GreatHites 59 Take 2

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This week have stories by:
Scott Roche
Guy David
Mick Bordet
Norval Joe
WinnerDanny Machal <——– This weeks winner
Jeff Hite

Magic Quadrant part 8 It is Verboten
By: Scott Roche

Wilkerson would have been somewhat surprised to learn that neither the transporter nor the on board weapons fire had triggered the red alert. A ship had come out of warp just a few degrees off of their port side. It didn’t look like any ship Lisor had ever seen in his life. A mass of spikes and protrusions, it looked for all the world like a puffer fish had mated with an asteroid.

There was no way to tell which way it was ‘looking’. That made a certain amount of sense for a vessel that would spend all of its time in deep space. After all there was no up, down, left, or right. The configuration of most Federation vessels took into account atmospheric flying and probably no small amount of tradition.

The star field around it rippled for hundreds of kilometers. A flash of brilliant color streaked from one of the protrusions and touched the space where their current adversary hung. Pico seconds later there was something that looked for all the world like a Federation vessel, but with four warp nacelles rather than the typical two.

The science officer had been hearing for the last few years about the experiments with adding additional nacelles, but so far the results he heard about were far from conclusive. This ship had no markings indicating that it was of Federation origin, there was no doubt in his mind though that it was. Now that it had been forced to uncloak everything his sensors told him indicated that it was a sister, or at least a cousin, to the Kongo. That would explain why everything it had done to date had been familiar.

Behind him Captain Thornton was barking orders and everyone responded like the machine they had become under his command. It left him free to scrutinize the new comer as well. When he was called upon he wanted to have something useful to contribute

The streams of data flowed and he assimilated it rapidly. The metals and power source that the spheroid used were a complete puzzle. The dark flickering was a shield of some sort. Whether it would deflect their weapons fire at all or for how long wasn’t something he could tell. The beam that brought the other ship out of its cloaked mode was also completely alien.

There was a sudden surge in his viewfinder and the new arrival unleashed a torrent of energy towards now visible ship. “Captain they possess some sort of plasma weapon.”

The effect on the target was dramatic. The shields scintillated and seemed to bleed off energy. Readings on the shield’s effectiveness scrolled up into view. Making a few calculations based on what the Kongo’s own protection offered he felt it pertinent to make a suggestion. “Recommend you avoid being hit by that sir. One of those would take our shields down by eighty-five percent.”

Thornton nodded. “I don’t plan on it. Mr. Singh, evasive maneuvers. Mr. Travis, prepare to fire all phasers on the new vessel and bring the photon torpedos to bear. Banks, hail both vessels and let me know when they respond.”

The deck of the Kongo seemed to stay constantly level in spite of the gyrations Singh was putting her through. The tension on the bridge was thick. Suddenly a voice came on over communications panel on the captain’s chair. “Wilkerson to the bridge. We have intruders on Deck Ten.”

Thornton stabbed at a button to reply to the unexpected message, but there was no response. Wilkerson must have disabled his communicator after transmission. That was verboten by standard protocol and usually not even possible. He growled and hailed the security chief. “I want a team on Deck Ten in thirty seconds.” He didn’t wait for an answer.

“Captain, we have a hail from the starship.” Banks said.

“Put it through.” Thornoton listened with anticipation. Since being fired upon, the ship now calling them had begun a textbook evasive routine. The planetoid had yet to repeat its assault.

“Captain Thornton, this is Captain Deale of Section 31. We would appreciate your assistance with the current threat.” Deale’s voice was distinctly feminine, though husky and deep.

Thornton nodded. “We’re prepared to assist. We’ll talk later about what you were playing at up until a few seconds ago afterwards.” The way Section 31 worked there was no guarantee of that.

The unnamed Section 31 vessel opened fire first. Eight light beans cut through vacuum and seemed to be literally deflected from their path. Whatever it was using for a shield was different than Federation technology which served to dissipate more than deflect.

Lisor saw another energy fluctuation. “Hard port.” The Kongo listed to the left as Singh enabled them to avoid the full brunt of the attack. “Shields at seventy percent captain.”

“Feed targeting information to Travis. I want to target the weapons system.” The captain grasped the arms of his chair.

The data flowed from his station to Travis’. It would be interesting to see if the weapon was localized like their phaser arrays. It didn’t seem to be the case. Whether or not their torpedoes would penetrate was also a question.

A brilliant flash filled the forward view screen, overcoming the automatic polarization and whiting it out briefly. When the view came back nothing occupied the space where it had been.

Thornton stood. “That was too easy. Lisor, what do you have?”

Lisor looked into his view finder. There was no evidence of destruction, just the void. “Nothing captain. It’s like nothing was ever there.”

The communicator at Thornton’s chair chirped again. He punched the button. “Go ahead.”

Wilkerson’s voice came through loud and clear. “Captain. We have a problem.” The Section 31 agent looked at his feet. There lay the body of a human where an alien had been before.

Iridescent Angel
By: Guy David

“Has it really been eight years?” asked Abigail. Ezaria just stared at the big wall and didn’t answer. The big wall was forever moving, shifting, like some cloud trapped inside glass. It was a constant in their life, the forbidden border of their world. No one crosses the wall. That’s the way it has been since the singularity, almost 2000 years ago, yet his own daughter did it. She defiantly crossed the wall, never to be seen again.

When the singularity came, so the stories of the ancients go, everyone changed, became what was called “transhuman”. The people of ancient times knew the truth. They knew it was wrong. It was an abomination. It was against the will of the gods, but they where few. They couldn’t change the mind of the others, so the gods erected the walls. The story was passed on throughout the ages. No one knew what was beyond the walls, but they knew the walls where forbidden by the gods so they stayed away, that is until little Ebony decided to question. Questioning the will of the gods was wrong, forbidden, but that didn’t stop her. She was determined. When she was 12, little Ebony went with her parents on a picnic near the southern wall. Suddenly she got up and started running towards the wall. Before the startled Abigail and Ezaria could respond she was at the wall, then she was past it. There was nothing her parents could do. It was forbidden.

In the years that followed they tried to live with their loss but they grew distant. While Abigail said they should go after her, Ezaria insisted it was forbidden. The post singularity demons where beyond the wall. They didn’t follow the rulings of the gods with their infinite wisdom. All they followed was destruction and their evil ways. So the scriptures told them. Then, the time came. It would have been Ebony’s 20th birthday. Abigail and Ezaria where arguing again, then Abigail said blasphemous words. She said that the gods might be wrong. That the gods might not exist in the first place. That gods that would let them suffer that way are not worth their belief, then she said the unthinkable. She told Ezaria she was going to go look for her child. She was going beyond the walls. Ezaria tried to talk her out of it but it was of no use. She was as determined as little Ebony have been eight years ago.

Now, as they stood opposite the wall, Ezaria knew they would have to go through. He hoped his courage would stand for what he had to do. He knew it would be inevitable. There is only one way you can deal with evil. “Let’s go” he said, gathering his courage. They reached the wall and Abigail tried to touch it with her hands. they went through it. She breathed deep and walked through the wall. Ezaria followed. On the other side, things where different. The world Abigail and Ezaria lived in was natural. It had large planes of vegetation, trees and waterfalls. Their world was always perfect. The weather was comfortable and the food was plenty. At first glance, the other side looked the same, then Abigail started noticing small things. The colors where too strong and the light was too perfect. There was an unnatural feeling to the air, a feeling that was almost magical and somehow artificial. “It’s beautiful” said Abigail in spite of herself. It was then that she noticed the angel, a naked woman with wings, flying towards her, her body glowing. “I’ve been expecting you” she said, her hand outstretched towards her and Abigail immediately recognized her Ebony. It was then she heard the gun shut and the angle fell out of the sky, a red spot forming where her heart was. “What have you done” was all Abigail could manage before Ezaria shot her too.

She awoke in a white room, full of light. She was laying on a white bed and Ebony was sitting in a white chair opposite her with her wings glowing behind her. Ebony smiled. She was still naked and there was no sign for her wound. “Things heal faster here” she answered the unasked question. “But… how?” was all Abigail could manage. “Lay still” said Ebony, “your rejuv is not over yet. Your insides are still being healed.” said Ebony, “This facility has the most advanced rejuv technology. They patch you up in no time.” “Rejuv?” asked Abigail, baffled. “Rejuvenation” answered Ebony. Abigail closed her eyes, sleep overcoming her. She drifted in and out of sleep many times that day.

The following day she was feeling better and could ask more questions. Ebony happily answered everything. It was not as the scriptures have told them. The singularity did come, but it made everyone smarter and kinder. People started living comfortably and pursuing their dreams. They could be as they liked and do as they pleased. Not everyone liked it. Some people where too religiously fanatic and wanted nothing to do with it. They said it was against the will of the gods. That is why a reservation was created for them. That was where Abigail and Ezaria lived and conceived Ebony. It was surrounded by walls because the people inside the walls wanted to keep to themselves. There where ways for the post singularity people to keep watch over the reservation, looking after the needs of those who chose to be inside it. In time, the people inside the reservation forgot where they came from. They became hateful of the post singularity people, thinking of them as demonic heretics. Rules where passed against passing the walls. When Ebony passed the walls, she learned of the outside world and that is where she chose to live. She kept watch over her parents, and when she saw they where coming for her she waited for them. She didn’t know how religiously fanatic her father was. She didn’t know he was going to try and destroy her and her mother. Now he was back to the reservation believing he had killed an unthinkable evil and Abigail was welcomed to stay with her if she wanted. Abigail agreed. She already knew that was what she wanted to do.

Kelvin’s Last Message
By: Mick Bordet

The internet was buzzing with information about the sightings; rumours, wild speculation and conspiracy theories prevailed, but there was enough useful data amongst it all to get us started. Descriptions of the flying craft varied between the reports, but there were enough common factors to suggest there were no more than two of them, either diamond or cigar-shaped, shimmering even in the absence of the sun, and leaving a smoking black trail in their wake.

Kelvin and I had been fascinated by tales of UFOs since our early childhood, tracking down every new book on the subject and trawling the papers for the latest sighting reports. We had a database of thousands of incidents catalogued and cross-referenced and knew almost instantly whether a report was accurate, misreported or simply bogus attention-seeking. Decades of experience informed our gut feelings that this latest spate of appearances was the real thing.

I first noticed one of the more unusual characteristics of these sightings after the fourth incident. The early ones were all overseas: two in Egypt, one in Greece, a couple in Scandinavia, but I was able to work out approximate trajectories from witness reports, and in every case the path led back to the UK. Later appearances have all been in the UK, as far as we can tell, zig-zagging across the country in a Northerly direction.

It is relatively rare for UFOs to be seen landing, but an unusually high proportion of these reports included references to landings, though none have descriptions of contact being made with the occupants of the craft. However, this did set Kelvin on the course of identifying common features of the known landing sites, resulting in an unexpected conclusion.

“They’re almost all located close to either neolithic settlements or monuments; those that aren’t are near more recent, but still very old, sites. It’s like they’re doing a tour of history,” Kelvin told me a week ago.

“Are you saying von Däniken was right, then?” I asked.

“Not necessarily, but it’s certainly more than just a coincidence, you’ve got to admit.”

“I guess so. It certainly seems less likely to be an experimental military craft given the locations. The question is, can we use that information to our advantage?” I asked.

We could, as it turned out. Using the routes we already had plotted out, in conjunction with a list of historic and prehistoric sites, we produced a shortlist of almost twenty likely locations. On further investigation, two of these in the South of England had recent reports of unusual activity in the area, despite there being no reference to UFOs, hence we had not spotted them previously. Of more interest to us, though, were three sites within fifty miles of home that had yet to be visited; Dunottar Castle on the coast, an archeological dig in a proposed supermarket car park in Forfar and the Standing stones at Aberlemno.

It was a long shot, but we decided to visit the three sites to see if we would be lucky enough to be present at one of the appearances. I went to Dunottar, it being the most likely site, given the number of other castles that had been visited, whilst Kelvin would move between the other two locations because of their relative proximity to each other.

No sooner had I arrived at the castle, than my phone gave a beep. I read the message from Kelvin, “It is verboten here now” was all it said. That didn’t make much sense. He wasn’t one for mixing German in with English, so I guessed it was a coded message, designed to mean something to me whilst bypassing the governmental phone-monitoring systems.

“It must be important”, I thought as I dialled his number to seek clarification. There was no response. “Forbidden, why would it be forbidden where he is?” I mumbled to myself, trying to work out the logic behind the message.

Did he mean that there was something that would make it impossible for the UFO to be present at his location, in which case it was important that I stayed where I was, or was he forbidden to enter the area, perhaps due to military or police presence? It could have been either and, with no means of contacting him, I had no choice but to sit and wait. He would fully document the incident if it did take occur and I would never forgive myself if I missed an opportunity to see one of these ships, so I sat in my car overlooking the spectacular views of the castle perched on the rocks above the rugged coastline and waited. I took the time to set up the video camera and the digital camera with telephoto lens, ready to start filming as soon as I saw anything, though nothing appeared.

The report on the radio at noon brought the news I didn’t want to hear. There had been another sighting, this time at the Tesco supermarket in Forfar in front of hundreds of witnesses. I started the engine, threw the car into reverse, turned out of the car park and sped back towards Forfar, now more worried that I was still unable to reach Kelvin on the phone.

I arrived at the scene half an hour later to find the town crawling with military vehicles, police, dozens of anonymous-looking black cars and a crowd of journalists skirting the enforced boundary like a wave seeking out cracks in a cliff. I asked several policemen about Kelvin, describing him and that fact that he would almost certainly be filming the landing. Eventually, I was directed to the temporary incident room that had been set up inside the supermarket itself.

“Several people have mentioned seeing a man with a video camera, but nobody has seen him since… the incident,” said the police officer dealing with enquiries, “he seems to have disappeared.”

I spent the next couple of hours searching the town for Kelvin, calling both his home and mobile phones and sending numerous text messages, all to no avail. He wasn’t at his flat either, so I returned home and checked my email. There was a message from him. In fact it was from his video blogging page, informing me that he had posted a new video online. The message had been sent shortly after I had received the last text message from Kelvin. I clicked the hyperlink within the email.

The webpage opened and the video clip started running. It showed a brief glimpse of the outside of the Tesco building before moving upwards to focus on a cigar-shaped object descending from the sky, leaving a thin trail of dense black smoke behind it. The image on the camera changed regularly from clear to blurred and back again as the iridescent surface of the craft seemed to interfere with the autofocus system. Kelvin started providing a commentary, his voice wavering between excitement and fear.

“This is Kelvin Macarthur. Monday the 15th,” he held his watch up to the camera, “11:05 am at Forfar. Site two of three forecast landing locations. Oh, flip, they’re landing.”

The camera dipped towards the ground for a moment, then returned to the descending craft as it approached the tarmac. I could see the edge of Kelvin’s phone at the bottom-left corner of the screen.

“Paul, you need to get over here,” he said as the phone started moving onscreen in response to his button presses, “Okay, okay. Concentrate, now. It is Tesco. UFO here now. Send. Come on bud, you don’t want to miss this one.”

The craft landed and a figure stepped out. As with the surface of the ship, the camera could not focus on the pilot as he (or she or it) approached, walking directly towards Kelvin.

“This may be my last transmission,” he said, his voice now strong and full of purpose, “I’m sending it out now, but if I can I’ll record more later. If I survive.”

With that, the recording stopped. I pulled out my mobile and opened the message list to read his last text to me.

“It is verboten here now,” I read again, ” It is Tesco. UFO here now. Great. Predictive text at its finest.”

Kelvin would have laughed at that. Wherever he was.

