The Final Entry

Word Count: 1081
Writing: 1 hour
Editing: 22 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 22 minutes

Dear Reader,

From 40,000 I wish you a final, Merry Wednesday! Since starting this project, I’ve planned on writing an introduction to the anthology. I feel that to explain the raw format of the book and stories and what it is they were meant to accomplish from the beginning, into what is now the end, a little background is necessary. So with that in mind I decided the best possible way to introduce a collection such as this, is to write it in one hour, and edit it in thirty minutes. Leaving a rough and only slightly edited thousand words to describe how my brain fell onto the following pages.

When I started this collection last January, I began it as a fun way to keep myself busy between writing projects (I had just finished the first draft of my new SciFi novel and had to start getting it ready for publication). It was also a good way to show how my writing differs now from The Bird Room, which has stories that are years old.

Quickly, as the weeks past I began to look forward to Monday’s (which ended up turning into Wednesday’s) when I would get to wake up, drink coffee, and make up a thousand words of whatever my heart desired. Should I write about robots today? Sure! How about a little boy who cares for his rotting mother in a dystopian future America? Absolutely! Aliens? Duh!

No matter what I was writing about, though, I made sure I stayed true to the idea behind every story. To force it out. Not one story that’s been written took more than the allotted time, and all of the timestamps at the top of every page, are one-hundred percent accurate. With every story’s word count totaling between 800 and 1,300 words creating an anthology of 42,637 (that’s including the short intros before each story, but excluding what you’re reading right now).

The thousand-word short story format is one of my personal favorites. In high school, I had a writing teacher who would have us write a thousand words a week. While the rest of the class spent their time that week thinking about what words they were going to use to fill up those empty lines, I went about my life partying and carrying on like a drunken pirate. Then the night before the assignment was due would roll around, and I’d have to hurry up and finish my thousand-word story. And despite what I thought about them, from what everyone told me, they didn’t suck.

Flash-forward to a decade later, I was on Twitter and saw a hashtag called 1k1hr trending (this is where authors attempt to write one-thousand words in an hour) and it took me right back to those stories in high school. Right back to that elusive place where the mind goes when it is forced to squeeze the creative juices out. It was also at this time that I was thinking about ways to get more of my writing out into the world so when people asked me what it was that I wrote about, not only would I be able to tell them what kind of stories I write, but there would be a place I could send them to where plenty of examples lived.

I didn’t however, have a ton of time to devote to a new project and virtually no money to spend on any sort of publishing expenses (I was already committed to my upcoming SciFi novel). Still, I wanted to be actively writing something that the world could read right away. It didn’t take long before the lightbulb appeared over my head and 40,000: A Rough Draft, was born.

I would give myself one hour to write a thousand word short story, then thirty minutes to look it over and make any quick changes I thought were necessary, before publishing on my blog and sharing through various sources on the internet. This way I was enjoying writing stories that didn’t take too much time away from my other work and people knew going in they would not be reading a polished piece of writing.

Each morning I would go into my office, or to the coffee shop, with basically no idea what I was going to write about. There were even some mornings when I was having a tough time starting and would scan those, first-line generators, for any kind of inspiration. I felt like starting blank was true to the writing format of the stories, forcing myself to be creative, even if it came out as complete crap. It would be a creative pile.

Now, I have forty, one-thousand word short stories that are about so, so many different things. They aren’t all winners, but I like to think that most are decent at the very least (although I’m pretty sure after finishing every single story, when asked what I thought about it, my response was, “eh, I don’t think it’s that great,” with a reluctant shrug). It’s been a fun project and a great exercise that I recommend for anyone trying to stimulate their creativity. I can’t wait to start taking some of these stories and helping them grow into the novels that they are destined to become.

Finally, as my time limit and word count are coming to a close today, I want to thank anyone and everyone who took the time to read these stories as I was releasing them. Getting online and seeing that somebody opened and read the story in their email, or that I had a new comment or vote on my blog or on Wattpad, it made my day every time. So a sincere thanks to you all.

Now onto the next thing. Look for the announcement of my new novel coming soon, and starting in a couple weeks I will be re-releasing the first book in my Jack-o and the Amulet series exclusively on Wattpad with new posts every Wednesday.

Finally, I plan on getting 40,000: A Rough Draft, line-edited to take care of all the grammatical mistakes for anyone who doesn’t want the rough draft version (which you can get free by signing up for my newsletter). It will be available in the near future as an ebook for $0.99 on Amazon.

I’ve had a blast writing these stories and I hope you find something among these pages that intrigues and inspires you. Please Enjoy!

Chad Hofmann

November 18, 2015

 
 
And now I’m here. The final 1,000-word short story. For this one, I wanted to write a sci-fi story about something ending. What better to end then the world? Thanks to everyone for reading and as always, please enjoy!

At Last

Word Count: 1032
Writing: 57 minutes
Editing: 17 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 14 minutes

It feels like a dream to me now, even then, it never felt real. The way a distant memory plays on the outskirts of your mind. Leaving that feeling like a smell you know but can’t quite distinguish. Or a word that teeters at the place just beyond the tip of your tongue, and if you don’t grab it fast enough, poof, it’s gone forever.

That’s how the past feels, but I hold on every time, it hasn’t fallen into that place of long forgotten love just yet. The closer I get to the end, though, the harder it is to hold on to. And I’m close now, close enough that I can smell it on the breeze.

I’m certain I’m not the last one left, that would be sheer narcissism, and I just can’t believe I’m that special. But, I am one of the last. I haven’t seen another human in what feels like ages, couldn’t even tell you who the last person I talked to was. I know they’re out there, though, looking for the end of the world just like me.

