The Iron Writer Challenge #169, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #6

Sonja Henie

The Iron Writer Challenge #169 

2016 Summer Open Challenge #6

The Paul Arden Lidberg Challenge

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Richard Russell, Steven Harz, Bobby Salomons, Alex Grabovski, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

A stapler

A program for the 1939 World Series

Mao’s personal copy of his Little Red Book

Sonja Henie

The Staple in the Chairman’s Finger

Sasha Grafit (also known on Facebook as Alex Grabovskiy)

“We will arrive in Wuhan in 47 minutes, chairman.”

The train gently swayed as if to agree with Yang’s prediction.

“There will be no disturbances until then.” came the command.

Yang bowed retreating through the polished wooden door. His departing footsteps were swallowed by the hushed roar in the connecting hallway. Another door was opened and the chairman heard a brief moment of laughter from the restaurant car. Then his door slid shut with a heavy click; a faint odor of pungent cigarettes–the sharp smell of the ones with his face on the pack –had managed to slip through in the last moment.

In his comfortable, cracked leather chair the chairman squirmed and sniffed the second-hand exhalations. He detected something exciting as well — ginger and sesame oil – his favorite cucumber salad would be served at dinner, when he returned to the train. If he didn’t finish the meeting with the bureaucrats quickly the salad would turn bitter and unfresh.

He lit a cigarette, one from a pack with the picture of a giraffe. His tonsils throbbed with pleasure and submitted to the overpowering smoke of the Turkish and Virginia tobacco blend. He scratched the scaly skin of the mole on his chin and looked at the pile of correspondence that had been on this table for the past few hours, since the mail collection in Xi’an.

He ignored the garish boxes wrapped in silk and scented ribbons and reached for the one wrapped in plain brown paper with the foreign writing. There was a Norwegian customs stamp.

Inside the package, he was startled to see the first addition of a book he had written long ago, the one made cheaply and quickly when he was young; it’s cover was a faded orange now. He cringed as he remembered the many botched symbols and inky errors that the cut-rate press had allowed into the hasty printing.

Out of its pages fell a letter folded many times to fit. The writing was Sung-Jing’s beautifully horrendous attempt at Mandarin: the characters were all crooked, and the whole thing was written in a nearly illegible childish scrawl. He struggled to make sense of the incongruous characters: “If you gotted this paper word it meant I dead.” He dropped the letter.

Inside the box was a pamphlet with robust American men running with their strange whiskers on the perfectly trimmed grass in a stadium and the number 1939. He took out, with shaking hands, a strange metal contraption that resembled an elongated bird beak. His finger slipped comfortably into the groove between its upper and lower jaw. He pushed the top and felt nothing, but when he pulled out his finger a shiny metal clip was embedded neatly in his nail. Another one of Song-Jiang’s weird doodads from her world travels, the chairman smiled even as a heavy emptiness formed in his chest.

He pushed the button for the intercom with his bloody finger: “Yang, you will please serve the salad now.”

A Key and a String and a KiteSteve Harz

Steven Harz

 

As I suppose Columbus had in his pocket while he sailed the ocean blue,

I try to locate your whereabouts with a polished brass pocket compass.

 

As Sonja Henie spun, with gold around her neck, I skate swirls around your memory

while staring at her on the silver screen, letting you know that you’re

“One in a Million” and not anyone’s “Second Fiddle.”

 

As I’ve seen Gandhi wear, while nonviolently battling the Brits,

I attack old photos of us through round lenses and gold frames.

 

As I use my vintage red Swingline Tot Stapler to reattach the pages of my father’s

1939 World Series program, his first without the beloved Gehrig and his deadly disease,

I also staple together map pages showing where we’d started and where I am now without you.

 

As I’d learned da Vinci designed, along with his helicopter and scuba gear,

hanging on my wall and awaiting your return is an all-too-painfully accurate clock.

 

As with the 267 pieces of propaganda published by the People’s Liberation Army,

and contained in the dog-eared Little Red Book nestled inside Chariman Mao’s olive uniform,

I navigate through past tattered love letters, now propaganda in their own right.