Skin Deep Beauty
By: Norval Joe

“Look at this” Morroh’ah said to the other girl. “It’s a new laundry soap.” She held out the brown clay bottle for her friend to see.
“It looks like and ordinary bottle of soap to me, Morr. What’s so special about it?” She replied.
“Don’t be a pinhead, Dintira-sha” she said, using her friends formal name, “Smell it. It’s the smell that make it different,” She dug her greasy finger nail into the soft wax stopper and pulled the plug free of the bottles’ neck.
She held the wax plug in one hand and the open bottle out to her friend in the other. “Smell it,” she said. “A peddler brought it to the door this afternoon and gave it to me. He said that I should try the soap, and if I was satisfied with its results, I could make a recommendation to the mistress. He would be back in a few days and would like to sell her some. He claimed that we would not be disappointed.”
Dintira smelled the open bottle. “That is nice, but put it away before we get in trouble,” she said, discreetly glancing around them.
Morroh’ah re stoppered the bottle. “It smells just like flowers, doesn’t it? But I can’t place which,,,,” her voice trailed off as she stared at her palm. Dintira noticed the shocked look on her friends face and stepped closer to follow her stare. “What’s wrong with your hand?” she asked. She began to share her friends concern.
Where Morroh’ah had held the wax plug in her palm was a circle of perfectly clean skin. The ubiquitous and requisite grease drew away from where the soap had touched her hand.
When a child was born to Morroh’ah’s class a dark acrid grease is smeared over the entire body. This grease is so tenacious that only time will remove it. Therefore, each new moon, a new layer of the grease is ritually applied. A woman’s, or girl’s, hair, which is never cut, is unwound from the traditional bun. Her mother, sisters, or other female relatives comb the long hair and apply a new layer of the dark grey-brown salve. The hair is then returned to its tightly wrapped bun, and the woman will cover the rest of her body in layers of the grease until she is evenly coated.
At the same time, the men’s hair is cut short at the brow, ears and back of the neck. It is then smeared with grease and plastered flat to the head. The rest of the body is smeared with the grease as well.
Morroh’ah-shee was of the Duneen class; a class of laborers, servants and outcasts. To advance above that class, even one level, to the ranks of the shop keepers, was not only forbidden, but impossible. Impossible because of the Duneen-sho’ah, the grease of birth, that was never to be removed. It never could be removed, until now.
The mistress approached and Morroh’ah quickly rubbed the clean spot on her palm trying to blend the grease of her other palm into it, to hide it. Instead, the palms of both hands appeared unnaturally pale.
When the mistress reached them the two girls bowed and placed hands, palm down, on their knees. She felt the course linen of her breaches under her hands and was grateful to be able to conceal her crime so simply.
“Here is a bag of clothing that you may use as scouring rags. No doubt, once your filthy hands have touched them, they will be good for nothing else.” She dropped the bag of clothes at the feet of the servants with contempt. It was true that once the clothes were touched by the hands of Duneen, they would be permanently stained by the sho’ah on their hands. The mistress, turned and left the servants without further comment or, for that matter, thought. Her long, red, hair flowing behind her like a cape, stray wisps of the hair floating, weightless around her head.
“That woman is as dull as a clay pot.” Morroh’ah said when she knew that the Mistress was beyond the sound of her voice.
“Morroh’ah-shee. Don’t speak like that. I,” Dintira stammered, visibly flustered. “I didn’t hear that. No, no, no. I didn’t”
“Ah, Dinti. Come on. That cow is no better than either of us. She is no smarter and my mother is far prettier. The only thing that makes her any better is the silver-flower cream they rubbed on her at her birth, instead of this dog dirt.” She made a distasteful sneer and ran her finger along the back of the other arm, indicating the grease.
Dintira was markedly pale under the grey brown grease and took several rapid breaths before she could reply. “That’s it. If you can’t keep your tongue controlled and remember your proper place, you can just do this work yourself. I’m going home.”
She left Morroh’ah, the sack of clothes, and the bottle of foreign detergent. Dintira-sha never saw any of them again.

“Mother, there is an angel at the door, and I don’t know what she wants. She won’t talk.” The boy said and waited silently for his mothers response.
“An angel, is it, dear?” She said and looked up from her needlework. She smiled at her son. “Karthuur, how do you know it’s an angel?”
“Well,” he put his finger in his mouth and furrowed his brow. “Well, she’s glowing. Normal people don’t glow, do they?” He asked, testing his logic. “And her hair. It’s like fire, bright yellow flames.”
“You are so clever to notice such details” She beamed at her son. “Let’s go see this angel.”
At the door was the most remarkably beautiful woman she had ever seen. He skin was so milky white and without blemish that she understood her sons assumption that this was a heavenly messenger. Her golden yellow hair glowed in the afternoon light. This color of hair was unknown to the people of Karretheen. He hair was so full and long that it created a luminous halo around her body above her hips. He lips were full and deep red. Her eyes were oddly familiar, yet somehow out of place.
Her dress was golden satin trimmed with lace that must have been expensive several years before when it was in style. Though it hung loosely on her, as if she had recently lost weight, it appeared otherwise unused and in perfect condition.
The shock of seeing this strikingly beautiful woman standing at her doorstep eventually wore off. The mistress of the house unconsciously curtsied, and said, “My dear, come in. How may I help you?”
The stranger stepped across the threshold and stopped, “I beg your pardon. I’m so confused” She buried her face in her hands as she broke into tears, “I don’t know who I am.”
“Dear, dear,” The house mistress cooed, “come sit here, please.” She said, showing the younger woman to a couch. When she sat, the mistress called to her servant, who rushed into the room.
“Bree’ah-thaa, fetch me a cup of water.”
“Yes Mistress,’ the Duneen servant said. She bowed and backed from the room, keeping her eyes on the ground. Eyes that matched those of the beautiful stranger.

Title: Reconstruction
By: Danny Machal

“Eh, where you at mate?” Logan snapped his fingers. “Didn’t you hear me?”

“Hear you when?” I said.

“Just now? Here you are, off on some distant planet. Here I am,
spillin’ me bloody guts out about me mum. All the while your off
rodgerin’ in some dream world with lord only knows what.”

“Sorry mate. Just kinda spaced out ya’ know?” I wasn’t that sorry.
Whenever Logan was drunk, the first, second, third, and last subject
he ever talked about was his ruddy mother. He would go on about how
she secretly wished for the Reconstruction to fail, or how she wasn’t
treatin’ his dad fair, an gettin’ round to the other toms on the
block. She was a right fair git don’t get me wrong, but a bloke can
only be told the same tale so many times. Besides, if Logan knew what
I knew through me dad, about the Reconstruction, he’d join his ruddy
ole mum and burn flags.

“Eh, you’re hopeless mate ya’ know that?” Logan said brushing the
golden shoulder length hair from his eyes.

I spaced out again. It’s getting time to head to our respective
lofts over on third street anyway. We both live in the same men’s
dorm. I’m not sure he’s going quietly or if he can even walk. He
isn’t that much bigger than me, but we are both fairly short stout
blokes. I’m fortunate to be a little more firm in the sinew than he
is though, so I can muscle him about if it comes to it.

It came to it only once before it did. Some tom gets spouting off
about how the lass Logan was seeing is getting round. Naturally this
strikes a chord with my hot tempered friend and he sees fit to break a
beer bottle on the bar. Grabs the bloke by his arm and starts slicing
at his chest, all barbarian like. I nearly broke his arm myself
getting him out of there. Of course I took a slice to the arm while
trying to save him from arrest. Bloody F5 Agents are crawling the
streets these days just looking for a good reason to send a young
bloke to a labor camp. He looked alright tonight though. As long as
we don’t run into any rebel Chavs looking to challenge her royal
Majesty’s new glorious way of living, we should be just fine. Those
Chavs got it right if you ask me.

“But ya’ aren’t askin’ me, are ya’ mate?” I said to Logan.

“Ashkin’ you wha’? Logan slurred.

“That’s all I needed, let’s go mate. Your mum’ll be expectin’ a call
that we got to the dorm safe.”

“Aye, Darren, so ish’ be. Le’sh get on with it.” Logan stood up and
started for the door. He’s walking straight tonight. This is a good
sign. We should make it back without incident. He stopped at the
door before opening it, wiggled his arms behind himself and into his
blue jumpsuit. He zipped up the front, covering the yellow work shirt
and puffing out his chest to expose the embroidered image of her
Majesty on his left breast. Bound for a warm room and a soft bed, we
set off into the icy night air.

Three blocks is all we had to make it. Three bloody blocks, but no.
Logan catches a glint of something gold in the only eye he has managed
to keep open. Turns out the gold glint is the toggle on the vest of
some Chav. A Chav spray painting a big ol’ red X on the Queens vide
in the middle of some off shoot alleyway. There she sits, smiling in
all her glory, and some Freedom Fighting Chav comes along to tag her
like a game of political bingo. This strikes a chord with my hot
tempered friend. He decides it’s time to teach this Chav a lesson.

“I’ma crush his vide in with my royal lovin’ boot Darren I am. You’s
watch this.”

The idea of fighting seemed to sober him up right quick. I’ll stay
out of it because I know just as well as that Chav does, it is illegal
to deface an image of her Majesty, caught by the wrong people and you
will pay the price. She has worked so hard in the Reconstruction.
Bared so much of the burden, she is our personal Jesus she is.

Logan seemed right sober on the physical like, but in the head – he
is drunk enough to send me to the F5 Court himself for showin’
sympathy to a Chav, or even acknowledging that he might not be as well
pissin’ in her royal soup as to raise that spray can. Like it
mattered, we were all headed somewhere if the F5 caught wind of the
disturbance. Either way, I had to say something.

“Go easy on em’, eh? He’s just a young tom not knowin’ what he really
thinks. Bloody parents are probably activists.” This struck a chord
with my hot tempered friend on account of his mum.

“Bullocks Darren,” he glared at me and that was that.

Logan started off down the alley. The gas lamps behind him created a
ten meter shadow monster moving toward this Chav, but the Chav stands
there smiling, vide to vide with Logan. Like he isn’t scared. Two
paces out and Logan has stopped. He is eyeing the Chav deciding the
best way to make him understand how important it is to never shat on
her Majesty’s image. Four more Chavs emerge from the shadows and
charge at Logan pouncing in the air. Their boot heels point at his
chest. He is quick to the reflex and grabs a Chav in mid air like.
The lad’s body is deflected straight into the bricks, he hits his vide
and lights out. One Chav down, four to go, or maybe three. The
original grinning bloke still stands in the back. Hasn’t moved an
inch he hasn’t. Just what is he playing at?

The other three set to work on Logan getting him on the ground.
Boots are busting him in the ribs, about the vide, and pulling at his
queer inviting hair.

Looks like he might have the upper hand now. You see, Logan isn’t
feeling any pain, just throwing punches. Every time he lands one and
hears a Chav yelp he is renewed in spirit. Looks like he’s holding
his own, I’ll keep watch for the F5. Fights are good for wearing
blokes out right quick like.

I look out the alley entrance in both directions, and see nothing but
steaming drains. I hear the growl of Logan but with a high pitched
flavor. I look back and the original Chav has got himself a broken
steel pipe he has. He’s getting to work on Logan’s vide and I see my
mates blood start to stain the street – he goes limp. I start running
toward them.

The main Chav takes the jaggy end of his steel and puts it to Logan’s
throat. Prepared to shiv him in the neck and send him to Charon.

“Eh, easy mate,” I said, stopping and holding out my hands.

“You don’t want to be doing that.”

“Oh aye, I think I do. You two toms can lick the royal Queen’s bum
all ya’ want. Tis a bad day in the Isles when a young bloke can’t
stand up for what he thinks is good an decent. Not without getting
the Queen’s blind hounds trying to stomp him and his mates,” he said.

“Look mate, I know where ya’ comin’ from, but I tell ya’ this just
isn’t the way. He’s drunk and just got a temper is all. Now let’s
just part ways, you drag your mate and I’ll drag mine, before we all
end up in the F5’s mitts,” I pleaded.

This Chav is ready to make this his defining moment in the
resistance. He was going to make my mate a martyr, and himself a
legend, I could see it in his eyes. There was nothing I could do.

He raised his arms and the jaggy steel cast a claw like shadow on
Logan’s swollen vide. Light flooded the alley from both ends.

“Bleeding Christ it’s F5,” the Chav shouted. He dropped the steel
and the four ran toward the alley exit closest; hoping for an opening
to give the Agents the slip.

An Agent stepped into the light wearing a black jumpsuit. His chest
puffed out and the Queen’s embroidered vide on his breast displayed
his allegiance. He gripped the chrome metal baton firmly in his hand,
which according to him, was just an extension of her Majesty’s own
arm. The Chavs sprinted at him and split off in pairs, as to rush
past on either side.

“Evening lads,” he shouted.

In a right quick automatic reflex, he turned that baton all
horizontal like. The ends extended and anchored into the brick walls
of the alley. The Chavs all ran into it, hitting in the vide or the
throat, knocking them to the street.

“Four rebel Chavs walk into her Majesty’s bar,” he laughs.

As they lay gasping or clutching their vide with blood inking through
their fingers, he goes to work on them with the retracted baton. An
Agent takes my arm from behind.

“Lets go, worker,” he says to me. I move toward Logan and his grip tightens.

“…but my mate, what about my mate?…Logan,” says I.

I struggle and turn back to look at the Agent. I see the reflection
of my own vide. The eyes stare back at me. In that split second I
remember everything. Everything that led to this moment. How they
came to power, how it all happened: the Queen, her Agents, the
Reconstruction, the dorms, the Rebel Chavs, the work camps, and my
father.

Lights out.

Verboten
By: Jeffrey Hite

The sign on the fence read, Do not enter, it is Verboten. It was not like these kinds of things had even been allowed, but the sign just irritated him. Since the end of the war, German English signs, like this one, had been popping up all over the place. It reminded him of the joke that often hung over computer terminals during the previous war. The only real difference being that was not English or German but a bad parody of both. He could take a joke but as a long standing professor of the English language, this was just not funny to him.
The war Had taken everyone by surprise, the Germans now reunited by the work of many but with help from the Americans, had returned the favor by taking over the country. The Conflict had been mercifully short, with so very few people dying that, most of us just accepted it as if it were a normal presidential change. In a way that is what it had been. The only differences that Henry could seen were, the capital was now in Berlin, the the beer laws had changed and that helped everyone, and of course signs like these. He read the sign again, Do not enter, it is verboten, and shook his head. He reached up and grabbed it with both hands.
The two guards watched the man outside the fence as the thousands of volts coursed though his body. they had learned that unlike the previous government, when the Germans said it was verboten they meant it.

GreatHites # 61

This week’s prompt comes from me, and is:

“We have not seen hide nor hair of them.”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday JULY 7th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the pod$

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$


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GreatHites #58

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This week have stories by:
Scott Roche
WinnerNorval Joe <——– This week's Winner
Mick Bordet
Jeff Hite

Self Pity
By: Scott Roche

A blue beam shot from the weapon belonging to the creature on the right. It lanced into Lieutenant Avila and she faded from view, without even a chance to scream.

Wilkerson’s reflexes were not only honed to a monomolecular edge, they were augmented by some very gray technology. Before his partner was gone completely he had already thrown himself backward into a roll and came up on his feet a meter behind and to the right of where he had been. The thumb on his right hand managed to spin the dial on his phaser to its highest setting.

The wall nearest the firefight was missing a large portion. It didn’t look like anyone remained in the room beyond. Thankfully it wasn’t an external bulkhead or they would all be sucking vacuum. Either these creatures knew the layout of the ship well or they were careless. Neither thought was comforting.

He pressed the firing stud on his weapon and strafed the group. With any other standard phaser that wouldn’t be possible, but like many things on his person he tinkered with the basic design to improve it, at least in his opinion. The shots went wild, save for one. A weird clicking sound from the insectoid that managed to kill Avila let him know he scored a hit. The multiple shots had the desired effect though and enough time remained to move before the aliens returned fire..

Moving quickly, he threw himself at a door, trusting that it would open ahead of him. It did, though just barely. He found himself in a crew mess, devoid of any diners. A red alert klaxon sounded letting him know that the intrusion had been detected. He wasn’t sure if it was the weapons fire, the transporter being detected, or what, but it meant help was likely on the way.

Wilkerson crawled on his belly towards one of the tables and took cover as best he could. His brain turned the transporter puzzle over while his body worked on survival. They needed to disable the ship’s shields somehow. There was simply no other way he knew of for them to circumvent that particular technology. That left quite a bit of room for ignorance considering he was no engineer. If they could get through shields though this would be a short battle. Were their others on board?

He ripped his communicator from his belt and flipped it open. Before he hailed anyone his brain screamed at him to stop and think. With a trained movement he flipped the communicator closed again. These beings were probably part of his mission. The piece of equipment he planted could easily disable the shields temporarily if they sent the right command. The best thing for him to do was to sit tight and let them do whatever they were here to do.

Serving on board this ship gave him a security officer’s drive, though. He wanted to protect the vessel he was assigned to and yet his duty was to let whatever happened happen. It was the pound of flesh he owed Section 31. Or was it? What if he survived all of this and needed to continue to serve on board? How would he explain his inaction?

