Flash Fiction

On the Move

Maxine clicked the refresh button for the fourth time within the last ten minutes.

"Stupid connection," she said while petting Jenkin the Cat.

If it sold out, it would be cheap Mr.Lester's fault since he refused to get Spectrum.

Maxine had slipped the ad underneath his door nearly every day for the last month, but he insisted on keeping his less than optimal internet provider. Maxine marveled at how he could put up with such a slow and glitchy service.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Lester is the only one with an unsecured connection."  The cat purred in response to Maxine's complaints.

When the page finally loaded Maxine's heart constricted, it had sold out. She cursed Mr. Lester's cheapness. Now she would have to go to the physical store and socialize with "sales" people. The simple thought made her stomach flip.

The picture on the screen taunted her, the orb's perfect shape and the changing color promised magic.

With one glance at her drawn shades, she could tell it was still day. If she waited until nightfall it might get sold out again.

"Oh wise Jenkin the Cat, do you think the ring is worth the risk of eternal damnation?"

A single meow escaped the white fur ball's nearly perfect mouth.

"Even if I get cornered by them? The askers of incessant questions with their overtly friendly demeanor?"

This time two meows were the answer.

"Alright, if you deem me brave enough to go into battle, I won't fail you. I'll bring back our precious mood ring."


A Simple Treat

Anyone watching my family of six as we squeezed into the small blue Toyota, would think that we belonged in the circus. Maybe we did.

We somehow managed to make it all the way into the busy streets of Corona, Queens, without any A.C. on a ninety-degree summer day only partially drenched in our sweat. Normal people would turn the A.C. on rather than melt in the heat, but they didn't have a mom who suffered from the perpetual cold.

"Is it me or is there a chilly breeze?" my mom put on the spare jacket she carried around.

"Just you ma. Maybe you should move to Florida," my older sister had put up with our parents the longest, which made her a bit jaded.

"No, I think your mom is right," my aunt, who loved to copy my mom, said while she also donned her jacket regardless of the sweat that was dripping from her forehead.

"Can we just go already?" my brother whined.

"Dad still has to pay the parking meter," I said.

"But the line is getting longer. They featured the shop in the Post." My brother might hate reading books, but he enjoys reading any and every newspaper he can get his hands on. "There's probably a mob of people making their way here."

"I doubt that," dad had finally come back. "We have exactly fifteen minutes before we have to get back to the car. Does everyone know which flavor they are getting?"

"Raspberry," we all said in unison.

Dad laughed. "That's what I thought."

A few cars honked as we crossed the street. My brother gave them the middle finger and they, in turn, yelled some profanity back.

That's the soundtrack of New York, I thought, honks and yelling.

We waited on a long line, while dad kept glancing at his watch and counting down the minutes.

Once my brother had told him just to add another quarter, which led dad to go on a long rant about having to stay an extra 15 minutes to get his money's worth. After a lecture that went on for days, we learned to just stick to one flavor.

After getting six medium-size raspberry Italian ices, we packed ourselves back into the car with one minute to spare.

As I turned back one last time to look at the sign that read, The Lemon Ice King of Corona, I promised myself that one day I would come back by myself and try all the flavors. But for now, I  focused on eating the cold sweet treat before it melted away.


Winners and Losers

"Are you sure this is it?" Megan held the flashlight like a baton, hoping that she wouldn't need to use it. Thankfully the moon had lit their path.

"There aren't any other holes around here are there?" Jenny, Megan had recently found out, seemed not to be afraid of anything. She was the one that was leading the campaign.

"Jen, don't be snarky," Olivia apologized for her friend. "She's not normally this rude."

"Yes, I am. It was one of the reasons Zack asked me out," Jenny gritted her teeth for a second. Olivia bit her lower lip and Megan tightened her grip on the flashlight. "Anyway this is it. Who wants to go first."

When neither Megan or Olivia replied Jenny sighed. "Fine, I'll go first."

"Maybe there's another way?" Megan was not only not keen on the darkness but heights made her queasy. She took a step back from the hole. "I know it seems really bad, but maybe--?"

