Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/07/09

Luciana closed her eyes, as she lay on the walkway. “No one knows why I come here. No one understands.” It stirred her soul to know how alone she was, how misunderstood. “They think I’m nuts, I know.”

As she closed her eyes, the sound of the water pouring into the overflow pipe washed away everything. Drowned out everything. All the noise. The words. The sounds. The tapping of the teacher’s pen on paper during the test, as if impatiently waiting for everyone to fail. The sound of those she knew, at lunch, and their gossip. “Gabriella kissed him yesterday! I saw it!” What did it matter who Gabriella kissed? Or even if she’d slept with him?

The sound of the water overwhelmed it all. Crushed it all into dust, memories, the past. Showed her it wasn’t real. Showed her it was gone.

The noise of the boys on the football field, kicking the ball to each other. How they tried to show off, each in their turn, put on a show, tried to do a trick. Then kicked the ball to the next boy. They knew the girls were watching, from the bleachers. Maria who always sat on the first row, and always stood when Angel kicked the ball. It was no secret, everyone knew, Maria first got naked for Angel. And she got naked for him any time he asked her.

Luciana asked her once, “Why? Why do you do that?”

“I’m going to marry him. He will take care of me. We will have a family. You’ll see.”

“But, don’t you know? Everyone knows. They say he is using you. Getting his jollies.”

“They know nothing. Nothing at all.”

Maria always watched Angel on the field. The other girls always watched Maria. And Luciana? She watched them all, and wondered why they were the way they were. And why they could not see the meaningless way they behaved.

But on the walkway, above the drain, after a hard rain, it all went away. And she could remember. Who she was, what she loved, everything that mattered to here.

At home, it was her family, mother, father, brothers, who never let her find herself. Always demanded something. Always.

“Luciana! There will be time for your homework after you have helped make dinner!” Mother always took her books, handed her an apron, and a bowl of something. “We must do our work, and take care of our men.”

She heard the words of her parents at night, after all were asleep. “That girl will never learn. She will never understand her place in this world.”

And her mother, “It takes time. She knows. She does. But she must first learn what it is a woman does. Who a woman is to be. And when she does, she will take care of her family. And they will take care of her.”

Her brothers, always, her brothers. They came first at everything. First in school. “Your brother has problems with his homework. You must help him.” “Your brother has a report due tomorrow. You must help him.” Always, it was her brothers before her.

But here. Above the drain, after the storms, it all washed away. And Luciana dreamed, once more. Of the stories in her heart. The words in her soul. Of which no one knew. And she wondered if she should ever share them with a world that was so wrong. A world where women stayed at home. And behaved. And took care of their men.

And never dreamed.

She felt the power of the water, and let the sound wash everything away. It would not last, she knew. But for a few moments. A brief time.

She was free.

621 Words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 18th week. You can read about the challenge here. This week, I tried something different again Hope it’s worth the effort. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that show up. They are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.

 

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/07/02

There were times I felt like slapping Stan. There we were, in the abandoned station, tracking down whatever it was that was dragging people away, and he was singing, “Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who let the dogs out?” Grinning like he was in high school.

“Would you shut up?”

Stan kept right on singing, and added dancing, right in front of me.

All I could do was look at the roof of the station, and stare through the windows. “This is Gods punishment for me, isn’t it?”

After Stan sang another verse, I interrupted him again, “I can’t hear the dogs, you know.”

He stopped, cupped an ear, and pretended to listen intently, “Can’t hear the dogs bark? Bark? Bark? Bark? Bar?”

We’d set the dogs loose five minutes earlier. They knew what to do, very special dogs, very trained dogs. Damn expensive ones too. They moved like a team, with one goal. Find anything that looked interesting. Anything human, or anything that might interest their handlers. Dead bodies. Body parts. Bombs. A drug cache. Whatever. When the found it, they’d corner it, and bark like crazy.

Our job was to follow them after ten minutes. Give them time to make certain the area was safe, and then move to the next area. We’d follow behind, within earshot, and listen.

Stan looked pretty stupid with an AR-15 over each shoulder, a belt of grenades across his chest, and kevlar body armor all over, as he sang that damn song. “Who let the dogs out?”

Yeah, we were armed for bear. Actually, we were armed for God only knew what, ‘cause no one knew what we were hunting. No one alive had ever seen it. All anyone knew was something strange was happening. It’d started a couple months ago, with homeless people living outside the station. They’d started to disappear. After three of four of them vanished, the other started reporting them as missing. By the time six had vanished, the homeless moved. All of them. Moved.

That’s when people in the nearby buildings started to disappear. After a few of them, the landlords put in guards at night, to make the buildings safe, and reassure the residents. Then, the guards started disappearing.

