Bad Dreams

Author’s Note – I couldn’t sleep the other night and I wound up writing fanfic for my own characters. In case anyone’s been missing them, I decided to share it. ~ J

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Ben sighed quietly and rolled over onto his side with deliberate care. His breathing was finally returning to normal, his preternaturally sharp vision adjusting to the darkness.

He smiled slightly when his eyes came to rest on her sleeping face. The curve of her cheek bathed in the spare moonlight almost glowed like an aura. Her brow creased and she made a soft sound of protest.

It seemed her dreams were as distressing as his. Well, that was probably unlikely given what he’d been dreaming about, but a nightmare was a nightmare.

He didn’t want to wake her. She was exhausted, needed to rest. So he tried smoothing her hair gently off her face and whispering a faint shushing sound.

She settled after a short while. Ben tried closing his eyes again but after a frustrated quarter hour or so he gave up, resigned himself to the fact that he’d had all the sleep he was going to get. Hell, his heartbeat still hammered along quickly enough to be a little uncomfortable.

He hadn’t dreamt of the fight that won him his place in Hell’s nobility in a long time. Decades probably. And if he never did again it would be too soon.

Mal made a soft gasping sound and Ben’s eyes snapped open.

She was looking at him. It was still dark enough that she shouldn’t be able to see him, but he could tell that she could. He wondered briefly if that was something she could always do, or if it was a sign of her growing power.

“Hey,” he whispered softly, careful to keep his voice low so as not to wake the others, still sleeping in the close quarters of the hotel room. “You okay?”

She didn’t answer, just shook her head and moved closer to him. He pulled her in and she tucked her head against his chest. He immediately felt the dampness of hot tears against his worn T-shirt.

Mal hardly ever cried, even when everything was falling apart. She was the determined optimist, the group cheerleader. She was always the light in the darkness.

So when she did break down, he knew it was bad. He did everything he knew to comfort her; stroked her hair, rubbed her back, held her. Still, she clutched at him, her hands balled into fists in the fabric at his back.

It went on for a long time.

Finally, her silent sobbing trailed off. Unlike Ben, who never willing talked about what went on in his head, Mal had an almost desperate need to talk about it, to make the terror her imagination saw fit to throw at her less real.

“I’ve never had such a terrible dream before,” she breathed raggedly.

Knowing she always needed to talk after a bad night, even though it always hurt him to hear about her pain, Ben asked, “What happened?”

He also knew sometimes her dreams were prophetic, so it paid to listen even when it was hard to hear. Still, he was struck silent at her words.

“I … I think I was you. I was in a ring of fire, but it was cold, so cold I was turning blue. And I was covered in blood. A lot of it was mine. But there were bodies everywhere. At least a hundred.”

She felt him tense and assumed the cause was his usual distaste for anything that caused her even remote discomfort.

“Then I heard them. They sounded like dogs … but when I saw them come out of the dark, through the flames …” Another sob found its way past the hold she’d placed on her tears.

Ben held her tighter and she heard him whisper, almost too quiet to hear, “How are you having my dreams?”

“What?” she asked, surprised into being a little louder than her intended whisper.

Across the room, Chris snorted and rolled over and Aife mumbled something. Mal lowered her voice and tried again, “What do you mean have your dreams?”

He cursed silently. That had just slipped out. He considered deflecting, but chided himself. If he couldn’t be honest with Mal, who the hell could he be honest with?

“I was dreaming of the day I won my title. A little bit ago.” He faltered at how shaky the admission made him sound. “Mostly I dreamt about the end, the dogs … I …”

He stopped. He couldn’t go on. Because if he did, he’d give in to tears just like she had and he had no interest in doing that. He hated to cry. He felt strongly that he’d rather bleed.

He found himself being hugged so fiercely that if he’d been fully human it would probably have hurt.

“Hey, hey, shhhh,” he soothed instinctively. “It’s okay. You read my mind sometimes anyway. I’m so sorry my dream got into your sleep.”

“No!” she whispered almost angrily. “Don’t be sorry that I know. You never talk, you never tell. I know it was hell, but I … Ben, I’m never letting you go back there. Never.”

