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Random Fiction Stories & Other Writings

Recall

 

 

Recall

By Ronald Cypress

 

Mr. Harris quietly suggested to his wife one more time that they could take Doc and run. He had read about a place that wasn’t too far where models like Doc could be safe. Mrs. Harris shook her head.

“We shouldn’t talk about it anymore,” she said.

The family gathered in the living room, and everyone met around Doc. The kids, Stephanie and Kevin, were crying as they both hugged Doc and tried to hang onto him. Doc remained motionless with a solemn look on his face. The entire family had known what was going to happen for several months. Ever since the recall had been made public and the government announced that there wouldn’t be any exceptions, the Harris family had tried to prepare themselves to say goodbye to Doc. He had been able to comprehend what was going to happen right away, but the kids still didn’t understand.

They knew that Doc wasn’t like them.

They knew what he was, but they didn’t understand the power that the government held over him. It didn’t seem fair that they could just take him away. Stephanie and Kevin had consistently inquired about why Doc couldn’t stay with the family.

“A terrible thing happened,” Mrs. Harris had told her children one night. “Someone like Doc hurt people, and now some people are afraid that guys like him will hurt more people. They don’t want that to happen, so now people like Doc have to be taken away.”

“But Doc would never hurt anyone,” Stephanie insisted. “You see know how kind he is.”

“Doc is nicest person ever,” Kevin said.

They had both cried plenty of times ever since finding out that Doc was going to be taken away, and they always insisted that Doc would never hurt anyone.

“Well,” Mrs. Harris said with some uncertainty in her voice. “I don’t think Doc would ever hurt anyone, but they’re saying there could be a problem with the models.”

The children didn’t want to hear about it. They weren’t going to stray from their believe in Doc and his inability to hurt anyone.

Mrs. Harris secretly had her doubts ever since hearing and reading more about the automaton who had become homicidal. The initial act had made national news; it was one of the worst mass killings in the country, but the government had kept much of their findings about the incident shielded from the public. After the automaton had been put down, intense scrutiny of its parts, data and codes had been studied. The news finally announced that the government couldn’t pinpoint what had gone wrong with the automaton.

Mr. Harris believed that the people who had owned it were responsible for it’s behavior.

“Did you hear about how they treated him?” he asked his wife. “They were terrible to him.”

There were no excuses for automatons becoming homicidal. It had only happened once, years prior to the recent incident, but there had only been one victim in that case. The model that had committed the murder was known to be faulty, and it wasn’t difficult to scrap all versions of it.

Doc’s models were supposed to be different. The technology was far superior. They were supposed to be perfect specimen. But one had caused a good deal of harm, and there was no guarantee that there weren’t others like it.

Mrs. Harris couldn’t admit it, but she had found it difficult to sleep at night before the recall was officially made. Doc usually stayed in the living room at night, but sometimes she would hear him walking around. He had done it since arriving at their home and it never bothered Mrs. Harris, but after the mass murder she couldn’t stop the anxiety she felt over him moving around while her family slept. If one was capable of committing such a horrible act, then it was likely that all of them were capable of doing such a thing.

There could have been an error in all of them.

Shortly before the recall was announced, Mrs. Harris privately asked Doc about what he was feeling. She wanted to know if he had any violent thoughts or feelings.

“Never,” Doc said with the same sincerity that he always had. “I would never want to see harm come to this family.”

Mrs. Harris was ready to give him a chance, but it was soon too late to have a say.

The recall was announced on the news. Then a call came to the house. Next a notice arrived in the mail. The penultimate step in the process was an agent coming to the house and giving the Harris family paperwork to fill out. The agent spent nearly an hour asking questions. She insisted on speaking to the children and asking them if Doc had ever done anything strange or hurtful to them. The parents tried to shield them away from the agent, but she was determined to get the information out of the kids. Before the agent left, Mrs. Harris wanted to make sure that she voiced her feelings for Doc and the family’s displeasure with what was happening.

“We understand,” the agent said.

Mrs. Harris knew that she didn’t.

The government had no idea of what it was doing by taking away so many automatons from the families that had come to love them.

After the agent left, the Harris family had a week to say their final goodbyes to Doc. Mr. Harris spoke about helping Doc escape, but it was just wishful chatter. They weren’t going to risk other parts of their lives by defying an order. The government had spoken, and the decision had been made. On their final day together, they all hugged Doc one last time. Two agents arrived to escort him out of the house.

“Are you sure they’re going to keep him alive?” Stephanie asked as she watched Doc get helped into a van.

Mr. Harris nodded.

“Maybe they’ll work on him, and he can come back,” Kevin said.

“Maybe.”

The family stood outside their front door and watched as Doc was driven away. Across the street and also a few houses down, other families were also saying their farewells. It was a hard time for many people. Some people would never be the same. A part of their lives was gone, but there would always be memories.

So in some way there would always be joy.

Grass So Green

 

Grass So Green

By Ronald Cypress

After the new grass covered her property, Lena Heyward spent hours staring out the windows of her house and admiring the work that had been done to her yard. Daydreams about her late husband and what he would have said had he been there to see the replenished yard filled most of the hours she used to gaze out through the glass. He had been the one who had inspired her to make the change. The whole yard had been so dull before. The grass was barely green. Most of the blades had a greenish hue, but they were all very dull. There had been numerous spots of dirt in the backyard. All of them were now covered up. It looked like a whole new yard, and Mrs. Heyward couldn’t stop herself from feeling a great sense of pride whenever she looked at her grass.

One of the first things she had done after her husband passed was hire a reputable company to work on her lawn. She and her husband had talked about getting the whole yard fixed in the past, but nothing ever came from those few discussions. The yard had never looked too bad to him, but the shabbiness of their property was something that always stayed in the back of Lena’s mind. The decision to go ahead and get it fixed wasn’t some form of freedom that came because her husband was gone, but rather Lena saw it as a way to keep a slight bond with him. She had come very close to going ahead and getting their property spruced up while he was still alive, but too many things started to happen and he was gone before anything could be done.