Locked doors, armed guards, no gunshots, no signs of a fight or struggle, and the list had grown to nineteen names missing. And no one knew where, or what had happened. The only thing anyone had were stories. “He walked past, going down the hallway. I know ‘cause his flashlight lit the hall as he walked past. Shined under the door, then faded. And then, he didn’t come back. All night. Never came back.”

The stories were all the same. People just vanished. “We need a clue. Call the guys. Send them in. Have the look. That way, we can tell them it’s nothing from the old station. It’s just people. Being people. And leaving for some reason.”

So, there we were, at two in the morning, walking through the old train station, and the parts of tunnels tied to it. Looking for nothing.

“Who let the dogs out?”

Steve didn’t get to finish. The dogs were barking. All the dogs were barking. And their barking was getting louder. Steve pulled an AR-15, got ready. I pulled one too. The barking was louder, and in a few seconds, the dogs came running back into the station. It didn’t take a genius to see they were terrified. And they didn’t stop. They raced past us, and toward the exits. I mentioned they were smart dogs, well trained? They let themselves out, and kept right on running.

Steve looked at me, he scowled, “Well. That can’t be a good thing.”

And we waited. Ready to shoot at anything that moved. Even the shadows. We waited. And sure enough, the shadows moved. Steve emptied his AR’s entire clip into thin air. I watched, as the shadows detached from the wall, from the corner, and spread across the room, where no shadows should have been.

They reached Steve. Covered him. He pulled a grenade, threw it into the shadows. There wasn’t even a flash of light. Then, he was gone.

That was two weeks ago. That’s the last time anyone saw Steve.

715 Words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 17th week (I missed Week 16! AIEEE!). You can read about the challenge here. This week, I can’t help but wonder what the heck I’ve started this time. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that show up. They are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/06/18

I studied the group of eight keys. “Antiques?”

Darien shook his head. “Nope.”

I picked up one of the keys. “What are these for?”

Darien smiled, “Those are the keys to souls.” He could tell by the way I fell silent and stared at the keys, I didn’t know what that meant. “You’re not in the physical world now. Stop thinking like you are.”

I put the key back, carefully. “The keys to souls?”

“Surprised?”

All I could do was nod.

“We all have them.” He reached in his pocket. “Here’s mine.” He pulled out a silver key. It looked like it belonged to the same set as the eight on the table. “Eventually, you’ll find yours.”

“There’s a key to my soul?”

Darien nodded. “There’s only one who doesn’t have a key.” I had a good idea who that could be. Darien could tell. He only smiled, and nodded.

“I have to ask, you know.”

“Go ahead. Ask. It’s the same question I asked millennia ago.” He nodded again.

“Why do we all have keys?”

Darien rested his hand on my shoulder. “Well. Now. There are some questions, it seems. For which there are no answers.”

He pulled me away from the table, and we continued walking through the garden. He’d called it, “The Garden of Eden.” I remembered his words, “It’s all true. All of it. Heaven. Hell. God, Satan. Jesus. The Resurrection.”

“So, the Christians had it right?”

I thought he’d been going to fall over from laughter when I said that. “I said it’s ALL true. ALL of it. That includes Mohamed, The Pope. The Imams.”

I’d kind of stood there, confused. “See. He,” Darien waved his arm in a big sweeping arch, “made it all. So, it’s all true.”

“So the Christians, and the Muslims?” I was still stuck on that concept.

“And the Pagans, and the Atheists, and the Jews…” Darien had listed more religions than I’d ever heard of. “… And all the others. All true.”

“But… “ I had been exceedingly confused.

“I know. Some of them are opposites. That’s because He changed His mind.”

As I thought of the words Darien had said that day, I found myself thinking out loud, “Perhaps He made the keys so he could turn off mistakes? You know. If He changes His mind.”

Darien paused. “You never really know, with Him.”

“Is that why Him and Satan went to war? Fighting over who controls the keys?”

Darien laughed again, “See? You’re still thinking like you’re in the physical world. Throw out the entire concept of good and evil, just and unjust, right and wrong. All of it.”

“How can I do that? There’s always good and evil, darkness and light.”

“If that’s true, tell me how many days and nights you’ve been here.”

I couldn’t.

“Tell me how long a day is.”

I couldn’t.

“Tell me which way is up, and which way is down.” Just for emphasis, he started walking upward, and instinctively, so did I. “And what is hot, and what is cold.”

“I get it, I get it.”

“No. You don’t get it. You understand the words, but it doesn’t make sense to you yet.” He grinned. “Give it time, and it will.”

“How long?”

“You ask me that here?”

Since then, I’ve learned more about the keys to souls. And while I haven’t found my key yet, I have encountered a few who have found theirs. And twice, I’ve seen a key used.

Have you ever seen an unlocked soul?

Until you have, you will never understand anything.

