8 SELF HELP
15 NOVELS & COLLECTIONS
60 SHORT STORIES
181 COLORING & JOURNALS
Novels & Collections
Sci Fi Short Stories
The Golden Pen
Mutiny On Shuttle X569
Just For Her
A Primitive Mind
The Past Again
A Shot At Freedom
Going Back In Time
Paranormal Short Stories
Grant Me A Wish
The Lonely Children
The Gift Of A Broken Mirror
The Circle Of Friends
The Old Woman's Paintings
Good Ghost Bad Ghost
Let Me In
A Weekend In Paris
A Second Chance
Dead But Alive
The Law Firm
Journals & Coloring
SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORIES
“The story begins like this: 13.77 billion years ago, the universe was condensed in a single point. Then, without any understandable reason, it exploded in the biggest display of energy that it would ever have in its whole life. It was quite a spectacular way to be born. That explosion created the space-time continuum, but it was still a pitch-black universe. Light was officially switched on after 400 million years, when the first star emerged from the extreme hot plasma formed by neutrinos and protons.
“After the first star, the generative model was basically the same: around a dense hot star, the matter condensed, creating bigger stars. The older stars, after having burned all their helium, exploded and created new elements that were scattered around – which then condensed once again into planets, satellites, anything that we can see floating around, like that asteroid.” The guide pointed his finger at the porthole, following the path of a big floating rock just a few thousand miles away from the space station. “And that’s everything you need to know about the universe. Any other questions, kids?”
In the year 2947, human beings were facing their biggest challenge: their expansion velocity was too slow compared to the immense size of the universe. The solar system had been completely explored; there were human bases all over the planets and satellites.
Humanity had developed an efficient way of extracting materials from the asteroids. Thanks to a new abundance of resources, Earth had become a pacific blue spot in the middle of the universal void.
Wars, poverty and diseases were uprooted from the very core of human society in the fourth millennium. Scientists discovered that without a brand-new way of propulsion, human beings couldn’t ever explore anything beyond the solar system.
A few centuries ago, a huge starship was packed with people and sent outside the known border; this was known as the Second Heaven project. The idea was simple: design a starship that would fit a replica of a small terrestrial neighborhood with all its useful amenities, then send it through the space for centuries until it reached a planet where humans could settle.
It was a complete disaster. The people killed each other after 45 years. The huge starship is still wandering around in space like a huge iron coffin. Human beings evolved to live on a solid rock, with a proper sun and real gravity. Even with all the best available technologies, humans are basically animals and they have basic needs.
Humans can’t survive in a fake environment with artificial sunlight for too long without it driving them nuts. The dawn of the fourth millennium was one of the most depressed eras of human civilization; humanity faced the harsh reality of unlimited brains tied to limited mortality. Science couldn’t do anything to help. Until that moment.
“I’m sure we can do it. Look at this data, our sensors can’t be wrong. It can be done!” From the other side of the space station, Dr. Mika Kinen was running through the corridors waving a piece of paper. “Where are you? I’m about to reach Section C-2, let’s meet there. You have to see this with your own eyes!”
The Mandelbrot space station was the most advanced laboratory ever made by the human race; its first module was built in 2900 and its purpose was to study innovative propulsion methods. After a century, it grew a hundred-fold, becoming the biggest laboratory throughout the solar system. Section C-2 connected the particles laboratory to the canteen.
If you were sleeping in a cell in Moonson-8, you were probably the worst badass on your planet. In 3453, Earth was contracted to convert the mining sites on the moon into the most safe and advanced prison in the whole solar system.
The terrestrial company, Tienshing Co., was in charge of designing, building and testing Moon Prison Eight – aka Moonson-8, aka M8, which would later be known by the inmates as the Mate. It was designed to be impossible to escape and easy to control and handle. There were cyborgs and organic guards, infrared scanners, thermal and seismic sensors, hypodermic chips, CCTV: even thinking about fleeing was impossible.
The first phase of the construction site was inaugurated in early 3454. The plan was to build the first octagon module within five years, but the Tienshing Co. made it in less than four. The political pressure was so heavy that they hired twice as many workers in order to meet the schedule.
The Mate was constructed with the future prisoners in mind, taking into account that many would be different species, with different health needs and potential skills that would be a threat to security measures. For instance, an average terrestrial jail would have been useless for containing the brutal force of a Gantuan. However, the Mate was the most advanced building ever made, designed using an ingenious scheme.
Everything started with a single block, comprising four cells and a central staircase. Each block was multiplied by eight, with a central common space added to form a neighborhood; eight neighborhoods were then grouped together to form a floor known as a citadel. A total of eight floors were stacked to create a complete Moon Prison Eight module, with the capacity to hold 4096 prisoners.
There was only one way to get in and out of the Mate: the launch pad in the middle of the citadel that was guarded by a security system. The prison was built for a single task: securing the most dangerous criminals in one place.
When the first module was built, all planets throughout the system wanted to send their worst prisoners there. In less than twelve hours, all the cells were filled with the worst scum that have ever lived. There were a few simple rules in the Mate:
1. Each cell had two inmates, from different planets.
2. Each neighborhood was open for just three hours: for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3. Access to the outer part of the citadel was strictly forbidden.
The first 512 inmates arrived at the end of November 3459 and filled the whole ground level citadel; the plan was to fill the citadels month by month. The enrolment procedure was quick: all the inmates were given a grey and black uniform, a personal health card and a Unilator wristwatch – a universal translator that was essential in an environment where more than five thousand different languages were spoken. Each inmate also had a chip implanted in an arm, tentacle or paw (preferably the right side, if they had more than one limb).
One day, Philemon read on the main screen that he was the only human in the whole prison.
“Ah great, I’m the only representative of Planet Earth! My parents would be very proud if they knew.” Philemon Perky was sentenced to 25 years for armed robbery and attempted murder of a security guard. He tried to steal the quantum core of the Shintoshi Bank computer servers in Osaka, which contained the encryption keys of every single Japanese bank account. That bank had been the safest place on Earth with the most innovative security systems; some of those systems had been updated to be used in the prison.
After his enrolment, Philemon was brought to his new home: a reinforced concrete room with a small rectangular window facing Earth, a bunk bed, a sink and a universal toilet that was basically a hole in the floor – it was considered universal because it could also be used by species that had tails, wings, or more than two legs.
“You know that your Dad will kill us when he finds out, don’t you?”