The apocalypse wasn’t anything like what most people expected. At first, when the world believed the rapture was to blame for all the disappearances, war broke out. It seemed mankind had decided instead of banning together and figuring out just what in the hell was going on, it would be more beneficial to destroy what was left of ourselves and Earth as we knew it. It went on for almost a decade, most of my childhood, people killed each other, while others just up and disappeared from the planet. Safety became an illusion, a fantasy to pass the time between death.

Finally, they’d had enough. I was eighteen when they came to us, the sky around the entire world filled with ships of all shapes and sizes. They sat cooly in the upper atmosphere as every electronic billboard, television, computer, cell phone, tablet, anything and everything that had a screen, was hijacked by a purple humanoid creature, with a bald head and short yellow antennae hovering over his eyes where the brows should have been.

“We’ve awakened all of the qualified souls from program, EARTH, shutdown will be commencing immediately. Thank you for your participation.”

The words were understood in every language, but no one can remember really hearing the actual words. It was like the alien moved his lips but spoke to every human on Earth’s mind. After the announcement, as suddenly as they’d appeared in the sky, they vanished.

War continued for as long as the Earth remained sustainable. The shutdown began to affect large patches of the planet. Where there had once been solid dirt, and rock, there were holes. At least, that’s what we started to call them. As it normally is with holes in disguise, if you didn’t know what to look for certain doom was unavoidable.

Nobody still walking the patchy surface of the Earth could say what lay beyond the flimsy wall of reality that hid each hole. You might be walking by a bush and catch a little shimmer out of the corner of your eye, they want to attract you, want to draw you in. You walk over to inspect, and that’s it, nighty night.

Since the announcement and the beginning of the shutdown, rumors of the end have grown. A place where this program EARTH, is more rapidly shutting down. Like a giant white nothing devouring the planet a few of us still call home. And I aim to find it.

I never did have much in my life, another child of a war-torn world that’s meaning is now shrouded in possibly more mystery than ever it had been in its long history. Nobody knew what program EARTH was, from what it sounded like this planet was nothing more than a computer game for aliens. That’s what I’ve come to accept at least. But, I also know there’s a way out.

When the purple alien-man told the world all of the rapture people, the qualified souls, had been awakened; it was then that I decided I would look for the way out until the day I died. I didn’t really have much else to do anyway, and survival seemed like the most natural thing to try and accomplish.

Now here I am. So close to the end, and am I afraid? Of course, being afraid is a major driving factor behind the will to survive. Without my fear, I would’ve given up the fight a long time ago and jumped into one of the holes like so many other people.

It’s not the possible death that frightens me, though, not even a little, it’s the life. The one behind me, that chases me like a malicious shadow in the night; and the one that may lie ahead. The one buried in the unknown white nothing that I know waits hungrily only steps before me. It seems there will be only two options when I get there.

The first will be to say goodnight to this program EARTH, say goodnight to the sweet delicacy that is being human. No matter how bad it ever got on the way to this point, it was a delicacy, there was good among the bad. There was love in the war, and not just for myself, but for others. Without love, there could be no war. I remain happy I got to be part of this experiment we called humanity in an alien program named, EARTH.

 The second option is to dive headfirst into the unknown, the adventure of the white nothing. A blank page to fill with memories that one day will only dance on the tip of my tongue. I’ve searched far and wide for my answers, for the hatch that would allow me to escape the world I knew, and join the others in the world of the awakened. And here I stand, at the cusp.

I’m afraid of what’s to come, but I’m a survivor, I’ve never been one to say no to an adventure, and it seems more frequently then not; there is no end, only more beginnings.

 
 
Merry Wednesday world. The idea for this story happened when I was on the way to the coffee shop this morning. I was listening to a song and it talked about everything you touch turning to gold. So naturally, it led to an author being kidnapped by aliens and forced to tell new stories all the time or die. We’re almost to the end now. Only one more story left. Please Enjoy.

Leltro Strey

Word Count: 987
Writing: 56 minutes
Editing: 17 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 13 minutes

Outside the wall, they roared in anticipation, chanting his name over and over, Leltro Strey, Leltro Strey! Of course, that wasn’t the man’s real name, he’d once been just another Joe or Bob, or maybe even Ben. A simple American name that he now spent hours trying to remember every day. But it never came, he’d been Leltro Strey for too long now. The teller of tales was what it translated to in English. Sometimes, when he wasn’t trying to remember his plain jane name of his past, he would try and figure out how many years it’d been since he’d been taken from Earth. But time was different in space and it quickly lost its meaning.

Leltro dropped his head into his hands and took long deep breaths as he stared at the baseball sized scar in his calf. This was his routine, before every show while they chanted his name from the other side of the wall, he would let his long hair fall over his hands and shoulders creating a veil from the world. And he would remember. He could still feel the burning from the spear as it tore through his leg. They all laughed when he screamed, making a joke out of him in an alien language far beyond his human comprehension.

“If you ever again you tell a tale the universe already knows, never again will you tell a tale.” The things voices were deep and gurgly when they spoke English, like a man trying to speak through a throat-full of mouthwash. He’d been relaying his favorite story, The Princess Bride, a classic. The spear was ripped from his leg before he was carried back to his cell and left to prepare his tale for the next day.

A person wouldn’t think beings who thrived off of such intelligence could possibly look so hideous. They were fat and green, with pig-like snouts and large brains that pressed up against the skull of their heads so fiercely the imprint could be seen on the scalp.

It took many years before Leltro finally felt like he understood the creatures. But it was the same night as the spear penetrated his leg that he knew exactly what they wanted from him. Beyond the wall, as his mind swam with pain, he heard another man take the stage. He began speaking and was immediately cut-off by what Leltro could only assume was the same gurgly monster that had just given him the piercing of a lifetime.

“We have a new teller of tales now, no longer do we need your unoriginal babble. Once we thought you were the greatest in the universe and fed on your words with much joy. But now all you spout is old and recycled swill, your words taste like poison in our mouths, and so you shall taste poison in your own.”