Olivia remained silent, while Jenny's eyes pierced into Megan. "He made a fool of us. Played with our emotions and then had the audacity to say it was my--our fault!"

"Still." Although she did feel the sting of Zack's betrayal, she wasn't keen on Jenny's solution.

"Maybe you can forgive his behavior but I want him to pay for what he did." Without warning, Jenny began to climb down the dark pit.

"Jen, hold on," Olivia attempted to stop Jenny from going further. "I shouldn't have told her about the witch. I thought it would be like in those retro movies, where they gave you a potion. But this witch actually wants us to gather the ingredients. Who knew revenge would be so complicated?"

Megan shrugged. They remained silent watching as Jen disappeared into the void. Megan felt her stomach constricted when she heard a loud crash.

"Are you okay?" Olivia shouted into the hole.

"Never- been- better," Jenny grumbled.

Not sure how long it would take Megan sat down in the grass.

"I just don't think he was worth this much effort," Megan whispered.

Olivia bit her lip and nodded. "When Jenny first told me, I felt like I had a hangover and I couldn't eat. Did you know I lost those pesky last ten pounds after I found out about Zack?"

"I did notice that something was different," Megan eyed Olivia. "Your hair is also different."

"Zack loved my long hair so I cut it and dyed it red," Olivia played with her newly chopped her.

"It suits you."

"I think so too," Olivia smiled. "Actually lately I have been feeling refreshed. Almost free. Being with Zack was exhausting."

"Yeah, he always had to be the center of attention. And worse he thought he was right, even when he wasn't," Megan rolled her eyes.

Olivia sat down in the grass too. "And he had a major inferiority complex. One time he had a fit when I beat him at Scrabble."

"With me it was Monopoly," Megan chuckled. My mom always said, 'Those who are sore losers, will generally always lose. Those who are sore winners will never taste true victory. But those that play with all they got, will always win.' With him, I gave it my all."

"Well, I think we won," Olivia stood up and cleaned grass off her jeans.

"I'm almost at the bottom and I can see the neon mushroom," Jenny's voice echoed. Olivia and Megan looked at each other.

"Will you tell her or should I?" Megan smirked.

"I will, but I want to see this neon mushroom first," Olivia winked.




The Big Day

Noel patted his pocket making sure the list was there as his mom called out, "El don't forget the invitations, I put them on top of the entry table."

"I already got them, mom," he replied with a sigh. He hadn't wanted a party, but his mom had insisted that he have one so he could get to know his new friends better. He didn't have the heart to tell her that he didn't have any friends to invite.

"Okay, honey, have a good day at school then."

"I doubt it," he muttered as he left his house. But maybe if the list worked he might.

Noel stopped at the park on his way to school. It was the only thing that made the move okay. Back home the nearest "park" was a patch of grass on the side of a small hill. He might have made due except for the litter that was sprinkled everywhere.

His mom had made the decision to move after her big break up with the phony Mike. He had tried to warn her about him, but she hadn't listened. At least she hadn't married him, Noel thought.

He made his way to the swings. Nothing beats the rush of ascending into the blue sky, he thought. Noel kicked his legs until he could imagine himself touching the marshmallow clouds.

"Visualize yourself as you want to be," he stated the first item on his list as thrust one hand into the air. "Invincible."

"Affirm yourself." He was glad he had memorized the list. "I, Noel, am invincible."

The next item on the list, made him take a deep breath. "Do one thing that scares you every day," he whispered and closed his eyes as he leaped from his swing.

He hit the ground hard but laughed when he realized he had done it. "I'm ready!"

Noel ran all the way to school. By the time he made it to class, he was having trouble catching his breath. All his classmates moved away from him, as he gasped for air.

They hate me, he thought but then remembered the list. "Question your inner critic," he mumbled to himself as he inhaled. They can't hate me because they don't even know me, Noel smiled and concluded, they just need to get to know me. With a new sense of purpose, he got ready for first-period gym.

"Okay class today, we are starting volleyball. You need to get into groups of six, so count off," Mrs. Bargas said.

