Monthly Archives: June 2013

No. 400 – The Molten Kingdom Part 1

“I have heard of it. They say the volcano is three days from here, to the east.” said the man, pointing into the distance. “You won’t make it that far, by yourself,” he cautioned.

Clue Restacks nodded. “That would be true. But I’m not alone.”

Mr. Mouse appeared on her right shoulder and cast his wily gaze on the surprised guide.

“A rat?” asked the man incredulously. “You are going to cross the Great Desert with a rat? You will surely die.”

“He’s a mouse,” Clue clarified. “And I think we’ll be fine.”

“I hope so,” said the man. “If you return, I will be waiting here.”

 

Clue and Mr. Mouse bid him farewell, and began the long trek toward their goal. Clue used her powers to create a bubble of lowered temperature around them, protecting the duo from the potentially lethal rays of the blazing sun.

“He sure was grim, wasn’t he?” she asked her fuzzy companion. “This is nothing we haven’t seen before.”

Mr. Mouse made a sound that seemed affirmative and Clue smiled. Then he squeaked a reminder.

“That’s right,” she told him. “I forgot.”

Summoning a greater level of concentration, she forced a high pressure zone of air under her feet. She wobbled slightly as she rose a short distance off the ground. “Let’s go,” she said as she propelled herself forward with a focused gust of wind.

 

Travelling in this manner, the adventurers reached their destination by nightfall.

The volcano towered above them, a deep glow emanating up into the dark sky from the lava at the bottom of the crater.

Clue picked her way slowly to the summit, deflecting airborne boulders with well-timed blasts of lightning.  “A walk in the park,” she remarked to Mr. Mouse.

He wasn’t sure if he shared her enthusiasm for the task.

“Do you want to come with me, or stay here?” she asked him after reaching the shore of the boiling pool of rock.

Mr. Mouse chose immediately. He would remain right where he was.

“Your loss,” Clue told him as she shrugged off her pack. She reached behind her back and pulled a small bundle from the waistband of her pants. “Take care of this while I’m gone,” she said to Mr. Mouse as she tossed the contents toward her partner.

A diamond twice his size rolled to a stop in front of the surprised rodent.

Then Clue encased herself in a thick layer of ice and launched herself into the fiery lake.

 

No. 399

Carl Dunn worked nights at the airport. During the quiet hours between flights, he cleaned the floors. His section was in baggage claim, from the customs’ gates to the arrivals pick-up hall.  His job, like his life, was very ordinary.

Besides occasionally speaking to Veronica Jordan, who worked in the food court, Carl kept mostly to himself. There weren’t many folks who were around so late, anyway.  Carl liked it like that.

 

One day, on a shift that began like any other, Carl was sweeping near carousel four. As he made his way around, he spotted something wedged between the side of the conveyor and the row of carts stacked beside it. After looking around to see if there was anyone who could have left it, he knelt down to get a closer look.

He didn’t know that, by doing so, he was beginning the first act of his origin story.

No. 398

Natasha and Tom reached the top of the cliff and looked over the edge at the pool below.

The water seemed dark and uninviting.

“I’ll jump if you jump,” said Tom.

Natasha didn’t hesitate. She leapt off the rock ledge and hit the water a second later.

Tom remained still.

Natasha looked up at him. She pulled a strand of wet hair from in front of her eyes but didn’t say a word.

Tom turned and made his way down the path to meet her at the base.

“I wasn’t serious,” he told her as he wrapped his dry sweater over her shoulders.

“I know,” she said as she held the sweater tightly to stop the shivering. “But I needed to know if I could.”

No. 397

The only reason we know Travellers have been here is because, very occasionally, one of them screws up. Obviously, visiting us in their past gives them a massive advantage. And we’re not even sure what they’re up to. Are they coming back here for research, or some other, more nefarious purpose? Our assignment may be dangerous.

With that in mind, the mission of this unit is to capture one. The future can’t hide from us forever.

No. 396

The safe had been in the corner of the offices of Lysander and Plank since the founding of the company. The current owners of the business, grandchildren of the original partners, paid little attention to the hulking artifact. It was just another fixture to them, like a desk, or a lamp. Certainly, nobody living had thought to open it.

Clarissa Lysander arrived soon after being called. Luke and Elizabeth Plank were already standing in front of the building, surrounded by a fleet of police cruisers.

“What do we know?” Clarissa asked as she got out of her car.

“Not much,” said Elizabeth. “The security company called Luke and told him there was a suspected break-in. The police are still searching the building.”

“Is somebody still inside?”

“We don’t know,” said Luke, handing Clarissa a cup of coffee. “My sister wanted them to be thorough.”

“It’s their job,” Elizabeth countered.

 

Before Clarissa had finished her drink, an officer approached the group. “We’d like to take the three of you inside, before the rest of the employees, to do a quick inventory. Let us know if anything’s missing,” he said. “Also, we have some questions about something that I’d like to show you.”

