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a cure for the common block

That’s for Me to Know

Niko began the autopsy of the victim brought in by police; multiple gun shot wounds to the back of the head was the likely cause of death, but a full examination is required in all suspected homicides. All was routine, relatively speaking, until he lifted the woman’s eyelids and was struck by a deeply disturbing sight: both eyes had been surgically removed. What horrified Niko so profoundly was that this is not a medical procedure one could learn from a textbook or even medical school, the skill of blindly severing eyes from their sockets perfectly could only be gleaned through repeated real-life practice. It took him hours to recover from the trauma and cope with the inevitable. Less than a week later another woman’s corpse was brought in, two shots to the head, and Niko could barely keep his hands steady to lift the lids and confirm his worst fears: a serial killer was loose in the city.

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Questions and Answers

The team of scientists were a mere few tests away from proving their radical theory – that the speed of light was faster just after the Big Bang than it is today – but one among them felt dread at the prospect rather than excitement. Proving Albert Einstein wrong is possibly one of the highest achievements in the field of physics, but Timothy always looked to the future instead of the past and understood that if the speed of light was slowing it would continue to slow, on and on as the force of gravity increased. He had done the calculations and if their theory was correct and the rate of decline continued, the outer Universe was already collapsing in on itself and the collapse would reach our observable Universe in less than half a billion years.

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The President’s Coming! The President’s Coming!

Owen stared at the television for several minutes in silence – it wasn’t a nightmare, it actually happened. He felt a chill cut through him like all joy had left his body, as if every happy memory had been erased; then the fear sank in. War, terrorism, global humiliation, economy disasters, and he was right about a few things but there were also a few surprises. Stock in alcohol skyrocketed, demand for drugs became so rampant that a tidal wave of legalization swept through the country. Yes, there was war, soldiers lost their lives for a worthless cause, but it was handled the old-fashioned way: by men greedy for power – not money – so while the economy wasn’t booming, it was lifted enough to stave off a depression. As for the humiliation, most of the rest of the world rather took pity, a few even offered refugee status to certain groups of people. It wasn’t the end, the world continued to turn.

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Second Chance

Jade swerved hard to the right to avoid striking a squirrel that darted across the street, jumping the curb and nearly crashing into a fire hydrant in the process. In the heart-racing moments that followed she checked her rearview mirror to make sure it was fine, and she saw it upright in the grass – was it saluting her? Jude’s next two weeks were increasingly bizarre. There seemed to be a greater-than-usual abundance of squirrels scurrying around her neighborhood, and if she thought she was crazy for thinking a squirrel had saluted her, then she was completely mad for believing these others were bowing to her. The breaking point came shortly after she witnessed a squirrel jumping and scritching at a murder of crows: they began delivering gifts, small trinkets like rings and tinsel and other shiny objects. If the animal kingdom were a true kingdom, the squirrel she avoided killing was a knight and it owed her an immeasurable debt of gratitude.

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Black Mirror

The end. They held each other close and watched the screen blink and display ‘SIGNAL LOST’. Alban and Dee watched the countdown with the rest of the world in one of the few bunkers deep enough to survive the blast. A sudden, grave announcement was made in the middle of the afternoon one day in August. After Alban hung up the phone, she called Dee and they spent the next several months carefully stockpiling food and other necessities without raising any suspicions within their community. The President solemnly explained Protocol Omega to the greatest minds and most valuable lives in a worldwide, TOP SECRET conference. When the disease spread it decimated the world population in the span of 18 months, but what the world didn’t know was that it would reach an extinction level infection rate before a cure could be created. Once upon a time, the Blush swept through Europe, but it was so deadly it died out before it could make a significant impact.

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Piece Work

Farrah Mills was struggling with a bout of writer’s block while working on “Legend of the Brass Monkey”, the third novel in her “Stupendously Gonkers!” book series about the madcap journeys of Majesty Swick. The 16-year-old girl adventurer used scientific principles to solve puzzles and safely escape dangerous situations. The character’s current predicament involved an oncoming forest fire, and while the first solution to surviving unscathed that came to mind involved burning a patch of ground and dousing the flames – it would leave her without any drinking water. Farrah strived to temper any amount of luck with enough probability to make for safe risks, and so after some research she found a better alternative for escape that didn’t involve fire or water, instead using the character’s trowel and fire retardant tent canvas.

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The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club

While Majesty had sussed out the true identities of the thieves who stole the local tribe’s brass idol, her quest to recover it had already been beset when she had accumulated three “lemons” before sunset. Lemons were setbacks and depending on the severity could be counted by halves or wholes; survival requires safe precautions – like not losing sight of one’s limits for the sake of determination. The lone benefit of Majesty’s premature pit stop was getting enough rest to begin the next day before the break of dawn. As the sun rose Majesty Swick confirmed a suspicion she had held for several minutes, plumes of dark grey smoke signaled a forest fire and by her estimates she had less than an hour to implement a plan of escape or survival. She tied back her mane of curly brown locks, rolled up her sleeves and laid out every item at her disposal.

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The Family Hour

Taylor tickled her baby girl, Shayla, making goofy faces while playing peek-a-boo; she puffed out her cheeks, crossed her eyes, anything to elicit that precious giggle that gave her life meaning. Taylor’s father, Gus, arrived a short time later to babysit while she was at work, and her father had the same zeal for Shayla’s laugh. When Taylor moved back in with her parents years earlier it was an awkward transition, not least because she was pregnant. Shayla brought lightness to everyone’s hearts, and when Taylor’s mom passed a year later her and her father became a stronger team than they had ever been before. This strength empowered Shayla and what she accomplished in her remarkable life was directly owed to this bond.

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Dwarf in a Helium Hat

D.W. Duncan did not like having his his patience tested, so it was quite displeasing when Mr. Qoptx appeared, albeit entirely predictable. D.W. was frequently plagued by Murphy’s Law, and when he was beseiged by an interdimensional imp with a penchant for mischief he could only blankly stare ahead, imagining an invisible camera that followed him around to record his tribulations for the amusement of others. Mr. Qoptx could shapeshift and manifest all manner of objects, lights, and sounds, none of which were observable to anyone other than D.W. Mr. Duncan – after decades of experience with child, customer, and municipal services – had an unwavering composure and tuned out the diminutive goblin. Little did he know that this tenacity was why he was selected as the subject of the bet between Mr. Qoptx and Loki.

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The Paper Palace

Jaire’s friends were impressed by his cup-stacking skills but scoffed at the idea of a competition when he told them his plans for the weekend. He shrugged off their jeers and continued to practice building up the cups into a pyramid before breaking it down into three smaller pyramids and various other arrangements. The three rounds at the state tournament would decide who continued on to the finals in the nations capitol. If that wasn’t enough pressure Jaire secretly wanted to prove to his friends that it wasn’t just a silly party trick, that it required months of practice. There were three judges who scored based on speed, accuracy, and complexity, and if Jaire had been sitting in any of those chairs he would have failed his performance; he was his own biggest critic that way. Not only did he not fail, he advanced to the next round, and despite every mistake and fumble that he noticed he was again advanced to the final round of the state tournament. He didn’t advance to compete in the final competition, but 4th place got tickets to the finals, all expenses covered, and a cash prize that garnered new-found respect from his friends.

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