Monthly Archives: February 2013

No. 319

The Easter Bunny checked his watch. He had 3 hours left on his shift, and he still had no idea what he was doing.

He scrounged around beneath the little girl’s pillow, feeling for the tooth he’d been told was going to be under it. After several minutes and no luck, he checked the form again.

“Is that a—,” he mumbled, squinting at the paper. “Yup. That’s a nine. Great. Awesome.”

He crept outside the house to confirm his mistake. The numbers here were clear. He was at 2671 Landers Street. He’d misread the 7.

He checked his watch again, and hopped down the road toward the right address. Only 15 more stops to make tonight.

 

The Bunny’s day had started poorly. He been roused by his ringing phone far earlier than he’d planned to rise on his day off. The voice on the other end had been exceedingly friendly.

“Hey, I’m really sorry to wake you up, but the Tooth Fairy’s called in sick. Is there any chance at all you could come in?”

Before Bunny had a chance to respond, the caller guessed what his next question was going to be and cut in quickly. “We’ve already tried Leprechaun and Cupid.”

Bunny groaned. “Yeah. I’ll be in. Give me half an hour.” He pulled himself out from under the covers and stumbled toward the shower. He’d make sure they covered his coffee. He was going to get an expensive one, with all the toppings.

No. 318

Rick Elway began to make a list of his New Year’s resolutions. He made two orderly columns, and numbered the rows one through ten. He began filling in the spots immediately.
 
1.       I will refrain from throwing out the entire bowl of cereal after some gets soggy.
2.       I will stop referring to area south of Portland Street as “That part of town—you know”.
3.       I will feed my own iguana
4.       I will count all my golf shots. Even the “practice” ones.
5.       I will no longer answer the phone “Hey, loser” if the person is a loser.
6.       I will drive the speed limit.
7.       I will stop underlining parts of library books that I don’t agree with.
8.       I will limit karaoke nights to Fridays and Saturdays only. And Tuesdays.
9.        
10.    

 

Most of the resolutions came easily. However, Rick was two short. He studied the incomplete list intently, wracking is brain for flaws. He spent at least five minutes trying to fill out the last spaces.
With no ideas forthcoming, he put down his pen. Who was he kidding? He balled up the list and threw it in the bin.
There was no point trying to improve on perfection.

No. 317 – The Good Dog Part 4

Parts 1-3 here: http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2012/07/readers-choice-mini-stories-volume-1.html

I’ve got a stick! I’ve got a stick! It’s my stick! It’s not your stick! I’ve got a stick! Do you see my stick? Look at my stick! Oh my gosh—a stick! It’s mine! I’ve got it! It’s a stick! See my stick? Do you see it? It’s mine! It’s my stick!

Here’s my stick!

Throw my stick! Will you throw it? Will you throw my stick? Throw the stick! Throw it! Throw the stick! That stick—that one! Throw that stick!

No. 316

Wes Conrad was walking down the street when he heard a strange conversation. Two disheveled hobos were standing on the corner, seemingly talking about another vagrant.

 

“Well. That’s it. It’s the third today. Richard is out,” said one.  

“Aw man. I always kinda thought that’d be it,” replied the other.

“Really? You had the second? Are you out, too?”

“No. I hedged my bets. I’ve got Carl, November 30, 2019.”

“Long ways off.”

“Yeah, but it pays out at 19 to one.”

“That’s a lot of money. But why does your sign say ‘near’? 2019 isn’t near at all.”

“Oh, that. You gotta give the people what they want, you know? Helps with the tips.”

 

Wes shook his head as he went past the men. The doomsday prophets are running a pool, now?

No. 315

Turret duty on a MacLehose class freighter was boring to begin with. Turret duty through Pacified Space was even more so. Nobody was ever attacked out here.

Junior Petty Officer Patten sat back in the harness and watched black nothing pass by in front of his gun barrels. He sighed. Only seven and a half more hours to go on this watch. He daydreamed of a good, old-fashioned void-pirate attack.

Of course, the pirates had been wiped out decades ago. Their flagship, the Betsy, had been destroyed off of Lamma IV. The memories were still fresh enough, however, that every transport ship in the fleet was still required to be armed. The MV Matthew Nathan had the bare minimum, the one that Patten was stuck in. He wondered idly if the guns had ever even been fired.

Lining up the sights on a distant star, he mimed blowing his target out of space. “Kaboom,” he said, amusing himself slightly. He tracked the guns toward another point of light. “Pow,” he murmured as he destroyed that imaginary threat, too. He was aiming a third phantom volley when the ship’s hourly chime sounded.

The noise startled Patten and his finger tightened reflexively on the trigger. A blast of searingly bright blue light flashed from the cannons, lancing into the darkness.

“Oh no,” whispered Patten. The captain would not take an accidental weapon’s discharge lightly.

Patten began to desperately think of an excuse. He watched the laser beams continue on their path. They’d go forever unless they hit something. He hoped they wouldn’t hit something.

Then they did.

Patten saw two fiery flashes as the deadly bolts intersected with a ship.

But that was strange. There had been no ship there a second ago. The vessel had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. That wasn’t possible.

Unless.

Something tickled at the back of Patten’s brain. What was it called?

A cloaking shield, he remembered. It was the favorite tool of the void-pirates.  

Patten quickly dialed up the image-enhancers to their maximum magnification. The ship he’d shot at came into focus. It was turning toward the Nathan. Patten could just make out a name painted on the hull.

Betsy II.

