Monthly Archives: February 2013

No. 309

The absurd quality of a water-balloon fight in the rain did not cross Corey’s mind as he made his move on the strategically significant field-house building. The washrooms inside would provide the means to continue the battle indefinitely.
As he drew nearer to his objective, Corey saw movement in the trees to his left. There was a shout as his opponents saw him, as well. Corey broke into a run, leaping over a low hedge and barely clearing the drainage ditch on the other side. If the others reached the faucets before he did, all would be lost.
He almost made it.
“So close,” said Joel, leader of the rival team, as he stepped out of the washroom with a full balloon in each hand and a plastic pistol tucked into his belt.
Corey skidded to a halt, trapped between the two groups. He knew his own allies were close by, on the other side of the park securing the hose by the basketball courts, but not near enough at this moment to even the odds in the standoff.
The rain hammered down. All parties stood still, stoic against the downpour.
“Put down your weapons,” ordered Joel. Corey had no choice but to obey.
He laid his single filled balloon gently on the concrete ground, then straightened. After hesitating briefly, he dropped a handful of empty balloons from his left pocket, as well.
“And the rest,” Joel told the captive, as he hefted a balloon threateningly.
Corey knelt to surrender the tiny water gun that was stuffed into his sock. If he played his cards right, perhaps they wouldn’t suspect that he had a stash of balloons in his right pocket, too.
On his way down, he glanced at Joel and the other boys who surrounded him. He was trying desperately to think his way out of the trap.
Then, as his fingers closed on the green plastic of his hold-out weapon, the idea came. It was a plan they would never see coming, and it could turn the tide of the war.
Corey drew the gun and, at the same time, started off in a dead sprint, through the downpour, for the door to the girls’ bathroom.

No. 308

The phone rang at 3:34am. Sean’s deep sleep shattered. He felt all the blood in his body turn cold. Rolling over, he answered immediately, bypassing a glance at the display.
“Hello?”
“It’s me,” said his sister. Sean could hear fear in her voice. “Are you ok?” she asked without a pause.
Sean felt the tightness in his body lessen slightly. She would have led with really bad news.  “I’m fine, Dana. I’m ok,” he reassured her. “Why are you calling?”
The line buzzed quietly for a moment before she responded.
“I had a bad feeling about something,” she told him eventually. “I just felt—,” she trailed off. “I can’t explain it.”
“Everything’s alright, Sis,” Sean told her.
“I’m sorry I called so late,” she said. “Sorry I woke you up.”
“No, you can always call. Anytime.”
“Goodnight, Sean,” she said, softly. He could tell she was embarrassed.
“’Night,” he told her. “Love you.”
“You too,” she said. Then she hung up.
Sean put the phone back on his nightstand and sat up. The shot of adrenaline from the unexpected call would make getting back to sleep difficult. He put on his robe and went downstairs to watch TV for awhile.
He made himself a snack and settled in front of the glowing screen. The news was on. Before he had a chance to change the channel, the picture changed. Sean saw a house, surrounded by crime-scene tape. As the cameras rolled, a police officer walked up the front steps.
The instant before the officer raised his hand to knock, Sean recognized the house.
The sound still scared him.