No, he would need to play his role to the hilt. He failed in that role by letting Avila die. Self pity wasn’t in his vocabulary, so he didn’t dwell on that. His main motivation was to try and be what he was supposed to be and trust his superiors to work out the details in their end.

That decided, he flipped his communicator back open. “Wilkerson to the bridge. We have intruders on Deck Ten.”

The door slid open and one of the many legged creatures came through. The sight of the lower third made Wilkerson’s stomach flip. Before the bridge could reply to his warning, he carefully closed the communicator’s screen and lay it on the deck plate.

His hands were clammy and his breathing shallow. Getting the drop on the invader would be easy. Taking it alive would be ideal, but the earlier attempt to stun it failed. A more powerful setting would either kill it or if he was lucky be just strong enough to do what he needed it to. Well there was a third option, it might just make the walking nightmare mad.

Nothing appeared to follow it into the small room and the doors closed after its bulk passed through. That was it, they were one on one. There was no way Wilkerson could let it snap off a shot. They were playing for keeps.

He dialed the phaser back to a setting that would be lethal to most humanoids and barrel rolled to his left, firing as he went.

Aliens among us.
By Norval Joe

He didn’t know how he had ended up living with the family of aliens. He knew that it had been a long time, maybe even his whole life. His memory only went back a few years.
He crouched on the floor with the spinning device close to his face, his head tilted forward so that he could look at it through his eye lashes. “If I hold it at just the right angle, it seems to make sense. The light flickers as the spokes of the wheel spin around.”
One of the alien children attempted to interact with him, but he ignored her as best he could. She snatched the spinning device from his hand and stood up, holding it out of his reach. She was taller than him by more than a foot. There was no way that he could regain the device by force.
“I hate it when they insist on interacting with me.” he said to himself. Rather than fight her for the device, he squeezed the palms of his hands against the sides of his head and screamed. His own screaming hurt his head and all he could do was scream even louder.
The adult female alien came into the room and took the spinning device from the girl and gave it back to him. Slowly, he began to calm down as he spun the wheel.
The adult female insisted that he stop spinning the wheel and put his shoes on. This wasn’t good. This meant that they would have to go out, into public. Public was not good.
There would be too many aliens there, wherever they went. Whether it was shopping, recreation or religious observation, there would be teaming masses of aliens. They would be noisy, and nosey. They always wanted to interact. “What is your name?” “How old are you?” “What are you reading?” Then the adult female would hold up her hand, extending the four fingers and say, “Tell them you’re this many.” Except, today, she had told him, “Now you’re this many,” adding the thumb to the four fingers.
He tried to prepare himself for the coming ordeal. As soon as his shoes were on he found his backpack and checked its contents. Everything appeared to be there. There were three books. One about farm animals, one about outer space and the third was the Disney ‘Cars’ picture book. There were two packages of fun fruits and a bag of nacho cheese Doritos. He poured all of the items from the backpack and onto the floor. He put the wheeled spinning device inside.
The adult female rushed into the room and uttered some words of exasperated disapproval. She gathered all the items back into the backpack and hooked it over his shoulders.
He rode in the back of the vehicle with the female child. He ignored her by concentrating on a small silver button that raised and lowered the window. The adult female disabled the buttons function from the front seat. He continued pressing the button regardless of the lack of response.

“Mom, make him stop pushing that button, Cindy whined. “He’s driving me crazy.” She grabbed at her brothers arm and squeezed it. “Stop it Des, stop it.” She shouted at him.
He ignored her, and kept pressing the button. Nothing made her angrier than when she couldn’t sop his annoying behaviour. Furious, she pinched the skin of his arm between her thumb and index finger. That got his attention and he screamed. He screamed a shrill piercing sound that made Cindy regret pushing him for a response. She wouldn’t back down now, though. “Mom, he’s screaming. Make him stop screaming.”
“Cindy,” her mother shouted back, trying to be heard over Desmond’s screams. “Whatever you’re doing to him, stop it, now. You are twice his age, you need to act like it. Just ignore your brother, until we get to the party.” He must have heard the word ‘party’ because he stopped screaming. Instead he said, “Go Chuckie Cheese?” He had never been to the pizza place, but must have learned the association from television commercials.
“No, Dear, we’re not going to Chuckie Cheese. We’re going to Gramma’s.”
“Go Chuckie Cheese?” he asked again. His mother ignored him.
Cindy didn’t respond, at first, but after the tenth of twelfth time of asking, “Go Chuckie Cheese?” Cindy told him, “No.” With each repetition of the question, Cindy replied, “No” with increasing volume, until she was screaming “No, no, no, no, no,” at the top of her lungs.
“Cindy, stop.” Her mother interrupted her. “You have to extinguish the behavior by ignoring him. That is what the behaviour specialist told us after Desmond was diagnosed with autism. Don’t you remember?”
“But he won’t stop Mom. He’s driving me crazy.”
“I know it can be frustrating, but he would have stopped by now, if you had just ignored him, all along.”
“Go Chuckie Cheese,” he asked again.

Cindy sat a the end of one of the couches in her grandmothers living room and ignored all the other children and adults gathered around the long dining room table. She slouched down with he arms folded across her chest. She was offended that she had been forced to spend four hours at a ‘birthday party’ for a kid who didn’t care. She thought about the evening and spoke to the air, “He probably doesn’t even realize that the party was for him.”
Every chance he got, he ran for the door. He made it as far as the street three times. He wouldn’t play any of the games, although, all the other cousins seemed to have a good time. The only time he seemed happy was when he watched the candles burning. He screamed while they sang happy birthday, and screamed again when someone else blew out the candles. She muttered to herself, “He would have let them burn right down to the frosting.”
When it was time to leave, his mother put him in his pajamas to make it easier to get him into bed, if he fell asleep on the way home.
Cindy followed as her mother carried her sleeping brother into the house. She sat at the kitchen table and moped while her mother put Desmond to bed. A few minutes later, her mother came in from the bedroom and sat in the chair next to Cindy.
With all the self pity she could muster, Cindy asked, “Mom? S\Why can’t we be like a normal family? We can’t go anywhere, we can’t have any fun, just because of him.” She said, indicating down the hallway with a glance and a twitch of her head.
“Sweetie, someday he’ll be able to show you how much he loves you. He’s young and doesn’t know how to express himself. When you’re older, you’ll love him, too, like you did when he was a baby.”
She burst into tears as she stood up. She shouted at her mother, “How can you love someone that screams at you all the time?” Missing the irony, she turned and ran from to her bedroom with out waiting for a reply.
“Sometimes it’s not easy,” her mother said to her folded hands on the table.

She was laying on a chaise lounge next to the pool on a cruise ship. She was delighted to find that she had her youthful figure again. She raised her head to look toward her feet, and admired her flat stomach and long shapely legs. The varicose veins were gone and the tropical sun felt good, warming her golden tanned skin.
She should feel relaxed and rested. Instead, her back ached and she felt a weariness born of long days and short nights.
“Wake up,” A steward said as he stepped next to her, tapping her arm. “I am awake,” she said to the steward, feeling slightly dizzy.
“Wake up,” she heard again, and opened her eyes, to peer blearily at the bedside clock. She had been asleep less than an hour.
“Wake up,” Desmond said to her again, patting her arm. So badly, she just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. She had tried extinguishing this behavior by ignoring it before. She had hoped that he would just go back to his bed. He wouldn’t, though, on his own. She would wake in the morning to find the results of Desmond’s activities.
The cats food dish would be filled with kitty litter, all the bath toys, hair brushes and shampoo bottles would be in the toilet, the bookshelves would be cleared and any cupboard left unlocked would be emptied.
She was too tired to kneel by his bed until he went back to sleep, so she walked with her son to the TV room. They sat together in a rocking chair. He sat on his mothers lap and lay his head on her shoulder. She ran her fingers through his curly brown hair and sang him lullaby’s until they were both soundly asleep.
During the few last moments of wakefulness when the thoughts of the day percolated through his mind to become the substance of dreams, Desmond knew that he was home.

Alternative Therapy
By: Mick Bordet

Sarah jumped at the sound of the doorbell, an unexpected intrusion into her daydream. She took a sip of green tea from the chunky mug on the table in front of her, scowling in reaction to how cold it was. She looked at the clock. It was after six; she had been sitting here for almost two hours. The afternoon at her alternative therapy centre had been quiet, so the tea was supposed to have helped raise her spirits. It had failed.

It was almost a year since her mother had passed on, yet she couldn’t shake off these feelings of loneliness, boredom and guilt. The former, she could understand, living alone in a flat contained within the small building that served as both her home and her place of work. It was located about four miles away from Fort William in the “back of beyond”, as her sister would tease her by calling it. It suited her most of the time; her chosen path through life had been clear to her from early on, but mocked by her mother and sister as well as many of the locals around here. She had proved them all wrong, though they would probably never admit it. The centre had been providing healing remedies, from the fringes of recognised medical practices like hypnotherapy and acupuncture to the more frowned-upon realms of aromatherapy and crystal healing, for over fifteen years now.

The team of reliable experts she had employed meant that the centre operated with very little active input from her these days. Sarah was glad of this when her father’s Alzheimer’s had started to take its toll on her mother and she was able to visit them on a regular basis, enjoying the attention he always gave her, even as it dwindled with his grip on his faculties. When his time came, she supported her mother through the grieving process, a trial in itself as the old woman became progressively more bitter and miserable as the months wore on. A rift grew between them and Sarah found herself making excuses for not visiting every week, finding things to do in a business that needed little tampering with. She had become bored and restless since her mother died. After years of running after her parents, organising their lives over the phone and latterly just clashing wits with her increasing stubborn mother, she was left with a gaping void in her daily routine, a black hole in her life, threatening to suck her into the pits of its despair.

Sarah creaked up out of her chair, walked from the kitchen into the small, welcoming hallway and opened the door. It took her a moment to recognise the young woman who stood waiting on the step outside.

“Sarah! How are you, honey?” asked the visitor. As soon as the first word left her mouth, Sarah’s memory sparked.

“Ciara? I swear your hair is a different colour every time I see you. You look great. Come in, come in. Can I get you a drink?”

Sarah led her guest through to the kitchen, switching the kettle on as she walked past, before pulling out a chair from the table for Ciara to sit on.

“Tea would be good. Green, if you have it,” Ciara answered, still standing. She looked Sarah in the eyes, a directed, probing gaze that saw beyond the surface veneer of displayed emotion. If the eyes truly are windows to the soul, then she had opened them wide and stuck her head right through for a thorough inspection.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” said Sarah.

“Well, you shouldn’t have taught me it, then,” Ciara said. “You look shattered. Have you been sleeping?”

“No. Well, maybe. I don’t know. I lost track of time, thinking.”

“Your mum?”

“Aye. So much for ‘time heals’, I feel worse now than the week she died,” Sarah said. She forced a smile, a subconscious effort to avoid breaking into tears.

Ciara leaned forward and held her friend in a strong embrace, saying “You’re needing a good old Dreamstorm hug, lady.”

Sarah hugged Ciara back, relishing the warmth of human contact, something she had missed since her mother’s funeral. She wasn’t one for seeking out friendships or social groups, but the few friends she did have could always be relied upon. It was only five years earlier that Ciara had first dropped into the centre to ask Sarah to display some leaflets advertising her shop, a veritable treasure-trove of objects mystical, spiritual and occult, from dowsing rods to her own unique range of colourful clothing. They had ended up talking well into the night about their common interests, their failed relationships and recipes for vegetarian paella, and had remained friends ever since. They only saw each other three or four times a year, usually when Ciara was passing through Fort William on her way home to Skye from meeting a supplier in Glasgow or London, but always managed to pick up from where they left off.

They separated from their embrace and sat down at the table, where Sarah poured the boiled water from the kettle into a teapot to brew.

“I feel so silly,” Sarah said, “here I am surrounded by a wealth of resources for healing my spirit, cleansing my aura, channeling my chakra, but nothing seems able to shake me out of this. I still feel guilty that I could have helped more.”

“Guilt? Oh, come on, Sarah! I only met your mum once, but even then I could see that she was an expert manipulator. I told you as much at the time, I’m sure. She had you wrapped around her little finger. If you’re feeling guilt about anything, it’s her that’s created that for her own ends. I’m not saying it was deliberate, it was maybe just a subconscious skill she had developed, but she used it on you. That much is certain.”

Sarah poured the tea into two mugs and passed one to Ciara. “Why would she do that?” she asked.

“To be in control, probably. Didn’t you tell me that you would have done anything for your father when he was alive?” Ciara said.

“Yes, he was a wonderful man,” Sarah answered.

“Okay, so your mum saw that and wanted you to be like that with her, but you didn’t have that type of relationship with her, so she had to be more under-hand. When he died, she just kept on applying the pressure, desperate to maintain that hold over you that your father had without trying. Now that she’s gone, she’s left her control mechanism, that guilt you’ve been made to feel, behind. You’re like a puppet that’s free to leave the stage, but snagged by one of it’s own strings.”

“So, what now? I’m suffering from Pinocchio syndrome or puppetitis or something? How do I get out of this?”

“I think a dual approach is probably best. First of all, you need to accept that the guilt is of your own imagining and that when you are ready to let go, it will end,” said Ciara.

“And then?” asked Sarah?

“Then you need to open that bottle of Vodka that’s probably still sat in your sideboard since I bought it for you two years ago, pour us both triple vodkas topped up with whatever fizzy mixer you have handy, then we’ll get completely rat-arsed and you can tell me all the awful things that old control freak did to wind you up over the last few years.”

Sarah laughed like she hadn’t for months and, raising her mug, said “Well, that sounds like an alternative therapy I can drink to. Cheers!”