The people who worked for the lawn company had promised quick results, and they hadn’t let her down. The upkeep was going to be expensive, but Lena didn’t mind. The yard wasn’t that big, and the money was there. There really wasn’t a price that could be put on the way the green grass made her feel. It wasn’t just the vibrant color, but whole yard was much softer. One night Lena went into the middle of her backyard and lay on the grass. Right away, Lena felt as if she could have stayed there for hours, engaging in daydreams and actual sleep. She closed her eyes and pictured her and her husband talking. He was right beside her, and they talked for hours.

It didn’t take long before some of the neighbors started to compliment Lena on her yard. They all mentioned how green the grass was and how they wished they could get their yard to look so nice. Lena offered to give them the name and number of the company she had hired to work on her yard, but all the neighbors who complimented her were certain that they would never be able to afford it. All they could do at that time was admire Lena’s property as it outshined the rest of theirs.

The yard was a nice distraction and small reward for a couple of months. It made Lena feel better about being alone. She tried to keep busy during the day, but there wasn’t much to do. At one point she considered finding a part-time job. Friends had suggested she could still go travel; they had been suggested that she do so ever since she retired. Lena thought about the places she would like to go, but when the new grass came she became certain that no place would ever be able to make her feel the way she did in her own home.

All the bliss she needed was there.

On Lena’s property, there were only three trees. Two of them were in the backyard and were about ten feet from each other. The third tree stood alone in her front yard. It was s fairly average looking tree, and Lena had considered having it removed while her yard was being renewed. She eventually decided that it could stay. The tree had been there long before she had, and it had a right to remain at its home. It was from one of the branches on this tree that Lena happened to look outside on morning and see a body swinging.

She didn’t get a good look at the body. All she could tell was that it was a man and he had a rope around his neck. Lena rushed to her bedroom, called the police and waited until they arrived. She couldn’t bring herself to look at the body again, and she averted her eyes as the police came into her home to speak with her. They had her sit in the kitchen and stayed with her until the body had been removed and taken away in an ambulance. They asked the clearly shaken Lena if she was all right several times before leaving her alone. Later, they would offer to take her to the hospital if she felt like she needed to go. Lena assured them that all she had to do was lie down for a while.

Information about the man who had committed suicide on Lena’s property got back to her and she found out that he was just some guy, someone who had left behind a wife, a few kids and a job as an electrician. That was all Lena would find out about him. After the incident, Lena had a hard time looking at the tree in her front yard. When she did look out her living room window her eyes would stay on the grass. The yard was still so beautiful.

About a week passed, before Lena awoke to the sound of people moving around outside. She heard doors being slammed closed and voices. Then she saw the red lights. Lena went to the living room to see what was happening. She had just gotten a glimpse of an ambulance when there was a knock on her door. The police were there to tell her that it had happened again. Another body had been found on her yard. This time, a neighbor had spotted the body of a man lying next to the tree in the front yard. Lena would come to find out that he was a young man who had taken enough pills to almost guarantee he would never wake up again. That was all she would find out about him.

Lena began to look at her yard less and less, and all it took was one more body to show up several feet from the tree in the front yard for her to stop almost completely. Lena had been home and awake to hear when that life was taken. All the police would tell her was that it was just some man. That would be all she would find out. He was some man who had left blood on her grass, and the stain was all she could see whenever she looked out at her front yard. Lena took her hose and sprayed the area several times in the following days, but she was convinced that the stain would never completely disappeared.

The hard day came when Lena had to tell the lawn company that she would no longer need their service. She told them that she was ready to see what happened when the grass was left alone to fend for itself. She said that she had faith that it would keep its incredible color despite the fact that the company had told her it wouldn’t last without the proper care. They would just have to see, Lena told them. They would all just have to wait and see.

Real Men

Just because it was time–probably past time–to post something again. 

 

Real Men

By Ronald Cypress

 

Several days and nights of random trembling and sweating had occurred after the game was played before Bobby finally broke down and told his wife about what had happened. The confession made its way out shortly after the couple had finished eating dinner. Bobby had gone back to the last time he had been at Travis’s house, and the trembling slowly started to work up again as he recalled the gam they had played. He remembered holding the small handgun and gradually lifting it up to his temple. The cold metal had touched his flesh.

The thought was what made him break. For the first time Bobby began to weep about what he and the others had done. Naturally, his wife wanted to know what was wrong and she kept pushing until he eventually told her about what had happened. It was just a stupid game that had been instigated by Travis. Bobby made sure that Jackie understood it was completely Travis’s idea and that he hadn’t wanted to do it in the first place. He had been pressured into doing it. Jackie knew how Travis could be.

She would nod and say, yeah, I know how he is.

Bobby mentioned that in a way he almost felt threatened and forced to play the game.

The whole thing had started while he and the fellows were playing cards. The usual group was there. Hops was there and he played the game, and Vincent was there, the one person who refused to touch the gun but remained in Travis’s garage as the others risked their own lives. As hard as it may have been to fathom, the game came about because of a discussion about ballet. Vincent had mentioned that his nephew was going to start taking classes in a few months, and the others had started to make jokes about a boy going into ballet.

Jackie would briefly interrupt to say that there was nothing wrong with that.

That wasn’t the point, Bobby explained.

The talk about boys going into ballet hadn’t last long. All it did was segue the men’s talk into another subject, one that was mostly discussed by Travis. Bobby couldn’t remember everything that was said, but he could tell his wife that Travis had started going on and on about how hard it was to find real men in modern times. All the real men were disappearing, and soon the only thing that would be left were weak little boys who couldn’t handle themselves or protect a “goddamn thing.” The talk about ballet had ended, and Travis had begun to discuss cowardice. He said that there were too many cowardly men out there. No one had any real guts anymore.

The others were starting to dismiss his words, but then Travis abruptly left the table and walked away from the poker game they were playing. He exited the garage and was gone for several minutes. When he returned Travis was holding a small gun. Bobby told Jackie that he had never seen the gun before and didn’t even know that Travis owned a gun.

