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Wear IT

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You know those graffiti messages... - Editor

Wear IT

by James L. Grant

The words had been written on concrete in black marker. Shelley frowned at them.

She’d found the underpass purely by accident one day. Doctor Gonzales had recommended exercise to get her blood pressure down. This had prompted a litany of reasons why Shelley had no time for such an endeavor. After hearing about how she worked from seven to seven, Monday through Friday, and there were no gyms anywhere near either her house or the mortgage office, and all the other reasons, the doctor had held up his hand patiently.

“You have a lunch break?” he’d asked.

So that had been that. Just to prove him wrong, Shelley had taken his suggestion and turned her regular lunches at the desk into strolling mealtimes. At first she’d merely circled the block for an hour, counting off a mile and a half via a cheap electronic pedometer. It had been boring, so she’d changed up her route. Sometimes over a few blocks and back, passing the medical buildings and a coffee shop. Other times walking in the park, swatting away flies that tried to suckle at runners of perspiration on her neck.

And in eighteen months, her blood pressure had dropped like a rock. She’d also lost ten pounds in the first nine weeks. Shelley wasn’t exactly large, but she’d been poking at the weight she’d gained over the last few years and wishing it would go away. Like her father had always said, wishes had failed where action succeeded. She’d even traded up her regular noonday sandwiches with energy bars.

She’d found the hiking trail by happy chance one day. It was a concrete sidewalk, bisected lengthwise into two lanes for various joggers and bicyclists. Much of it paralleled the road near her office, and ran under two of the nearby freeways. It had been there the whole time she’d worked at the company. She’d never noticed.
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A Phoenix By Any Other Name

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Rare and exotic, indeed - Editor

A Phoenix By Any Other Name

by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

The tall, well-dressed customer smelled of wealth, power, and expensive cologne.  Bruant, dealer in "Rare and Exotic Animals Imported from the Hinterworlds," knew who he was instantly.  On the small, but exclusive, satellite Newfortun, Jahan Lupant III was the richest man anyone could name, though most looked uneasy and fell silent when asked how he made his fortune.  It was as if they thought that merely speaking of his unscrupulous tactics might bring Lupant's attention to bear on them.

Bruant gulped and hurried to Lupant's side.  His eyes gleamed at the thought of the profit he might make today, but he was well-aware that disappointing this man would be a terrible idea for any merchant.  For a merchant not yet in business for a year, it would be a disaster.

"I need," Lupant stated, in the tone of one accustomed to obedience, "a rarity."

Bruant smiled. "But of course!"

"I need a creature that none have seen, and it should be wild and impressive to the eye. It must be perfect.  I am hosting a party, and I intend it to be an occasion that people will speak of for months.  It occurred to me that a live, exotic creature would add a touch of novelty."

Lupant looked down his nose at his surroundings, as if doubting such a thing could be found here.

"Certainly, sir," Bruant said.  "Let me show you our stock."  He gestured to the store window, where two rigid gray lizards balanced upright on the tips of their tails, their eyes closed, their forelegs crossed over their chests.  "These tomb-lizards are from the planet Cassial.  They are known as tomb-lizards because of the resemblance between their dormant state and gravestones: the gray color, the posture--"

"Do they do anything interesting?"

Bruant blinked.  "Every half-hour, they revive, change to their normal color, and run around frantically for about ten minutes."

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Incarnadine Stars

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Magenta moon and... - Editor

Incarnadine Stars

by Chris Deal

“When's the sun come up?” he asked from the other end of the bench, his voice quiet, not his usual boisterousness. He was shrinking into himself as the night drifted.

“Not for another hour.”  I looked up, past the lamp's halo, past the city’s lights, into the pale gray of the birthing day.

“Shit.” He spat the cigarette butt away, onto the walkway.

“Think you'll make it?” I light a another smoke and hand it to him, his hand shaking, weak, then I do another for myself.

“Nah. Wish I would, but don't believe it to be.”

I lean forward, elbows on knees, and there's a smudge on the black leather of my left shoe. With a clean handkerchief I wipe away the dull incarnadine.  It came from him.

“Stars sure are clear,” he said.

“Yeah.  I figure that’s 'cause it's so cold.”

“How's that?” He coughs, and it is the sound of a blade cutting through wheat.

“I think it's the cold, it keeps the molecules in the atmosphere from vibrating, making the stars appear clear.”

He grunted, or made a sound that could be construed as a grunt.

“But I ain't a scientist or nothing, so I don't know.  Could be we’re closer to them in orbit or whatever.  I don’t know.”

He didn't say anything, and neither did I, for several minutes, we just sat there, looking up at the sky, and it was getting to be a brighter shade of gray, the same color of the ash that was growing on his cigarette, between his fingers, unmoving on the armrest, the cherry dying, fading.

“Sorry it went down like this,” I said.

I stood and walked toward the car, stopping only to pick up the lone casing, then away, towards where the sun will soon be.