Frank and Molly

Part 1

No. 147 July 15, 2012

Frank Benson slumped against the railing at the bow of his ship. He drained the last of his whisky and then threw the tumbler overboard.
Benson had told the captain of the vessel to head due east, not to ask any questions, and to stay in the wheelhouse. So far, the man had obeyed. Benson allowed himself a brief moment of satisfaction. If you’re rich enough, people will do whatever you want.
But what Frank really wanted was an out-of-the-way place to roll off of the deck and not be noticed or found. He checked his watch and grunted. He was fifteen hours into his plan. There was no Scotch left. It was time.
He heaved himself up and leaned over the edge. He watched the tropical sea wash by under the boat and then closed his eyes. He shifted his weight ever so slightly forward and began to go over.
A jarring lurch sent him tumbling backwards, away from the water. It was accompanied by a horrific grinding sound. He staggered back onto the deck.
“What the—,” he managed to get out before another jolt sent him into a capstan, knocking the air from his lungs.
He was immediately dizzy as the lack of oxygen and the liquor conspired with each other to keep him from getting up. He could feel through his hands and knees that the steady vibration from the engine had cut out.
He tried to call out again but could only produce a hoarse wheeze and a coughing fit. Giving up, he relaxed his limbs and fell over onto his back. Right before he passed out, he thought he heard something like high heels clicking on the wooden deck.
“Hi,” she said.
Benson opened one eye.
“Are you awake?” the sultry voice asked him. “I hope you are.”
The other eye opened and now they worked together to piece together what was leaning over him.
Immediately Frank felt embarrassed. He could see straight down this girl’s shirt. Shaking his head self-consciously, he turned away and manoeuvred to a seated position.
“Hi,” she said again.
Now Benson could see all of her. He wracked his brain trying to think of a beautiful woman he could compare her to. He couldn’t come up with a single one that was even close. Tall, lithe, blonde, and tanned, she was perfect.
But something wasn’t right. She shouldn’t be here. He’d specifically sailed away to be alone.
“How did you get on my boat?” he asked. “Does the captain know you’re here?”
She laughed. Frank thought it was the best sound he’d ever heard.
“You needed me,” she told him.
He looked in a complete circle for clues to her arrival. He saw something strange in the ocean.
“Is that ice?” he said. “Did we hit ice?”
That was what had thrown him back onto the ship, he realized. They’d hit an icefield two thousand miles from where one should be.
The girl smiled, but drew her lips to the side slightly in a manner that struck Benson as quizzical, yet flirty. “It happens,” she admitted. “Don’t worry Frank. Your boat is fine.”
“How do you know my name?” he demanded. “And you still haven’t told me exactly how you got here. Did you stow away?”
“You brought me here,” she pouted.
Frank leaned forward and rested his head in his hands. Was it possible he was dreaming this? It was a pretty good dream, if so.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
She looked startled, as if that was an unusual question. “I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a name?”
She didn’t respond right away. She seemed to be thinking very hard. “No. Not unless you give me one.”
“What?”
Now Benson was reeling. Nothing was making sense. “How about I just call you Molly for now? Until I get things straight.”
The girl’s eyes lit up. “Yes!” she announced. Then she repeated the name, as if testing it out. “Molly.”
“So, Molly, one more time, help me out. How and why are you here, now, on my boat?”
She heaved her chest with a deep sigh and shot him a face that was somewhere between puppy-dog eyes and disappointment. “Because, Frank, you were going to hurt yourself.”
Part 2

No. 200 September 21, 2012

“I was,” said Frank.
He lay back down on the polished wood of the deck and closed his eyes. “I still might.”
“I don’t think you will,” said Molly, with her arms crossed stubbornly and one upturned eyebrow.
Frank groaned, a product of the drink and the girl’s sudden appearance.
“What are you going to do to help me, then?” he questioned.
Molly didn’t say anything. She turned quickly on her heels and walked confidently to the railing on the side of the boat.
Frank heard something splash in the water, but he didn’t open his eyes to see what had caused the noise.
He felt the boat begin to jump and quiver, as if it had been suddenly placed on the surface of a huge vat of boiling water. The sensation scared him enough to open his eyes and find something to hang on to. He was unprepared for the sight that greeted him.
Molly was still standing casually by the railing. Beyond her, Frank could see what looked like a giant pile of rocks rising from the sea.
The land surrounded the ship, and then collected it up with a terrific jerk that tore the vessel from the water’s surface. Frank held his breath as he watched large trees and thick grasses grow quickly from the barren landscape.
Then there was a peaceful silence. They had come to rest in the middle of a forest clearing, with no ocean in sight.
Molly turned to him with an impossibly bright smile on her face.
“This is your island,” she said. “I’m hoping that you’re able to help yourself.”
Frank tried to take in the absurd scene. He could only think to ask one question. “Where’s the Captain?”
“He’s fine,” said Molly. “Probably better than fine.”
“I’m hallucinating,” said Frank. “Or dead.”
“Oh hush,” said Molly. “You’d better get to work, though. It’ll be dark soon.”
“Doing what?”
“Well,” Molly hedged. “You’ll find that access to the cabin of the ship is impossible. I assume you’ll want to fashion a shelter and start a fire, to begin with.”
“Are you the devil?” asked Frank.
Molly made a shooing motion, and then sat down languorously on a bench to watch him.
Frank spent the next several hours fighting a hangover and sweating more than he had in the last three years combined. His survival skills were rough, but he’d once spent the weekend at a boot-camp designed to teach businessmen a valuable lesson about the nature of teamwork or some-such. He really hoped that Molly did not subscribe to the same theory.
He was able to construct a passable shelter beside the landlocked yacht and had started a fire by the time night fell, although he suspected that the darkness would have arrived immediately after he’d finished his work, no matter what the time actually was.
Molly had been watching him all afternoon, not saying a word, and seemingly impervious to heat or boredom. She still looked radiant in the firelight as she sat down beside him.
“Good job, Frank,” she told him.
The words of encouragement burrowed into him and found something deep inside.
“Thanks, Molly.”
Frank didn’t say anything else for awhile. He sat quietly, poking the embers in the bottom of the fire.
Several minutes passed in silence until he spoke again.
“Molly?” said Frank.
“Yes, Frank?”
“Why me?”
Molly drew her legs in and put her chin on her knees. She looked up into his eyes and replied.
“It’s not about you, Frank. It’s about me.”
Part 3

