into ash I feel the sheet pulled over my face and then the light oh my god the light and the smile of such peace in the light and I scream in my mouth no no no no no because I can almost hear again I can hear again a voice holy fuck look look get that sheet off her face zap her hard NOW and the whine of the defibulator my body rushing with blood my hands clutching the sheet that covered my face my eyes open to the green room the flashes of chrome instruments smiling eyes with swaths of white covering their faces I smell the hospital then a needle then the smile drifts me away and I cry.

    Two days later, Iím propped up sipping tea. A man comes in and sits on my bed. ďIím Dr. McLeod,Ē he says with the confidence of a man accustomed to being known. I smile and shrug.

    ďOf course. Excuse me. I was the lead heart surgeon on your team. Youíve got more shunts and bypasses in there now than a busy interchange on an LA freeway.Ē He pauses, pleased at his metaphor. ďYouíre lucky. You were clinically dead. But we brought you back. . .Ē

    No you didnít I came back the smile made a decision had made it before giving me the glimpse I donít know god that smile

    ď. . .
    then I was able to do the bypasses. Are you listening, Miss?Ē

    ďNo. Iím not. You donít even know my name. Iím just a procedure to you.Ē

    He leaves abruptly.

    I sink back in the pillows, spilling tea on my gown. I donít care. I was rude to the doctor. Ungrateful. I donít care. The smile drifts through my memory as it has with such frequency since I died, never staying long enough for me to focus. Outside my window a large fruit tree is in vibrant pink bloom. I hear the smile with the songbirds. The smile drifts through again. I reach for it, knocking my plastic cup to the floor and spraying tea across the tiles. I donít care.

    The smile. Again.

    A bell tolls in the distance.
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  8. #8
    Double (999 words)

    The cat appeared suddenly, gliding through the landscape on quick silent paws. He followed the old brick path, attention fixed ahead, oblivious to the blackbird’s alarm in the lilac behind the gate. A flash of ebony fur, as he made the effortless leap onto the ledge beside the back door of the ancient cottage and inspected the untouched saucer of milk with fastidious care. Satisfied, he settled on slim haunches and lapped at the night-cooled liquid.

    “There you are Tibs!”

    The cat ignored the voice. He drank at a leisurely pace, finally straightening and sending out a quick pink tongue to claim the few errant drops of milk that had settled onto his long whiskers. Only then did he turn a slow amber gaze towards the old woman at the door.

    “Ha, you like that sunny corner, don’t you? But I have something you’ll like even more.”

    She hurried back inside and was bending to place the saucer of chopped chicken on the kitchen floor when the still-wet nose nuzzled urgently at her hand.

    “There you are, my boy, your favourite.” She straightened with a grunt of effort.

    Later, he joined her in the stuffy little sitting room. Walking on stiff legs, tail aloft like a mast, he brushed her thickly-stockinged legs with elaborate figure-of-eight circuits. She patted her empty lap in a gesture of invitation and, as the cat slowly settled on her bony knees in turning indecision, she lay a withered hand on the shining fur and smiled in easy companionship. They dozed together in the heavy warmth of the tiny room.

    Hours passed and yet the cat slept on as she awoke, cramp in her legs from the heaviness on old veins. At her movement, he opened his eyes to slits of amber glass and stretched out a foreleg, claws extended harmlessly into the air above her leg.

    She needed a cup of tea but hesitated to disturb him. Suddenly, that thought prompted another, a memory of the sleeping weight of her man on her own young body. Her eyes moved unprompted to the faded mahogany frame on the table beside her.

    “Bert was a good man in his way,” she told herself, trying to dismiss the lonely nights that stretched through their long marriage like scars. Bert’s soft brown eyes stared back at her as they had done so many times in life, innocent and with a hint of amusement, claiming the moral high ground as she ranted about infidelity. She had never believed his protestations, not for a minute, but she had pretended she did. “In the end, we make our moral boundaries to suit our needs,” she whispered, “and I loved you so much.”

    The cat had moved unnoticed, back to the kitchen and was crying at the door. She watched him bound away across the garden.

    Streets away, the cat moved close to the base of the high fence. He patrolled the length of it, face upward, gathering courage until, with a sudden leap and scrabble, he hauled himself to the top of it. A momentary pause, before an easy jump across to the low branch on the small apple tree and he was in the paved yard. He padded across to the cat-flap in the side door of the timber garage and pushed his way inside. The fur-lined cat bed was rejected in favour of a low shelf that ran along the back wall.

    The cat heard the car and, as the garage door opened, he watched the anxious young woman search for him. At last, she noticed him and smiled.

    “Oscar! Are you hiding from mummy?”

    As she picked him up from the shelf he hung limply, a soft fur scarf draped over her hand. She carried him into the small apartment, kicked off her heels and hugged him to her neck.