©2009

 

The Dead Girls

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Memories can flow like water - Editor

The Dead Girls

by Aaron J. French

Chris Evans has heard the rumor of the two dead girls.  But he thought it was only a superstition.  He’s fished this section of Lake Erie since he was a boy, since back in the seventies when the water deterioration was so bad it spawned an article in Time Magazine and the subsequent Clean Water Act of 1972.

His father used to bring him here at dawn, when the sky was lit up with pink and the waters swirled a dark, uninviting gray.  They’d sit in his dented boat and wait patiently for fish to bite.  A peaceful experience, a time for father and son to be alone.

But now Chris is sitting alone on the lake in the middle of the night.  In the same boat, the one his father bequeathed to him; a beer cooler at his feet, the sprawling tackle box on the bench.  His pole leaning out.  A Styrofoam cup filled with dirt on his lap.

It’s the smell that gets him, that earthy fresh aroma.  Nothing fuels nostalgia like soil and worms and fat grubs.

When the pair of luminescent shapes first appeared over the water, he’d assumed it was a trick of light.  But that was more than three hours ago.  They’ve moved over time, drifting slowly across the lake, going up and down the shoreline.

When they passed before the boat, Chris forced himself to watch.  He studied their golden faces, their long flowing hair, their tiny bodies wrapped in grass and reeds.  They glanced at him, each girl putting a finger to her lips, then continued on.

At the moment they’re at the other end, but he still sees them.  The night sky is reflected in the water, so they resemble two planets orbiting the stars.  They’re absolutely silent, and aside from their luminescent auras, they’re undetectable.

Aided by the moonlight, Chris plucks a worm from the Styrofoam cup and splices it onto the hook.  Guts squirt across his fingers.  He wipes them on his jeans then stands, rocking slightly with the boat.
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Is It Deja Vu?

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I certainly hope so... - Editor

Is It Déjà Vu?

By Giovanna Lagana

On the dense city street, the hum of traffic and honking would have deafened any soul unlucky enough to be in the proximity, but Jeremiah Black’s preoccupation with his indecision left him oblivious to the ruckus surrounding him.

He wiped his clammy hands on his shirt while he gawked at the haunting building before him. Its unwelcoming doors made him want to scream and scurry away in fear.

His friend Steve nudged him and shouted so his voice could be heard above the noise factor, “Relax, man. What are you worried about? You were excited about this for so long. You couldn’t wait to get here and try out Déjà Vu.”

Jeremiah took a big gulp of air, hoping it would dislodge the tight ball of tenseness that restricted his breathing and his vocal chords. In a cracking voice, he replied, “Yeah, well I had a change of heart.”

Steve half-laughed with mocking eyes. “Oh, because of the dream you had.”

“Yeah, because of the dream.” He continued to swipe his cursed, wet hands repetitively against his chest. But they wouldn’t dry no matter how many times he rubbed them.

Steve frowned then. “You spent a fortune on this trip and have been obsessing about it forever. Now you want to forget about it just because of a dream.

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Sangfroid

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It's a company policy - Editor

Sangfroid

by Don Norum

I'm an insurance investigator in a small branch office, small enough that I'm half of it. Davis takes care of most of the office's paperwork and leaves the footwork and math to me.

The main appeal to me is the quantifying of inexpressible amounts of human pain and suffering in a dollar value derived from calculations of expected utility.

The office is a two room suite on the second floor of a bail bondsman's nestled downtown. The outer room has a wall of filing cabinets of policy forms and bookshelves with thick binders of guidelines and bookkeeping.

We keep the actual policies, the signed pieces of Bristol board, in the safe in the other room. That's where Davis spends his time, filling out reports for airmail, phoning out for the advertisements and contracting legwork to sell the safeties.

My days in the office are spent on the faded floral couch in the outer room, crunching numbers on the coffee table, using the tidy strata as a coaster.

I know more than half of the city's doctors' kids by their first names, and a fair chunk of the lawyers' - mostly solicitors, a few barristers. It's not a large city, although to be fair New York's only an hour away, so we could have an airport and a mega-mall and be small by comparison, but I've still filled up more than half a Rolodex.

So when Charles Archibald Lowell, a senior partner in Longfellow, Lowell and Holmes and signatory for a one-point-change million dollar life insurance policy, took a large-bore rifle slug to the chest, I wound up looking into it pretty quickly.

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Shark's Tooth

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Bite me... - Editor

Shark’s Tooth

by Michael Guillebeau

Sunrise at the beach was beautiful, but the dead body wasn’t.  “Funny,” said Detective Terry. “Funny how a hot young girl dead looks even worse than an old fart washed up on the shore.”

“Incongruent,” said Detective Blackbeard.  “Reminds us of our mortality.  A symbol of life, dead.”

“Yeah, you say so.  Still, young girl with a body like that, in a bathing suit like that, all I’m saying is it should make you feel something other than just another sad job.”