 

As we were taught that Hancock used to wield his name across the Declaration,

on my desk is a pen that I’ve used, too often, to denounce my own independence.

 

As we know Franklin flew when he discovered electricity,

I have a key and a string and a kite that I send up each day

like a beacon hoping to be struck and set fire to,

so that wherever on earth you are

you will know I’m still here.

The MarkBobby Salomons

Bobby Salomons

He sat down next to me with a gentle thud, staring as the horses approaching the starting gates, ignoring my piercing gaze. He was older, weathered face and formal dress – just like about everyone else around.

“Could you be any more obvious?” He grumbled.

“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure.” I said.

He turned his head, a half smirk that lasted no longer than a second.

“Rookies.” He reached into his pocket, “Here.”

A small envelope – very fine of crisp beige paper so thin it was almost translucent.
“I’m guessing that’s the news then.” I said and nonchalantly tried to slide it into my pocket.

A hand firmly grabbed my wrist.

“Open it.” He said.

“Here?”

“This one needs some explaining.”

The crowd roared as the gates opened and beasts of game thundered by. I opened the small envelope and stared at the photo.

“Sonja Henie?” I said, a deep frown forming.

“You understand why this needs explaining now?” He said.

“She’s the mark?!” I hissed.

“No – the lead.”

“How? Why?”

“Mao.”

“Mao?”

“He’s been reaching out to sports figures that compete internationally as moles. Either makes them sympathetic to the cause or slips them fists full of cash. Lets just say Intel found some interesting things in this broad’s belongings.”
“Tell me.”

He paused for a moment and looked at the stub in his gloved hand, horses half way down the track. It surprised me to find a fellow agent gambling on horses.
“Mao’s personal copy of his little Red Book.” He made eye contact for just a moment.

“Christ, she’s full blown commie.”

“That’s not all we found. It’s in the envelope.”

I reached in and wriggled my fingers around, I touched something made of a stiffer paper and pulled it out. A program and tickets for the 1939 World Series. I looked at him.

“Don’t you get it, rookie?” He said, “That’s her contact. One of the players. A fellow sportsman, another goddamn red, right in our midst. That’s your mark.”

“I see.” I said sliding the envelope into my breast pocket.

“Congratulations, kid. You’re going to the World Series! All you have to do is follow her and wait for her to meet the bastard, probably somewhere in the stadium. Then, make your move.”

“What if she starts screaming?”

The horses crossed the finish line, my contact rose up, looked at his bet one last time before throwing it up in the air into and endless storm of stubs – a whirlwind of disappointment. Agents ought to know better.

“Goddammit! You never goddamn win!” His face was red with anger.

“What if she screams?” I said.

“What?”
“When I take care of this guy, what if she starts screaming?”

“I don’t know! Bring a stapler! Nail the bitch’s mouth shut! You’ll figure something out! Besides, she won’t scream. She knows you’ll shoot her too.”

He turned around and walked off – he was right. She wouldn’t scream and I wouldn’t hesitate. I never did.

Unit 143

Malissa Greenwood

It was already close to midnight when I pulled up to the storage facility. Less than twenty four hours ago I had found out that my beloved Aunt Eloise had died and named me responsible for her estate. I had always loved Eloise. Even after her mind started to go, I enjoyed listening to her crazy, imaginative stories.

I walked into the building and approached a security guard seated behind a front desk.

“Good evening ma’am. Do you have some identification?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah, I have an ID,” I began ruffling through my handbag, “but I don’t think I’m on your list or whatever. My aunt just died and I’m in charge of her estate.”

The guard looked at me flatly, still holding his hand out.

“What is your aunt’s name?” he asked after I had given him the ID.

“Eloise Hannigan. She left the key with the lawyers, I have it right here…” The guard looked at his computer, back at me and then back at the ID.

“Ok Miss Hannigan, I’ll buzz you though.”

Well at least I wouldn’t have to worry about robberies, I thought as I opened the thick metal door and started down the corridor in search of unit 143.

