#ShortShortStories

a cure for the common block

Shades of Gray

Shane awaited the arrival of his next appointment; while movement through time in Elseworld was similar to the Living World, movement through space was not: doors, cars, elevators took you where you were supposed to be, regardless of any previous plans you had made. At nine-on-the-nose, an opaque gentleman carrying a stack of books backed through the door and turned to find himself face-to-face with his auditor. He set down the books and slunk into the chair with chagrin, knowing exactly what to expect from his quarterly review of haunting activity. While Shane was understanding of his dilemma, the increased prevalence of recording devices was no longer considered a valid excuse after the long-standing policy of denying vocalization claims was lifted, as well as other provisions allowing for non-visual frightenings. His punishment for failing to meet his quota was a reduction in corporeal density, and a meeting with the parole board one month later, just enough time to increase his numbers.

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Frame of Mind

Mina wanted to study for the test, she knew her limitations, she knew she wasn’t familiar enough with Colonial agriculture to even barely pass the final exam, however whenever she set her eyes on the page and began reading the words her concentration slipped like a fat toddler on ice. She remembered a trick her mother once taught her, clambered up the stairs and into the hall closet, carrying down an old record player; she put on some slow, gentle, Classical music and once again attempted to study the material. The tempo kept her calm and gave her something to focus on without getting distracted, humming along and tying certain notes to certain details; the test was more or less stress-free, and though she had to guess at several answers, the humming brought back specific memories that helped immeasurably in moments of doubt.

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Journey’s End

It was Menon’s fourth venture through the spacetime rip (generated by his particle accelerator while smashing leptons), his fourth visit to Ancient Greece and he decided to finally interact with people. As the only child of a historian and philosopher living in modern Greece, he was almost fluent in Ionian and Dorian dialects, and his charisma made him many friends in little time. In previous visits he had gathered that it was mid-5th century BC based on news of the fall of Kydonia; invited by his new friends to a party, when asked for his name he gave the only name on his mind when thinking of mid-400s BC Greece: Democritus. Later, when he learned that the rip had sealed – forever trapping him in the past – rather than succumb to a depressing malaise, he rejoiced and laughed at the irony. He looked forward to – and enjoyed – a long, prosperous life, amazed by all that was lost to fire and tyrants, in wonder at how it could have shaped the future.

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Hollow Pursuits

Husna scanned the aisles of her nearest grocer; they didn’t carry the best product, however it was the most affordable on her part-time wage. Much to her surprise, along with the majority of her necessities (water, spices, toiletries, etc), her budget allowed her to acquire an assortment of vegetables, bread, and protein which, alone, could sustain her for a week. But while her body was nourished, her mental health starved for lack of connections, to family or friends or lovers, or even to an activity that gave her a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction until she reached a breaking point. Husna began making cuts in her budget, giving up luxuries and necessities alike, for months, until she had enough for a plane ticket and a couple months rent in a hostel where she would start a new life.

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Thine Own Self

Erica took off her security uniform and removed the bag of diamonds from the concealed inner-pocket; she may not have lead an honest life, but at least she could sleep at night, which was more than could be said of her sister. Tule ran for office promising to help the children, fix the roads, restore the town’s former glory as a place where people wanted to raise families and give back to their community; what she discovered was a community unwilling to do what was necessary, unwilling to give before they received, pushing Tule to make moral compromises and shades-of-grey deals. Erica may have been a thief, but the goods were already ill-gotten through bribery, “repossession”, or even murder; even if Tule had her sister’s gift for rationalization, it wouldn’t have prevented her from falling into the governments sting operation and giving them enough evidence to guarantee at least a 12-year sentence.

 

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Outcast

As Anton had hoped – many, many decades earlier – he was successfully ‘thawed’ after spending several generations in a cryogenic chamber following his death. What he hadn’t expected was how much the world had changed, and how much it stayed the same; he was never a man of science, or much of a deep thinker at all, he merely had the means to afford Cryogenic Preservation, and so he could barely cope with the requisite red tape for the “reanimated”, let alone actual reentry into a society completely alien to everything he knew from his former life. After months of struggle, a group eventually found him, a group of fellow “Sleepers” who formed a small community that kept to a simple, traditional lifestyle, eschewing modern technology and luxuries.

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Tin Man

Sam looked at Castor and before he could say anything, Castor took his hand. Sam was born unable to feel any emotions, but he could experience them vicariously through his twin; save for the occasional masochistic desire to punish himself, Sam avoided pain and regret and humiliation, though Castor would sometimes force them on him, teaching him that he couldn’t hide from the tribulations of life, that he couldn’t just be happy and without care while the rest of humanity had to slog through a battery of agonizing memories. But this was a day when Castor envied Sam and was prepared to let him live this day without a worry, but Sam didn’t want that; Sam may not have been able to feel sadness, but he knew when he was supposed to be sad, and for all that his mother gave to him, he wanted to give her his tears, he wanted to mourn her and feel that sense of loss, remember that emptiness, carry it with him so he would never forget how much she meant to him.

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A Matter of Time

The Vinshaw-1 Deep Space Probe was mere hours from entering orbit of RL-110203, after 15 years at near-light speed utilizing the engine designed by Ari Vinshaw, for whom the craft was named. It would remain in orbit for at least three years, mapping and observing our nearest exoplanet in the “habitable zone” within its solar system; it would take several days for the first images to arrive, and they were the longest days in human history: at last, a glimpse at genuine, alien life, centuries of speculation definitively answered. At first, nothing more than a rocky terrain, then a liquid ocean, a liquid ocean of water, and vegetation, and then an alien, which perfectly resembled a dimetrodon. Over the next several months, and several years, every analysis, every test, every sample resembled Earth as it was nearly 300 million years earlier; entirely new fields of science and philosophy arose from this discovery, some factions believing the probe accidentally went back in time, others proposed that every habitable planet follows the same evolutionary cycle, and it would take another century before they could develop tests to answer their questions, but that would just lead to more questions, because in science the answer is always “for now”, until something better comes along.

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Encounter At Farpoint

At her birth Raya was assigned a role in the tribe, she would be trained to gather and scout; as a youth, however, it was discovered that she was a Sunshy, unable to spend time outside during the day. Most Sunshies skinned animals and prepared meals in the tents and lodges – the tribe never had one as a scout – but as Raya proved herself, they learned many advantages to scouting in the cover of darkness, as well as gathering stone and root and wood without competition. It was on a fruitful scouting mission that she was discovered by another tribe-a tribe of men as pale as her-with a young Tufa boy introducing them as scouts who arrived in a large metal bird, like the ones that pass over their islands.

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Half A Life

Colin tossed and turned in bed, struggling to position himself comfortably under the sheets and on the pillow and mattress, ignoring the creaks and shuffling echoing all around him. It was his first week in prison, and he was frightened by the two prospects that he faced: he got used to the schedule and routine, and would thus have difficulty re-adjusting once his 10-year sentence was done; or he would never get used to the routine, and would fall prey to one of the many bullies and aggressors surrounding him. Meanwhile, on the outside, Jennifer Pram’s mother would never go to her daughter’s graduation, never watch her walk down the aisle, never be there for the birth of her first child, and she would never hear her laugh again.

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