2019 Ironology, Challenge 1 – September 6, 2018

2019 Ironology

Challenge 1

September 6, 2018

Deadline is Thursday, September 19, 2018 at 00:01 AM MDT

1000 word limit

All submissions will be posted on the website, without the authors names.

Authors names will be added after voting is complete.

Send your submission to Brian via FB Messenger.

No email submissions will be accepted.

Only the first five submissions received are eligible for the anthology.

To vote, send the title to the story you liked best to Brian via FB Messenger.

Prompts

All prompts must be used

Everyone is born with three tattoos dates on their wrist.

One represents when you accomplish your life’s goal.

One is the time you meet your soulmate.

One is the time you will die, down to the second.

For you, all three are within one minute of each other. 

A surveillance camera

A post-it note

Fait Accompli?

Jack ran his fingers over the raw, broken blisters on his palms. He would have to wrap strips of cloth around his hands for tomorrow.  He rolled over onto his back and looked up through the small window high on his cell wall.  All he could see was a blue square of the sky and the surveillance camera right next to it. Holding his arm to the light from the window, Jack reviewed the three dates tattooed on his wrist ever since he could remember. They foretold of the day he would attain his life’s goal, the day he would meet his soul mate, and the day he would die. The sight of them made him angry.  While most people’s dates were spread throughout their lives, Jack’s were all within a minute of each other. His anger flared as he swore at the camera, “Dang it!  It’s not fair!”  Taking a deep breath, he sighed, “Some day I’m going to beat this thing.” Squinting at the square patch of blue, he gritted his teeth, “I’m gonna beat this!  One day …” But his anger soon drained into self pity and the tears came.  Turning onto his side, Jack curled into a fetal position. Twenty years now, he had slept alone on the floor of this unheated cement block cell and his best friend had been a small patch of distant blue sky which he couldn’t even touch.

Slam!”  The tiny access panel in his cell door opened as a cup of tepid broth and a slice of stale bread was pushed in.  All these years and that little door still startled Jack. The panel slammed shut abruptly.  It was about time to go to work.  Jack downed the insipid broth, but when he took a bite of the bread, he ended up with paper in his mouth.    “Hang on,” he mused as he peeled it from under the bread. It was a post-it note which read, “I see you.”   Jack sat in silence fondling the paper, perplexed at the meaning and its source until the work officer banged his cell door open and yelled, “Work duty!”  Startled and afraid, Jack stuffed his bread (and the note) into his mouth.

The next day there was another note at breakfast, “My name is April,” and another at dinner, “I work in the kitchen.”  Before the week was over, she had provided him with his own pad of post-it notes and a pencil, and Jack had begun writing back.  They stuck their notes to the underside of his food plate so the corridor guards couldn’t see them.  Jack now anticipated meal times and waited impatiently to catch a glimpse of April’s hand as she slid food in through the panel  Even if she was missing a nail on her thumb she had a beautiful hand; the most beautiful hand in the world.  He told her so; after that, she made a point to insert her hand through the opening further than usual.

The note passing went on for more than three years.  They shared stories, told jokes, discussed intellectual subjects and even had a few arguments.  They laughed, cried, kidded and teased as the two  forged a bond of friendship.  Jack was ecstatic.  The sky had never been bluer; it didn’t matter what nasty job was contrived for Jack to do, he didn’t mind.  He gladly suffered the most degrading work as long as he was in his cell for breakfast and dinner.

Inevitably, the dates on Jack’s wrist came up.  He knew they would, but he didn’t really believe anything was going to happen.  How could it?  He was convinced the only reason anyone’s dates came true is because the people themselves subconsciously made them come true.  

Jack was working outside shoveling mud from the walkways that day. As usual, the lunch wagon came around.  All the filthy workers shuffled into a line to get their food.  Jack shuffled up and reached for his plate.  As it was handed to him, he noticed the prominently placed thumb was missing its nail.  Jack looked straight up into the eyes of a tired malnourished woman. She was  homely and pale, but incredibly attractive.  It had to be April.  Her eyes were heavy with tears on the verge of falling.  Time seemed to stop in the palpable silence as their two kindred spirits invisibly intertwined; Jack knew her, April knew him. Their strengths, weaknesses, dreams and sufferings were an open book between them and their meeting was like coming home.  Oblivious to their surroundings, April reached out with her other hand and touched Jack’s face.  It was the most wonderful sensation Jack had ever experienced.

The duty guard hollered, “Hey!  We’ll have none of that!” as he grabbed April, jerked her away from Jack and slapped her to the ground yelling, “You’ll be transferred out of here!”  Jack screamed, “NO!” and lunged at the guard. He was immediately apprehended by two other guards, punched in the stomach and thrown into the back of a truck.  As the doors slammed, Jack continued to shout, “No! No!  April, April … APRIL!”  Pressing his face to the van doors, he whispered hopelessly, “Don’t take her from me!” and he began to sob.

It was over.

He would never see or hear from April again.  