I inserted the key into the old lock and lifted the rickety garage style door. I’m not sure what I expected to find but what I saw was somewhat surprising. Instead of the typical unorganized clutter you might expect to find from a ninety-five year old woman, it was set up like a tiny living room; a loveseat, a coffee table and an end table with a lamp all positioned on one wall and a neat row of boxes along the other wall. Placed on the coffee table was a shoe box with an envelope leaning against it.

I dusted off the old loveseat and sat on the edge before gently opening the lid of the shoebox. I began taking out the contents, admiring them one by one. It was an odd assortment – an autographed program from an old World Series dated 1939; a gold medal from the 1936 Olympics in Bavaria; a picture of Aunt Eloise with a beautiful brunet, ‘Sonia Henie – 1940’ scribbled on the back; a little red book with Chinese lettering wrapped in plastic with MOA printed on it; a stapler, which with a button on the bottom that when pressed sprung a knife out the front.

“What on Earth?” I said out loud and moved on to the letter.

“My sweet niece Alley,

Inside these boxes you will find many stories. But of all my adventures and all my memories, this box holds my very favorite. I am entrusting it all to you, so that you may write my story and carry on my legacy. ”

Who was this woman? What had she seen and never spoke about? Or tried to tell me but I had brushed it off as an old senile woman with an imagination.

I took a look around the storage unit and realized, I had several boxes to help me find out.

The Fate of a QuislingRichard Russell

Richard Russell

It had only been a few months since North Vietnam overran Saigon. Nothing much had changed for Hung Chiem in the mail room except for the repressive feeling of angst which pervaded the entire office. The new Communist party managers watched everyone very closely, but they hadn’t had time to screen for dissidents.

Hung admired his original copy of the 1939 world series program hanging above his desk. Baseball was the greatest game ever invented, he thought. He dreamed of going to America and attending a real big league ballgame. His co-worker, Phuong, approached Hung, “You better put that program out of sight. That’s enough to get you killed, you know.” Hung looked surprised, but responded, “It’s okay, Phuong. Don’t worry about me.” Phuong smiled. “We’re going for lunch. You coming?” Hung turn off his desk lamp and they all hurried off, laughing and joking.

A few days later the Communist party official from the local office came around to question all the employees in the building, and sure enough, the world series program was noticed. “You like American baseball, um let me see, Hung?” he queried. Hung was very clever and had prepared for this eventuality. “Sir, please understand the situation here. Before we were freed from the capitalist regime controlling us, this poster was merely camouflage.” Hung took the poster down and tore the program out of the frame. Hidden behind it was a very worn-out copy of Chairman Mao’s little red book. Hung handed the book to the official. “Look at the handwriting in the book. This was Chairman Mao’s personal copy. He gave it to me when I met him a few years ago. I was in China for a Communist rally when our paths crossed. I could hardly believe he really talked to me, a lowly mail clerk, but he was proud of my low position and sought to encourage me.”

Of course, the inscriptions in the book were forged by Hung, but after Hung suggested that efficiency could improve in the mail-room if the other capitalist workers were replaced by loyal Communists, he was given clearance to keep working in the office and promoted to head of the mail-room. Subsequently, his old co-workers were fired and some were arrested.

Within a few months, Hung became very frustrated at work because the Communist co-workers didn’t recognize his seniority, so he had no real power at all. Not only were things worse at work, but he also had become a pariah among the non-communist, nationalist crowd.

Depressed and dejected, Hung meandered down the street in a drunken pity-party one night. Several of his former co-workers passed by, stapling anti-communist bulletins to signs and store-fronts in the dark.   One of them commented to the others, “Hey look, it’s Sonja Henie!” Then they jumped him, screaming, “Traitor!” and “Turncoat!” They violently beat and kicked him until he was bleeding and unconscious. Next, someone took the staple gun and stapled a piece of paper that read, “Quisling” to his forehead.

#TIWC members please vote here.

