Great Hites Prompt number 52

This weeks prompt is:

“It has Been a year, what have i done with myself?”

This is the Birthday celebration prompt.

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday May 5th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week. Remember to tell all your friends to come out and join in the fun.


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Great Hites # 50

This week’s show is guest hosted by Norval Joe, and we have stories by:
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Norval Joe,
Ashley Redden
Guy David
and
Jeff Hite

This week is sponsored by RMSComputerSystems.com where I go when I need computer help.

Need copy editing? Try contacting Shawna Noble.

New Place
By: Jeff Hite

One

Matt heard the scream on every level, but as he stared into the blackness he was not sure if it had been in his head or if it was what had woken him. His heart pounded and he felt a bead of sweat trickle down to the small of his back. He had been exhausted when he lay down and that was dangerous. He did not remember where he was.
Had the scream been from the hallway out side of his room? Or had it been in his head. He tried to remember but his minds clutch would not engage. He tried to move slowly, not making any noise, but he knew that if someone was watching him that they would have the advantage. He could not see, but they undoubtedly could see him. He thought about trying to wait until his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, but he knew that the longer he waited, the less time he would have to do anything.
His hand had finally made it under the edge of his pillow, and he felt the familiar form of his weapon. Then he had a new thought. If he was being watched and the scream had been his head, if he pulled his weapon out, he would blow his cover. What was his cover? Was he undercover, or was he between jobs. He could not remember. What was worse, he could not remember where he was. Nothing in this rooms seemed familiar, but then he had spent so little time in his own apartment that his bedroom was just as unfamiliar as any hotel room. Then again he could be at home, and his cover could have been blown and the scream could have been the night security guard.
A second bead of sweat started to form at the base of his neck. He had to make a decision. Finally he opted to lay back down. If it had been a dream, nothing would happen. If someone was waiting for him to move, the would assume they were safe to make their move, and he would have hear them. If he was being observed from outside the room, they would think he went back to sleep, and his cover, for the time being, would be safe.

Two

The alarm sounded, and he sat up in bed. This time his hand remained on his weapon. The room was bright enough that he he could tell his was alone in the room. It did not however, help him to remember where he was. The gray shadows were all hard angles and gutting shapes, that only told him that he was in a bedroom. If he was alone, he could be pretty well assured that he could get out of bed, and start the day like any other. As soon as he put his feet on the floor, he realized a new problem, was his cover a shower person?

Three

It had been three days and no contact had been made. he did not know if he should have been watching from someone, or just pretending to be someone. He could not blow whatever cover he had to make contact. Even if he did he was not sure who to contact. It was getting worse. He could not remember where he was supposed to be if anywhere. They had not contacted him, he had not contacted them. Were they looking for him? Was he supposed to be looking for them? For that matter who were they? Either the good guys or the bad guys. Were their any of either. He had become increasingly unsure about any of it. What he did know was that he was sure about less and less, even the city he was in did not look familiar to him any more.

Four

It was four in the morning and the dream was back. The scream had come, and in his head, and by knew that is where it had come from. It had come ever night for the last week. He woke with the scream still bouncing around in his head. Every night the scream woke him, he went back to sleep and woke in the morning and no one was there. Suddenly as if had not been able to open his eyes for the last few days it hit him. There was no one there. He had walked around an empty city, he had seen no one in the hotel lobby, no one in any of the shops.
He picked up the phone next to his bed.
“Front desk?”
“Hello, where are you?”
“This is the front desk.”
“Where are you.”
“Sir, I am at my front desk.”
“Thank you.” He put the phone back down and started to lay back down. Then he he had a better idea. He would walk down to the to the lobby and find the front desk person.

Five

Three days ago he had realized there was no one anywhere. The phones seemed to be on some kind of automated system, that would answer him, but there wasn’t really at the other end. The radios all played with no DJ’s. The T.V. news kept playing but even when he when to the local studio there was no one there. The lack of people was a mystery that he could not answer, in the same way that the nightly dream was. There was always food, the stores never seemed to be out, nor did the food rot of the shelves without people to take care of it. It was as if everything was take care of while he slept.

Six
thirty two days in, there was a change. The city that he had started to call home seemed to be getting smaller. He had take his rental car, the one whose keys he had found in his pocket, and drove to the edge of town on the second day that he could remember. when he got there he was greeted by a desert so expansive he could not see the edge in any direction. Today, he drove to a shop that he had found at the edge of town. They carried the freshest pasties that he had ever tasted. When he got to where it should have been, there was nothing but desert. Matt drove all the way around town and confirmed that the desert was encroaching in all directions. For the first time since the first week he began to panic. He drove back to his hotel room and got his weapon. Then he drove around town until he found what he was looking for.
When he found the large 4×4 in the parking lot of a local restaurant, he left his rental car, and took the big truck. There was a chance that in the morning it would not be outside his hotel room as the other things he had stolen where not, but at least he knew where to find it now.

Seven
It now became his morning ritual to walk to the parking lot where the 4×4 was and take it to the edge of town, which was becoming a shorter and shorter trip. It was no the fortieth day that he decided to find out what was out there.
He took three extra gas cans and drove the truck into the desert, but had found nothing. No life, nothing, only more sands and identical more dunes. He woke in the middle of the night as he always did, with the scream in his hotel room sweating and along.

Eight

The sands now lapped at the base of the hotel. The only place left to eat was the hotel restaurant, but he had stopped leaving the hotel over a week ago. He had decided that when this day came he would stop eating anyway and just let the desert consume him, as it had everything else.

Nine
The night was not punctuated by a scream, instead the slow stead hiss of the sand, first at the out side of the building and then slowly building up in walls of the hotel. Near dawn he could hear it’s scree against the door of his room. They he could hear it building up in his room. He did not open his eyes afraid that he would loose his nerve to stay and bed and let it take him. Finally he could feel it brushing against his face, cold and so fine it felt like a cool breeze across his face. It came at him faster now, so that the friction was beginning to warm his skin.
Finally he could no longer take it. He reached under his pillow and grabbed his weapon. Better to end it quickly then panic and fight it. He let the weapon rest at his side before he tired to move it. When he did he found that his arm was restrained by a human hand. The warmth of it’s touch started him so that he opened his eyes.

Ten

Staring back at him was a woman. Her hair was cropped in a military style, but she was definitely a woman. She smiled at him.
“Captain, I am sorry that we had to wake you.”
“Aaaaaaaaaaaa.”
“Don’t try to speak yet, the meds are still doing their job warming your body. We have had an emergency and will be coming out of hyperspace soon. The ship needs her captain.

Wall Flower
By: Guy David

Jerry folded his napkin neatly, then he got up. His wife didn’t even look up. He was a given to her, something that was there, not to be bothered with. Jerry showered, then put on his clothes and his tapper hat. He didn’t tell his wife about the layouts. Her world was a perfect one. He knew if he told her he lost his job, it would just go past her without hitting home, so he just left and walked into the street. He kept on walking for a long time, then he came into a bus station. A bus came. Jerry got on it, not bothering to ask where it was going. The bus drove for hours and arrived an unfamiliar city. Jerry got off and started walking, not knowing where he was or what he was doing there.

A few hours passed. It was getting dark, so Jerry found a hotel and checked in, paying in advanced as he always did. He paid for a week in advanced. Night was settling in. He knew the money would last him three more months. He knew what his monthly expense was. He was calculated, taking the hotel as well as his wife’s very predictable shopping pattern into his calculations. He spent the week having long walks and trying to think what he was going to do next. Nothing came. He usually got up, went to work, did his daily chores. His schedule was the same for the last twenty years. He had the comfort of knowing exactly where he was in his life, where he was going. He had no idea how to handle unemployment. It was a situation no one prepared him for.