The Price of Friendship, Part III
By Norval Joe

“Go ahead, Chad.” The perpetually smiling secretary said, “Mr. Satoro is ready for you now.”
Chad pushed open the door just enough to slip silently through and stood and waited quietly to be noticed. He wished instead that he could just melt into the floor and be done with it.
The heavy middle aged man barely looked up from the papers that he was reading. “Close the door, please, and have a seat in that chair.” he said indicating the seat in front of his desk with a glance of his eyes, over the drug store reading glasses perched on his nose. He returned his gaze to the papers held in his hand and scanned them, his bulldog jowls giving his face the appearance of a frown.
“Do you know what I have here, Mr. Baker?” the principal asked holding several papers aloft and flipping them slightly at Chad.
Chad shook his head. “No,” he said, his voice cracking. When the principal glared at him, he cleared his throat, and said again, “No, Mr. Satoro.”
“It’s a report, telling me that you have won a scholarship for your entry in the school district creative writing contest. There is a check here for $250, for first place.”
“Oh,” Chad stammered yet again. He seemed to be stammering a lot this day. “Well, um. That’s good, then, right?” he continued.
“Yes, of course. Very good.” Mr. Satoro said, removing his reading glasses. “I wanted to be the first to congratulate you. You have represented our school well. Of course, I will hold on to this check until we present it to you at the end of school year assembly, next week. You can let your mother know to be there.”
“Thank you,” Chad said. They sat, staring at one another for several heart beats, that seemed to Chad like hours.
“That will be all, Mr. Baker. You may go.” The principal said. He returned the reading glasses to his nose and began shuffling through the stack of papers on his desk.
Chad picked up his back pack and left the office as quickly as he could with out knocking anything over in his haste. He passed the smiling secretary and waved at her moronically. When the door to the office closed behind him, he leaned against the outer wall of the office, feeling light headed and slightly relieved.
The bell rang and the halls filled with students hurrying to their lockers or racing to the busses to get the best seats. Chad had time now. Amy would be in choir for another 45 minutes. He thought about her singing unaware of the conflict awaiting her on the baseball field. The choir was preparing to sing at the same assembly where he would be getting his scholarship. ‘By then everything should be worked out, I hope.’ he told himself.
He walked toward their lunch tree hoping to come up with a reasonable solution before his meeting with Derrick. He sat on one of the benches below the tree that offered him a view of both the music room and the baseball diamond.
He leaned on his elbow, looking at the dirt at his feet. “This is ridiculous,” he said out loud, trying to convince himself that there was really nothing to worry about. There was no way that Amy would accept that she had any obligation to Derrick for what Chad might have done to the game player.
The game player. He took it out of his backpack and turned it over in his hands. He must have doe the same thing a thousand times since the first night that he had tried to turn it on. Just holding the device made his heart pound in his chest, and his stomach roll around with anxiety. He pushed the on/off button several times looking closely at the screen for any indication that the device might function normally, but without success.
“What’s up Chad?” He started at Amy’s voice so close, and jumped to his feet. He hadn’t expected her to be here so soon. “Amy, you’re here,” he exclaimed, stupidly.
“Yeah, you asked me to meet you here. So, can we talk as we walk home?”
“Well, um, no. Derrick…” he mumbled trying to get his thoughts back together. He hadn’t worked out how he would broach the subject, and found his mind was now completely blank. “Derrick,” he said again, looking at the baseball field and holding up the game player.
Amy looked confused and and concerned as well. She followed Chad’s view to the ball field and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, asked, “Chad? Are you ok? What’s Derrick got to do with anything?”
“Amy, I’m in trouble,” he began and decided it would be best to just run with it. “Derrick thinks that I broke his game player and he wants me to pay for it, and I don’t have any money.”
“Do you need some money? I could ask my Dad,” Chad interrupted her. “No, Amy. He doesn’t want money, he wants me to give him you.”
“That’s right, Amy.” The deep voice of the older boy broke in. Chad hadn’t seen him approach but he was standing right right next to them. “He owes me, and I’m taking you as payment.”
This was all happening too fast. Everything was falling apart like wet toilet paper. He couldn’t grab the pieces fast enough to hold onto any of it.
Amy said nothing. She just stared at Derrick, her mouth agape, with a look of shocked recognition on her face.
“Come on,” Derrick commanded, “You’re mine now.” He turned and headed down a small slope toward the baseball field, Amy falling in behind with out argument.
“Wait, Amy, you don’t have to go!” Chad shouted as he ran to catch up to Derrick. “Derrick,” he said, and heard the pleading in his own voice, “I can pay you for it. I’ll have $250 next week. That’s enough isn’t it?”
Derrick didn’t respond, didn’t even look back, he just kept walking with Amy just two steps behind him. Her head was bowed and there was an uncharacteristic defeated appearance to her posture.
Chad caught back up to Derrick and grabbed him by the arm, turning him. Derrick stopped and pulled his arm from chads grasp. He still held the game device in his other hand. “Wait, Derrick, you can’t take her; take your game. I’ll pay you for it.”
“Keep it, it’s garbage. I have what I want.” he said dismissively and turned to walk past the first base dugout toward a nature trail that followed along a slow moving creek.
“Stop,” Chad shouted desperately, grabbing Derricks arm again.
Derrick spun like a snake striking at a mouse and hit Chad with an upper cut to his jaw.
When Chad’s vision cleared he found himself laying on his back in the grass along the nature trail. The game device close by where it had fallen from his hand.
“Amy,” he shouted getting slowly to his feet. The world spun around him and he leaned against an oak tree, blinking his eyes wishing his vision would stabilize more quickly. “Amy,” he shouted again, rubbing his jay where Derrick had hit him.
As soon as his legs would hold him, he stumbled down the nature trail calling for his friend, searching the brush and banks of the creek. Several times he tripped over unseen roots in the fading afternoon light under the canopy of oaks. Eventually, he arrived at the street, where the nature trail ended. He crossed the creek and ran back through the brush and brambles, shouting and looking for where Derrick may have taken her.
When he got back to the school buildings he splashed through the shallow creek and up the small slope to sit , exhausted on the bench under their lunch tree. Rivulets of sweat streaked the dust on his face and he gasped for air. He didn’t know where he lost the time, he must have been unconcious for hours, because the sun was almost down now.
Amy was gone.
“Maybe this is all just a bad joke. Maybe Derrick let her go, and she had walked home.” He tried to convince himself. He should go to her house and check on her.
Feeling terribly sorry for himself, he picked up his backpack, where it had remained all afternoon, and headed to the street. ‘The Sniders are going to think I’m crazy.” he said as he got to the faculty parking lot. “OH, I know.” He said and ran back to retrieve the broken game device. Maybe showing this device to Amy’s parents would lessen how foolish he would look.
He got to the spot she it had fallen in the grass. He could see the outline of where his body had lain in the tall grass. But, even though he got down on hands and knees, and sifted through the grass with his fingers, he was unable to find the game player in the fading light.

Running shoes
By: Jeffrey Hite

Even when I was on earth I hated exercise. Now that i was in the low gravity of space it was even worse. The problem was that with no gravity it is actually more work to get yourself into and out of the equipment required to do the exercise that to do it. Of course, exercise in space is all about making sure that you are strong enough to return home. And on a journey this long it was essential that you did it. So day in and day out that is what I did.
That was of course, before. Before the first set of alarms. But, even that didn’t stop me from doing them. Some how the idea that we have lost most of our fuel when we were hit with debris from some bit of space junk, didn’t phase me. It was not until three weeks later that I gave up my daily routine as much as I hated it.
“Captain.”
“Yes, Computer.”
“I have detected another anomaly in the ships systems.”
“Alright, what is it,” by this point I was so used to that statement from the computer that I didn’t even think twice about it.
“There seems to be a malfunction in the cryo systems.”
“What is the nature of the malfunction?”
“There was a brief temperature spike in the number three Cryo bed.”
“What was the variance?”
“point zero three degrees.”
I knew by this point in out trip that even though something like that seemed trivial to me, if the computer thought it worth reporting than it was important. But it did seem to be a trivial matter. “What is the safety margin on the cryo beds?”
“Ten degrees.”
“So why bring up such a small discrepancy?”
“Captain, you asked to be informed of any changes to the life support systems, and the cryo beds are part of the life support system.”
“So they are. Is there any danger from this discrepancy?” I asked as my mood began to lift.
“Until this point there has been no variance on the system, above one one hundredth of a degree according the my records. I do no believe that this variance represents and real threat.”
“Good, anything else.”
“Captain, I was not finished. I do not believe that this represents any real danger in and of itself, but it may be the first signs of a larger system malfunction.”
“Alright, keep me informed.”
“Sir, I have something else to report.”
“Ok spit it out.”
“The life support systems are at the top of my priority tree.”
“Yes I know that.”
“But there is a structure that you should be made aware of. That because of our current situation.”
“Alright,” I was beginning to feel a tingle at the back of my neck.
“In the case of a malfunction, life support is the highest priority for self repair. The priority shifts depending proximity to our destination. If the majority of the crew are awake, then the priority is to the active cabin life support, and if most of the crew are in the cryo bed then they are the priority.”
“That makes scene so what is the problem?”
“Right now you are the only one awake. You will be the lowest priority since of of the other officers can be automatically revived, should you expire during the repairs, once the addition repairs are made. The priority tree also shifts you lower if the ship is in imminent danger, but the Cryo beds could be saved if power were pulled from your life support system.”
“Alright, I understand, thank you for letting me know,” the computer was silent after that, and despite being told that it would let me die, in order to repair the Cryo beds or other ships systems, I was not truly depressed. But even that announcement was not really enough make me stop the mandatory exercises. I was not ready to believe that we were in any real danger. Sure the fuel situation was an issue, but there were three ships that were coming behind us. They would have ample fuel to take on more passengers, and if they divided us up there would be no problem. Sure it would mean hanging out in space for much longer than any of us had planed but, those were the risks and we all knew them. So if anything I had more of a reason to be doing my exercises.
It was not until I was about ready to go off shift that my decision was made for me.
“Captain.”
“Yes, computer.”
“There has been another anomaly.”
“Alright, please report.”
“We will no longer be able to accelerate in another two hours.”
“What do you mean? I didn’t think that we would begin out breaking maneuvers for another three days.”
“We are not scheduled to.”
“So why the change.”
“Our fuel consumption is no longer a constant, we will need to stop accelerating now in order to have enough fuel for the breaking maneuvers.”
“How far outside of the window will that put is due to the reduced velocity?”
“Due to time the dilation effect at this lower velocity, three years, and twelve days.”
“Three years?”
“Yes, captain.”
“That means that we will miss the other ships, they will actually be there before us.”
“That is correct.”
“What about deploying a bouy to warn them?”
“They will not have the supplies necessary to wait for us to arrive and return safely.”
This was the moment that my decision was made. We would make it to the new solar system, and the other ships would have been and gone, their teams having completed their missions. I was not going to let myself get mired in self pity. Our mission was important to the new Earth colony project. Millions of people were counting on us. No, they were counting on me. They needed me to make sure the ship made it to the new solar system safely and got turned around to head back. While the rest of the team went back in to suspended animation in the cryo beds. But, if there was no way for me to make it back to earth there was no way I was going to continue those blasted exercises.
With the change in plans, there were things that would need to change so that I could survive until we reached the destination. The air and water supply and recycling systems were designed to last indefinitely. And the food supply was grown on the ship, so it was just a matter of how much time he would have to spend working in the agra labs. No the problem was going to be power consumption, and consumables like clothing and more importantly medical supplies. He was most definitely run out of the anti radiation medications before the three years were up.
“Computer?”
“Yes Captain.”
“Is there any way to lessen the need for the radiation medication?” There was a pause while the computer searched, and he watched the blinking searching message on his console screen.
“There are a number of ways to lessen the effect of radiation on your system,” It answered finally. “The best one would be to less exposure, by staying in the more highly shielded areas of the ship. Hibernation has been shown to lessen the effects of radiation on the body. Alternatively you could wear one of the shielded suits used to EVAs.”
“Well we can count two of those out right away. There is no way I am wearing one of those suits all the time, and I can’t go into Cryo there would be no one left awake on the ship.” I thought about the last option for a few minutes. “Computer, what is the recycle time for someone coming out of cryo to safely go back into Cryo sleep?” Again the Searching message appear on his screen. This time it lasted a much longer time.
“Captain, there has been no research done on this, but it generally believed that a person should not return to Cryo for at least a month.”
“That is an idea I guess,” I said to himself. “Computer, how long can the ship be run on automatic, with no human intervention, longest possible projection including maintenance cycles and normal course corrections that require human input.” The computer chewed on this request only for a few moments before returning the response.
“The ship could run on automatic for five months without human intervention.”
I did some quick calculations and made up my mind. This idea would work, I could stay in Cryo for three to four months at a time, and then be awake for a month, thus cutting my time in awake status down to normal. There were a large number of things that would need to happen before I was able put this plan into action, but first there was something that I needed to do. I floated over to my locker and pulled out the running shoes and headed down to the gym. I hated the idea of the exercises, but if I am going to live and return to earth, I could pity myself only while I was on the tread mill.

Great Hites Prompt # 60

This weeks prompt comes from that fuddled mess that I call my brain, and is:

“arriving at the airport.”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday June 30th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the pod$

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$


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Great Hites # 57

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This week have stories by:

John Wilkerson

WinnerOdin1eye <——This week's winner
Lawrence Simon
Danny Machal
Norval Joe
Mick Bordet

Running Shoes
By: Lawrence Simon

There is no text for this story you will have to listen to the podcast to hear it.

Track Suit & Running Shoes
by
John Wilkerson

James turned down the alley just as the cops rounded the corner a
block away. Hopefully they didn’t see him. This was a dead end so if
they did, he’s busted.

He noticed a rusted, green dumpster. Some unidentifiable brown fluid
leaked from the corner where the rust had won its hard-fought battle
against the paint and steel of the dumpster.

As he approached, an offensive and equally unidentifiable stench
assaulted his nostrils causing James to wretch. He was able to hold
down the bile building up in the back of his throat long enough to
lift the lid and climb in.

Once inside, James could no longer hold back and he vomited on himself
and the contents of the dumpster.

He was new to this and still couldn’t get used to the smells that were
frequently found in the dumpsters and back alleys of New York City.

Once he was sure it was safe, James peeked out from under the
dumpster’s lid. Nobody was around so he threw the lid open and
climbed out.

Looking back into the dumpster he now saw what the stench was that
caused his body to so violently erupt in fits of gagging: a
decomposing body. James body erupted once again, spewing bile on the
ground and himself.

Looking down, James realized he’d need a change of clothes.
Fortunately he’d missed his companion in the dumpster. He quickly
disrobed the body and changed clothes quickly. They didn’t smell too
bad, he get used to the smell eventually. He was getting used to a
lot of new smells lately.

James had a new outfit now, a track suit and a nice pair of running
shoes. The shoes were a little tight but they were better than the
worn out penny loafers he’d been wearing. James had learned to
capitalize on these opportunities because when you’re homeless new
clothes are a luxury. It had been six months since he’d been laid off
and eventually evicted from his apartment in SoHo and this was the
first change of clothes he’s had since then and probably would be for
a long time.

Creative Commons License
Running Shoes by G Snook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Running Shoes
Odin1eye

Wham!

After having given the nail one last “whack”, Alexander took the obviously worn pair of work shoes from the floor, double knotted the laces, and hung them from the nail he had just placed in his workshop wall.

Alexander stepped back and was surveying the rows upon rows of shoes that this latest pair had joined. The late afternoon light streaming through the windows illuminated the motes in the air and made the sheen of dust on the shoes evident. Margaret would surely be telling him, “If you’re going to keep all those shoes, you need to keep them dusted!” if she were to see them in the state they were now.

“What’s all the noise out here, grandpa?” came the query, startling him from his reverie. Unnoticed to him, his grandson Alaric had entered his workshop and, coming up behind him, familiarly placed his arm around his diminutive grandfather’s shoulders. Alaric, a recent college graduate, had been staying with Alexander that last couple of weeks, but the old man was still not used to having him around.

“Just adding another pair to my hall of fame Alaric,” Alexander replied.

“Ever since I was a small child, I remember rows of shoes hanging on this wall gramps, but I’ve never really known why you keep them. Surely you can’t have kept every pair of shoes you’ve ever owned?” questioned Alaric.

Alexander laughed and shook his head. “Boy, if I’d kept every pair of shoes I’d ever had, I wouldn’t own enough walls to put them on. Nah, these are just the special ones. The ones that have a story of their own. The ones that I come out and look at whenever I need a reminder of life’s journey.”

“Next you’ll be telling me they know how to talk, and probably with funny accents,” quipped Alaric, then ducked as a rag was hurled at his head.

Sensing a chance to get his grandfather, normally a bit of a quiet man (when it came to speaking about himself anyway), to share some of his personal history, Alaric casually went over to a pair of boots near the beginning of the first row and asked, “So what do these old boots say to you? ‘Get up, let’s go hunting?’ or maybe just ‘you should think about getting a new hobby!”

Alexander chuckled a bit and came over to where his grandson stood. “Nah, nothing so mundane as that, son. These boots brought me back through the roughest fire fight I ever saw back in Germany during the war.”

Alaric was a bit astounded. Although he had known his grandfather had been in World War II, this was a topic that Grandpa never discussed. Not wanting the conversation to end there, Alaric gently probed, “Really? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that story.”

Alexander turned and looked at him with a one sided smile. “Don’t patronize me boy,” he said gently. “Of course you’ve never heard it. That would be because I’ve never told it to anyone except your grandma.”

Alaric was afraid that his question might have had the adverse effect of the one he’d been hoping for when his grandfather reached up and squeezed his shoulder and turned around to walk off. Instead of leaving the room, however, he went over to his work bench and pulled out an old stool and sat down.

“You might as well make yourself comfortable,” he said. “If you’re gonna get me telling my shoe stories, we might be here a while.”

Alaric hurriedly crossed the room and sat on another of the stools as his grandfather began.

“You see, my platoon had been ordered to take this German town. I don’t remember the name. After you’ve done it enough, they all look the same. Anyway, my squad was working its way up this street running from doorway to doorway trying to stay undercover. We knew there were German snipers around and none of us wanted to be the first to be noticed.

Well, I was peeking around the corner of this building, and sure enough, a shot splintered the plaster off the wall close enough to make you think twice about peeking again. We figured the sniper was up in the bell tower at the end of the street, but we had no plans to try to get him out. We didn’t have the right guns to do the job. We drew straws to see who would go first and try to draw his fire. Of course, I drew the short straw.

As things turned out, I remembered, from the brief look I’d got, that the building across the street had a wall blown out, and I reasoned that if we could get into that building through that hole, we might have a chance to gain some ground. I told the boys what I planned on doing, tightened the laces on those boots and scampered out around that corner as quick as I could. I knew that sniper had me in his sights, so I did my best to dodge and weave while hunching over as low as I could to make myself as small as target as I possible.

From under the brim of my helmet, I could see the darkness of the hole looming in front of me, and I dove forward with all my strength. Don’t remember much after that until I came to with my squad pulling me into an alley near the building that I’d been running toward.