Challenge 64 – 2014 Iron Writer Championship

The Iron Writer Challenge #64

The 2014 Iron Writer Championship

The Authors:

Steve Harz – 2013 Summer Solstice Champion

Don Corcoran – 2013 – Autumn Equinox Champion

Dani J Caile – 2013 Winter Solstice Champion

Danielle Lee Zwissler – 2014 Spring Equinox Champion

The Elements:

savant

Acquired Savant Syndrome

A Letter to your older self

A pet Fairy

Use as many homonyms as possible

Note: the acquired savant element is about the syndrome, not Jason Padgett who is mentioned in the linked article and who drew the image above. To read his remarkable story, simply click on the link.

Two My Few Chair Auld Err ShelfDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

Deer auld err shelf,

Ewe May knot bee ahh wear of dish fact butt aft her hay seer ear us head inn jury sum months ergo, ewe whirr die hag nosed ash having ahh Kwai erred savant sin Drome, tern inn ewe, awe mi two bee maw presize, inn two ahh gene ears arm mung gnaw mole men. Dish ahh loud mi two soul ver grey test of manse Miss tear Reese hand have Dee ahh Billy tree two hex plane any Conan drum awe die lemurs play stir bee four mi. Ewe wood have fought that dish was urghh give cent from Heaven, butt unfought tune nut Lee their ahh two May jar sighed arf hex. Dee thirst is that Dee dam midge left mi para lies duh, inn prismed inn err pie love Flash hand bones, un ehh bell two feed mi Drew ling Mao fur, clove my limp body ore why purr my own awe rei Fiss, hand second that eye yam ehh bell two sea bee yawned Dee use ewe all Hugh man die men shun hand inn two udder Hi err realms unknown two mi bee four now field with ghouls, mon stairs, inn queue buy hand udder strange hid ears creed chairs that wood make ball loon Annie malls Luke Kwai nor mole.

Hat dish mow meant, eye yam un ehh bell two right buy my own hand, eye yam act chew all Lee Dick dating dish let err two my own purse urn all pet ferry, who, ash eye have now orb served, Khan knot spell four sheet. Butt sea inn ash his favourite pass thyme is play inn Han inn stew meant witch resend bells Dee bag pipes inn sow end hand that he all wheys where’s ehh stew pit Luke inn Kit shin ehh prawn with Dee werds “eye yam cleave fir” writ ten on Dee front hand ehh rhinestone tea are err on his head that he sir wears blind awe ridge inn ate id from Dee sub urged sit tea of Atlantis, eye think that dish is Dee leased of his war Reese.

Aft her living ehh shore ter wile with inn dish hex tend id vee ewe of Dee were auld, eye fee eel eye Khan knot go on. It is knot ahh pleasure twit Ness these fen Omm miner, it is err curse. Eye yam trapped inn sighed err glass how sir, err Vic Tim of fete, of sir come stances bee yawned my con troll. My vee ewe of reality has bean Shatnered hand eye can know longer go on dish whey. Eye must rei verse Dee stayed us eye find my shelf inn buy rei peet inn Dee pro sess witch brought mi two dish fire rei Hell. Eye yam sore rei.

Pea lease bee shore two sir round yaw bed with salt bee four go inn two sleep. Hand all wheys put yaw pants on back two front.

Yaws sin seer Lee,

Me (ewe)

For GlendaDanielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

The little boy lay in the coffin surrounded by stuffed animals and action figures. His favorite conductor’s hat was placed carefully on his head and he wore a Thomas the Train tee-shirt along with blue and white striped jeans.

It was a quick death, finding out only a month before that he had Cancer. Jackson never complained, he always smiled, he loved playing with trains, talking to his imaginary friend, and smashing dandelions on his sister’s nose.

Only one more day until Michael Crawford’s son would be lowered into the ground. What he would do without Jackson?

“Daddy?”

Michael startled and turned fast. “Jackie?”

“It’s okay, Daddy; I’m okay…I’m with Grandma now.”

Michael’s body shook, and he covered his mouth with his hand as he went toward the coffin where his son was. “But you—”

“Don’t cry, Daddy…Remember your promise.”

***

Michael sat up, sweat pouring off his face. His son had been dead 27 years. Since then, his wife had passed, and his daughter had moved away. He spent most days locked up in his office, figuring out new algorithms, and reading Jackson’s old school papers.

