Roulette

ball casino chance gamble

The croupier dropped the ivory ball and spun the wheel.  “12,” he announced.  The croupier organized the winnings and handed out the chips.

Sally placed her bet off the grid. “Spin me a wild ride, croupier.”

The croupier gave her a strange look, then dropped the ball and spun the wheel.

It kept spinning.  And spinning.

The casino fell silent as Sally took the croupier’s hand. “Looks like I won,” she whispered as she grabbed him by the wrist.  She licked his neck and nibbled on his ear. “Now give me my prize.”

***

This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #107spin. Believe it or not, I had to do research to find out how roulette worked for this story, further showing how sheltered I’ve been in my life.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Bone Forge

steampunk-1809590_960_720

Hot.  Flames singed at his flesh.

Pain. His arm ached when he tried to cover his eyes, and his side throbbed with constant, stinging pain.

Alfred whimpered and remained lying down.  “Oh God,” he asked, “My God, why did you forget me?”

“Forget who?” asked a voice.

The light in the room changed as an old woman with wild, grey curls sticking from her messy bun pulled a curtain open.  She placed a hand on Alfred’s head, taking the chance to examine him.  She grabbed a pen light and tested his pupils’ dilation.  “Hmph.  That bootup was supposed to be a test.”

Alfred’s rapid heartbeat and breathing slowed.  “Where am I?” he asked.  “I take it I’m not in Hell?”

“Depends on how much and what kind of Hell you believe in.”  She flipped a switch, and the gears behind Alfred slowed.  The hot fire dimmed.  “This is The Bone Forge.”

Alfred swallowed.  “No.”  He lifted his painful arm, mechanical gears whirring.  His right side, down to the lung and diaphragm, had been replaced with computerized versions.  His body stung where his nerves and blood intersected with the machine’s circuitry and pipes.  “This can’t be happening – I said no resuscitation, no experiments!”

“Oh, get over that.  I haven’t paid attention to paperwork in months.” The old lady tsked, then unhooked a few electrical cords from Alfred’s body.

“I fought for our freedom,” Alfred said.  “I was supposed to die for it, too, not become a… a mechanical zombie!”

She kicked the brakes on the gurney and moved the IV bag such that it hung at his head.  “I can still cut the power to your brain, if you want.  You’re not able to survive on your own, not for long.”

“Will they let you do it?”

“‘They’ don’t have any say in it.”  She pushed the gurney through a door into a cool, dark hallway.  Some of the lights flickered, some remained dark.  “General Applequist surrendered his army three days ago, and our glorious Revolution’s about to be downgraded to just another civil war.  The only people who would care if I pull the plug on you are our enemies, and them only because they’re jealous of my tech.”  She shrugged.  “I don’t care.  I expect they’ll find me guilty of war crimes at my trial, and I’ll let them take my life.  Better than them taking my secrets.”

Alfred winced as she pushed his gurney over a threshhold.  The room he entered had barred windows, and the morning light shined through a light dust that swirled in the room.  He could still smell the smoke from the bombings, from when the front had raged just at the edge of Diamond City.

His lip quivered.  Pain echoed through his cheek, so he lifted his left hand – still human, not machine – and felt the smooth mechanics.  “Can I look at my face?”

The old woman sighed, but she turned the gurney to face the cracked mirror on the wall.

Alfred turned his head away from the mirror.  “God didn’t forget me.  He purposefully turned away.”

“Believe about God what you want, but don’t forget this.”  The old lady put a hand to the bed, just next to Alfred’s mechanical arm.  “Your country never gave up on you.  Not when you were a fresh recruit, not when you fired your gun, not when half your body’d been blown apart on the field, and certainly not now.  Now, do you want this new life your blessed, dying country gave you, or should I leave you on the gurney’s battery power for a few hours and let you make your final prayers?”

He swallowed some saliva.  “Plug me in.  I… I want my mom.”

