Sector 19 - Chapter 1 - Stranger in the Trees"Alice, are you going out to the forest again?" My mom leaned over the stove in the room next to the door, fussing around the oven. Some whitish powder was sprinkled in random spots all over her apron and shirt. She wasn't looking anywhere towards me, but I knew she was watching me with those motherly eyes on the back of her head. Something smelled like cookies.
"Yeah," I plopped down on the floor, leaning on the back of the door, slipping on my tennis shoes.
"As always," She sighed, smiling. "My monkey baby. You have your phone on you, right?"
"Um, I am not a baby, and of course. I promise if I get raped or some axe-murderer slash Freddy-wannabe is roaming the forest or if I fall and scrape my knee all call you ASAP." Sarcasm laced my voice. I stomped on my shoes with finality. "Be back before dark."
"You better. Have fun, honey. I'll try not to eat all the cookies before you get home."she stuck her tongue out at me"Do you need a coat?"
"It's the middle of summer," I groan
Teenage TaoismGiving birth is the closest I’d ever felt to dying.Teenage Taoism11 months ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Before that, my near death experiences had consisted only of my silent announcement of pregnancy—silent, being that my social media accounts were all deleted almost simultaneously and I never returned to school in the fall, saying without really saying that I had caught the malicious disease of “teenage pregnancy”. I’m sure the whisper spread in the hallways like the Bubonic Plague. That September, sitting at home on what would have been the first day of my senior year, I imagined friends I’d never talk to again saying “she was only seventeen, and so full of life!” at my absence in the cafeteria tables, as if they were attending my funeral instead of talking about me behind my back.
"Full of life," I had snorted then, folding a never ending stream of what had once been my own baby clothes. "Literally."
I walked around like a zombie for the months of my pregnancy, deciding t
Sooner or later.Once upon a time, I breathed in innocence and exhaled simplicity. I remember it fondly.Sooner or later.4 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
I remember my favorite grass-stained overalls with the light blue butterfly embroidered on the pocket, my bare feet on the damp grass, the feeling of the wind, it tasted like sweet perfection, flying through every single strand of hair on my head as I chased the fireflies that danced in the evening air. I remember the old, rusty swing sets, and how if I got up in the air high enough I could touch the exact place in the cloudless sky where the earth itself curved, though no one ever believed it. Back then, I remember laughing every second just because there was once a time where optimism wasn't a challenge. Back when real friends weren't an endangered species, but a bubbling well, filled to the rim; when family was a single unit, not split into shards; when the biggest worry I had was people stealing my favorite scarlet-colored crayon after I dashed to the potty. Simple.
Almost Perfect.Fifteen. Outgoing. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Spotless, perfect, slightly tanned skin. Straight A student. Only barely reaching 100 pounds on an off day.Almost Perfect.4 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
I'm so fat, she'd say to herself every morning in the mirror. Size 2 waistline. It wasn't good enough. She could do much better. She needed perfect.
"Oh, Brielle," her friends would say at lunch, disappointment clear on their faces. "Not eating again today?" School food was dripping with unhealthy grease and calories. The question would echo in the back of her head. Eat? I don't need to eat, look at me! Now, she barely heard it anymore. They were used to it.
Everyone was used to it. Her friends would joke about how she could probably get blown over by a big enough gust of wind, how she was too skinny. She laughed; her friends were too funny. One kid even said something about starving herself. Starve myself? Ridiculous! Can't they see how big I am? It's called a diet.
We'll Cover the Stars, A to Z“You know, the stars get dusty sometimes.”We'll Cover the Stars, A to Z2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Pricks of light swam in the night’s deep blue atmosphere, gleaming mementos of once-living stars. In the full moon’s light, they looked anything but dusty.
“Z, you’re crazy.” Amelia huffed. He always got like this when nighttime came around and they ran off to their secret spot, all weird-like and far away. Every night, he’d just lie up against that old rock and stare at the stars and make these grand statements that never made any sense, and try to convince her they were some kind of fact of life. He’d been doing it since she’d been adopted, two years back. And sometimes, it was interesting. But most of the time, to a nine-year-old with a low patience level, he was just outrageous. Nine-year-olds don’t need life facts.
“No, really!” He persisted, pushing himself away from to rock into a full stand, waving his arms in the air as if he were a bird about to take off. A
CoexistenceApparently, the rapture happened.Coexistence11 months ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
To be honest, I can’t remember much of it. My parents disappeared while we were eating dinner one night, and the next thing I know I’m watching my soul leave my body—or, more accurately, my ashes. Global nuclear war, or something. According to the dude behind me in line, the Bible predicted it all.