“Oh no,” he said again. He checked the power on his guns and radioed the captain. “Bridge, this is Turret. We have incoming.”

No. 314

The sun blazed down on Chloe as she lay on her back on the trampoline in the backyard.

She heard her brother busying himself somewhere over by the house. She didn’t pay attention to what he was doing, and continued to read her book. She was starting chapter seven, and it was a good one.

Seven became eight, and the heroine was just about to find the treasure when Chloe was horribly surprised by a splash of cold water.

“What are you doing?” she screamed at her brother.

He laughed, and dashed for the tree in the corner of the yard. If he could make it to his fort, he would have ways to repel any assault. “You said you were hot,” he cackled as he shimmied up the ladder.

Chloe stood, fuming with anger. She looked at her soaked book, and threw it onto the grass near the deck. She watched her brother watching her from the window of his fort. She knew she had no way to get him back right away for what he’d just done.

She took a step toward the edge of the trampoline, bouncing slightly as she did. An idea occurred to her. She looked back at her brother. Then she bent her knees and began to jump. Slowly, at first, but she built the momentum quickly. In no time, she was bounding as high as she could go.

Nobody could resist for long. After only a few minutes, her brother had been lured down from his hideout and was creeping slowly toward the trampoline. Chloe continued her act, pretending that she didn’t notice him. She waited for the perfect moment to strike. As soon as he was in range, she leapt off the trampoline and hit him with a flying tackle.

“Ow!” he said.

“I win,” she told him as she dusted herself off.

“Ok, but can I jump now?” he asked, scrambling to his feet.

It was Chloe’s turn to laugh. She pushed him back down, and ran for the trampoline. “Nope, it’s still my turn!”

No. 313

Long the domain of surgeons, human enhancements had been taken over by technicians, and had entered the mind. Now it was possible to update one’s personality as simply as changing one’s appearance.

Plastic personas were the future.

 

May 1, 20—

He’d saved secretly for months.

Usually shy and retiring, L— clicked the link and watched the program begin to download. When the computer displayed the appropriate screen, L— put on the neural helmet and prepared himself for the upgrade.

His body tensed for a moment, and then relaxed. L— had reflexively closed his eyes during the data transfer, and when he opened them he was a little surprised to see that nothing had changed. He certainly felt stronger.

 

His mother, S—, noticed immediately. L— moved differently when he came down the stairs for dinner. S—dropped the plate she’d been washing and it smashed on the floor. “Why?” was all she could manage.

L—didn’t have time for his mother’s protests. He barely spared her a glance as he stalked out the front door.  

S—sank to the ground, surrounded by the pieces of the broken plate, and cried softly.

No. 311

Cupid stood in the airport security line, waiting his turn along with everybody else. He placed his bag on the conveyor, and walked through the metal detector.
“Excuse me, sir, could you stand aside?” a security agent asked.
Cupid did as the man instructed. Another agent, the woman who was screening the bags, gave her co-worker some sort of hand signal.
Cupid’s bags were quickly pulled from the flow and put aside onto a metal table.
The woman spoke first. “What’s this?” she said, pulling a heart-tipped arrow from the bag.
“A heart-tipped arrow,” said Cupid.
“Sir, are you aware that arrows are strictly prohibited on flights?” said the man.
“Come on. It’s just a stick with hearts at the end, really,” said Cupid. “It’s relatively harmless.”
“The government doesn’t think so,” said the woman.
“They do not,” agreed the man.
Cupid sighed. “Every year,” he muttered under his breath.
“What was that, sir?” asked the man.
Cupid didn’t reply. He checked his watch. “I’m pretty busy,” he told the agents. “Am I going to miss my flight?”
“Sir—“ started the man, but he didn’t have a chance to finish.  
Cupid leapt over the table, removing two more arrows from his bag at the same time. With both in-hand, he threw one at the woman, and stabbed the man with the other.
Cupid stood back and admired his handiwork. The rest of people in line drew back, away from the confusing scene. “Don’t worry,” Cupid assured them. “None of you are going to remember this.”
Retrieving the arrows from the impaled pair, Cupid stowed them back in his suitcase and made for his boarding gate.
“Every year,” he said to himself again, shaking his head.
The two agents revived quickly. Blinking hard, they stared at each other.
“What just happened?” said the woman.
“I’m not sure,” said the man. “But, hey, do you want to grab a coffee later, or something?”

No. 310

It was Dr. Leonard Allen who invented the Time Engine in the science lab at Cedar Hills University. The device allowed me, and millions of others, to cheat death.
The system is brilliant. For a price, the Time Engine will calculate the exact moment of your passing, and then allow you to skip it.
It was such a simple concept. Scientists were amazed nobody had figured it out sooner. Dr. Allen became the richest and most influential man on Earth.
But, like most concepts that appear too simple, the Engine has flaws—deep and terrible flaws. We realized that humans are meant to die.
 The signs began to appear in the First Seven. For obvious reasons, the symptoms were kept under the strictest secrecy. Cover stories were put in place, and four of the Seven abruptly dropped out of the public eye.
Then the trial groups began to turn. That, too, was hushed up. It was easy for someone as powerful as Dr. Allen.  
By the time the regular customers began to see the effects, measures were in place to contain the anomalies.
The sickness comes on quickly. Exactly 1463 days after the Skip, the Change begins. It doesn’t happen to everyone, though. That’s what makes it so hard to tackle.
My job, right now, is containment. Although, it’s possible that I’ll be in need of some myself in the very near future.
I Skipped 1459 days ago.