Instead of tears, there was a cold sort of determination in her voice.

He suppressed a sigh. Scion or not, he didn’t think there was much she could do to stop the inevitable. “I know, Mal,” was what he said instead of what he was thinking. “I love you,” felt like the most appropriate thing to say. It was true and he had no comfort beyond his feelings to offer her.

“I love you.” She paused and finally pulled back from his chest to look at him. He could almost have sworn her eyes were glowing faintly like his often did when he was emotional. “And that’s going to be enough.”

He knew what she meant. Still, he didn’t want to talk about what the future held. Instead he kissed her, long and well.

“It’s always enough.”

Border Planet Blues

Just a little bit of micro-fic I wrote a while ago for a pic prompt. I’ve been mulling over doing something with it, so I figured I’d see what the internet thought about it. ~ J

Bez

It wasn’t easy to work the border planets, but Bez couldn’t deny that the money was about the best you could make without joining up with the Federals. It was hard to believe that rustlers were still a problem what with gene stamping, but here she was, tracking the Temple Sibs again.

If she drew a bead on Ned Temple this time, she was going to kneecap him just to avoid seeing his face for a couple of months. Bastard couldn’t seem to get over the fact that his sister had a fling with a ranch cop.

And Talulah just didn’t have the spine to bust up the gang.

More’s the pity. That girl was all sorts of fun, and she had a good mind, if she ever used it for anything other than keeping her useless brother in whiskey and smuggling jobs.

Bez squinted at a cloud of dust rising on the horizon.

Yup, that was them.

She drew her revolver.

She was going to enjoy this.

The Mirror ~ J

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I’m at my desk, obsessively proofreading, like any other morning. I notice I’ve accidentally used ‘their’ instead of ‘they’re’. Hell and damn. I guess that’s what you get for writing half asleep. I reach for my mouse to eradicate this grammatical travesty, instead coffee sloshes on my hand.

“Huh.”

It’s a surprised sort of sound.

I’d lost track of my surroundings. I glance down, admonishing myself to be more careful, and my stomach drops. Everything on my desk is reversed.

Not just out of place. A mirror image of what I’d sat down to.

I’m breathing faster, feeling panicky nervous sweat between my shoulder blades. I want to act, but I’m momentarily frozen.

What do you even do in this situation?

Then I start to calm down. Obviously I call 911 because clearly I’m having a stroke. Or maybe the day job finally caused that nervous breakdown I’m always joking about, haha. I get up slowly. The cat perched on the back of my chair is white with pink eyes.

My breathing picks up again.

Not hyperventilating, but damned close.

Then I see her.

In the mirror hanging on the wall opposite my writing desk, there is another me, sitting in my chair with everything looking the way it should. She glances over her shoulder, and meets my eyes. For a moment blue meets blue, then hers flash dangerous red. Through the glass I can make out the sounds of my family coming downstairs.

She smiles.

I see her teeth.

The Fall of Terra By Jess & Keith Flaherty

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Eyes downcast, hands folded, she always acted like a piece of furniture unless summoned. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t busy. When Master Den mentioned Kapteyn-6 she took an almost motionless step forward, seeming only to fidget as she adjusted the recording devices hidden in her prosthetic arm. She wasn’t worried anyone would notice.

She was hard to look at. Her robotic eye and the laser-burn scars that necessitated both devices running from the middle of her half-shaved head down her body made people uncomfortable. Den thought her ability to perceive more than the visual spectrum and her enhanced strength and dexterity made her excellent security material.

What he didn’t know was every image and sound was constantly recorded and transmitted to the Order’s base on Satellite 9. She was meant only to observe and transmit, allowing the order to use the information to weaken the Council of Seven and their organization. Once they had what they needed, she had her own plans.

Augments were highly sought after on the black market. She’d been captured trying to blow one of Den’s pipelines when she was fourteen. Her impassive face almost cracked into a smile. She’d let them catch her. Den Mirahz had always been her target. She’d pay him back for what his greed had done to her parents, to their small town, to her own fragile nine-year-old body. He had been her focus since she’d recovered.