As he walked, no particular thought came over to him. His mind was more or less a blank, then it wandered off to his home, his wife and the two separated beds. He wondered how he ended up in this situation. His job was always a constant, something that didn’t change. It has become his whole life. It was all he knew. He turned a corner and bumped into someone. He stopped and stared at an undetermined point in space. After some time he shook himself as if awakening from a dream and went back to the hotel, where he found out that his wallet was missing. This didn’t bother him though. It was the fake wallet that was missing, the one he kept there for the pickpockets and thieves. His real wallet stayed hidden in his secret place and was only pulled out when needed, which was rarely.

The week ended quickly. Jerry reached no conclusion, made no decisions. He took the bus back home. His wife, apparently, didn’t even notice he was gone. He continued with his regular routine, only, instead of going to work he just took long and pointless walks. His calculations where accurate and his money was gone after three months. That’s when his wife left him. The day after she left he got up, brushed his teeth and set down to eat. The dining table was empty. No one prepared his food for him. He just set there and waited, expecting his routine to return to normal. That’s how they found him when they broke into his house a few weeks later, sitting and waiting.

Waiting for Help
By: Ashley Redden

He sat upright, knees pulled up against his chest, arms wrapped tightly around his legs in a trough of two foot deep snow. He found himself listening to a strange repetitive tapping sound. The sound didn’t seem too far off, but maybe not too close either. He listened for what seemed like a long time. Finally, he decided the sound must be coming from his teeth chattering, but it could just as easily have been something else. His whole body was one big convulsion, one endless shiver that went on and on. The pain was beyond reason, but still he fought on.
He tried to decide what to do next. Trying to think was hard. His mind seemed to only be half working and that was just half of the time. Thinking had become like swimming in quicksand, tremendously hard work for little or no results. Despite the impediment, he considered his situation. As he concentrated, his name slowly came back to him. “Carl, yeah, Carl something or other, that’s who I am. I was with friends before I got here,” Carl thought still shaking uncontrollably.
He cut his eyes left then right, jerkily, and saw a deep furrow in the snow just in front of his knees. Beyond that was the beginning of a large opening in the tree line. Just beyond the edge of the trees, he could just make out a spot where the snow had been broken, no not snow, ice. Carl could see something shimmer within the ragged hole. He remembered then, not everything, but some of it.
He had been separated from his friends, he couldn’t remember how anymore. He had been struggling to find them, trying to get back but becoming more and more lost. Carl had walked far and was very, very cold, colder than he had ever been in his life. He remembered that vividly, being so very cold, that’s when he had fallen through the ice. Carl had fought mightily to get out of the ice and drag himself up and away from the brutal shock of the lake. Carl had been thinking that things couldn’t get much worse just before falling through the ice, but that turned out to be just a prelude to the main event. Carl now knew the true meaning of the word cold. His whole body felt as though it was on fire, nerve after enraged nerve screaming together to produce a cacophony of agony. Still Carl shivered, on and on and on.
He wanted to cry out so his friends would know where to look. Surely they were still looking. All he had to do was hang on just a while longer, just keep fighting. He could do that. So Carl sat and shivered and hurt and waited.
He came to realize that the tapping sound had gone away; the quiet now became almost absolute. The shivering also seemed to lessen and then slowly stop altogether. Carl noticed with some relief that the mountain of pain that had been his constant companion since falling through the lake ice had evaporated, gone but not easily forgotten. He actually found himself feeling warm. Maybe he wasn’t in such a bad place after all. His friends would find him, he could wait. Things seemed to be looking up. Carl thought of home and the feeling of warmth increased. Though he still couldn’t remember, he knew deep in his heart what a wonderful place it must be. Inwardly Carl smiled, relaxed and waited to be found, rescued and brought home.
The hole in the ice began to refreeze slowly, fractionally, layer upon layer. A light snow started, faltered then continued falling as the wind picked up just slightly, enough to make the leafless tree branches sway gently, caressing the frigid air. Voices could be heard floating, wraithlike, on the wind. The persistent voices were calling, searching and looking for a lost friend who had wandered from the path. Seeking a companion that had become hopelessly lost somewhere out in the harsh wilderness.

No Body but you
By: Norval Joe
 
He woke up to find that he was having a bad day. He could tell that it was, because his body was missing, again. Though it was usually difficult to think clearly when he was separate from his body, it didn’t take much mental processing to see that his body was, in fact, gone.
“It must be Wednesday”, he thought, “this kind of thing always seems to happen on Wednesdays.” He was pretty sure that it was mid-week though he couldn’t be sure or the exact day, separated from his body as he was.
He walked across the bedroom floor and ducked his head as he walked under the bed. He didn’t need to worry about hitting his head on the bed frame, since his his head was with his body, but of course, it wouldn’t occur to him in his current state. He ducked his head out of habit; this is the nice thing about habits, they don’t require thought, you just do them. He walked around under the bed, looking in an empty shoe box and behind neglected stuffed animals.
 
It was a pleasant spring morning in New Orleans; it was warm enough for short sleeves, but not at all like the sticky humid heat that would come with the summer. The young family was strolling casually down Bourbon Street. Traffic was light, being the middle of the week, early in the day, and not during The Mardi Gras. Still the young couple was vigilant in keeping their daughter close to them at all times.
As they crossed a small side street, she broke from her mothers hand and dashed up the alley shouting, “Dolly, Mommy, dolly!” The parents caught up to her as she reached a grimy shop window, and peered into the darkness, her nose pressed hard against the glass. The faded gold leaf name on the window identified the shop only as ‘Jezareel’.
Through the window they could see in the dimly lit shop, the homeliest excuse for a doll either of the parents had ever seen. Its bald ceramic head was expressionless with its black beans for eyes and a small flat horizontal cleft for a mouth. The body appeared to be made of random pieces of thread, yarn, twine and cloth, wrapped tightly around old popsicle sticks and twigs. Its only clothing was a simple cotton serape, held in place by a piece of yarn around its waist.
The father felt a chill run down his spine as he looked at the ugly doll, discomfort growing with each passing moment. The girl kept her face pressed against the window, trying to get the best view. Finally, he said to the girl, “No, honey, you have enough dolls at home, you don’t need any more. Come on, let’s go.”
Her tantrum was so sudden and violent that both parents stood, shocked, mouths open, staring at what they could not believe was their child. Eventually, they broke from their stasis. They knelt to console the girl and try to convince her to come along back to the hotel. They coaxed, bribed and threatened, but nothing would calm her.
When she stopped her screaming, it was as sudden and shocking as when it had started. With a great sob and sigh, it abruptly ceased. Relieved that the ordeal was over, her parents looked around to see who else had witnessed the embarrassing event.
A woman stood in the open doorway of the small shop. She was as old and dark and dusty as the store itself. So wrinkled and small it was impossible to determine her ethnicity. Was she French, Spanish, or African? They couldn’t tell.
“Madam Jezareel sees the dolls little girl,” she slurred mysteriously in a rich southern accent. “Come,” she commanded them, “The doll must be held.”
They followed Madam Jezareel into a shop so small that here was barely room enough for all to sit around a small table without bumping the walls or one another. On the table and on a bookshelf there were bits and pieces; scraps of cloth, snips of thread, beans and soft, grey, clay; to make more dolls, but there were no other dolls near completion.
The old woman placed the doll in the little girls lap, who immediately hugged it around the middle of its lumpy body. Jezareel closed her eyes and began repeating arcane words while moving her hands in circles in the air between herself and the doll. At times she would raise her voice in volume while raising her hands higher into the air. At other times she barely whispered the incomprehensible words. At one point, when she was getting fairly worked up, her hands making great circles, her voice a shrieking wail, she inhaled a bit of saliva, that caused her to pause her incantation. She sat, looking ahead, for a few, long seconds, and made a small cough; then another. At first, it appeared that her coughing was under control, but soon she was hacking and choking, spraying the family with spittle with each wheezing gasp. Eventually, she stood, beating herself on the chest, coughing and gasping for air. Just as the girls parents stood to see if they could help the old woman, the hacking subsided.
She sighed and sat back down, as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. With her chin raised and her eyes closed, she took several deep calming breaths.
She took up her chanting where she had left off, and while it was not as frenzied, she spoke much more rapidly. The now recognizable arcane words and phrases came to a sudden stop. Jezareel sat with her hands flat on the table, eyes closed and breathing steadily and deeply.
She opened her eyes and looked at the doll, still clutched tightly in the little girls arms. The surprise was evident on the old woman’s face. She stood again and reached for the doll. The girl was reluctant, but allowed the doll to be taken from her. The old woman held the doll close to her wrinkled face and squinted into its black bean eyes. She supported it by placing her hands under the dolls arms and shook it lightly. “Dear me,” she said, “dear, dear, dear, dear, me.” Then placing it face down, its stomach on one of her hands, she patted it on the back with her other hand, like she was burping a very small baby. She turned it onto its back, its lifeless stick and twine arms flailing behind it. “My, my, my, my, my”, she said, shaking her head.
“Well,” she said, an unmistakable note of finality in her voice as she handed the doll back to the little girl who quickly took it and clutched it again to her chest. “Well,” she said again, firmly and with a nod. The family understood that they were being dismissed. They left the shop in a daze and wandered back to their hotel as if the unusual evens of the morning had been a dream. All the while, the little girl held the mysterious gift tightly, but lovingly in her arms; evidence that the experience had been real.
 
