Protest

April 2019 Short Story of the Month

The soldiers were tense, waiting for something to happen – like it was a matter of when, not if. For our part, we did our best to steer clear of them, avoiding the main square, where a group of protestors were on their 80th hour of shouting at city hall. It was only a matter of time. The whole city felt like a ticking time bomb. I didn’t want to be around when the explosion finally happened.

Derek and I were planning on leaving tonight. His uncle had a cabin about 60 miles out of town on the lake. We were going to wait it out there. I don’t know what made this time different than all the other protests we’d seen over the last few years. But there was definitely something in the air. This was not going to end well. Mostly for the protestors.

I actually agree with the protestors, but I don’t feel like getting involved. Does that make me a bad person? I just didn’t see the point in risking my life for an idea. My parents said that’s what was wrong with my generation. We don’t care about anything.

Which, is just not true. I care, but I don’t want to get hurt or put in jail. Was one idea worth risking my future over? Derek said no; that’s why we were making a break for it.

******

After meeting up with Trish and Billy, we all piled into Derek’s Honda CRV and rode in absolute quiet to the cabin. It was like we were all afraid to break the silence. The first person who did would be guilty of something, though I didn’t know what. I just knew, it wasn’t going to be me.

Trish was the first one who spoke as we pulled up to the cabin and Derek put the car in park.

“Does this place have Wi-Fi?” she asked.

I just rolled my eyes and took my things into the cabin. I didn’t hear what Derek actually said to her.

******

Later as we were sitting around a fire near the pit off the back deck, Trish said, “I can’t believe there’s no Wi-Fi, and my phone is getting a weak signal at best.” As she said all of this, she didn’t even look up from her phone.

“We have bigger things to worry about right now than cell phone reception,” Derek said. Then he added, “But if you want a better signal, you could sit on the cabin roof.”

“Really?” Trish asked.

“Seriously, Trish. You are not getting on the roof. That’s all we need is to rush someone to the hospital from way out here.” I said this to hopefully put a stop to the inane Wi-Fi talk.

Billy just chuckled. He didn’t talk much, which is probably why Derek let him hang out with us so much. Derek preferred to be the clear leader and to make all the decisions for our “group.” I just went along with him because he was my oldest friend. Sometimes though, I didn’t agree with him. Maybe my parents were right about me. Maybe I didn’t care about anything.

******

The next morning, we ate breakfast in silence. Every one was crunching and slurping their cereal lost in their own thoughts. I finished mine and put my bowl in the sink.

As everyone else was doing the same, I said, “I want to go back to town.”

Derek had his back to me but turned very slowly around. “I already told you, we should stay here till whatever is going to happen, happens.”

“I know. That’s what you said. What you want to do.” I didn’t want to let him get a word in, so I continued, “I want to go back. I want to join the protestors. It’s the right thing to do.”

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Billy and Trish were not so subtly walking out of the room.

I didn’t let their cowardice in front of Derek sway me. “Just take me back to the edge of town. I will walk the rest of the way. I’m not asking you to come with me.”

Derek tried to stare me down. But I just stared right back. “What if I won’t take you?” he asked.

“Then you’re not my friend.” I just stood there waiting for him to say something else. If I backed down now, I would never live it down. Derek would boss me around for the rest of my life. This was my moment to be my own person.

******

“Good luck. Don’t do anything stupid,” Derek said to me as I was getting out of the car on the outskirts of town.

“Thanks,” I said.

As he drove away and headed back to the cabin, I had a feeling that everything would be different between us now.

I started walking and the movement helped clear my head. I knew this was the right thing to do, and I felt guilty for not realizing it until now. I hefted my backpack higher up on my shoulders and tried to pick up my pace.

******

I was about a mile from the center of town and I could hear the protestors voices being carried by the wind.

Their yells were interrupted by someone with a megaphone. “Disperse. We won’t warn you again.”

The megaphone was answered by louder, angrier voices.

Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot. I froze. I couldn’t move.

The sounds I heard after that didn’t make sense to me. I heard yelling and fighting. The screams were of pain and agony. The cacophony was joined by police sirens. There were more gunshots. There were definite sounds of glass breaking and things being knocked around.

I just stood there for what felt like forever but was actually only a matter of minutes. Eventually a police cruiser drove by me with protestors hand cuffed in the back. Then I heard ambulance sirens approaching the scene.

The flashing lights snapped me out of my paralysis. I turned and walked home.

******

As I entered the kitchen and the door slammed behind me, my parents looked up from their dinner.

“Thought you were at the lake,” my dad said as he forked another piece of pot roast.

I shrugged but didn’t say anything. I couldn’t process what I was feeling. At that moment all I knew was that I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

Practical Joke

February 2019 short story

Today…

It began as a practical joke. But by the end of the day, nobody was laughing. It seemed innocent enough at first, because Jerry and I have a history of playing practical jokes on one another. He was the one to start the whole thing, if I’m not mistaken. He had pulled a prank on my very first day at the office. It made me like him instantly, and it made the last five years bearable.

Five years ago…

I was escorted to my cubicle by an assistant to someone that I wouldn’t remember the name of after this morning. My cubicle was in a room filled almost wall to wall with rows of more cubicles. Each and every one of them looked exactly the same. The walls of the cubicles even went up high enough to block the view of the windows.

Perhaps they were trying to make it so no one had a better view than anyone else, or maybe they didn’t want their employees contemplating windows too much.

The woman who walked me to my desk asked me a question, but I hadn’t heard her.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you ask me something?”