Jackie wanted to know where Jess was at while all this was going on.

Jess had left again, and Travis didn’t know if or when she was coming back.

Jackie told Bobby to go on with the story.

There wasn’t much more to tell. The gun was brought into the garage, and Travis insisted that the poker game was over and it was time to play another game. He said that it was a game that would test their manhood to see if they were real men or cowardly little boys. The name was only mentioned once, but Bobby didn’t need to hear it. He already knew what Travis wanted to do, and initially he believed there was no way he was going to go along with it. He had actually wanted to get the gun out of Travis’s hands but found himself unable to speak up or take action.

Travis quickly went over the rules. He showed them the gun, the one bullet in the cylinder and explained how it would work. It was very simple, he insisted. He offered to go first. Vincent told him he was crazy and demanded that he put the gun away and stop acting foolishly. Bobby didn’t think anyone actually believed Travis was going to do anything dangerous with the gun, but the game was started before the other three had a chance to stop it. All it took was for Travis to put the gun to his temple and pull the trigger.

Jackie let out a short gasp, and she asked if he really did it.

Bobby nodded.

Jackie understood what it meant. It took a minute, but she had to hear the rest.

Bobby couldn’t offer a decent explanation, one that would alleviate what he had done. The only thing he could say was something, something more than Travis’s urging, had pushed him into taking the gun. Travis kept talking about being a real man and not a scared little boy. Bobby had taken the gun and stared at it for a long time.

He would say that it felt like time had stopped.

Jackie just shook her head.

By the time he had gotten the gun up to his head, Vincent had left the table and was standing in the corner of the garage, close to the door that lead outside. Bobby remembered seeing the terror on Vincent’s face, and he told Jackie that was the final thing he needed to see to go through with his part in the game. He was in a zone that he had never been in before, but once he heard the click the world around him began to fall. Bobby still didn’t understand how he didn’t faint after the act was over.

Jackie wanted to know about Hops. She knew that he was stupid enough to take part in such a game, but did he have any reservations?

Bobby paused and thought about how Hops had been before taking his turn. He knew that Jackie probably envisioned him with his goofy smile and naively going along with what Travis wanted him to do, but it hadn’t been that way. If the terror on Vincent’s face had pushed Bobby to actually play, it was the look on Hops face that would make him forever regret that he had allowed the game to go as far as it did.

Bobby would lie to Jackie and say that Hops went through with his turn fairly quickly and didn’t seem to give much thought to doing it.

Jackie shook her head some more, and said that it was sick to let someone like Hops be dragged into such a dangerous situation. Bobby knew that he didn’t know any better.

But it was too late to change anything. All he could do was talk about it, and Bobby was disappointed to find that it didn’t help him feel better about what they had done. When the discussion was over, Jackie assured her husband that she was going to have a talk with Travis. She was going to let him know her feelings about the game and what he had done to her husband and the other two men.

Bobby wanted to mention that he didn’t think confronting Travis was a good idea, but he remained silent. He knew that his judgment and character had already failed once. But he had made it back home, and one thing that Travis had said to him after the game almost felt like it could be true. Travis said that Bobby would feel like a real man when he got home and thought about what he had done. As crazy and dumb as it seemed, there was some truth in the statement. It had been a fleeting one, but for a moment it had been there.

Cartoon Sex

Another old and rejected one that I am only posting because I feel it’s time to post again. 

 

Cartoon Sex

By Ronald Cypress

 

I am writing about this because the thought came up after I managed to successfully set up a second date with a female who shall remain nameless. When certain connections are made, sex seems to come to the forefront of a person’s thoughts. Will it happen? If so, how far down the road? How strong will the feeling be when we are together? I’ve thought about these things and I was reflecting on a funny thought I had a long time ago; that thought happened to lead to what I considered one of my finest creations: Xylia Bang.

The idea really came while I was listening to the radio during my junior year in college. By the time I had reached the age of twenty-one, songs that played on the radio no longer had the appeal that they once had to me. I still enjoy the melodies and catchiness that many popular songs have, but the lyrics often leave me desiring more or just close to LOLing. There were particular songs that made me think of how sex was absurdly represented on the radio. The song that did it for me included lyrics that went something like:

 

Girl, you are coming straight from my dreams

And tonight I’m going to make you scream

Scream until you shatter glass

Girl, I’m gonna do that ass.

Do that ass good

 

This probably isn’t an accurate portrayal of how the lyrics go but it’s close enough, close enough for you to get the point if you are an adult.

It was a slow R&B song, sung by an artist who is pretty popular. The line about shattering glass with screaming is what really did it for me. My fellow adults, let’s stop and think for a moment. Have you ever heard of a woman screaming so loud during sex that she shattered glass that was around her? Think about it. If you have, I may just include my number at the end of this article and I would like for you to call me so that we can talk. I would love to hear that story.

You know what that is?

It’s what I now call cartoon sex.

 

Example 2:

 

 

Yeah, you’re going to know

When I’m licking you from head to toe.

Yeah, you’re to scream

When I turn into a sex machine.

 

There are more lyrics in this song about how the singer is going to transform into this incredible lover that takes the recipient of his affection to Cloud Nine. Good for him, but that’s cartoon sex. We all know how sex really works, and I can’t say that it is correctly represented in many songs. There are songs with the guy doing a woman for breakfast while pouring condiments all over her. This could really happen, but I can’t imagine any excitement lasting for too long, especially if you are as frugal as I am. I know plenty of songs that talk about sex throughout the entire night. I’ve never accomplished that goal. Maybe I just suck. I probably do, but have you ever done it? And I mean going at least from 10 p.m. to whenever the sun rises. If you try it, good luck being productive the next day.

Cartoon sex is what’s in those damn love/sex fiend songs.

I was thinking about some of those songs when I came up with Xylia Bang. I currently work at a computer programming place, but my big dream and employment goal is to be a very successful comic book artist/writer. I feel like I am almost there. There’s a good chance that you may have even heard of Xylia Bang. The comic has been placed in some stores.