He crept out from underneath the bed, careful, again, not to bump his head on the bed frame. He scanned the floor, the corners of the room, the furniture and bookshelves. There was no sign of his body.
He went to the door and looked up and down the hallway. To his horror; if he could have felt horror without his body; perhaps his body, where ever it was, was feeling the very horror, that his brain was having difficulty perceiving at that moment; in the hallway outside the bedroom door, was a piece of himself.
He bent to pick it up, but couldn’t, naturally, not having a body to pick it up with. But it felt good to be near it, and he did know that if felt good. He followed the bits of himself down the hall and around a corner until he found himself in an entirely foreign and wholly unfamiliar place. He knew the bedroom, the kitchen and dining rooms, the tv room, all places his girl had carried him. He had never been in this tiny room. There were two large white machines, boxes of soap powder on shelves, and brooms and mops hanging from hooks on the wall. Next to the white machines was a large plastic pan with sand in it, and an awful odor exuding from with in. He could smell the odors, hear the sounds, and began to understand what was happening.
With a rush, comprehension and realization he woke him to his dilemma. There, before him, between its litter box and its bowl of water, he found himself in the razor sharp claws of the family cat. With its wicked teeth it tore at his body of string, and yarn and pieces of cloth. Suddenly back in his body he could feel the burning pain of the cats teeth and claws as it chewed on his head, neck and chest.

Great Hites Prompt number 51

This weeks prompt comes to us from Ashley Redden and is:

“Anthropomorphism”

See I told you if you sent me suggestions I would use them.

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday April 28st. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.


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Great HItes # 49

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Ashley Redden is this weeks winner.

Stories this week from:
Scott Roche
Ashley Redden
Norval Joe
and Jeff Hite

This week GreatHites is sponsored by RMSComputersystes.com my source for all things computer.

Need copy editing? Try contacting Shawna Noble.

Magic Quadrant Part 5
By:
Scott Roche

Thornton returned to the bridge after spending a half hour sifting through what Lisor had sent them. His head felt like broken pieces of his Gram’s china coffee cups were rattling around in his brain. It wasn’t the fall, the hypo spray he had been given took care of any aches and pains. It was the strain of being in this uncharted territory and the stress of a crew who needed him to be able to tell them what came next. He had nothing for them yet.

The doors to the elevator opened to a calm sight. Everyone was doing exactly what was expected, which really wasn’t all that much under the circumstances. They were holding their position in space. There was no sense in gallivanting around without knowing their precise location. That meant navigation had little to do. The ship stood down from red alert since there was no immediate threat. All the appropriate crew and perhaps a few who had no business were keeping their eyes on sensors just in case. Still information could be gathered and diagnostics run. It was all busy work, but sometimes that was necessary to keep sane.

He took his place in the captain’s chair and Lisor was at his side in a moment. “Go ahead.”

Lisor shrugged. “Nothing to report at the moment captain. I…” Just then a steady beeping started coming from the science station. Without so much as a ‘by your leave’ the science officer strode to his place and checked on the alert. He allowed himself a smile. Something had caught itself in his little sensor web. He had modified the ship’s own state of the art array to work in combination it with the modular package to sweep for anything artificial that might come within its range. The signal would have ordinarily been too faint for the Kongo’s equipment to see and outside of the module’s standard programming so it wouldn’t have known to look. Together they sniffed out someone who was taking great pains to remain invisible.

“Captain, there is a ship out their scanning us.” He fed the coordinates to the main view screen. The star field came up empty. Lisor looked on, confused. “There’s something there captain, I swear it.”

“Helmsman take us to read alert.” The shields went up and the klaxon sounded on all decks. “I trust you Lisor. You’ve got to give us something to work with.”

Lisor looked back at the information he had in front of him. “Lieutenant Banks, I am picking up a scrambled communications signal coming from that location. I am piping it to your station. Please set to decoding it.”

“Aye, sir.” The big man put a hand to his ear piece and began working the buttons at his own console.

There was some kind of shielding keeping the ordinary sensors from nailing down whatever the other ship was. Lisor thought perhaps he could use that and the unusual configuration of the sensors to his advantage. “Captain, putting a three dimensional model of what I am guessing to be the location of the ship on screen.” It wouldn’t’ give them the ship’s outline or anything to fire upon with any accuracy, but it was less unnerving than looking at empty space. “They appear to be scanning us sir. I don’t believe our shields are effective against whatever they are using.”

Thornton stood up and crossed his arms. The idea of a strange vessel scanning his own set his teeth on edge. He wanted to put a photon torpedo across its bow, but that would let them know that they had been detected. “Steady as she goes people. They don’t know yet that we can see them. Let’s keep it that way. Banks, as soon as you have something unscrambled for us, you let us know.”

“Aye. Sir.” For a communications officer, Banks was a man of few words, but he knew what he was doing. The deck was silent as he worked. “Sir, it’s attempting to connect to our new sensor array. It’s some sort of override attempt.”

That was reason enough for Thornton. “Mr Sing I want you to put a torpedo spread as near as you can to that ship.”

Her answer to the order was the pressing of keys and the unique sound of a deadly payload being deployed.