She grabbed the man’s cords and transferred the power to the wall outlet.  “We’ll try to reach her, sweetie.  Let me get you a book to read in the meantime.”

***

This was written for D. Wallace Peach’s monthly Speculative Fiction Prompt.  It’s looking to be a *hot* prompt, so join in before the deadline!

If you enjoyed my sci-fi tale of cyborgism, consider reading my novella, If I Only Had No Heart.  It’s a horror tale about a robot cult that encourages cyborgism, and it has a lot of feelings and themes in common with this flash fiction.

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

Did I Commit and Submit a Short Story?

Last month, I repeatedly talked about how I wanted to submit a short story to a journal or anthology.  Well, I dragged my feet about it, but I submitted on April 30th, not too many hours before the deadline for my goal.

Jingle Bells

I ended up submitting my short story, Watching You, to The Dark magazine of horror and dark fantasy.  I read a few of their stories, and I thought mine was appropriate for the magazine.  That being said, a lot (but not all!) of their recent stuff had a Hispanic flavor, but I thought I had a chance.  The Dark was a higher level journal than the one I had originally identified for the story to go to, and I thought perhaps I should aim high then try somewhere else later if it failed.

What was more?

It has a reply time of a single day.  That would give me enough time to look the story over again and submit it to the anthology I had first identified without breaking simultaneous submission rules.

So I have my first rejection letter!  And I only seriously wanted to die for like 6 hours after I got it!  I’m not feeling very good right now, and I’m not sure if I even want to make the goal to submit another short story this month.

I’m seriously wondering if I’m cut out for this.  I know it’s just one rejection, and people are going to tell me things like “Oh, you have to do this if you want to be a writer,” but… well, that stuff makes me wonder if I want to be a writer.  Get used to wanting to die?  Get used to feeling like a worthless sack of poop that isn’t good at their passion?  I don’t like that!  It can’t be about that!

I don’t talk about it much on the blog because I don’t think people want to hear me whine about how I’m a f*cking lunatic, but I do have pretty crippling mental issues.  If you’ve ever wondered why I’m such a butthole on Twitter, it’s because I’m usually depressed, and not just a little depressed.  I am seeing professional help, but it’s a really rough time to live in my head.  That submission and rejection didn’t help.  I might actually be too depressed to handle this.

Right now, my goals are to not quit, to eventually eat again (self-punishment garbage that I know from an intellectual standpoint is stupid, but from an emotional standpoint I can’t get over), and to do some reading.  Maybe soon I’ll be able to submit something new (or even submit the same story to a different journal), but right now I’ve got to repair the ol’ cylinders.

A Carpenter in the Woods

20mar19

A twinkle caught the little girl’s eye. She followed the glowing spirit, then chased another once the first burned away. The trail of spirits brought her to a tree that glowed with the same spectral energy.

Feeling suddenly compelled, she sat by the tree, unable to tear her gaze from it.

The tree whispered, “Are you the woodsman’s daughter?”

She nodded.

“Your father built a special house using my child’s body as material.” The bright knot glared more intensely. “Did you know I’m equally skilled at construction?”

She shook her head no.

“Then watch the bright light… good girl…”

***

This is a very different kind of prompt entry.  The Aethereal Engineer prompts are submitted through a comment and, since the site-runner chooses one story to professionally put onto the picture, I thought it perhaps unfair to make my own post first.   The above was my entry to the contest – and what a contest!  Everyone, the Aethereal Engineer prompts have a REAL prize!  Everyone should give this an attempt at least once!

The winner of the picture above was not me (I didn’t even come in second place, haha!), so you can go here to enjoy the winning story and click on some links to find the prompt!

Drown the Sins Away

landscape lake hd wallpaper

They went down to the river, their bodies draped in white.  Their voices sang so sweetly I nearly forgot I was a creature of darkest night.