If you haven’t heard of it, Xylia Bang revolves around the eponymous heroine who happens to be a robot.

Xylia Bang is a very attractive robot who was created by the brilliant Dr. Poll. Did Dr. Poll create a woman for his pleasure? No. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read it, but Dr. Poll created Xylia after his wife was viciously assaulted by two men, dying after one of the men stabbed her. Dr. Poll created Xylia to catch the men and others like them. Xylia Bang is a lethal, robotic woman with many different tools to use for attacks and defenses. After she was created, Xylia did catch the men who had sexually assaulted and murdered Dr. Poll’s wife. At the end of that issue, she killed them in a very violent manner.

Since then, Xylia has been in all kinds of adventures, many of them are sexual. The link between those excessive sex songs and Xylia Band is that I pretty much have her doing equally (and more) extravagant things in her sex life. Xylia was pretty much given free will by Dr. Poll, and she is a bit of a nymph. Call me perverted for being the creator, but society clearly made me that way. I won’t get into too many details since Xylia Bang issues are pretty X-rated, but I’ve had Ms. Bang having sex with a man until she did something to him that caused his internal organs to exploded(he was plotting to assassinate the female president of the United States). I’ve also had her literally doing IT all night with a guy; he was a Joe Blow who missed work the next day.

Cartoon sex is fun for me.

I have received some complaints over a few issues. In one episode, Xylia went walking in a dangerous area at night, and a man attacked her. The man was a rapist whom she allowed to enter her. Of course, the rapist was oblivious to what she really was and while he was inside her she shocked with electricity him before cutting off his penis, all done with mechanics in her vaginal region. My male mind thought the episode would show how rapists should be handled, but I received letters from certain groups that accused me of trivializing rape by putting such things in my comics. I didn’t see it that way, but I did send a letter apologizing to one organization, stating that I hadn’t intended to offend anyone.

I would like to think that Xylia will develop a cult following. Despite the latter complaint, I think there is still potential for a strong fanbase. I’m actually pretty close to quitting my job at the computer programming company. I have pretty big plans for Xylia. I recently introduced a man who will become her archenemy. Dr. Eagle is sort of the typical sinister, mad genius who is hell-bent on limiting people’s rights. Dr. Eagle is particularly against sex without the strict purpose of reproducing, and he will have all kinds of plans for how to stop it from happening. I don’t know exactly what those plans will be, but they’ll be very destructive and the world will have to rely on Xylia Bang to put a stop to Dr. Eagle’s cruel tactics.

So that’s what I got from listening to songs with cartoon sex in the lyrics.

I know, it’s pretty juvenile, but it has given me a moment. Xylia Bang can’t go on forever, and I’m always looking for new ideas. Lately, I’ve been trying to come up with something that is more mature. In this world it’s kind of hard to tell just what mature is. Have you guys taken a good look at your world?

Aside from cartoon sex on the radio, there are puerile dealings in commerce. Stick with me here. Do you own car insurance? Have you bought food recently? I’m willing to bet that the insurance or food you bought had something very silly connected to it. They didn’t just give it to you straight. I’m sure that they didn’t.

What am I going on about?

I’m going on about how I sat down the other night and watched an animated reptile try to sell me and other adult viewers car insurance. That’s what I’m going on about. A few commercials after that one, a lady who appeared to be on the same intellectual level as a fifth grader tried to sell me car insurance. It was all buffoonery, yet we are supposed to take having car insurance very seriously. The commercials may make you laugh, but if you’re a functional adult you probably know that when it actually comes to dealing and paying for car insurance there is very little humor, unless you’re just wealthy and can laugh at the fact that you wouldn’t even notice if a million dollars went missing from your bank account.

It feels like ninety percent of advertisements are geared towards kids, yet they are trying to sell products meant for adults. Do we really need to be humored in order to buy products? Does that actually work? It must work because companies keep doing. Call me a grouch but I would prefer if companies were just straight-forward with what they were selling. No more showing things that would never happen after drinking a certain liquid or featuring animals and babies talking about the greatness of a product. Just give it to us straight as adults.

I look up from writing this and see a former C-list actor in a commercial yogurt. There is a huge smile on his face and things are inexplicably glowing all around him. I am familiar with this product and have had it in my possession, and I must say things have never glowed while I was eating it. I’m probably giving it too much thought, but it does make me wonder. I may end up being a perpetual man-child, but then again the whole “adult world” could be a big fraud.

I was actually in a commercial one time. This would be back during my freshmen year of college. I was unemployed and someone offered me the opportunity to be in a commercial for an auto repair shop. My role in the commercial was a man whose engine was failing. All I had to do was drive into the parking lot and get out of the car with a frustrated look on my face. I received about three seconds of airtime. Back then, I actually thought that there might be a small possibility of becoming an actor; I’ve had plenty of dreams in this lifetime. When I saw the commercial, I was very disappointed with my performance. I had overplayed the frustration part and ended up looking like a guy who was on the verge of committing mass murder.

That commercial was pretty goofy. Some guy was jumping around (not in my scene) telling people that they should bring their vehicles to the car repair place. That commercial would be my only official acting gig. It wasn’t long after I saw the commercial for the first time that I began to seriously consider trying to create a comic book. I had entertained the idea while in high school, but actually doing it seemed overwhelming at that time. About a year after shooting the commercial, when I was finally ready to do it, I began working on my first comic book creation.

The series I had in mind revolved around a guy who had been in a terrible car accident and was saved by a mysterious company that possessed technology that was extremely advanced. They installed something in the guy’s head that allowed him to go about living a functional life. You probably already see what’s coming. The guy obtained a power; he could sense when a person was going to commit a crime. Eventually, he started to stop crimes before they happened. I had planned to have the company that had saved the man turn out to be in a gray area, playing both the villains and people with good intent. I had so many ideas.

I still have ideas; most of them go to Xylia now.

The series I just mentioned never worked out, though I did communicate with a few publishers. In the end everyone I corresponded with felt the material I had was too dark and wouldn’t attract an audience.

