Tag Archives: Short Story

EmotedLlama wrote something?

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I’m really not sure what’s gonna go on this blog with no sporks. I might start doing reviews again and I’m gonna try to get NekoShogun to post the haiku he’s been writing. In the meantime, I wrote a 1,000 word short story that I will share now.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Adam’s breath was ragged, even as he slept. It seemed he was asleep most of the time, anymore.

Malcolm sat in the hospital room chair. Past the bed Adam laid on, the room’s small table stood laden with wilted flowers, cards, books—but Malcolm’s gaze rested on Adam.

He lifted himself off the chair and stood over Adam, eased his head up off of the pillow and slipped it out, set his head back down. Malcolm picked up the pillow and gripped it, hard, till his fingers were numb. He took a long breath and brought the pillow down on his son’s face.

 

Malcolm stepped out of the hotel lobby. The street outside was deserted, save for a figure lounging on the bench outside the hotel.

“Can you leave me alone?” he said. “Just this one time.”

She turned to face him. Long, bronze horns glinted in the moonlight. “This was your choice, Malcolm.”

 

Malcolm weaved through the crowd, eyes darting to take in his surroundings. There was no reason for someone to recognize him, but he felt conspicuous in the bright red jacket—just the first thing he’d grabbed at the store. He kept the hood up and figured no one would get a good look at his face, anyway, and why would they suspect him? Nobody trying to stay hidden would wear something so noticeable.

There were two cops to his right. He ached to quicken his pace, to glance at them as he passed.

“Hey!” one of them called. Malcolm delved deeper into the crowd, just in case.

His gaze was fixed on the alley he would take, narrow and empty, then his eyes flicked to the alley to the right. The horns towered over the crowd. No go.

 

Malcolm blinked. The policewoman stood in front of him, face steely, hand on her gun. Why, Malcolm didn’t know; he wasn’t dangerous. He wasn’t a murderer.

She spoke again, but her words fell on deaf ears. He took a step forward. His foot found steady ground in the sky and the city was just a distant mass far below.

 

Malcolm was drenched by the rain. Nobody else was even out, umbrella or no—not in this downpour, and all he had was the jacket. He shivered, his teeth chattered. His arms were clenched, hugging himself not to gain warmth but to avoid the cold. He felt like death.

 

“What does it matter?” Malcolm said, interrupting the previous speaker. “He’s dying either way.”

All eyes went to him. The already serious atmosphere turned morbidly somber. The whole thing was morbid.

“Let’s change the subject,” Pete said. Uneasy smiles. Ignoring Malcolm.

Brush away the expectation of pain: it’s the only way to cope. Malcolm could never bring himself to do it.

 

White rooms. Adam’s bedroom. It wasn’t long before the former were more common. It felt a shame, to Malcolm, for his son to waste away in a place that wasn’t even his own. Slowly, the former was filled with the contents of the latter.

 

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Malcolm hadn’t seen the end that time. It was the best part and he’d been punished on top of his punishment to not see it.

His hands were clenched on the pillow. He cursed her, inwardly, and brought it down.

 

Malcolm was in the crowd. Every time he blinked he saw the horns, tormenting him. Blocking his escape.

He passed the policemen, stopped. Pulled his hood down and turned to face them, but neither were looking his way, springing in action to chase a purse snatcher. Malcolm watched them for a moment before walking away.

 

Malcolm stepped out of the hotel lobby. It was drizzling. His jacket hung from the balcony above his head, meant to dry in the sun. It wasn’t as waterproof as expected.

“You chose this. You should have anticipated the consequences.”

Her sharp fingernails dug into his neck. She stared into his heart for what felt like an eternity as he spluttered and clawed at her hand, should have passed out from lack of oxygen but just stood there, conscious every moment of the pain. And not just that in his neck.

“You’re weak,” she said, tossing him aside. He fell into the sky.

 

He stared at the stars above him. His neck ached. He looked away.

He went back in the house, stood in the doorway of Adam’s empty room. Pete was with Adam tonight. He said that Malcolm had been spending too much time at the hospital. Malcolm knew he was right, but it was another thing to admit it.

Pete understood, and he didn’t pry. Let Malcolm bottle it all up and, gradually, wilt. His empathy was letting his husband die with his son.

 

Malcolm stood on the balcony and looked down, over the railing, just in time to see a police officer enter the lobby. He pulled off the jacket and draped it on the railing and turned around.

 

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Malcolm sobbed. Adam’s breath rasped, in, out, in, out, dead in every languid pause.

 

Blackness surrounded him. Then the horns emerged, the vacant eyes, the teeth protruding straight from lips.

“I…” he said. “I won’t repent. But, I…”

She nodded.

 

Malcolm stared at the policewoman. She flinched at his gaze, tightened her hand on her gun. Tears fell from his cheeks and pattered on the ground, the pathetic things they were.