Later that afternoon, Michael read a letter from Jackson to his future self. It was filled with misspelled words and homonyms, but it was a prized possession to Michael.

“What’re you doing?” Janie, Michael’s fiancé, asked as she walked into the office.

Michael looked up, startled. “Nothing…just work.” Michael put the letter down and stood, stretching. “I’ll be back,” he said, excusing himself to the restroom.

Janie walked over to the desk and picked up the piece of paper. It was a letter. The spelling was horrible; Janie knew that writing wasn’t a strong suit of Michael’s. She loved him and his quirks anyway.

…Glenda is so butiful. She has great hare and a small waste, and brite blue eyes. I love her.

Janie’s eyes watered, angry at Michael’s betrayal. When he walked into the room, she crumbled up the paper and threw it at him. The expression on Michael’s face was that of horror.

“What are you doing?”

“Who’s Glenda!”

“Why did you do that?”

“Answer me; who’s Glenda?”

“Jackson’s pet fairy.”

“What?”

“My little boy, Jackson…I promised him that I would take care of her, that I would keep her alive for him.” Michael pointed around the room and Janie looked distraught from what the letter said, hand drawn portraits of a pixie were scattered all over the place.

“Glenda?”

Michael nodded. “It’s why I don’t want you in here.” Tears poured from Michael’s eyes as he unfolded the crumbled up paper.

“I’m so sorry, Michael. I…I didn’t know.”

“Glenda is very special to me,” he said softly, patting his pocket. “I keep her safe in here, next to my heart.”

Janie cried, “I’m so sorry.”

Michael nodded and sat back down at his desk, working on more algorithms.

A few minutes later, Janie came back in with two coffees, and pecked Michael on the cheek before walking toward the door.

“Aren’t you going to join me?”

“No.”

“But there’s two cups here.”

“For Glenda, Michael. Now I’m taking care of her, too.”

LetteredDon Corcoran

Don Corcoran

‘Whatcha’ writing?”

“You’re writing wrongs?”

“Oh, I see what you did there. Wait… ? Which ‘right?'”

“The Rite?”

“The very Sam one.”

“Don’t you mean ‘same?'”

“Mine?”

“Who’s it to?”

“You know whom.”

“Sheep!”

Wren cringed. He hated being called that. He hissed between clenched teeth.

“Wrong you.”

“Hay!”

“Tell it to the horse!”

“That’s not fair.”

“Sure it is. Payment for my long suffering.”

The beastly thing shut up for a moment and thought.

“When did you get so good at this game?”

Sheepishly, Wren glanced up.

“Last week.”

“Last week? When you went to the meet?”

“Don’t talk about her like that?”

“Like what?”

Sam was frustrated.

“Meat!”

“Okay, so maybe I was.”

Yes, at the race.

“Where you went to get your fix?”

“My fix?”

A moment passed.

“Fix. Yes, my heroine.”

Sam rolled in the air, holding a belly gorged with flies, guppies, and perogies.

“So you went to the races and met the love of your life, your everything… .”

“Don’t say it.”

“Your whole.”

Wren plucked the cigar from between Sam’s lips and twisted the embers into his mottled flesh until it became a smoking brown stain. Sam screamed and zipped in loop-d-loops around the room. Rubbing the wound, Sam scowled at Wren.

“Okay, I deserved that one. So what happened?”

“That point when you thought it would be funny to trip me and send me sprawling into her, mustard and hot dogs first?”

“Hehe! Classic.”

But she was too fast. I ended up taking a header over the railing.

Sam winced.

“Ow!”

“Yeah. I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck.”

“Dude, you wouldn’t have died or anything. That’s why I’m here.”

“Well after a two week stay in the hospital, I woke up with words doing somersaults in my head.”

“Dude! That’s so cool! A little spill and you’re the heir.”

“I’d rather the air. You couldn’t make me fly? You and your stupid word game.”

“I had nothing to do with it, hombre. This is the universe’s own special kind of chaos.”

“Well, now, I don’t need you.”

“Back rubs were always optional. So wait, you’re mad ’cause you think I gave you super powers?’

“No, Sam.”

“What then? We’ve been like bros since you were like this tall!”

