#ShortShortStories

a cure for the common block

Safe

It was Oscar’s first day of his six-week interrogation training course, and as soon as he set foot in the room his gut grumbled with dread. There were 13 other cadets and they would divide into teams of two or three until every individual had experienced every angle of interrogation: one cadet and one suspect, two and one, one and two. Every day before class Oscar trembled at the thought of his inevitable one on one session with Elisse, triggering the thick, cold sweat that follows the strike of fear; the overwhelming thought of her interrogating him, reading his mind, and discovering his intense affection for her. The nightmares, crashing like waves and waking him throughout his evenings only amplified as the course wore on without resolution. All the nightmares, however, were of her discovering his secret and using it against him. His subconscious never imagined the scenario he found himself in halfway through the course: interrogating Elisse, using the Console to navigate her thoughts and memories, breaking down the mental walls she created to hide private information. Elisse was expertly trained and knew the best method to hide information from interrogation was to not hide it at all, but rather stow it alongside a pleasant thought or memory without shame or guilt… However, while she successfully avoided discovery of her assigned “secrets”, Oscar managed to open a door to a past she had hid even from herself.

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Eye of the Beholder

Roda was enjoying her first date with Chester, a sweet guy she took a chance on despite his nebbish demeanor. She was in the middle of convincing herself that she understood and cared about the potential findings from large particle accelerators when a chorus of men shouting “Donny!” rumbled towards them. Chester jolted in his seat and turned to them as they surrounded him and jostled him with whoops and hollers. In that moment Roda saw a glimpse of a relationship where she would harken back on the absurd case of mistaken identity that occurred on their first date, until it was revealed that years earlier Chester was much more outgoing and had earned the title of ‘King of the Donnybrook’ after one too many nights spent in County Lock-Up. Intrigued by the unknown layers lurking below she smiled and made an “I’ll call” gesture as The Boys whisked her date away. Chester thought she was politely blowing him off, until he woke up the next day with a massive hangover and message from her, planning a second date.

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Dark Imaginings

Dale stumbled through the bazaars of Mumbai, sweat cascading down his pale face, his mind spiraling out of sanity. His memories scattered, he couldn’t separate reality from hallucination – for all he knew he could be stumbling around his backyard in Orlando suffering visions from a 105 degree fever. He also could have actually been abducted by aliens who poked, prodded, and injected him. He was. They had been collecting specimens for years, testing our immunities, concocting the perfect virus for our species as they had done across the galaxy; it wouldn’t just kill immediately, it had to simmer and spread through the air first. The incubation period was several days before any symptoms appeared, but by that point it was too late: reaching a saturation point, the virus went into overdrive devastating multiple organs simultaneously. In the week since Dale had been released at the airport in New York he alone had infected nearly 2,000 people, by the time Patient Zero collapsed in the alley in Mumbai nearly 4 million had already been infected. The human race was wiped out in less than two months.

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One for the Road

Sven could not be described in fewer than three-hundred words. He possessed innate qualities which were so ineffable that the government dedicated several years and millions of dollars to learning how best to exploit him. Sven allowed this, for a time, studying them as much as they studied him – moreso, actually, since they barely scratched the surface of his capabilities before he determined them “insignificant”, and vacated the premises one evening in late November. He explored cultures as he traveled the world, experiencing different identities. A week as nobility, a month in poverty, one evening a man, and an unforgettable night as a woman that led to experiencing motherhood.

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Old Flames

Shoshana chewed on her pencil as she absorbed her professor’s lecture. There was no need to take notes, as Dr. Lehr had specifically crafted a method of conveying information by which a majority of students could retain over 80% of the material without a single notation. He observed that humans were hard-wired to remember stories, to tell stories, to the point that we frame our lives within narratives. Thus, his course on the American Revolution was told through stories filled with characters, actions, and memorable plot points. A rising student stole Shoshana’s attention for a moment and her eyes caught the top half of a folded copy of the university newspaper, flooding her mind with glee and schadenfreude, making it near-impossible to pay attention for the last half of class. Bursting through the doors and into the hall when it was finally over, rushing to the nearest basket to grab a copy and read for herself about the “assault” on Eric McCready. The bruise on her tailbone had finally healed, but the bruise left by the school board that refused to take action would last much longer. She suffered another blow when she discovered that not only was the attacker unaware of Eric’s reputation, to her chagrin the attack was far worse than he deserved; a wave of sickness hit her when she realized who she was feeling sorry for.

