Welcome to my first collection of self-published short fiction. These stories, with the exception of “Unfinished Business” were written in 1997, during my Senior year in high-school. The final story in this collection was penned on January 21st 2004.
I originally created these stories as a simple writing exercise, in order to get my creative juices flowing, and to get my brain warmed up to write something with a little more character, style, and hopefully, success. However, as time went on, and years later, when reading these to myself, I realized that some of them might make some interesting full-length stories in themselves….
Tugging at his ropes, he struggles frantically to free himself of his bindings. He can already hear the whistle of the train off in the distance. The vibration of the tracks, pounding against his back helps to pump even more adrenaline through his rigid body. The train comes even closer, and he starts to cry uncontrollably. He has only minutes to live; the train will destroy his body instantly.
Realizing his bindings wouldn’t budge enough for him to free himself, he took his last few minutes to look around himself; to enjoy his last few moments of life.
The sun is just ending its day, growing closer to the horizon every second, throwing yellow and orange rays across the landscape. Somewhere he hears birds chirping, enjoying the last days of autumn before migrating.
A chipmunk scurries about nearby, gathering nuts for the coming winter. It stops to sniff at the stranger nearby, then continues to go about its business. He hears he clicks of the acorns colliding with each other, as the chipmunk transports them away. He listens, and hears the sigh of the wind blowing through the trees, rustling the leaves. He looks up and watches as a leaf is blown from its nurturing branch; slowly it drops toward the soft grass below. Falling past branch after branch, it appears there is nothing to stop this solitary leaf from being deposited on the rich soil it is apparently headed for.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blows the orange-green leaf into the sky, causing turmoil in its descent. Following the currents of the wind, it is a puppet among the nature; merely following helplessly.
The train blows its whistle; once again reminding the man his life is about to end. The train is close enough now, the man can see its huge steel jaws, bearing down on him.
Then, just as the train is about to run over him, spreading portions of his body over the surrounding soil, in a messy shower of blood and other horrible things which cannot be mentioned–
–“CUT!” The director rises from his chair, and the approaching train disappears, being replaced by a blue filming screen. “That’s a wrap! Take 5!” he yells. The actor is helped off the artificial railroad tracks.
Just an ordinary scene for this actor; now he must get prepared for the next scene . . .
The day was clear and calm; the water choppy, when the body came floating to the top. It was a young girl, about nine years old who found the body first. The joyous afternoon was interrupted by her shrill scream as she tried desperately to swim back to the shore from which she came.
The authorities arrived around ten minutes later, and after all was said and done with, the man was most obviously dead. (As most people know, the Coroner has to declare the man dead). The Coroner announced him dead, and when asked, he said he imagined the man had been lying on the bottom of the lake for about two weeks.
The man had a gaping hole in his head where it appeared he had been struck with a long, hard object; possibly a baseball bat. It was a disgusting body, one of the worst mutilated corpses that the Coroner had seen in years.
Dan Mayfield was the detective assigned to this particular case, and he wasn’t very happy about it. He had done unfounded death cases before, but never one quite like this. First of all, the man was non-existent, from what Dan could tell anyway. Second, he had no missing people reports that matched the description, or time frame for this man. Therefore, he could only conclude this man was from another state.
He sent out a posting to anyone who cared to read it that a man with this description was found.
Two months later, a phone call was received by an anonymous caller stating that a man was going to be killed. Sure enough, when the police arrived at the scene indicated, a man was floating on the top of the water.
“Oh my god,” Mayfield said. “This is the same man as old John Doe we found a couple months back.” The odd thing was, John Doe was never buried-not yet-and now, his body was unexplainably missing from the morgue.
The mystery was never solved when, yet, almost exactly two months after the second John Doe showed up in the lake, a third showed up, under the same exact conditions as numbers one and two!
Mayfield worked on the case for twenty-two years before he retired and even then continued to pursue the case until he passed away ten years later, at the age of seventy-one.
Until this day, the mystery has never been solved.
Every two months, a man shows up in the same lake, his head bashed in, following a mysterious phone call, is never identified, disappears from the morgue, or grave one day before the next body is found.
Two major questions bother the police department still: How does the same person show up dead every two months? And why?
THE END . . . for now . . . .
He stared out at the wide expanse of space, extending infinitely in front of him. He felt the rush of adrenaline that always accompanied space-walks. The gleaming jewel of Earth floated underneath his boots; fifty miles below.
A crackle of static filled his helmet, clashing loudly against the utter silence that had abruptly ended.
