Volume 2 Prompt 1

This year, the American confectionery company Necco went bankrupt and the classic Valentine’s candy Sweethearts went down with them. After 116 years of manufacturing sugary conversation starters, people will have to rely on their own wits to express their adoration.

For this week’s prompt, I want you to select a Sweethearts’ message and use it. The message should also double as the title. There are many lists of messages available such as this one or this one. And, as usual, 500 words, due 2/14 by 8 pm est via Green Submissions (as a PDF please).

Feel free to write me with any questions or concerns: mercurialstories@gmail.com.

Volume 1 Issue 38: Resolutions

A year ago, I started this endeavour as an attempt to balance my writing practice with my Japanese study. It was, essentially, a resolution. Like all resolutions, I faltered many times. I wanted to quit every other week, questioned the conception of such a foolhardy resolution, was puzzled by the evolution of the project. It grew from the seed of my desire to write regularly and became an entirely different tree, filled with the fruits of others’ labours.

Accepting the tree as it was, letting it grow into what it is now, was more meaningful than establishing a better writing practice, it turned out. Supporting others in their own literary resolutions required a creative skill set that I did not possess at the beginning of 2018. Many people question the point of New Year resolutions and this is a much overlooked value of the tradition: setting a goal and heading towards it, even if you end up far away from your intended destination.

One glaring aspect of sticking with this project over the last year has been a very practical one: the realisation that I cannot do everything. Teaching full-time, raising four young citizens of the world, and running this website has consumed all my minutes, leaving no time for my language studies. And since I cannot let go of two of those elements, I am afraid that I must surrender the time given to Mercurial Stories so that I can focus all my non-work/non-parenting time to my studies.

I am an immigrant. I shed the nomadic expat identity when I started thinking about high schools and universities here in Japan for my kids. I have always resented studying the Japanese language because it took away from my writing but I also discovered over the course of this past year that I want to become a translator, specifically a literary translator. My reading and writing skills can still be of use, combined with my ever-expanding understanding of the Japanese language and culture. Thus, I no longer resent the time and effort I must invest. It is a long road ahead of me and first I must dedicate one year to an intense course of study that involves total immersion: reading, writing, and eventually speaking in Japanese for at least 70% or more of my days. This means that editing an English language flash fiction journal will not be feasible.

Know that it is a hiatus, not discontinuation, but it will likely be a lengthy one: it is possible that I will not return here until 2020. The website and FB page will stay alive so you can read (and link to) stories from past issues. And when I have passed my proficiency exams, I will let you know what the next prompt will be. Until then, I just wanted to tell you how grateful I have been for your participation with this “resolution”. Thank you for your stories, your encouragement, your readings, everything. It has been a very interesting journey.

Okay, now on with the show….

This week we have seven resolute stories to get you going for the New Year:

(2) To the Letter by Copper Rose
(3) A One-Liner by Mark Patterson
(4) Why I Do Not Make New Year’s Resolutions by Kelli J. Gavin
(5) Dating at 50 by Karen Petersen
(6) A Village Outing by Sunil Sharma
(7) Unbreakable by L Swartz

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Volume 1 Prompt 34

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The quiet of the world as it turns from night to day. The light just before sunrise, dim and yet somehow everything is visible, still but visible. Emptied streets, shuttered shops, a lone runner.  A few birds stir but hold their songs until the great star shows itself again, as if they are unsure that the cycle will continue to repeat itself. There are lesser stars still in the sky, minor in their distance and influence. The moon seems listless, already fading. A young woman looking old sleeps on the bus stop bench, torn tights and black leather boots, her purse serving as a pillow. For her, dawn is not a beginning but the end of a long night of flashing lights and dizzy laughter, of hoping strangers would be anything but. The first bus of the day approaches, its driver used to collecting stray people. The sky shifts from lavender to pink and the birds let loose their pent-up melodies. A new day has dawned.

This week, include dawn in your stories, whether it be as setting, action, or person. Dawn can have many different meanings: I want you to choose one to weave into your story.

As always, 500 words or less. Submit by Thursday, November 15th here.