‘Did I get hit,’ I remember asking them. They all laughed. Scotty, the youngest of us all, said, ‘Yup, you got hit all right. Hit by a building!’ and they all started laughing again.

You see, Alaric, I guess when I took that quick peek, I wasn’t seeing as clearly as I thought I was, and that hole that I dove into was in reality just a shadow on a wall. A brick wall that I had just dove head first into! I’m sure the only reason I’m here today is because that sniper was laughing ‘til he wet himself up in that tower!” finished Alexander with a chuckle.

Alaric stared at his grandad for a moment and then started chuckling too.

Alaric got up and wandered back over to the wall. He went up to the very first pair of shoes in the very first row. They were black with a low heel and looked as if they had never been worn, “What about these, Grandpa? What’s their story?”

Alexander smiled a truly beatific smile. “Well son, although they pinched my toes and gave me a blister the one time I wore them, those are the luckiest pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. You see, times were tough back in the spring of ’41. Most of us figured war was coming, but none of us were truly ready. Anyway, I was a young squirt then, younger than you are now. I had just graduated high school and was pretty proud of myself. I was the first one in the family to have graduated and had just bought those shoes and a suit and had applied for my first job over at the mercantile downtown. You know the place, its where McDonald’s is now. All they had available was a position as a bookkeeper, but as soon as they offered it, I took it and was glad of the work.

That old store was a grand old place. They actually still had a cracker barrel! The scent of spices mixed with the smell of leather and soap, and there was always somebody you knew walking among the aisles. More importantly, they had just added a soda fountain, and all the kids hung out there, including the pretty girls. I thought I was pretty lucky to have got a job there.

In fact, I was running home to tell my parents, when the prettiest girl I ever did see walked out of the hardware store. I later found out she was visiting from out of town. Anyway, I was so busy looking at her, I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going, because I ran dang blamed smack into a light pole. I fell on my butt, right there on the side walk, and I’m sure I turned three shades of purple. I wanted nothing more than to get up and get out of there. Unfortunately, I hit that pole hard enough that the ringing in my head left me pretty unsteady. The next thing I knew, that pretty girl was leaning over me and helping me get up. She handed me my hat and helped me get home. My mother, God bless her soul, insisted she stay for some lemonade and so she was there to hear my news. Well, it turned out she staid a bit longer than just for the lemonade. That pretty girl’s name was Margaret. I married her, and five and half years later, thanks to the interruption we call the war, your dad was born. The shoes I was wearing on the night your grandma said, ‘Honey, it’s time’ are hanging right over there,” Alexander said pointing.

“I like these shoes,” said Alaric as he gently placed them back on the nail. He wandered a bit down the line and then picked a pair off the wall about half way down. He looked at them closely.

“Hey grandpa, what about these. What’s this brown stain?” asked Alaric.

Alexander got off his stool and wandered up behind the young man.

“That? That’s blood,” he said, this time with no trace of a smile. “You see, those were the shoes I was wearing the weekend I took your father and uncles up into the mountains. I accidently knocked your dad through a window. That’s your dad’s blood. It ran down my arms and onto my shoes as I bundled him up and raced down the mountain to the hospital. I’m sure your dad has told you that story,” he concluded looking rather troubled, even after all these years.

Alaric nodded his head. His dad had told Alaric about the time that his grandfather, father and uncles had gone up to the church camp in the mountains to do some light repair work and maintenance on the buildings. A pinecone fight had broken out with Alaric’s uncles ganging up on his grandfather and father.

His father and grandfather had climbed up on piles of mattresses that had been stacked on top of the dining room tables in the mess hall in order to try to keep the mice away from them.

Alaric’s dad had only been thirteen at the time and had had a tough time climbing to the top. Just as he was cresting the top of the pile, Alaric’s grandad had backhanded his father on the backswing of his next throw, accidently knocking him off the pile and through a plate glass window, where a triangular shard of glass roughly seven inches on a side, severed an artery near his elbow.

After having removed the shard, and cleansing the wound as quickly as possible, Alaric’s grandfather had thrown his father in the truck and raced him down the mountain. He then ran him into the emergency room, just in the nick of time.

“Grandpa, if they cause you pain, why do you keep them?” asked Alaric quietly.

“Because, as much as we would like it to be, life isn’t always joyful. If you try to forget the painful parts, you’re really trying to hide from yourself. Never do that Alaric. The only man that can truly run from himself is the man that doesn’t know who he is. And if you don’t know who you are, you aren’t really living, now are you?” stated the old man.

“Well, I guess that’s true grandpa. I never really thought about it that way. Out of all these shoes, are most of them sad stories, or are most of them triumphs?”

“Oh, a little of both, a little of both. Would you like to know the story behind that last pair?” asked Alexander, pointing at the pair he’d just put up.

“If you don’t mind telling, I’d love to hear grandpa,” replied Alaric.

“Well, as you can see, they’re worn, but they’re not worn out. The last I wore them, the last time I will ever wear them, was four weeks ago next Tuesday. I was wearing those shoes when I heard Margaret, your grandma call, and then I heard a crash from the kitchen. I went running in and found your grandmother there, lying on the floor. She was holding her heart, and there was such pain in her eyes. I called the ambulance and ran back to her. By then, she was nearly gone and her eyes didn’t hold so much pain. The last thing she ever said to me was, ‘You always did run whenever I called, dear.’ And then she passed away as I held her.”

By the time he finished his recitation, the old man had tears in his eyes and his voice had gone hoarse.

Alaric gathered him in his arms, and the two men, one young, one old stood there and let the tears fall.

After a time, Alexander thumped Alaric on the back and looked up at him. “Alaric, I’m going to ask you to do me a favor. You don’t have to, but I’d sure appreciate it if you would.”

“Of course grandpa, anything, anything at all,” replied Alaric.

“You’ve been staying here with me since Margaret passed, and I really appreciate it. I’d always planned on leaving the house to your dad and uncles, but they all have places all ready. I’ve spoken with them, and they’ve agreed that it would be right if I left the house to you,” concluded Alexander.

Alaric was rather shocked, but loving his grandfather as he did, was more than grateful to realize he would be able to look after the beloved place himself.

“There is only the one thing I ask of you,” continued Alexander. “I want you to document the story of each of these pairs of shoes. We’ll come out here every day, and I’ll tell you the story of another pair, and before you know it, you’ll know my whole life’s story.”

“Of course grandpa, I’d be honored,” replied Alaric.

“No, that isn’t the favor. You see, when it’s my turn, when I pass, I want you to claim the shoes that I am wearing at the time, and place them on that empty nail, that one right there,” he said pointing.

“And I want you to write, whichever pair of shoes they are, that those were the pair I was wearing, that I was wearing when I went running to meet your grandma.”

“Running one last time.”

Running Shoes
By: Danny Machal

Part I
‘My name, is Berry Augustine.’

‘I’m thirty five years old and I’m a sick man.’

‘I’m also now, dead.’

‘At the age of twenty nine I was surprised to find there was a woman who would marry me. My lovely wife Dana; she must have been sick too. No sane and healthy woman would ever get involved in my situation.’

‘She is sad that I’ve gone, but she’s also the strongest woman I’ve ever met. She’ll never stop loving me or forget me and the void I’ve left in her will be filled quickly. She is just that kind of person, a survivor. Not like me. I was weak.’

‘You see, they told me I have obsessive compulsive disorder. The three letters OCD would somehow define me to a lot of folks. I’m a person ya’ know? I’m not just an ATM for the pharmaceutical corporations, and it isn’t like I’m contagious.’

‘I ask them why it is wrong to have unexplained feelings toward certain things in life. Is the feeling of uncertainty in love no different? Is the unexplained superhuman strength of the mother who lifted a car to save her child any different than what I feel?’

“Yes, Mr. Augustine it is different. You have a sickness and we can help you,” they say.

‘I really never saw any problem with my supposed illness until it killed me. Even then I only saw it for a few seconds and that is pushing it. You’re asking your self two questions right now. The first being how I died. The second is most important.’

‘What exactly was my diagnosed OCD a result of?’

‘So I’ll answer quite simply.’

‘Sometime in my early twenties I became unable to wear a pair of shoes more than once. I couldn’t help it, deep down it just felt wrong. It felt wrong to me like rape and murder feel wrong to you. It just wasn’t something I could ever do. Even fleeting thoughts of, Re-use as I came to call it, made me sick. Sometimes I would actually manifest physical illness in myself. Some places I couldn’t ever go into, say a bowling alley, not that they wanted me there anyway. Every time I tried it always ended in a violent torrent of projected sickness on the walls of the entrance. I don’t remember the day or the moment I started to feel this way, it just was. Maybe my brain has blocked out some painful memory to save me from the real cause.’

‘Imagine waking up everyday and having to lace up a new pair. The house you live in smells of new machined rubber. You have a room with three hundred sixty five boxes of all shapes and sizes; the year’s cache of footwear. Nike, Vans, Airwalk, Reebok, Adidas and a lot of no name Super Store knockoffs fill this room top to bottom.’

‘Even at twenty dollars a pair it is a little over seven thousand dollars a year. This personal eccentricity was a large financial burden on me. There were stretches of time when I didn’t eat so that I could just leave the house. When Dana came along it was easier. Both our incomes kept me comfortably in shoes. I was mystified to the very end why she stayed with me – eternally, I will always be grateful for her.’
‘It was hard to deal with the part of myself I had no control over. The lurking annoyance of unwelcome rules made me a slave. Martial law had been declared in my brain and I would rather die than break it. So I did.’

‘Being dead, is a lot like being in jail. Everyone you meet in this place is only interested in the event that got you here. Here’s how it went down for me.’

Part II

“Babe lets go,” Dana shouts at me while holding open the back door in our kitchen.

“Just a sec, putting shoes on. You know these runs cost us a lot of money,” I shouted back down the hall.

“Running is good for the heart and soul, especially when done first thing in the morning. Worth the investment if you ask me.”

“My little stock broker never misses a good investment does she?” I sprinted past her and out the door.

“Cheater,” she shouted. We were off to the park to run our laps.

This had become our routine for a while now. My psychiatrist suggested that regular exercise would be a good thing for my depression. Didn’t help. Not one bit. Only thing it did was get me good at running and cost me an extra pair of shoes four days a week.

We came upon a sharp turn in our imaginary race course. Dana was gaining on me so I figured I’d play it sly like. I pulled a low in and high out to get in front of her. I got about half way around the sloped embankment when my legs were promptly swept from under me. The hit was powerful and I got some good air time sliding to a stop on my behind. It hurt and I probably bruised my tail bone. When I sat up to get a look at my attacker he ran over and licked me across the cheek.

“This is why there are leash laws. Get away from me you mutt.”

I pushed the massive black lab with both hands. Pushed a little too hard, I guess. The fella lost his footing and fell over. At least now he knows how it feels. I wasn’t that sorry. I got to my feet and knew I was lopsided; sloping down more than the grade of the hill, uneven, and not balanced.

“Damnit, shoe came off.”

“Looks like you’re one legging it home, Captain Ahab style,” Dana smiled and picked up my shoe.

“I can go get the car if you want.”

“Nah, I’ll be alright. Let’s just walk home,” I said.

“Let’s take the bus. The stop is right here,” she suggested.

We sat down on the bench and waited.

Waiting at a bus stop is like being in a room of Gladiators before the main event. You know you all have to kill each other, but who will strike first? The buses in this city can get full sometimes so you need to establish your spot in line at the moment the bus is in sight. In our case the bus was elusive and came with little warning. Like a small quarterback behind one of his linemen, the bus came quick behind a cement truck. We all jumped up from our seats.

I lost my balance forgetting I only had the one shoe on. I tried to stop myself but ended up sprinting a few steps forward and falling off the curb. Lost my other shoe too, ‘thanks Gravity.’ I landed on my back and time slowed down. This seems to be pretty consistent with most people’s recollection of their death. It is like God’s last evil prank is to mess with your perception of time at the worst possible moment in your life. Of course he couldn’t ever do that for the moments you’d want to remember forever. Dana and I’s first kiss, our wedding day, any of those big life moments you wouldn’t forget if only you had a little more time to soak it all up.

Dana locked eyes with me for the last time. In that brief moment I was reminded of our wedding vows, ‘forever and ever, our eyes said to each other.’ She moved toward me instantly but it was too late. I heard a high pitched squeal long enough to register the sound, was indeed, brakes being slammed. I turned my head just in time to get a face full of rubber. By the time the cement truck came to a stop, the road looked like Paul Bunyan had stepped on a large packet of ketchup, forcing it to explode.

‘Good bye Dana, I love you.’

‘Well, that was it for me – headless, shoeless, and lifeless. I sometimes wonder if it was rubber itself that had it out for me. Maybe those rubber-band balls I made as a kid weren’t such a hot idea, and maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t in my best interests to squeal my tires or, drag my feet on the cement. I suppose my soul will be reincarnated soon. I can only hope I don’t come back as a bird nested high in a rubber tree, because if I do, I have a feeling I’ll fail my first flight test.’

Saying good-bye
By: Norval Joe

It’s hard to be a teenage girl and fat. Truly, it’s enough of a challenge to be any one of those characteristics, but to have all of them is a formula for a miserable existence.
Sherry had many friends. She had lived in the same house since birth and was always well liked by the neighborhood children. Her playmates in elementary school and, really, anyone who got to know her, became fast friends. Young children are much more accepting than teenagers and adults. The exception being those children with much older brothers. These children seem to learn sarcasm and insult almost from the cradle.
There comes a point when a child, a girl, one who is fat, advances through the grades, and the new acquaintances aren’t as accepting.
“It seems she will never loose that baby fat,” well meaning, but insensitive adults might say. However, the guileless comments fade away to become the ridiculing sneers and whispered comments of peers. “Doesn’t she know how dumb she looks in that outfit?” Smiling friends turn and giggle, laugh, snicker, make fun, as soon as the object of contempt is out of earshot.
When they laugh, they don’t always laugh quietly. By accident, or on purpose, the laughter reaches the fat girls ears. She goes home and eats, because eating feels good. She tries to fill the emptiness left by their laughing, with food.
The years passed. Kinder gardener baby fat turns into childhood chubby. Junior high school chunkiness meets preteen boys indifference or outright abuse, and expands into high school fat.
She reached her final years of schooling and did her best to be the happy one, the friendly one, the active one, and the smart one. She served in student government, competed on the debate team, and sang in the chorus. Her cheerfulness was paint on a ceramic mask, a hard but brittle shell that disguised and protected the soft painful places inside her.
She was invited to parties and went to movies with groups of her girl friends. She nibbled on popcorn and drank diet soda. At home, away from prying eyes and judgmental noses she ate chips by the bag and ice cream straight from the carton.
In her 3 X-lg graduation gown, she gave the commencement speech. Her voice was the epitome of enthusiasm. She reviewed the graduating classes four years of hard work and accomplishments. She glowed as she described the boundless opportunities that would be theirs in the coming years. There would be colleges and universities, travel, families and careers.
She ended with a promise that they would all gather in five years time. In a spirit of enduring friendship they would share their continued accomplishments and boundless opportunities.
Her class cheered as she returned to her seat.
It’s true that her class would meet in five years time. When they met they wouldn’t see her there. She was worn down and didn’t want to go on to new and boundless opportunities.
A grad party that ran through the night was held on the school grounds. There were games, music and food. They all laughed, hugged and cried, reminiscing about the past and making plans for the short summer. After which they would disperse to their various destinations in the fall.
Sherry didn’t plan with the rest of her friends, she just smiled and nodded her head when asked a question. She had her own plans, that would begin and end in just a few hours. Her friends planned a water skiing trip at the lake for the next weekend. She hadn’t worn a swim suit since the 6th grade swimming party. The jeers of, “look, there’s a beached whale,” and “Watch out for Captain Ahab,” were still burned into her memory. Sherry thought about the bottle in her dresser hidden under her t-shirts.
Each week during her senior year she took one sleeping pill from her fathers’ supply, and saved it. She only took one, so that her parents notice and become suspicious. She had stolen her last pill that very morning.
A friend dropped her off at home, after the party ended. Her parents were still asleep. She grabbed a bottled water from the fridge on the way to her bedroom. She locked the door and retrieved the hidden bottle of pills.
The previous night she had spoken of the important decisions that they all would be making. Here she was making her most important, permanent decision of her life. She felt unexpectedly excited.
She put on her pajamas and got into bed. She opened the bottle of pills and lay back, thinking of the sadness, rejection and disappointments of her life. All the pain was all going to stop this morning. She closed her eyes and let the depth of her desolation wash over her. She cried. The tears flowed freely from her eyes and wetted the pillow under her head.
She had no sleep this last night, at the party, running on adrenalin, chocolate and diet cola. She had spent the previous night preparing her speech for the commencement ceremony and had only slept for a few hours. Before she knew it, her exhaustion crept up on her, and she fell asleep.
She woke to a pounding on her door. “Sherry, dear.” Her mother called. “Get up. We need to go shopping and it’s getting late.”
She had promised her mother that they would spend the day using the money she had received as graduation gifts and buy a new wardrobe to use at college in the fall.
“OK, I’m coming,” she called back. She rolled to her side, swung her feet out of bed and sat on the edge. She tried to shake the fuzziness from her brain. As she got up, the open bottle of sleeping pills rolled across the bed in a long arc, spilling the pills as it went. ‘Shoot’, she thought. ‘What am I going to do now?’ She had lost the perfect opportunity, and would have to figure out a new plan. She scraped the pills back into the bottle and returned it to its hiding place.
They pulled into the mall parking lot and searched for a space close to the entrance. “Sherry?” Her mother asked to get her daughters attention. When she looked at her mom, she asked, “You’re so quiet. Is something wrong?”
‘Is something wrong?’ she thought, ‘I just failed at committing suicide.’ “No, mom.” She said instead, “I’m just tired. It’s been a busy few days. Besides, I don’t know why we’re going to the mall. They won’t have anything that fits me.”
Her mother looked disappointed. “Well, we can see what they have, and if you find something you like, we can look for your size on line. But it’s not just that. My little girl just graduated from high school and will be going far away for college. I just want to spend some time with you, before it’s too late.”
Sherry felt her bitter shell crack, just slightly. Her focus on herself faded just enough to picture the sadness and pain that her parents would feel at her death; and the guilt.
As they pulled into the parking space Sherry began to cry. Her mother turned off the car and realized that her daughter was in tears. “Honey,” She said, leaning over to hug her, “What’s the matter?”
“Oh, I don’t know. All the changes that are happening. I feel so out of control.” She took a deep breath and sighed, regaining control. “And, like I said, I’m probably just tired.”
For hours they braved the flood of skinny, scantily clad teen and preteen girls that perpetually inhabit the shopping mall. Store after store they visited and Sherry rejected each purchase for one reason or another.
“Honey, we’ve found a bunch of clothes that are attractive and look good on you, too. Isn’t there anything here that you would like?”
The aching sadness inside her battled with her love for her mother. “I just don’t feel like I will be able to use any of this when I go,” she said, and then repeated, to herself, “when I’m gone.” Again, she thought of the bottle of pills, waiting for her in her dresser drawer.
She couldn’t meet her mother’s gaze who seemed to be searching her daughter’s face for clues. Sherry dropped her gaze to stare unfocused through a storefront window. “Mom,” she said looking up. “I think there is something I would like.”
They walked to the car with two purchases. A pair of plain grey sweat pants and a pair of running shoes.
Two months later, Shelly left for college in a smaller pair of sweat pants.
Five years later, as the class reunion began, no one saw Sherry. They were looking for the wrong person.