“Go ahead, Chief. It’s your turn.” It was the voice of Mission Control.
“Roger,” he replied.
Stepping forward, he pushed lightly against the tiny platform that secured him against the shuttle’s safety. Slowly he moved toward the target: an old type satellite.
As he slowly drifted weightlessly toward the metallic object before him, he took the time to study his surroundings.
Other than the space shuttle ominously close behind him, the satellite nearly forty meters ahead, and the huge globe of the planet that birthed the human species that seemed to be everywhere, there wasn’t much to see other than a few stars.
The huge planet loomed threateningly, as if it would fall and crush him, if he were to make even a simple mistake. Slowly, his initial push, and that velocity was propelling him toward the satellite.
He looked once again at the planet which was so beautiful, and so deadly at the same time. The continent of Africa was passing slowly by, the Sahara cloudless, creating a spectacular sight to behold.
As he stared at the huge expanse of rock that billions of people called home, he could almost imagine that he could see the people walking around, going about their daily routines.
Children being born, as well as people growing old and dying after living a long, hopefully healthy life. Children dying due to lack of nutrition or neglect. Murder, destruction, were everywhere. But on the same continent, people were doing things that were good: getting jobs, telling their kids stories at dinner.
While he was daydreaming, he had moved perilously close to the satellite for his current speed. He fired his reverse thrusters in a solid half-second burst in order to slow his approach, wasting nearly eight percent more propellant than would have been exhausted by more frequent, shorter taps.
He slowly bridged the narrow gap to the metallic object, keeping close attention to his distance. Even a fraction of a second of inattention could mean certain injury, and quite possibly death.
At last, he reached the outer handholds of the access hatch. Reaching into his wrist compartment, he removed the large access key and placed it into the slot beside the panel.
A green light flashed, and a small click would have been heard, if not for the vacuum of space. The panel slid open, revealing a row of displays and hundreds of switches and knobs, located in rows.
He already knew his instructions, which would lead him to a recovery of the satellite, and a successful mission.
Turning the knob on the first tow, he watched as the light turned on. He pressed each switch and turned each knob, which was always followed by the activation of a new light.
At last, no more lights came on. He had finished activating the satellite.
The scenery around him vanished instantly, and gravity slowly returned, lowering him to the floor of the room. He removed his VR headset and set it on the platform next to him.
The door to the room opened, revealing hundreds of anxious teenagers waiting in a line for their turn to play “VR SPACE FLIGHT.”
“So, howdja like it?” asked the man entering the chamber.
“It was awesome! Definitely worth the twenty bucks.”
He went away from the VR demonstration almost believing he had actually been walking in space.
He eventually forgot it was virtual reality, and years later, told his grandchildren he had fixed the satellite, not remembering it was only imaginary.
He walked along the lonesome highway, not knowing where he was going. He wasn’t even sure why he was going. He just knew he didn’t care anymore, about anything. He walked for hours down the bumpy, roughly paved road. Not once did he assume a hitchhiker’s pose. He just walked and walked.
Day turned into sunset, then into a chilly night. He noticed nothing that happened around him as he walked. He did not notice the cars-sparse as they were-zooming past him. He did not notice the small animals on the side of the road, scurrying about preparing for the soon coming winter. He walked for days upon days; through the rain and cold winds, miles and miles, he kept on walking. All the while, not noticing a single thing that went on around him. Time meant nothing to him. Days seemed like seconds; and yet he still kept walking.
At last, he came upon a small town. He snapped out of his trance and looked around himself for the first time. He noticed that it was almost midnight, or at least that’s what his watch told him. He walked to a small gas station with an “OPEN 24 hrs./day” sign. He stepped inside the convenience store at the gas station and grabbed a newspaper. The date said “January 14, 1997“, he realized he had missed Christmas. But who had he missed it with? He couldn’t remember. He noticed some small print in the lower right-hand corner. PRINTED IN EL PASO — DELIVERED TO NOWWHERE, TX. He knew he had walked a long way, but how far? He couldn’t remember where he left from, or where he was supposed to be.
He left the convenience store, after paying for the paper with money he didn’t even know he had. He ended up throwing the newspaper away in the trashcan outside the door, without reading it. The fact of him not knowing who, or where he was supposed to be scared him a little. He thought that if he kept walking, one day he would find out. He didn’t take the time to read the headline on the front page of the paper before he’d tossed it:
Family still desperately seeks husband/father
Missing since April 3, 1996
If he had read the paragraph that followed he would have seen:
Family has been searching for husband/father for months with nothing to show. “He said he was going for a walk,” his wife is reported saying. He is presumed to still be somewhere in Texas. So far police have turned up no clues. They have inspected leads on a strange man nicknamed “The Walker”, however. Those reports are still under investigation . . . .