#ThursThreads Week 271 : You’re Not Needed In This

Being invisible, silent, and having no heat signature makes it simple to watch chaos break out, as it did when Freddy, the IT guy arrived at work. It started as a normal day. Freddy dropped everything on his desk, made his run to the men’s room, and fetched his cup of coffee.

And that’s when normal ended. He sat down at his desk, and turned on his computer, and nothing happened. It didn’t turn on. “What?” He checked the power connections, but they were good. He checked and the fans were blowing air through the unit, so it was getting power.

He turned it off, counted to 10, and turned it back on. It booted up, but it loaded a bright red screen, with big yellow letters, “This machine has been encrypted, using a 4096 bit key. The key has been destroyed. Bye-Bye…”

Freddy’s phone started ringing endlessly. Every computer in the office had that same message on it. Freddy tried booting a different system from a flash drive, but the computer encrypted the drive’s contents. He tried restoring a backup from an external drive, but the computer encrypted that too.

I laughed, “It’s the BIOS, Freddy. On every motherboard.”

By the time Freddy realized what had happened, he’d been fired. “You’re not needed in this. Clearly, you couldn’t stop it. We need someone else.”

Freddy got drunk then tried to drive home. The wreck made the news the next morning, and I sighed, “Some people shouldn’t drink.”

246 Words
@mysoulstears


This is part 12 of the Armor 17 story I started in Week 239 of #ThursThreads. It’s Week 271 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/06/11

“Tell me once more, Olivia. What do you see when you look in the mirror?” I’d asked the question a thousand times, and Olivia always gave me the same answer.

“Not what you want me to see, doc.” She shook her head, and looked into the mirror in the remains of her family home. “Not what you want me to see.”

“I know.” I took a deep breath. This wasn’t about fixing things. Fixing things was easy. No. This was about bringing the dead to life. “So, tell me, please. What do you see?”

Olivia stood from where she sat, legs crossed, on the barren, wooden floor. A floor desperately in need of repair. Cleaning wasn’t enough. The floor needed work. Lots of it. So did the walls, and the brick they were made of. Brick that once hid behind smooth, well kept plaster. She walked to the mirror, cracked and no longer held in its casing. Like the entire home, it was wasting away.

“He’s there, you know.” She pointed at the remains of the mirror. “He’s there. Waiting for me.”

As the house wasted away, so did Olivia. Every since that day, so long ago, when the car came around the corner too fast. Jonathan had been playing, dancing to a sound only he heard. “He told me it was the piano from Beauty and The Beast.” She always cried when she spoke the words. “He moved right in time with it. I could hear the music as he danced.”

She collapsed to her knees, and once more was consumed by tears and grief. “He’s there. I see him dancing in the mirror.”

The car came around the corner too fast. The driver crossed into the other side of the road, aimed straight at an oncoming car.

Olivia stared into the mirror. “It’s there. In the mirror. Over and over again. My boy. Dancing.”

The oncoming car had nowhere to go. The fast car struck it head on. Parts flew in all directions. Glass from windshields, parts of headlights, side view mirrors, plastic and urethane from car bodies. Radiator fluid. All of it. Everywhere.

“He never got to say good-bye.”

All of it. Right next to Jonathan.

“He never got to look at me.”

Some of the parts from the collision had struck the boy. Olivia had seen it all. Seen her son stop dancing, the music of the song stop playing, as Jonathan was yanked in strange directions by the shrapnel from the wreck.

Then, before she could even scream, the momentum of the collision pushed both cars straight into Jonathan. The boy never had a chance.

Olivia stared into the mirror. “He’s there. Waiting.”

I’d been trying to reach her every since. Trying to help her through her grief. Through her sorrow. Not to heal her, for I knew, there are some wounds that never heal. Like the loss of a limb, or the ability to walk, or talk, or hear. Olivia had lost part of herself.

On that day, when those cars collided, and Jonathan died, so did Olivia’s heart. So did her soul. All that was left was an empty shell, slowly decaying, like the house she never left.

And I wondered, as I had every day for three years, if her heart and soul had died, was there any way to bring her back to life?

563 Words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 14th week. You can read about the challenge here. As I do every week, I wonder where the words I have written came from. How this started as a picture, and a song, and wound up where it did, I may never understand. But, I’m OK with that. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that show up. They are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.

#ThursThreads Week 270 : You’re Too Sick To Play

That night, I visited what had been Michelle’s workplace once more. It was time to gather more information, this time from the director of the Information Technology department. I’d noticed the workstation Michelle used always seemed to be broken. It was time to learn why.

A quick scan of the computer storage media showed frequent changes to the computer’s configuration at strange hours, especially when she was at lunch, or right after she’d left for the day. Further investigation demonstrated the computer configuration was hacked during those times. Someone had made it so Michelle’s computer would fail. Frequently. Resulting in far too many problems.