"Oh man, do we have to? Can't we just choose our own groups?" his classmates complained.

Noel closed his eyes and prayed that they would count off.

"Fine, I guess you're old enough to pick," the teacher shrugged.

Almost instantly everyone had gotten into groups of six. How was he supposed to set himself up to win when no one gave him a chance. As he was about to admit to Mrs. Vargas that he didn't have a group, he noticed five of his classmates wandering around. He ran over to them.

"H-Hey, why don't we make a team?" Noel's hand turned to fist as he waited for their reply.

"Sure," a short boy replied and the rest of the boys just nodded.

"Cool," Noel said as he sat with his new team while Mrs. Vargas went over the rules.

He reviewed the last item on the list, help someone else. When he saw the way his teammates were serving, he knew he could help.

By the end of class, Noel had made five new friends, Joey, Kevin, Edis, Ty, and Leanord and it was all thanks to his mom's self-help book, The Confidence to Succeed. All he needed to do now was invite them to his party.



The Session

"Some times I think I'm an alien," Carly said as she brushed her hands on her jeans. "My baby brother has this game where he puts the correct pieces into the correct hole. It takes him a while but he usually manages to match each one. I think people are like that they have different personalities but somehow they all have a matching place to land. I don't."

Gina smiled, "We all feel that way sometimes."

Carly nodded. "But the thing is I feel it all the time. I sort of feel like Camus' stranger or Salinger's Holden."

Gina was impressed that the young girl had read those books. Her own kids wouldn't bother, they rather play with their phones. "What makes you think that?"

"Jessica and Michelle want to hang out with me all the time, at lunch, after school, on the weekends. And when we aren't together they message me all the time and lecture me when I don't reply right away. I just don't get it, I rather be by myself reading or writing."

Gina wondered if maybe life would be simpler without technology. The Luddites thought it was.

"My homeroom teach had a talk with me today, she said, I need to try harder to fit in, otherwise she'll have to call my dad in."

Gina shook her head. "I can talk to your teacher if you want?"

"It's okay just a few more weeks and school will be out. I can manage until then. I just don't want my dad to get in trouble, like Divya's parents did."

Gina sighed she hadn't managed to prevent them from breaking up that family. Her hands turned to fists. "I won't let that happen."

Carly smiled and looked up at her, "you don't have the power to stop it. But I appreciate the offer nonetheless."

Gina dug her nails into her hands and admitted that the child was right. All she could do was listen.

"At least I know how to act like everyone else, but I just don't really like to. Solitude doesn't scare me, but that's probably because I'm an alien."

"You aren't an alien," Gina looked around and made sure no one was around. "You're unique and there's nothing wrong with that."

"Except that there is," Carly replied.

They were both silent.

"Can I ask you something?" Carly stopped playing with her hands.

"Sure, what?"

"Why haven't you reported me?"

The directness of the question forced Gina to suck in a deep breath. It had been the question she had asked herself after each of their sessions.

"I don't know." But in Carly, she saw hope for a different future. "I like the way you view the world."

Since the start of their sessions, Carly had changed her.

"It's a beautiful place."

Gina nodded. Until recently she wouldn't have understood the truth in the statement.

The loud beep indicated that their mandatory session was over. Carly stood up and left, humming to herself.

Gina quickly jotted a few notes down.

"How is case 0001278 doing? Is she still refusing to integrate with the community?" the shrill voice of Kelly, her supervisor grated at Gina's ears.

"It was only a phase, probably caused by the death of her mom."

Kelly tilted her head to one side, "are you sure?"

"Yes, she is perfectly fine," Gina said and showed her supervisor the notes she had written. Satisfied Kelly left.

"It's the rest of us that aren't," Gina muttered to herself.





Seven Forty

Sonia drew a large clock on the wall.

"It's a mural on time," she explained to Kenny who had commissioned her. She had told him she would do it for free, but he insisted that her work be paid. After a year of friendship, he could still be very formal.

"Isn't it a bit absu--" he stopped himself, He didn't want to hurt her feelings. Plus he had given her free rein. "I mean wouldn't an actual work better?"

