The master thief locked another door behind him, hoping to further the distance between himself, the competition, and the Minotaurs in pursuit. As he gasped for air, he could still feel the rumble of hoofs on stone reverberating through the floors and walls. “Thud, thud, thud…” The menacing sounds of harrowing screams and a certain death suffocated his lungs with dread. Such was the challenge to steal the famed Skeleton Key, the key of all keys that could open any lock in the wider world. A coveted prize worthy of one who called himself master thief indeed.
With no time to lose, the master thief advanced through the labyrinth of doors. One by one, his nimble hands picked the locks with the haste of a stenographer at an auction. The difference being that entry required a bid of one’s life with no clear insurance of a winner. Whoever said auctions were fair game never had to put their life on the line! But as the hours ticked away, progress slowed and the once murderous echoes of casualty had been replaced by a quietude of unease. The Minotaurs were listening for that next jingle. Fearing that the slightest snap of a broken pick would give a heading, the master thief could do nothing but remain still.
Morning returned with the sound of thrashing. The hunt resumed but the master thief now had second thoughts about the ordeal. Was the Skeleton Key just a legend? Would he run out of provisions before finding it? Would he find his way back to the exit? Perhaps cutting his losses would be the best course of action. As he weighed his options, the sound of doors snapping in two intensified and he choose the latter. Run and live to fight another day he thought. But just as his convictions were overturned, all the locks around him bolted shut and vanished. The sound of impending doom subsided like an apparition facing a strong wind. A realization then dawned on him. There was never a Skeleton Key to be found but always one in the making. How else could it open every lock in the world? Thus the master thief remained and trained his hands to become a master key.
The munchies gnawed on Jackson. He ran out food yesterday and hadn’t eaten since the start of the coding marathon. Sugar and caffeine just weren’t enough. Plus stormy skies had begun to creep behind his other window. A distant rumble could have been heard if not for his headphones.
As Jackson typed furiously away, racing with the keyboard against the clock, his stomach kept growling. Even his dog whimpered, sharing a bit of compassion for the hungry tummy. Finally, Jackson finished the difficult part and exclaimed “Alright, alright! Time to make a run for the burger joint”. But as he flew out of apartment complex towards the local fast food place, the down-pour hit and power went out along the entire block. Jackson ran home wet, hungry, and to a blank terminal.
Joey gave all the right answers. He stated his accomplishments with confidence, summarized the company’s mission statement, and gave a compelling vision of leadership for five years down the road. The interview neared its end and he could smell the offer under the table. One last question separated him from his future work. The examiner cleared his throat and asked, “What would you wager for your employment here?” Without batting an eye, Joey unrolled his left sleeve to reveal a cybernetic arm. He then extended his other hand, made of flesh and bone, and stated “my right arm”. The examiner nodded and shook his hand. “Welcome to the syndicate.”
Bang! As the smoke from the pistol cleared, the audience gasped in shock and horror. The magician had “misfired” and shot himself in the right temple. He even added fake blood mixed with bone and brain matter to enhance the realism. Following the commotion, a “doctor” from the crowd rushed the stage and pronounced the body dead. The body double was a cadaver and the magician had long fell through a trap door beneath the stage. However, the magician never reappeared.
The prisoner tallied the markings on the wall. Today marked the last the day of his sentence. He’d be a free man after counting twenty years worth of ticks along brick and cement. What was the outside world like he wondered? He had only heard bits and pieces, voices from a radio perhaps. Sometimes, a minty scent would draw him to a distant past, a life outside his incarceration that would appear in fragments but wasn’t his own. During those moments, he would spit to remove a bitter taste that had started to ferment in his mouth. His greatest enemy however was sleep. Dreams of a lifeless young woman with deep blue eyes that held a streak of crimson red drove him from rest. Thus, the prisoner condemned himself to remain awake and to serve the full length of his punishment.
Star-crossed lovers danced the night. Like binary stars, their orbits spun tight. But the heavens conspired, the galaxies forbade. A black-hole came and tore the lovers away.
Separated they were, for eons adrift. Loneliness held a permanent shift. But as anger swelled, they wanted to rebel. No planet would be safe from their hell.
So the planets flew and in size they grew. The galaxy shrank as their sorrows sank. Light would never reach their ranks.
Star-crossed lovers danced the night, now hidden in plain sight.
Loki was a superstitious man. He always carried a salt packet to toss a pinch over his shoulder and had woven a piece of wood into his belt to knock. Four-leaf clovers trembled beneath his feet. So when Loki forgot his wallet one day, he swore to never make the same mistake again. Breaking a wishbone, he placed the larger half in his wallet. To top it off, he hid a small bell in one of the compartments that would slightly jingle when he moved. On his morning jog the next day, several dogs had found a new best friend.
“Time is so fickle” exclaimed Celine. “You waste it when early, lose it when late. Yet it lags when you try to count it and flies when you don’t pay attention to it. Why do we have such a hard time pinning it down?”
“Well there is downtime, or dead time as we Americans call it”, smirked Jesse. “Time is like spacing between words or short pauses of silence. One has a hard time counting silence, no?“
“Your French is little behind the times J but I see your point. Maybe time is like a road-trip. One remembers the landmarks or the events along the way but hardly the drive. Extending this analogy, life would be a race against time, to fill the silence despite knowing that it ends with the one final event of death.”
Jesse’s face held a contemplative look. “Yet, one can borrow, share, and spend one another’s time together. Others can help fill the silence but ultimately, it is one’s own burden. Maybe this is why the young aren’t much bothered by it whilst the old feel the strain.”
“Indeed, the young have novelty on their side. The old who are burdened with the repetition of living don’t have that luxury.” Celine paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. The sound of her wristwatch filled the silence. “It’s getting late and I have to wake up early for work. Thanks for hearing my thoughts.”
A fraudster skimmed a stack of credit cards between waiting tables on a packed night. Feeling a bit smug after the shift, he met his fence to exchange the stolen data for some cash. Then he went to his favorite bar, loaded up on some drinks, and left a generous tip. The next day, his house was raided by the FBI. The search warrant stated: “Forgery and counterfeit currency”.
Two wolves sought to capture a herd of sheep. The first wolf would attack head-on and scatter the flock. The second wolf would dress up in sheep’s skin and lead them to a cliff. When they put their plan into action however, only three quarters had fled. The remaining ones bared fangs.