That someone turned out to be the IT director. A check of his computer verified the repeating, endless problems Michelle had. Since I was awake anyway, I visited his home, and checked his computers, which provided endless evidence of his hatred of Michelle, and his efforts to get her fired. The man had a treasure trove of things to do to mess up someone’s computer.

“Little man. You’re too sick to play such games.” Hacked, broken computers. Armors knew how to do that better than anyone. “Hope you can find another job, little man. You and your sick mind.” I knew exactly what to do. I headed back to the workplace, to perform a bit of magic on workstations and servers throughout the company. “You’re going to need a drink tomorrow night.”

It was time to have some fun.

244 Words
@mysoulstears


This is part 11 of the Armor 17 story I started in Week 239 of #ThursThreads. It’s Week 270 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2017/06/04

“So, you agreed ta not tell no one what you seen here, right?” Bubba grinned. “‘Cause they gotta shoot ya if ya tell.”

I nodded. “National security thing, right?”

“Yep. Nashnal secritity,” Bubba grinned, and tapped me on the shoulder. I thought my arm was going to fall off. Bubba was no little guy. I knew, looking at him, he could throw me like a basketball, and I’d probably fly through the air like one.

“Well,” he shrugged, “It’s that time.” He pointed to the entrance to the helicopter, where armed soldiers guarded the line, and people getting on had to be blindfolded first. “Time to put our heads in bags.”

It was pitch black in that bag. I couldn’t see a thing. Not even the texture of the fabric. Once my head was covered, I was escorted into the helicopter, and guided to a seat. Bubba wound up next to me. “Yeah. We ain’t allowed to see where we goin’. Safer that way. Less chance of leaks in stuff.”

The flight was over two hours. I have no idea where we went. I only know what was there, when we got of the flight, and they took off our bags. And I had never imagined anything like it.

“Govmint don’t want nobody knowin’ ‘bout dis.” Bubba rambled as we walked. “Specully them Christian types.” He was a talker, Bubba was. “Get ‘em all pissed off an talkin’ ‘bout it all being a guvmint plot.”

We took a long ride on a rail car, like a tourist train at a park. Maybe 45 or 50 minutes, between hills, and buttes, and plateaus. “Where the fuck are we, Bubba?”

“Maybe sumwheres in Wino-ming, er Knee-vahad. I don’t knows.”

The train stopped at a small station, and we all got out. It was one of the biggest archeological digs I’d ever seen. “Damn, there’s an entire city here!”

“Right!” Bubba bounced up and down, “An it’s fastinatin.”

“But, there aren’t supposed to be any cities here.” It was true. There was no record of a city, with monuments, and brick buildings, and who knew what else, ever having been in North America before the Europeans arrived, and started building them. Just Indians, and others. And their huts, and maybe some mud houses and stuff.

“Day say it’s like 40 thousands old,” Bubba whispered. “Fum long afore we existed.”

I received my assignment, where to dig, how to dig, what to be careful of, and how to report anything I found. I was part of a team. Bubba was part of another team. “Aww, little buddy. They put you on the little detail gang. You don’t get to fine da big stuff.”

“Big stuff?”

“You’ll see.”

And see I did. We were guided to where we were to work. Past all kinds of strange artifacts. What looked like paved, cobblestone roadways, separate homes, with garages. There were strange, huge circular items. “Did those hold pipes together?”

Someone answered, “No one knows.”

“What are they made of.”

The someone grinned. “Carbon fiber.”

“What?”

“Carbon fiber.” He waved at them. “Fiber composites. Over 40,000 years old. Maybe over 50,000.”

I had nothing to say.

“It’s ancient Earth history. The first proof anyone ever found. Ours is not the first technologically advanced civilization here.”

I stopped, and stared at the pipe segments. “Carbon fiber?”

Someone in my crew piped up, “Yeah. Seems we used to be an advanced civilization.”

“We?”

“Humans. We played around too much with the environment, though. And it went bad. Triggered all kinds of environmental chaos. Big flood, then big ice age type thing. All but wiped us out. All but wiped out everything.”

A third person spoke, a woman, “It’s why we’re here. The government wants to learn what happened, and see if we are on the same path of destruction. See if we are going to end up the same way.”

That was my first visit to the dig. It was true, I swear. We used to be more advanced, technologically, that we are now. We even learned about settlements on Mars, and the Moon. And, we’d abused the planet.

And Mother Earth killed us all, to survive.

693 Words
@mysoulstears


Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s 13th week. You can read about the challenge here. I continue to enjoy writing for it every week so far. And every week I wonder where the words came from. This week, I’m guessing I’ve been watching Ancient Aliens from the History Channel too much. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that show up.