Priorities
Ashley Redden

“Damn,” said Richard staring across the table at the bright yellow wall beyond and seeing neither. “Damn, I mean he was just thirty-four years old.” Richard sighed and shook his head.
“I know,” answered Joan, “I was just talking to him the other day. He seemed perfectly fine.”
The conversation dragged. Both coworkers were sitting at the office’s equivalent of a water cooler gossip center, a small round table in the alcove lunch area.
The office was small, about fifteen employees, so administration had the bright idea that placing a smaller table would dissuade employees from loitering too much at lunch cutting down on office gossip. The idea worked in that most of the employees went out for lunch now, but failed miserably in killing the gossip. The table turned out to be a perfect gathering place for loose mouthed workers, usually three or four at a time gathered, tongues waggling maliciously.
But the mood today was somber. Frank Coates, a much well liked individual by workers and administration alike, had died six days earlier of a sudden heart attack. Frank was walking across the street and then bam, fell dead in his tracks, just like that. Frank Coates had been the picture of health.
“Well,” said Joan, “I guess he didn’t suffer. I mean I know it was sudden and all that, but well, at least he didn’t suffer,” she finished lamely.
“Yeah,” responded Richard, “maybe that is a good thing.” Though both agreed neither really believed it. Losing a coworker is always difficult, but make it someone well liked and the loss becomes especially tough.
Joan sighed, “His wife really did a good job at the funeral holding it together. If I was pregnant with my first kid and lost my husband so suddenly…well, I don’t think I would hold up so well.”
Richard nodded in agreement. “I would imagine the hardest times are ahead.”
Both looked up as Michael approached large cardboard box in tow. “Well,” said Michael, “this is it. I cleaned everything out of his desk. The strange thing is all the coffee cups,” said Michael opening the alternately folded lids. Both Joan and Richard peered into the box. Contained therein was a sundry of broken, chipped and cracked coffee cups of every shape imaginable.
“Hey,” said Richard brow furrowed, “that’s my old coffee cup. I thought I chunked that thing.”
“This one here was mine,” said Joan also perplexed, “and this one too.”
“I have couple in there too,” said Michael shaking his head. “I wonder why he kept them.”
“He said that they were memories,” said Gail walking up. Everyone at the table turned to look. “He pulled those things out of the trash, cleaned them up and kept them. Frank said that when he got down, he could open that drawer and the cups would cheer him up. He said something about each cup containing happy memories for each of us. Seems a bit strange, but I guess it was his way of coping with stress.”
Joan was holding one of the mugs aloft with both hands. She said, “He did always comment on our coffee cups. How each one was different, like the person that belonged to it.”
“I wonder what his wife will do with all this stuff,” asked Michael?
“Maybe we should write a note to explain the significance of the cups,” suggested Gail.
“Yeah, maybe so,” said Richard again looking unfocused at the bright yellow wall.
“Well, we can decide on Monday,” said Michael. “Frank’s wife won’t be picking up his belongings until next week. I guess I had better get back to work or I’ll never get home.”
“How far underwater are you on the project,” asked Gail?
Michael held his hand up above his head as high as he could reach and in a resigned voice said, “This far.”
Michael refolded the box lids and sighed. All four arose and started back toward their respective desks. It was already past five on Friday and the whole office had been burning the midnight oil, literally, for weeks on the current office wide project.
Richard was the last to get up. He paused, eyes lingering on the box, and made his way back to his own desk. Once there, however, he didn’t immediately sit down. Richard picked up the framed shot of his family, himself, wife and three kids. “Man, Frank was only thirty-four,” he sighed. As Richard gazed at the photograph, something that his grandmother had always said came floating back.
“Doesn’t matter who they are,” his Grandmother had said, “I’ve never heard of anyone on their death bed wishing they’d spent more time at work. You have to work to live Rich,” she would say pinching his face lovingly in her strong wiry hands, “but don’t work so much that you forget to live as well.”
Richard stood staring at the picture only moments more, then placed it gently back onto the desk. He closed down his computer and quietly left for the night. Monday would bring the same brutal schedule back in force, but for now, Richard was going home to spend time with his family. After all, the work load would still be here.
“Anyway,” thought a forty-one year old Richard as he walked by the lunch alcove and glanced at the box still sitting atop the table there, “who knows how much time any of us has left.” And with that thought, Richard left the building and headed home.

The Dish Washer
By: Norval Joe

He picked up the cup to put it into the sanitizer. The handle dropped off and broke into several pieces on the floor. “Why they don’t change all these for plastic,” he grumbled and bent to pick up the pieces. His hand reaching for the closest piece, he stopped and stood back up. He kicked the pieces under the sanitizer, then quickly looked around to see if anyone had seen him do it. They would make him move the heavy machine and clean underneath it, if he gave them the slightest reason.
He looked into the sanitizer, there didn’t seem to be any room for the cup that he held in his hand. It was chock full with chipped and broken coffee cups, cracked and stained plates, and beer glasses so completely covered with hard water spots that they appeared opaque, even frosted.
He took out three of the glasses, moved some coffee cups and replaced the glasses, leaving enough room for the newly handless cup. The rack of cups, glasses and bowls was a fascinating and intricate utilization and conservation of space.
Unhappily resigned that the arrangement couldn’t be improved, he pushed the rack shut and lowered the door of the sanitizer. He poked the green button to start the cycle.
Twice he turned from the deep stainless steel sink where the bus boy had dumped more dishes into hot, soapy water; he turned to stop the sanitizer and rearrange the cups. Instead, he stopped himself and went back to hand washing the dishes.
He had been warned; and he knew that they were watching; he could feel their eyes on his back, when they were in the room with him. They told him, “Do it fast. Just throw them in there and they’ll come out clean.” He heard it from them everyday, each time they caught him reorganizing the cups and bowls for greater efficiency. “Just thrown them in there”, he muttered, reaching into the warm suds and rubbing the food off another plate.
He dipped the plate back into the soapy water and lifted it to watch the soap bubbles ooze off the plate and down from his wrist to drip off his elbow. He studied his deformed reflection on the wet surface of the cheap white ceramic plate. He watched his nose grow large and then small as a ripple of soapy water moved by.
“Robert Mc Feergan”, the announcer said, and Robert got to his feet and walked across the stage. An honors graduate in Mathematics, he had continued his studies and received his masters and doctorate degrees in Statistics. He could see himself on that hot, June, Arizona day shaking the deans hand, receiving his diploma. As he turned and walked back to his seat, his young wife, with tears of pride in her eyes, blew him a kiss.
“Robert Mc Feergan,” he suddenly said out loud to the plate, now mostly dry, in his hand. He held it up. “I present you with the plate of ignominy. The highest award for failure to perform to ones potential. For your outstanding service as a dishwasher, for the ability to clean even the grimiest of plates under the most favorable of conditions, I award you the plate of shame.” His voice was raising in both fervor and pitch. “Take it you fool. Carry it with you, for all to see. So that all may no the limitless potential of your ineptitude and incompetence.” The waiters were staring in through the open door. Customers were getting from their seats, trying to see the cause of the commotion.
Looking again at the plate, his image faint and deformed, he was revolted. As if suddenly realizing that he was holding rotten meat in his hands, teaming with maggots and roaches, he screamed, “No! I won’t have it!” He threw the plate to the floor with such violence that it unbalanced him and he fell forward, striking his head on the corner of the stainless steel sink.
The shock and pain of hitting his head brought him out of his rant, to find himself on hands and knees, watching a pool of blood, on the floor, rapidly growing in size, as his blood flowed steadily from the gash on his head.
The hostess rushed over, “Oh, Bobby. Your head. Here, here is a cold towel. Sit down and hold the towel on your head.” Her hand was on his shoulder, and he felt himself turning to sit, and taking the towel from her hand, pressing it to where he felt a sharply dull pain at the crest of his head.
“That’s it Bob.” The owner walked in. “I’ve had enough. No more broken dishes, no more screaming rants, no more scaring the customers. Here is your pay, plus an extra day. Take it and don’t come back.”
“I’m sorry, Jack.” He could hear himself saying. “I’m sorry, my head is bleeding.”
“I’m sorry, too, Bob, but you have to go. We’ve tried this and it’s not working.”
“My head is bleeding,” Robert repeated as he got to his feet, he could hear the surprise in his own voice, as if he had just realized why he was holding the towel to his head.
“Go Bob. There’s a clinic down the road, you know where it is.” Jack took him by the elbow, and lead him to the back door.
The light outside was brilliant and harsh. He squinted up the road in the direction of the clinic. He took several steps in that direction, then abruptly turned to cross the street. Amid the honking of horns and cursing of drivers, he made his way to the liquor store. He stepped toward the door but stopped just short of it, sudden horror turning his insides to water, and he felt a wet warmth running down his leg.
In the reflection of the glass door, he saw a monster. Equal in size and nature to the famous Frankenstein monster. It held its overly large head with one hand, blood covering its misshapen face. In its other hand it clutched a wad of $20 bills. The macabre image faded into that of his own, but as urine pooled around his feet, in shame and frustration, he realized that he couldn’t enter the business, in such a condition.
He shoved the bills into one urine soaked pocket. He turned toward the clinic again, but after only a dozen steps he stopped. His head hurt, the world was starting to spin, and his wet clothing chafed his thighs as he walked. He swayed a bit and then sat heavily in the middle of the sidewalk trying to keep the world from spinning around him. However, he soon toppled to his side, vertigo and weakness sapping his balance.
Overwhelmed by his impotence, in pain and self pity, he lay on his side weeping, pedestrians careful to step around him, and careful not to look too closely at him.
He knew that he should go to the clinic, but he couldn’t. They would ask too many questions. “What is your street address?” “Who is your next of kin?” “Do you have your insurance card?” “Are you taking any medications?”
Medication! That’s what he needed, he shifted his body and looked in the direction of the liquor store. He felt for the money in his pocket. “I just need a drink,” he groaned. If he could just get some whiskey he would be alright. He would feel even again, in control. That is why he washes dishes, after all; to buy alcohol. He was too proud to pan handle; still, he needed to get the whiskey, his medicine, to make him feel right, so that he could be himself.
He stood on the front porch of his suburban home staring at the door, the frustrations of the office, like a recent sunburn, persistently aggravating and refusing to cool, even with the passage of time. He stared at the faux antique door knocker, just below the peep hole and in his mind, as if it came directly from a Dickens novel, the knocker took the shape of a human visage. But it wasn’t the ghostly visage of a deceased miserly business partner; it was his own. He pointed his finger at the door and shouted, “You know that I should be the one running that place. I’m the Vice president of production! If they would just listen to me, they could be so much more efficient. Instead it’s, ‘No, Robert, that would take too much time’ or, ‘Put that idea down of paper, Bob, and we can see if we can whittle it down to make it more cost effective.’ It’s been three years now, and they haven’t used a single idea that I’ve presented. Why’d they hire me, if they won’t implement any of my programs.”
He rubbed his face with a sweaty hand, put his key in the lock, and turned it. Strange, the door was unlocked. He would have to talk with Karen; he had lectured her before on keeping the doors locked when she was at home, without him there. He had to lecture her a lot recently; leaving lights on, windows open, going outside in a halter top, and how she was raising their little girl; she was getting a bit spoiled, and only three years old.
He pushed open the door, “Kare?”, he called out. “Honey? You left the door unlocked again, you know how mad that makes me,” his voice trailed off, as he realized that there was nobody home. As he walked through the door to the kitchen he could see the piece of paper on the table. He stopped and stood just inside the doorway, as if not approaching it, not reading it, would make it not real.
The sun had set, and he had to turn on the light to read it, when he finally approached the letter. “We’re gone. Don’t try to find us, you won’t be able to. I’ve taken all we need, you can have the rest.” ‘What more was there?’, he asked himself in despair.
He sat at the table and wept. He only got up to go to the liqueur cabinet, filled a laundry basket with as many bottles as he could and returned to the kitchen table, where he stayed for days. The phone range, people pounded on his doors and windows, but he never answered, never even moved. Finally, weeks later, the police came; they broke open the door and took him; filthy, emaciated, barely coherent; to the hospital.
Here were the police, again. He looked up from where he lay on the sidewalk, holding his bleeding scalp. “What are you doing there, pal? Been in a fight?” A cop with a night stick in his had was asking. “You got an address, bum?” The second cop said, “I think you must be a vagrant. You know we don’t want vagrants bothering the decent people around here.”
He rose on one elbow, looking around, expecting to see vagrants chasing decent people around, threatening them with bad breath and body odor. ‘Decent people’, he thought. ‘I’m a decent person, what about me.’ “I’m bleeding” he shouted at the cop, “can’t you see I’m bleeding?” He was getting to his feet, to speak to the policeman face to face. “I have more education than the two of you combined,” he wanted to shout at them, and make them see that he was a decent man, as decent as any other citizen. All he got out was, “I have more,” when the first cop hit him with the night stick.
Riding in the back of the police cruiser Robert Mc Feergan was about to reenter the American mental healthcare system; prison, limited counseling, even more limited medication, and then back onto the street.
‘Well,’ he thought, ‘At least they use plastic cups in prison.’