Maybe I should try writing a novel. I could write a novel titled Adult. I guess it would be a dystopian type of book. The main character would exist in a world where adults were forced to always follow standards set for adults. There would be no animated characters selling products. Sports would be completely eliminated, as well as fictional works. It would be a dull world. Or maybe just more comprehendible.

I bet that work would be considered too dark also. Damn us adults. Why are so many of us refusing to look at what is really around us?

But I’m not writing the piece to be brooding or philosophical in a hackneyed way.

Cartoon sex is the title, and cartoon sex is what I should get back to.

I wish I were living in a cartoon where anything was possible and I never had to really deal with any repercussions. It’s sort of my idea of heaven. It could happen. I will die and become a cartoon character. The world, or heaven, my soul traversed to would be an adult cartoon world. That almost feels hypocritical. In my cartoon world, I’ll be able to have sex with women on top of flying airplanes or 20,000 leagues under the sea (outside of a submarine and without an oxygen tank). Being a cartoon and experiencing real cartoon sex would be awesome.

All my sexual experiences have been fairly mundane, and I suspect as I get older just about everyone else’s will appear the same way.

In college the guys around me were more than happy to share stories of their sexual adventures. Often, I found myself being disgusted while giving approving words to whoever was freely talking to me about the sex they had. I know there’s something wrong with me. Then again, maybe I just have morals that even I tend to overlook. During my freshmen year in college, I was hanging out and drinking with a group of people one night. This was pretty early in the year, and we were all new to the campus and each other. I can’t remember what exactly happened that night, but the next day, one of the guys that I had been hanging out with that night told me about how he had sex with one of the girls who was in the group. The two barely knew each other, yet somehow he had gotten her to have sex in the shower with him.

My young, innocent mind was a bit flabbergasted.

By the end of the first semester, I would know of several hook ups that happened in a shower, none of them involving me. You know what I did in the shower that year besides clean myself? One night, I took some drugs and felt horrible about myself, so horrible that I got into the shower just after midnight and spent nearly two hours crying in there. What I was really crying about will have to be covered in a different entry.

Tales of sex in public places are pretty ubiquitous, and to be completely honest most of them disgust me, though I also feel a bit envious of the people who can successfully pull it off. The only thing I’ve managed to achieve is a few steady girlfriends and the tendency to overdramatize just how important the person was to me after the relationship ended. I always end up recognizing that I only wanted what was no longer there, despite being disappointed with it when I had it. I think my expectations for things and people tend to be too high.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m already closer to being a cartoon than an actual human being. I’m not even sure I know how a real human being acts. This neurotic, confusing world has managed to mess me up along with the masses. And the real damage always seems to come with a pleasant or childish presentation. But there goes my brooding again.

I’ll tell you something about brooding and taking this world too seriously. I used to live near and attend college with these two guys. One guy was a master at brooding and giving the impression that he was too deep to enjoy just about everything around him. He had the attitude of goth, but was always well-dressed in fairly bright colors. My first impression of him was that he was probably very into academics. Turns out he really wasn’t. He barely got by, claiming that the education system was a scam and that they were just prepping us to be part of a mindless machine.

The guy was really annoying.

One time he saw me standing outside and laughing with another guy. He walked up to me and asked me why I was always laughing. Before I could really answer (I got out a few “umms”), he had walked away. Now, the guy I was laughing with happened to this big goofball. He was a music major who was a very talented violinist. The guy was always joking around and doing goofy stuff. The way he went about in life almost seemed unreal. A few times I thought that he would make a great cartoon character.

I never saw the goofy guy express sadness or anger. The most down I ever saw him would be jovial for a normal person. I get a feeling you already know what happened to him. You’re right. The coroner stated that anyone who took that many painkillers was trying to kill themselves. I was shocked after his death, though I didn’t really know how to take it. I realized that I didn’t really know the guy, and I couldn’t think of a single time where he showed signs of being suicidal. It made me wonder about I could have missed what must have been something that was very obvious. It also made me think about my impressions of the other people around me.

The perennially depressed and supposedly deep guy continued to live. He started dating a chick with blonde hair and a very noticeable chest. Once that started happen, the depression decreased considerably and suddenly he was into fitness and health. I still can’t stand him, but I have to say his shoulders and biceps are quite impressive these days. The last I heard, he and that blonde girl were engaged.

I guess I should be happy for him.

One day, I would like to really fall in love. Maybe this upcoming date will prove to be the one. I’ve been thinking about what I could do to impress her. I really wish I could sing. I would write her songs, starting out with one that didn’t involve cartoon sex, but rather cartoon love.

 

I would travel a million miles for you

I would make the mountains move.

Just so I could love ya.

You know, I want to love ya.

 

I would sing my stupid songs for her. If she was impressed, then I would express happiness, but be very disappointed.

Mark of X

This is an old one about a mysterious person or group that forces men to wear a mask of shame or be put to death. I thought about just rewriting the whole thing with slightly improved writing skills, but instead I have just cleaned it up some to make it mostly comprehensible. 

 

Mark of X

By R. J.

Matthew Sweep had visited the brothel many times before. He had started going after being persuaded by a few male coworkers. The visits to the dark and dismal place weren’t something that the thirty-seven year old was proud about. It was just a part of life; just another thing that became a routine. He would usually go after work, heading straight there as soon as he got off. It was a way of relieving stress and a way to simply feel good, even if just for a short period of time.

He didn’t think too much about it. Plenty of men stopped by the brothel. It wasn’t like he was the only one, not in a city like his. There were plenty of men that frequented the place. Matthew ran into them all the time while he was there. It was one of those places that people went to do their dirty deeds, a shady little business that seemingly stayed off the radar of the law. Matthew was certain that they knew about what was going on in the supposedly vacant building. Either they were being paid off or just didn’t care. It didn’t make a difference to him. He was certain that he would never be caught. It just wouldn’t happen to him.