My vessel in his robes walked down the curling path.  The preacher woman held up her old hand and drew my vessel near.  “Come here to me, my sweet child, your time is finally here.”

I clenched tight inside this submerged tomb, water holding me down.  When the preacher lifted him I remained behind, a demon that had been drowned.

***

This was written for the Sammi Cox weekend writing prompt #75, submerge.  As a good Baptist (who is leaving for church in about 20 minutes), I immediately thought about baptism when I saw the word.  I put a little Halloween twist on it – hope you enjoy!

Psychic Scream

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It came upon a clear 3 am,
Waking all who soundly slept.
The noise rattled within our heads,
Our weeping the only memory kept.

I knew the pain of my neighbor
Whose child had died of leukemia.
She knew the pettiness of my childhood
And why I hated movies in sepia.

The screams of refugees
Echoed through neural hallways
And squealed for attention
From people whose lives were ablaze

The psychic scream shared our minds.
Fear shook us from skin to core,
And sadness stripped happiness.
Who was who anymore?

Fear of disease,
Fear of pain,
Fear of mistakes,
Fear of rain.

Fear of the future,
Fear of the past,
Fear of spiders,
Fear of bones in casts.

Fear of bombs,
Fear of man,
Fear of rejection,
Fear of quicksand.

Was it I who cried
When my father died,
Or was it someone else’s fear with which
This trip had made me collide?

The mushroom cloud of all fears,
Of death that waits oh so patient,
Lingered on the thoughts of every
Person young or ancient.

Not a sound of hope squished out
From all the minds together pounding,
But good things died beneath the weight
Of the baleful cries resounding.

As quick as the blessing came it went,
And in our own minds we were left.
The world fell quiet, all alone,
And somehow we felt bereft.

I sat and thought how I was pathetic,
How my petty fears and worries
Are nothing in the face of the dreams
And the stark reality of others’ miseries.

Now I think about a different fear.
I’m trapped in this helpless carcass
And can’t do anything but consider
Of how I am so small and pointless.

***

Wow, that reads like a bucket of teenage angst.  I’m almost proud of that fact.  I didn’t know I could tap into something like that anymore.

Either way, this was written for Raynobradbury’s Psychic Hearing challenge.

The Gluzzlebups’ Parade of Nations

Space

Warning, I guess: this is quite morbid.  

The announcer put its lips to the microphone.  “Next, we have the United Statesians!”

A three-toed alien named Gluzurr held the head of her bounty high and licked her lips.  Plump cheeks belied the delicacy of Gluzurr’s kill.

“And the Chinese!” the announcer bellowed.

The crowd gaped at the corpse on Boolan’s flaunted staff.  The meal had kept a fine diet.

“Next, we have Furrazh with a Zambian!”

The Zambian representative of choice had been flayed perfectly to show off the marbling of the athletic muscles.

“What a lovely parade of nations!” the announcer cast.  “Let the feast begin!”

***

This was written for the September 20th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch.  I had to participate this week because the Carrot Ranch challenges aren’t going to be back until November!  

I felt the warning at the front was warranted mostly because the prompt was way, way more cheerful than I think I managed to convey.  

Reflection

cabin covered by snow

My fingers felt cold against the window, the frost on the other side of the pane nipping against my skin.  Quickly I pulled the fingers back, not enjoying the feeling of my skin freezing against the glass.  Gaunt and tired, I saw my reflection in the window shining translucent in the candle light.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

I jumped back and yelped at the reflection’s words.  I wrung my hands together, warming the cold fingers as she stared at me intently, curiously, strangely.  “Why are you here?” I replied, watching her intently and seeing her hands work to warm themselves as well.

The girl crumbled into a ball next to the reflection of the empty fireplace, staring at me with scared face.  “I’m cold.  When is Daddy getting home with the wood?”

“I’m cold,” I somberly agreed, laying down by my fireplace.  “When is Daddy getting home with the wood?”