Empty
By: Jeff Hite

It started with the layoffs, a few people here and there left. But, then there were still other people to see them, they had to stay hidden. They came out then mostly at night, and whenever there were few people around. Nearly no one ever saw them they were not meant to be seen. Most people that did ever was them thought it was back luck to see them. With all the superstition about them, still only a few believed they were real.
As things went from bad to worse, there were more and more sightings. The fewer people around, the more of them that found their way into the empty places left behind by the humans. Now that the humans are gone, they are all that is left. They inhabit the places that people used to go, they sit at the desks, and tap out messages on the keyboards in front of them. They drink from the chipped and broken coffee cups, they are the things we leave behind. They cannot be denied now, but there is now one left to deny them.

Great Hites Prompt number 50

This weeks prompt is:

“He found himself in a very unfamiliar place”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday April 21st. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.


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Great Hites # 48

Krista won this week’s voting by a landslide with 7 total votes.

This week Hear Great Stories by:
Krista Heiser
Norval Joe
Scott Roche
Ashley Redden

Hear a Promo for:
The Jesus Geeks podcast
Weather Child
Short Cummings Audio

And the new Intro By Kevin Cummings


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The Volunteer Bride
By Krista Heiser

She stood in the back of the room and, for what seemed the millionth time that night, prayed to a God she had once mocked as ineffectual and inattentive. Remembered phrases learned in a back pew of the small town church, the same church she had eventually denounced as being lost in antiquity, found their way into the babbling litany inside her skull. Heavenly Father, Most High, Almighty. She would have knelt if she thought the supplication would have brought a miracle, but she had no faith in miracles, not even small ones. No, moving would only draw their unwanted attention, so she prayed silently with her eyes wide open and her head held high.
As she glanced about the well-lit room, one of dozens inside the interstellar spacecraft, she saw her fear and revulsion mirrored in the eyes of the other women. Their expressions, the way they stiffened whenever one of the males approached, told her they hadn’t understood, either. There had been no hint or warning that their prospective grooms would be anything but human.
She should have asked. Should have known something wasn’t quite right. After all, she had found the brochure in the shelter’s soup line. Blue-green waters, white sands, palm trees and an array of exotic flowers decorated the cover. Layered over the picture were the simple words, “Become a bride. Pick your honeymoon location now.”
She hadn’t thought to question why anyone would leave such inappropriate literature in a soup kitchen – no one in the weakly lit room could afford such luxuries, not when watered-down soup and near-moldy bread were welcome treats – instead, she had picked up a copy because fantasies were free and one of the few things left to her. Captivated by the pictures, she had nearly finished her soup before the words on the page made any sense.
Without any friends or family to notify, she had set out for the Intergalactic Public Relations satellite office. Every established city had one. The one in this city – the name of which she had forgotten or never learned – stood next to a military recruitment office. Behind the two towering structures she had glimpsed the Space Platform and the shuttles that would carry her and her new husband off-world.
Eager to escape the poverty and illness plaguing the multitude on Earth, she had entered the cold, polished interior of the Public Relations building. Showing the brochure to the smiling receptionist, who she thought now may have been smiling just a little too much and for a little too long, she had been escorted to a small conference room.
Gripping the brochure like her next hot meal, she had sat through a brief presentation of the various locations she could pick. Beautiful alien worlds had flashed before her eyes to the sway and tempo of light-hearted, jazzy music.
She had picked one of the planets. She couldn’t remember now why she had picked that one, what had drawn her to that particular landscape or location. But she had picked one and that had set everything into motion. It had put her name on the contract and her signature on the consent form. With the paperwork out of the way, she had been fed, clothed, bathed. She had peed in a cup, given blood, and let them mess with her teeth. It had taken her a few days to realize the toothache she had suffered for the last few months, the one that had caused so much swelling and discoloration, was gone. For the first time in months, she had felt healthy and hopeful. Not even the nausea from the injections had diminished her sense of good fortune.
Until now.
One of the indigo-skinned males bumped her as he moved past. His weight threw her off-balance, forcing her to move when she had wished only to blend into the dull whitewashed walls. As she threw out her hands to steady herself, his three-digit hand closed about her wrist, preventing her from falling or knocking into the next couple. Silvery eyes with no hint of black pupil focused on her with shark-like precision. “Pardon me.”
She didn’t speak his language, yet she understood him, immediately and without fear of misunderstanding. One of the injections, one of the more painful ones, had inserted a translation device into her bloodstream. As she had been warned, the microscopic chip had traveled through her circulatory system until it had found its home in the parietal lobe and inserted itself into the left hemisphere of her brain. Or was it the right hemisphere. The details were a bit fuzzy still.
As they stared at each other, she wondered what other differences set their races apart. Manners, taught to her in an age she had nearly forgotten, an age that had preceded the diseases and plagues, the wars and the skirmishes, reasserted themselves. “That’s quite alright.”
She even managed to smile. Somehow.
She realized then that he had not let her go, that he still held her wrist. Instinct told her to pull away, to put distance between them, but then his voice was in her head. “As you chose my planet, I Choose you.”