“Sir,” she said, and he stepped forward and she pulled her gun and he shoved her to the ground and ran.

And fell. He watched the stars as the hotel room balcony, distinct by the red jacket laid on its railing, found itself farther and farther away. His back cracked against the ground and his head hit and pain exploded.

 

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Malcom’s tears fell on the pillow. His breath was nearly as painful as his son’s and his knuckles were white but he didn’t loosen his grip.

Then, slowly, he did just that. His hands shook and he nearly dropped the pillow and he squeezed it to regain his grip. He carefully, slowly, laid it on the bed, put his hand under Adam’s head and slid the pillow underneath.

Beep.

Malcolm let out a deep breath and took a step backward, placed his hands on the chair’s arms, sat down.

Beep.

And he would go on sitting there.

Beep.

Forever.

The Button: A Short Story

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Hi there, remember me? Yeah, I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been a bit distracted lately with other things, but I’m back (I think) and plan on starting to post more often again (although as I recall I’ve said similar things in the past, and look how that went).

Anyway, I should get to the point of this post. A little while ago I submitted a short story to the most recent round of NPR’s Three Minute Fiction Contest. The rules of the contest are that the story must be based on the contest prompt (in this case, all stories must be about a US president, real of fictional), and all stories must be under 600 words.

When I sat down to write, the story I ended up with was about 850 words long, meaning I had to cut 250. 250 words might not sound like a lot under normal circumstances, but in this case it meant cutting and simplifying a significant portion of the story. I think the final version turned out well, but I did miss those extra words, so I thought I’d post the original, uncut version here.

So, without further ado, The Button.

The Button

The president held his hand above the button, poised to strike. A drop of sweat inched its way down his cheek; his fingers twitched to the rhythm of his pulse. To his right a massive clock beeped with each passing second. He stared sightlessly down at the panel as disjointed images flashed across his paralyzed brain.

He remembered where it all had begun. Was it really only six years since the first election? The memories that had once been so clear now felt stale and far away. Like a postcard from the past a fragment of recollection fell into his hands; an arena—he couldn’t remember the name or the place—filled to capacity with his supporters, all cheering and chanting his name. At the time it had filled him with hope and elation. Now, though, it sounded like the universe taunting him.

The mess had started four months after his swearing in; the attacks, the fear, the disbelief that such a thing could happen, right here, to us, right in our own backyard and oh god what was the world coming to anyway. All his grand plans had gone down the drain as more pressing issues made themselves heard. Troops were mobilized, the draft was reinstated, and the nation held its breath as the world went mad.

For a moment, for a fleeting instant, it seemed that disaster might be averted. But humanity, once riled up, is not easy to contain. Wars broke out along old fault lines, thousands were slaughtered, and great nations began to come apart at the seams.

His popularity, which had once soared to unprecedented levels, crashed down like an avalanche. He lost weight, his hair turned gray, and he aged a decade in four years. When the time came once again for his battered country to choose their leader his rivals screamed for blood. His character was attacked and his leadership questioned as everything came tumbling down around him.

Somehow, despite an endless campaign of slander and abuse, he was reelected. In the end all his competition just fell away, probably realizing it would be easier for the historians if they only had one person to blame for the collapse of civilization.

It made him sick sometimes, to think about everything that had been lost while he was at the helm. But it wasn’t his fault; he hadn’t started the war, he’d tried to stop it! He’d done everything right and still it had all come tumbling down. And if he was honest with himself, that was what really hurt. Not the casualties, not the famine, not the hopeless, endless war. No, what really pissed him off was that it had happened to him, during his tenure. He’d wanted to change the world, to fix the nation and usher in a new golden age of wealth and prosperity for his people. This couldn’t all have waited eight years? If the world had to end, it couldn’t at least have the decency to wait until his presidency had ended?

He knew it was selfish, but he really didn’t care. He could have been a hero, the last great American president. Now, though, he would be remembered as the captain who’d gone down with his ship. The poor sap who had to sit their and watch it all burn.

At least before he’d been able to console himself with the fact that wars like this had happened before, that history was littered with fallen empires and periods of unrest. Then the first nuke went off, and in an instant the world was a few million people emptier.

Three hours later and the surface world was a memory as the government fled below ground to the safety of their bunkers, while above the unlucky masses boiled in fear.

“Mr. President.” The voice hit him like a bucket of ice water, dragging him back to the present. “Sir, we have two minutes left.”

His mouth was a desert; he struggled to swallow the lump in his throat, to open his mouth, to speak.

“You…” He cleared his throat and continued, his voice like sandpaper. “You’re sure my husband made it to the bunker?”

There was silence, an exchanging of glances, then one of the suits that crowded the room nodded.