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Where Nobody Knows Your Name

The old man followed the stone path up the winding mountain, stopping frequently to rest his aching bones. It was said a wise shaman lived at the top and provided wisdom to those who brought him a very special gift: laughter. Through the years many had tried plying him with booze or attempts to tickle, all proved fruitless. Ahote relied more heavily on his cane as he neared the end of his climb, but he did not mind the ache and weariness for they would help sell his joke. He finished the final lines of the joke hunching over and grimacing as he clenched his cane, stunned with relief when the shaman barked with laughter, his eyes glowing with delight. Ahote was welcomed into the shaman’s cabin as he explained his dilemma and need of insight, but Walker – the shaman – tut-tutted him, assuring him that all would be fine. Walker informed him that a man who can make others laugh will always have a friend who is willing to help. Ahote had planned to return home in the morning, but decided to stay with his friend instead.

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Second Time Around

Unlike a wormhole connecting two points in space, the “Oxen Bridge” connected two points in time, usually lasting only a few seconds before collapsing due to the fact that time is not static. However, if the particles can maintain stability it can remain open for hours or even days, moving through the fourth dimension. Henri’s brain felt like it was melting as the small, brownish gentleman explained this to him in response to his quip about “time travel paradoxes.” To his other point, regarding the small device that would expand their understanding of gravitons, he did not bring it from the future; it was actually created before Henri’s time by a brilliant man who’s greatest works were lost and remained undiscovered for over 200 years. Gregory – the small man in the toga – traveled through the bridge and recovered the artifact, bringing it to Henri. As he accepted the device he asked why him, and Gregory said that he had changed history once, this time he should at least be allowed to remember it.

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Crash of the Titans

Tele faced a dilemma: to do the right thing or the selfish thing? She clasped her hands over her chest and focused on her Song for the answer, it kicked up a cocktail of emotions, memories, and thoughts making her realize that as much as it pained her to cause her friend grief it was the right thing to do. The “Song” was an organ located in the chest of Tuleans connected to the brain, functioning as a moral compass by accessing various parts of the brain. They believed it to be an organism that formed a symbiotic bond with their host, but never had access to technology to confirm it. They had evolved in the shadows of a technologically advanced world, hiding from threats, learning their secrets, biding their time. The transition of power was almost seamless as the previous rulers fell to plague, and despite now possessing the tools to research themselves they had long grown out of that phase, and instead wanted to explore the rest of the Universe. Developing in a world of science they never had use for religion, which was ironic because if they had ever studied their Song they would have discovered that it was a tangible soul.

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What’s Up, Doc?

The waiting room was silent except for Jacob’s wristwatch tick tick ticking, one receptionist was retrieving a file from a back room and the other was delivering a file to the suite across the hall. A muffled commotion suddenly boomed through the walls with several voices shouting over one another, two men and one woman, but he couldn’t make anything out clearly except for an occasional “No!” and “Stop!” Jacob stood up, carefully maneuvering around and ducking under the receptionist’s desk, in case the situation escalated to a “chase” situation. The voices moved up and down the hall behind the door, one pacing back and forth warding off people at both ends. As silence fell he wondered why he didn’t just run away and reschedule his appointment, they wouldn’t charge him a penalty fee if his imagination of what went on was remotely accurate. He rose and began walking out when a man burst through the door behind the desk, grabbing Jacob’s wrist and pulling him along, but the crack, crunch, and howl as he collapsed stopped the maniac and reminded Jacob why he didn’t just walk away.

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The Art of the Steal

The detective was at a dead end; after an hour of interrogation he got the accomplice to confess everything he knew, but it wasn’t physically possible. His partner suggested Occam’s Razor: he’s lying, but Det. Klein knew he was telling the truth, or at the very least he believed the story he was telling. “When you lie,” he informed Det. Flitch “you’re accessing the imagination, which puts events into chronological order to tell a story. When you tell the truth you access your memory which remembers the landmarks, but not the contextual details necessary for those plot points to make sense. He had to backtrack at least five times to bring up something he forgot to mention: the baby, the candles, the…”, and that was when he figured out how a man could be in two places 30 miles apart within a five minute window. Arresting the Matti twins brought him accolades and a promotion; he could have risen in the ranks much faster if he had played the game, but he truly valued justice over power.

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