Leltro listened to the words, certain he was having some sort of terrible hallucination and would soon wake up in his comfortable king-sized bed on Earth. The monsters erupted in noise on the other side of the wall and Leltro passed out.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. This was his routine, he made himself remember that night before every show. Leltro didn’t know how many shows he’d performed anymore, couldn’t remember how many stories he’d told. He tried to keep count for a little while as a way to keep track of time, but without ever seeing beyond his cell and the showroom, time meant less and less to him until eventually, it was nothing more than a word he used in his tales.

He thought about the irony of his predicament on occasion. When he’d been whatever Joe, Bob, or Ben that he was on Earth—before they’d captured him—he’d been an acclaimed author of fiction. It was a joke he and his author friends had, that one day he would be hailed as the best storyteller in the entire galaxy. If only he could send a message back to them now, maybe a picture of the best storyteller not only in the galaxy, but it would seem the entire universe. He wondered if they would be jealous. After all, the monster’s that now chanted his name did nothing but search the deep expanse of space for better story tellers. And he could tell by the silver in his hair that he’d been the best for some time now. Be careful what you wish for, he thought to himself.

Leltro heard the familiar footsteps dragging their way down the hall and he lifted his head out of his hands. Showtime was upon him once again. He stood from his cot and walked to the doorway of his cell. To the naked eye, it appeared to be nothing more than an empty, doorless arch. Leltro had found out the hard way that if one tried to walk through, however, it was lights out until they woke you up for the next show. He could still remember the guards laughing as they prodded him awake and to his feet, and he thought maybe he’d tell an angry story at the show today.

The monster’s oversized head appeared in the doorway and he heard the light whoosh that meant it was safe to exit.

“Leltro Strey, will it be today, that you give me a preview, of what it is you have to say?” It was the same question he’d been getting from the rhyming guard since his first show. Leltro kept his eyes forward and answered the monster with complete silence, the same answer he’d been giving him since the first show. After all, there were no words to be wasted on the way to the stage. If he was to be the best in the universe, if he was to keep his life, he needed every word in his body to spin thin air into gold. 

 
 
I went to the zoo earlier this week and I started thinking about what it would be like if the animals went crazy and broke out of their cages. This is it. Please Enjoy.

The Zoo

Word Count: 972
Writing: 53 minutes
Editing: 16 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 9 minutes

The air was stale and thick, pressing down into the family’s lungs with force. It should be one of the most exciting days of the little boy’s young life, but something was off. Even the majestic creature beyond the cold glass couldn’t take his mind off the eeriness of the world around him. King Cobra or Snake Eater, the sign read. It was his favorite of the all the snakes, he’d been excited to be standing in this very spot for a month. Though now that the time had come, all he could feel were pangs of anxiety.

Meeting the eyes of the Cobra beyond the glass, the little boy wondered if the snake knew he was staring at him. The Cobra began moving, raising its head slowly and the boy took a step toward the moving his head forward until his nose was touching the display. Somewhere in the background he could hear his parents calling to him, but the words were nothing more than distant mumbles. As it rose the snake reminded him of the ones in the movies when the charmer would play music and call it out of its basket. It danced back and forth hypnotically, with its eyes firmly locked on the boys own until finally it stood still and expanded its hood.

His heart pumped and his stomach was slowly dropping as he stared at the creature. Behind him, he could hear the echoes of animals speaking with all the different voices God had given them, and people talking and yelling loudly. Yet, it all seemed to be coming through earmuffs. Once the Cobra’s hood was fully expanded the little boy understood why it had been named the King of snakes. Had he not known better he would’ve thought he was lost in the eyes of the Devil himself.

The Cobra lunged at the glass where the boy’s nose was pressed and it made a loud cracking noise. Falling backward the little boy thought he was going to throw up. Instantly, the invisible earmuffs that had been cloaking the sounds of the zoo fell away. Panic screaming and the sounds of angry animals flooded his mind. He jumped to his feet staring at the broken glass holding in the Snake Eater and again it lunged, cracking the glass in two more places.

As he turned around he saw movement on the ground and joined the rest of the people who ran out of the reptile house as a Green Viper almost slithered over his foot. He looked around in a panic, people were running and shoving each other and there were patches of blood on the ground with bloody footprints leading in every direction.

“Mommy! Daddy!” He screamed. Where could they have gone? Slowly he took a step forward toward the herd of people trying to escape. He knew they wouldn’t have just run away without him, would they? Maybe they couldn’t find him and panicked trying to escape with the rest. Thinking back on the day the little boy couldn’t quite remember the details. It was as if a heavy fog was clouding his short term memory. He thought he could remember walking with them to the reptile room, or had he run off to see the snakes?

From the bushes next to his right something shot out in front of him. The boy turned to run back toward the reptile house before remembering the moving ground-full of venomous snakes. Turning back to face whatever adversary this strange day had placed in his path, he saw a llama chasing the people ahead.

His stomach was threating to eject the hot dog and french fries he’d had for lunch, and the way his heart pounded he thought it may come out with the food. Frightened noises and screams were coming from somewhere behind him, beyond the reptile house, and the panic finally won him over.

Running into the crowd of people, he stared into every face he passed hoping to find the familiar face of his mother or father, side-stepping the large patches of blood as he did so. A little further into the herd of people he had to be careful not to step on the fallen humans who’d not been fast enough and now lay trampled. He was small and quick, making it easy to weave through the frightened people who ran toward the exit gate of the large zoo.

Above his head, he could see giant, colorful birds circling various areas in the park and he was even happier to be near the ground. Close behind him screams erupted and he turned in time to see a gorilla tear a small girl in half and bite off most of her head as if it were a soft piece of candy. There was a sour burn in the back of his throat and he clenched it tightly, as the image of the small girl tearing in two played on repeat in his mind.