No. 307 February 10, 2013

Frank looked at her strangely. “But you said—.”
“I said ‘you needed me’,” Molly interrupted him. “I said ‘you brought me here’.”
She drew in her breath sharply, like a disappointed teacher. “But I suppose that it would be your nature to assume that the reasons that you need me are only your own.”
Frank took in the mysterious new island, his beached ship, and the seemingly insane girl sitting in front of him. “I really don’t understand.”
Molly played with a stray curl of her hair, thinking something through. Then, apparently having made a decision, she stood and crossed the small camp to sit next to Frank.
Frank felt more alive than during any time that he could remember.  He didn’t say anything, trying not to break the spell he was under.
She put her hand on his shoulder. His eyes widened.
“Frank,” she said softly. “When was the last time you thought about dying? Be honest.”
He remembered the moment instantly. “Before I named you,” he said in a whisper.
“So, do you see? We both got what we needed,” she told him, with one finger pointed at the middle of his chest. “And how is that all about you?”
Frank and Molly sat next to each other, not speaking, for a long time. The embers of the fire turned red, and then black. Eventually, the first rays of the sun appeared over the long horizon of the ocean.
“It’s morning,” said Frank.
Molly smiled and nodded. Frank watched her, trying to commit her face to memory.
“I won’t see you again, will I?” he asked, the answer already clear.
She shook her head.
“Goodbye, Frank.”
He stood, and brushed himself off, ready to return to his boat. He wanted with all of his heart to hug her, but the gesture seemed so small compared to what she had done. Instead, he told her.
“Goodbye, Molly.”
Frank Benson leaned against the railing at the bow of his ship. He watched the waves pass by as the vessel made for port.
He was ready to begin his new life.

No. 307 – Frank and Molly Part 3

Part 1 – http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2012/07/no-147.html
Part 2 – http://aroundgray.blogspot.ca/2012/09/no-200-frank-and-molly-part-2.html

Frank looked at her strangely. “But you said—.”
“I said ‘you needed me’,” Molly interrupted him. “I said ‘you brought me here’.”
She drew in her breath sharply, like a disappointed teacher. “But I suppose that it would be your nature to assume that the reasons that you need me are only your own.”
Frank took in the mysterious new island, his beached ship, and the seemingly insane girl sitting in front of him. “I really don’t understand.”
Molly played with a stray curl of her hair, thinking something through. Then, apparently having made a decision, she stood and crossed the small camp to sit next to Frank.
Frank felt more alive than during any time that he could remember.  He didn’t say anything, trying not to break the spell he was under.
She put her hand on his shoulder. His eyes widened.
“Frank,” she said softly. “When was the last time you thought about dying? Be honest.”
He remembered the moment instantly. “Before I named you,” he said in a whisper.
“So, do you see? We both got what we needed,” she told him, with one finger pointed at the middle of his chest. “And how is that all about you?”
Frank and Molly sat next to each other, not speaking, for a long time. The embers of the fire turned red, and then black. Eventually, the first rays of the sun appeared over the long horizon of the ocean.
“It’s morning,” said Frank.
Molly smiled and nodded. Frank watched her, trying to commit her face to memory.
“I won’t see you again, will I?” he asked, the answer already clear.
She shook her head.
“Goodbye, Frank.”
He stood, and brushed himself off, ready to return to his boat. He wanted with all of his heart to hug her, but the gesture seemed so small compared to what she had done. Instead, he told her.
“Goodbye, Molly.”
Frank Benson leaned against the railing at the bow of his ship. He watched the waves pass by as the vessel made for port.
He was ready to begin his new life.