Months of torture told him only that she was bright, had useful, if unattractive augs, and had been brainwashed by those intergalactic pains in the ass, the Green Order. Den thought her worth retraining. She’d been difficult to mold, but when he broke her she became one of his most loyal possessions, or so it seemed. She had never broken, only become bored with his game, ready to play her real hand. Fifteen years later, she was finally where she’d hoped to be, at the Hunter’s Lodge, the almost mythical gathering place of the Council, where Den and the rest manipulated the Interplanetary Federal Alliance.

“Terra! Stoke the fire,” called out the shimmering blue Proximalian, probably the nearest thing her master had to a friend at the table.

She bowed and moved down the mahogany table toward the cavernous fireplace. She looked around at the mounted trophies taken by the members of this destructive club from all over the galaxy on and around the hearth and the room’s exposed beams. Den had an impressive collection of animal teeth here, many of which were obviously human. She was glad she’d never been here with him before or she might have blown him to kingdom come years ago, promises be damned.

She used her hidden scanner on the blueprints next to the enormous red-scaled Gleisien, known as the Capo, the merciless figurehead of this council, as she reached out to stir the fire before adding more fuel cubes. It appeared to be a supply ship, meant to aid the survey of Kapteyn, but the diagrams revealed compartments perfect for smuggling. The primary cargo would be slaves like her, minimal survival gear, and an insulated pod for an atmospheric seeding medium and something called tanantobacter z-terranomica. She hoped the Order was receiving and could use this, because she wasn’t sure how much longer she could conceal her clandestine tech in this place.

Den gave her a hard look so she hurried back into position. “We’ll launch the bacterium, followed by the atmospheric seeding.”

The Capo asked, “Won’t that make the news cycle?”

“We’ll say a part broke off. That’ll explain the crash when Icarus falls out of orbit,” sniffed the furry Breeneen, Zalna, who Terra thought might be female. It certainly had enough breasts.

“What of the slaves?” asked the lizard-like Bavnial.

Den gave his sharks smile, “We’ll say they were crew. Anyone who matters wants a breeding colony as much as we do. The slaving ban is nominal and bound to end within a cycle or two. We need a decent supply chain.”

There were murmurs of agreement.

“Besides, we need labor for extraction. Robots aren’t equipped for the terrain or the extreme cold of the ice age on K-6.”

Zalna nodded, “It’ll save wear and tear on more worthwhile equipment for analyzing the minerals.”

Terra gritted her teeth as she transmitted this snippet. Populations were nothing more than another resource for The Seven to exploit for their friends. She took a careful breath, determined to slow her heartbeat. She was more nervous about being here than she’d expected. She’d never had to deal with the trappings of so many powerful people. She was starting to get strange glances from a number of other security personnel. A Kelparian guard slithered out of the shadows near the head of the table.

“Councilmembers, I’ve intercepted a transmission.”

“Yes?” the Capo snapped.

“The blueprints as well as your conversation have been broadcast to an outpost on Satellite 9.”

“From where?” the Gleisien shouted.

“Behind Master Mirahz, Capo.”

Den was on his feet, glaring. He’d been so sure she was his. His sense of betrayal hissed out, “You’ll wish you were in Hell long before I send you there.”

That voice always menaced slaves into cowering compliance. Now she gave him a cool, satisfied smile. She’d waited for this for over a decade, and she’d served the Order as promised today, finally delivered the evidence of collusion needed to loosen the Council’s grip. Terra held out her hand to display the dim red pulse of the micro-fusion explosive she designed and buried in her artificial flesh.

“Why don’t we go together?”

With a snap of her fingers, they did.

The fire took days to extinguish and the smoke created months of stunning sunsets. That was the end of Terra. But it was also the beginning of the end of the Council’s influence. The Terra she truly loved, her shining blue Earth, and other planets like it, now had a fighting chance.

One Terra fell, so the other could rise.

~ End ~

Strange Invaders – Winner of the Facebook Writers Assembled 2018 Spring Story Contest

WA Spring

Dave stuck his head behind the curtain and grinned at his partner.

The kid was looking pretty green, and clearly regretting his short trip down the alleyway responding to a stranger’s hoarse call for help.