Matthew saw the kind of men that went in and out the brothel. Many of them were married. In fact, it seemed like most of them had wives. Matthew saw the rings on their fingers. At least I’m single, he would tell himself. It made him feel better as it put him above all those men who were going behind their wives back and visiting the dirty place. They were the ones who should really be ashamed. Not guys like him, single men who just didn’t feel like putting up with the normal dating world.

“God,” Matthew said with disgust as he stepped into the brother. It had that urine smell that it often had. Sometimes the whole place would reek of the odor. Other times the horrible smell would be absent.

Matthew continued to take his usual route to the girl that he wanted. Sheilah. She was a petite sixteen-year-old whom he had been seeing for nearly eight months. She was just his type. He had almost fallen in love with her. He was definitely infatuated enough to keep going back to her and paying the price.

“It’s been a couple of days,” Sheilah said when she saw him coming her way. She was standing right outside of her usual room. “I was beginning to get suspicious.”

“Work.” That was all Matthew could offer. “We’ve been really busy.”

“I understand. Well, I got a guy in there right now. Let me take care of him real quick and then I’ll be right with you.”

Matthew nodded.

She was well worth the wait, just like she was worth the money. Matthew stood by patiently, waiting for his girl to finish up with the guy who had come before him. He looked around at the other girls who occasionally walked by with other men. They were all so young, and plenty of them looked innocent. He knew that it was wrong and so did other people, people who would actively oppose his actions.

 

 

By the time he got home, Matthew was exhausted. He didn’t think too much about his trips to the brothel after they were over and done with. There was no need to reflect on it. Sometimes he felt bad about what he did, but he knew that it was going to keep happening. He was addicted in a way. Back at his apartment, Matthew grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. He would be alone for the rest of the day. After watching a few hours of television, Matthew made his way to bed. It had been a long day.

The next day was a busy one at work. Matthew found himself rushing around trying to finish up deals that needed to be taken care of. By the time he got off work, Matthew was too tired to take his usual trip to the brothel. It would just be another day that Sheilah would miss him. When he got back to his apartment, Matthew was surprised to see the black box sitting by his door. It was a small box, small and black with a red bow wrapped around it. He picked it up and examined it. Attached to the bow was a card that read:

 

 

For Matthew Sweep

 

 

Some friend had to have put it there. Matthew figured that it was either going to be some kind of prank or an invite to a lame affair. Matthew stepped inside with the box in his hand. His curiosity was starting to get the best of him. He had to find out what was inside. Opening the box up slowly, Matthew looked down and saw a folded up piece of fabric in the box. He told is out to get a better look at it. It was a black mask. A black mask with a red X across the face of it. Matthew looked back in the box. There was a note. He picked it up.

 

 

Dear Mr. Sweep

 

We have been aware of your unrighteous actions at the brothel. You have become a man of many sins and have now been sentenced to wear the mark of a sinner for two years. If you continue to commit your disgusting acts, more time shall be added to your sentence. This is the last day you have to show your face in public for the next two years. Starting tomorrow, you will wear this mask with the appropriate mark. If you choose to step outside without the mask, you will be terminated. Once again, if you step outside without the mask on, you will be terminated. We will be watching you, Mr. Sweep. You and many others.

Be right

XXXXXX

 

 

Matthew read the letter several times before putting it down. Someone was playing some sort of sick joke on him. He didn’t appreciate it. Not at all. Matthew held up the mask and looked it over once more. There are some really sick people out there, he concluded.

Matthew went out the next day without the mask on. The mask, letter, and black box had been tossed away into the trash. He wasn’t going to entertain some sick person that he would probably never hear from again. The day was stressful. After work, Matthew figured that he had time to swing by the brothel. He decided against it.

I’m really tired, he told himself. I just want to go home and sleep.

“See you later, Matt,” a coworker said as he walked out of the building.

“Later.”

That would be the last time the coworker saw Matthew Sweep alive.

A friend stopped by his apartment after Matthew missed four days of work. Nobody had heard from him. Being extremely concerned, the friend decided to check in on Matthew. He found the apartment door unlocked.

“Hello?” the friend looked around the living room area. “What the…?”

There was a smell in the apartment. The friend continued to walk around. He found Matthew’s body in his bedroom. He was tied down to the bed. Both of his wrists were slit as was his neck. The friend knew it was him because of the Japanese tattoos on his side. He couldn’t see his face for that was covered with a black mask. A black mask with a red X across it.

 

 

“This thing is really getting out of control,” Detective John Ramirez told one of his comrades. “I mean….Really. I don’t know what’s going on here. I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t think there’s ever been anything to really prepare us for something like this happening.”

The man who had been a detective for over ten years had just found his tenth body with a black mask covering the victims face. It was the same kind of black mask with the same red X across it. This time the victim had been a preacher. His wife had found him lying out in the backyard. A stake had been driven through his heart along with other wooden stakes to hold him down. It had been going on long enough for Ramirez to know what kind of questions to ask.

“And you’re sure you don’t know about any extramarital affairs?” Ramirez asked the preachers visibly shaken wife. “You’re absolutely positive?”

“No.” the wife started shaking even more. “He never said anything about it.”

“Okay,”

Officers would search the house until they found what Ramirez wanted. When they did they would bring it to him. He was just hoping that the preacher had kept it around. Some of the past victims had thrown theirs out.

“Got it right here.” an officer announced as he presented Ramirez with a small box and letter. “Here you go.”

“All right.” Ramirez grabbed the letter. “Let’s see what we got going on here.”

Ramirez took less than a minute to read it.

“According to this,” Ramirez looked over at the preacher’s wife. “Well…”

“What?” the wife stepped towards him. “What is it?”

“According to this, your husband was molesting young girls. Girls who went to the church and turned to him for help.”

“No.” the wife started to shake her head. “It’s not true. It’s not true.”

Ramirez knew that she didn’t want to believe. He wasn’t sure about whether or not to believe what was written in the letter. But whoever was behind the killings did have a history of being correct.