He kept moving and that same hazy fog seemed to fall over him, his heart beat harder than it ever had in his short life and he kept putting one foot down after the other, trying to stare into every face he passed. The thought that one of the poor, squished people on the ground could’ve easily been either of his parents had already crossed his mind, but he decided he wouldn’t believe that. He was sure they’d just gotten separated and that all he had to do was make it to the exit and there they’d be, waiting with tears in their eyes.

The little boy continued fighting the nervous urge to vomit as he tried to focus on only his parents, with his instinct and will to survive pushing him forward. Nothing more than a frightened animal among animals.

 
 
I wrote this after reading about the Back to the Future predictions and thought I would pay tribute with my own time travel story. Sorry for posting a couple days late.

Blink

Word Count: 953
Writing: 58 minutes
Editing: 17 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

It hadn’t hurt, nor had it tickled, or scrambled his mind, in fact, Jack didn’t really feel anything at all from the time jump. One minute he was there, standing in the lab beneath his house on the spinning time platform, and then he was standing on the same small platform twenty-five years in the future, in what appeared to be a janitorial closet.

Excitedly he moved what looked like an ancient mop bucket sitting next to some sort of advanced Swiffer, which had also seen better days, and walked out the door into the hallway. Lights flickered above his head and Jack started to make his way down the long, worn corridor. Graffiti covered the walls and though many of the words weren’t legible, the ones he could make out that weren’t obscenities appeared to be protesting war and the American government.

Jack neared a large, broken glass door and the sky beyond seemed to flicker in unison with the lights that ran down the hallway. He stepped through the door, dropping his jaw as his feet hit the broken pavement that lined the streets. The buildings that stood before him hadn’t yet been built when he left in 2015, the area had been a wonderful little suburb, with lovely children and great neighbors throughout. Now, there stood large amorphous structures that looked like they may crumble in a strong breeze, yet they couldn’t be more than twenty-five years old.

Men, women, and children lined the streets wearing filthy rags and huddling in groups to create a street-full of homeless clusters. Jack began to walk through crowded area towards what he thought should be the east. There was a mountain that could be seen from his house in his own time but with all the giant buildings surrounding him it was a wonder the sky was even visible. He could feel eyes boring into him from every angle as he made his way down the street. Glancing up now and then he noticed a peculiar detail on the faces of each human he passed. On the right cheek of everyone was a large raised circle that made Jack think of one time when he’d had ringworm on his leg.

He continued walking and searched, his thoughts wondering what happened to the world he’d left only just a blink in the past. This wasn’t the future the people of his time had dreamt of. Where were the flying cars? What happened to the robots and technology that made being human so much more luxurious? Was the whole world like this now?

The questions threatened his sanity and Jack began to wonder if maybe he’d miscalculated. Was it possible he’d gone much further into the future than he’d planned? At the same moment, he had the thought a stale and heavy breeze blew down the road and brought with it a page of newspaper that stopped itself at his feet. Jack leaned down and grabbed the dirty page.

AHV, The Anti-Human Virus Takes More Lives, read the headline. October 21st, 2041. There was no way of knowing how long ago the paper had been printed, but it didn’t feel old enough to have been more than a year earlier. Though in his gut, Jack knew it was much more recent. He continued reading and everything fell into place, as if the universe heard his wish for understanding and decided to tell him what had happened to the wonderful Earth that was, in a brief synopsis.

A German scientist at Google successfully created a self-aware and conscious intelligence, they name him MaxI, short for Maximum Intelligence. Not long after MaxI’s creation all that was feared about artificial intelligence came to fruition. The machine took control of the internet and in order to protect the Earth created a virus that would only affect the human race. Once the highly contagious airborne disease was loaded into drones, the virus was sprayed down over the world killing most instantly. Those who could withstand the disease were the ones standing all around him, every human with a circle scarred on their cheek.

Jack dropped the newspaper and looked at all the sick people around him. His heart was now beating to the point of explosion and he thought he may die of a heart attack right there in the street. He turned and ran the short distance back down the road, to the busted glass doors of the diseased building that used to be his house. The flickering lights above made him feel queasy and he tried to breathe as little as possible, but he knew it may already be too late. If the disease truly was alive and airborne all around him he may already be infected.

He pulled the door to the janitorial closet opened and threw the mop bucket and futuristic Swiffer out of the room. Jack stood on the platform and immediately slammed his hand on the button that would take him home. Back to the past where this future was just a blink away. Staring into the hallway he knew what needed to be done, and he prayed to every god he could think of that the AHV wasn’t already blooming in his bloodstream, threatening to make this future a reality sealed in stone.

The platform spun and on the way back he felt no tickle, nor did it hurt, or make him sick. Jack simply blinked and he was standing back on the platform in the lab below his lovely suburban house, in a town with wonderful children and kind neighbors. As he stepped off the time machine he let out a small cough and began planning a way to change his future.  

 
 
Good Wednesday to all. Sorry for the month long delay in finishing 40,000. I have been quite busy moving across the country, getting jobs, exploring etc. However I’m back at it and there are only 4 stories left now. Below is number 36, I had literally no idea what I would be writing when I sat down, and this is what happened. Comments are always welcome. Please Enjoy.

Shifting

Word Count: 899
Writing: 53 minutes
Editing: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 8 minutes

I could see the smoke billowing from across the city like a shapeless monster teasing the meager human’s below. People ran and screamed in every direction, but that’s to be expected when reality shifts. It takes a strong mind to even admit that the universe is tearing, and an even stronger one to deal with it. Most descended into pure chaos. I just keep moving, it seems to be either that or die. And dying just doesn’t suit me.

Science never really put a name on what was happening, at least not in any of the realities I’ve been in. They said according to the math there was no way anything like the tearing or breaking down of the universe that was occurring should happen; and if so it wouldn’t be for millions of years. What they failed to recognize is that sometimes people are wrong. The only true understanding we ever had is that we know nothing about the universe.