“You doin’ okay, Morales?”

Eli looked up from contemplating the bandage on his forearm. “Great,” he said drily. “’Cuz being a chew toy for crazy bums is totally why we do this.”

“Thin blue line,” Dave chuckled, sitting on the hard plastic chair by the wall. “They almost done with you, or what?”

Eli shook his head. “Jesus, I hope so. Nurse Johnson has already put more holes in me than our friendly neighborhood nutjob.”

“Yeah, but she’s damn cute.”

“Alright, there, Officer Johnson … You know it’s a stereotype for cops to marry nurses, right?”

Dave gave a real laugh. He always felt like he was under Anna’s feet when he had to bring someone in here, but tonight would also serve as a rough introduction to their latest foster child. God knew she’d adopt Eli, regardless of what the usual house procedure was for a new partner anyway. He was just too much of a puppy not to make it into the normal dinner rotation on a faster route than her usual.

They were both still chuckling a little when a nice-looking nurse’s assistant bustled in and collected some items off the roll table next to Eli. He chatted with them for a few minutes. Then he stood next to the injured cop looking at the tablet he’d brought in with him and asked Eli to confirm the date of his last tetanus shot. Eli did and the young man said sympathetically that someone would be right back. Eli’s eyes followed him until he disappeared back out into the chaos.

Dave laughed quietly, “You know it’s a stereotype for cops to flirt with nurses?”

Eli grinned. “Learning from the best, Old Man.” Then he frowned. “Might be nice to get something outta tonight other than a scar.”

More ribbing before he got into a sour mood seemed in order. “I’m sure you will. Your rowdy indigent probably had rabies.”

Instead of finding it funny, Eli’s head sunk against the stiff pillow. “Jesus. Probably.”

“I’m kidding. Probably high on bath salts. That’s not contagious. You just gotta be born stupid.”

This time Eli snickered, as he peered around a gap in the curtain. “I just want to get home and sleep tonight off. It’s noisy as hell in here.”

He rubbed his forehead absently and squinted.

“You hit your head when you went down?”

“I don’t think so; probably just a stress headache. Because my partner’s a dick and keeps saying shit like rabies.”

“Sorry, man. I’ll shut up,” Dave laughed and got up. “Gimme a minute, I’ll see if I can get them movin’ on discharging you.” He was going to see if he could speed things up. Being married to the charge nurse was supposed to be worth something. Eli was right, it was noisy.

Dave stepped out into the hallway of the Emergency Department and it was chaos; shouting, fighting, things flying through the air. He started to radio for assistance, but heard a crash from the cubicle behind him. He turned to check on his partner, but the eyes staring up at him belonged to the same hunger that had gotten him bitten.

Eli was lost to the invasion’s first wave.

~ End ~

Ain’t No Mountain

Just another little piece of nonsense from this month’s writing challenge. ~  J

“Write a 250 word stream of consciousness from the perspective of a woman whose life will change drastically in three minutes.”

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Oh, dear God, that hurts.

Why am I here?

It seemed like a fabulous idea when it first came to me.

Life changing, liberating, making everything right.

Then there was the thinking, planning, and second guessing.

I was certain the labor would be worth the feeling at the end, but now I’m not so sure.

Finally arriving at the decision to go ahead felt like such a perfect thing.

Why did it have to become so complicated, so difficult, so painful?

I feel like I’m going to tear in half.

It’s not like I expected it to be easy, or fun.

Nobody would go into this situation thinking that, not unless they were a complete blithering idiot anyway, but holy hell, if I’d thought it would be this hard I’d have just gotten some other poor schlep to do it.

People will do anything for money.

Just a little further, a little more work. Push, push, push … and I’ve made it!

Jesus, that splash was satisfying.

I think I’ve weighed the body down enough that it won’t come back.

The water in the cove is deep and full of fish anyway so they should make short work of him. Think maybe I separated my damned shoulder. I hope Ivy can fix it. If not, I’ll have to think of a good story or maybe go to the ER over in Mendocino.

Just a short walk back to the car and I’m home free.

I was right.

It was worth the effort.