Running Shoes
By: Mick Bordet

Somehow each generation becomes defined by the one or two critical events that resonate with the zeitgeist. I remember my great-grandparents talking about where they were when Kennedy was shot, whilst with my grandparents it was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Looking back now, I can also say exactly where I was when this generation’s moment came. I was in the back seat of my father’s car, fighting with my older brother when the announcement came over the radio. Political decisions were, with few exceptions, of no interest to me at the age of three and yet as soon as I heard it, this one sunk in fast and it hit me hard.

I had just been bought my first pair of running shoes; proper running shoes, not the garish plimsoles I had endured for the first years of my life. These were red and white, zig-zagged from toe to heel like lightning, with soles of foam that made me feel afloat on the air when I tried them on in the shop. I was eager to get home to put them to use as soon as I could. That was a novelty in itself for a boy who wasn’t interested in anything unless it was a robot or a toy gun.

The order from the new President, her first in office, was a simple one. All forms of footwear, from shoes and socks to slippers and stockings, were no longer permitted to be worn, effective from 7am the next day. My parents, sat in the front of the car, were gobsmacked, ranting about what a ridiculously petty law it was to bring in given the state of the world. My brother simply said “awesome” and took his off there and then. I was inconsolable; sat there with a burning desire to run, to slip my feet into those go-faster red flashes and break all my round-the-garden records. I put them on as soon as we arrived home, went to bed in them overnight and refused to take them off in the morning.

There they would have stayed for days had we not watched the morning news reports coming in from all around the country of men, women and children being stopped by teams of barefoot police officers, having their shoes and socks removed, sometime by force, and their feet sprayed with a permanent blue dye. This seemed extreme, but by the afternoon it was clear that this was not some sort of joke and that it would be enforced, with anyone caught wearing shoes over blue feet being subject to a short custodial sentence. You got one chance and that was all. Within the week everyone was walking around barefoot, still feeling somewhat uneasy and self-conscious, but we were all in the same situation.

For the first month, almost everyone grumbled, fed up with sore heels, wet feet, blisters and stubbed toes. Businessmen moaned that they no longer commanded respect at the office, models muttered that they felt small without their high heels, anglers complained that they couldn’t spend so much time in rivers without waders and builders went on strike because they had no protection from dropped bricks.

Yet slowly, month by month, a change was taking place, the sort of change that couldn’t be legislated or forced. This was a change of heart that affected the whole nation. Streets started becoming cleaner. Not due to some new policy, but because people stopped dropping litter, all too aware of what it felt like to have a rotten burger squeeze up through their toes or split their heel open on a discarded bottletop.

That was only the first of many such benefits. There was a subconscious leveling of classes, with rich and poor alike going barefoot. With toes now more vulnerable, people took better care of where they walked and what they carried. Footpaths started to be properly maintained, improving access for the elderly and infirm as well as the regular shoe-less pedestrian. It wasn’t long before marketers realised the potential to appeal to an alternative sense and larger shops began to texture their floors in different patterns to indicate departments or sales, whilst many former shoe shops switched focus to provide pedicure services and ointments for blisters and hardened skin.

By the time I left school, most of the world had adopted the same policy, with very few countries digging their heels in and allowing, or encouraging, shoes to be worn. Needless to say, those same countries became the only places manfacturing shoes and thus the suppliers for a small, but growing, black market.

Which brings me back to my current position. The world of crime is not what it once was, now that everyone not wearing shoes automatically leaves a DNA trail wherever they go, especially around the retail centres, most homes and the few remaining banks, where owners have laid perimeters of concrete mixed with pumice, guaranteed to retain skin samples from even the most heavily-calloused feet. Criminals have to wear shoes just to pull off the most basic of burglaries or robberies and, since anybody seen wearing shoes is technically a criminal anyway, it is easy for the police to identify suspects. Your average criminal needs people like me.

I’ve been smuggling shoes into the country from the South for about four years now, you see. It’s the little I can do to repay the state for taking away the simple pleasures in life. Yes, there are the slick track shoes with disposable linings, so much in demand from the criminal underworld; they certainly pay the bills. The real joy, however, comes from delivering a good quality pair of sensible leather brogues to an ex-army man who longs to recall the discipline of squeezing into a pair of spit-and-polished regulation boots or a set of glittery high-heeled stilettos to a movie startlet to parade up and down the red carpet in her hallway.

It is more than just a job, it is a passion, a personal vendetta turned into a vocation. My heart will, it seems, always be in running shoes.

The Price of Friendship, Part 2.
By:Norval Joe

Chad slipped into his science class a few minutes after the bell rang, but with the normal confusion of after lunch chatter, the class hadn’t settled down enough for him to be noticed. He sat down and tried to think of what he would say to Amy. She wasn’t really a girl friend, in the sense that they were going out. They didn’t hold hands at lunch or make out in the halls between classes, like a lot of the kids did. But to fit in as an 8th grade boy, you had to have a girl friend, so when the other boys asked who it was, he would tell them, Amy. He was sure that what he was saying about her must have gotten back to her; the way kids gossip, it wouldn’t take very long. Since she still sat with him at lunch time, and if he waited for her to get out of her elective choir class, she would walk home with him; she must not mind that he was saying so.
She was in his civics class in the next period and that would give him the opportunity to slip her a note before she went to choir practice. He wrote out a note explaining everything but as he proof read it, it sounded unbelievably lame. What kind of jerk would think that he could give a girl away? She would never show up if he gave her that note. He folded it over and over, then he shoved it in his back pocket intending to burn it, or flush it down the toilet, later. On a new piece of paper he wrote, ‘Amy, meet me at the lunch tree after choir. I need to talk to you, Chad.’ He folded this one four times, wrote her name on the front, and put it in his shirt pocket. He had spent so much time composing the first letter, that as he finished the second the class was ending. He quickly walked to his last class of the day.
In civics they sat on opposite sides of the classroom; therefore, it was obvious to Amy that something was up when Chad entered the room and walked over to the side where she sat. He gave her a weak smile and dropped the note on her desk as nonchalant as possible. There were school rules about passing notes. They only truly applied while class was in session, he didn’t want to draw any attention to Amy or himself. He turned quickly so that she couldn’t talk to him until after class.
He got to his seat as the teacher stood and began to address the class. He glanced over at Amy who had just finished reading the note. She carefully folded it and put it in her backpack. She looked across the room at him and frowned. She shrugged her shoulders and nodded.
Chad felt dreadful. He felt like a traitor; delivering a faithful friend to suffer the penalties of his personal crimes. But, what crime had he committed? The teacher was droning about amendments to the constitution.
Chad found it impossible to maintain his attention on the teachers lecture as his mind kept turning to questions about Derrick. He really didn’t know much about him. Chad figured that he was new to the school, though they had never really talked about it. He was just there one day, at their lunch tree, talking like he had been there all year long. He wasn’t in any of Chad’s classes and they seldom saw each other in the hallway.
“Chad! Hello, Chad?” He looked up as the teacher called out his name. He must have missed the first time she had addressed him, because most of the class had turned to look at him. “Yes, Ms. Van Doorn? I’m sorry, what did you say?” He replied blushing.
“Well, I never thought my lectures were so absorbing. Deep in thought about human rights?” She asked, lightly.
“Oh, yes, ma’am, kind of.” This was not his day for staying out of the spotlight.
“Chad, you’re wanted in the principals office. She saw him turn from bright red to milk pale so quickly that she tried to lighten the situation, by saying, “Well, what ever the crime, they can’t incarcerate you for long. Not without a trial with a jury of your peers. Isn’t that right class? Where do we find our right to a trial by our peers?”
The entire class sat glassy eyed and dumb founded at the teachers swift switch back to lecture, including Chad. When she scanned the class for a student willing to answer her questions, she saw Chad still siting there. “Chad, I think you had better go.”
“Oh, right.” He said grabbing his back pack and heading for the door. He had the urge to look back at Amy, but he didn’t want to see the rest of the class watching him rush off to his doom with the principal; he slipped out the door as quietly as he could.
He stood outside the classroom in a panic. The Principal wanted to see him. That was never good. Chad expected that he would walk into the office and find Derrick there with accusations of neglect and abuse of his game console. How would he explain this predicament to the principal? Would he be at all understanding? He looked down at his feet. He should hurry down the the principal, but he was petrified, by the potential for disaster. He noticed his shoes. His mother had scrimped for weeks to be able to buy him some new running shoes for track. Maybe he could just run away. Of course that would only make things worse, so he headed down the hall toward the administration building.
He thought about how the whole episode began.
On Monday, as they arrived at their tree, lunches in hand, they found Derrick. He was sitting on the edge of the bench, leaning over a hand held game device. Electronic games, music players and telephones were banned from the classrooms and hallways. They could be used during breaks and during lunch, out of doors. Derrick was so absorbed in his game that he seemed unaware of the others as they approached.
“Cool game, Derrick,” Chad said when he sat next to him, glancing quickly at the small screen. “Awesome graphics. What is it, as space game?”
“Uh, huh.” Derrick grunted, not looking up. He concentrated on the device, working his thumbs up and down on little track balls.
“I’ve never seen a game like that before, where’d you get it?” The graphics were incredible. Chad leaned in closer to watch as Derrick maneuvered a space craft through a three dimensional maze of asteroids and enemy fighter ships. It had the definition of the 42 inch plasma TV’s that Chad had seen at the electronics store, but packed into a four by five inch console.
“My dad brought it home from work. He works at the Andermore Labs, over the hill toward Oakland.” He said, as if it explained all mysteries. “Oh,” Chad replied, feigning understanding.
“Do you want to try it?” Derrick asked suddenly.
“Oh, Yeah,” Chad said, trying to act cool, but unable to hide his enthusiasm. As he reached for the game, the school bell rang. It was time to head in from lunch. “Shoot,” Chad said, “maybe tomorrow, I guess?”
“Hey,” Derrick said, noting Chads disappointment. “Why don’t you take it and play it at home. You can bring it back in a few days.”
“No,” Chad said, hesitantly. He thought about how much fun it would be to play the game, but continued, “I can’t. I don’t want to be responsible for something that expensive. I’ll bet it’s worth thousands.”
Derrick looked around him like he was afraid of being overheard. “It’s no problem, as long as my dad doesn’t find out. He doesn’t know that I took it.” Derrick grinned at him conspiratorially. That his Derricks dad didn’t know that the game player was gone worried Chad even more.
“No, I really shouldn’t. Besides, I have a ton of homework to do.” Chad said.
“Come on,” Derrick said, anger flashing in his eyes. “You’re not going to break it or lose it” His arguments were beginning to sound more like threats. “Besides, I know you’re good for it. Just bring it back by Friday.” Derrick pushed the game into Chads hands.
Chad had expected the device to be warm after running the graphic intensive game, but he was shocked by the coolness of the small metal box. It felt almost as if it had just been taken from a refrigerator.
“No, I’m serious, I can’t” Chads words trailed off. When he looked up from the game player, Derrick was already gone and half way back to the school building. The second bell would ring soon, and he would be late for science if he didn’t hurry. He put the game in his lunch bag and ran back to his locker, where he grabbed his back pack. He put the device safely inside before heading on to science.
He stepped through the door to the principals office and was greeted by the perpetually smiling secretary. “Hello, Chad. You can have a seat right there. Mr. Satoro will be with you in a moment.” She indicated one of the orange plastic chairs that lined one wall of the waiting room.
He sat, his stomach growing tighter as if it was physically filling with dread. He bent over and rested his chin in his hands, his elbows on his knees. This position gave him a direct view of his running shoes, and he considered again, the idea of escape.

Great Hites Prompt # 59

This weeks prompt comes from Peter S. and is:

“It is Verboten”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday June 23rd. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to GreatHites at gmail dot com. Good luck.