Hot Dogs in the Park
By Norval Joe

It was a pleasant day in the city park, and though it was the lunch hour, they were the only two there.
He smiled a toothy grin at her, winked his eye, and licked his lips. She looked his way and sniffed the air; It wasn’t as if she needed to, she could smell him without even trying. He didn’t smell bad, just not very interesting.
He walked over and sat down next to her, as she lay, sunning herself. “Your big head is casting a shadow on me,” she said and looked away. Now that he was close enough for her to really see him, she realized that he wasn’t bad looking at all.
He stood and walked around to her other side and sat again. She found herself looking directly at his chest; full, nicely shaped and muscular.
She snorted; an awkward, accidental, sound, and she was aghast. She turned to look away from him, again, trying to hide her embarrassment.
He leaned over, his mouth close to her ear. “What do I have to do to keep your attention”, he whined, then he laughed.
‘Oh, you have it!’, she thought. She was getting used to his smell and there was something attractive about it.
“I don’t know,” she said eventually, “Tell me something interesting.”
He thought for a moment. “I’m pure,” he said, hopefully.
She rolled her eyes. “That’s what they all say. And that’s not very interesting, anyway.”
“OK,” he said, “You have the most alluring, deepest brown eyes that I have ever seen. They draw me and suck me into them, and hold me there; they tell me that I am your pet, that I must be obedient to your every command.”
She grinned, and said, “That’s close. And very flattering, I might add. But I want to hear something that says, ‘This guy is something special!’ I want to hear something that Wows me.”
He thought for a moment more, and with a gleam in his eye, he said, “I’m a super hero. I can fly.”
She couldn’t help it; she laughed out loud. “That’s one I haven’t heard before,” she said and laughed again. Her laugh was a magical song that lifted him to his feet. She stood as well and he leaned his chest into her and her scent was an intoxicating perfume.
She playfully pushed her shoulder into his chest, and said, “You are kind of cute, maybe we could meet for dinner some time.”
He was overcome by her nearness and nuzzled his nose behind her ear. He licked her neck. The sensation that rippled from her head to her toes was thrilling, but it was sudden and unexpected. She turned her head to look directly in his eyes and said, “Hold on, Turbo. You’re moving a bit fast. I mean, shall we choose where to have the honeymoon, first, or just start naming the children.” Her comment more biting than she intended.
He was slow; he was a guy after all; but he clearly read the sarcasm in her tone, and was abashed. She could see the shock on his face and the hurt in his eyes, as he looked down. She felt guilty and small. “Hold on,” she said, “I just mean, we only met. Let’s take our time.”
Just then, a woman approached. “Oh,” she breathed, “I have to go. I’ll see you around, sometime, ok?” She turned and left.
He sat down, dejectedly, to watch her leave, her stubby legs beating a rapid cadence as she hurried after the woman.
Shocked with realization, he jumped to his feet and barked after her, “I’m Fritz! My name is Fritz!” Floating on the wind, he heard her laugh; that magical laugh; and she said, “I’m Schnitzel.”
He sniffed the air as her laughter faded away. The laughter would fade, but her scent wouldn’t, he could follow her scent forever. He closed his eyes and followed her in his mind; past the post office, the grocery store, the pizza place. As she approached a row of apartment buildings, his senses picked up another smell; he smelled danger.
Without hesitation, he raced to a park bench. Leaping onto it he vaulted himself into the air. Short forelegs extending in front of him, his long ears flowing across the sleek fur of his neck and back, he flew out, over the city, his ultra-canine powers of hearing and scent, alert; he searched for crime.

Magic Quadrant
By: Scott Roche

A slight pinch on his arm woke the captain. His eyes fluttered open to gaze into the nearly golden eyes of his ship’s physician. Dr. Masudi was striking, so having her face to be the first he was to look into wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. She was frowning though and that was rarely a good thing. Her smile was nearly ubiquitous. “Will you marry me?”

The frown turned to a smile. “And where shall we have our honeymoon?” The call and response greeting went back to their first meeting when he woke up in sick bay after his graduation party. It was their little secret. Since then they had become great friends, though they were never romantically involved. When he got the Kongo as his ship, he moved heaven and earth to get her as his doctor.

He tried to stand, but she restrained him.

“Easy Captain.” Her voice was deep and mellow. “You’ve taken a bad fall and I want to scan you before I let you move.” She detached the handheld scanner from the bottom of her tricorder and ran it over his temples. Satisfied with the result, she moved her hand and let him rise.

He stood with a little effort. The table he had been walking towards was now behind him. There was ketchup all over his tunic, at least he thought it was. He ran a finger over a stain and tasted it. Sure enough, not blood.

Masudi made a slightly disgusted sound.

Sean looked up at her, the dark skinned woman was easily three decimeters taller than he was, and smiled. “Sorry doc, it’s crude, but the best test I know of. So what happened?”

She replaced the scanner in its charging unit at the tricorder’s base. “It looks like you hit your head on the edge of that table. There is no skull fracture, or table fracture, evident so you apparently just clipped it. I gave you something to bring you around and to take care of the pain. I don’t detect a concussion either.”

“So what happened?” Sean removed his tunic and tossed it at the bed, moving towards a locker to retrieve a fresh shirt. He was annoyed at having the injury, not that there was any way he could have prepared for the unexpected course correction.

“For that you’ll have to ask Lisor. He is still trying to sort it out.” She slung the scanning device over her shoulder and straightened her pants and blue tunic. She opted to wear trousers instead of the more common short dresses, simply noting that they were more utilitarian. In reality she was a little self conscious of the fact that her legs were almost a meter long. “The thing you should know, well we’re not sure where we are.”

“What?” His voice was a little muffled through the gold material. His head popped out of the hole. “How is that possible?” He started to ask if they had checked the astrogation charts, but that would be a stupid question and would only display the fact that he still wasn’t quite with it. “Belay that.” He waved a hand at her, knowing she’d probably take the questions he did ask as rhetorical. He saw that the light on his data station was flashing and sat down to check it.

“If there isn’t anything else Captain?”

Sean looked up. “Oh, sorry. Any other casualties from the incident?”

Masudi shook her head sharply. “Just our fearless leader. Oh a few bumps and bruises, but you’re the only one who got knocked out.” Her smile broadened.

“Dismissed.” He snapped at her. He wasn’t really angry. One of the reasons he kept her around was that she was nearly immune to his temper and loved to keep his ego deflated. The latter quality wasn’t to the point of disrespect, especially not around the rest of the crew, but it was always ready. He found the combination vital in the person that was not only physician, but counselor. The data came alive on the screen and he struggled to make sense of it. As he read, the communication unit whistled at him. “Thornton.”

“Captain, I trust you are well?” Lisor’s voice betrayed no concern.

“I am. Just knocked around a bit. I’m reading your report. Give me the executive summary.” He continued scanning the stream.

Lisor chuckled. “What you have is the summary, sir.” His voice turned serious. “The only thing I have to add is that Mr. Travis believes that we are nowhere in the Alpha Quadrant.”