Detour

Another fun little writing prompt that got thrown out there in a group I’m part of and unsurprisingly I immediately thought of our own Ben Brody. – ~ J

A character of your choice walks in a city familiar to them. It is the dead of night. They witness a brutal mugging, featuring a nasty beating of the young couple they robbed. Your character manages to chase the criminal down into an alleyway. There are no witnesses and whatever tools your character uses for battle they have with them. How do they deal with the actions of the criminal? Play out the scene as you know they would.

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Ben’s heart slowed back down to normal as his preternaturally strong eyes took in the criminal huddled against the dumpster in the almost perfect darkness of the alleyway.
“Son of a bitch,” he grumbled more to himself than the sweaty, pale, maybe-teenager shaking and clutching the rather ostentatious purse he’d gotten off the woman up the street.

“This was a bad idea, kid,” he said sounding weary.

At first the kid said nothing, just panted and tried to straighten, but he caught his breath a little with the movement. Apparently one or both of the victims had gotten their licks in, Ben thought.

Finally the kid bit out, “Only kind I seem to have …” he trailed off for a minute. Then he lifted his head to meet Ben’s eyes when he heard him crunch over some broken glass stepping forward. “This belongs to a friend of mine though.”

“Looked like it belonged to the lady you wrestled it away from, buddy.”

Ben took another step.

“Technically I guess,” the boy, who Ben was now sure couldn’t have been more than fifteen said with a bitter laugh. “It’s my friend’s sister and her dirtbag boyfriend. He did some things … Bad things … And Steph had to leave home.”

There was pain in that voice, in that story.

“Did the sister know?” Ben asked, trying to get the lay of the land.

The boy shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. She knows he’s a piece of shit, but he has money, so she stays with him, let’s Steph’s parents think the worst. And we … she’s gotta eat, man.”

“Sister’s on the way the the hospital,” Ben said, his voice was a little stern but mostly just informative, wondering what the kid would do with the information.

“I’m sorry, alright. But only so sorry if you know what I mean. I can’t give this back. You saw what I did to them. I got no problem doing the same to you.”

Ben let the kid see his smirk. “I’m more than you bargained for, trust me. You can’t just go around hurting people for revenge, or worse for money. Nothing good will come of it. I know what I’m talking about.”

Another defeated shrug preceded the kid pulling the bag closer to himself. “I didn’t mean to have to hurt anyone, just get Steph some of her parents’ money for food.”

Ben noticed the boy’s ragged breathing then, but just said, “Doesn’t matter what you meant, kid. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

He gave a short bitter laugh.

He let his amber eyes glow just a little, just enough to let the kid see he knew from whereof he spoke.

The boy jumped back in fear and gasped, toppling over as he bumped into the dumpster.
The kid immediately started struggling to his feet, but stumbled. Ben’s first impulse was to take the bag back since the kid was in no shape to fight, regardless of his story, and just call that good enough.

Then he saw the way the kid was clutching his side, saw blood trickle between his fingers.

“Hey,” he said, stepping forward. “What the hell happened to you?”

“He cut me, the bastard cut me before I could even ask for money. That’s how the fight started. I wasn’t gonna just steal it.”

“He had a knife?” Ben asked, feeling a tingle of real anger.

“He always has a knife. That’s how he hurt Steph.”

Ben pulled back on his power, allowing himself to look entirely human again. “C’mon, kid. Lemme help you. You need a hospital.”

“The cops …”

“Didn’t ID you. Let’s get your friend that money and get you patched up.”

Ben slipped an arm under the boy’s shoulders.

“You were chasing me. Why are you helping me … whatever you are … and ..?”

“Just call me Ben. What I am is a demon, and why I’m helping is because I know what it’s like to be driven down the wrong road, kid.”

~ End ~

More about Ben Brody can be found here.

Nightmare

Another writing challenge prompt inspired me. This one happens in the universe of Always Darkest, sometime in the late spring.

Think of a word (any word you want) and search it on google images. Write something inspired by the 7th image. The word I chose was ‘nightmare’. This was the seventh image.