He kept walking into the distance tuning out everything around him . . .
The Golden Diaper
He traveled endlessly throughout the land, peddling off his goods, in order to make a meager living. Never making enough money to live well, but always making just enough to live.
One day, this man, known only as Pennynickel-that was all the money he ever had stumbled across a wondrous treasure: There, in the secret hiding place where the strange man buries tiny portions of his small fortune lies what appears to be an old, wooden chest.
After hours of painstaking digging, and back-breaking labor, he unearthed the chest. It is old, dating back probably close to one hundred years. While not very decorative, it was rather intricate in the way the locks and hinges were placed on the chest.
He pried on the lock, attempting to unleash the secrets of what was concealed beneath the wooden lid. For two years he tried and tried to get it open, with no success. At last, he decided to buy a skeleton key, to try to open it. He went to the magicians fortress, and purchased a key from the spooky old man.
After refining the key to fit the lock, Pennynickel eased the key carefully into the decrepit hole. Slowly, he turned the key, and opened the trunk. Inside lay the most wondrous treasure old Pennynickel had ever seen–The famous lost Golden Diaper.
At first, Pennynickel was so happy, he couldn’t contain himself. “At last! I have all the money I ever wanted!” he yelled. However, his happiness was short lived as he suddenly lost control of his bladder. He found himself urinating all the time; he couldn’t control himself. He did not know that the Golden Diaper had a curse on it: that the owner of the diaper, as long as he owned it, would not be able to control their bladder. He also learned that, in order to get rid of it, he must give it to somebody and they must accept it.
When he learned of this, he tried to get rid of the diaper, by offering it to hundreds of people, in order to rid himself of the curse, but people were afraid of the curse they would have to deal with if they took it. Many people stayed away from him, because of his urinary problem. He was therefore, doomed to roam the countryside, once again, only this time, to get rid of the Golden Diaper.
Four hundred years later, a very rich man, who has always prided himself on the regularness of his restroom habits is walking across a field when he spots a golden object in the distance.
It looked like a golden diaper . . .
Chaos of the Mind
A seagull wafts down from the cloud-barren sky, dipping down to pluck a fish out of the endless ocean.
A rock sails through the air, approaching the cresting water at the beach. When at last the rock strikes the surface of the water, a shockwave of disruption spreads out in concentric circles to infinity, growing smaller, and smaller.
The source of that chaos came from the cliff, forty meters away. He sits there, speaking with himself, looking at the twinkling, endless stars in the sky. Yet another stone plunges into the salty water of the sea, causing another surge of confusion.
He stands, arguing with the inner turmoil of his own mind. It appears there is a stalemate. Two separate identities fight for survival among one body, causing confusion to all normality surrounding him; much like the rock in the ocean.
The distant, steady thrum of a lawnmower adds to the confusion of his state-of-mind. Elsewhere, the noisy laughter of a volleyball game shatters the silence around him. He stands up, his toes resting perilously close to the edge of the cliff. He raises his hands above him toward the night-black sky. For a moment he just stands there, staring at the universe stretched out before him, then he screams, “WHERE IS THE PERSON WHO STOLE MY SHIRT!”
His yelling startles the nearby Girl Scouts, trying to peddle off their cookies. They look where the man with two souls stands–just in time to see him jump from the cliff.
The man thought he would end his suffering by hurling both personalities off the cliff, the one-and-a-half foot drop did little to help him.
He stood up, brushing the sand out of his sweat dampened clothes. He yells once again, but this time, his rage is directed at the seagull he saw earlier. “You! You’re the one who stole it! Give it back! Give me back my shirt! I’ll kill you!”
People watched as he ran after the gull, into the dark night.
Did he catch the seagull? Did he gain his sanity back? No one ever saw him again to find out…
The first rays of light rose over the surrounding hills, glaring down on the rich lands of his kingdom. His thoughts lead to how pointless it all was, how short life actually was. Men lived out their lives with a preset destiny, dooming them to whatever fate the land has in store for them.
Slowly, the crescent of the sun grew larger, stretching into the brightening sky. Soon, he knew, his time of waiting would be over. His son, too faced the same fate.