Sonia shook her head but kept drawing. "Clocks are going extinct."

"Uhh," Kenny said.

"They are sort of like typewriters, cassettes, VHS and all the other outdated wonders," she stopped and surveyed her work. Shaking her head she redrew the circle. Kenny watched in awe of how she could create a perfect circle by hand.

"Their time has come," she sighed.

Kenny appreciated the accidental pun.

"I want to record their existence in my mural. To give them a proper memorial."

Kenny couldn't help but smile, only Sonia would mourn for clocks.

"Are you going to paint a particular time?" he asked.

"I thought maybe at twelve o'clock. As a way to represent both an ending and a beginning."

His heart constricted, she was like that--giving hope.

"How about seven-forty?"

She stopped drawing and turned to him. "Why?"

He hadn't meant to tell her but, he couldn't keep it in any longer.

"A year ago, I was running late to meet my then-girlfriend and her parents. I had gotten stuck helping my incompetent boss. And there were train delays because of some incident," he could still feel the frantic tension he had that day, it had been really crappy.

She tilted her head as she listened to him.

"As I rushed across the park near the restaurant I was head to, I glance at my watch," he paused to remember.

"Seven-forty. Forty minutes late," Kenny scoffed at himself. He hated being late. When he looked up he saw a tiny figure illuminated by a park light, drawing magical underwater creatures on the concrete. For a moment he felt was amid the mysterious ocean. His pace stopped.

"Then I saw the world you were creating, filled with dancing fish and dolphins. The explosion of colors and sounds mesmerized me. It was like time had stopped," he swallowed. "And then you looked up with your satisfied smiled and my heart stopped." Kenny's heart pounded as he said the last part.

They stared at each other before Sonia turned back to her mural. She drew a large clock hand pointing at the seven and the small hand pointing at the forty. 




Happy Hollow-ween

"Aww, man we missed it like by a second," Tony kicked the ground causing a dirt fog.

"You mean, an hour. I told ya not to dress up," Alex smirked.

"But it's Halloween, you have to dress up."

"We're going to High School next year."

"Exactly, it's our last year to have fun," Tony kept kicking the ground enjoying the dust cloud he created. "So what do we do now?"

"We can sneak in," a hushed voice whispered from behind a tree.

Both boys jumped before slowly turning around.

A girl with a pixie cut stepped out of the shadows.

"Diana?" Tony straightened his cloak. Alex lifted an eyebrow. "She's in one of my classes."

"The one you haven't shut up about since the start of school?" Alex avoided several of Tony's attempts to punch him in the arm.

Diana pretended to ignore the whole scene but her cheeks had turned cherry red.

"So are we sneaking in or not?" Alex walked toward the dilapidated house.

"But it's a haunted house," a voice squeaked from behind Diana, causing both boys to jump again.

"I had to babysit my little brother." A small curly-haired boy moved next to Diana.

"Wait did you follow me-us?" Tony's voice squealed a little at the end.

"I heard you making plans and I really wanted to see a haunted house--" Diana shrugged.

Now Tony's cheeks were red as well.

Alex sighed. "Well, are we going in or not?"

"It says it's closed," the little boy pointed at the sign.

"He can read?" Tony studied the little guy.

"Bobby's in first grade," Diana said.

"And I'm really smart. That's what my teacher says," Bobby stood taller.

"You're partically a genius," Tony gushed.

Alex scuffed, "he does sound smarter than you."

"Shut up." Alex avoided another series of punches. "Say it with words."

All four looked up at the house where a new light flashed through the windows. They all took a step back.

"Someone's in there," Diana moved closer to Bobby.

The door creaked open.

"How? There's no one there?" Tony took another step back, pulling Diana and Bobby with him.

"Maybe it's mechanical?" Alex walked towards the open door.

"I wouldn't do that Al, " Tony retreated further away.

Alex started up the stairs when a ball of lime green light appeared in the previously empty front door.

"Ahhhhh!," Alex was the first to run away screaming, followed by Tony who was carrying Bobby and pulling Diana with him.

When they became a blur in the distance two tall shadows stepped out of the house.

