#ShortShortStories

a cure for the common block

The Operation

Willis and Cassandra, and Jaire and Emory were enjoying the leisure activities offered at the island resort: golf, swimming, badminton; and the best part was that they were virtually alone. They had reserved the cheapest dates available: in the middle of December. Being hearty Wisconsinites they knew they could handle even the coldest weather the tropics could offer, but to their delight the tiny island in the Pacific was experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures. They were taking a break, scattered around the Ultimate Frisbee park when they all got news alerts on their phones: a plane carrying a woman from Venezuela to New York for a groundbreaking operation fell off radar, and using GPS to locate her phone discovered it streaming a live video feed, spinning in mid-air without losing altitude. The gang were mesmerized and perplexed by the phone-turned-drone, when suddenly the image blurred as it sped forward, but not downward.

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The Vacation

Having finished his wine and tapas, George began his one-mile trek north on the tiny, windswept island off the coast of Africa. The tourist surveyed the landscape which was dappled with thousands of holes protected by walls of stone stacked upon stone. Aside from the wind the island was also known for the fact that it was created by thousands and thousands of volcanic eruptions, which resulted in rich, ashy soil capable of retaining moisture for months. This soil, especially when combined with the moisture carried by the air through the small gaps in the stone walls, created ideal conditions for the grapevines buried in the holes, creating possibly the most peculiar looking vineyard on Earth.

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The Engagement

Miranda was absolutely stunning in her red dress as she glanced back into the party from her balcony with a half-smile. It was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of her life, her engagement party. While her home was filled with friends and family from childhood and school, to recent friendships through her career as a dental assistant, something was off. She looked out into her garden deep in thought when Matthew approached her, briefly startling her leading to a back-and-forth mumbling of apologies and excuses. They had dated for a few months, and were friends for a decade before that, but he knew her better than anyone, possibly even her fiancee. He asked her what was bothering her and she knew he wasn’t just being kind or trying to warm her up for some kind of favor. She grieved that several of her exes, whom she still felt close to even if the romantic feelings were gone, were still trying to impress her and win her affection. Her eyes welled up because these men couldn’t just be happy for her, they still couldn’t see her as a friend.

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Great Expectations

Clay and Rebecca cherished their only son, Zach, showering him with love and affection, doing everything they could to make him happy. As Rebecca walked with him through the toy aisle at the store, he pointed to a big flashy robot, asking if he could get it for his birthday; Rebecca smiled and agreed that it looked like a lot of fun, but reminded him how much he enjoyed building things and pointed to a modest construction set. His eyes lit up and he held the box, reading over the hundreds of different things he could build and his attention was immediately refocused. Clay and Rebecca couldn’t afford much, but thankfully they both knew skillful ways to talk their son out of gifts without him realizing how poor they were.

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Old Boyfriends

The realization that she may have dated a murderer – that she could have become one of his victims – visibly weighed on Lisa Shupkin as she told the detectives with grey temples about her time with Wayne Stuart Yates. She gave them a letter, a token she saved as a joke to ‘brag’ about the creepiest man she ever dated, which was about to become a piece of evidence in the trial of a suspected serial killer. It was a love letter written to – not about – her eyes, pining to preserve them forever in a jar set upon his nightstand so they would be the first thing he saw in the morning, and the last thing he saw at night. They pored over the details and Whit asked about a reference to a mantle, if it was just poetic license or if he used to have a mantle somewhere in his old house? Lisa explained with bemusement that he was referring to his stepfather’s cabin, and the look on their faces told her that this was the first they heard about the cabin and her heart sank even deeper. Lisa had been to the cabin many times, seen the things Wayne had done to animals, his “collection”; if the detectives had enough evidence without stepping foot in the cabin, the last fleeting dram of doubt about Wayne’s guilt evaporated from her mind.

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Witness

It had been ten years since the release of Clea Mercy, Set stopped killing, suspects were cleared of any involvement and the case went cold. Then a new body lead detectives to their strongest suspect: Wayne Stuart Yates, a metal shop teacher whose mother was a trained taxidermist. The case was mostly circumstantial, but their strongest and weakest evidence was Clea’s testimony; the defense would no doubt contest that she had given it so many times it could no longer be relied upon as an accurate memory, but was now just a story that had been rehearsed dozens of times. However, with access to people from their suspect’s personal life they could attempt to corroborate elements from the story and find a new witness. Whit and Garza probed Wayne’s life as it was ten years earlier; friends revealed a loathing resentment for his mother, co-workers described a morbid sense of humor, and an ex-girlfriend was unsettled by his obsession with her eyes.

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Blind Date

After crossing off the last shop on the list, the detectives investigating the murders of two young women weren’t much further along than when they started, but then they got their first actual break: a witness, so to speak. Clea Mercy worked at a call center and walked home every night. She was blind, but had trained to use a form of echolocation – visualizing her environment using a clicking sound with her mouth – allowing her to walk unaided by a cane. She recounted being grabbed by a man threatening her with a gun pointed to her back, walked into a nearby thicket and once on the ground felt a gun pressed to her head. Clea teared up, saying that the man angrily asked what was wrong with her eyes, and stormed off roaring with ferocity. They had his voice, his scent, and a general description of his body; the detectives finally felt a step ahead.

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Not Another Monday

Detective Garza was assigned the case of the serial killer nicknamed ‘Set’, after the Egyptian God who tore out the eyes of his brother, Osiris. He had never personally worked a serial killing, but knew from second-hand experience how frustrating they can be: there’s rarely a personal connection between the victim and killer, obsession and ritual leading to the first victim means little forensic evidence, and so much of the investigation is waiting for the next clue, which is to say waiting for the next body to drop. He re-read the coroner’s report and the extensive detail about the expert removal of the eyes from their sockets and pondered how someone could practice that over and over without leaving a trail of bodies, human or otherwise? With a crash he had an insight! He printed off a list of local businesses and called his partner to meet him at the first on the list: Buff ‘Em, Fluff ‘Em, Stuff ‘Em Taxidermist.

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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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