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He woke in the total dark of his bedroom and puffed out a sigh. He was probably up for the day now, if how heavily his heart was hammering away was any indication. The last wisps of the half-remembered nightmare still vying for his attention kept him from realizing how cold it was for a moment or two. Then, as he came more fully awake he shivered.

His blankets were probably all on the floor again. Thrashing himself into a state of no blankets had become all too common in the last few months. This had been one hell of a bad dream, too. At least the little flashes still dancing behind his closed eyes told him it must have been. He’d have to find his blankets and knew once he turned on the light, sleep was all over. He sighed again.

He rolled onto his back, pried his eyes open, and froze in instant horror.

His room was pitch black, not even the sparest light from the nightlight Chris always left on in the bathroom was cutting the velvety blackness around him. It was, however, being pierced by two laser points of reddish yellow light. They were unmistakably (to someone who had spent two thousand years in Hell anyway) the glowing eyes of an Ahemait.

The Ahemait were like the hunting dogs of Hell, seeking out and devouring those with hearts deemed unworthy. Ben was never sure who got to make that particular call, but to him it always seemed the Ahemait went after souls who were just trying to be decent in spite of being condemned to Hell. He’d worried they’d send one after him at some point for a while now.

He’d told himself a hundred times that the fear was ridiculous, that as far as Hell knew he was still their loyal soldier, sworn to execute his assigned duties to grow Hell’s numbers, and more recently to chase down the subject of the prophecy. But … But, but, but … He knew Bhaal suspected him. And it wasn’t below the god to go behind Lucifer’s back to rid himself of an annoyance.

He had a split second where he was glad that tonight was not one of the nights Mal had decided to stay. At least she was safe, in her bed, miles away.

When his eyes locked with the creature’s, it started to glow faintly. That’s when he could see it’s teeth for the first time. His hammering heart seemed to seize in his chest and he couldn’t catch his breath. He wondered if the dagger sitting on his nightstand would have any effect on this beast, wondered if it was possible to fight his way out. But at that moment he didn’t really believe he could move.

The beast took a lumbering step closer to the foot of his bed and blistering hot saliva dripped onto Ben’s exposed foot. The sizzle and immediate stinging pain was enough to break his paralysis and he reached out blindly in the dark, his hand closing over the cold handle almost instantly.

Unfortunately, even his demonically enhanced reflexes were tempered by his human form and the beast was on him before he could turn the knife toward it. He realized as its teeth tore into his flesh that it wasn’t here to extinguish him. It would keep him alive in the agony of being consumed for as long as it entertained it. After a while his own screams faded into the pain and even sound was just part of the tapestry of agony that could go on forever.

Ben bolted upright in bed, gasping. He realized he was in the larger bed they’d been sharing at Mal’s house. Then the rest of the evening came back to him and drove back the dream a little, let him start to catch his breath. Mal shifted next to him.

“Hey, are you okay?”

She was wide awake. He swallowed, feeling badly. She was already used to his nightmares disrupting her sleep and they hadn’t even been sharing a bed for all that long. “Mmmhmm,” he said, not trusting his voice to convince her it was true.

She sat up and turned on her light. “Nice try.”

He managed a slightly sheepish grin. “Okay … How about, I will be in a minute?”

She moved closer to him and put and arm around him, resting her head on his shoulder. “Mostly honest, I guess. I like Honest Ben.” She paused for a second. “What was this one about?”

He shivered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She nodded. “Okay. Do you want to go downstairs, and I’ll start the coffee, or do you want to try to go back to sleep?”

Ben glanced across the room at his phone on the charging station on Mal’s dresser. It was only about 3 a.m. “We can go back to sleep.” he said. “I’m fine,” he added sounding less certain than he would have liked.

She pulled away a little so she could look at his face and gave him a small smile.

“I doubt it,” she said. Then she echoed his words back to him. “But you will be in a minute.”

She got up and got the extra quilt off the chest at the foot of her bed and spread it over Ben, then climbed back in and waited until he lay back down, finally smiling a little as he looked up at her. She snuggled as close as it was physically possible to be and wrapped an arm around him, resting her head against the shoulder of the arm he slid underneath her.

“You don’t have to leave the light on.”