I watched as the little girl nodded.  “At least I’m not alone.”  Her eyes closed, her thin and gaunt face becoming pale as she lay there.

I stayed where I was, next to the empty fireplace, watching her, waiting silently to see if the reflection in the window pane ever moved again.

The Devil’s Phone Number (Part 3 out of 3)

phones

(First Installment) (Second Installment)

The man on the phone wanted me to walk away while Angel Dust Dan took another hit – or two or three – of cocaine.  I didn’t know how much was too much, but the man on the phone had been clear I was to leave with Dan’s phone.

I crossed the railroad tracks and turned to the north as the phone man had asked.  My eyes flit to either side of San Pablo, looking through the hordes of homeless people and ordinary pedestrians.  The man on the phone had said to look for a blind person.  Would I know when I found them?  I had the feeling the man on the phone wouldn’t let me miss the target.

I shook my head.  Even if Angel Dust Dan weren’t dead, he may as well be.  The economy was garbage, the war would never end, and he’d just flushed his wallet by snorting coke that… did I do that to him?  Was it my fault?

I shook my head.  Dan’s fate had already been sealed. The man on the phone had made me a thousand dollars from nothing, so how bad could he be?

I went several blocks before I saw a guy with an injury on his forehead.  He sat just outside a building, shaking a can aimlessly.  He held a cane in his hand, white with a red section on the bottom.  I hung back for a moment, watching to make sure this guy was blind, both hoping for and dreading the phone call.

Dan’s phone vibrated in my pocket, so I jumped in the brief moments before it rang.  I shuffled in my pockets and put it to my ear.  “What… what do I do?”

“Go up to the blind person.  Offer him a job.”

I raised a brow.  “I don’t even have a job.  How about you get me some income instead?”

“You’re doing your job right now.   Go up to the beggar and offer a job.   Get on the bus down to the lighthouse and find the man working at the mill.  Take his deal.”   The man on the phone hung up, and I clicked the new touchscreen off.

The blind man shook his cup.  I puffed my chest; if the beggar were blind, whatever the man on the phone was planning couldn’t be worse than his current situation, even if it killed him.  Steeling myself, I walked up to him and grunted.

The man didn’t look up to me, not really, but his head turned at my approach.  “Donations?” the blind man asked.

I bit my lip before I said, “I’ve got a lead on a job you could do.  Want it?”

He raised a brow and pulled his cup tightly to his chest.  “Nobody’s got jobs now.  What’s the catch?”

I shrugged.  “It’s down at the lighthouse.”  I reached down and took his hand.  “Come on.  It’ll be perfect for you, and you won’t have to beg anymore.”

My tug met some resistance, but after a moment, he gave in.  “I don’t have a bus ticket.  I can’t get there with you.”

“I’ll buy it.”  I managed to get the blind man to stand without much more effort, and he whipped the cane out in front of us to raster.

He took my elbow.  “Now, what kind of work do you have?  What kind of pay does it give?”  His cane hit a bike rack, so he sidestepped a little.  “I don’t want one of those jobs where they pay you 10 cents an hour.”

I chuckled.  “Ten cents an hour is illegal.”

“Ever hear of the subminimum wage?”

I chuckled.  Subminimum wage?  Was this guy off his rocker?  “I wouldn’t worry about that.”  I urged him forward, finding that the bus had pulled up to the stop just in time.  “My guy’s got a job you can do.  Sure, I could find a guy who’s not blind and all, but why do that?  The economy will pick up eventually, and that guy will be fine.  You?  You’re the better pick.”

The bus ride took a while since we had to cross the bay, but it passed uneventfully.  Plenty of people couldn’t afford this nowadays.  We went past Alcatraz, watched where they were surveying to build a new bridge, and continued on to the lighthouse.

We got out of the bus, me leading the blind man with my elbow.  “You doing ok?” I asked.

“I hope this is as good as you say.”  He knocked his cane about.