"How many is that?" the tallest one leaned against the door.

"Twenty so far. I love this-- what's it called again?"

"Hollow-ween, the day when the Hu-mans celebrate--"

Knowing there was a lecture in the works XD asked, "do you think these g-things exist?"

"Ghost?"

XD nodded.

"According to our records, there is no such thing and we have studied earth extensively. Hu-mans are just gullible."

XD laughed but then became silent. "Do you think the female hu-man and the male hu-man will end up together?"

"You've been watching too much Hallmark, but yeah based on their body temperatures and their scents they will."

"Good." XD wondered if one day he would find his mate.

"Shhh! I think more hu-mans are coming."

"Want to try the zombie hologram this time?"

XD nodded.




The Message

The candles flickered as his shadow eclipse them. His pace continued to follow the raindrops tapping on the stone walls outside.

As he approached the large wooden door, he stopped to admire the craftsmanship of the golden triangles etched on it. Nil also took this time to breathe in the silence.

The arguing from the previous times continued. It always surprised him how although they could hardly agree, they had managed to subdue the others.

He glided on the wall careful not to draw any attention to himself.

"No, it can't be done," one of the cloaked ones spoke.

"But it has been. If you'd only care to look at our test results," one of the ones dress in brown said.

Nil watched the dark figure sitting at the head of the room. His eyes were closed.

"Wait, what results? You weren't allowed to perform the ritual without approval," the cloaked one hissed.

"We did have permission."

"From whom?"

"From Fionn, of cou-"

Everyone became silent as they watched the dark one. When his eyes didn't open the cloaked one resumed. Nil used this opportunity to get closer.

"Well he is no longer part of us, out of his own choosing," the cloaked one muttered the last part.

And so the debate began again with more shouting. Nil managed to finesse himself to the dark tall figure.

"What is it Nil? Can't you see you're distracting me from this pointless show?"

How could he know, he hadn't even opened his eyes, Nil marveled at the dark one before answering.

"She stole the key," Nil said.

The dark one's eyes opened, "so it seems Risa thinks she can take on The Order. She was always proned to the chaos, an unfortunate trait she passed on to her daughter." Nil could almost swear he heard the regret in the dark figure's voice.

"Tell the Watcher it's time."

Nil nodded before scurrying away, but as he closed the door he heard a nearly silent voice, say "order", when not only the arguing stopped but the candles' light remained frozen still.

"What sort of power must this Risa have that she would oppose the head Alchemist?" Nil asked the rain once he reached the safety of the outside world.




Cherry Red Revenge

"How did I get talked into this?" Janet asked her reflection as she patted down the pleats on the front of her dress and fixed her intricate mask.

It was Corey's fault, he knew she was weak towards dares. Something that her grandfather had instilled within her, "never get beaten by anyone." He had meant it literally, as well as, figuratively.

"All the Rookies do it," Corey grinned highlighting his swoon-worthy dimples.

Janet had of course agreed, but now she wasn't sure she had done the right thing. Regardless she knew she had to prove herself. Another lesson her grandfather had hammered into her, "anything given too freely will be taken away just as easily." And he had done just that, Janet's teeth clenched.

"Five minutes until you're up." The glass wearing assistant cut through Janet's thoughts.

Janet's throat went dry. Can I pull this off, she wondered.

When the Unit had approached her three years ago she had scoffed at the recruiter. "I'm getting my degree to bridge our differences not make them bigger."

That was before the incident, before grandfather had disowned Janet.

"I warned you he was a crook. I can spot them a mile away, but you refuse to listen to me and now--" he sneered at Janet's full belly. "Disgusting."

But her grandfather hadn't stop there, he used all his connections to make it impossible to work anywhere. So she turned to the Unit and she met Corey.

"Okay Jala, you're on. Please follow me," the assistant sped walk through the studio.

Janet walked behind and notice the perfectly shaped bun on top of the assistant's head. When they stopped Janet took a deep breath.

The lights blinded her as soon as she stepped on the stage. She was glad she had decided against wearing the wig, but still worried about her makeup melting. The last thing she needed was to be discovered.