“I know … But sometimes it’s better when I do.”

He kissed the top of her head.

She knew.

She always knew when to leave the light on. He said so and she squeezed him tight. He was never going to have to deal with the dark alone again. Not if she had anything to say about it. She was going to say so, but she realized from the softening of his breath that he had already started to doze off.

“I love you,” she whispered.

She didn’t see it, because her face was pressed against his chest, but even in his sleep, even after the terror of that dream, those words made him smile.

~ End ~

 

For more of Mal and Ben, click here.

Search and Rescue

Author’s note: Prompt in a writing challenge I’m doing – “Imagine that you are unable to leave the room that you’re in for the next 7 days. Chronicle each of the seven days using only 50 words each.”

That sounded boring, so I went fictional. ~ J

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Day One

Don’t know what happened. Maybe an earthquake or a bomb. I remember a loud noise and then jolting, slipping. If anyone else is still alive here I can’t hear them. It was late; people were starting to head home so maybe they all made it. My head hurts and I…

Day Two

This is the second day since whatever happened. I think. I might have passed out when I tried to write things down last time, pretty sure. I remembered people screaming at first. I found the vending machine. The glass was broken. The water fountain is only dripping. I’m so thirsty.

Day Three

Remembered the LED on keychain. Found water cooler. Not full, but better than drips. Head still hurts. Found baby wipes in Marci’s desk. Happy to wipe off blood. Remembered the daycare is down a floor. Sick. Can’t get into bathroom. Emptied a file cabinet for… Think maybe I hear scratching.

Day Four

There’re digging sounds over my head. Building must have collapsed. That was the slipping I felt. At least someone’s trying to find me. I’m so glad I found water. There’s not a lot of real food in the machine, but it’ll probably keep me alive. I hear the scratching again.

Day Five

The digging sounds are closer. If I hold my breath I can almost hear rescue workers shouting to each other between my heartbeats. The water is getting low, so I’m glad they’re getting closer … Something happened. I think it’s the same day. Part of this room collapsed. Vending machine was there.

Day Six

I still have water. Put trashcan under water fountain to collect drips. Working so far. I’ll be okay if I run out of the other. So hungry. They sound closer. I hope. Help coming soon. LED looks dimmer. Don’t want to waste it looking for food unless I get desperate.

Day Seven

Digging has stopped. LED died last night. Found something squishy in a desk. I ate it anyway. Didn’t throw up. Water cooler empty, but trashcan full. Scratching sounds started again. Louder. If I listen I can hear the others.

They’re looking for me.

But I don’t think they are alive.

Wrong Number

Another writing prompt. This one is actually from a couple of years ago, but I liked it a lot and couldn’t imagine revisiting it with something new. If you come up with something, I’d love to see it in the comments. ~ J

“Write a conversation about a man who calls a wrong number and ends up talking to an angry woman. End the conversation with the line ‘Well, I suppose so’.”

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Ed reached into the back pocket of his jeans for his cell. It slipped from his grasp and fell onto the floor. There was a distinct and depressing crunching sound. Someday, he thought ruefully, he would get his head out of his ass and buy a decent case. This was his third phone in as many months. He got carefully off from his perch on the barstool and retrieved his phone, sure Salvatore would let him use the bar’s phone, but knowing in his present state there was no way he could remember Frank’s number. And the bastard owed him one for playing Taxi the last time he’d tied one on. As he’d suspected, the screen was spider cracked all over. Crap. Crap. Crap.

He squinted at the icons through the web of broken glass and hit what looked like his contacts button. The destruction that used to be his iPhone caused him to swear quietly when he got a splinter of glass in this thumb as he tried to scroll. Between sucking his bleeding thumb, the fuzzy buzzing in his head, and the fact that he’d worked the early today following on 2nd shift last night he was only half certain that he’d hit Frank’s name, but he brought the phone up anyway.

“Ed, you son of a bitch,” was the icy greeting that met his ear.

Oh hell. “Ginny. Shit, I’m sorry.”

“You damned well ought to be!” There was more emotion in her voice now but, not unexpectedly, it wasn’t pleasant.