There had been Thomas Long, a man who was found hanging in his bedroom with the black mask over his head. The killer or killers had accused him of being involved in child pornography. Mr. Long had been a married man with three young children. At first, the detectives hadn’t found any proof, but as Ramirez looked more into Mr. Long’s possessions he began to dig up things, things that were proof of what the killer had accused Mr. Long of doing. There were picture and videos.

“Who is this guy?” Ramirez inquired about the killer to another one of the detectives he was working with.

Once the bodies start piling up, Ramirez made it personal. He was going to find who was behind all of this. He was going to find them and make them pay. No matter what the victims may have done, the law didn’t want some vigilante out there killing people, especially when they were doing it in such gruesome manners.

Kevin Moody had been a heavyset man. His head and body had been found in separate places. The head had been left in front of the post office, while the body remained back in Mr. Moody’s apartment. The head had one of the black masks over it. Mr. Moody had been a cheat. He had found a way to take money from hundreds of innocent people. The killer had sent him a letter insisting that he stop and wear the mask for four years. Ramirez wasn’t sure if Mr. Moody had planned to stop the illegal activity. He never got a chance to make any amends.

Things were just going to keep getting worse. Ramirez was certain of it. The news had picked up on what was going on. There were plenty of headlines about the killer

Black Mask Killer Goes After Personal Justice

Sadistic Killer Loose: Making Victims Wear Masks

Who is the Black Mask Killer?

This guy had to be stopped. Ramirez was certain about that. If he were allowed to go on, then the whole city would remain in a panic.

By the time the twelfth victim was found, Ramirez had noticed that there were people walking around with the black masks on. They were out on the streets with their faces covered and a big red X going across it. The killer was starting to work faster and faster. Ramirez became certain that it had to be more than one person doing it. There was no way a single man could get to all those people in such a short amount of time.

Ramirez even wondered if it really was a person. What if it was something else? Maybe there really was some sort of higher being controlling all of it. He got it out of his mind right away. He knew it was people. There was a group behind it. Maybe six. Maybe the six X’s in the letter stood for a person. The signature was always there.

 

 

Be Right

XXXXXX

 

 

It was on all of the letters.

As he was adamantly working the case, Ramirez began to wonder if he could become a potential target for the killer. If they knew all that stuff about the other people, then it was a guarantee that they knew he was out there looking for them. What if they didn’t like that? Could they really get to him? Ramirez wasn’t going to let it slow him down. He was going to find the people responsible for the black masks death.

 

 

James Edwards had been ecstatic when he found out that he was going to be a father. He and his wife, Janelle, had been married for less than a year when their son came into the world. Tyler Edwards. He had been a blessing as far as James was concerned. Even when things were strained around the house between him and his wife, the twenty-four year old was always happy to spend time with his son.

“You’re going to be basketball star,” James talked to his son in a childish voice. “Aren’t you? Yes you are.”

The two were sitting on the couch. James had just gotten of from work. Another day at the grocery store. He had been working there for almost a year without many improvements on the job. Being with his son made him know that it was worth it all.

“What are doing?” James laughed at his son who was making a weird face. “What are you doing?”

“Honey,” Janelle called from the hallway.

She appeared in the living room holding a small, black box.

“This was by the door when I came home.” Janelle gently set the box down on the kitchen table. She continued to stare down at it with concern.

They had all seen the news. Since she was home most of the time, Janelle even had more time to watch the news and get a bunch of information on the Black Mask Killer. She had heard about how the killings had started. The victims had all received black boxes.

“What is it?” James said, picking him son up as he rose from the couch. He walked over towards the kitchen table. “What is that?”

“It’s a black box.”

“I can see that. What’s in it?”

“It has your name on it.”

“Okay. But, what’s in it?”

“You don’t know, do you? You really haven’t been paying attention.”

“Attention to what?”

“This is how it starts. With a black box. The mask killer. He sends his victims a black box.”

James stared down at the box with a blank expression.

“It can’t.” James thought for a second before handing Tyler over to his wife. “Let me see here. Probably some jokester. I’m sure they’ve been having those. People want to make light of this.”

James opened the box with reluctance. He set the top aside and looked in. Staring and staring, it took him awhile before he reached down and grabbed what was inside.

A black mask with a red X. There was also a letter. James read it silently.

“What does it say?” Janelle was beginning to get upset. She took a few steps back from him. “What did you do? The killer only goes after people who do something. What have you done?”

James put the letter back in the box. He lifted the mask up and looked it over.

“Honey.” he turned towards Janelle. “I’m sure this is some kind of joke.”

“It’s not.”

“It has to be. I mean…”

“I want to see the letter. I want to know what it says. I know it accuses you of something, and I want to know what.”

James just stared at her. She could see it on his face.

“It does say something about what you’ve done. So, is it true?”

His face continued to answer her questions.

“I think we should sit down,” he finally told her.

 

 

James liked to believe that he was still a good man, a good man who had just made a horrible mistake. It had happened right after Tyler was born. Janelle was focusing on the baby and when she wasn’t doing that, she seemed to be in a sour mood. He was feeling lonely and like he needed someone to talk to.

“But you didn’t just talk,” Janelle said. “You slept with her?”

“Yes.”

“How many times?”

“I don’t know. A few. No more than five or six. We broke it off because I told her I couldn’t keep doing it. And she moved a couple of months ago. Babe, I swear, I never meant for things to go so far. I don’t know…..I guess it doesn’t matter now. This guy, if it really is him, is going to kill me.”

“No. How long does he want you to wear the mask?”

“What?”

“In the note, it says how long you’re supposed to wear the mask. I know one guy, a friend of mine, has to wear it for two years after stealing from a relative. How long did it say?”

“They want me to wear it for a year and six months.” James held his head down. “That’s how long.”

“You’ll have to do it. It’s the only thing you can do.”

James sat and thought about. Things had been going so well for him. Now, it was all about to change. Once he stepped outside with the mask on, everybody would know.

 

 

After three months of wearing the black mask with the red X, James had decided that he had had enough. He was going to find the people responsible for him being forced to wear the mask. The shame and guilt had started to subside as he went through his life with the mask on, but he still violated. It wasn’t right to have to be kept in fear and worry. Every time he stepped outside of his apartment, he had to make sure to have the mask on. James knew the consequences for going out with his face showing.