Sean whistled. That would put them outside of Federation space and a long way from home, no matter which quadrant they were in. “Well keep on him until he figures out where we are at. I’m gonna pour over this data until I make sense of it. Let me know if anything changes. Thornton out.” He cracked his mental knuckles and started reading in earnest. If they couldn’t figure out what happened then their grandchildren might not see home

The state of Marital Bliss
By: Ashley Redden

Margery practically floated as she sashayed down the residence hall in route to room 142 her long embroidered skirt dancing in front of her moving feet. She was more than excited, Margery was giddy. But this was nothing new. Though the lonely nights were spent at her apartment two blocks away, she returned each and every morning to spend quality time with him. Every morning she underwent the same ritual. But habitual as her mornings were, they never grew old. She swung her hand bag daintily, like a schoolgirl as she walked. “Just a few more steps,” she thought, “just a few more steps to marital bliss, marital bliss and the man of my dreams.”
Finally she arrived. Margery stood for a moment listening, savoring the anticipation of the moment. She knocked twice and, wearing a smile big as tomorrow, entered the room.
“Jacob, my love, it’s me your Margie,” she sang. Jacob lay upon his mattress, slightly raised so that he could better see the wall-mounted television. As she entered his eyelids fluttered. Margery clapped her hands with glee. Jacob was an invalid, comatose as far as the medical community was concerned, but what did they know. For all their fancy smancy education her opinion was that they collectively didn’t know squat. But not her, she was not concerned by their goings on. Margery knew her man.
Over the past seven years she had learned all his mannerisms, no matter how slight. A shift of the finger for an affirmation, a flick of the foot to answer her questions, a flutter of the eyelids, lips or nose to display excitement or concern or any of the other myriad complex emotions that the poor dear must feel while locked into his shell and unable to express himself otherwise.
A little over seven years ago, Jacob had swept her off her feet in a brief but tumultuous two week romance. Margery had never been so happy. They had eloped, been married by the justice of the peace and honeymooned in the Bahamas. Margery still felt her eyes moisten when she thought of the lush beauty of the island Eden that she had explored with Jacob.
Not long after the honeymoon was over, Jacob had fallen ill, becoming comatose almost overnight, though not vegetative but remaining quiescently alert. She had placed him here at a cozy retirement villa and settled down to take care of him for as long as he would need her. She had found the transition from fiery romance to quiet domestic marriage more than fulfilling. The knowledge and security that she was needed by the man she adored seemed, in some compelling way, to complete her. Margery felt that she had blossomed to full womanhood after assuming her role as the doting domestic wife.
Jacob was always there to show his support, a twitch of the nose here, flutter of the eyelids there, quite the chatterbox. On queue, Jacob twitched his nose then both ears as a raspberry fluttered from his closed lips.
“My,” said Margery, “that’s a new one. Jacob, you’re in quite the state today. It’s okay; I have exactly what you need.” Margery put her bag down onto the floral settee; a woman’s touch that, and withdrew a slender bottle of elixir. As she lifted the bottle, Margery thoughts drifted to her father as they always did when she lovingly held this particular bottle.
Her father had been quite a brilliant man, a scientist no less. His formal education had been in pharmaceutical botany, his specialty in herbal medicinals. Margery never understood the complex symbols or many of the huge words, but she listened intently and was always the very best student. Her father’s most prominent research was botanically derived elixirs that affected the body human the results of which ran the gambit from mild sedation to death. Her father was also quite knowledgeable in the traceability of these chemical agents. Luckily, by the time he met his untimely death after an unexpected mysterious exposure to a particularly deadly botanical elixir, Margery had become an adept on the subject.
She swept a single tear from her eye with her index finger; she had dearly loved that man.
She brought the elixir bottle to Jacob’s mouth, slightly prying his lips apart. She unstoppered the bottle and gently touched the contents to his now visible tongue. Jacob’s eyes fluttered once, twice then were still.
“There, there love,” whispered Margery. “Calm down now, everything’s going to be just fine, right as rain,” she said patting his chest lovingly. Margery smiled anew and settling down onto the settee began to remove sewing utensils from her hand bag. “No matter what my love, we’ll always have the wonderful time we spent together on our honeymoon.”
“You just rest now and your Margie will hum us a nice tune,” said Margery as she fastened her linen fabric into the hoop. She began to hum a happy tune as she relaxed with her cross stitching and settled down into peaceful wedded bliss. Jacob lay still as a stone upon his slightly raised bed, eyes fixed upon the unplugged television. Time went on.

Great Hites Prompt number 49


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This weeks prompt is:

“Chipped and broken coffee cups.”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday April 7th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.

Great Hites # 47

This Week we have Stories by

This weeks winner was Norval Joe!

Scott Roche
Norval Joe
And
Jeff Hite

Hear Feed back and learn about submitting your own prompt.


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Magic Quadrant Part 3
By
Scott Roche

The mysterious figure hunched over and crawled into the Jefferies tube, pulling the access door shut, behind him. He was certain that he hadn’t been followed. This deck level was largely empty during even a normal duty cycle. In addition, thanks to the Red Alert status which relegated everyone not on duty to their quarters, it was even less likely that he would be discovered. Still if someone in security did catch him there would be hard questions.

Once he was securely in place, he slid the small device out from its hiding place and slapped it on a conduit. Unless you knew exactly where to look there was no way anyone would spot it. Satisfied with that he spoke into the micro-recorder he had in his bag of tricks. “Log number forty-seven, Agent Alpha Three dash Zero Zero Seven recording. We have arrived at the agreed upon coordinates. I have necessary access to all of the ship’s subsystems as required by my mission. If I run into any problems I will avail myself of whatever options I can find, though I want to state for the record that I find none of the potential answers is very savory.”

Stating it for the record would do little good if the recorder never made it back into his overseer’s hands, but it made him feel better. “I will initiate self destruct or make the necessary adjustments to the power structure to assume command only if I am forced to do so. Otherwise I shall let things proceed as planned.”

Working for Section 31 often meant that he had to do things that most people would find not only unsavory but perhaps even outright treasonous. If it meant keeping the Federation safe though, no agent worth his salt counted the personal cost. The only problem was, this particular agent had let his guard down and started to get to know this crew. He was friends with some of them.

That didn’t mean he would shirk his sacred duty. Friendship meant little if they were thrust into a disaster, the proportions of which made their involvement necessary. It still made the whole matter stickier than he liked. “The science officer has yet to detect the modifications that were made to the sensor package. I await the transmission from our operatives on the other side. Agent Alpha Three dash Zero Zero Seven out.” He replaced the micro-recorder into the slit pocket in his red tunic’s sleeve. Only the most advanced sensors would detect it and even then it would have to be turned on.

He turned in the cramped space and opened the hatch. Satisfied that the coast was clear, he crawled out and dogged the hatch behind him again. He had three minutes to return to his quarters before he was missed. That was plenty of time.