A woman with a clipboard and a briefcase came out from behind a building.  She looked to her phone – a nice, new touchscreen – and came forward as if she knew who I was and what I was doing.  She put away her phone and stood primly with an extended hand.  “Ms. Thorpe.”

I shook the hand.  “James Shanahan.”  Not my name, but my insurance agent’s.

“I’m a recruiter for a shelter for the blind.  We pay a wage to give our workers petty cash for their own needs and provide additional, in-kind payment in the form of home-cooked meals and housing.”  She opened the briefcase.  “For you, I offer a finders fee, part of the take from my own recruiting gigs.  Companies don’t get better deals than what I offer.”

The blind man hit her calf with the end of his cane.  “Petty cash?  How much are we talking?”

I gulped and nodded.  “Yeah… how much are we talking?  I don’t want to just drop him off at something that won’t help him out.”

“That’s inconsequential.  We can guarantee food, shelter, and safety.  Can your beggar’s cup do that?”  She yanked the can of change from the man’s hands and shook it.  “No.” With a gruff shove, she looked to me instead.  “You’re the guardian, right?  Just sign these papers, take your cash, and we’ll finish the rest.”

The blind man yanked on my arm.  “It’s one of those deals like the backpack place – it’s slavery!  I’ll get 10 cents an hour if I’m lucky, and I’m not going to do that.  You lied to me, mister!  Get me back across the bay!”

Ms. Thorpe removed a pen from her clipboard and offered the paper to me.  She pointed to a dotted line, and I took the ballpoint with my right hand.  A false signature on the line, and she handed me the briefcase full of cash.  “Thank you, Mr. Shanahan.”

I looked down at the briefcase.  Was… no, this was right.  He was going to be fed and housed.  Better than what he’d have otherwise.

She reached to the man, took his cane, and broke it across her knee.  “You don’t need that where we’re going.”  After peeling his grasp off my arm, she led him away to a car, stuffed him in the backseat, and they were gone.

The phone rang.  Reluctantly, I placed my hand in the lapel and pulled it out.  It was the guy – I knew it had to be.  I answered with a push of a button and put the speaker up to my ear.  “What do you want?”

“Write down everything that’s happened and what I’m about to tell you.  Take that money.  Buy a ticket to Vegas.  Put a bet on-”

“No,” I ordered.  “Who are you?  I just… I think I just sold a guy into slavery!  What the hell are you?  Are you… are you me from the future?  Is that why I’m writing this crap down?”

A pause.  “You’re going to buy a ticket to Vegas.  Go to Caesar’s Palace, find a poker table.  You’ll find-”

“Are you the devil?”

A chuckle.  “You’ll find a poker table with a lady dealer.  She’ll have big boobs, the kind you like, and brilliant blue eyes.  Play $100 on five hands, then -”

“No,” I said, listening to the voice.  “No… you’re… you’re making me destroy people’s lives.”

“You’ve already ruined plenty.  The economy’s in the toilet, and it was the fault of people like you.  What’s a few more lives down the to?  Besides, I think I’ve proven my usefulness.  Now… play $100 on five hands, then $1,000 on the sixth.”  He laughed.  “You’ll do what I say.  You are the devil.”

And he hung up.

I pointed myself to the subway and made my way to the airport.

(First Installment) (Second Installment)

The Devil’s Phone Number (Part 2 out of 3)

phones

(Click Here for the Previous Installment)(Click Here for the Next Installment)

I held the phone tight.  “Yes?”

“Don’t waste that coin,” the man on the phone said.  “There’s a napkin on top of the machine.  Take it and ask the guy who gave you the phone for a pen.”

The napkin on top of the machine was smooth, only the edges crimped and unusable for notes.  I looked to the man next to me, his blue suitcoat looking rather frayed.  “Uh… you have a pen?”

He nodded and revealed a ballpoint from a pocket.  I took it and pushed the trigger on the top.

“Shoot,” I said to the man on the phone.