He looked at his castle, surrounding everywhere. Chipped stone, and wooden doors; the only home he’d ever known. He knew not what he’d do when his time of destiny arrived.
The sun now a solid globe of superheated light, he awaited his heir, and son. He looked out upon the land, which was becoming busy with the business of the morning hours.
Stretched before him, the poor buildings of the lower class stood. Shacks made of straw and cloth, and occasionally wood, lined the streets, consisting of horse manure, grass, and clodden dirt. Somewhere, a mother caring for her crying child is yelling at her husband to wake up.
The kingdom, while still quiet in the early morning hours, would grow steadily noisier as the day progressed.
As the King watched, a shadowy figure appeared on the distant horizon, silhouetted against the fiery sky. The King knew that the figure was his son, riding in on his stallion, arriving to face his twin destiny of his father and he.
Slowly, steadily, he turned to face the approaching Queen.
“What have you interrupted me for?” he asked, his voice loud and penetrating. Powerful.
“I have come to wish you goodbye.” Her eyes held a concerned look.
“Do not fear, all will be well.”
“I fear for the kingdom’s safety once you are gone.” Her face implied a look of fright as she started back at her husband.
“As I said, do not fear. The Royal Guard will take care of the kingdom, and Sir Duncan shall watch over your safety. All is taken care of.”
“And what of our son?” the Queen asked, fighting back tears quietly.
“He has no choice. He suffers the same destiny as I. Today, we will end that journey.”
The Prince arrived only moments later, looking weary with travel, as well as insomnia.
“Are you prepared, my son?” The King asked quietly, while dismissing the Queen with a wave of his hand. Reluctantly, she turned and made her way back into the castle, weeping into her hands.
“Yes, my lord and father. I am prepared to face my destiny.” The King’s son slowly lowered his gaze to the stone floor at his feet.
“Then let’s not postpone any longer.” He smiled at his son. “We have a Circus performance to enact.”
The two of them walked into the castle, and on to their destiny.
The forward cargo bay exploded in a brilliant flash of light, followed by an expanding cloud of flaming metal debris. The only sound she heard was her own breathing, sounding extraordinarily loud in the confines of her helmet. Her pressure suit suddenly felt much smaller; like a prison.
As she tried desperately to work her way swiftly back to the ship that had just sustained the damage of the explosion, her communicator box chirped. She fumbled for the switch that would activate the channel.
She heard the voice of the ship’s communication officer, sounding out a common signal to all extravehicular personnel. Slowly, the news of the desperation of the situation sunk in, as the man on the other end of the line stated that the ship was just under three minutes away from exploding. According to the young officer, most of the crew had already been sent to the escape pods.
Immediately after the transmission ended, she ceased her efforts to return to the ship–any efforts to move closer would mean the possibility of getting hit by debris of the doomed cruiser.
As the three minutes wound down, she prepared to face her death honorably. No other ships were around for light years-by the time any ship could arrive to offer assistance, her life support will have long since stopped functioning; leaving her dead in space.
She decided at last not to let herself die slowly. She would wait five minutes after the explosion, to see how many escape pods made it away.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the three minute mark came and went.
Confusion rippled through the entire community of extravehiculars. Her comm box was filled with bewildered chatter. She tried to determine what happened by counting the escape pods.
Not one escape pod had been launched.
Something was going on, she just didn’t know what. She waited, not speaking with the others, despite their repeated attempts to reach her.
Eventually, the five minute mark-which was to be the time she would have popped her helmet release, exposing her fragile flesh to the empty vacuum of space, which in turn would end her slow, lingering death instantly-reached zero.
She knew not what was happening so, at last, she cued her box and called the ship, requesting a status report. She was surprised to hear the tactical officer respond.
“Congratulations, EX-V Personnel. You passed the test. No casualties reported. Come on back.”
Heaving a sigh of relief, the young female Ensign-who thought she would indeed expire today-began heading back to the ship she thought she would never see again.
He heard footsteps approaching from down the long hallway, growing louder with each step, as the walls made the sounds echo and reverberate loudly.
He looked around, not knowing where he might camouflage himself; behind a statue, inside a doorway? No, his bright clothing would surely surrender him to any prying eyes that might stumble across him, or his captors, if they located his whereabouts.
At last, he discovered what he’d been looking for: a painting with a small indention in the base of the picture. He pressed his finger into the groove, working the latch situated inside the dent. The section of wall, immediately before him moved aside, revealing a long, dark passageway.
He turned back toward the corridor, the nearing footsteps were even closer. He reached for a torch, in order to find his way through the dark.