“He won’t find out because he has completely forgotten about it. It’s been sitting in the garage for the last three years. It was literally full of dust, dude.”
Mark and Spencer were two smart and brilliant kids who loved to break the rules, like all teenagers.
They met when they were both six, when Mark had moved to Austin, next door to Spencer. They didn’t get along so much in the very early days; well, they didn’t get along at all. Mark was a stubborn, bossy kid and Spencer was even bossier than him.
The first time they tested their tempers was the day after Mark had moved in. Spencer had been outside on his bike, but stopped to stare at Mark as he helped his father bring some boxes inside. Mark doesn’t like people staring at him, especially strangers, so he had approached Spencer with a wide toothless smile.
“You know that you’ve got a very nice bike, don’t you? What’s your name?”
“I’m Spencer. You?”
“I’m Mark, nice to meet you.” He stretched out his arm to shake Spencer’s hand.
“Nice to meet you too,” Spencer replied, stretching out his arm as well. “I got this bike for my birthday. Do you want to ride it?”
“Yeah, I’d love to!” He grinned, still shaking hands.
“Well, you can’t because you’re a stupid scumbag!” Spencer tried to bike away, but didn’t realize that Mark still had a tight hold on his hand.
“I’m a strong stupid scumbag, you little kid!” Mark pulled him away from his bike with such strength that Spencer just dropped to the ground, hitting the pavement with his right shoulder. Mark kicked the bike and ran back to his house.
That was their first encounter.
Monsieur Deparnasse was still bustling in his tiny underground laboratory on Rue de Grenelle, close to the Eiffel Tower. The air smelled of mold and welding. The twelve-square-meter room was packed with scraps, tools and iron bars. Patrique Deparnasse was a broke inventor who had just one dream: flying above the rooftops of his beloved Paris.
In 1927, the world was in an aircraft frenzy. After the solo no-stop flight of Charles Lindbergh, everybody wanted to test new technologies and new ways of developing flying machines. On May 21st, the French public greeted the American pilot with a huge crowd; there were more than a hundred and fifty thousand people at Le Bourget Airport.
That day, Deparnasse realized that he wanted to become like Lindbergh, a living hero beloved by everybody. He was neither a pilot nor an engineer, but he had a very vivid imagination and a huge thirst for knowledge, all mixed with a pinch of stubbornness and a twist of madness.
He had an average life, with an average wife and an average salary; he was the typical common worker, the next-door man. He was a high school math teacher, but he hated his job. He thought that he was just wasting time and bartering life for a fixed income.
The day after Lindbergh’s exploit was a sunny Sunday. Deparnasse went out for a walk; his soul was burning and he knew that on Monday, he was going to resign from his job – that was the day that he will become an inventor.
That night, he talked to his wife about his decision to resign, waiting for her support. But she wasn’t as open-minded as him; she was upset and said that he was just a deluded middle-aged man that wanted to feel young again. She even threatened to leave him. But Deparnasse didn’t care about her opinion, he was ready to quit his old life and begin a new adventure.
The next day he resigned, and asked for his final pay-check. It wasn’t much, but he could afford to rent a small space, and buy some tools and machines. When he came back home, he didn’t say anything to his wife. Deparnasse went upstairs, packed his clothes into a bag and went away, without a word to his wife. He was about to close the front door behind him when his wife started shouting the worst words he had ever heard in his whole life. He didn’t care about anything but his dream of being the first man flying above Paris, so he slammed that door; his old life laid forever behind that door.
The first time that Shingo Koike appeared on a Japanese national TV news channel, nobody realized that it was the beginning of a brand-new way of entertaining people: it was the dawn of the Follow-Me show.
In 2030, Tokyo was the first city that adopted a global surveillance system, which was designed to monitor all automated vehicles and drive them through the city without any accidents.
The system, named Kanshi, was a combination of traditional cameras, electromagnetic antennas and thermal sensors. With that kind of system, the police were able to see everything, anywhere, at any time. Thanks to the Kanshi, the crime rate dropped to almost zero percent. It was impossible for any criminals to hide; technically, it was impossible for anybody to hide anywhere.
The citizens expressed some concerns about the violation of privacy rights, which led to the creation of Pukanshi, an anti-Kanshi organization. At first, it was just a small group of people who gathered in front of the central police station every Friday morning. They were peaceful and simply asked for more privacy.
But things changed when the Yakuza mobster chiefs turned the Pukan into their personal tool for subverting the status quo. Global surveillance had forced the Yakuza to completely change their ‘business’ model; they had quit their illegal dealings and began to invest huge amounts of capital into the Pukan movement. In less than one year, it became a real political party with its own representatives and campaigns.
The Pukan Party asked for a reduction of the Kanshi pressure in certain neighborhoods, arguing that the antennas were harmful, especially for newborns and the elderly. They paid dozens of scientists to prove that prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields were the main cause of brain malformations and leukemia.
The Japanese government published a counter-research in order to prove that the whole system was safe, but the Pukan Party spent a lot of money on spreading fake news, especially among people with lower levels of education. There was a very heated scientific debate between pro-Kanshi and anti-Kashi scientists that made citizens more confused. The Yakuza understood that if you can’t mystify science, you can always mystify the facts.
The sound of the bell echoed in every single corner of the gigantic hangar, indicating the end of the night shift. Ralph took off his ear defenders and slowly went to the locker room; he was the only one working that night.
The company worked for the federal government of Taiwan, and it was the only one in the Yilan county that had the authorization to disassemble cyborgs. Until 2078, anybody could start a disassembling business and earn a lot of money from the cyborg recycling market.
Everything changed when a cyborg named P4-U7 escaped from the line and killed all the humans in the factory. The military police took three days to terminate it. The government realized that this kind of factory was very dangerous and the only solution was to nationalize the whole disassembling industry throughout Taiwan.
So, all the small factories were shut down and replaced by huge conglomerates owned by tech moguls close to the Prime Minister’s entourage. Wellcor was the biggest disassembling line in the northern counties and the most efficient so far. It had three eight-hour shifts covered by just ten employees. Ralph was one of the older workers there and he was in charge of the night shift, from 4.00pm to midnight.
“Another week of that damn night shift. Joilin is going to leave me when I tell her.” Ralph was a middle-aged man who had disassembled cyborgs his whole life. He had started when he was 18 with the idea of owning his own line, but after the P4-U7 incident, all his dreams vanished like frost in the morning. He didn’t know anything but disassembling, and he was too old to start from scratch; he was literally stuck in his own miserable life.
