Sorry for the delayed post. It seems someone* at a particular university suggested to some students there that they participate in this week’s round of writing so unlike the usual three or four stories, I have thirteen for you.
It is fascinating to see how thirteen different writers can take the same prompt and create thirteen very different stories. I hope you will enjoy them all.
I’m Nobody Without You, or You, or Is It You?
They say everyone has a twin – a doppelganger – somewhere in this world. You know, the reason you ask people, or they ask you, “Do I know you?” ( well, unless you’re at a bar, because there’s usually another reason they’re asking you that if you’re there – and that’s another story) Have you met yours? I have wondered over the last 20 years if my doppelganger is a different person or did we age similarly. You know, like maybe my twin when I was in my twenties was a young Julia Roberts – okay this IS flash fiction so go along with me here – and now it’s Helen Mirren or Kathleen Bates or did it really change and maybe now more like Jaba the Hut? Of course, I have to use famous figures because if I used real possibilities like Sherry Feinstein or Michael O’ Hanlon you’re not going to be that interested.
Do we recognize them when we see them? Or they see us? Because I’ve never heard of anyone recognizing seeing themselves in another person. Well, there’s that guy on the Progressive commercial but that would be like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory thinking people could mistake him for George Clooney or Bill Gates for that matter. And how far would that whole twin thing extend? Would it be like those long lost twins who were separated at birth and discover they have lived within 50 miles of each other all their lives and work at similar manufacturing plants and are married to women named Jo-Ann with no ‘e’ on the end – with kids – 2 boys and 2 girls. And are both Steeler fans and are on bowling teams. Parallel life with a real twin. But back to the doppelganger.
Is there someone living my life out there? Close? But since I‘ve moved, did she? Or did I move because she did? Who’s in control? And has she had several careers and finally landed on writer? Or did it take me this long to catch up to where she has always been? Does she have to travel to see her children or do they come around on their own? Does she struggle with body image or is she comfortable and adorable in hers?
I guess what I’m really wondering about this twin of mine that is living my life is, is she doing a better job of it? Oh, and does she look like Helen Mirren, too?
Connor Clark could be the most normal person in the world. I think he’s as normal as it gets. He goes to school, he works, he lives the perfect life. But underneath all that normal, he has a secret. He’s a human shark. Every night, he sneaks out, to the ocean, and transformers into his human-shark form. He sets out on patrol. He’s on the lookout for shark finners. People who poach and over fish on sharks. When he finds any poachers, he……he….does his thing. He kills all the men who are aboard the ship, and he heals the dead sharks and sets them free back into the ocean. The only reason why I know all this is because I saw him one time transforming. He became the thing that he keeps secret from the world. I care about him, but I fear that if I ask him about it, it’ll cause big problems. I know he cares about sharks, so maybe that’s why he’s doing this. I just hope that he knows what he’s doing.
Eight Months, Three Days
Today was Iowa, last week was Minnesota. My dad is always leaving for work. He is always traveling far away. He got this job five years ago and he always travels for it. I know the truth though. I found out eight months and three days ago… I am keeping count… I don’t know why.
I was upstairs, and he was downstairs asleep. I saw his phone… I love going through his pictures of pictures from his travels I decided to go through his phone and look at them, I never go through them when he isn’t there, but I didn’t want to wake him up.
I was going through the Canada pictures again. I kept swiping and swiping… and then I saw it. A picture of a woman and a girl. The girl looked older than me, probably 21, the woman probably 40. I kept staring… I swiped again… My dad, looking at the camera, while holding the woman’s hand. Who is that? Who were they? Why did he look so happy?
I still question it to this day… Tomorrow will be eight months and four days… and I still haven’t told my mom.
“It has been confirmed that on the morning of June 25th, 2009, King of Pop Michael Jackson was found dead in his home in Los Angeles due to drug overdose. We have very little information other than the confirmation at this moment, but more information will be revealed as we are given it. Please stay tuned for further news. And now, for our top story: a YouTube video about a dancing guinea pig has gone viral….”
As the television news network changed to its next story, I took a sip of my coffee and nodded to myself. Everything had gone perfectly according to plan. I adjusted my baseball cap over my head, making sure it still shadowed my face.
In my pocket, my cell phone began to ring. I reached down and pulled it out, answering it without bothering to check the caller ID.
“It worked,” I said, by ways of a hello. A deep chuckle sounded from the other end of the line.
“We knew it would. Where are you? I’ll come pick you up and we can head to the airport.”
“I’m at the coffee shop on Boulevard. Don’t forget the passports this time.”
“Don’t worry, I got ‘em. I’ll see you soon, Michael.”