No, that would give me away. I’ll just have to deal with the darkness.
He slipped into the passageway, closing the narrow section just in time, as his captors rounded the corner as the door closed. Safe . . for now.
Passing around the corner, seeing with the keen eyes bestowed by the Sorcerer, the secret passageway closing upon the stone-lined hallway. Knowing where the prey would flee to, the child of the King and Queen ordered the soldiers to keep looking for him, though already known that all attempts would be useless, he would be well out of reach by the time anyone thought to look in the right place for him. Fortunately, the King and Queen did not know of their child’s true intentions.
He traveled down the hidden passageway slowly, keeping his hands outstretched in order to keep himself from bumping into walls-or anything else. Occasionally, he ran into snakes, slithering through the cracks in the granite walls, and constantly scurrying bugs, and rats were always with him.
At last, he reached the end of the tunnel, marked by the appearance of light in a rectangular shape. He pressed his ear against the cold rock, listening for signs of habitation on the other side.
He had no clue as to where he stood; only that he was hidden, and safe for the moment.
But he had to get out of here, to safety. Through the wall, he heard the sounds of an empty room, or what he hoped was an empty room.
Here goes. He opened the panel of stone quietly-at least as quietly as was possible with granite scraping loudly against granite-and emerged from the passageway. He looked around cautiously, checking the room for anything that might condemn him.
He peered out the small window, situated in a corner of the chambers. What he saw outside astounded him: no one was in sight. It seemed that everyone, all the peasants, the traders, everyone was gone. He began to realize that something was amiss.
Suddenly, footsteps started approaching his now not-so-safe haven. By the sound of the footfalls, he could determine who it was outside: his hunter. The person who was searching for him.
He tried to hide, but knew it was useless. He stood in the middle of the room when the footsteps stopped outside the door.
Slowly, the door opened. He was right. Slowly, his hunter entered the room, smiling. “At last, I’ve found you.”
“How did you know I was here?” he asked the child of the King and Queen.
“I know how your mind works. I knew you would go this way. Plus the fact that that passageway leads only into this room. You see this are my quarters,” his captor said, motioning toward the picture concealing the hidden entrance in the wall. “And now, it’s time to end this game.”
The hunter withdrew a long knife and, charging forward, plunged the dagger into the prey. He stumbled back a few steps, surprised as to the outcome of this drill.
“Why have you done this? It was only supposed to be a game,” said the now-dying man.
“Because, dear brother, I will be the next ruler of this kingdom. Goodnight, Prince. . . .”
And with those words, the Princess, walked away, leaving her brother to die by her own hand.
He was one of the most interesting men I’d ever met. Powerful, rich, charismatic, and immaculately dressed; I couldn’t help but be awed.
I watched as he took a measured sip from his glass, taking care to set the cylinder back precisely in the spot it had set before. I was vaguely aware that the sweat beading on the glass would leave a ring on my coffee table, but I quickly dismissed the thought.
As far as looks go, he was fairly average. He had a round, but not totally unrecognizable face, with double chins cupping his jaw. He was clean-shaven and was slightly balding on top.
Eyes of near-cobalt peered at me intently, most likely analyzing every move I made. It was rather intimidating, actually.
I leaned back in my chair, embarrassed by the noises I made as my jeans slid across the leather.
Looking around, I almost enjoyed the situation: me in my chair, nestled comfortably in the corner of my study. Light streamed in through the windows, casting dust trails through the dark room. Most of the blinds were closed, so the effect was amplified dramatically. Outside, the trees were in full bloom, so the sun was tinged a deep emerald, making the papers my guest was removing from his briefcase look odd.
He smiled, his lips curling back to reveal perfect teeth as he handed me the documents.
My hands were suddenly clammy, covered in sweat, and I was forced to wipe them on my pants before leaning forward to accept the sheaf being passed to me.
I chuckled nervously, and cleared my throat. “I take it everything is in order then?”
He steepled his fingers and rested them beneath his first chin; the smile disappeared. “This is no joking matter.”
“Of course not,” I stammered quickly, trying to recompose myself. Before I continued, my guest stood and made to leave the room. I noticed his suit jacket wasn’t still perfect, not at all wrinkled from the time he’d been sitting in the chair.
“Good then,” he said, a smile spreading across his face, “then we’ll see your daughter at school tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll find our Private School to be well worth the expense.”
And with that, the gentlemen excused himself from my study, and went on to his next appointment, and I to mine…