Volume 1 Issue 23: Fly On The Wall

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This week we have three stories that play with the phrase “fly on the wall” in rather creative, unexpected ways. Two returning writers Kelli J. Gavin and Sunil Sharma, as well as first-time contributor Debjani Mukherjee, have given us readers three very distinct and yet equally enjoyable short stories this week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 



The Van That Went Missing
Kelli J. Gavin

I sat shaking outside the closed door.  I learned back in the chair and rested my weary head on the wall.  When the door closed, my heart started to race and my mouth was so dry. What was being said? Who spoke first?  If I stood up and walked a bit closer to the door, would I be able to hear anything that was being said? I have never wished more than at that moment to be a fly on the wall.

My Freshman year of college, a campus van went missing. It hadn’t been seen in over 24 hours.  Someone decided upon learning that the vehicle was missing, to report that I had something to do with the disappearance or knew something about it.  Lots of practical jokes were played and often Freshmen were blamed. Usually, pointing the finger at someone was done in fun. But a campus van was missing and I was being blamed.

“I have nothing to do with the missing van.  I have been the target of a few pranks directed at underclassmen. They just want to see how far this can go.” I started out with gusto.

I was quickly interrupted by the Student Affairs Officer. “Four people have come to the Student Development Office.  One said that they overheard you talking about the van and that you know more about where it is. Two people said that they were told you were responsible for the van disappearing. And the fourth person only said that we should start asking you questions.  Are you telling us all four are lying? What do they have to gain?”

“Yes. They are lying. They probably thought it would be funny to blame the Freshman girl who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. I have never even driven a car before!” I exclaimed.

“You don’t even drive? Ever?” The Campus Security Chief asked.

“Never in my life!  This is a prank and I bet you anything the van has been hidden and you will find it soon.”  I shouted louder than intended.

They looked at each other and then at me in total exasperation.  I was excused from the office and then asked to wait in the lobby. Twenty minutes had already passed.

Both crossing their arms over their ample middle aged stomachs, they entered the lobby where I was waiting. “We just got a phone call from the athletic department. The van was found unlocked in Faith Village (married student housing) with the keys on the front seat. A note was left with the keys that said, “Sorry, needed a vehicle. Hot date.”  You may be excused.”

They were silent. I laughed. I didn’t just l laugh. I cackled.  Made a fool of myself laughing. I stood, bowed, and left as quickly as I could. I needed to get out of there before I let on that the boy I went on a date with was the one that referred to me as a “Hot Date.”


Bio-
Kelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Masks
Sunil Sharma

Perhaps, it was meant to end like that only.

Masks— a room full of them!

—How are you?

I turned around to face a mask facing me.

—What is that?

—The Noh-men or Omote.

Replied Harsh, my ad-hoc host.

—Got a big collection.

—Yeah.

He removed the mask: Welcome home, buddy!

—Thanks.

I replied.

—You keep on surprising.

I added.

—Well, the collection is worth three lakhs.

He said. I nodded.

—Harsh is crazy!

An announcement in a female voice.

—Meet your new sister-in-law, Smita, crazier than me.

We shook hands. Moved to the sea-facing balcony.

—How is the view? Harsh asked.

—Nice!

—Hmm! Nice! Yaar, it is spectacular! Worth 15 crores, this 24th-floor house in this part of the vertical Mumbai.

A waiter poured drinks. The sun-set indeed looked beautiful!

—Not for me. I do not drink.

I said.

—Come on! A French import. Cost me a fortune. A bit?

—No thanks.

—Your loss!

They both sipped.

—How is life?

Harsh asked.

—Going on.

—Where you live?

Smita queried.

—Virar.

—Never heard about that place.

She shrugged haughtily.

—You are lucky.

I said. She remained grim, playing with her diamond ring.

—So, what is going on?

Harsh again.

—As usual. Nothing exciting. You?

—Lots of excitement. A model as a wife. Wonderful kids. Going abroad for three-week vacation.

I smiled.

—Are you still there?

He asked.

—Yes.

—Want to join my start-up?

I said nothing.

—Manage that. Will pay five times more—for old times’ sake. And a car and chauffeur to drive you around in the city.

I kept mum.

—Think over. Do not get stuck in that hell-hole for life. Move up—as I did.