It was my turn to chuckle. “Watch what you say, Elvis. It’s Jack now, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah, you got it, ya hound dog. Take it easy, Jack, I’m on my way.” The line went dead.
I set my cell phone down on the table in front of me, lifting my cup of mediocre-tasting coffee to my lips. I drained the last of it as I watched the video of the guinea pig dancing on the TV, and smiled over the styrofoam rim.
Yes, the world would be just fine without me.
The Stirring Stick
The pitter patter of my fingers flying across the keyboard was washed out by the indie rock playing over the speaker. My fingers paused for a moment to pick up my mocha latte and they started flying across my laptop once more. In the midst of my finger flurry, my elbow bumped into my pencil and it danced on the floor before resting next to a man’s foot two tables away. With a sigh of annoyance, I walked over and introduced myself to the old man and explained my situation. With a jolly smile that illuminated his cheeks, he picked up my pencil and told me it was no problem at all.
“You look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?” It was like I’ve seen him on TV or something.
“Oh, you might, son. I do philanthropy work at Our Lady of Grace down the road.”
“Hmmm. Maybe. Anyways, thanks for the pencil!” I went back to sit down, but before I started typing again, I glanced behind my screen at this nice, old man. I’ve never been to that church, that couldn’t have been where I’ve seen him. I observe his soft, brown eyes fixate on the coffee in front of him while his leathery hands stir the drink around with a white stick. He brought his own stirring stick? It’s on the tip of my tongue. He turns to look out the window, the late evening sunlight causing his rosy cheeks to glow.
Then it hit me. His mugshot. He’s the Coffee Shop Killer. His mugshot’s been shown on every news channel ever since he escaped from prison, but he looked so much cleaner now. That means his stirring stick…
Those soft brown eyes looked my way and he smiled.
Ellie always came to class with dark circles and bags under her eyes. She fell asleep at approximately 11:30 every day. All the other students in her grade thought she was an unmotivated, lazy individual; the one person who was never going to succeed at life. The one thing they consistently questioned was how she always managed to pass her classes yet she never turned in work and never participated. Half the time she didn’t even show up to school for weeks on end. Little did they know, Ellie spent her nights performing to millions of people under the name Anna Alabama. Anna Alabama was the best female rapper in Canada. The majority of her school were huge fans and always sent out petitions to get Anna to perform there.
Finally, on March 7th, Anna’s manager decided enough was enough and that she should perform at her school. “Don’t worry, no one will know it’s you Ellie,” her manager said attempting to console her. Ellie put on her Anna Alabama costume and headed to the stage. Her friends were in the front row and she could hear them whispering where she was. “Ellie’s such a huge fan of Anna, I wonder why she didn’t at least come to school today of all days?” they inquired. Ellie ignored this comment and began her first song. In the middle of it she tripped over the microphone cord and her wig fell off. “Ellie?!” the whole entire school screamed.
It’s Tuesday and I have an interview for a multimillion dollar company called Apple. I am meeting up with the CEO her name is Kathy, she is one of my dad’s loyal patients since the 90s. We walk in the white room it’s spotless not a speck of dirt anywhere. We sit on the chairs that feel like fluffy clouds. “Your resume is remarkable you work for Microsoft created software for Samsung. You are overqualified for this position!” Kathy says jokingly. Her phone rings she begins to sweat and answers it “ I told you not to make a mess!” She slams her phone on the desk. “ excuse me Mike but I have some business to take care of please tell your dad I said hey I have an important meeting to go to.” She rushes out the door leaving her phone on the table. It begins to ring, no caller ID, I pick it up and answer it. “You sick human-eating whore. I’m going to kill you” the scratchy voice said and hung up abruptly. Her phone then received a text message saying next target revealed. I opened it up and it was my dad she was going to eat my dad next. I call to warn him and he doesn’t answer I rush home and I see a white car in the driveway I bust down the door and I hear my dad screaming at the top of his lungs, “AHHHHH!” I see Kathy gouging his eyes out with a fork I threw my phone at her yelling, “get off him!”. We struggled, fighting each other. I get her off of him and she runs out the door. I asked my dad if he was OK and he said, “She was after me because you were after her job.”
The Person Next to You
To get her mind off of everything, she sat on the bench in the park and stared off at the pond. Occasionally, she’d see fish swim up to the surface and watched the water ripple outward.
A sneeze interrupted her thoughts.
“Bless you,” a man said as he was walking by.
She assumed he’d continue walking, but he stopped, and this made her feel nervous.
She felt that if only she didn’t sneeze, she wouldn’t be nervous about this man towering over her right now.
“Hi there, darling. Is something troubling you?”
She sat there, frozen. She wasn’t an amazing liar, so she was deciding what to tell him.