The three looked at each other.

“Alright,” said Clarissa, speaking for everyone. “We’ll follow you.”

 

Nothing appeared to have been disturbed as they walked through the building. If there had been intruders, it seemed that robbery was not their motive.

“Just in here,” said the police officer, as he led the way to the inner sanctum of Lysander and Plank.

Clarissa, Luke, and Elizabeth froze as they turned the corner into the back room.

“That’s it,” said the officer.

“I don’t know,” managed Luke. “I just don’t know.”

The safe was open. If there had been contents, they had disappeared. And somebody, in the past or present, had dug a tunnel up from behind a false wall and then burned their way into the safe from the back.

The only clue was an old photograph of Andrew Lysander and Walter Plank taped to the inside of the door. Taken during the war, the men were posing in front of a squad of captured enemy soldiers and a large, unmarked crate.

No. 395

Jackson began to see her every morning while he rode the subway to work. She, like he, always chose the same car to ride in, one back from the front. She would usually bring a book and read intently until she heard the chime for her stop, two before his.

Jackson spent his journey drawing his fellow commuters on a small sketchpad. As time passed, she became the subject of more and more of his portraits until, eventually, she was the only one. He was almost certain that she knew what he was doing, and that she knew that he knew that she knew.

 

One day, things changed.

She didn’t get off at the usual place. Instead, she leaned forward when the train started moving again.

“I think you should give me one,” she said to Jackson.

“What?”

“One of your pictures. Give it to me. I mean, it’s only fair.”

“Right,” said Jackson, tongue-tied by the attention. He tore the first page out of his book and handed it over.

She took the paper and examined it. “Not bad,” she appraised. “A little super-creepy, but not bad.”

The person sitting beside Jackson stood up to leave. She swapped into the empty seat.

“Let’s see the rest,” she said, holding out her hand expectantly. “There aren’t any pervy ones, are there?”

“No,” said Jackson quickly. “Of course not.”

She flipped through the book, pausing occasionally and smiling to herself.

Jackson’s stop was announced and he began to gather his things to go. Her proximity made him very self-conscious.

She sat perfectly still and watched him stutter and flail as he made his way toward the door. “You forgot something,” she told him as the train lurched to a halt. She held his sketchbook out.

He took it and mumbled a thanks.

“Just be aware, tomorrow it’s going to be harder to draw me. I plan on sitting here beside you the whole ride.”

Jackson nodded and dashed through the just-opened doors.

No. 394

“Grandpa, tell me that story you told me before.”

“I don’t know what story you mean. What was it about?”

“Well, it started with ‘Once upon a time’.”

Grandpa smiled. “Well, you’re going to have to help me out. All stories begin with ‘Once upon a time’. Can you think of anything else?”

The child nodded. “I think so. ‘Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl, and a great big world.’”

“Ah, yes,” said Grandpa. “I remember, now. That’s the best one.”

Bonus Mad-Lib – Blank Form

Fill in the blanks with the words you chose.

 

The 1.________ dinosaur feared 2. ________ above all, nor could he 3.________ the shredder.

Despite being the master of his 4.________ kingdom, he was not 5.________. 6.________, for example, presented more problems. He’d been wadded into a 7.________ twice, and his 8.________ bore a scar of cello tape.

To keep his mind from those unsavoury topics, he spent most of his days in conversation with the glass 9.________. They discussed all manner of scholarly topics, from 10.________ to history.

The dinosaur felt he had the edge when it came to the historical subjects, having theoretically lived through most of them. The 11.________ would have preferred to speak of the arts, but the dinosaur would not have it.

And so, the two 12.________ on their office 13.________ for many years, happy in their simple routine, until the arrival of a new resident, a 14.________ character by the name of 15.________.

 

To read my version, click here – http://aroundgray.com/?p=364

Bonus Mad-Lib – Complete Story

The Mad-Lib is based on my previous story, “The Origami Dinosaur”, Mini-story No. 011, first published on February 26, 2013.
Here’s my version.

 

The origami dinosaur feared fire above all, nor could he survive the shredder.

Despite being the master of his desktop kingdom, he was not invincible. Children, for example, presented more problems. He’d been wadded into a ball twice, and his tail bore a scar of cello tape.

To keep his mind from those unsavoury topics, he spent most of his days in conversation with the glass rabbit. They discussed all manner of scholarly topics, from astronomy to history.

The dinosaur felt he had the edge when it came to the historical subjects, having theoretically lived through most of them. The rabbit would have preferred to speak of the arts, but the dinosaur would not have it.

And so, the two lived on their office island for many years, happy in their simple routine, until the arrival of a new resident, a shifty-looking character by the name of Bobble-Head.

 

To read all four parts of “The Origami Dinosaur”, click here – http://aroundgray.com/?p=278