“Write down everything you’ve done up to now exactly.  Ask the man with the phone for his number.”

I put the phone on my shoulder and bit my tongue while I scribbled quickly.  “What’s this number?” I asked the guy.

“What do I get out of it?”

The man on the phone didn’t miss a beat.  “Take him with you to the race track.  Give him half the take.”

I looked up at the guy.  “I’ll give you half what we’re going to make at the racetrack.  Guy on the phone has hot tips.”

He looked at the chips in my hands anodded, taking the pen.  He wrote the number on the napkin.

The man on the phone grunted.  “Now catch the 8.  Buy both you and the other guy a ticket.  Put everything on Chocolate Candy.”  With a cough, the phone cut off.

I handed the phone back to the guy in the blue suitcoat.  “Let’s go down to the tracks.”

***

I held my racehorse bet receipt in my hand tightly.  When Chocolate Candy was first past the post, I stood to cheer.  It wasn’t an outside bet, didn’t have the worst of odds, but I was going to get a good haul.

The man with the phone jumped up and down exuberantly.  “Oh, shit, who was that on my phone?  I love that guy!”

I hauled the man with the phone over to the booth, collected our winnings, and started divvying up the take.

No sooner had that happened but the phone rang again.  The man answered and gave it to me after just a moment.  “It’s for you again.”

I put the phone up to my ear.  “Do you have more instructions?”

“Walk out to the Bulb,” the voice said.  “Go up to the top of the hill.  There will be a man dealing heroine.  Approach him but say nothing, no matter what he says.  I’ll call back.”

I looked strangely at the phone, the voice gone once more, and gave it back to the unwitting follower.  “Come with me,” I said.

We walked up the hill.  It was a dry afternoon, and the path was well worn by all the stolen shopping carts people have wheeled up this place.  I steered clear of dirty needles and weird homeless people with dirty hair.  Even with my pocket full of cash, it wasn’t enough to keep me from ending up here in a couple weeks.  Eventually, I saw a person ahead of us on the path, at the top of the hill.

The man with the phone rubs his hands together.  “You sure this is what he said to do?”

“Yeah,” I said.  I gulped, wondering what was going on.  “The guy on the phone said not to talk with the drug dealer.  He hasn’t led me astray yet, has he?”

The drug dealer raised his hands, and a smile crept onto his dirty face.  He walked right up to my new friend with the phone.  “Hey, it’s old Angel Dust Dan!”

I snickered, but Angel Dust Dan didn’t find it so funny.  “I don’t know this guy,” he claimed, though his wandering eyes insisted otherwise.

The drug dealer removed a bag from his inner coat pocket.  “Sure you do.  You know the Snowman.  You know what you want.”

The man with the phone looked longingly at the bag.  “I’ll say one thing about the crisis – I’ve been clean 8 months.  It’s not a good idea to start back up.”

The man jiggled the bag.  “And all you have to show for getting clean is a load of failure and you still don’t got no job.  Just take a pinch – you like it, man.”

“No.”

The Snowman opened a pocket, but Angel Dust Dan lashed out and took it.  The Snowman accepted a fistful of Angel Dust Dan’s cash, allowing my recent companion to take a snort.  A big one.

The phone rang.  Angel Dust Dan stumbled rather than answering, and the phone kept ringing.

I reached into Dan’s coat and took the phone out.  “Hello – I’m here.  What do I do next?”

“Walk away.  Don’t return the phone.  Write everything you’ve done on the napkin.”

I waited, not noticing anything like the click of the phone hanging up.  “Who are you?” I asked.  “You knew what was going to happen.  You knew you were just going to prey on this guy’s addiction-”

“Says the subprime loan lender.”  The man on the phone coughed and wheezed.  “I know everything about you.  You’re going to walk away with the phone.  Go north on San Pablo until you see a blind beggar.  I’ll call you back.”

(Previous Installment) (Next Installment)