“I just… I’m having trouble in school. I thought I could handle being a biology major, but it’s putting so much stress on me. I think I’m going to have to change majors, again. But I’m scared. My parents pay for me to go to school. I don’t want to switch to a major that they’ll think isn’t worth their money.”
“Dear, sometimes, you need to let your parents down to do what fulfills you. I promise, my parents were none too happy to figure out that I spend my evenings wearing wigs and outrageous makeup. And singing to an audience that likes that sort of thing.”
She processed what he’d said, “You’re a drag queen by night?”
He smiled, “I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else with my time. Have a great night. And be whoever you’d like to be. Not who your parents want you to be.”
He was exactly right. And he had given her the perfect advice. She was going to do it. He had given her the power to give into her urges and finally kill something bigger than a cat.
Once again I awaken with yet more jewelry on my finger. This is the third time this week where I have these weird dreams of treasure and I wake with it in real life. Are these more than just dreams I’m having? The first time was a pearl necklace. The second, a gold chain with an emerald pendant. This time was a diamond ring. These dreams seem to be intensifying as well as the rewards. I am either a pirate searching for the “X” on the map, a drug addict searching for his next fix, or a detective finding the missing child. This night, I have put a hidden camera on the collar of my pajamas to see if anything abnormal happens while I sleep. The anxiousness of me watching me in the morning is so overwhelming I can’t sleep. A drink will most definitely help.
I awaken the next morning with no jewelry in sight. I dreamt last night I was an alcoholic beating his wife. This has to have been the most intense dream I’ve had. That’s the last time I drink before I go to bed. My hands are stained with blood. What happened last night? I’ll put in the camera feed on my laptop.
I watch, stunned, as I expertly break into the local museum, beat the security guard to an inch of his life, and steal the world’s biggest diamond. It cuts off after I return home. Where would I put the world’s biggest diamond? I search ferociously around my apartment. I eventually find it under my bed in a bag along with a passport, extra clothes, and 100,000 dollars in cash. It’s time to leave.
I grab the bag and start running down the stairs of the building. I should start looking over the name of the fake passport and memorizing a new identity for myself. I burst open the front door to find squad cars all over the apartment parking lot. A police officer approaches me. He calls me by my name and asks me to turn around with my hands behind my back. I have been caught. They will never believe me that I have been stealing all this in my sleep. I reach into my bag to return the diamond. The police officers are alerted and before I take out the diamond, an intense pain runs through my body. I look up to the sky for one last time as the diamond rolls out of my hand. Maybe in this will be a more enjoyable dream.
I watched as he calmly and smoothly spoke to the people at the premiere for his new movie. I played with my fingers watching the interview from home, I just don’t want my college life changed because I’m dating someone with such high social status. We have had mistakes of letting it slip but whenever I was brought up in conversation he would just segway it. I felt slightly degraded and I hate that I can’t be with someone I love, but for the regularity of my college life, it was needed. No one knows, no one can know for now. It takes a toll every now and then because I miss out of all of the relationship titles and just the whole experience. He seems fine with it but I know he must hate it because anytime we take pictures he sighs and just saves it to his phone saying he’s going to print it out. It wasn’t until I saw his arm slide around some actresses waist and kissed her head just like he would if we were at home. My heart drops instantly not rationalizing the situation. The only thing I could think of was how I can’t take any of it anymore, I can’t take the constant publicity stunts to boost his fame by having him be with other girls. I did the only thing I could, I surrendered myself and the safety of our secret. I posted the most recent picture of us laughing together and wrote a caption “Happy one year.”
Elvis Turned into Aaron
What began as a simple thought turned into a meaningful life change. Never had Aaron decided to be true to himself, but he finally decided to end it all and live his life. “Elvis has left the building,” was the last thing Aaron heard. He got into his limo and drove home to see his girlfriend, Ginger. He could not wait to marry her, but he didn’t want to be in the spotlight anymore. Yet, that is what she wanted… that was what she craved. She wanted the money, the glamor, the fame that came with being in a relationship with a rock icon. And Aaron realized that she did not want him. So, he devised a unique plan. That same night, he decided to follow through with his nightly routine in front of Ginger. He took his blood pressure medication and his sleeping pills (or so she thought) and then went to the bathroom. When she called for him he was not going to respond, he was not going to do anything. Ginger found Elvis dead in his bathroom. But Elvis had set it all up. Ginger was the only close person to not know what his plan was. Everyone who was working the shift at the police station, even the coroner, was in on Elvis’s plan. Instead of taking what she thought was a mixture of his medications, he did take the blood pressure medicine but also took a pill that would make his pulse non-existent to an untrained person. He would still be alive, but his body would be in a state close to death.