I nodded.

—Not many old friends would make such a life-changing offer.

I smiled. Smita looked at my workday clothes and rolled her eyes.

—That is why I called you up for this meeting. A big offer for my old friend.

Just then, my cell rang.

—Boss calling!

I went inside the huge hall where different masks stared at me from varied angles. After I finished, I made for the balcony—that wide deck full of flowers and a privileged view of the city-sprawl.

Her voice made me stop.

—Why?

I felt like becoming a fly-on-the-wall. Fixed—listening.

The voices grew louder. Smita’s tone was high. His, subdued.

—We go a long way, hon. His father was my father’s chum. Come from the same Kolkata. We spent college days together.

—So?

—Try to understand, hon.

—You try to understand, dear Harsh. Not worth our time and money.

—I know. He is not worth but we need honest guys…

A mask swayed in the sea-breeze.

Then others began dancing—frantically.

And an Oni mask fell off before me.

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Author-bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

 http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



The Bagatelle
Debjani Mukherjee

The aroma of the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon float from one room to the other. The rusty flavour of roasting onion on a low flame swirled out, from the kitchen and unfurled its blanket on the open varanda showing the cracks out its wall and the bedroom on the other side of it where Mithilesh was reading a book on contemporary art. Sunday is the only day when he finds some time for himself. Tito was playing In the Varendra. Mithilesh can see him from his armchair, striking the tiny metal balls with the bagatelle stick. This was his childhood board game which was kept safe by his mother and now gifted to Tito. Old games like this are vanishing from the toy shops nowadays. The various types of games they used to enjoy at their childhood are all getting replaced rapidly by the virtual game world of the computer.

The aroma of the cooking coming out of the kitchen is enough to tempt even a non-foodie like Mithilesh. His wife Keka is a great cook always coming up with delicious new dishes. Mithilesh always appreciates this quality of hers in his mind but never poured down in audible words. Unlike Keka he is a quite person less expressive in his emotions. Keka keeps on muttering about this but basic human nature is hard to change.

The aroma of the afghani chicken watered the mouth of the seven years old. Tito waddled to the kitchen with his bagatelle, his little hands with unstable balancing skills tilted the bagatelle and dropped all it’s little metal balls just in front of the kitchen door. The balls bounced off to different directions. Some behind the flower pot by the kitchen door. Some under the big wooden chest filled with age old bronze utensils. Some inside the kitchen. Tito put down the empty bagatelle in front of the kitchen door and scratched his head. He sat down on his knees bending his head low and got busy seeking the tiny balls from their hiding place. He slipped his little hand under the huge wooden chest and moved to and fro to search them. He got one and then another the little fingers continued hobbling around when he heard his mom talking over the phone. It’s Rudy uncle she was talking to. Rudy uncle is a musician he knows how to play the piano. They went to his house several times. Where there is a big piano kept in the huge black and white sitting room. Tito saw him playing it several times. Mom was still Talking to Rudy uncle. Tito got almost all of his balls and kept them back on the board again and this time he took it up carefully and slowly went back to his Papa blanching the bagatelle balls rolling all over the board.

“What is it, Tito?” Mithilesh asked softy pulling Toto near to his lap. “I lost two balls,” he said. I slipped the bagatelle in front of the kitchen door and all the balls rolled there and there. I got them back but two are still missing. “Why didn’t you ask Mom to find them back? “ Mithilesh asked in a pampering tone. “Mom was talking to Rudy Uncle. She was inviting him for lunch today. She was saying Mithilesh never appreciates any of my cooking, I don’t like to cook for him but I love to cook for you and today I cooked your favourite Afghani chicken. Please Come fast I will be waiting for you eagerly.” Mithilesh couldn’t say a word he froze on his armchair.


Self-introduction 

    Debjani Mukherjee is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines. 



 

Week 22: Prompt

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Inspired by the neverending heatwave…

Look forward to seeing your stories this week. And hey, how about inviting a friend to give it a try this week? The more the merrier, right?

See you Thursday!

Week 21: Prompt

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Hello and welcome to Week 21!