No. 306

Miranda floated on her back in the calm, warm ocean. She watched the contrails of jets passing far overheard. Slowly, she exhaled, and slipped beneath the water.
 She was suspended, all of her senses tuned to the sensation of the waves. She stayed under until her breath ran out.
Then, with a lazy paddle of her hands, she returned to the surface. Tomorrow, she was moving away. Today, she here and she would enjoy every minute of it.

No. 305

The rain was especially heavy that year. I remember, because our backyard turned into a swamp. To a child, the only thing better than a cardboard box is, of course, a swamp.
I was able to enjoy that mud for all of fifteen minutes.
Marcus Hamilton fell on me and I broke my arm. After the accident, I worried that I would have to spend the rest of the summer in the house, watching the other kids have fun outside without me.
But my mom bought me a telescope and, on the clear nights, I learned how to find the North Star.
You know, I never did send a thank-you card to Marcus.

No. 304

Buzz had been in the soup for 20 minutes, and his no-good friend, Randy, wasn’t doing anything about it.
“Settle down,” Randy told him. “The waiter will pick you out after you’ve been served. I’m not getting anywhere near that stuff. Ugh. Tomato.”
“I hate you, Randy,” said Buzz. “I really do.”
“Nonsense, it’ll be fun. Think of the stories you could tell around the carcass. You’re in no danger of drowning. You’re just embarrassed right now.”
“You pull me out right now, or I’ll tell everyone about the time you got too close to the flypaper.”
Randy had no choice but to comply.
The meal was eaten without the hilarious cliché.

No. 303

The man washed ashore with the high tide. He crawled a short ways out of the water before he collapsed.
It was dark when he woke up. He coughed, spraying sand from his mouth. Rolling to a seated position, he tried to see where he was. In the moonlight, he could only make out a line of palm trees beyond the shoreline, bordering the edge of a black jungle.
The man was alarmed to realize that he couldn’t remember how he’d arrived at this place, or even his own name. A wave of terror gripped him.  He instinctively curled into a ball and worked his way into the sand.
Morning took a very long time to arrive.
Dawn brought a new visitor. A large lizard, about the size of a cat, had evidently sensed the castaway and had made its way down the beach toward the man. The reptile was about to take an exploratory bite of the sleeping human when a rock hit it in the head, ricocheting off the scavenger, and striking the man in the chest, as well.
The lizard scurried away, and the man woke up with a jolt. He squinted in the bright sunshine. There was another person on the beach. It took a moment for the man’s eyes to focus.
“You’re safe now,” said the naked woman who knelt down beside him. “I’m Wendy,” she told him matter-of-factly.
The man was elated for the company. He was still very confused, but perhaps she could help him. “What happened to me? Where am I?”
Wendy’s head tilted slightly. “You don’t remember?”
“No,” said the man. “Nothing.”
“I saw your boat,” she explained. “I was thrilled. Finally, a chance to leave! But, during the storm, it hit the reef,” she explained. “I didn’t see anybody make it off.”
“Except, I guess, you,” she concluded.
The man lay back down. “Nobody else?”
Wendy answered his question with her silence.
“Was there anybody else?” asked the man.
“I don’t know,” she told him.
“What did you mean, ‘finally, a chance to leave’?” the man asked. “And where are your clothes?”
“Oh, you noticed,” Wendy laughed. Then she sighed. “You’re on an island. It’s remote. I was shipwrecked here a little over two years ago. Your boat was the first sign of humanity I’ve seen, since.”
The man felt like he’d been punched in the gut. “Two years?”
She nodded.
“Come on,” she told him, changing the subject. “We’d better get back to my camp. That lizard will be the least of our worries if we don’t return in time.” She took his hand, and began to lead him into the forest.
He took one last look at the empty beach before following her toward the center of the island.
“I don’t even know my name,” he confided to her as they began down the path.
She didn’t turn around, or slow down, but he could hear a wry smile in her voice. “Then I’ll have to call you Peter, for now.”