Including the nukes.
I can’t help but find that unlikely, but the nuke part wouldn’t surprise me. The line is incomprehensibly long—as if a fourth of the human population was wiped out in seconds. I can’t even tell if it’s getting longer or shorter, because I can’t turn around.
My only real question is what we’re lined up for. I hadn’t put much thought into whether or not I was going to heaven or hell when I was on earth, but now that I’m somewhere in between, I kind of wish I’d researched it a little more. Purgatory? The mystical waiting room of heaven? Or is hell just waiting in
The Phases of BeautyPhase one starts with the basics. Wash off all that invisible grime off your face. Brush your hair out of its bed headedness. Normal stuff. Brush your teeth; yellow smiles aren't all that pretty. Phase one is simple, easy. But it's never enough. You're still too natural looking Naturally ugly.The Phases of Beauty4 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Scramble through your closet, here's phase two; clothes. Being beautiful also means being fashionable, so all you have is overpriced designer labels to shift through. Find the jeans that make your butt look cute and the shirt that makes you look older and look! You've got an awesome outfit on your hands. Accessorize accordingly; the right jewelry could make or break this outfit. At least, that's what all the magazines say.
Phase three starts in a puff of smokewait, maybe that's foundation. Layer it on heavy; no one wants to see those freckles. Dash on some blush, it looks cuter. Break out the eyeliner and mascara, that way your boring eyes will pop. That's what makeups fo
Dead ZoneWe met on an art website—you, me, and the Sprout.Dead Zone1 year ago in Short Stories More Like This
Thing is, the Sprout and I didn't really care about art. Only you did. But when I looked online for a school art project and found you two bickering about something pointless in the comments of a picture that had nothing to do with any of us, I signed up for the site solely for the purpose of telling you two to shut up and take it to someone who cares.
So you sent me your Skype contact.
I expected you to start the conversation with arguments or even flirtation, but instead you just asked me how my day had been, as if we'd always been friends and you were just greeting me on a lonely Tuesday night. When the Sprout joined us a few minutes later, haven taken a bit more time to accept contact with the guy who he had been arguing with earlier, his first words consisted of telling you that you typed slower than his three-year-old niece and brought the conversation to the comfortable squabbling that had taken up most of our relationship.
The Coffee GodThe Coffee God behind the counter shuffles foot to foot, a dance of steam and espresso. Black painted fingernails, inch gauged ears and a gray striped sweatshirt, hood crooked on his back. There's a cigarette tucked behind one ear; it bobs and twitches with each step.The Coffee God1 year ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
“Non-fat caramel latte,” he calls, just as he always does, part of a spell, part of a mantra, toneless (just a tuck at the end). I reach. He looks up.
The espresso maker hisses.
There's something like a grin, something like a spark, something like a shared secret linked eye to eye. When he passes over the drink (rough cardboard sleeve hot to the touch), he lingers. Our fingers brush, a shiver, a jolt, a ten-watt shock.
The Coffee God tilts his chin, shouts, “Hey, mind if I take my break now?”
and ducks around the counter without waiting for a reply.
He slips his cigarette between his lips without taking his eyes from mine. I follow him out the door.
she could have been ugly,some would say she was ugly.she could have been ugly,4 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
and in a way, she very well could have been.
laced in her quotidian features,
she was nothing more than herself.
no rose petal cheeks, or hair woven by gods.
she lacked a spine that daintily curved her back,
inspiring a figure of bones to fall around it.
instead her joints cracked and grinded like
a rusty robot in need of much care and oil.
there was no sparkle manifested in her eyes,
and her words were not always pleasantly melodious.
her fingertips drooped and constantly seemed lifeless,
as if even doing nothing at all were too much effort.
her smile was not crooked but not beautiful by any means,
and her neck was not slender or long.
she was awkward and mundane,
constantly lumbering around in a clumsy manner.
nevertheless, she was nothing but herself.
so, yes, i guess some would say that she was ugly.
and in a way, she very well could have been.
but, to me,
she was beautiful.
Nine TimesI saw him nine times.Nine Times2 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
The first time we were both sitting in the room together, getting ready to take the math test that would determine our placement. I was scatterbrained and throwing things around, trying to find the pencils that I had known I would need but had still just tossed in my purse. He was lounging backwards in his chair, looking for all the world as though he didn’t have a single care in the world, including the upcoming test. It annoyed me, that I was frantic and ready to scream, while someone else could be that relaxed.