"Everyone let's give Jala a big round of applause," the blond wigged host said.

The audience whistled and cheered.

"They really seem to like you," the suit wearing host nudged her, while his leary eyes landed on her exposed earlobes.

Dammit, how could I have forgotten, she berated herself. She had just flashed the entire audience and those watching at home.

She focused on not covering her ears.

"Make every mistake a victory." She heard her grandfather's words.

"They're my best feature so why should I hide them?" Janet said with a wide smile.

The audience went wild.

"Aside from your exquisite earlobes why should you be chosen?"

Janet had been prepared for this, "because I want to help unite the Zelle and the humans."

The host laughed, "and how would you do that?"

Janet pictured her grandfather and all his associates.

"Simple, I'd get rid of the Syndacate."

The audience grew silent.

"But they protect us," one audience member shouted.

Janet scoffed, "They make you pay for protection against them. I know this because my grandfather is the leader. And he always said, 'if you want to take an organization down you need to first chop off it's head'." And she would do just that.

"Interesting approach," the host maintained his composure.

"I thought so too," Janet said.

"You have my vote," he whispered as he led her off stage.

Corey was waiting for her at the green room. Janet took of her mask.

"I knew there was something about you when I first recruited you three years ago," his dimples expressed his pleasure. "I'm glad you finally decided to join us."

She still didn't trust him, but he had given her something to live for.

"Do you think I'll win?" Janet rubbed the cherry red lipstick off her lips.

"I'm not sure contestant number two, had way bigger ear lobes and she promised the annilation of humans. It's a tough call," Corey took her in his arms and kissed her before she could say anything. "But I promise you will get revenge."

"For Dai-Lax," the said together.



Land Fall

It wasn't something Marty wanted to think about. He felt the pressure all around him, but he was stuck here. One of the few chosen, thanks to his years of studying. At least his mom had been right when she told him, "books are the key to your future." They had been his salvation more than once.

"Still sulking Matty?" Gemma sat down next to him. Her fuschia colored lips curled into a smile. Phony, he thought but kept quiet.

"Come on Matty, you know I hate it when you stay quiet." She batted her eyes.

"Name's M-A-R-T-Y," he said.

Her smile grew wider. "I know, but I just enjoy the way your eyes light up when I call you other names."

"On the sadistic side, are you?"

Gemma's laugh echoed against the metal wall that separated them from the crushing water outside.

"I like to think of myself as playful."

Marty sighed. Great, I'm stuck with a psychopath as an X.O.

"Lighten up big M otherwise it's going to be a long four months. We barely just left," Rufus patted him on the back as he sat on Marty's other side.

Marty stifled another sigh and made a mental note to wash his shirt again tonight. Rufus was one of those touchy people.

While Gemma and Rufus discussed the thickness and consistency of their poo, Marty's hope for a peaceful mission completely shattered.

Only the deafening sound of the alarm got them all to act professionally. The captain's voice followed the alarm. "Potential sighting, everyone to their stations."

Marty knew it was too early for them to find it. The last continent wouldn't be an easy find, but he went to his station anyway. He picked up his book, the reason why he was selected and was able to finally leave the tin can of an ocean station, they called Mercutio. His only home since he was born, but now he had the promise of feeling firm land underneath his feet.

The captain's voice confirmed his suspicion, "False alarm, everyone stand down."

Confirming no one was around Marty, took out his drawing of the land that he knew from his visions. "Soon," he said. But when he heard the loud whistling and the hearty laughter outside the hall he sighed. "But not soon enough."



The Chase


The footsteps stopped. Andrew filtered through the sound of his breath, the pounding of the rain and the chatter. He couldn't hear anything else. Maybe she had given up?

There was a shift in the air which not only drove the pellets of rain towards him but brought the scent of roses. She was close.

The distant chatter turned to laughter.

He wouldn't be caught again, not by her, not by anyone. When he looked down at the street below he wondered if dead was better than caught.

"No," her candy voice echoed nearby.

