Poppy stood motionless by the Cabernet collection. Empty bottles and cigarettes stubs littered the flat that was once a lively studio. Her next victim, a former gambler who had stowed himself away in witness protection, dozed off this fine rainy Sunday. He’ll take his last swig tonight, just like all the rest who drew too deeply from her vines and entangled. She was now his best friend… his only friend for that matter when the days ceased to start, life’s currents spiraled nowhere. One last swig she bubbled and extended her hands from the eddies. They were met in kind.
A priest traveled abroad to seek an answer to an age-old question… what is the good in life? Along the way, he encounters a bard, a grandmaster, and a doctor in a tavern. When inquired, the bard pined about love blossomed and then lost, the grandmaster dramatized his rise and fall from power, the doctor lamented on duty and suffering. The priest quoted a passage from God but the three laughed it off. That night, the bard dreamt of risqué encounters with men, the grandmaster of bloody pieces on a chess board, the doctor of fevered patients in nooses. Sunday morning dawned and the three men attended confessionals, each pouring their hearts out. The priest nodded and forgave each of their sin, accepting an indulgence for their penances. After the service, all parties left and continued along their merry ways. The priest took off his collar and donned a tie.
Foolish was the fish who leapt from water to land.
Its school followed suit and perished in the shallows.
Until one in a million breathed first air.
And life began anew.
Every winter solstice, Eve awaited a message from Apollo. Her husband had embarked on a dangerous mission to chart the fringes of the universe. Catastrophe struck the vessel and the last letter was strewn across the wide cosmos. Erecting a beacon that could transmit signals faster than light, she hoped to warp the past from the present. Every attempt however merely distorted the circumstances; the ship collided into an asteroid, lost compression from a puncture, ran out of oxygen… She mourned each failure knowing that each misstep resealed her beloved’s fate. Such was the cost paid for her undying love.
Illume, the light of the soul, had been blessed with the gift of life. She could animate all that she touched with a flick of her wrist, turning earth into gnomes, water into spirits, wind into doves, and fire into sprites. The dark lord who wanted to possess her however cast a pernicious spell while she slept.
One night, Illume encountered an ebony mirror in her dreams. The mirror did not reflect who one was but instead who one could be. On that night, a resplendent queen appeared in her guise who commanded the adoration and love of all the subjects in the land. The next night, a powerful sorceress emerged atop a mountain who fended off a great barbarian invasion from the north. On the third, a fierce huntress and she-wolf materialized and nearly leapt out of the panel.
The midnight encounters continued for centuries as the dream world slowly bled into her waking life. Illume developed her powers, transmuting herself into every one of the possibilities that the mirror showed. Each time, the ebony mirror absorbed some of her light, slowing turning its dark shade into a translucent sheen until she was eventually no more. By the end, a magic mirror stood in her place in a lonesome tower. The dark lord at long last arrived to claim his prize. When he gazed between the frames, he saw nothing but a blinding light for the magic mirror no longer reflected what one could be, but what one can never have.
Roberto had no idea what he’d gotten himself into after the casting crew told him to strip down. The audition was for a sidekick role on a pilot of a cross-over sci-fi detective series between Sherlock Holmes meeting inter-galactic crime syndicate. He felt a slight chill in his briefs after the cameras started rolling.
“Recite these lines” commanded a female producer as she pointed to a page on the script.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” Roberto uttered in his best Watson imitation.
“Again” ordered the producer, “this time with rage.”
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!” Roberto yelled, channeling Taxi driver.
“Again! With sorrow and disgust!” dictated the producer.
Several hours after the audition, an exhausted Roberto stumbled back to his flat. Upon entering, he found a DVD and letter by his TV. The video showed Roberto starring in a live-action trailer of the upcoming pilot with lines and scenes that he neither spoke nor shot in. The backside of the letter revealed a contract, signing away all rights to his façade. Dotted lines hovered below a signature, undoubtedly his. Beneath that was a simple order…
Charlie always had a knack for finding the silver-lining. When we were stranded on a boat several miles off port with a flooded engine, he discovered that we could catch fish using our keychain and lanyard. During lean times on tour through Iraq, he learned Arabic and befriended the locals so that we could barter for food and supplies. After missing a connecting flight on a layover, we instead converted the final leg into mini road-trip for sight-seeing.
I learned that Charlie developed terminal throat cancer a decade ago and was personally devastated. I was going to lose my best friend but he seemed to take the whole ordeal in strides. As the illness spread until he could no longer speak, he started writing more and more until well… he published that goddamn New York Times best seller! I missed Charlie after his passing but if his life taught me anything, it’s that every moment bears new opportunities, new potentialities. It was after all, how I met you, my loving wife.
A stretch case Fiona thought. The evidence was circumstantial and won’t pass the divorce courts despite having a damning and material impact on the will.
“So how much you want for this?” muttered the leery-eyed informant.
Fiona directed a sharp gaze at the stubby man before pushing the brief back. “These paternity results are under doctor-patient confidentiality. Unearth some legitimate dirt next time.”
“The husband won’t be pleased when I show him this” grunted the annoyed rat turned treacherous.
“Go ahead, they already know” lied Fiona with open disdain that concealed regret. In truth, only the kid didn’t yet know.
The school never assigned anyone to locker 328. A century ago, a group of misfits spread a rumor that a kid had lost his hand when he reached into the chasm. The hand was never recovered and the boy had to be sedated after hysterically pawing with a limb for the its return. Since then, the story of the locker took on a life of its own. During the great war, it housed a gateway to a Lovecraftian universe that whispered sacrifices of the flesh. The red scare by the communists converted it into a secret panel that opened a fallout shelter. The age of love transformed it into an altar for every Eastern deity and pagan god, competition for offerings notwithstanding. Columbine to weapon’s cache. 9/11 to terrorist dead drop. Trump’s election to a stuffed ballot box. A decade later, the county demolished the school and built a hospital in its place. The lockers were destroyed but the story lived on as all of them were replaced with drawers.
The separatists drew lines in the sand after the cold-blooded assassination of their leader. Once a prosperous colony, Damos was on the verge of fracturing in two after an early winter wiped out the harvest and unyielding blizzards decimated the population. Late spring trickled in but arguments for abandoning the settlement started long before. Southward raged the young separatists who dreamt of green pastures and wild game roaming the countryside. Nay voiced the old majority who recalled nothing but desolation over those grounds from whence they traversed long ago. Two shots were fired at the pulpit and mayhem ensued. By next spring, there were no survivors.