Family Matters
By: Norval Joe

The king stood in the passage just outside the open door to his daughters ante chamber, and watched the ladies-in-waiting hover and fuss like a swarm of helpful bees attending to a single flower. “She is beautiful’, he thought as the ladies primped and preened her in preparation for the betrothal feast, just a few hours away.
A son-in-law that would be the most beneficial alliance for the kingdom was not the foremost factor in the kings mind as he negotiated with the eligible men of the surrounding kingdoms, but it was high on the list. He wanted his only daughter to be happy, that was foremost. Ten kingdoms touched the boundaries of his own, or were within a days ride of it. All had varying degrees of hostility or cooperation with his land. Should he choose the son of his most trusted alliance and cement a relationship that was already strong, or pursue the son of his most heated rival and build a bridge to cooperation that had been difficult to achieve in the past? Would allying with this rival, then, offend his trusted friend, and thus shake a fundamental and valued relationship? Should he choose the dim witted, but handsome, youth of one king over the intelligent, but middle aged brother of another? None of the choices had been simple; all had potential repercussions that might prove to be undesirable.
He had made his decision and forged an alliance with one of the more distant kingdoms that produced much of the grain that his kingdom used; It had seaports and was strong in trade with distant, exotic countries. In addition to fields of grain and sailing ships, the kingdom had a prince, the heir to the thrown, a few years older than his daughter. The princess had accompanied the king and her older brother each autumn, since she was eight years old, as the king traveled to the foreign land to secure treaties and trade agreements. It would seem that the princess had been concealing an interest in the young prince for many years; when he presented the idea to the princess of marriage to this young man, she reacted with indifference, and replied, “My desire is to serve the kingdom. If this is what is expected of me, I can do nothing but comply with your wish.”
‘She will be a beautiful queen,’ the king thought, proudly, as he heard her reply, her shining eyes putting the lie to her affected indifference.
The king turned from the door and walked toward the banquet room, where his trusted advisors and ministers were preparing to receive the prince and his envoy, in preparation for the official betrothal.
A scribe, red faced and perspiring sped down the passage and threw himself at the kings feet. “My Lord, I bring the gravest of news. The princes envoy was attacked as it passed through the eastern forests, and the prince was taken hostage. The rest of the entire party were killed, save a single squire. He reached our gates only this very hour. He said that there is a large contingent moving this way. He brought this emblem from a dead solder of the attacking party.”
Mechanically, the king took the emblem form the messengers outstretched hand. He recognized it immediately and wanted to cast it down in disgust. The kings face paled then reddened in turns, as the implications of the attack clarified in his mind. “Rise, good servant.” The king said gruffly. “Send word that all are to gather in the banquet hall within the hour. I must, now, speak to my daughter.”
His son stood and all discussion ceased in the hall when the king entered. He was composed, but it was evident from his demeanor that the news was not easily received by his daughter. Emotionally drained and feeling all of his five and a half decades, he dropped into the large cushioned seat in the middle of the long banquet table; with a wave of his hand, he indicated that all who stood in attendance, should sit. “Father, will she be alright”, the prince leaned in and whispered? He nodded an abbreviated half-nod to reassure his son.
All the choices were before the king, and he knew that a decision would need to be made quickly.
He looked, first, down the table to his left. There sat his minister of finance, the deep sense of unease clearly readable in her eyes. She saw his contemplative stare and quickly glanced down to the sheets of parchment on the table before her. She shuffled them about and acted as if she was reading them, hoping that this would divert the Kings attention elsewhere. Her lead accountant sat to her right, careful not to look up from his own notes. To her left sat her chief economist, blissfully unaware of the tension.
He then looked down the table to his right. His minister of trade sat between two of his long time friends, the guild masters of the bakeries and the blacksmiths.
Between these two groups were arrayed the various other ministers and advisors.
The king signalled to his steward who rang the dinner chime and the room was suddenly filled with servants rushing about to get the various platters and tureens onto the long banquet table within three of the kings deep, steadied breaths; they knew that he was counting, and were too familiar with the results, if the count was too long. The food on the table, the servants disappeared as quickly as they had come.
“Eat”, the king declared when the last of the servants had left the banquet hall, “This was to be a celebration banquet, after all.” He looked at the steaming entrées, a look of dismay growing on his face; sweet and sour soups, candied yams, and chocolate fondues. He looked at his ever expanding waist and at the dinner service again. ‘All sweets’, he thought, ‘ not a savory choice on the table. No wonder I’m getting so fat!’
He looked up from his evaluation of the table to see his dinner guests; The entire entourage sat, motionless, waiting for the king to be the first to eat; someone’s stomach groaned loud enough for half the table to hear.
The noise startled the king from his contemplative stasis. With a heat he hadn’t expected, he growled at his advisors, “Make your selections and eat. With an invading army approaching our lands, we’ve many decisions to make this evening, and none of them are savory.” He slammed the table for emphasis and picked up a honey coated date ball to throw, sullenly, into his mouth. The dates were crunchy and sweet, yet difficult to swallow.
They all began to eat cautiously pondering the steps that must be taken to prepare for war.

Merideth Introduction
By Jeff Hite

The Sound of his phone Ringing was like a nail being driven into his skull. The headache was back, and the high trill of his phone was almost more than he could handle this morning. He thought about ignoring it but, both ignoring it and answering it had consequences that he didn’t really want to face that this point. It rang one more time before he made his decision and picked it up.
“Rob, this is Mary.” Rob did the best not to roll his eyes. Mary was the best receptionists the company had, but her voice had a quality that could strip paint of walls in any direction she choose to point it.
“Yes, Mary.”
“Rob, you have a guest up here, and your conference call with marketing is in five minutes.” It was completely odd for a guest to be visiting him. Mary was very good about not letting any sales people in, and he didn’t have any planned guests from the other departments.
“Who is it Mary?”
“I don’t know Rob, he would not give me his name, and when I tried to get rid of him, he said he was an old friend and that you would make time for him.”
“An old friend huh?” If this job had one cost it was his social life. He had not been home before nine thirty in over a month, and had mostly spend his weekends just trying to recover from the weeks. That was of course the weekends that he didn’t end up working. “Alright Mary, I will be but shortly. When the conference call comes in, can you stall them for a few minutes?”
“Alright Rob, but they won’t buy it for long.”
“Thanks Mary.” He hung up the phone and took a quick look at the train wreck that was his schedule today, then he made his way to the front lobby. There was a man sitting in the chair facing away from him, and a woman in the chair opposite him that he could not take his eyes off of. When she meet his eyes he felt like the room had just lit up.
“Rob, look at you,” the voice was unmistakable, and it was probably the one thing that forced him to take his eyes off the woman, now standing up in front of him.
“Larry, what? but where have you.”
“Larry?” Mary’s voice removed the last spot of stubble he’d missed this morning.
“Surprised to see me again?”
“That is an under statement.” Rob said when he finally was able to speak again.
“Yea well things happen in funny ways.”
“The last time I saw you was on the top.”
“Lets not talk about that now,” he said holding up his hands. “Rob, I would you like you to meet my friend Meredith.” The woman at Larry’s side held out her, hand and for the first time in his life, Rob felt like maybe he should kiss it and not shake it.
“It is nice to meet you Meredith. Did you meet Larry in Greece?”
“You could say that,” She said with a smile and voice that made him feel warm. “It is very nice to meet you, Larry has spoken a lot about you.”
“Rob, your meeting is waiting.”
“Thanks Mary. Listen Larry,” Rob started.
“It is alright Rob, I understand I just wanted to let you know that we were back in town. Can you meet us for a late dinner. We can celebrate your promotion. Mary told me you got Dave’s job.”
“Alright, but.”
“No buts tonight at the steakhouse on the west side of Broadway at nine-ish alright?” Rob nodded dumbly. “Great, we will see you there. Get to that marketing call.”
Rob watched the two of them go and could almost feel the room getting colder as they stepped from the lobby to the streets beyond. Larry had been one of his only friends for years. Mostly because they both worked for Unitide, but Larry had been gone for years since they had lost sight of each other while looking for what Larry thought was the was entrance into the home of the gods. And what about the woman with him. Larry had never, as far as Rob knew, been very good with women, and Meredith was certainly the most beautiful woman that Rob had ever seen him with. He didn’t have time to think about this now. He needed to have his thoughts together for this call, or the marketing team would walk all over his department again.

Prompt suggestions

I am now opening up the floor for Writing prompt suggestions.

Here is the way this works. Normally I pick a topic over the weekend and post it on Monday or Tuesday. I have been leaning pretty heavily on other people asking friends for topics things like that for the last few weeks, so I thought I would open it up.

If you would like to submit a topic here is what you need to do.

1. Send me the topic, e-mail, twitter, leave a comment, voice mail whatever way you want.

2. The topic HAS TO BE PG rated

3. Once I get the topic I will let you know if I will use it. By the way, this is your opportunity if you have trouble writing a story in a week, if I accept your topic you will have until I use it to get a story written. You will have the advantage. The chance to get a really good story written and polished and everything.

Topics can be as long or as short as you you like. (if you want to see ones I have used in the past look at posts labeled with “Creative Writing Prompts”)