So this week,  I want you to use a nonsense word in your story but do not define it directly. Rather, let the explanation be in the context. For example:

“Hank, grab the sannibroet!”
“No, Martha, I really don’t think it has come to that. I mean, look at the poor thing, it’s trembling already.”
“Hank, do what I said,” Martha said, her voice low and firm. She was not a cruel woman, she loved animals; in fact, she just pulled over to move a gopher tortoise off the road that morning. Hank knew that she was scared, that it was the shock talking, not his sweet wife so he remained motionless.
“Hank.”
“Martha, I think you need to calm down. We can’t be hasty. We don’t want to do anything regrettable.”
“Hank, the sannibroet! Now!”

I really just ran my fingers over the keyboard to make up that word. And I still don’t really know what it is but I am sure if I went a little further with the story, I would figure it out. Have fun, be inventive, and get writing.

I look forward to seeing your stories.

500 words or less with a short bio (not included in the word count).
Due Thursday 8 pm EST via mercurialstories@gmail.com

 

 

 

Volume 1 Issue 11: Childhood Wonder

We have three stories this week: returning contributor Tim Clark with his story Ghosts; The Dreamed End by Melvin A. Camasis; my story The Travellers.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them.

Remember, new prompts are posted every Monday.

And stay tuned for an announcement about the direction Mercurial Stories is headed.

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The Dreamed End
Melvin A. Camasis

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It’s already Friday, five o’clock in the afternoon. Coming back home from school, can’t wait to play my Nintendo Family Computer. Greeted everyone, telling them I’ve arrived home! Went directly to my room, laid my bag at the side of my drawer. Open the TV and played games the rest of the day. Mom called me out and ate dinner. After dinner played some more ‘til ten. Got very tired didn’t notice I was already dozing off in front of the TV.

Wandering off in my dream. Noticing that I no longer in our house, inside a big room that has a bed, a small couch, on top of the table is a laptop, desk lamp and a couple of books, pen, and paper notes. Besides the toilet is the door. I immediately run outside of that room but seems like I entered another one, a much bigger room that interconnects six rooms including the one I just came out off. I am now panicking up to my wits and my heart is just thumping so hard, can’t breathe air normally. I shouted very loud “WHERE IS THE DOOR OUTSIDE!”, And tears suddenly fell down my eyes. I prayed aloud saying “GOD, I know how terrible I am with my family and friends, is this my punishment?” I cried for two hours in the middle room sofa.

Suddenly heard a loud clicking sound, a very big television screen turned on and showed multiple partitioned screens on each one of the rooms and also showing on some of the screen, the most frightening thing outside of this big place. The structures of the buildings, trees, houses are unrecognizable. All turned to color black. So many dead animals, fishes on the waters. It’s like there are no more living thing can be seen. Now I remembered my family, are my parents dead? Am I really the only one who survived this terrible thing that happened outside?

I became more agitated. It prompted me to investigate from the other rooms. Maybe I can find something if I look around. The first room next to one I came out looks like a big kitchen with all kinds of frozen meat, fish, vegetables inside the freezer, on the cabinets different kinds of canned goods, cereals drinks, gallons of water, inside a fridge different kinds of fresh juices.

In another is a media center where there are different kinds of game consoles and cartridges, a big computer connected to a big screen, it really looks like a small cinema or movie and playroom. Continued on to another that looks like a gym with all the exercise equipment. Another is like a communication or control room. And lastly, a room full of books, like a personal library. Six different rooms complete with all necessities of life.

Then I heard multiple crashing and banging sounds. And a very familiar loud voice saying  “MELVS WAKE UP”! Woke up with my mom beside me, shoving me around. SNAP OUT OF IT!

________________________________________________________________

Ghosts
Tim Clark

I used to believe in ghosts. Sometimes, in dreams, I would see people who had passed away. Often I wondered if they came to tell me something, pass on a message from somewhere, or someone else. Maybe they just wanted to say one last goodbye. Maybe they weren’t there at all, and I just wanted to say one last goodbye.