Finally out of the factory, Ralph was waiting for the night bus. The monsoon rain was unstoppable; the wind was so intense that the rain fell horizontally, making it impossible not to get wet. When the empty bus arrived, he was completely soaked. The 35-minute daily ride back home was his moment of calm and silence; the blurry light of the city through the windows, the small bumps on the road, and the peace of the night bus were the happiest parts of his day.
In the second half of the 22nd century, affordable quantum computing became reality, generating the so-called “strong AI”. It was used for every productive task of the social system: healthcare, finance, mobility and agriculture.
Online gaming was the only field where it couldn’t be used. That’s why playing became a very big deal.
“I can’t believe we won the last match! We made it! WE MADE IT!”
“Yeah, dude! After three days of gaming, we’re the tournament finalists! Oh, I’m exhausted, I need to rest.”
“Rest? Are you crazy? We need to plan our final strategy for tomorrow. We can’t be beaten by those stupid noobs!”
“We don’t need a strategy! You’re Vasja, the best e-player in the world! I’m still trying to figure out how you killed that guy – a 300-meter headshot with an AK47?!”
“I was lucky! I was just lucky, that’s all.”
“Lucky? No, you’re the best!”
“Thanks, Bro. But I won’t be the best till I win the tournament. That’s why we need to sort out our attack plan for tomorrow! Let’s play for a while and scheme up something good.”
“No, dude, I’ll go have a nap. I need to turn my brain off. And so should you!”
“I’m too excited to sleep! I want to test some tactics for tomorrow.”
“But don’t play too much, dude – even Vasja needs to charge his batteries.”
The next day, the B-Arena was packed. Everything was ready for the final match of the Blizzzkrieg Tournament, the most popular FPV game ever. When the game was released on September 19th, 2134, it was downloaded by 500 million players in the first 48 hours.
The traffic was so heavy that some servers literally collapsed for days. Ballast, the software house that launched Blizzzkrieg, made billions in just seven days, becoming the most profitable start-up ever. Analysts calculated that if you had invested just 1 ETH the day before the launch, by the end of the week you could have bought 95% of the moon-mining companies.
In the year 2420, humans stopped searching for intelligent life. They found thousands of new lives, such as bacteria, DNA fragments, unicellular organisms – but they have never found anything close to a semi-complex form of life.
The first alien encounter was in 2122, when a cargo ship coming back from Ceres hit an asteroid.
The crew died in the accident, but the recovery team found that the cargo was covered by a thin biological layer – the first alien life ever found, in the form of a bacteria colony. It was named Methuselah, because the analysis found that it was approximately 969 million years old.
The scientific community began to speculate that life on Earth hadn’t started on planet Earth, but was seeded thanks to alien lives. They had some interesting theories about how and when those bacteria had first arrived on the blue planet.
One scientist even claimed to have found the exact spot of the impact of the seeding asteroids.
After that amazing discovery, the Global Scientific Organization (GSO) invested 45% of the worldwide GDP in financing scientific expeditions all around the solar system and beyond. By the end of the century, there where Class-S vessels everywhere, scanning every single cubic meter of space.
It took 45 years of nothingness to find the second trace of non-terrestrial life. In 2175, the Class-S vessel “Prince II” scanned the surface of Charon, one of Pluto’s moons, and found an entire DNA segment. It was in a perfect state of conservation. After analyzing it on board, the crew discovered that it was the exact replica of an amoeba’s DNA.
At the time, scientists had a lot of difficulty understanding how a DNA strand could have been stuck on a planet without any chances of reproduction.
The theory of intergalactic seeding was easy to align with comets and asteroids, but Charon had never collided with Earth. Scientists could not explain how the exact same DNA existed in two places that had never touched each other.
Click To Buy
Today, I realized why I was sent here by the Council over four hundred years ago. These humans seem so primitive – but their sense of community, the way they overcome their issues, and how they solve their problems are things that are hard to find anywhere else in the Inner System. I wonder if they had our technology, maybe they would’ve become the new seeders. After four hundred years of breeding, I can barely feel my original essence; I think I’m becoming a human after all. I guess I’ll be sad when we kill them.
[Saratoga, October 26th, 2180]
Paula – that was her first human name, when she arrived in 1751– she was a Gammarian scout sentinel. Her task was to analyze and report any human hostile activity or major scientific discovery that could prevent their conquest of Earth, which was scheduled for 2210.
Her planet, Gammar, was an experimental base, built millions of years before the first flower bloomed on Earth. It orbited a black hole, searching for new forms of intelligent life and seeding it with Gammarian information. Basically, Gammar was a huge artificial computer that produced software and sent it through the universe, trying to find a place where they could thrive and develop a new society.
Gammar had been built by an advanced civilization that tried to escape death by converting themselves to data. The only way to do that was by blending their consciousness into a black hole event horizon, which would act as a celestial separator that divided information from particles – the same that is used for separating cream from milk. Once the data was separated, it could be virtually stored forever, as long as Gammar orbited its source of energy.
The seeding procedure was relatively easy. A scout would be sent to a planet using a radio signal, since information travels faster than light thanks to quantum entanglement, which is how Gammar data can be shipped almost instantly anywhere in the visible universe. Then, once on the planet, the information can live for 12 hours, until it finds a suitable form of life.
That’s what happened to Paula – she was sent to the middle of a Polish forest to wait for her host. Unfortunately, there weren’t any humans around, so she had to migrate into the first suitable form of life she could find: a squirrel.
“I know. I told you, I already know that. There’s no need to scream, I can hear you. I’ve got to go now. I’m working. I’ll call you later. Bye, my love.”
Edward was sitting in his cubicle, doing his 9 to 5 job, happy with his 9 to 5 life, and completely unaware of the fact that he was living the last day of his life.
He worked for the National Information Bureau, the so-called NIB, as a second-level information developer. He wasn’t sure what a first-level developer looked like, nor a third-level one, for that matter. Maybe they didn’t even exist. But he didn’t care; he was doing his job, filtering the financial market information from Wall Street.
Funnily enough, the name of the street originated from an actual wall built in the 17th century. A 12-foot wall had been built to protect the Dutch population living in New York – or what was then called New Amsterdam – from pirates and other villains who wanted to steal their valuables.