Sam sank a few feet, hand flat before him, his wings beating furiously.

“And I fit in an acorn, for Oberon’s sake!”

Both considered his girth and realized a diet of woodland insects and Ding-Dongs may not have been the best choice. Wren sighed.

“What a waist.”

“Come on! That little stunt made your relationship. She spent the next two weeks nursing you to health.”

Wren finished the letter written on ancient parchment and penned in rare ink. He signed his name at the bottom – just as he had addressed it – and sealed the envelop with red wax.

“Wait! What’s-her-face isn’t replacing me, is she?”

“What?”

“Her name – Di.”

“Oh shit!”

*POP*

The Intended Length of Ever After

Steven Harz

Finding a way to keep alive the

allusion of your illusion

is more difficult than finding a

desert island treasure map X

And if I thought I could see you again

just once

I would hit the ground running

 

Your death was an extinction level event

for me

And in order to reverse the traumatic stress

that has turned me into a savant that

doesn’t count scattered toothpicks but instead

now sees the world through the lens of sorrow

I perform pocket knife open heart surgery

peeling away my flesh by the layer

In order to somehow discover

where you are now

or the intended length of ever after

and when these fail I lay down a line

of last week’s breadcrumbs

that lead me to the first place I discovered you

 

To complete the journey

I navigate a yo-yo string tightrope to a

forgotten beneath-the-stairs toy box

and search among Raggedy Andy

with his one remaining eye

a frayed copy of “Kate the Kitten Fairy”

that told of her epic battles with Jack Frost

and her refusal to bow to his icy arrow and bow

and a Bozo the Clown chalk board, on which

your name was written repeatedly in

fading yet determined 6th grade penmanship

to find yesterday’s letter to tomorrow’s me

written on the day after the first day of school

when we first met

 

Unfolding the papers and smoothing them against my thigh

it all rushed back bringing that day then to right now

And although they all felt that I was too young to know

that you were the one to find

I refused to give in and believe their lie

so I now sit and read my foretold story of us

and each morn I mourn and with a

single tear I tear out each page after it’s read

and implode quietly for these few minutes each day.

The Iron Writer Challenge #22 – 2013 Summer Solstice Open Finals

coconut land crabThe Iron Writer Challenge #22

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

2013 Summer Solstice Open Finals

 The Authors: 

Steve HarzA Francis RaymondM.D. PitmanTony Jaeger

The Elements:

An Incubus

An 8 track tape (be specific)

The Towers of Silence

Coconut land crab from Nuie Island

KingsfoilSteve Harz

Steve Harz

You sing me morning dove lullabies on a Kingsfoil night

after spending the day with my hand in your back pocket

watching your Ferris Wheel halo and cotton candy smile and

thinking that our love is as fragile as a shopping center carnival goldfish

or as angry as a South Pacific coconut land crab so close to the coast

where we spread out beach towels and look past the waves to the west

It is no secret that you are my Achilles heel kryptonite

in our combat boot love affair rich with

depth charge kisses and camouflage espionage

and rather than hitching a ride from a funeral procession

we hotwire a 1976 Duster and its racing stripes and snakeskin roof

and when we can’t drive another mile or town

we click the dashboard mounted player to track 1 of

‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’

driving between sunsets and city limits arguing which one of us is which

and questioning whether our love is still green and growing or dry and gone

my words gasoline and your touch a lit match

needing to set fire to ourselves in order to have light to read the map

that will take us back to the shore where our love can bloom or at least tread water

or to the middle of the planet where it will die among the empty sand dunes

but not knowing which we throw our rope from our Tower of Babel to a Tower of Silence

and walk the tightrope between misunderstanding and the bleaching bones of the dead

where my fear of dying alone is replaced with a fear of dying without you

we become each other’s’ incubus and succubus hovering in unison and

trying to spawn a fulfilling forever from erotic evil dreams

and scraping the dirt beneath us while prowling for hope

refusing to throw in the beach towel as we’ve done too many times before

Armed and DangerousMichael Pitman

M.D. Pitman

The heat of the late Sunday morning warmed Mick’s face as he stepped outside to load his 1965 Mustang convertible for a picnic with his girlfriend, Jody. She was five steps behind with a black vinyl case.