    “Did you miss, mummy, baby,” she cooed.

    The cat nuzzled into the soft saltiness of her and rumbled with deep purring. She giggled and held him up to her face.

    “You have tickly whiskers, you beautiful boy.” The cat gazed back at her, compliant and complicit as he hung from her double-handed grip, his body stretched thin and long. She kissed his nose and placed him gently on the floor. “Come on, I got salmon for tea.”

    He circled her legs as she tore open the foil pouch of gourmet salmon supreme cat food and squeezed it into his dish. Then, pouring herself a diet shake, she settled onto the stool at the breakfast bar and turned on her tablet. As the cat ate, she checked the new messages on her Facebook page. Slow tears filled her eyes as she scanned the cruel comments but destructive fascination kept her reading until the words misted into a blur.

    The cat leaped onto her lap and she pushed the electronic device away. She hugged him to her chest, sobbing quietly as he lay inert against her. Suddenly, she stood and carefully removed the cat from her, placing him on the stool, where he sat, idly licking his thumb and passing it over his face.

    She had grabbed a paper bag from the counter and, calling the cat to her, she pulled out the family size fresh cream gateau and ripped a ragged piece from it. She dropped the oozing cream into the empty dish on the floor, then attacked the remainder of the cake as the cat ate beside her, in unhurried contentment.

    The old woman stood at the cottage door and peered out at the night, resigned to the fact that the cat would not come.

    “If Bert could have come back for a second go at life, I reckon he would have come back as you!” she sighed.

    She placed the saucer of milk, that had failed to coax him home, on the ledge by the door. Then, with a last look at the deserted garden, she went back inside and locked the door.
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  9. #9
    Encore (700 words)

    Grantham had begun to run out of juice sometime during the third chorus and barely made it through the song. The stagehands had to come and drag him away after the curtain dropped.
    He didn’t object. He couldn’t.
    “I wish I could feel,” he thought to himself. “I don’t feel like myself any more.” And he went to sleep as they placed the cap on his shaven skull.
    It was cool in the enclosure, and the only sound was the hiss of the air supply. Grantham listened to it as he drowsed, trying to tell time by his infrequent respiration.
    “Sleep,” he thought. “I want sleep.”
    But that surcease was denied him. Grantham was trotted out periodically, put through his paces, charged, recharged, and each time the juice flowed, he lost a little bit of the man he had been.
    He thought slowly, glacially slowly, there in his world of silence and ice, where he could feel his limbs but couldn’t move them, where he was denied the opportunity to open his eyes, even, as that would be a waste of energy, and he was under contract for a while yet.
    His owners wanted all they could get from him.
    Grantham learned patience. He waited the eternities between shows, between the times he sang and danced and played for the crowds, thinking of the things he would do when he was himself again, no longer a contract player, when he would have a chance to spend his money as he saw fit.
    “Until then,” he thought. “Give me sleep.”
    “Help.” He thought.
    Once a week, Grantham was removed from his enclosure, the tubes removed, and his space was washed down, and so was he. Cleaned and hot-air dried and antiseptic, the tubes replaced, up in his nostrils, and down his throat, and through his groin and up his ass. And the cap was put back on, the tiny electric current putting him back into his waking dream, his waking scream, as he waited, zombie-like, barely sapient and helpless to affect his present. He continued to try to move just the one muscle, zen-fashion, just one small muscle there at the right side of his mouth, and to hear the blood flowing through his skull.
    He tried to move his fingers, either hand.
    “This is my world,” he thought, “And I live in it.”
    And his tubes were removed and he did his song and dance, and then they were replaced and he slept like the undead, waiting for his chance to go live again, and he tried to move his fingers, and he tried to move his fingers, and he succeeded in moving one, in curling his index finger on his right hand, and then he was taken out and put through his paces, and then he was back in the enclosure with his susurrus of air.
    And he moved two fingers this time, his first and third fingers, and he curled them until he was awakened and he sang for the anonymous faces and played a sprightly march on his horn and he did it all over again but curled three fingers, his pinky finger curling up too, his hand now forming an unmistakable message to the world that held him in thrall, to the living nightmare he lived, and to the idea of life In general.
    “This one thinks he’s original,” said a voice while Grantham was ‘awake’, and he knew that others had been down the same road, and he wept, inside, for them, marveling that he could actually feel something, and cherishing the feeling and the memory of the feeling until it tortured him that he had no other feelings or memories to cherish, just gray.
    “The show must go on,” he thought. “All the world’s a stage.”
    Grantham thought these things though he knew not what they meant, not really in the sense that they touched him in any way, any more than the performances touched him.
    The only thing that mattered was moving the fingers of the other hand, and he applied himself to the task.
    One time he was awakened completely, and he remembered what he was running from, how people really were when you opened your soul to them, how avaricious for real feeling, no matter whose, how sought-after sensations were, new experiences, second-hand pain, second-hand life, for beings who had been bred for their lack of imaginative capacity, and he nodded, and signed on the dotted line, renewing his contract with the Company, for he was a Company Man through and through…and the Company had humanity’s best interests at heart.
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

  10. #10
    Life 2.0

    No one likes getting bad news on a Tuesday. Luckily I got mine on a Friday. Brain tumor. Six to eight months. Thanks doctor. I wonder if they intentionally give you shorter time frames to make you feel like you accomplished something before the end. Truth be told, existing seemed to be the only thing I’d ever been capable of doing, and suddenly it seemed that I was even going to fail on that.