No. 302

“It’s a wide world out there, and we’re all stuck here,” said the promoter. “But what if we could change that? What if we could experience far-away things, simply and cheaply?”
She paused, letting the audience’s expectation build.
At the height of anticipation, she spoke again. “What if we could teleport?” she asked as pulled back a large curtain to reveal a polished-metal tube. “My handsome assistant will demonstrate,” she said, welcoming the man to the stage.
The assistant waved his hand over a sensor and the tube split open. He climbed inside while the promoter closed the hatch behind him.
A screen slid down from the ceiling, then lit up with a camera feed. In the center of the shot was a tube identical to the demonstration model. “Live, from Hong Kong,” the promoter explained. “No tricks, just the technology at work.”
The audience watched in awe as the assistant got out of the tube on the screen. He smiled at the camera, then picked it up and panned it toward the window. The audience gasped and applauded. It worked.
The promoter knocked on the tube beside her. The door opened up, and the same man stepped out. The audience was perplexed. Now there were two? The promoter began to explain. “Our technology allows you to be in two, or three, or a hundred, places at once. You’ll never have to wonder what’s going on out there in the world again. Every duplicate passes their memories back to the original.”
A hand rose in the audience. The promoter jumped at the chance to connect.
“Yes?” she asked with a smile.
The woman from the audience had to shout to be heard above the excitement in the hall. “Is the process dangerous? What would happen if the doubles decided they wanted to—,” she hesitated, searching for the right phrase. “Come home?” she finished.
The promoter laughed. “Not a problem. Our system has built in fail-safes. Each duplicate can only operate within a limited range of the transporter that it came out of. We’ve made sure to space them far enough apart from one another that no duplicates will ever come into contact with an original, or another duplicate.”
“Now, let me show you some of the other amazing features of the technology,” the promoter said, bringing her presentation back on track.
“I have another question,” said another voice from the back. “Are you absolutely sure about your answer?”
The promoter’s face went white. She dropped her microphone and took a panicked step back.
Her duplicate was standing in the doorway.  

No. 301

When his phone rang, Lee looked down from the TV to check the caller display. It was his friend, Zach. Lee pressed the button to ignore the call. “Always during the middle of ‘World’s Most Venomous Animals’,” he said as he threw the phone to the other side of the couch.
Moments later, the phone began to buzz again. Lee grabbed it and answered abruptly.
“What?” he snapped at Zach.
The voice on the other end was shrill and panicked. “It’s chewing on my leg!” was the desperate cry for help.
Lee didn’t know how to react. “What’s that?”
Zach’s reply was louder. “It’s eating me!”
The plea was accompanied by a smashing noise. There was definitely a struggle going on.
“Call the police!” said Lee excitedly. “Why are you calling me? 911!”
Before Zach could respond, the line went dead. Lee followed his own advice and dialed for help.
“911. What’s your emergency?” said the operator.
“My friend is being attacked by something. Maybe an animal? I don’t know,” Lee told her all in one breath.
“Can you see the animal now?” asked the operator.
Lee felt helpless, and he was worried about Zach. “No. My friend is at his house. He called me and hung up.” Lee relayed the address and what few details he knew about Zach’s situation while he threw on his shoes and started his car. The operator stayed on the phone with him until he was within sight of Zach’s home.
Arriving at the scene just after the firefighters, Lee watched as they gathered their gear and ran into the house. He could hear faint screams from inside.
One of the firefighters came back out almost immediately. He was shouting at someone behind the truck that Lee couldn’t see. “All the rope! We’re going to need all of it!”
“And the axes,” he added, ominously.