As a child I always had a large imagination, I would pretend to be different people from imaginary worlds every day. A soldier, a warrior from ancient Rome, a superhero in some broken city that needed a savior, whatever it was, I was the hero of another time. I’ll never forget my mother’s voice telling me to get my head out of the clouds. Then, the future came. The irony of my childhood has never failed to make me laugh in the darkest of times. It’s still surreal to me sometimes as I look around whatever strange new world I may wake up in, that living in the moment now consists of trying to be a hero of many other times.

I’ve never been able to figure out why it always starts with smoke, no matter how gradual the shift. Some days it will be nothing more than the name change of your favorite restaurant. Others, the world will shake and monsters will fall from the sky. And then sometimes, I call this the grand slam, you see the smoke, black out, and pray to whatever you want that you don’t die in some strange dimension before you wake up.

Everyone remembers their first shift, mine was a combination of all of the above. I was seventeen years old, walking to my favorite coffee shop around the corner from my house. The sky was smoky from what looked like a burning building in the distance. I turned the corner and stopped immediately, the local place I’d been going for years had changed into a Starbucks overnight. The Earth began to shake, I started feeling woozy and passed out, right there on the sidewalk. When I woke up, I wasn’t simply in an unknown town or city, I was in a whole other world.

I can’t tell you how many years it’s been since then. Time stopped mattering not long after I accepted what was happening and had been through a few shifts. My hair has some gray in it now and I can grow a full beard, so I imagine if time had continued passing in the orderly human fashion, I would be in my mid-thirties to mid-forties. For many years I thought I was simply going crazy, that maybe my imagination had finally gotten the best of me and was keeping me prisoner in my own mind. Which truthfully I can’t say I’ve ever fully ruled out. So I chose a better path.

When the universe is collapsing on itself or expanding to the point of tearing itself to pieces, one has to have a purpose, even if it’s self-implored. I was walking through the streets of a relatively well held together world, when I came across a Man of the World’s—the Men of the World’s are the largest and most prominent of the new religions formed after the first shift, and they can be found in almost every reality—being savagely beaten by a group of civilians. I remembered all those times I was a hero of all those different world’s as a boy, and knew what my purpose was. I helped the religious man and sent the thugs on their way. Since then I try and help someone, somewhere, all the time.

The universe is getting worse every time I open my eyes. The longer I’m alive, the more desolate the places I come across. Desert is taking over, some realities are nothing more than warped nightmares of what is almost an indistinguishable Earth. If it even still is Earth. Of course, there are prophecies about groups of gods, aliens, or other various forms of celestial beings that if found, could be pleaded to in hopes of repairing the universe. I spent some years following legends and tall tales through some of the most disgusting and dangerous places in the universe. All to no avail, if they are out there, they don’t wish to be found or provide help.

The universe is old and sick, but the people in it are still good. I’ve always hoped to meet more like me, others who can take the shifts and try to better the people who are still left. Heroes of the new world’s. But until I find them I’ll keep following the smoke, fighting the good fight, helping the poor and protecting the afraid. After all, this could just be a figment of my imagination.  

 
 
Sorry for the delay, I completely forgot it was Wednesday then wrote this yesterday and just didn’t get around to sending it out. I don’t know why I’ve been writing them so fast the past few times, but I’m cool with it. Only five more to go now, it’s been a great exercise and I plan to keep it going in some way after it’s done. Happy Friday to all and please enjoy!

Life

Word Count: 1005
Writing: 43 minutes
Editing: 10 minutes
Total Time: 53 minutes

 The time ticked in the same melodic tone as always, yet with each flick of the second hand it seemed like life was speeding up around me. What did they want? Was that the test, determine what it was they were looking for me to do? I glanced around the stone gray room, it couldn’t be more than sixty-five degrees, maybe sixty-seven if one was being generous. There were three tables, one had a chess board, set and ready to go, the other had a box of children’s blocks and Legos, and the third simply had a pencil and a legal pad.

People are idiots, searching the universe for other life. It was like Stephen Hawking once said, if they’re out there, perhaps we should leave them be. Looks like he was right, but who really thought any “little green men” we found would come in peace. Humanity was so diluted by the thought of simply knowing, many forgot that knowing may cost us the lives we so dearly wanted to understand the purpose of.

I looked up at the ceiling where the clock sat comfortably in the middle, staring down ominously like the eye of Sauron. It reminded me of grade school, a simple black and white circle with a red second hand that bullied you into staying in your seat until the day was over. Teasing you into searching for answers to questions you honestly don’t give a shit about. Maybe that was the test, maybe they were trying to break us down to a more primitive time and see what our reaction was.

When they’d first made contact the world may as well have gone to hell. The religious nuts lost what little shred of mind they’d still had, some said it was God showing them the way to a new haven and that these were the angels brought to enforce his judgment on the sinners. While others just couldn’t deal with the fact that their holy savior was basically proven to not be there. Even faith has a hard time fighting what men and women can see with their own two eyes.

On the other side of the good God-fearing Catholics, Christians, Muslims, take your pick, were the scientists. They wanted to meet these new life forms. They had big ideas on ways we could benefit each other with our technologies and ideas. What a simple and human idea. These life forms came from the stars already, what could we possibly offer them in the way of technology?

It was as it is with every other advanced society meeting a more primitive one, they wanted our resources, nothing more, nothing less. What those resources are, however, is still to be determined. There is something unique in humans, something inside of us that makes us different than them. Something that makes us valuable.

And here I sit, in what we now call the testing rooms. They sprang up remarkably fast all over the Earth. Very few have escaped and lived to tell what they saw, and most stories are nothing more than urban legends. I know that now as I sit in the facility myself. I think they’re looking for intelligence, maybe they take the smartest of us somewhere else. Whatever it is, I feel like my time is running out.

