Michael is the winner of Vol 2 -36, Vol 2 – 37, Vol 2 – 42, Vol 3 – 21 and Vol 3 – 48. He is an information security professional by day. Or as his son could say even at age three, “Daddy keeps people’s money safe.” He has published four books: Rebecca’s Fall From…., Haunting Valley, Scrappy Business Contingency Planning, and Scrappy Information Security, not to mention a lot of flash fiction, short stories, and poems.
Vol 3 – 48: Surrender
The blitz began anew. The corner offered cold comfort, though Colette realized it was only a wounded facade. Safety was an illusion held desperately despite the destruction that littered the remnants of what she once had called her life. Another strike would shatter the final vestige of hope she’d manage to cling to all these long years.
Someone once said, “War is Hell.” He was wrong. Hell is eternal. War will end. There will be a victor. And there will be a vanquished.
The barrage ended. The room fell silent. Peter had finally put away his fists.
“I’m heading to bed. I’ll be waiting.”
“I just need to clean up.”
Colette swept up the broken dishes, her grandmother’s wedding china. She found a few drams of will in the bottom of his whiskey glass. Drinking it felt like victory. She took one last look at the battlefield, turned on all four burners, and joined the man she loved.
Vol 3 – 21: Monkey See
She gasps a little when she sees me reach in through the small gap in the door.
“Don’t worry. I will get you,” I say evenly.
She tries to speak. But terror owns her voice.
“Where is it?” I hiss. “I know it’s here somewhere.” Then my fingertip finds metal.
“Please,” she begs, “just go.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
I wish that I could crawl through the tiny peephole, and end the game. The key is close. I can just jiggle it with my middle finger. I block out her cries as I focus on the task. Sinew tearing, I stretch the last inch, and snatch it from the hook.
“I’ve got it,” I say. “Sheila, I’m getting you out.”
“You’re too late,” she sobs.
“What do you –”
“Quite the quandary,” says a slithery baritone. “Do you know how they used to capture monkeys? They’d place a banana inside a cage with a narrow slit. Small enough for an open hand to reach in, but not wide enough for a clenched fist to come out.”
My limited view allows me to see only his torso.
And the knife.
“Not wanting to drop the prize, he remains a prisoner. Willingly. I hope you enjoy the show.”
Vol 2 – 42: Drowning
The rain-swollen canal seemed eager to taste another victim.
They’ll never find the body.
Bodies are just containers put on this Earth to house the soul while it finds its path.
Water cleanses all sins.
Is it a sin to fall in love? To believe in love? To believe love could happen to her?
An affair with a married man? Think of the shame it will bring.
Why must there be shame? If they stayed, perhaps. But why couldn’t they run away together? They were happy. Or so she had believed. And now that they were three…
And what of the child? What kind of life can your bastard expect? It would be better for all if you would just take that step…
“No!” she said, finding strength for the first time in her life. “I can’t do it!”
She turned to face her lover.
I know, he said, applying an emotionless palm to her chest. But I can.
Vol 2 – 37: Alone
They’re all dead. And it’s my responsibility. Mine alone. I am the Captain, after all.
The scalding sands — and the memory — may well have been the fires of Hell. With no clouds above, the sun is a relentless, yet honest, adversary. I wondered if I had erred. Should I have done otherwise?
When setting sail, some of the more superstitious men voiced concerns.
“Trafficking is wrong.”
“They’re just children.”
“Using them like that is against the laws of man. And God.”
But lucre has a way of muting morality.
As the storm turned their ship into kindling and their bodies into chum, the crew looked to me for guidance. They prayed I would help. I turned a blind eye. Indeed, not only did I ignore their pleas, I doubled my vengeance. Because they were right. Their actions were against the laws of man.
Such is the burden I bear as the Captain of all men.
Vol 2 – 36: The Farm
The clap of thunder sent them scrambling for safety. Up, down they hurried, scurried, traversing the steps carved into the unforgiving rock face.
Fear creased their weary eyes as they huddled in the remote recesses of the caves. The parents hugged their children, hushed them, reassured them that everything would be fine.
But would it? Had they made the gods angry? Would the earthquakes return?
Nights, after the children had gone to sleep, the parents would gather and talk quietly.
Of a life beyond.
They never spoke these words in front of the children. False hope is cruelty.
On the other side of the glass, Worker 1421 clicked his mandibles excitedly.
“They are so cool!” he said to his fellow drone. “I’m going to ask the Queen for a People Farm for my hatchday.”
“They are fun to watch. And so industrious. Still, I think I’ll shake it up and make them start all over again.”