“Incongruent.”

They had to park all the way up in the parking lot at Margaritaville and walk in; the lieutenant and patrol officers on the scene had roped off a solid block around Pier Park to keep the tourists and the press away.  Particularly the press.  Dead bodies on the beach weren’t good for tourists.  Terry looked at the body, both of them standing back and taking a long last look before they turned the scene over to the techs.

“Forty-seven minutes.”

“Forty-seven minutes what?” said Blackbeard.

“Until we get the call from the Chamber of Commerce.  Looks like a shark.  We get a call soon, I say forty-seven minutes or less, explaining that that line of deep punctures that look like they could have, just might have come from a big set of teeth, really came from a new secret weapon the gang-bangers are using.  But it wasn’t a shark.  Besides, they’ll probably tell us she was just some tramp from out of town, down here to party, not worth worrying about.  And it couldn’t have been a shark.”
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4-8-2

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2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate - Editor

4-8-2

by Spyder Collins

Sierra Van Tanner stood agape at the mess that spread out before her. The blood that splattered across the room was ungodly in measure. It looked to be the blood from a hundred people, yet only a solitary body rests in the center of the room. The room she stood in appeared to be a living room, she could only gather because of the fireplace that dripped fresh blood from the mantle.

Sierra traced the oval shape of the room, running her eyes from floor to ceiling and back again. Everything, every square inch of the room was blood stained. Everywhere except for the outline of where the body lay. It appeared clean beneath the body, male, Caucasian, late thirties to early forties Sierra observed. From the body the maple hardwood was clean. Sierra gathered perhaps a foot in all directions, like a chalked outline of a body. The blood pooled around the circumference, and seemed to push against the invisible outline, as if it wished to enter but couldn’t

“4-8-2, what is your locale?” Someone at dispatch called to her.

“4-8-2, I say again. What is your locale?”

Sierra drew her hand to her shoulder. “I’m in the apartment,” she replied.

“4-8-2, step away and return to duty.”

“Dispatch?”

“4-8-2, leave now.” The voice from dispatch grew cold and authoritative.

“There’s been a crime here,” Sierra replied. She looked down at her mic as if to reinforce her point to dispatch.

“4-8-2, leave!” Dispatch called intolerantly.

"There is one dead here dispatch, send back-up."

"4-8-2, Back-up?"

"There has been a murder, a damn brutal one I might add. Send help now."

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It's a Wonderful Death

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Perchance to dream... - Editor

It's a Wonderful Death

by Glen Proctor

Alex Knatt sat before a man who represented everything he despised. He hated nothing more in life than a psychiatrist, this psychiatrist, this Doctor Jonathan Worthington. This overly educated, super-professional was the quintessential blond haired, blue-eyed, alpha male. He was tall, handsome and fashionable, wearing clothes that fit just like they do on the mannequins in the windows. He was exactly what the Nazi's had tried to genetically perfect. He was in fact perfect. He was everything Alex Knatt was not and yet this uber-man had been given the task of questioning Alex. Alex was sure he could take the torture, he could take a lot, after all he had only recently died.


"Well Mister Knatt, where would you like to start?" asked Dr. Worthington, casually taking off his extremely thin glasses that Alex was damn sure he didn't need.

"I wouldn't," is what he wanted to say but Alex knew better. Confrontation was what they wanted, what they liked. You played into their hands that way. It only gave them more questions to ask. Alex just shrugged his shoulders.

"Then let's start with the dreams."

The dreams, thought Alex, those were Alex's dreams and no one else's. How unfair, how infinitely cruel that some psycho-swine had the privilege of knowing about his dreams. He wouldn't give up those wonders just yet. He had to stall until he could come up with a plan of action.

"Can't say I remember them all that well."

"Ah. I see."

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Double Dip

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A short Forties throwback... - Editor

Double Dip

by Lee Hammerschmidt

Courier was staring down a double Dewar’s in the Marriott bar when the burly man in the too-tight, off-the-rack suit took the stool next to him, flipping a large, plain postal envelope in front of him.

“That’s the latest batch,” the burly man said in a gruff, whisky and cigarettes voice.  He caught the bartender’s eye.  “Beam, straight up, beer back.”

They were quite until his drink was served.  Courier picked up the envelope and pulled out its contents, a dozen or so photos of him and an attractive, shapely brunette in various creative forms of sexual gymnastics.

“Lucida,” Courier said shaking his head.  “My God, that was three years ago!  How long have these bastards been tailing me?”

He took a gulp of his scotch and looked over at the burly man.

“Okay, Piper, tell me what happened.”

“Same as the other times, only they changed the route again.  I took the cash and the disposable phone and directions they sent.  They had me walk down to 12th this time, where I headed north.  I went about eight blocks when the phone rang. Then I dropped the envelope with the cash and phone and walked another six blocks until I saw this mailer on a bench.”

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