I walk over to the chessboard and the second hand’s ticking rattles my eardrums, it might be getting louder, but I think my mind may just be getting quieter. The alternating blue and bright yellow of the squares on the board are disorienting, but, of course, I’m sure that’s the point. Two kings stare at each other from behind their rows of pawns, protected for the time being, or so they think. Like the ignorant humans, though, they don’t know a simple tap of my little finger and they both fall over. It’s the way of the world.

After I knock the kings down it’s time to move to the block and Lego table. One small box of blocks, one small box of Lego’s, together enough pieces to build a little house. Maybe a car or an airplane if there are wheels. I rip open each and dump them on the table, the noise of them hitting the metal top momentarily drowns out the vicious ticking of the clock and threatens to burst my eardrums with sensory overload. I stare down at the table once the pieces have fallen as they may. It’s perfect chaos on a table, like the world outside these walls, broken and confused.

Now to the last table. I don’t know where they’re watching me from, there’s no interrogation window, though, one would seemingly fit perfectly on the wall behind me. There’s also no visible camera’s, but I know they’re watching. I can feel eyes on me like a caged animal that sleeps in the zoo.

I grab the pen and smirk at the yellow pad below. The word legal seems to be a perfect irony to this whole surreal situation. Today, in this new time of space travel and godlessness, there is no such thing as law. I don’t know what it is they want, maybe a drawing that represents my emotional state. Or could it be a letter to those that I love telling them what’s become of me? Doesn’t matter, the ticking of the second hand seems slower than ever but bangs on my ears like a bass drum at a loud concert. With one quick motion, I scribble down two words and drop the pen.

I grab the legal pad and throw it face up, dead center underneath the clock that’s staring down at the floor and attacking my mind. I’ll just sit and wait until they read it, my testing is over. I think it should only be a matter of time before I’m killed or retrieved, or whatever. But I’ll go out smiling as human as I came in and they’ll know that when the read those two words, “Fuck You.”

 
 
I flew through this story. I didn’t feel like it was rushed and I wasn’t trying to write it so fast, it just happened. Which is good because going into it I had zero idea what I was going to write about and thought it was going to be one of those, “Oh shit, I have writer’s block this is going to be a tough one,” days. I leaned a little bit more toward horror this week. I hope you enjoy and thanks for reading. Have a very merry Wednesday.

Mother

Word Count: 1053
Writing: 41 minutes
Editing: 12 minutes
Total Time: 53 minutes

The city was so bad, even the animals were mean. It didn’t matter to the young man though, this was where he’d grown up, it was home, and he knew how to handle himself on the streets unlike most of the pilgrims who passed through. Dodging and ducking through the fallen pillars and debris he made his way to the worship center where there would be a parcel of food waiting for him as there was every week. Mother had grown sick years ago when he was only just a boy, but before she had, she’d taught him how to handle himself like a man.

“And what do we do the second we leave the house?” She’d asked him each time they departed on whatever new mission of survival that day held.

“Grab hold tight the handle of my blade, for if it’s a fight they want, we aren’t the ones to be slayed.” He smiled now as he squeezed the very same handle that lay sheathed on his waist. Mother had always made easy rhymes to help him remember the rules and keep safe, and once he’d repeated them to her she always smiled down on him and said with a pat on the head,

“You’re a good boy.”

Some of the older people, his mother included, would tell him stories of the world before it’d changed, but it was always hard for the boy to imagine. For him, it was like trying to imagine one’s own birth, a memory a man could pretend to remember because he knew the mechanics of the situation, but never truly know. From what he’d heard though it’d been a magical place.

Color lit the streets of the city where they lived and people sold amazing mechanical merchandise that had powers beyond his own simple understanding. Men, women and children had parties day and night celebrating nothing more than being alive on the Earth that was. Then the flying people appeared in the sky, and life went dark for the human race.

A noise rattling behind the young man’s left shoulder brought his mind back to reality and away from his memories and legends of old.

“What do we do with our eyes when we walk through the street?” Another of his mother’s questions danced nostalgically through his mind.

“We keep our eyes on the prize, so the gypsy witches don’t pluck them and use them as spies.” In his head, the voice that repeated the rhyme to his mother was not the deep voice of the man he’d become, but the sweet light voice of the boy he still felt he was. Although it’d been some time since he’d come across a gypsy in the streets, he knew they were always there, watching and waiting for some innocent traveler to be moving a bit too absentmindedly.

After another moment of stealthy running he came upon the door of the worship center, and just like every other week he knocked on the door using the heavy piece of metal that had been attached.

“Name?” Came a deep voice that seemed to echo from the sky.

“Son of Theda,” he replied.

“Mother Theda?” Asked the ominous voice.

“Growing stronger by the day,” it was the same as every week for years now. Though the young man had never entered the place of worship his mother had been a member, and the place always took care of its members, after all they were the ones that had once fought the flying people.

Without another word a heavy, wet parcel fell at his feet. There were no more words to be exchanged, the young man grabbed the brown package and turned to run back the he’d come.

“And when do we walk my sweet boy?”

“Never.” The boy replied in his head. This was not a command to be taught with a rhyme, mother had made it clear, to walk, meant to die.

As he ran back the way he came he looked down the street at the horizon. A pilgrim man mother and he had met once told them of something called salvation just beyond the dark and beaten city. It was why strangers even decided to pass through the town.

“The road to heaven is paved with miles of hell,” the strange man had said. The boy hadn’t then nor did he now know what the words meant, and before he could ask, mother had cut the pilgrim down. It was another lesson for the boy, strangers who babble aren’t to be trusted and should be killed on sight.

He smiled as he remembered all the wonderful things his mother had taught him and he rounded the final corner to their house.