The president glanced down at the button. It was small and slate gray, flanked on either side by a key, turned and waiting in its slot.

“Sir, the window’s closing!” A uniform this time, a general. He should have known their faces, their names, but that part of his brain had deserted him. They might as well have been mannequins for all he cared. “Sir, please! You have to do it now!”

The president looked back at the button, An alarm went off as a screen counted down from sixty. He could barely hear it above the thundering of his pulse. He sucked in a deep breath and held it, thinking of Erik and hoping he really was safe.

With a sigh the president pushed the button, and the world blew up.

~NekoShogun

The Wave: A Short Story

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The Wave

It happened at sunset.

The air was still in the valley; even from where I stood, atop the highest place in all of the city, not the faintest tickle of a breeze could be felt.

I faced east, and so was one of the first to see it coming; that great crashing, churning, writhing mass of water charging down at us from the mountains. As soon as I beheld it all hope and joy left me, leaving my body cold with fear.

It seemed an eternity that I stood there, silent and agape, unable to speak or cry out. I watched in horror as the first outlaying settlements were struck. So great was the water’s force that the constructions were instantly obliterated; no more complete could their destruction have been had the gods themselves descended to earth and crushed them beneath their mighty feet.

I finally found my voice an instant before the rest who had witnessed the waters coming. The words of my cry, if words they even were, are lost now to my memory. Not forgotten however are the shouts that rang out an instant later.

“Flood!” cried out a dozen voices, then the dozen became a hundred: “Flood! Flood!” they called out in despair. Then, not an instant later the hundreds became thousands, and they screamed out in their misery, “the end has come! Gods save us from our doom!”

Though now panic had replaced my terror, I remained still unmoving atop my high perch in the city center, my view of the wave unobstructed as it thundered steadily onwards, now so brown with dirt and rubble that it seemed less like water than a mighty wall of earth–as if the land itself had risen up to smite us and strike down all we had labored so long and hard to build, casting it away to be scattered like dust on the wind.

I could hear the building, steady thunder of it now, and the sound brought me sense enough to move. I ran from my high place, descending into the city and joining the desperate, frenzied masses; the clawing, trampling, biting, screaming, feral mob, the individuals within all possessing of the same driving obsession, forcing away all other thought or motivations; incapable of thought or compassion, blind to their fellow kind, blind even to themselves beyond their constant desire. Life. Survival. Escape. These words and others I could use, but they are all empty compared to the feeling itself, a wordless compulsion so deep and overwhelming that none could escape it. Not even I.

I am not proud to admit that I became a part of that entity of fear, but I will not deny the truth. I cannot remember what horrors my body endured, nor what wretched crimes it may have inflicted upon others. I recall only the feeling, and that even is often too much to bear.

Countless hundreds must surely have died as the crowds stampeded through the city, their broken, twisted corpses waiting to be washed away. And they would not wait long.

I was still within the city as the wave crashed against it. There was no wall protecting our city, but even had there been it would not have saved us; it wouldn’t even have delayed our fate, but merely disintegrated as soon as the water touched it, its remnants joining the already numerous scraps of rubble and becoming deadly weapons. The gnashing, shredding teeth of the mighty roaring beast.

None of us in the scrambling mass of people escaped the wave. I was one of the few to reach the edge of the city before it struck me, its power diminished but still awesome after it had obliterated the city. To feel it smash against my body was as to feel the punch of a god. The force of the blow knocked all air from my body and all sense from my brain. I felt pulled and pushed and crushed in every direction; the fact that I retained my consciousness is a miracle of hell, for the torment of that wave tore deep into my very soul.

Only three of us who were claimed by the wave were released from it alive. All of us had been outside the city when it took us, and somehow we were spared. One had a mangled leg, the other a badly twisted arm, and I, for all the pain and agony of my ordeal, had naught but a shallow cut across my torso.

We were all deposited quite far from each other. It was hours before we met up, and days before we’d strength enough to leave that wretched valley. As we climbed the hills on the western edge on our way to the nearest village that we could be sure still stood, we looked back and beheld the grim view of our homeland. The city was gone, swept away from where it had stood. In its place there was only a shallow pool of water. To look at the valley then one might have thought there had never been a city at all. The light of the day was fading as the sun set behind us, and the distance at which we stood was so great we could not make out the corpses and tiny scraps of debris that must surely have lain there.

I have never returned to the valley, and in the great time that has passed there has been no attempt to rebuild the great city that once stood there. Life has been hard for me; there is little room in this world of ours for an ant who has lost both his home and his queen, especially when so few of his brothers survived with him.

It was long before we found a queen willing to take us in, and by that time our number had been reduced by one. The hill was fine, and the ants within kind enough, but it could never compare to the great splendor of our lost city. It could never be home.

~NekoShogun