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 # 56

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This week have stories by:

Norval Joe
Mick BordetWinner <—- this weeks winner
And Jeff Hite

A Death in the Family
By: Norval Joe

“Hi, Mom. What’s for dinner?” Charlie said. He walked past his mother, sat down, and rubbed his feet. When he realized that she hadn’t answered he stopped and looked up . She stood with her hands planted on her hips.
“What?” he said, withering in the heat of his mothers glare.
She shook her head and sat at the table where she had been preparing roots for dinner. When she spoke he clearly heard an undertone anger in her voice.
“The dinner is where it always is. Right under your nose. You can see for yourself what it is.”
She held a reddish knobby tuber in her hand. Tears welled up in her eyes and she looked away.
Chagrinned, Charlie picked at the dirt between his toes.
She got up from the table and stepped away, her back to her son. He could hear her quiet sobs.
He stood and walked to her. She had one hand to her mouth, the knuckles pressed to her lips. In the other hand, she held the tuber. Her shoulders shook.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” This wasn’t like her. He felt disoriented and off balance.
She turned, holding out the root in her hand that she hand been cleaning. She squeezed it as she spoke. “Your father has been gone for weeks. I don’t know if he is ever coming back. And Now my sister, Ida, is sick. She has a fever that won’t break. The doctor has tried his best herbs, and still, she is so hot.” As she spoke she waved the root in the air in a senseless, and futile way, that matched the desolation in her voice.
Charlie felt empty watching his mother behave this way. When she suddenly sat, again at the dinner table, he crouched behind her. “I love you Mom. Just wait, everything will be all right,” he said, and ran his fingers through her short hair. He picked here and there, as if he found a louse. There were none there, but the action had the desired response. His mothers shoulders relaxed. She closed her eyes and cried.
He sat behind her for more than an hour picking though the hair on her head, neck and shoulders.
She wearily got to her feet. “Come, Charlie,” She said, “we should go see her before it gets too late.” The sun was already close to the horizon, and it wouldn’t be safe to travel after dark; Not even the short distance they needed to go.
They approached the clearing where Ida lived and could smell something on the air that told them that things were not right.
Charlie had never experience the death of a family member, but he did know the smell of an animal when it was killed. The air had a similar odor, but also reeked with an an unfamiliar sourness.
Ida lay on her side, unmoving, eyes and mouth, partially open.
Charlie and his mother squatted close to her lifeless form, but did not touch her. His mother quietly wept.
They sat together through the night, watching the inert form. By morning the sourness had dissipated from the air and was replace by the normal scent of decaying flesh.
“Charlie, dear. You must do something for me.” She said when she turned and looked him in the eyes. “Please take her away and put her where the animals won’t get her. I can’t do it. I don’t have the heart. Please, son, do this for me.”
Without hesitation, he bent forward to pick her up. Ida wasn’t heavy, but she was too awkward a shape for him to lift.
His mother watched, expressionless, as Charlie took his aunt by the foot and dragged her from the clearing. Once out of his mothers sight, he stopped, to take a moment, and decide where to put her.
‘Where will animals not be able to reach her?’ He thought. ‘I can hardly lift her, I can’t put her in a tree. Maybe I could put her in a hole and cover her up. But where is a hole large enough for her?’ The only holes that he knew of, close by, were the lairs of burrowing animals. That didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
Then it came to him. The place was far, but he could make it, if he really hurried. He ran back to the clearing. “Mom. I know what to do. Go home and wait for me there. I will be most of the day. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” He didn’t wait for a reply. He ran back to his aunt’s body and dragged it away, through the forest.
He could smell his destination long before he got there. The smell was unlike any around his home. By the time he reached the opening in the ground, the fumes were so strong that his eyes ran with tears and he coughed continuously.
The ground was barren of plants for yards around the pit. He eased up to the edge and peered over. He looked at the wet, liquid, clay, ten feet below. A rainbow sheen glimmered where the sun reached its oily surface.
He didn’t think about it for a long time. He pushed his aunt over the small dirt mound and into the pit.
The clay was thin, but had some resistance. Ida didn’t sink immediately. She light, frail, body floated in the oily, cold, bath in much the same position as when they had found her the night before. On her side, with her back toward him, she slowly disappeared below the surface.
Charlie waited at the edge of the barren area for a short time, before returning to the pit to verify that she had gone, completely.
Satisfied that no trace of her remained, he headed for home

Signal
By: Mick Bordet

Maart felt a moment of panic when the noise started, a faint pulse that seemed familiar, yet long forgotten. He traced it to the bracelet on his left wrist. It had been little more than a decoration for years, but now was glowing and emitting the noise that had caught his attention. A puzzled look spread across his face as he realised what it was telling him: Maeala was back.

That was impossible, he thought, yet the last time the bracelet had made such a signal was the last time he had seen her, almost thirty years ago. When the device had first changed from the almost imperceptible ticking he was used to, the sound that told him she was safe, to this same slow pulse, he had jumped into action. The tracking system led him to the side of the lake where he found only a small child crying. Her tears were for the kind girl who had rescued her ball, but fallen into the dark water in the process.

He had sat by the shore for days on end, gazing out across the calm, black surface, knowing that she was gone, but hoping against all logic that perhaps her bracelet had just fallen off and she would appear by his side, telling him not to be so silly. After three weeks his own bracelet had gone quiet. Wherever she was, somewhere down there, where the search teams could not reach, she was out of sight of the Sun’s rays and the charge on her bracelet had run out.

“So why,” he asked himself, “is it active again after all these years?”

After the accident, he had signed up for the airforce tests that would see him given an aircraft that could travel in space at close to the speed of light. He was told to leave Earth and return with details of new planets that could be colonised if the extreme volcanic activity on Earth worsened. There were already worries that the atmosphere was becoming poisoned by the rapidly changing climate, so action was needed now if the people were to survive. A year earlier nothing would have dragged him away from his idyllic lifestyle in the village where he lived, but with his only love lost he wanted to get away as quickly as possible.

Space had been his home for years now and he had found two planets worthy of habitation. One was so beautiful that he hadn’t wanted to leave its brightly-coloured forests, dark purple moors and twinkling golden deserts, whilst the other was less hospitable, with unending rain showers and strong winds detracting from an otherwise fertile and verdant land. He had noticed on his approach to his home planet that it seemed greener and bluer than he had remembered, but had put this down to his memory reflecting his emotions about leaving, rather than what he had actually seen. Those had been dark times and he had been quite happy to see the planet disappear into the distance as he left.

Now that he was down within the atmosphere again, he could see that it was not just his imagination, but the planet had indeed changed; the sky was clearer, for a start. He wondered if the scientists had found a way to reverse the global warming and reduce the poisonous gas emissions, but then he saw the cities. All over the planet were huge stone outcrops, buildings not made of wood and natural materials, but of synthetic compounds that glared against the sky. Coming closer to the ground he could make out the inhabitants; tall, almost-bald, tail-less creatures roamed everywhere. They were clearly of a similar species to himself and yet a world removed. He knew this was not a change that could have happened in thirty years, but had no explanation for where his own people were. Had he not been daydreaming through his lessons on the theory of spaceflight, he might well have realised that he was experiencing time dilation first hand. All that distance he had crossed at near-light speed had seemed a long thirty years to him, but to Earth, millenia had passed and his people had died out millions of years ago.

Passing from night into day as he sped towards the source of the signal, Maart stared all around the landscape surrounding his little ship, noticing that, despite the differences between his people and these new inhabitants, the latest tenants of Earth looked like they were making a lot of the same mistakes. Light and noise pollution were everywhere, something his people had not suffered from, as well as massive plumes of near-luminous white smoke rising into the night sky.

Finally he reached the building from which the signal was emanating. It was open, though there were very few people around, which meant he could easily sneak inside without being seen. As he crept along the echoing stone corridors, the range of weapons, skeletons, monuments and old artifacts led him to the conclusion that this was a museum, though his focus was fixed on the bracelet on his wrist which registered his proximity to his goal with an accelerating pulse. Eventually the corridor came to an end and he stood facing a wall.

He looked up. There she was.

The fossil, attached to the wall facing him, could have belonged to any one of his people, but for one thing. On the wrist of one of the figure’s outstreached arms was a faint, but rapid, pulsing glow of pale green light, perfectly synchronised with the frequency of the pulse illuminating his own wrist. He stepped forward and touched the delicate skeletal structure where it was lit, his finger lingering for a moment before tracing the arm bones back to the body and stroking the skull. Her mother had died in childbirth and he had raised her on his own until that dreadful day.

“Good night, my darling daughter,” he said, for the first time in 47 million years.

Bones
By: Jeff Hite

Sara hated the environmental suit she was wearing. It didn’t fit properly and the air recycling system smelled as if they last person who wore the suit was a long dead whale. But since her suit had been damaged the day before, this suit was the only one that she had access to, and this find was way too important to wait until her suit was repaired.
Three days ago they had found the remains of a village that was probably the oldest thing they had found yet. They had yet to find any remains but the team knew that If was not a custom to bury their dead near their dwellings, and so far that is all the scans had found. The dwellings went from nearly the size of the transport ship, to smaller than the landing craft. It was in one of these smaller buildings that her suit had been damaged, when an ancient piece of equipment, proved to be still sharp enough to slice her suit from wrist to elbow. It was a surprising find to be sure, but it had cut her day short.
“Sara, what were you thinking?” Doctor March, the team lead, had asked.
“I could not imagine that it was still sharp.”
“Did you check it? You know that these people were known for their use of tempered tools.”
“Yes but I could not imagine that after all this time it would still have an edge.”
“Well you were lucky. If you had leaned against it and cut your suit in a place that could not have been so easily sealed off.”
“Yes, yes I know. But what do you think of the find? Do you know what this could prove?”
“You mean that they were a truly integrated society?”
“Yes.”
“Personally I don’t think we have found anything that would prove that. And, I am leaning more toward Johnathan’s theory.”
“But what about the proximity of the buildings?”
“As Johnathan has said, they were storage. which is why you found tools there.”
“But Doctor, that makes no sense, why would dwellings so large need additional storage? The site we found yesterday show huge open spaces in the larger dwelling, that would be prefect to store anything they could possibly need. And they it would make more sense that we would find tools of the crafts of labors in the smaller dwellings?”
“Did you get a look at the tool that you cut your suit on?”
“No not really, it cut my suit and I left.”
“Kelly went back in there, and found no evidence of a dwelling but he found many more tools.”
“What if it that was only the lower level and they lived above.”
“The foundation does not look like it would support a second level.”
“But it still makes no sense, the larger dwellings had so much extra space, they would have no need for extra storage. The smaller dwellings have to be for the poor. And it makes sense because there is one or more per larger structure. It makes sense that each of the well off groups would take under their wing a poorer one.”
“There is your problem. Once again you are projecting what you know about our society on these peoples. You are taking what you know about us an assuming that they did the same things.”
“But.”
“But, nothing. They were known to be particularly savage. Did you know that that they used the skins of animals to cover themselves, or ever worse they eat animals.”
At that thought of this she felt violently ill and almost lost control. When she had regained control she said, “But we have no evidence of them eating their own kind. Do we?”
“Nothing solid, but it is never that far of a leap for these primitives.”
“But, they had made into space, they had a rocketry program, in the southern part of this continent, and they had released the power of the atom.”
“Yes, and then they used it to destroy one another. The records that we have been able to recover show that the people that discovered and harnessed the power of the atom were the first to use it against others on the planet.”
“I read that was well.”
“There is much more evidence to that they were horrible wasters of space, and those out buildings you found where just for storage.”
“But we have nothing hard on that. And what about the one that we found genetic Material from someone not belonging to the group that lived in the main dwelling.”
“First of all, in that area it is not clear which smaller building is associated with which larger building, and just because we found remains there does not mean that they lived there. They could have been hiding or they could have died their unexpectedly. One of the side effects of a diet that consists of animal, um, is sudden heart failure. I think that you are reading too much into this, this is your first planet side expedition.”
“I would like to continue to collect evidence on my theory.”
“Very well, but I highly doubt you will be able to support it, no matter what you find.”
“Thank you, but I think you are wrong.”

Great Hites Prompt # 58

This week’s prompt comes from me and is:

“Self Pity.”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday June 16th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to GreatHites 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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GreatHites 55

Great Hites # 55 is Guest hosted by Justin Lowmaster. Thank you so much Justin.
This week we have stories by:

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Ashley Redden
Norval Joe
WinnerMick Bordet <—- this weeks winner
and Justin Lowmaster

Arms Race
By: Ashley Redden

Dr. Saunders looked again at his pressure suit and considered going out without it. This was not the first time that the good doctor had entertained these thoughts. One day, perhaps soon perhaps not, he may do more than entertain them, but not today.
He curtly began his predressing inspection being every bit as thorough and analytical as always, yet those nagging thoughts remained. Three weeks ago Dr. Martin had done just that. He walked up to the pressure door, went through the proper procedure setting off no alarms and exited from the hospital’s staff living area to the active working center. This was a procedure that Dr. Martin had performed many times in the past, the difference here being that Dr. Martin had left his pressure hanging, still seated and ready to use. The suit had been fully sanitized and properly prepped for use. Dr. Martin had just simply bypassed wearing it.
The night before, there was a heated discussion in Block C; Dr. Saunders resides in Block A, between Dr. Martin and other members of the staff. Dr. Martin was purported to say to them all, “You’re all just robots going through the motions watching the end come like some macabre scorekeepers.” After which he stormed out. No one spoke with him again until after the next morning when he walked out, smile on his rueful face, suit still in the rack.
He had lasted some 10 days, each day seeming a bit frailer than the last, when he bottomed out. After that it was a scant 12 hours before he expired. Some of the staff had accused Dr. Martin of taking the easy way out, suicide they spat. Dr. Saunders wasn’t so sure. After all, was there any hope anymore? He had hardly known Dr. Martin, wasn’t even sure of the man’s first name. But Dr. Saunders could sympathize. He grudgingly felt the same way at times, but couldn’t allow himself to proceed with the act.
Dr. Saunders stepped into the red circle placing both feet as centered as possible onto the smaller oblong foot-shaped areas within the larger circle. He said, “This is Dr. Carl Saunders. Please suit for exit.”
A pleasant nongendered voice answered, “Good morning Dr. Saunders. Please remain calm and with both feet placed within the designations for suiting.”
As he stood waiting for the automated suiting process to proceed, Dr. Saunders remembered the second savior of mankind. He was still a child when the procedure was ratified by the world government and announced that everyone, the inhabitation of the world, would undergo the procedure. The slogan was ‘metapleural glands for an infection free life’. Utilizing gene therapy, all citizens, whether they wanted it or not, received an injection of MGI, metapleural gland initiator. After this single injection, a metapleural gland system would develop internally within each injectee. Everyone would benefit from the procedure, no fuss no muss.
This prospect had so invested itself into Dr. Saunders’ psyche, then just Carl Saunders, that he had begun a pursuit in medicine upon induction to university.
This was the second time in modern history that a medical miracle would draw praise as the savior of humanity. The first happened in the early nineteen hundreds with the invention of antibiotics. The fanfare was lauded long before terms were commonly used like misuse of broad spectrum antibiotics that led to other more insidious terms such as drug tolerance and drug resistance and of course the worst of all multidrug resistance. Humanity had made a choice. We stepped out of natural selection and Mother Nature summarily unleashed the biological dogs of war.
A pleasant voice briefly pulled Dr. Saunders from his reverie saying, “Initial stage suiting complete. Beginning secondary stage suiting, please remain calm and with both feet properly placed within the designations for suiting.”
“The deadly bull ant will save us all,” Dr. Saunders remembered one pompous scientist espousing all the while primping for the cameras like so much the rock star. The procedure had begun with study of certain metapleural gland secretions from Myrmecia gulosa, the Australian bull ant. These secretions exhibited startling antimicrobial properties that left bull ants virtually germ free.
So the world’s population had taken the treatment and subsequently enjoyed some forty years of nearly infection free living, truly, a golden age for humanity. That golden age had, however, come to a bitter end with the first documented case of GICS, global immuno collapse syndrome.
Some mixture of normal bacterial flora, or indigenous micro biota as preferred by the professionals, inhabiting the cutaneous tissue of all humans had somehow changed or altered in such as way to shred the immune system of otherwise healthy individuals. The disease seemed then to race through the world’s population like a wildfire. The world government that just months before was struggling with a burgeoning populace’ increasing demand for an already overburdened supply system, suddenly found whole populations, continents worth, dropping dead over a period of days or weeks.
The scientific community had pulled back and begun experimentation immediately. Hundreds of facilities had been erected within each country; the United States had several hundred alone. Of those hundreds and hundreds of facilities, only thirty nine remained in contact. Things had begun to look dire.
The only inhibition to the disease found so far was to sterilize the skin of each of the individuals, then reinoculate each person’s skin with a single culture of bacteria, Staphylococcus epidermidis, a commonly occurring human cutaneous flora . That particular flora was the only one currently present on Dr. Saunders skin and monitored with great impunity by the automated system that oversaw operations in the hospital.
‘The deadly bull ant may in the end kill us all,’ thought Dr. Saunders. Humanity in its arrogance forgot that we live on a biosphere and are active participants in that system’s never ending biological arms race. We gambled and lost big, real big.
The pleasant voice said, “Secondary stage complete. Please step into the suit. Remain calm and motionless within the suit for final sealing.”
The rack lowered spreading the suit wide like some waiting false skin. Dr. Saunders stepped into the suit, pushing his arms into the open suit and waited for the sealing process to proceed. The suit sealed with a hiss as positive pressure was applied to the interior. A green light blossomed where red had previously illuminated and the large iris before Dr. Saunders rotated open.
“Please exit,” said the voice.
“Thank you,” answered Dr. Saunders.
“You are welcome sir.”
Once outside the sealed living area, Dr. Saunders began making his was to the laboratory facilities in section 12, his designated laboratory.
Another scientist passed him at the first corner. They made eye contact and Dr. Saunders could see the endemic weariness present in her fatigue lined eyes.
“Good luck today,” she said with a slight wave of arm.
Dr. Saunders waved back and remembering the comment on robots, thought that she did indeed resemble a robot. He turned and continued on his way, mind still wandering. Dr. Saunders’ thoughts began to drift then onto other topics working details out, building speed as if they were some wild life form all there own. He stopped as ideas began to occur to him, one after the other, as if a tap had been unstoppered allowing the water contained therein to gush out completely unfettered.
As his mind raced, he began again to walk towards the waiting laboratory quickening his pace, as well as, his breath. By the time he arrived, he had a working theory and experimentation projects stratifying within his head, clicking mentally into place. He looked around at the dark laboratory and passed a hand over the light panel. The lighting in the laboratory began to wink on gradually becoming brighter and brighter. Dr. Saunders let out a loud whoop that went unanswered in the isolated laboratory. He felt just like the lab, everything was dark moments ago, now bright. He had read somewhere that euphoric events sometimes occur like that, out of the blue like a mental tidal wave. Ideas were like lightning. One could never predict where or when they would strike.
Dr. Saunders fought down the urge to tell someone, but he had much work to perform before that step. He would begin a new log and place his thought within that should anything happen to him, it would suffice. He would talk later; right now he required uninterrupted focus.
So a lowly ant had ordained the doom of mankind only to be saved by an off-the-wall comment of a disenfranchised doctor. They say that necessity is the mother of invention.
‘Well, ‘thought Dr. Saunders, ‘irony must have a place in that statement as well.’ Things were suddenly looking up.
Dr. Saunders rubbed suited hands together impatient to get started, he had mountains to move.