After I quit smoking I joined an online support forum. It was my first real venture into the ethereal world of the internet. People would come and post about their struggles or victories, and receive advice or congratulations. One thing that was almost universally cursed, dreams of smoking.  People would rail about the dream that made them think they had started smoking again, only to realize they hadn’t. One of my online Friends said she loved her “smoking dreams.” She would never have to smoke again and could enjoy smoking without spending the money or ruining her health. The outrage was immediate and almost universal. She couldn’t really quit as long as she enjoyed her smoking dreams people said. I thought it was a fantastic solution.

Whatever the reason, I enjoyed seeing my friends and family stop by occasionally in the night. It was comforting, peaceful. They weren’t completely gone. I could see them occasionally. It was kind of a relief. As I got older and knew more dead people they quit showing up. Probably just as well, it could have been quite a parade. It might have just gotten too crowded so they just quit showing up.

Now, I am aging, and have seen the trials of everyday life. First hand I have seen the many ways simple things can become complicated problems. My dreams are haunted by deadlines passed. Ghosts of product shipped in error. Ghoulish specters of missed opportunities dance through my dreams. Sleep is never quite as restful when those visions come in the night. Emails and phone calls punctuate the seconds when you wake. It is a constant barrage of electronic questions demanding to be answered as they stream through the restless night.

I guess I still believe in ghosts. I just don’t like them as much. They aren’t as polite as they used to be.  

____________________________________________________________________________

The Travellers
Tiffany Key

 

When I was younger than my own children are now, my mother would curb my naughtiness with a simple threat: if you are not good, the Travellers will come and collect you as one of their own. I did not know who the Travellers were and when asked, my mother would only reply, “Oh, you’ll know who they are when they come and take you in the night”.

At first, the Travellers were just a vague threat, shadows lurking within the shadows. Then I read The Borrowers and decided that the Travellers were simply a tribe of small people with a malicious streak. This changed the shadows, the mysterious creak of a floorboard, the rattling window panes. If I could catch a Traveller, then I could convince it to take me to the others so I could reform them as well. I imagined myself the giant queen of their clan, living off blackberries and crawfish, making myself a house with stick walls and acorn cap shingles.

I began to set classic traps, boxes propped up on sticks. When those failed, I covered my windowsill with glue and used my dad’s entire box of flypaper to line the trunk of the only tree whose branches came near our house. For a while, this went unnoticed by my family. Eventually, though, my older sister noticed the insect cemetery on the oak when she tried to rescue a skink that was struggling against its sticky fate. She sounded the alarm and my mother invaded my room only to find a similar mess on the windowsill where sugar ants had attempted to cross the glue.

As my mother was droning on about what she was going to do with me, I realized I was going about it all wrong. I didn’t need to catch a Traveller: they would come and catch me.

I calmly reached over to my nightstand and pushed the lamp to the floor. The light bulb shattered upon impact. My mother hissed, “What is the matter with you?” through her teeth. She commanded me not to move and ran to get the dustpan. By the time she returned, I had already managed to climb out the window. She looked down to where I was on the lawn and started to say something but was interrupted by the rock flying towards her head. I had a handful of nice, heavy granite and began to lob them at all the windows. The sound of glass breaking into sharp shards was almost as satisfying as everyone yelling at me to stop (or else).  

That night, laying on my side, my backside sore from my dad’s belt, I smiled as I slipped into sleep, thinking that surely the Travellers would now claim me as one of their own. In the morning I would be disappointed but that night, I dreamt that they encircled my bed, twig torches ablaze, trying to figure out how to steal me away.

 

 

 

 

 

No. 8: Parallel Lives: Stories

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.

*Thank you.
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I’m Nobody Without You, or You, or Is It You?

Debbie Felio

  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?

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Parallel Life
Connor Clark

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.

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Eight Months, Three Days
Kayla Hofferth

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.  

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Parallel Lives
Brianna Dingey

“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.

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The Stirring Stick
Josh Zoran

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.

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Anna Alabama
Lauren Frick

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.

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Parallel

Adeola Oladeinde

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.”

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The Person Next to You
Lainie Polen

 

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.

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The Diamond  
David Paulauski

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.  

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The Secret
Shannon Finn

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.”

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Elvis Turned into Aaron
Shae Oakland

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.

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BCC
Sonya Vergara

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.”

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She
He
Tiffany Key

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.

 

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