“I asked if you needed anything else?”

“No,” I added. “Thanks for showing me in.”

I sat down at my desk and for the next several hours, reviewed and edited chapters for next year’s text books. This is what four years of college and three years of grad school had led up to. I was now an editor for a large textbook company. The job wasn’t glamorous, but I was tired of eating ramen. Too many of my classmates were still working minimum wage jobs and barely getting by, some of them with more education than me.

I didn’t need glamour. I needed money.

I worked steadily until lunch when I followed everyone else down to a cafeteria with grey walls the same color as the grey of the cubicles we’d just left behind.

I ate my packed lunch and didn’t speak to anyone. I was almost finished with my fruit cup when someone moved the chair in front of me and sat down.

I glanced up from my sugary syrupy peaches and looked at a man who reminded me of my brother. He was grinning from ear to ear.

Today…

Everyone spoke in whispers and hushed tones, but I still heard snippets of their conversations.

“Claims it was an accident.”

“They are reviewing the video now.”

“Cops said not to leave.”

They actually thought I killed him. They didn’t understand. I couldn’t kill him. He was my best friend; in fact, he was my only friend.

Every day when I left this place, I went home and read until I fell asleep. I got up the next morning and did everything on repeat. The only deviations to my very routine, mundane life were my interactions with Jerry.

Five years ago…

I went back to my desk after lunch and sat down in my chair.

Pffffffffffft!

Every person in the office broke out into raucous laughter.

WHOMPT!

I actually fell out of my chair and hit the floor. The laughter started over again.

As I righted myself, I noticed there was a well-placed whoopee cushion on my chair that was the same shade of black as the chair fabric.

Jerry came around the corner and helped me up off the floor.

“Welcome. Now you are one of us,” he said.

Today…

The coroner had come and gone. The cops were asking everyone questions.

I was sitting in my cubicle, but I hadn’t done an ounce of work.

Did I kill him? It was just a practical joke. We did things like this all the time. How could it have killed him?

My mind was frantic and I was trying to recount my steps for that whole day. What did I do? I didn’t get much time to dwell.

“Come with us,” a cop said to me barely above a whisper.

I didn’t resist or argue. I gathered my things and went with the police.

Unicorns are Really Vampires

“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she would never understand. My mom was not supposed to find out about my hobby. I tried my best to keep it a secret.

“They’re evil,” she said as she pointed at the jar of pig’s blood in my hands.

“They are not evil,” I said. “They can’t help what they eat.” I tucked the jar into my backpack and swung in onto my shoulder.

“If anyone else finds out you’ve been feeding them, you’ll be in trouble,” my mother said with arms crossed firmly across her chest.

I got on my bike and rode off down the road toward the cove. Being near the ocean was the one thing I loved about the small, dying town we lived in. What once was a thriving part of the country was quickly being abandoned for the safety of the Midwest. Everyone who still lived here couldn’t afford to buy their way into the safe zones. These days, living inside a walled community came with a hefty price tag.

Towns like this were dangerous. The creatures were out of control in most areas. Our town had its fair share of attacks, but no one had died in many years. Still, feeding some of them would get me in a lot of trouble.

I honestly didn’t see the harm in it. Not all of them were evil. The fact that they lived on blood was not their fault. They couldn’t help what they were.

After I left my bike against a tree, I made my way quickly down to the water. I hadn’t seen them in a week, and I was beginning to wonder if they were coming back. As I scrambled down the rocky shore, I saw them sun bathing. My heart began to race and I couldn’t help but smile. They were amazing. No matter what others said, I would always be in love with these majestic beings.

Before the veil failed and all the magical beings could be seen by everyone, no one knew that mermaids were vampiric. I actually remember my mother telling me stories about fairies, vampires, leprechauns, unicorns, and of course mermaids, when I was little. The stories were about their magic and beauty and sometimes mischievous nature. Boy did the stories get it wrong!

It turns out all the mythical beings that we were so sure were fictional turned out to be real. They had lived alongside us all along, and on rare occasions, they would show themselves to someone and another story would be born.

What the stories also got wrong was that most of the mythical creatures only crossed the veil that hid them from us so that they could go hunting. Most of them live on flesh, not necessarily humans, but they found it easier to gather food when they were fully in our realm.

It turns out, mermaids are real, and they drink blood. Which it turns out is hard to come by in the ocean. They used to feed on unlucky sailors whenever they could. A little land dweller blood will sustain them for a long time. They seem to be quite content with the pig’s blood I bring them.

Mermaid_by_Zyklon8B

The other creatures behind the veil were different than we believed them to be too. Leprechauns feed on metal which is easy to come by, and fairies eat bugs mostly.

So why are they in our world now? 10 years ago, the veil that hid them failed when their king died. The magical creatures are basically immortal, but something happened to their king, something that none of them understands. And without him powering the veil, it will not return. The problem is not with the little magical creatures. The problem is the creatures that the veil kept completely hidden from our world. The ones the king protected humans from. Those are the ones we have to worry about.

Dragons. They are a big problem. They love to destroy things. When the veil failed, they laid waste to most major cities.

The worst though are the unicorns. Unicorns, like mermaids, are blood-suckers. Unicorns it turns out are where the idea of vampires come from. Unicorns are shape-shifters. They glamour themselves into looking like humans and then drink blood. The problem is that once a unicorn drinks human blood it doesn’t want to be a majestic horse anymore — it just wants to feed.

hello_unicorn_by_scarypet-d6vodh2