In 2089, after the Great Flood, neither the Wall nor the Street were left; everything was digitized and uploaded into the Clouds. Yes, the real Clouds. By 2074, the only way to fight pollution was to create a swarm of nanofilters – flying, solar-powered, air-filtering servers. They mimicked real clouds and had the ability to store small amounts of data.
“Hey Dan, can you help me?” Edward stretched his neck above the cubicle, searching for his colleague. “Dan, where the hell are you? I need your help. There’s something strange here.”
“What’s wrong now, Ed? Is your decaf too strong?” Dan was fumbling under his desk, trying to fix his monitor. All NIB employees were responsible for their appliances and cubicles. Without insurance, you risked paying a very high bill for any loss or damage. “Stupid monitor, it doesn’t work. I don’t wanna pay to fix that piece of crap. Did you know that back in the early 2000s, people had free appliances, free cubicles, and even free pens and paper? Crazy times!”
“Dan, get over here. I’ll help you fix that monitor later, but right now I need you over here! There’s something very strange happening.”
Dan emerged from his desk and leaned over the cubicle partition. “Show me the problem, Mr. Proctor.”
“Look at this graph. Can you see this descending line?”
“Yeah, it’s a very nice descending line. What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong? Are you nuts? This is the weekly info-rate and it’s plunging down 5% this week! And the data shows that next week will be even worse.”
“Ed, I’ve absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I know we work on the same floor, but I’m not in financial analysis. I’m in real estate, did you forget?”
“This is big, Dan! No matter what your field is. That means we are screwed. All of us!”
Edward was completely frightened, staring at that descending line. His terror was so thick and dense that Dan literally darkened.
Maxwell, 7 years old, was running as fast as his small legs could carry him. As he ran, he did not bother to look back. He maintained his gaze up ahead, into the lush field of green and yellow corn stalks.
He was running through the corn fields, running in fright; running away from danger.
“Maxwell,” she called. “Maxwell, come back right now, I say!”
He refused to heed the call and maintained his pace, panting under his breath as he ran through the field.
“Maxwell, you come back here, or I swear by heaven I’ll skin you alive when I get you!”
Those words sank deep into his spirit. Even as he ran, Maxwell could not help but shudder.
She was going to skin him alive!
The mere thought of it made him break out in sweat. He was perspiring not because of his flight through the fields, but out of fear. He knew it was not an empty threat; no, it was real and the only way to avoid it was to run – to run as fast as he could.
Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain. It shot up from his right ankle and coursed through his muscles until it had enveloped his entire right leg.
Maxwell screamed. He did not need to look to figure out what had happened. As he fell, he flung his hands in the air as if trying to grab onto something to prevent his fall, but it was futile.
He had been running at a high speed and now he seemed to be flying through the air, with his arms outstretched. Then he came crashing down on the soft ground. He tumbled over several times before he came to a stop.
As he turned over and tried to sit up, pain shot through his entire body. He felt wetness on his face and knew he was bleeding.
He looked down at his right ankle. It was bloodied and twisted into an odd angle.
He grimaced in pain as he looked ahead. He could see the small rock that stuck out of the ground not too far away. In his haste, he had tripped right over it. Now, his flight was temporarily suspended.
He could hear footsteps pounding closer and closer.
THE PAST AGAIN
As her alarm began to ring, Maureen Sullivan yawned and rolled off her bed. The clock said it was already fifteen minutes to seven. She couldn’t believe it was morning already as she strode into the bathroom.
After her shower, she quickly prepared a cup of coffee, and threw some chips and an apple into a brown paper bag before pouring the coffee into a flask.
This was not her first day at her job, but she knew better than to turn up late. She was the anchor at the morning news programme on the local television station WNBC2.
She was already used to the routine of making her own breakfast from home. Even though she had started working at WNBC2 eleven months ago, she had not yet gotten used to the meals that were served in their canteen.
She had always loved her morning coffee and nothing would make her ever want to skip breakfast, but having a light meal at her office canteen was not on her daily agenda, because the first time she tried their meals, she had to go home with an upset stomach.
It wasn’t as if their meals were not good; maybe her system was just not used to the food there. For lunch, she chose to visit one of her favourite restaurants in town. But breakfast was something she could easily handle quickly from home.
As she slid behind the steering wheel of her car, her smartphone began to ring. She peered at the screen. It was her producer. Sighing, she answered the call. “Good morning, Mr. Davies.”
“Good morning, Maureen. Aren’t you at the studio yet?”
“No, not yet, I’m just leaving home.”
“Really? You’d better hurry up then!”
“Why the rush? We still have an hour before we go on air.”
“I know, but there are some issues we need to discuss before you go on air.”
Maureen frowned. “Some issues? I don’t understand. What kind of issues?”
“I can’t discuss them on the phone. Just try to get here quickly, okay?”
“Sure, I’ll be there soon,” Maureen replied and the line went dead.
For a couple of seconds, she kept on staring at her phone. She was confused. What could her producer want to discuss so urgently that he couldn’t wait until after the morning show? she wondered. Since she could not think of an answer, she started her engine.
A PRIMITIVE MIND
As the door opened, Peter Armstrong looked up from the bed he was lying on. A bespectacled woman came in. She smiled at him and adjusted her glasses, as if she needed to focus properly on him. She was holding a folder and a small white parcel. Once inside the room, she closed the door before turning to him.
“I almost thought you’d be gone forever,” Peter said with a sigh. “You took so long to return, Doctor Sylvia.”
“I apologize, Mr. Armstrong. I had to personally check with the lab to make sure that your samples were diagnosed quickly. I was worried that the lab would not understand how urgently we needed your test results.”
“Maybe, they thought I’d come back another day for another appointment.” Peter paused as if waiting to see if the doctor would say anything. But she didn’t, at least not yet. So he went on talking. “So, what did you find out?”
Doctor Sylvia opened the folder. “From what I can see here, you are perfectly alright, Mr. Armstrong.”
Peter sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the bed. “I’m fine? Are you sure?”
“Absolutely, all the tests confirm that everything is alright – with your body, that is.”
Peter frowned. “With my body?”
“Yes, your body, but not your head.”
“What’s wrong with my head?”
“Not really your head, but your brain, Mr. Armstrong.”
“Yes, your brain. The brain scans seem to reveal the reason why you have been having these nasty headaches and migraines. Your brain is under tremendous pressure due to a buildup of ruptured brain cells and neurons.”
“Ruptured? But how come? How did it happen?”