“Look, I didn’t mean to call you. I don’t even know what time it is.” Now he could hear that he was slurring a little. Damn, his bar tab was going to be impressive when he had to settle up.

“Color me surprised.” There was a lot of contempt there, but it wasn’t venomous as it had been the last time they spoke.

“I was just trying to call Franny for a ride. My phone’s busted.”

“Again? Just how drunk are you Eddie?”

He hated it when she just had his number without even looking at him. It was like freaking witchcraft.

Now Ed was starting to feel a little annoyed back. “Well, pretty damn drunk I guess. I hate my job.”

Her voice softened, “You’re still there?”

Ed was defensive, “Yeah, even though it blows.”

There was a knowing note in her voice now, “And you’re at Sal’s place to cope with that fact.”

His inebriation caused some petulance to creep into his voice. “I don’t wanna crash with my folks forever and I can’t do rent on my own.”

“That’s your own fault, Eddie, and you know it, so don’t try to guilt trip me. I haven’t even taken my sneakers off yet from job number two and I’ve got a 7:30 in the morning. Tomorrow’s Tuesday. In case you forgot.”

“I know what day it is,” he snapped, even though that was 100% not true.

He was pulling so many odd shifts trying to get enough money together to get back into school that the days were starting to blend into each other. The dorm was better than with his parents for sure, but damned if he didn’t miss the mattress on the floor of the crappy apartment he and Ginny had shared all semester, until he’d blown it over summer break. Getting fired, then arrested for pissing on that dumpster…at least that cop had been decent enough to just call it vandalism and not public urination. If he’d wound up on the sex offender registry for being drunk and stupid, Ginny wouldn’t even care enough to chew him out. She wouldn’t have answered her phone. She’d kicked him out after that; her name was on the lease after all; told him not to call her unless he dried himself out a little and got his shit together. She couldn’t afford to deal with his childish crap her senior year. She had law school admissions to worry about. He’d lost his financial aid and had to drop out of school on top of everything else.

“Ginny, I’m sorry. I’m trying to get myself together. I am.”

“Sure you are, Ace. Which is why you called me on your broken phone. By accident. From Sal’s. Where I am sure there is now a paucity of tequila.”

Now she just sounded weary.

“It’s not like that … I hardly ever do this anymore.”

“Really?”

She honestly hoped that was true. She actually loved the dumbass. She just wasn’t going to get sucked in to his bullshit.

“I haven’t been here in a couple of months. Hell, I’m the guy the old crew usually calls for rides now. And I know better than to get behind the wheel like this, myself.”

He could hear her breathing but she didn’t say anything.

“That why I was calling Frank for a lift. Douche owes me one. I picked him up off the strip a couple weeks ago and he puked all down the door of my truck. I had to take it apart and everything. Hot wings, vodka, and stomach acid are not the sweetest perfume a guy could hope to ride to work with.”

She gave a soft laugh. God, he’d missed that sound.

“I’m not sobstory-ing or anything, but my ‘rents got into another one of their ‘let’s throw things at each other and scream’ contests and I just had to get the hell out. I don’t know why I came to Sal’s. Just seemed like the thing to do.” He sighed.

“It seemed safe.” Her voice was quiet, sympathetic.

“Yeah … I guess that’s it.” He took a deep breath, and said in a rush, “Last place I felt safe was with you.”

She drew in her breath sharply. “Eddie, I …”

“I’m sorry … You don’t need me crying on your shoulder, even over the phone.” He sighed again. “Go take off your sneakers. Get some sleep. I know your lecture days suck.”

“Eddie,” she paused, not sure if she’d regret what she was about to say, but determined to say it nonetheless. “Do you want me to come and pick you up?”

He really did, but he took a second, not wanting her to hear the naked need in his voice and pretty sure he was too lit to hide it. “I … I don’t really want to go home. God knows they’re probably still at it.” He was met with silence, but it felt warm to him, like before all this. “Could I come over … Just to sleep on the couch? I’m off tomorrow; I’d clean your place to return the favor. Maybe we could talk when you get out of class … Please?”

When she answered it was full of her old humor, full of promise.

“Well, I suppose so.”