“So, why do you not have a CD player in your car, again?” Mick and Jody have been dating a few weeks, though he’s told her before. He stopped and turned.

“Because a ‘65 Mustang was the first to have an 8-track player standard.”

Jody rolled her eyes after Mick turned around to place the picnic basket in the backseat. Jody placed the case next to it.

The radio sounded after Mick started the car: “The Harrison police department is looking for a man accused of beating a clerk at a gas station, leaving him in critical condition. The suspect, a white man in his mid-30s, was last seen wearing jeans and a gray tank top shirt. He covered his face with a red bandana. Police say he is considered armed and dangerous.”

As if he didn’t hear the news, Mick pushed in his Fleetwood Mac 8-track tape.

“Wait. Did you hear that?” Jody turned off the radio. “We can’t go to the park with that lunatic out there.”

“The nearest store is at least three, maybe four miles away. Don’t worry about it. The odds are slim we’d run into him.”

It took about 10 minutes to drive to Miami Whitewater Park. They walked from the park’s rear parking lot to a secluded part of the park. They set up their spot in a patch of sun just off the bike path and a dozen feet from the tree line.

“You got the cards?”

Jody pulled out a pack of Trivial Pursuit cards from a jean shorts pocket and waved them. She gave half the deck to Mick.

“The hardest ones?” Jody asked.

“If you can find a hard one.” Mick smiled.

“This creature is also known as the robber crab or palm thief and is native to Niue Island.”

“What the heck?”

“I take that is an, ‘I don’t know.’”

Mick tossed a slant-eyed glare. “Okay, what is it?”

“Coconut land crab.”

“Whatever.” Mick shuffled through his cards. He flipped one over and smiled. “The better known name of this in German folklore is Alp of Teutonic.”

Jody shook her head in humorous disgust. “Okay, let’s go with easier questions.”

“It was an incubus, by the way.” Mick smiled slyly as he giggled. Jody threw a grape.

As Jody looked through her cards, and Mick stared intently at her, their sunny spot took on shade.

They looked up. A man wearing blue jeans and a dirty gray tank top towered over them. Cash overflowed his bulging pockets, and a red bandana hung around his neck. His white knuckles wrapped around a baseball bat stained red along the barrel.

“I got a question,” he said in a gravelly voice. He looked at Mick. “Are you ready to lie in the Tower of Silence?”

He lifted the bat with two hands over his head, and as his face began to distort with force, pulled the bat down.

The Paradox of ChoiceA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond

The cast scuttled into the chamber carrying Kaheru on their backs. A black magnetic tape bound her legs, foreclaws, and pinned one of her antennae against the side of her mouth. Attached to the tape, dragging behind her, was the object that ensnared Kaheru – a moldy green 8-track cassette. The top image was faded, but enough ink on the side was readable:

“BREAD: BABY I’M A WANT YOU”

Tane sighed. “What have you gotten yourself into now, Kaheru?”

“Maybe it’s a new weapon,” cried out one cast member.

Kaheru didn’t tell them she knew exactly what it was. Well, not exactly. It was a human relic and after her years of human study, she used it to attempt to conjure up an old human. A crab from the only other surviving cast of Coconut Crabs, from the Island of Niue, claimed to have succeeded and provided instructions. It didn’t work.

“Please, get it off me,” begged Kaheru, free antenna drooping in embarrassment.

Tane flicked his antenna, disgusted at her smell. “Now, Kaheru, you know we can’t do that. This object is of amazing antiquity. We will not damage it.”

“Take her to the Tower of Silence,” he ordered.

The chattering cast quieted instantly. No one ever went to the Tower. Sea Eagles, the world’s other remaining great predator, ruthlessly warred with the crabs for eons. Atop the tower, exposed, meant certain death by their enemies.

*****

High on the tower, one of only a few known human-created structures left, Kaheru was deciding whether or not to cut and destroy the artifact on her own when “it” appeared.