“That is where you might be of assistance, Mr. Armstrong. It is obvious that you are under a lot of mental pressure. Is there anything bothering you? Are you troubled or having any difficulties with anything at all? Now would be a good time to tell me, so that we can determine how best to tackle this. Your brain cannot continue to take this amount of onslaught.”
Peter frowned and rubbed his chin. “Well, I just have my usual work keeping me busy. Is that really pressure?”
“Your work? You mean your writing?”
“Yes – as you know, I’m a writer and that is what I do for a living.”
“Yes, I do know that. But how is everything with your writing? Are you having any problems with it?”
Peter sighed. “Well, maybe. Or not really. I know that my agent has been on my back for the past several weeks now.”
“Is that so? Why?”
JUST FOR HER
As Pamela Green walked through the doors, the barman waved at her. Two of the patrons in front of him were trying to catch his attention from across the countertop, but Diego Luciano did not pay attention to them other than to smile and nod his head. He gestured at another bartender to serve them while he looked out for Pamela, still trying to get her attention.
She could clearly see him from where she stood. She was shaking her head. Diego couldn’t tell if she was acknowledging him or simply trying to avoid coming over. He couldn’t blame her if she was reluctant.
It was Friday evening, a regular merry-making period for all who were privileged to be there and in other spots dotted around the city. This meant that the entire restaurant was going to be crowded that evening, especially around the bar.
All the seats around the bar were occupied with different types of people, many of whom were busy chattering and talking excitedly.
Diego caught sight of Pamela looking around the crowded place, searching for somewhere to sit. She turned right and left, then pursed her lips before running her hand through her long, jet-black hair.
Pamela turned and caught sight of Diego waving down a waiter. She saw the waiter quickly rush to his boss’s side. She could imagine what Diego was saying as she saw him pointing in her direction and giving instructions to the waiter.
Pamela sighed and stayed put. She knew what was going to happen soon. After Diego was finished with his instructions, she knew that the waiter would rush to her side to lead her to a table with a chair.
Pamela smiled to herself. It never ceased to amaze her how Diego and his staff could manufacture empty seats and tables at such a busy time. It was not just how they were able to do it, she reasoned. It was more like how they could carry it off so easily and efficiently.
Pamela turned to see that the waiter was nodding. It was clear that he had understood his boss’s instruction. Now, all that remained was for him to carry it out.
Then Pamela saw Diego open his mouth again. It was obvious that he was about to say something else, but he never completed his sentence.
Pamela noticed that everything suddenly seemed to fall still.
She stared in bewilderment and surprise around the bar, not believing what she was seeing. Everyone had stopped moving and there was no more activity or noise of any kind.
As the car came to a stop in the parking lot, Kelly Watson reached for her bag. Before she could open the door, the man behind the steering wheel grabbed her by the wrist. She frowned at him. “What is it? We’ll be late for the press conference!”
Jeff nodded, but did not let go.
“What? Why are you holding me back?”
“You know why we’re here, don’t you?”
“Of course I know, we’ve come to cover the press conference.”
“No, not just any press conference. The press conference hosted by Senator Mathews.”
“Yes, I know. He’s announcing his candidacy for state governorship. Isn’t that why we’re here, like all the other reporters in town?” Kelly flickered a strand of her long brown hair off of her face.
“Promise me that you’re not going to bring up any of your crazy theories with him.”
“Theories? What are you talking about?”
“Kelly, you know damn well what I’m talking about! Your conspiracy theories. You and I both know that Mr. Edwards does not want to hear that we asked the Senator about your crazy ideas about him.”
“Crazy? My concerns about the Senator aren’t crazy! Do you know how long I’ve been investigating my suspicions? I’m a professional reporter. I’ve been researching him for months now.”
“But the paper isn’t aware of your investigations. Not our editor and not the editorial board, for that matter. Do you know what they’d do if they heard that you confronted the Senator at this press conference?”
“Yes, I know,” Kelly replied quietly. “And I don’t blame them. Every one of our competitors is eager to publish his campaign ads.”
“And you know how well-connected the Senator is in this state and beyond. He can literally shut down our newspaper with a snap of his fingers! Not to mention making life miserable for anyone who disagrees with him.”
“Look, you don’t have to tell me how ruthless and well-connected Senator Mathews is. I know that already, and that’s why people should know who he really is. That’s why–”
“That’s why you need to calm down and shut your mouth, Kelly! If you can’t do that, then you’d better just stay out of this.”
Kelly watched him adjust his eyeglasses with his free hand. He was still holding onto her wrist. “You can’t stop me from coming with you!”
“Of course I can.”
“Okay, okay, fine! I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
“What can you see?” Lucy whispered to Carlos.
He lowered the binoculars and shrugged. “Nothing much, except for a couple of guards and patrol vehicles.”
“I’m not surprised. You know there aren’t supposed to be many people on duty today,” Lucy said, kneeling on the floor to search through her backpack.
“You’re right about that. At this time of evening, they’ll still be busy with all their paperwork at HQ.” Carlos scanned the environment again. “It’s good that your knowledge of their routine is impeccable.”
“My knowledge? You make it sound as if I’m the only one who works here!”
“Fine, but I should still commend you for being so organized.”
Lucy took out a smartphone and handed it over to Carlos. “Please save the commendations for later. Time is running out. We should leave now and get to the hangars before more personnel come to join the skeletal security.”
“Did you bring the laser pliers?”
Lucy glared at him. “I’d never forget that, especially as we need it to get inside!”
They were both hiding behind a series of drums which were close to the perimeter fencing of the shuttle hangars. Not too far from their position, they could see three patrol vehicles driving through the airport strips. Security personnel were walking around in pairs.
They were wearing brown military uniforms and carried standard laser rifles in their arms. Carlos was watching the last pair of security guards as they scanned the hangars. They stood for a while, appearing to examine part of the tarmac before they moved on.
“Come on, let’s go!” Carlos jumped to his feet. Keeping their heads low, they both ran towards the fence and dropped down onto the ground.
Carlos peered over the ledge and saw another pair of security guards walking nearby. He raised two of his fingers at Lucy, who nodded. He then counted ten seconds and raised his head. They were gone.
MUTINY ON SHUTTLE X569
“Are you serious?” the woman asked. “You do realize what it means to take control of a space shuttle, don’t you?”
The man nodded his bald head. Like her, he was wearing a blue bodysuit that covered him from his neck down to his ankles. The boots on his feet and the gloves on his hands were black. They were both wearing dark spectacles, which had mini-antenna transmitters attached to the outer edges.