“And when we get home what is the final thing we do before leaving the street?” Her voice in his head was magical.

“Turn to make sure we’re not known, and if so draw the blade from the sheath.” It was the final step to ensure their safety and now the young man scanned the street with his back against the heavy wooden door. Once he was satisfied no gypsy witches, pilgrims, or other dangers lurked in the dark he entered the house.

“Mother, I’m home safe with food for the week.” He called running up the stairs and dropped the package on the table where she sat. It was her spot and she’d been there for years.

He shooed the flies that remained away from her body and wished the sickness hadn’t stolen her voice. At first the smell of her was nauseating but now he welcomed it like the aroma of a favored memory.

“Mother will you be eating this week? You’re looking much better.” The exposed teeth and jaw didn’t move and the empty eye sockets told him nothing. He sighed and opened the parcel.

“Very well, maybe next week you will be feeling better until then I will make sure no food goes to waste. After I’m through maybe we can play a game or read a story.” Those were his favorite things to do with mother. And though she wasn’t as interested as she’d once been before the sickness took hold, he knew she enjoyed the activities. After all, they were one of a kind, each other’s forever and ever.   

 
 
So, this week has been an adventure for me for reasons I’ll keep to myself. That being said, part of this idea came from an unsettlingly vivid dream I had last night. But I think this might be one of my favorite stories thus far and probably will grow into something more. I hope you enjoy. Next week I should be back to posting on Wednesday. Thanks for your patience. Happy Thursday.

Testing

Word Count: 1256
Writing: 1 hour 2 minutes
Editing: 13 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

 
“After this we’re done. True blue officers of the law,” said Jeremy.

“If we make it,” replied Paul solemnly. The two walked through the large grayish-white stone archway, into a wide open room of the same stone from floor to ceiling. In the middle of the room were two stone benches with green bushes on either side. As the two men neared the benches Jeremy couldn’t help wonder how the bushes were staying alive in this room with its man-made fluorescent lighting, and no natural sunlight.

“We’re gonna make it man. We’ve already proven that we’re not like the rest.” As Jeremy spoke he saw Paul’s face drop and said a silent prayer for the man. The entrance tests had been hard on him, they were designed to make one face their demons and determine whether or not a man would be able to stand strong against the threats of greenies. And it seemed Paul had many more demons than most.

They’d started training with ten other cadets only a week earlier, but to the men it was a lifetime ago. Heart was what the recruiters called the first test. It was designed to see if when push came to shove, a man would make the right decision. Each cadet was escorted to a solitary confinement that was then filled with hallucinogenic gas designed to bring one’s deepest desires to life—for many men it was family or loved ones that would appear. Then the challenge came, it was about protecting humanity no matter what, even if it meant the cadet would have to kill the things he most loved. Which it normally did. Half the class didn’t make it past day one.

The next test was Body. All the men had assumed this would be the easiest and some had even gone so far as to call it a “free pass” test. Jeremy saw the smiles on the recruiters faces when they heard that and immediately knew, no matter what the test entailed, nothing about it would be a freebie. Each man was given a piece of sensitive information that was to be for their eyes only, no matter what. Then the torture started. Three days, multiple increasingly sick methods of “information retrieval,” and another three cadets went home.

The final test was Mind, and here the last two cadets stood.

“What do you think we’re supposed to do?” Asked Paul cautiously standing absolutely still as if touching anything may shatter the framework of reality.

“I’m not sure,” said Jeremy, eyes glued on the vibrant green of one of the small shrubs. He couldn’t explain why but it was wrong, the whole place. From the ash white of the walls to the immense green of the shrub, and the more deeply he stared, the more he knew, this would be their hardest test yet.

“Do you think we should sit down?” Asked Paul, glancing at the benches like they were monsters ready to consume him if he accidentally made eye contact.

“Maybe we should…” then it happened. The room spun in their eyes like a man who’s had far too many drinks. Queasiness set in and Jeremy had to fight the urge to vomit. A ringing erupted in his mind and Jeremy closed his eyes while pressing the palms of his hands to his temples. Whatever had hit them hadn’t taken it’s time and come on slowly, it hit them like a truck going down a steep incline at full speed.

“Gentlemen,” it was a woman’s voice, the Instructor. “Welcome to the final test, here we decide if your mind can stand up to the weapons of the greenies. As you know,” Jeremy had to fight to understand the words and momentarily he wondered if Paul was still there with him, but the room spun so vigorously when his eyes opened he dared not look. “A strong mind scrambling effect attacks the human brain when in close contact with the alien life forms. Some men can withstand it while others can’t. In both of your pockets, you will find a permanent marker. The test is quite simple. Anywhere in the room, on any surface, you must write your name three times. You will have two minutes starting now. Begin.”

Jeremy took his hands from his head, still keeping his eyes closed, and pushed himself to his knees. He didn’t know when it happened but at some point he’d fallen into the fetal position. Lifting one hand he reached into his right pocket and pulled out the marker, falling on his head as he did so, unable to hold himself up with his deteriorating motor skills.

“Open your eyes,” he whispered to himself. “Open your eyes!” He said louder and this time forced the lids to separate. The room still spun like a ride at an amusement park. Jeremy used his left hand to try and lift his body again and only resulted in re-slamming his head on the floor.

“Just write,” he said to himself. Forcing his eyes to focus on the marker in his hand he shakily began scrawling letters on the floor. Even in the rotating room he could see the marks he was making were barely legible, but it didn’t matter as long as they read his name three times in a row. After an eternity the buzzer rang, but the room didn’t stop spinning. Jeremy heard footsteps approaching as the marker fell from his hand.

“Tsk, Tsk, we had such hope in you.” The disappointment was surprising.

“Huh?” Jeremy managed to get past his lips. “But, I wrote my name,” he said, “three times, like you said,” every word was breathy and forced.