It looked human, according to surviving pictures Kaheru had seen. It had arms, a head, legs and an appendage she didn’t recognize dangling between its legs. But she didn’t expect to see wings.

“Greetings!” The cloud of thunder and lightning accompanying his entrance started to dissipate. “I am Odacas! Incubus and…” he looked around and saw Kaheru.

“I uh, am looking for some women,” he said.

“Women?”

“Yeah. They conjured me. I must impregnate them.”

“I might have conjured you.”

“You?”

Kaheru explained the humans were long gone, her own predicament, and as much recent history as she could. Apparently, Odacas had been away from some time.

“I was last here…” he turned to look at the stars in the sky. “Wow, it’s been at least two million years.”

“You look disappointed,” he continued. “Was this not your intent?”

“No, I wanted to meet a human.”

“Oh. Sorry. Well, I should get back and impregnate a few. Get the population numbers back up so they don’t die out…”

“Can you take me back to the time of the humans?” Kaheru asked.

“You might not like it. They, uh, eat your kind,” said Odacas.

Kaheru thought about it. Death, ripped apart by the talons of an Eagle, unable to defend herself, or the possibility of survival but more probable death, in the hands of her beloved humans.

“When can we leave?”

World of Wonders, Episode NineTony Jaeger

Tony Jaeger

“I don’t think we should do this,” Ang Number Six said. “We’re tampering with forces we shouldn’t.” His voice echoed through the warehouse.

Number Nine tapped Six’s forehead, “That’s how we got into this mess in the first place – using the God Machine Ang stole. We’re human, and now what? I’ve woken up the last six mornings,” he gestured to his genitals, “standing completely erect, with a feeling in my chest that I don’t know what to do with. We’ve started hiding our bodies with ridiculous clothing; started acting in ways we never did before we got souls, and I intend to find out what to do about it.”

“Stop, both of you. We agreed that this is the most logical thing to do.” Thirteen stepped between Six and Nine, placing a hand on their chests. He didn’t know why; he thought the contact might calm them.

“We have the items for the ritual,” Nine said. “Let’s just do it.”

    “I’m not entirely sure I’ve built this Tower of Silence perfectly,” Thirteen said, studying his InfoPad. “It’s small. These articles were vague on the exact build. I’ve got the three interlocking circles traced with the blood of the Nuiean Coconut Crab, and the incantation, all of the important things to summon Ang’s spirit. Except his body.”

    “I have Him.” All eyes locked on Number Four. One and Two placed a canvas bag onto Thirteen’s workbench. Four, Ang’s favorite of the doppelgangers, unzipped the bag, revealing His pale, blood-drained face. Four smiled fondly and brushed a strand of hair away. “One, Two, put him atop the tower. We’re doing this.”

*****

A gout of fire erupted from the Tower, accompanied with the acrid smell of burning flesh. When he realized it was Ang’s body that was burning, Six vomited. His stomach emptied itself while his ears were filled with evil cackling. Six’s curiosity won over his stomach; he looked up to find Ang’s spirit standing, bound by flame and smiling. Six looked into Ang’s cold, lifeless eyes.

“I knew we shouldn’t have done this,” Six whimpered.

Nine stepped forward, ignoring Six. “Creator, we don’t know what to do. We’ve been. . . feeling. Sadness, happiness, lust.”

“It’s intense, and –”

“Frightening.”

“And wonderful.”

“But what are we supposed to do with ourselves?”

The room fell silent, but for the 8-track tape playing Spiral Architect – Ang’s favorite song.

Ang’s spirit laughed sadly. “God banished me to Hell for giving you souls, and you ask me what to do with life? Live, you idiots! I’ve been burning in Hell, and you ask me what you should do? Live!” Ang screamed at them as his charred corpse rose. It spun in the air and became whole again. Burns settled into flesh and became clean. Color erupted across the corpse, and breath filled its lungs.

Ang’s body and spirit became one. He jumped down from the tower. “As for me,” He said. “I’m going to go get laid. A lot.” Ang, the reincarnated sex demon, strolled from the building.

“Did… we just bring Ang back to life?” Four asked.

“I think so.”

Thirteen shrugged. “Damnedest thing.”