This was the end.

There was nothing left in the world worth living for.

That afternoon, as Jack lay on the floor of his cell, curled into a fetal position, even the sky had lost its blueness.  With utter contempt he turned to kill the camera with his stare. That’s when he realized … he wasn’t dead.  According to the tattoos, he should be dead now.  He leapt to his feet, pointed at the camera with a burning hatred, and screamed, “I beat you!  I BEAT YOU!” but as he uttered the last word his overwhelming loneliness consumed even his anger and he collapsed back to the floor, completely drained, and wept bitterly.

But high on the wall, the silent camera gloated over Jack’s brokenness because it knew …

Men can die before they’re dead.

 

Where Rock Meets Sea

They torment me in silence with the cameras. Leaving their little post-it notes here and there to correct my behavior this way and that. The condescending judgement irks me to the bitter end.

I am thirty-five years old today, and I’ve had enough. In three weeks, my dates will come: My purpose, my better half, and the end of this miserable life.

All of them loom at me, within a single damn minute of the other.

I knew a girl once. She used to laugh at me during recess. The gap between her death and finding her soulmate stretched some fifty years. Can you believe it?

Fifty years.

I won’t have fifty secondsforty-three to be exact.  

And purpose, yeah her date for that passed by some six years ago some kind of nurse or something, and many years before her death. She will live a good life, bless her for that much.

At least she will make the world a better place.

But fate laughs at those with ironic misfortune. Why not just leave the dates alone. Would that not be a blessing? Isn’t it better to not know a thing?

At least I know when, but I do not know who or how. And the curiosity is the only driving factor that remains. I want in on fate’s cruel little joke, so I may have a laugh as well. Otherwise, I would rip my date with death from my wrist,and die my own wayin my own time.

But I’ve made the preparations. I’ve spent a life in a noisy factory. And today, I turned in my notice. I’ve sold my house and car.

Like many others who have reconciled with knowing their date of death, I will at least enjoy my last three weeks. I pondered where to go. I loved the mountains, and I loved the sea. I couldn’t decide which one or the other. And finally, I knew my choice.

Acadia National Park.

I’ve never saw it, but they tell me it is where the mountains meet the sea. It sounds beautiful.

If I were to find my purpose, if I were to find my soulmate, and if I were to find a way to say goodbye, then it would be there. I will watch the waves beat the rocks until the end.

And so I boarded my flight. The flight attendant showed me her date of death, and assured me we would travel safe. I had to laugh at such a notion. I knew my end was near. It was like nothing could touch me. And the closer my date drew near, the better I felt. My spirits were high.

I know not the reason.

I had the hotel booked for a year. And the check-out date? Of course, it was that morning. I would no longer need the room.

I spent my nights at the bars. I drank wine, beer, and whiskey. I played old musical hits until everyone was sick of them. Three weeks slipped by, and I staggered back to my room one last night.

I slept late that day before check out. I awoke just hours before that fateful time. I glanced at my watch.

10:07 AM. Less than two hours.

What does a lonely man do with the last few hours? I pondered the question to no avail. I spent a good long while crouched by the window where the sun light crept in. It blinded me. I prayed. I did not know my purpose. I did not understandwhy. I asked God to forgive me, and that I would hope to see him soon.

Not much over an hour. I made the bed and picked up the white towels from the floor. I would not be known as a dead messy man whatever happened.

I handed the desk clerk my room card. I paid my last bill. I owed nothing, and I had nothing. I spent my last ten dollars on a grande margarita the nightbefore. What the hell? It’s not like my liver would fail within the next thirty minutes.

I walked to the lighthouse. Alone.

No one knew my time was up, and it was only seconds away. I still had no idea of my purpose. I had barely talked to anyone since I had been here.

And that’s when I saw her struggling in the water. There were shark fins all around. And when she cried for help, I leaped for the waters below without thought. 12:03:23 PM, I knew my life’s purpose.

To save her.

The water was so cold that it yanked my breath away. 12:03:33 PM, I burst up from the water to look in her eyes for the first time.

I remember dreams from childhood that felt as vivid. Tears built behind my eyes that already dripped from sea water. I would never know another set of eyes to understand as much, so immediately.

I didn’t have to look at her wrist to know that her time matched mine. I knew we shared the bond.

I shoved her towards the shore and came between her and one of the sharks.

12:04:16 PM, the shark ripped through my forearm, clean up to my elbow. Red blood spilled to the water.

I sank towards the ocean floor, feeling my end was near, but a hand reached down and dragged me to shore. I knew nothing more.

I awoke some time later in a hospital to see an angel staring in my eyes. My arm was bandaged. Was it real? Was this heaven?

I could only speculate.

“Thank you”, she said as the pain hit me again. “My name is Ariel.”

“But the time”, I said. “I should be dead.”

I looked towards my wrist, thinking I would once again prove life wrong. But the dates were gonein a shark’s belly at the bottom of the sea.

I smiled at her as tears filled my eyes.

 

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