I tested out of the class.
I don’t know if he did.
The second time I saw him, it was a few months after I arrived on campus. He was the one rushing and frantic this time, running across the square. He was probably late for class, though I had no way of knowing for sure. I was already lost in my own thoughts and ideas, deciding on my major and convincing people that yes, this is what I really want to do with my life. If they weren
Where Seagulls Dare “There’s no escape, you know.”Where Seagulls Dare10 months ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Thomas put his head on one side, slapping the water out of his ear. “Sorry?”
“There’s no escape...from the island.” The heavily bearded man gave him a stare. “The same rocks that sank your vessel have defeated my every attempt at floating a raft.”
“Oh.” Thomas wasn’t sure exactly what one was supposed to say in this situation. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“There’s food enough to get by here, if you don’t mind bitter roots, insects, sour berries. That’s almost the cruellest thing.” Beneath his stitched-leaf hat, his eyes gazed out to sea. “Compared with the open ocean, this place offers a fair chance of survival. But can it really be called living? Trapped here...on the island?”
Bo.When Lindsay was born, Bo was there. Standing beside her mother, he was the first thing she ever saw. But he was not her father; her father stood on the other side.Bo.2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Bo was there until the very moment she died.
The sun shone bright through the windows of her pink-laden room. She loved pink. And black.
“Because Bo is black,” she’d told her parents.
Her imaginary friend, they soon concluded.
“Bo is all black,” she described one night as her father tucked her in, “His skin and his hair and everything. He doesn’t talk a lot.”
Her father frowned.
“He sounds scary.”
“He’s not,” she insisted.
Bo sat on the bed and said nothing.
Her father kissed her good night and turned out the light.
“Why can’t Dad see you?” she asked.
“Are you real?”
“Are you real?” he replied.
“How do you know?”
SolaceShe never slept well in the dark,Solace1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
not without the children of the sun and moon
to guide her weary lids home.
Guided by the aftermath, she was always two steps behind.
What did the world look like to the girl who had been through it all?
Braved the heaviest of storms,
yet skipping over cracks in the pavement.
They said her eyes were the wisps of clouds before the storm.
To him they were reflections of pages overlooked.
She said it was like she lived the life of someone she had never met.
Laid out to dry, yesterdays news.
He knew her as the girl who was built to never collapse.
He wished he was too.
He loved her more than words could say, and yet her pain was such,
that at times, he feared she wouldn’t make it.
But on nights like these, even when it threatened to consume her,
he became convinced that somehow she would.
eugenics in bulkBy the time she was twelve they had already decided she would marry a man who could run a five minute mile and speak seven languages. They chose her a husband the same way they had chosen her eyes and her legs and the pale freckles that interrupted her nose - the same way their parents had designed their children and arranged their marriages, strategic.eugenics in bulk11 months ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Her father called her petite reine. He owned an antique chess board carved from ebony wood and maple. Some days she'd sneak into the library, pry open the old chequered box and pick out one of the queens, and she'd turn it round and round, searching for imperfections. It was a plain, ugly thing, huge and fat in her tiny grasp. She had wondered if he thought of her this way.
She wondered the same now.
Her hands were not her own. A businessman in a white coat had grown them slender and strong, built her carbon fiber bones and nails like arrowheads. Her mother reminded her of this when the
Cell DivisionI. ProphaseCell Division2 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Mom’s heels hit the tile floor like gunshots. Dad saunters from the opposite direction. As they come into view, meeting at the kitchen doorway, they robotically move together as a single unit, as if to assure us that they are still sleeping in the same room. They split at the table. Dad sits at his place, grunts into his newspaper, and spoon-feeds cereal into his half-open mouth. He hides his forearms under the paper to cover up his goose bumps. Mom, in her unraveling, tacky, autumn sweater stops short, pausing to stare out the window. Her shoulders run perpendicular to her husband. The face on her cheeks is pulled tight enough to blend in with the October clouds and fog. She’s cold enough to melt into the glass and fade into the sky.
Nobody notices that breakfast was already on the table.
“Nice weather we’re having,” Dad lies.