“Enough,” she called to the empty room. The feeling began to subside, “Open the door.” Jeremy stared at the eerie green of the shrubs as the woman above him came into focus.

“Cadet, can you tell me your name?” Asked the woman in a more kind voice than he’d heard since the training started.

“Of course,” the words were less breathy and talking became easier. “My name is Jeremy Caldwell.”

“And where do you think you are right now?”

“I’m finishing the final test of the mind for entrance into the force.”

“This is going to be hard for you to hear but in an hour I promise you’ll be okay. I need you to open your eyes.” Jeremy was confused, his eyes were open, weren’t they?

Then everything faded the white stone melted into the padded room of his solitary confinement. The gas. The memories. It all came back to him in a rush and he saw a woman standing in an open doorway.

“Now again Cadet, what is your name?” She asked again soothingly. Tears welled in his eyes, and his heart dropped to the pit of his stomach.

“My name is Paul Caldwell.”

“Yes and where are you?”

“I think,” he sniffled hard, “I think I just failed the first test, Heart.”

“Yes Cadet, you are correct. And who is Jeremy Caldwell?” She asked. Paul remembered his brother well, he was the whole reason he was here.

“My baby brother, he died two years ago and I swore I would make this happen for him.” Paul cried harder, he thought he was over the death of his brother, but it appeared his demons still had a hold on him.

“Very good cadet, there is always next year. Take your time to gather your thoughts and when you’re ready we can escort you to your ride.” 

 
 
So, this story came from something I read about being able to modify human embryos to give them specific eye colors, physical attributes, etc. Sorry for the delay, work has been busy lately. Happy Saturday, enjoy.

Unlucky

Word Count: 916
Writing: 1 hour
Editing: 11 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 11 minutes

Tay stared out the window into the rain and watched as Natalie got into the car with her new family. This was one of the worst day’s he’d had at the Dump in his short life. Not only was his best friend driving out of his life forever, he couldn’t help but hate her a little for it. Which, in turn, made him hate himself for the thought and only brought on more tears. Inside, he was truly happy for his friend that she’d been chosen, and by what looked like such nice people. That couldn’t stop his own selfish jealousy from clouding his mind, though. He’d wanted to be chosen.

Tay turned from the window and his eyes fell on the picture of Natalie in his hand. He smiled lightly and the salt from his tears seasoned his tongue. The thirteen-year-old girl that stared up at the boy had long brown hair and wise emerald eyes. He dropped the picture in his lap and stared across the room at himself in the mirror. The longer he stared, the more he accepted the truth. This was his home.

Mother Mary’s House of God and Place for Lost Children—or the Dump as the children called it—was a place where the genetically modified babies and children went when they weren’t born to specifications. Tay was supposed have been a medium sized baby, with two ocean blue eyes, and a head of brown hair. Whoever his parents had been apparently were surprised when he was born with brown, Asian eyes and stunningly blonde hair. They didn’t even give him a trial period like most of the other disappointed parents. It was straight to the dump.

Year after year he watched his friends disappear to the homes of strangers who wanted a child to love for whatever reason. But no one cared to love Tay, at least not past the nuns who were forced to by money or God. And why would they? The others looked like normal children, they simply weren’t the children the parents had designed and paid for.

Rage was darkening the boys mind and he fought the urge to throw his alarm clock at the feeble, crying image in the mirror. At least he had his own room to do it in, that was one consolation to being a Dump veteran. There was one room in the house that had a single bed and was meant for only one person, his room. Others were crammed with four to nine boys and girls, all sleeping stacked on bunks. Tay had been in the single room for so long he barely remembered sleeping on the bunk beds.

He closed his eyes and let his imagination wander. Natalie used to tell him about the rebels in the cities who were fighting to destroy all of the Baby Gen facilities. Tay remembered the excitement on her face and in those deep green eyes when she told him that they would join the fight one day. Together they would help all the kids like them and create a world where there were no dump babies ever again. When Tay would ask her where she was getting all of her sensitive information from—considering television and internet were banned in their house—she would get a sly look in her eyes and say,

“I have my sources.”

Tay smiled and wondered if one day they would see each other again. At the rebel headquarters, side by side, fighting for all those children born to the wrong specifications. An excited anger grew in his belly and he watched his adult self in his mind, clear as if it had happened yesterday and was no more than a fond memory. Natalie fought fiercely and he covered her back. They waged war through eerie labs, full of strange looking embryos in test tubes.

The thought made him sick and he wished he was holding the gun physically at that moment, executing each and every scientist that brought these unlucky children into the world. Because that’s what all dump babies were; innocent, and completely unlucky.

In his mind, Natalie led them down a metal hallway, where bodies lay in piles so thick the only option was stomping on top and over them. They ducked into a room as a new wave of mad scientists and military soldiers began firing at them. They stared at each other silently, no need to speak, they simply nodded, shared one kiss, and rounded the corner, gun’s blazing.

Tay opened his eyes. He was smiling and he looked down at the picture of his friend one more time before putting it in the drawer of his nightstand. The boy in the mirror stared out at him and they nodded at each other as their eyes met. Natalie had always told him he had the most unique eyes in the world and that anyone who couldn’t see that he was one of a kind, didn’t deserve to call him family. She’d always been good at comforting him after someone else was chosen by new parents.

With each passing year, though, it became clearer that Tay was just not the type of boy a couple wanted to care for. And as he stared at himself in the mirror he accepted the fact that he was to be a dump baby for the rest of his childhood. Until then all he could do was remember his friend, and plan for the future. 

 

    40,000: A Rough Draft

    Welcome to my collection of forty Scifi, Horror, and Fantasy short stories. Every Wednesday during the year 2015, I wrote a new one thousand-word short story in one hour, gave myself thirty minutes to edit, then published it here. 

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