He agreed since he still had to finish it, with a little more time he would find the answer. With his heart pounding he leaped. Miraculously landing on the other side.

"Celebrate later," he told himself as he ran down the metal ladder using all the adrenaline that was left.

Up ahead it rose like a guard, the border between her territory and the monk's turf.

"Stop," the clanking of her stiletto heels grew nearer. How she could run in them was a mystery he would never solve.

The red bricks and neon lights lighted his path but he was almost out of fuel. His limbs felt heavy. He forced his mind to focus on their anthem.

As he passed through the gates he shouted to Kassandra, "I refuse to be another brick in your wall."

She stopped running, put her hands on her hips and laughed, "don't you know, we're all just bricks in the wall."

"When I find the answer I'll prove you wrong," Andrew promised Kassandra.

"We shall see about that," she turned around swinging her hips as she walked away.





The Sky Above

They hadn't gone away. They probably wouldn't.

He studied people's faces as they walked passed him, not a hint of awe. Everything seemed normal to them,  the same blue sky and grey sidewalk.

But it wasn't for him. He saw them with their dark luminosity and the ethereal mist that hovered over them.

"Nope," he shook his head, no one else can see them.

A slight shift in one of them caught his attention. The mist changed color too. Regretfully it was a mauve that he knew he could never reproduce in his paintings.

He followed the river to a nearby park where he found a girl with platinum hair. She was staring at the sky.

Maybe she can see them, he thought.

He sat on a bench and watched her gaze at the sky. After an hour he built up enough courage to walk over to her.

"What are you looking at?"

He was about to repeat the question when her sapphire eyes locked on to his.

"The flames in the sky," she said. "No one seems to see them."

"How can you tell?" He cursed himself for not being able to come up with something better.

"If they could, they wouldn't be able to look away."

He nodded.

"Wait? Can you see them?"

"No, but I can see the flowing rivers above," he replied.

"I see," her eyes sparkled.

The mist was fuschia now and the water sped up.

He smiled.

"Your flame just flickered," she smiled back.





The Sins of Wealth

"Rich!" Sally gasped. The bag of gold coins on her lap meant he wasn't lying.

She still saw the boy from next door. He had not only been her best friend but her first love. His sage eyes melted her when they lit up with a smile.

Finding it hard to stand she sat down on the broken steps. Sitting made her feel stable and gave her the time to think.

He was a lot taller than the last time she saw him. His back was straight and the hollowness in his cheeks had filled out.

Sally felt his gaze, he studied her studying him.

The easy goofy grin spread on his lips. Yup, he was still the same, always trying to put her at ease.

"It's not bad," he said.

She didn't know how to tell him it was worse than he knew. He would be shunned. Everyone would gossip about him and equate him to the Underlord.

Question flooded her mind. Why? How? When? Then her brain tried to puzzle a solution. None of her ideas seem plausible, even denouncing it was not enough.

Sally had seen what had happened to Mrs. Bertha, such a sweet and kind woman. It hadn't been her fault that her husband had left it to her in his will. He had been from the outer worlds, an exotic fellow.

She could still hear Mrs. Bertha's soft pleas, "but don't you see we all benefit? I want to use it to build a store here. One where we can get all the things we need and not have to wait until the Orcay come pulling their carts."

The convenience had almost swayed Sally. For a moment she imagined all the possibilities. But the Comity had voted on banishment. The ashes from her house still remained with the sign, Polluted by Greed.

Sally shook her head.

"You can't tell anyone," she concluded.

Luke sighed but nodded.

She took his hand and led him inside her shack. He stopped to touch the hole covered with plastic by the window. This was the only home she knew. The softness in Luke's eyes as he pressed the bubbling duct tape made her cheeks flush.

The only other time she had felt this sensation was after she had found a gold coin while playing hide and seek with Luke. The twinkle in his eyes when he saw the radiating yellow in her palm, should have warned her of what was to come.

When the Orcay had come she ventured to their carts. They brought the usual nearly rotten food, but in the midst of grey there was a sprig of green. She knew it to be a holy herb. Thinking of her sick brother she had presented the gold coin. The echoing silence that followed still haunted her. With no coin and no holy herb, she had been chased out from the carts.  At school, she had been made to stand in front of her class. It took weeks for her usual friend to talk to her again.