I place my hand on the small of Abby’s back and shuffle her into a chair. She’s only ten, but she knows be
She Was With the StarsThe amber girlShe Was With the Stars1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
was preserved perfectly
and her silky hair and porcelain skin
gleamed like a doll's
But the scientists weren't able to keep
her soul burning
because though she was in the
glass case filled with chemicals and fluids
and they were desperately trying to pump
oxygen into her lungs,
her mind was still up in space
with the stars
So the sun was extinguished
despite the cries and mournful screams
because they had
and the many who looked up
at her light and glory
slowly began to rot away
And so not a single thing was solved
Graffiti Dreams in Black and White The strokes are dreamt permanent,Graffiti Dreams in Black and White2 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
the only lasting demarcations of claiming existence,
and the collective artists who painted them majored in Biology,
or Accounting, or English and Professional Writing, or dropped out
as so many do when they wake up.
The poet paints them into existence with his words:
“ideas are illusions, and all words are untrue.”
And we nod our heads and sip our coffees, indeed,
put a price to labors and words and even to thoughts
because we no longer want freedom if it costs us the freedom
of saving face and keeping pace with the ebb and flow
Stories about our fatherOur father is fourteen in this storyStories about our father1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
so we must imagine him young and slim
bobbing on his toes, the quiver
of his racquet like the quiver
of a cat’s tail.
We’ve seen our father play before,
sitting courtside with our action figures
and paper dolls,
deadened to the minor explosions
of balls striking asphalt.
But we are surprised now by the
in his face, his eyes moving the tight loop
from court to net to opponent
and back again.
And it occurs to us
that we haven’t occurred to him.
Our father is pre-marital,
his world blazes between these
But soon we look where our father won’t:
To the stands where
our boy-faced uncles jeer
beside our grandmother, thin and erect
where we know her
soft and stooped.
She raises a hand to the metallic crest of
her hair and calls out,
David! What’s the score!
And it is understandable to us
that he pretends not hear.
That his shoulders twitc
Afterlife Astronaut“There is no God.”Afterlife Astronaut1 year ago in Short Stories More Like This
“Well, you don’t know that for sure-“
“Bernard, as an AI connected to every philo-science document, every parabyte of knowledge in the Human Empire, every logic string going back to the days of the Past Colonists... I can assure you, there is no God. It has been proven.”
Bernard sighed. His helmet visor fogged up then disappeared.
“I’m not going to bother arguing with you. Soon that golden gate is going to open, and I will walk into the Kingdom of Heaven. That should be enough proof.”
The gate in question was a smooth sphere of gold, slowly rotating on an equally dull pedestal. Crystal red spires pointed at specific points on the globe.
“You just don’t want to argue with me because you are in fear of how wrong you are. And how right a computer can be.”
Jude deserved to be muted, but sass like that always kept her voice a ubiquitous presence in Bernard’s helmet. A blue flash in the top
Through all this LightThere's no nighttime here,Through all this Light1 year ago in Free Verse More Like This
no scrap of honest darkness.
Just the garish lights and forsaken spaces
vacant of cars and people
and all their daytime amenities.
How is a man to find his way through all this light?
It isn't right, this open kind of darkness,
but some things cannot be unwound,
Grave Robber's DowagerThe people of this town were just waiting to die. That was Maggie’s favourite thing about it, there was always business. Her husband used to go out at night and dig up someone who wouldn’t be missed. He’d have the body on the table in the basement before midnight. Maggie would strip the corpse of its clothing and its valuables. The clothes would be washed and resold, the valuables pawned off or kept depending on her mood.Grave Robber's Dowager1 year ago in Short Stories More Like This
Her husband would clean the body up and just as the very first rays of light were creeping over the horizon, a man with a cart would come by and take them away. It was a good living. Maggie and her husband were comfortable and proud of having such an efficient business.
Normally, the work never got to Maggie, but every so often she would buy a candle or a leather purse and wonder if it was someone she knew. That was silly of course, but every time it happened she couldn’t shake the feeling of ghosts hanging around her for days. Her husband unde
ViolinI remember the dayViolin10 months ago in Free Verse More Like This
you told me violins
were strung with cat gut
and that is why
you hated music
(who says that to a child?)
I followed you
all that summer.
I watched you
grow away from mother -
your whiskey held better conversations
and all she did was cry.
We'd sit cross-legged on the porch
and count the horseflies
settling on our lunch.
You would drown tadpoles
in a bucket
surprised they could not swim
and I would dream
of cherry popsicles.
And when night would gather
on the sidewalk
I'd hold my breath
until a star appeared.
Don't bother making wishes
you'd tell me -
stars are dead weight in heaven
and God has cloth ears.