Out in right field
By: Norval Joe
 
“I was reading Omni magazine,” Gary announced suddenly, as Kyle chewed on his sandwich and Eric picked at the strings of his guitar. The pick hopped about in complicated patterns across the strings, while the fingers of his left hand walked up and down the frets. He had spent years learning the classical style of guitar, using all the fingers of his right hand to pluck the various strings, but it was clear from the expressions that his face made as he played, that he enjoyed the raw sound of the nylon pick against the strings. With his eyes closed, he kept playing, but he finally asked, “Ok, what did you read in Omni?”
“I read that they are making computers that are so smart that they will start improving themselves without telling us that they are doing it, until they get so smart that they won’t need us anymore, and then they’ll just get rid of us.”
Kyle stopped chewing, and spoke around the food still in his mouth, “You read that in Omni?”
“Well, maybe it wasn’t Omi, but I did read it somewhere, and when that happens, it will really suck!”
“Wait a minute,” Eric stopped him, “You think that the computers will get so smart that they will kill us?”
“Uh, huh.” Gary grunted, starting to look defensive.
“So, how is a computer supposed to kill us,” Eric challenged him.
The enthusiasm returned to Gary’s face, “You know, they’ll make robots with weapons in the arms and stuff, and they’ll hunt us down until every human is eliminated.
Eric was advancing up the neck of his guitar, playing a twelve note riff, over and over, in different keys. He didn’t pause or even slow down, but asked, “So you’re saying that super advanced, artificial intelligence, computer robots will someday wipe out mankind?” Gary was bobbing his head in agreement, so Eric went on, “It will never happen. First of all, the more intelligent a species becomes, the more pacifistic its society becomes. It’s the ignorant and superstitious that try to destroy life.” He paused speaking, to begin a new riff and work back down the neck of the guitar. “Secondly, you assume that your AI will develop a WC.”
“WC?” Both Gary and Kyle asked at the same time.
“Yeah, WC; who cares? You assume that this perpetually improving AI is going to become self aware, develop desires and aspirations. That it is going to want to be more than just a box of electronic connections that reads and writes ones and zero’s on a magnetic surface.
“No matter how advanced you make its routines, even to the point that it will analyze and improve them on its own, it will never advance to the point, where it will decide for itself that it wants to do anything different than what it was programmed to do.
“If you want robots, just look around you. This quad is full of them. All these unintelligent jerks walking around the school are doing just what they were programmed to do; eat, sleep, and procreate. They don’t create anything new, or try to become something different than what they are. Their genetic make-up, their hormones, are determining their every move, every decision that they make.
Katy Sims walked bast the three freshmen at that moment, on the arm of Jason Smith. They all stopped talking and gaped, stupidly, as their own hormones took control for a time. She floated past them in her tightly fitting blue jean shorts and lace edged, white, t-shirt, her strawberry blonde hair glowing in the mid-day sunshine like the halo around an angel.
Eric didn’t miss a note, but switched to a low, slow, blues progression.
Neither Katy, nor Jason, appeared to notice the three boys sitting on the steps in front of the schools theater. They walked past and around the corner to the stairs that would lead to the theater’s back stage entrance; where it was secluded and private.
“That guy is huge,” Kyle said when he came to himself again, “It’s too bad he got kicked off the football team, he was half the front line; and aggressive, too.”
“You mean, too aggressive, Kyle.” Gary put in. “You can’t be on a team if you’re fighting with the other players all the time, and the coaches too. He’s just too hot headed.”
Eric went back to flat picking, but in a minor key, as Kyle launched back in, expounding on his previous comment. “Talk about killer robots. When that guy gets mad, it’s like he’s been programmed to kill; there’s no stopping him. I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side.”
They could hear noises from the two around the corner; though their conversation wasn’t loud enough to hear, clearly, the tone of their voices said that they were arguing.
“I don’t know why she stays with him,” Gary said, looking in the direction of the increasingly louder interchange, “she could have any guy in the school. Shoot, she could have me!” He finished with an exclamation, as if suddenly solving a great mystery. He looked around at his friends for support, but Eric was laughing and Kyle was staring at his sandwich again.
Kyle spoke without moving his eyes from the sandwich, “Katy was my best friend in 2nd grade, you know. We spent every recess together on the jungle gym. It was our space ship and we were going to the moon. She wanted to be an astronaut, back then. She’s smart enough; she could be one if she still wants to.”
“No! I don’t want to right now!” They heard Katy shout, clearly not remembering that the three boys were sitting with in hearing distance, or not caring. They couldn’t understand Jason’s response; hearing only a grumbling murmur.
Eric shifted back to the blues progression, but interspersing it with riffs in a minor key. Gary looked at Kyle with an embarrassed smile, apparently thrilled by the overheard drama, but Kyle just shot back with a withering glare. Gary’s smile disappeared completely, just moments later, when the volume and intensity of the argument increased.
“No!” Katy was screaming now, and crying too. “Don’t touch me. I hate you.” Eric stopped playing and all three boys looked in the direction of Katy’s louder and louder protestations. “I don’t ever want to see you again!” Katy shouted. She was crying loudly, when there was a sudden, sharp, pop; like the sound you hear when you’re standing out in right field and the baseball hits the bat.
All three boys were on their feet and Eric and Kyle were headed for the back stairs. Gary stayed where he was and shouted at the other two boys,” Hey! You can’t go back there; he’ll kill you too.” But then he followed his friends around the corner, when they paid him no heed.
Kyle was the first around the corner to find Jason bending over the unmoving Katy laying supine at the top of the stairs. He could see her face, eyes closed, her mouth open, just slightly, like she was waiting for a kiss; her face seemed small and round framed by her short straight, strawberry blonde hair. She looked so much like the little girl he had known in second grade, when she had once fallen from the jungle gym and lay unmoving in the sand below; without thinking he shouted, “Katy, are you ok?”
Surprised to find that he and Katy were no longer alone, Jason turned and half stood, “Get out of here! Can’t you see we’re making out?” There was hate, anger and something else in his dangerous look; was it guilt? When the three just stood there dumbfounded, Jason got fully to his feet. “Didn’t you hear me? I said get out of here or I’ll beat the crap out of each one of you!”
“OK, Jason. Take it easy, we’re leaving. We didn’t see nothing.” Eric said, backing away, trying to pacify this angry bull of a giant youth. Jason stopped advancing toward them as the three boys backed out of the passage that lead to the stairs.
Instead of returning to their previous spot on the steps in front of the theater, they continued walking across the quad toward the administration building.
“We need to tell someone. Katy could really be hurt,” Kyle said, shoving his hands into his pockets and turning to look back toward the side of the theater where he could still picture Katy laying unconscious at the top of the stairs.
“Yeah, and then he’ll come and kill us, too. This isn’t a huge high school. It won’t be hard for him to figure out who ratted on him, and then find us. I mean, he only lives a few streets away from me, and he used to deliver our newspaper.” Gary was starting to sound panicked, fear pulling down the corners of his mouth and making his eyes water.
They were still looking in the direction of the theater when the bell rang. Lunch was over. “We need to decide quickly what we’re going to do,” Eric was saying when they saw the couple emerge into the quad. Jason towered above her as she leaned into his body, under his right arm, her left arm around his waist. The left side of her face was against his chest, and she stared blankly at the ground as they moved across the quad. His right arm supported her under her right shoulder, at times it appeared as if he was carrying her, or dragging her along, instead of her bearing her own weight.
Jason glared at the three friends as the couple climbed the steps out of the sunken quad; not headed to the classrooms, but out to the student parking lot.
“We’re robots,” Eric said as they turned to head toward their next classes, “we’re all just robots.”

The Robot Band
By Mick Bordet

My best friend, Sam, is rich. Filthy, stinking, obscenely rich. Not just merely lottery or pop star rich, but owns-a-Carribbean-island rich. He’s also thick as several extremely short planks, but that has never held him back. You see, Sam is a natural risk-taker, a guy who knows when to get in to something new and, more importantly, when to get out. He left school at sixteen, worked in a shop for about six months until it went belly-up and he was paid off. That minor windfall he invested in shares, whilst he looked for something else to do, and was the point at which his winning streak began. The shares were for a small company called Microsoft and within a few short years, Sam had taken those profits and re-invested them again and again, always picking winners. From early mobile phone companies to Google and MySpace, he always invested so early in their lives that the rewards from share growth were substantial.

You might ask me, “how has the money changed him?” and I would have to say that it hasn’t. Much smaller amounts have changed many a life over the years, sometimes for the better, often for the worst, but not Sam. He still meets us every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night down at our local pub, the Pumpkin and Poodle, where the four of us old school friends have congregated since our youth. In fact, he’s the only one who has never missed a single night; the rest of us have had various interruptions along the way — we didn’t see Joe for months at a time whilst he was away at university some years back, Fred often heads away on the United supporters bus on various trips into Europe to follow his team and I’ve missed the occasional night for the odd family crisis. I think the four of us and his mother are the only people who know just how wealthy Sam really is, so down-to-earth is his manner. Our evenings range from straightforward pub talk with dwindling coherence over the course of the evening, to quiz nights where Sam is more of a liability than anything else.

If it’s a night when one or more of us are away, we’ll often decant early to one of our homes and sit up into the wee small hours listening to music or playing cards or board games. Game choices can be tricky; Sam is lucky to reach a double-figure score in Scrabble, but wipes the floor with the rest of us when playing Monopoly. Buying and selling just comes naturally to him, though little else does. As for music, Joe has been trying to educate Sam in the delights of opera, which he enjoys when he hears it, but would never buy for himself. I’m more into rock, myself, but Sam can’t get his head around my musical taste at all, preferring the most insipid, watered-down, mass-market music that advertising can buy.

“Why don’t you like this group?” he often asks me.

“Because what you call ‘the music’ is repetitive, the lyrics don’t tell any sort of story apart from ‘I wanna jump your bones’ and it sounds like everything else in the charts,” is my usual answer.

“They’re really hot girls, though, and the video is clever, too.”

“Sam, they’re ‘hot’ because they are covered in layers of make-up, are filmed from just the right angle and are gyrating in such a manner that your brain isn’t exactly focused on what they actually look like. I’m sure they’re all pimples and stretch marks under all that; you’d probably look that good with the right stylist.”
“Okay then,” he would add, “but they’re good dancers and they’ve got good singing voices.”

That would normally be enough to tip me over the edge.

“First of all, I can’t see them dancing on the CD, so they could be prima ballerinas for all that matters. As for their singing, their voices have been processed by so many fancy studio effects that they all sound just the same as every other girl band out there. I bet they can’t even sing in tune; that’s easily fixed with fancy gadgets nowadays. I’d rather go and see a band of robots perform than waste good money on these girl and boy bands. There would certainly be more emotion in their voices. Sam, you really need to stop listening to what they tell you on the radio or, better still, find a channel with some decent music.”

For somebody with such a head for business decisions, he has almost no imagination, knowledge or common sense and yet it’s hard to stay annoyed with him for long; he’s such a naturally fun person to be around. The one concession to a billionaire lifestyle is that paradise island in the Carribbean; it is truly stunning, with an unassuming wooden home built on top of the rocky hill in the middle of the island, providing spectacular views over the deep green forests, golden beaches and sparkling blue ocean beyond. It has a private airstrip where he lands his jet, but he only goes there for weekends; he’s always back in time for our Monday night pub session.

Birthdays are different. His in-built intuition has come up with a winning formula for letting him spoil his friends without letting us turn into jerks. He will happily buy us the most extravagant of gifts, year after year, but always with one proviso. When we have finished with whatever the gift may be, we have to sell it for charity; we are not allowed to make any profit from it. Last year he bought me a stunning black Lambourghini sports car. Totally impractical for a family man with no garage who lives in a normal suburban town, but that’s the sort of thing he comes up with. He wants us to have fun, to benefit from his wealth, but couldn’t bear us changing. So, after a couple of weeks driving the thing out in the countryside and along the motorway in the middle of the night, before the local vandals had a chance to wreck their own brand of havock on the car, I put it up for auction and gave the money to a local charity as an anonymous donation.

Last week was my fiftieth birthday and Sam’s present seemed particularly thoughtful. He had booked the local theatre, a small venue at the end of the high street, and invited the three of us and our families. We sat expectantly for twenty minutes, chatting away and enjoying the champagne he had laid on for everyone, until the lights dimmed and the curtain rose. A solitary figure sat on a stool in the middle of the stage, holding a guitar and surrounded by a bewildering array of gadgets. He started to play, occasionally tapping foot pedals to change effect or start an echoing loop of sound.

“It’s Fripp!” I whispered to Sam, “How the hell did you get him to come here?”

I have no idea what it must have cost him to hire the King Crimson guitar legend for a private show, though I knew that money was no object as far as his friends were concerned. Sam just smiled back and said “Enjoy the show.”

The show continued for about fifteen minutes like this, Fripp building up a dense wall of intense music that raced around the auditorium, before letting it fade slowly away. Even the people around me who I knew didn’t listen to progressive rock were clearly impressed, applauding the small figure on stage. He didn’t stop. Over the fading echoes he started to play a clear melody, a riff, a tune that triggered memory: “All along the watchtower”. Before the first instrumental verse had ended, another figure shambled onto the stage to join Fripp.

“No way! You got Dylan, too! This is awesome!” I said, almost dancing in my seat.

Perhaps the mix of these two very different musicians, the intense, technical guitar player and the croaky, folky troubadour, should not have worked, but on this night it was perfect. It only got better. As the song ended and they started the next piece, lights to the left of the stage gradually illuminated to reveal a bank of keyboards, played by former Zappa band member Bobby Martin. Another song passed and a curtain to the back of the stage lifted, revealing a small set of percussion that was being played gently by a heavily-beared man sitting in a wheelchair who also started to sing delicately wistful backing melodies to accompany Dylan’s nasal lead vocal.
I didn’t need to say anything to Sam; the grin spread across my face as I pointed to the stage and mouthed the words “Robert Wyatt!”

The band was complete with the final addition of another vocalist, replacing Dylan who moved over to play acoustic guitar. The tight jeans and wild hair were an instant giveaway, although no surprise given the calibre of talent already on stage: Robert Plant.

Only then did the penny drop. My wonderful friend who had arranged this show, this once-in-a-lifetime event that would stay with me for ever, had not picked and paid for this collection of musicians for their talent or the fact that I had a great deal of respect for all of them. He had simply misinterpreted my desire. I turned and looked him in the eye, laughed and said, “Roberts, they are all Roberts!

Great Hites Prompt # 57

This weeks prompt comes from my Bathroom floor where I left them this morning, and is:

“Running Shoes.”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday June 9th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to GreatHites 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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