Luke had threatened to go to the Orcay and retrieve the coin. It was then that he had become her best friend.

Her cheeks flushed again but for a different reason. She smiled at Luke.

"I'm going to make you my famous 'everything and nothing' stew," she said as she grabbed all the scraps from the leaking cold box.

They ate quietly except for their growling stomachs. She put down her spoon and looked around her house and wondered, was being poor really that holy? Was Rich, a sickness? Luke didn't have the black fog of putridness coming out of his mouth. And were the glimmering gold coins the root of evil?

She shook her head of the rest of the thoughts and focused on the solution; the only way is to find out.

"Luke, take me to see the other worlds," she said and watched as his eyes lit up, noticing that among the sage there were flecks of honey. He had kept his promise and brought her back not only one gold coin but many.

Sally knew that the truth laid out there and she wanted to see it for herself. She picked up her spoon and continued to eat. The soup tasted better.






Falling

Jackie huffed out the air leaving a smokey cloud trail of her hot breath. She knew she shouldn't wait for him outside in the cold, but she couldn't help herself.  A smile formed on her lips as their memories flashed in her mind, leaving a stream of warmth in her heart.

The first time she saw him he was standing on this cliff calmly taking in the views of the water gushing below.

"Aren't you afraid of falling?" She knew she disturbed his meditation. She ought to feel guilty, but it isn't often you can ask an angel a question.

"What's flying like?" she asked although he hadn't answered her previous question.

"Falling," he said.

She had never fallen.

"It's a rush of freedom and the peace of knowing," he kept his gaze on the water.

"Knowing what?" All she knew were the things she couldn't do. She heard her mom's voice in her mind.

"There are things you can and cannot do," she lectured as Jackie wiped the wall clean of her colorful creations. She had argued that the white had called her to add colors and shapes. But her mom ignored her and continued her rant. The memory faded when the angel turned to her.

"Do you want to fly?" He held out his hand.

She shook her head but took his hand.

His hands were ice, but they melted the clean walls of her life.

"Are you ready to fly?"

"Yes," she mumbled.

He lifted her up to the edge. She gasped at the sight of the world in front of her but closed her eyes when she looked down and saw the tumulous water below.

Something soft caressed her lips.

"First you need to fall," he whispered in her ear.

She had.




The Memory Machine

Harry inspected the contraption in front of him. It had to be metal from the way it glimmered in the light. The smooth exterior felt warm to his touch. Which metal?

"It isn't stainless steel," he noted. 

"Stainless steel feels cool against the skin," he heard old professor Maroy's grainy voice. "Not because it is cool but because it is a good inductor. It takes your heat into itself."

Alchemy of Metals had been his favorite subject at school. He met Marla there. Marla with her large appetite and small frame. She wasn't much of a cook, so he did the cooking and she did the eating.

"She probably found a better cook," he scoffed as he caressed the machine.

He turned the contraption upside down. It wasn't copper, it lacked the tan orange color and the vibration was off.

"Some metals are man-made and others, like copper, are a gift from nature," professor Maroy purred as he held his copper bar.

Marla had bought Harry a medium-sized copper-lined pan for their eight-month anniversary, "to make your world-famous lasagna." She had always loved his lasagna the best. She would moan in delight as she ate it.

"You should open your own restaurant," she said between bites. "Actually don't, then you'll be too busy to cook for me." She was both selfish and possessive, qualities he admired. He shook the memories back.

"Marla's gone," he sighed. 

Harry's arms hurt from holding the machine.

"Osmium," he said and placed the machine down and touched his heavy heart.

Harry shuffled the papers in his pocket until he found the post-its. Then he picked up a pen. When he finished writing he pasted the note next to the machine, "BROKEN".

He turned his attention to the next contraption. "Time Machine, huh?" 

He smiled as he sat down inside. If it can't be forgotten then maybe it can be changed, he thought as he pushed the ON bottom and adjusted the knobs.