Elvis, now that his life had been given back to him, decided to go by his middle name, Aaron. Aaron decided to move to Mexico, he resorted to dying his hair back to the dirty blonde that it originally was in his youth and opened up a peanut butter and banana sandwich shop. He was happy being able to do what he pleased without being in the public’s eye. People who may have recognized him did not say anything, for most of the townsfolk, were in on it- being silenced with money. Aaron performed for those who asked, happily obliging them.
Professor Yemaya was considered one of the absolute best professor’s on campus. She was one that went above and beyond to help her students, faculty, any and all that had a
breath per-say. Yemaya was seen as a motherly figure on campus; watching, teaching, protecting, providing, and mentoring all that asked help from her. She shared and became close to some students on a professional level as vice-versa for the student. They spoke of rent, salary, boy/girl friend – wife/husband issues, and such with a keen sense of respect and privacy. Professor Yemaya was vote “best professor” for the fall and spring semesters of 2017/2018. She was dearly loved, admired, respected, appreciated, and held the admiration of all.
Out of nowhere, extremely unlike her, she cancelled classes for two days. Which in turn had too many students, friends, and co-workers excessively worried. Finding out when she had phoned in once again explaining she needed another professor to pick up and finish her class semester, due to the fact that her parents had become very ill. Yemaya had to return home to become their caretaker as she was the only child. The entire University was stuck with deep sadness upon the discovering of her departure, however, understood that she had to do for her parents first and foremost. Upon wishing Yemaya receiving the best of wishes and reassuring her that if anything was needed just ask and the support and aid of her need(s) would be there and or met.
Yemaya arrived back to her hometown where she was raised until she left this small “village” type town for college many years ago. She was the only one that ever did leave this place called home. All the town folk greeted her with joy and happy tears so excited to see her back even under the sad circumstances. Settling into her parents’ home once again, brought back years of memories so beloved and missed. Yemaya wept quietly in her old room cuddling up with her pillow, as she fell asleep. Morning came and breakfast was already made by her mother for her. Yemaya was delighted though a bit upset with herself knowing she should had gotten up before her parents to fix and have breakfast waiting there for them.
The first week went better than expected on the “heath wise” portion of her parents illness. Yemaya was rather surprised with silent hope of this being some type of fluke and all will be better in a couple days. Painfully this was not the case.
Yemaya’s father taught her growing up how to hunt. Her father always put emphasis of not letting an animal “suffer” if it did not die with the first shot, put the “suffering” animal out of its misery. This is a great importance to grasp hold of, never undermining your decision.
Never hearing a word from those that said: “if anything was needed just ask and the support and aid of her need(s) would be there and or met.” Now Yemaya is spending the rest of her days in prison for the “murder” of her “suffering parents.”
She got up, fed her kids, wished them a good day at school, then climbed on her bicycle and rode to work.
He got up, looked in on his sleeping kid, ate a bowl of cereal, then got into his truck and drove to work.
She liked her students but the hours were long and she was busier outside of the classroom than in.
He liked his coworkers but the hours were long and he was busy doing paperwork when he was not out supervising the floor.
She thought of him.
He thought of her.
She had wanted to tear everything down to be with him, move across the country, make him a stepdad, become a stepmom. She had believed that love conquered all. That life was short.
He just wanted her to wait until the kids were all grown. He had had both a stepmom and stepdad and did not want that for the kids. He felt patience was key. That life was long.
She thought of him.
He thought of her.
She wrote him long emails but he never replied.
He read her long emails but he never replied.
She woke up every day with her husband.
He woke up every day with his wife.
She made plans for the future with her husband but never the distant future, after the kids were grown. Her husband was not someone who would do well on a sailboat or backpacking through India.
He made plans for the future with his wife, looking for a house near his ailing in-laws. He knew that he would be taking care of them all for a long time.
She thought of him.
He thought of her.
She went back home for her father’s funeral.
He heard she was back home for her father’s funeral.
She wanted to see him but after all she had written, she realized she had nothing more to say.
He wanted to see her but after all she had written, he did not know what to say.
She wrote a book and then she wrote more.
He read all her books.
Her kids got older and her tattered marriage fell completely apart.
His kid got older and his wife became ill, needed him more than ever.
She thought of him.
He thought of her.
She bought a sailboat and changed the name even though he had told her it was bad luck.
He bought a one-story house and build a wheelchair ramp from the front door to the driveway.
She bought a backpack and a ticket to India, to Argentina, to Norway, to Transylvania.
He bought a van so that it was easier to take his wife to her appointments.
She wanted to go back to her hometown. To be his friend, his neighbor, but knew it was too late.
He wanted her to keep going, to do all the things he would never be able to do.
She thought of him.
He thought of her.