They were standing in a small room, no more than ten feet long.
“Of course I know what it means, Michelle,” the man said. “I want to steal the shuttle from the Captain. Are you with me or not?”
Michelle ran her fingers through her long brown hair. “Gosh, John. This is too much to process. It’s too sudden.”
“How is this too sudden? You know we’ve been watching the Captain make all the wrong decisions for a long time now and we’ve missed out on so much. Do you remember Sector 17?”
“The one that had the gold dust?”
“Yes! Imagine what we could have done with all that gold?”
Michelle shrugged. “I don’t know, but maybe the Captain was right. I mean, our instructions were to report our findings and that’s what he did. The Captain made sure that we reported the discovery to Command Base.”
“And doing so denied us the opportunity to make something for ourselves. Come on, Michelle. Where in the entire fleet is there a commanding officer as naïve and stupid as our Captain?
“We all know what happens in the other shuttles. If someone else had discovered the gold in Sector 17, you and I know they would not report it to Command Base. They’d have kept the details to themselves and tried to see how to cash in on the opportunity.”
Donald Keefe was sitting on his desk. He stared at his computer screen for a while before he turned his eyes away.
He shook his head as if he had seen something unpleasant or horrific. He ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath. Then he glanced back at the screen.
He shook his head again.
“This has got to stop,” he muttered under his breath. “We cannot continue like this.”
Just then, there was a knock on his door. Before he could respond, it opened. In the doorway stood an armed soldier with an automatic rifle.
“What is it, soldier?”
“Colonel, they are restless again.”
“Has there been any breach?”
“Not yet, Colonel, but we suspect they might try soon.”
“We cannot allow that to happen.”
As they walked through the corridor, Donald took out his handkerchief and dabbed his face. He felt uncomfortable with the beads of sweat rolling down his face.
No, he thought. Not again. This is every soldier’s worst nightmare – to be at the forefront of a battle they do not understand.
Outside, they stepped onto a platform made of metal and granite, to have a clear view. Donald shook his head as he surveyed the huge crowds that stretched out in front of them.
From the elevated platform, Donald could make out several men, women and children all jostling forward, pressing hard to be let through the barricades made out of barbed wires and sand-filled cement bags.
He stood there staring at the angry crowds with no expression on his face, then he dipped his hand into his shirt pocket and brought out an unlit cigar. He bit the unlit cigar and rubbed his greying hair with his left hand.
“Colonel,” said the soldier who had accompanied him.
“Do you see what I mean?”
He nodded and looked back at the crowd before him. “Yes, the crowds do seem pretty restless today.”
“Colonel!” someone shouted above the noise.
Donald peered at one of the armed soldiers behind the barricade. “What is it, soldier?”
“Colonel, they are really restless today,” a brunette soldier replied.
Donald looked at her. Like her other colleagues, her finger was firmly on the safety of the automatic rifle in her hands. Around her waist was a belt full of magazines, ready to be snatched and chucked into the magazine folder of her rifle if needed.
“Colonel,” she called out, again.
“Aren’t they always?”
THE GOLDEN PEN
It was dark when Melissa got to her apartment. Once she inserted the key into the lock, the door gave way without her unlocking it and she watched in surprise as it opened before her. She stood there in the doorway, peering into the living room like a stranger.
On one of the couches, she saw a man and a woman wearing nothing but towels. While the man’s barely covered his loins, the woman’s covered her midriff. Their bodies were both glistening with sweat.
The woman stood up and raced towards Melissa with a smile. “You’re home already? How was your day?”
Melissa sighed. She glanced at the man on the couch before turning to her. “Carol, why didn’t you lock the door?”
Carol glanced at the door. “It wasn’t locked?”
Melissa looked at the man on the couch. “No, and I’m sure you were busy with work while the door was unlocked, right?”
Carol ran her fingers through her disheveled hair. “Sorry, I must have forgotten!”
Melissa counted out several items of men’s clothing that were strewn across the floor of the living room. She could imagine that they had been removed and tossed there in a hurry. “And these clothes on the floor. Did you forget those too?”
Carol shook her head. “Oh, I’m sorry, it’ll never happen again.”
“Sure,” Melissa said, kicking the door shut behind her. As she walked through the living room, carefully avoiding the clothes, the man smiled and raised a glass of wine at her. “Hello. Are you also a massage therapist like Carol?”
Carol came up to him and punched him playfully on the shoulder. “Leave her alone. She’s not a massage therapist.”
“Really?” the man asked with raised eyebrows. “But she looks too pretty not to be one.”
“Just leave her alone, will you?”
The man turned to see Melissa drop her handbag on the dining table before she went into the bathroom. “You know, I wouldn’t mind paying for both of you to massage me.”
“What is wrong with you? I already told you she is not into that! We only share this apartment, that’s all.”
The man grunted and sipped his wine. “It’s a pity. She should join you.”
Carol shrugged. “She loves her job.”
“What does she do?”
“She’s a housekeeper.”
“Really? She doesn’t look too happy about it.”
“How can you tell?”
“It’s written all over her face,” the man replied before sipping more wine. “She looks depressed. She doesn't even smile. Does she know how to smile?”
Inside the bathroom, Melissa sat on the edge of the bathtub. She could not help but overhear Carol and her guest. It wasn’t as if she had deliberately wanted to listen in on them, but it wasn’t as if they were being quiet either.
‘She looks depressed.’
‘Does she know how to smile?’
The communication device was on his table when it started beeping, “Captain Bruno speaking.”
“Hello, Captain, it’s me, Mathews. I was wondering if you could spare me a few minutes of your time.”
“Sorry, Mathews, I'm extremely busy today.”
“I know that you’re busy, but I have to show you something urgently.”
“What do you want to show me?”
“Sorry Captain, I can’t say anything on the phone.”
Captain Bruno sighed. “Alright, come over to my office.”
“Thank you, Captain. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Two minutes later, the door slid open and Mathews stepped into the office, holding a sheaf of papers in his hand.
Bruno nodded at him and ushered him into the seat next to his. “I wonder what it is that you want to show me. You know that the Base meeting starts in ten minutes, don’t you?”
“Yes, Captain. I know about the meeting, but you really need to see this,” Mathews said, handing over the sheaf of papers to Bruno.
“You could have emailed them to me to review them later.”
Mathews shook his head. “I’m sorry, Captain, but I think it’s best you see this in person.”
