Saul was nervous, more nervous than usual. He'd done this several times before, but for some reason this time felt different. Inhaling deeply, he shook his arms and shoulders, trying to relieve some of the tension.
"Next," the frail woman at the window called. A woman stood up from her seat in line, holding a large vase wrapped in a blanket. She clutched at it like a child. Saul supposed such a thing might not be too far from the truth.
We hated visitors, and I hated working the gate. The best days guarding the gate were boring. Those days my big brother, Charley, and I sat at the picnic table in the gatehouse –- our old school bus stop, expanded and fortified -- played card games, and watched the leaves skitter along the road. On those good, boring days we didn’t see anyone we knew, and we didn’t see anyone we didn’t know. The morning started out like that, but just past noon the cool breeze brought along an old black woman. She was dressed for the road; her layered coats and hoods flapped in the breeze. A banged-up aluminum cane supported her left side.
All day long the ponies thundered back and forth across the steppes at the base of the Styric mountains, where the tribe gathered each spring. Berilla could hear them; a deep, muted rumble that grew and grew and peaked, shaking the ground and setting dust motes to dancing on the hot air inside the wagon. The curtains, drawn tight against the sun, dropped jewel-colored shadows across the floor, the cushions, the hand-painted tiles that ran beneath the enameled stove and up the wall behind. Berilla laid her cheek against their coolness, and sighed.
Jacqueline H. Kessler
Death came for Melanie James when she was seventy-six pounds. Her mother was in the middle of berating her when he walked into her hospital room, dressed like a doctor.
"You're selfish," her mother accused, her voice an angry hiss. She said more, and Melanie tried to listen, but the sound kept slipping in her ears--her mother shouted, her mother whispered, her mother's voice became white noise.
"I'll let go if you promise not to scream." The hand on my mouth was about to let go when it repeated, "Do you promise?" a voice asked.
I nodded yes as vigorously as possible. Much longer, and I'd black out. Tight ropes bound my wrists and ankles, but his companion had yet to take her boot off my throat. At least they hadn't killed me yet. If the riots outside hadn’t taken out the power grid, I might have seen her face. Then again, if the power was on, the security system would have been working and likely I wouldn't be in this mess.
Elizabeth H. Hopkinson
Last time I had to do this, I lost my nerve. I won't be doing that again. There were misgivings last time, guilty apparitions that would have haunted me. Not today. Today I am completely certain, more certain than I have ever been in my life.
The maids of honour are wailing. The old Chancellor's hands tremble as he helps her to the block. How can I do this? That's what they're thinking, I know. Her gown as white as snow; the block as black as ebony. And the red.? I test the axe blade with the edge of my thumb. Oh, yes. Let them wail. Their day is over; revolution is coming.
The bottom was falling out of the box. Gregor grunted and made a dash for his desk as photographs cascaded across his feet.
“Damn, damn, damn.” The box, having shed its load, collapsed completely in his arms. Gregor glanced at the door to his office to make sure nobody had seen him, then, knelt and began gathering up the glossy prints.
Most of the photos held faded grey and beige studies with white frames. Trench-coated men in black spectacles beside chrome-trimmed sedans. Women with bad skin smoking cheap cigarettes. Two children with soot smeared faces throwing rocks at a discarded TV. Scattered glass in sugar crystals at their feet. All stills from a bad arthouse movie.
The language of comedy is anything but funny. In fact, it is quite grim. Think about it. You tell gags. They end with a punch line. If you do well, you killed them. If you stink, you died. And in a fine piece of unilateral escalation, if you really stink, you bombed. A really good joke slays them. A great one knocks them in the aisles.
There's more, but I think you have the idea. Besides, I am by nature a sunny kind of guy. All this talk of violence and mayhem in regards to the gentle art of comedy gives me heartburn. Even more so, since tonight I had experienced the Mother of All Bombs. A real carpet-bombing. A genuine scorched earth, leave no blade of grass standing kind of bomb.
Mark Allan Gunnells
Morgan Gayfriend pushed through the swinging double doors into the lounge. It was small and cramped, filled nearly to capacity. There was a soda machine, a snack machine, a payphone, and a magazine rack. There was no television or windows. There were three couches and four chairs set about the room. Most of the seats were taken. Morgan stood by the soda machine then spotted a single empty seat, on one of the couches between an overweight woman with glasses and a tall gangly man in a suit and tie.
In a certain time and place there lived a king's daughter who was more beautiful than any other in the world. So lovely was she that when a messenger rode back to the king of a far off kingdom with her portrait, saying "Sire, you sent me to find a lady fit to be your queen, and I have found this portrait," the king had only to look at it to fall instantly in love with her.