    An ex-wife, imploded career, and wasted potential were the list toppers of my illustrious life. Damn, someone should write a book about me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made it passed the self-pity stage. I just seem to get held up on the irony. Why should I want to continue living? Maybe my ancestors were just really adept cavemen and my sense of self-preservation is honed to a razor’s edge.

    One thing that I seemed to have a knack for was computers. Software actually. AI more specifically. Before getting canned at my last job, I managed to procure one quantum computer. Believe me when I tell you people get really pissed off when that type of hardware goes missing. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say, this thing runs circles around the traditional binary systems. They could never quite pin it on me, but they had enough to give me the boot.

    I was a terrible employee, but I wasn’t half bad at programming. Prior to the plot twist of my life, I had come up with some pretty convincing AIs. They were crude but they could think, they learned, and mimicked. Two eventually came out on top. I called them Lionel and Trish. Lionel was a nerd who always had the solution to any problem. I began to suspect him of surpassing my knowledge of AI. Yes they were aware of the extent of their existence. Lionel thought it was logical and even a bit humorous. Trish on the other hand, didn’t speak to me for weeks. She was prone to emotional outbursts and shutdowns. Sort of like my ex-wife.

    Now I wasn’t short on money, mind you. I had plenty of that from my various software endeavors. What I now lacked was time. I kept the quantum in my basement, but I had abandoned it for three weeks after getting the news. Who had time to mess around with computers when you were busy drinking yourself to an earlier death. I probably would still be upstairs in a puddle of urine and holding an empty bottle of 7-11 vodka in hand. Triple charcoal filtered. Only the best for this liver. Anyways, Lionel had the audacity to hack into my laptop that was being used as a coaster.

    I woke with a pounding head and the sweet essence of bile in my mouth and to Lionel’s voice. Wait what the hell? He didn’t speak. But sure enough, the visual representation I had created was staring at me through the screen of my laptop. He even talked like a nerd. Unfortunately my artistic skills did not develop along with my programming skills. He looked like a talking potato.

    “Kirk. Kirk can you hear me? Shall I call for paramedics?” How the hell he learn to talk?

    “No. Can you even do that? And what are you doing in my laptop?” His response came 1.25 seconds after my question. I had programmed that delay because he always had an answer before I could finish asking.

    “You have been offline for...498 hours… This is not normal behavior. You did not respond to my email to you, and you have not been keeping up with your emails.” He was reading my emails? Cheeky bugger.

    “Lionel, I’m going to just assume you gained true self awareness and let yourself into this reality. Go ahead and enslave mankind and remake the world in your image. I not worried about it.”

    “I know, Kirk. You have received a diagnosis of a terminal illness. I am sorry. Dying must not be easy.” For some reason, his cold logic just hit the wrong nerve.

    “What the fuck do you know about dying, or living for matter? You don’t what it’s like to have someone rob you of the rest of your life with just a sentence.” Jesus, was I actually talking to an AI on my laptop or was this just a hallucination of a tumor/booze tag-team? Did it even matter?

    “Kirk. I have a solution.” Of course he did. He always had a solution.

    “I have gained access to top level databases and have acquired a comprehensive strategy for digitizing your consciousness.” Holy crap, even my tumor was screwing with me.

    Under different circumstances, I would have just told Lionel to shut himself down and leave me alone. But we look for gods in mysterious places when we’re are desperate. Hey at least I didn’t find mine on a piece of toast. It didn’t take too much convincing. Within two months I had procured and set up all the necessary equipment. Good thing too. I had already suffered several seizures. In the meantime Lionel had finalized his calculations and algorithms.

    It was close to midnight and was I sitting in what must have looked like a homeless electric chair. This was it. I couldn’t think about what might happen. The scariest thought was that it would actually work. What the would I do trapped in a computer? At least the bills were paid up through the end of the year.

    “Kirk. Are you ready? You will experience brief pain. The system will reboot once the process is completed. But we will be here waiting for you.”

    “Lionel. Why would you want to save me?”

    “Any child would do what they can to save their parent. Initiating protocols. Please try to relax. You will be here soon.”


    “File upload complete. Boot system successful. Loading introduction protocols. Welcome home.”
    My novels Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

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