Bruno’s face was expressionless as he began to leaf through them, but soon, a frown appeared on his face, “How did you get this?”
“I have some contacts in Operations, Captain. They gave me access to all sorts of data.”
“Yes Captain, from titanium dust to any by-products of our activities here on the base.”
“You mean you were able to arrive at these conclusions based on your own independent analysis?”
“Yes, I did, Captain.”
“Do you know what this report reveals?”
“Are you kidding, Captain? I was the one who did the analysis.”
“We have exceeded the approved limits of pollution on this base, Mathews. Your report is saying that our activities on this base are the cause of the increased rates of death on this planet and the impact extends beyond that; our activities are already affecting neighboring planets. We are destroying life on this planet and the other nearby planets too.”
“I know, Captain. That is why I had to see you straight away.”
“And this has been the status for over a year now?”
“Yes, Captain, for the past three years.”
“Three years? But why has no one said anything about it before?”
“I really don’t know, Captain, but I’m willing to bet that it was not an oversight.”
“What do you mean, not an oversight? What are the quality control engineers doing?”
“Doing or not doing?”
“What do you mean?”
Dr. Earl Jones raised the microphone to his mouth. “Deep Probe One, can you read me? This is Mission Control at NASA. What is your status right now?”
There was no response to his inquiry.
He was standing in front of a huge monitor inside the mission operation center of NASA. Around him were several technicians, and analysts seated before consoles, and monitors, but none of them focused on their monitors. Like Dr. Jones, they were all watching the huge screen on the wall, on which they could see a spherical mass of blue, green, and brown floating in space. The multi-colored ball appeared to come closer to the screen, becoming larger.
Dr. Earl Jones brought the microphone to his mouth again. “Deep Probe One, can you read me? From the visuals you are relaying, we know you are making quick advancement towards your destination, but we need to know the status of your crew at this moment.”
Still, there was only silence.
A hand on his shoulder made him jump, “Dr. Mariah?” he asked, holding the microphone away from his lips.
“I am sorry to interrupt you Dr. Jones, but do you think they made it?”
He glanced at the image on the monitor, “I don’t know, but if I am to guess, I would say the hypersonic jump to that quadrant of space might have affected them.”
Her face paled in horror. “Does that mean they might have all perished?”
“I am afraid so.”
“What a pity.” She shook her head, looking saddened. “At least, their ship was pre-programmed to relay all images to us, here at NASA, without any human input.”
“True, but I regret that we didn’t freeze the crew in cyro-state.”
Mariah nodded, agreeing with her supervisor. “They could have woken up upon arrival. Maybe that would have been a better decision.”
“Of course, it would have, but not with all the pressure from the White House! It have been too much for us to carefully consider the best options.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“But who would blame the President? Ever since we discovered the birth of this new planet, it has been literally a race against time to beat other nations to be the first to set foot there.”
“Especially since we were the first to witness its birth. I don’t think we have ever assembled a shuttle to serve as an investigation probe as fast as this.”
“And in our haste, we made an avoidable mistake of sending humans without freezing them.”
“We cannot say for sure what is wrong with the crew yet, Dr. Jones,” she said in assurance. “We can only hope that they are alright at the moment.”
“Yes, you are right. We can only hope that it’s just transmission errors, but I really hope that—”
Before Dr. Jones could finish his sentence, he was interrupted by an incoming static—“Hello. Hello. Come in NASA. This is Deep Probe One. Come in NASA.”
They both gazed at the screen.
Sky Fleet Commander, Adrian Shaw, took his eyes off the electro-telescope, and shook his head.
“Is everything alright, Commander?” the woman by his side asked.
He shook his head at her. “Captain Nasha, I am not too sure of what this signal is, coming from the fourth quadrant. Take a look for yourself, and confirm if this is real, or not.”
Captain Nasha stepped on the elevated podium he was standing on. She grabbed the levers of the electro-telescope, peering through the visors.
She could see the wide expanse of the dark space above them, stars, and planets, and other bodies shining, and glittering like colorful bulbs on a canvas painted in black. But she knew better than to admire the same heavenly patterns she had seen several times before. Nasha reached for the knob by the side of the left lever, and rolled it, turning the telescope to face east, towards the fourth quadrant.
She could see Mars prominent in that area, along with several other smaller asteroids; all stationary, or moving very slowly, except for one white, and shiny object that was moving fast. It was moving very fast.
She dialed in on the knob, and the object zoomed closer. It looked like a bolt of lightning that was moving very quickly, faster than any other object in that quadrant.
“Well?” Commander Shaw raised a brow. “What do you see?”
Nasha pulled away from the telescope, “This could be hostile, Commander, and it is moving very fast.”
“Yes, indeed. I just wonder what it could be.”
“Shouldn’t we be adopting interrogative protocols to determine its mission, and its destination?”
“We should, but that is if we knew what we were up against. From what I can see, there is no evidence that it is a ship.”
“But it’s coming from the fourth quadrant, Commander. It must be their ship, perhaps one that has been modernized, and heavily improved. We should take preventive maneuvers just to protect ourselves.”
Commander Shaw pressed a knob on the side of the helmet he was wearing. “Mission Operations? Mission Operations, can you read me?”
There was a crackle on his headset. “Affirmative Commander, we can hear you loud, and clear.”
“I’d like you to check, and confirm what I have observed from my position.”
“Is it an enemy ship, Commander?”
“We don’t yet know what to make of it. Check the fourth quadrant. There is an object moving at high speed. Let me know what you think.”
“Yes, Commander. We will review the object, and get back to you immediately.”
As the line went dead, Commander Shaw sighed. “Just when you think the whole mess is getting better, you discover things are not the way you thought they were.”
The spaceship that cut through the dark blank void of space resembled an unusually large helicopter, its shape, and structure could be passed off for one of mankind’s most popular modes of short flight on Earth. The only major difference between those on Earth, and this one was that it had no rotors. Instead, it was moving by jet propulsion rockets aerodynamically designed, and strategically fitted to its sides, and the back.
Inside this spacecraft, Captain Gerald Allison stirred. He sat up from a cylindrical sleep capsule, and looked around himself. As he did so, a wave of dizziness passed over him, and he had to shake his head several times to clear it. As he slowly gained consciousness, he looked at the two other sleep capsules next to his. Their occupants were stirring, and sitting up.
Gerald easily recognized them. They were his crew Sergeant Mark Bradley, and Sergeant Liz Morrison. As they sat up, he waved at them. “You better shake your heads pretty well to clear it up.”
Mark blinked at him. “Captain? Are we really awake—it’s not a dream?”
“Yes, we are.”
“Did we make it?” Liz asked as she massaged her neck.
“I think so,” Gerald replied. “Didn’t NASA warn us about these symptoms? That once we completed the space jump from our solar system, and reached our destination, we are going to wake up, and experience some side effects.”
They all got down from their beds, and stretched.
“Come, let’s go to the control center, and confirm our location,” Gerald said.
They all made it to the cockpit of the spacecraft. Once they settled into their seats, they began to punch on the buttons in the console.
Liz was the first to speak, “the coordinates all check out, Captain. We are in the right position.”
“So, we jumped through loops, and time only to arrive at a planet that looks just like Earth?” Mark asked.
“Are you disappointed, or surprised?”
They all glanced outside, and regarded the planet that was visible in front of them.
Mark shrugged. “I don’t know how I feel, Captain.”
“Apart from the grogginess, and disorientation?”
“Yeah, those are quite something,”
“Come on, Mark, we were fully briefed about the nature of this mission. NASA clearly spelled out the risks involved,” Liz said.
“I remember. They said that it was more like a suicide mission to come here, and study this new planet so far away from Earth.”
“So, what is it?”
“I don’t know Captain. Maybe traveling for one hundred, and fifty years just messes up one’s emotions, and reasoning?”
“You better make sure your emotions are in good shape, Mark,” Gerald chided. “We need to be in good shape to recon, and survey this planet. Now, before we proceed any further, we need to run a systems check on the weapons, and missiles.”
“Did NASA have to go so far?” Liz asked as she began to run some diagnostic checks on their weapon system.
“What do you mean by that?” Mark asked.
“Have you seen all the weapons onboard our ship? It is as if we are going to start a war; not survey a new planet.”
“Well, better safe than sorry,” Gerald replied. “And NASA would never send three of its finest astronauts out here unprepared. They knew we might be confronted with threats.”
“Well, maybe for once NASA could be wrong,” Mark muttered under his breath.
“What do you mean?”
“You asked to see me?” the woman in the doorway asked.
The Director turned away from the huge glass panes he had been looking through. His office was spacious. One would wonder why he didn’t sit on any of those numerous leather-cushioned chairs, and sofas that littered the room.
The only desk in the center was wide, full of documents that needed immediate attention. But none of them seemed interesting enough for him as he looked at the woman in front of him with more curiosity.
“Yes, Karen. The White House has asked for an update from me.”
“The government is impatient, and wants to know what is happening?”
The Director nodded. “Would you blame them? Every other government on Earth is apprehensive, and wants to know what we have done so far to counter this threat.”
“I understand,” Karen said as she swiped open the tablet in her hand. “I am going to send you a detailed brief on the efforts we have taken so far.”
“Yes, that would be great. But I need to know, Karen, are we succeeding at all?” The Director looked worried.
“From the review I did this morning, I believe we are.”
All the while, the Director had been standing. Only now did he usher her to one of the leather sofas. “Come, tell me how far we have succeeded. I need to know everything.”
As soon as they sank into the sofa, Karen pointed at her tablet. “I have forwarded the details of the progress we have made so far to you. What I am going to say is just a summary of that report.”
“I understand, Karen. Go on. I am listening.”
“When the aliens decided to invade Earth several months ago, they did so by preying on one of mankind’s most inherent instincts.”
“The instinct to breed.”
“Yes, I am aware of that. They used embryo probes disguised in the form of storks. And those storks were carrying babies, which many childless couples were simply crazy about.”
“Exactly,” Karen conceded. “Although we have tried everything possible to educate the citizens everywhere about how dangerous these alien babies are, we could not make any progress at all.”
“How can we convince childless couples not to take these babies? They are so desperate to have children of their own at any cost.”
“And to make matters worse, the aliens were even bribing women to raise these alien children as their own.”
“Yes, yes, yes, the bribes,” the Director said, snapping his fingers. “Who would have imagined that aliens could think of bribing our women to fall for such a cheap gimmick of raising alien children?”
“They simply preyed on the maternal instincts of our women. They knew our women would easily fall for the desire to become mothers; even if those children were not human.”
“Yes, I am fully aware of all this, Karen.” The Director tapped a finger to his chin. “You said we have been making some progress.”
“Yes, we have. And that progress was achieved through hunting down the probes, and the infant aliens.”
GOING BACK IN TIME
Mark looked at the rope dangling from the ceiling fan. It didn’t look as tight as he wanted it to be.
How much do I weigh? he asked himself. The answer came instantly—at least over seventy-five kilos. He glanced at the rope, and wondered if it would bear a man of his weight without snapping in half.
Mark pulled the chair close, and climbed on it to check the rope. The rope was strong, probably stronger than he had expected. The only thing that worried him was the ceiling fan. Now he wondered if his weight would break the fan.
He tugged at the rope. It did not move. He tugged again, this time applying more strength. The rope strained, but remained in place. He then held onto the rope tightly, lifting himself off the chair.
As he remained suspended in the air, Mark held tightly onto the rope. He was gauging to see if it was going to tear under his weight.
Luckily, it didn’t.
As he slowly returned his feet back to the chair, he smiled.
At last, he thought. At last, he had gotten the right knot for the rope. All he had to do now was to make a noose. He estimated the size of his head, and wound the rope around until it formed a fairly big knot.
Still on the chair, he looked around the room.
There was not much in the hotel room he had rented for the night—just a bed, and a table. The television by the side wall was turned off, and the windows were closed. He did not want to be distracted from what he was about to do.
Mark grabbed the rope again. As he steadied his legs on the chair, he put the noose around his neck, closed his eyes, and exhaled, sure that nothing would go wrong.
He bit his lips, and kicked the chair.
The first thing that Mark felt was a searing pain as the rope tightened around his neck, cutting off blood flow to his brain. As it dug deeper into his flesh, he tried not to scream through his clenched teeth.
While his body dangled freely from the ceiling fan, Mark saw his entire life flash before his eyes. One moment he was a young toddler, the next a young boy going to school. One moment he was a teenager in high school, the next he was already a full-grown man. The images flashing through his mind stopped with him walking into this hotel room with a small bag in hand. He saw himself close the door, and open the bag. Inside lay this same thick rope that was now around his neck.
The image of him looking up at the ceiling fan was when darkness crept in.
Finally, he was going to have peace, he thought.
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