The murders had continued throughout the city. People were still receiving the masks, and many were still trying to defy whoever was behind the whole thing. People continued to be in disbelief over the fact that so many people could be monitored and forced to cover their faces or be executed. It seemed like almost everyday James was hearing about some poor person who had been murdered over their refusal to wear the mask. James started to catch on to a few things. One, the black boxes seemed to appear in a pattern around the city. One day they would be in the northeast part of the city. The next day one would be in the northwest. Then the southwest. Back to the southeast. A counter clockwise motion. The other thing that he noticed was that every single person who received a black box was male. They were never given to females. Many speculated that it was some sort of feminist group behind it. That wasn’t James’s theory.

He believed that it was a man or group of men behind the whole thing. They were probably Christian fanatics or people who practiced religion in a very strict manner. Their whole lives were dedicated to watching people. They did it with ease and secrecy. No one would suspect them of being the killer because they looked very much like normal people. They probably even looked like the kind of people who were warm and welcoming. They walked around with friendly smiles. They said hello to everybody. No one was going to easily catch on to them.

James was determined to find them, and the first person he went to was Detective John Ramirez.

“I don’t think you’re going to have any better luck than we have.” Ramirez gave it to James straight. “We’ve got just about all our men out there looking for these people. Yet no one can seem to catch them. They’re moving in places that have thousands of people. Security cameras. Still we have no known pictures or clues as to who they are. No one can ever remember seeing someone place a box down. Cameras seem to simply skip over the part of someone actually dropping off the box. One second there’s nothing there. The next, a black box. A bunch of cameras have also been broken. I guess if they can locate them, they’ll just take them out. These guys are good. Real good. And I’m actually beginning to wonder…”

“What?”

The detective stared at the mask over James’s face. He shook his head and turned away.

“Yesterday.” Ramirez stared out his window. “We got a call out to some guy’s house. His wife and kids came home and found him sliced in two. He had a mask on. It didn’t take us long to find out what he had done. He had raped a young girl, a friend of the families. And then he forced her to lie about what had happened. It never went to trial. That was a few years ago. I guess he finally got his punishment. The killer had demanded that he wear the mask for twelve years. The same age the girl was when he attacked her. The guy was arrogant. He just knew the killer wasn’t going to be able to get to him. I have to tell you, I’m starting to feel like we can have a bunch of people on this case because now that this black mask stuff has started catching on, people are a little more hesitant to stray from the law. So on one hand we have a group of people taking the law into their own hands, something that no man should do. On the other, we have a city that is much safer.”

The detective went quiet.

“What are you trying to say?” James asked him. “That what this guy is doing may be right? That people can just intrude into others’ lives and force them to live a certain way? And if they don’t then they are to be punished by death? Look at this. I don’t deserve to wear this. Yes, I cheated on my wife, but who the hell are these people to make me wear this thing?”

Ramirez turned and looked at James. The mask was covering it, but he could almost see the face. It was one with anger and pain. A human one. There were hundreds of them out there. People being forced to cover up. James for infidelity. Another for secretly taking nude photos of his neighbor. One for continuously being drunk in public. There were plenty of people out there wearing mask who hadn’t necessarily done anything wrong in the eyes of the law. Not the old law. There seemed to be a new one coming in, one that they were finding nearly impossible to stop.

 

 

James was going to find the people. He had his mind set on it. First, he started trying to hangout in the areas of the city that he knew the black box people would be at. They had a pattern, and he tried to follow it. His efforts were in vain. James was never able to find anyone placing a black box down or even be in the area where a person received on. He realized that he was never going to find the people that way. Especially after they broke away from their usual pattern one day. Things were changing because the people’s behavior was changing. James figured that there was only one real way.

“I don’t know,” Ramirez told him after James gave him a plan. “Some other detectives have tried this before. They end up living while someone else is watching, but somehow the killer always gets them while they’re alone.”

James had decided that he would take off the mask and he would go out in public. He had wanted Ramirez to follow him after he had taken it off. The killer would come for him, and Ramirez would be right there to catch whoever it was.

“You’re right.” James thought about it. “That may not be such a good idea. It would just be the two of use alone.”

He went home that night and thought about it. There had to be a way. A plan started to creep into his head. James dismissed it at first, certain that it would never work. It kept coming back until he finally started to work it out. If it was done right, then they would be able to stop the people behind the black masks.

 

 

The group met on the steps of the city library. For a week, James had been working on sending the message out. The day of the meeting, nearly a thousand people showed up wearing a black mask with a red X over it. They were all uniting as one. The plan seemed so simple that James wondered why no had ever thought of it before.

“We probably just needed larger numbers,” he told his wife earlier. “There’s enough of us out there now. And there’s no way these people can get to us all.”

That morning they all stood in front of the library. When it was time for the meeting, James stepped up to the top of the stairs. He raised one hand in the air. Then swiftly lowering his arm back down, James snatched the mask off of his face.

There was a gasp from the crowd.

“Come on,” James yelled. “We must all do this together. As long as we are together, these people will not be able to touch us.”

There were police on standby. Everyone looked around to see what would happen next. One man followed James and took his mask off. Then another. It kept on going for a couple of minutes when all of the men who had joined the meeting finally had their masks off.

“Finally,” James called out. “We are free. Our faces are back out. And if these people want to do something about then they need to come out and show their faces. Just like we have. Like real men.”

“Yeah!”

The crowd started to rumble in agreement. The noise went on for a few minutes before everyone went silent. They were looking around, anticipating the killer’s next move. The black mask people had to be out there watching. It was just a matter of time before something happened.

The silence remained as they all waited. Waiting and waiting, there was no signs that something was going to happen.

“What are we going to do?” one man asked James. “Do we just stay here?”

“Yes,” James looked around. “Eventually, one of them will show their faces.”

The crowd continued to wait. Many of the men were growing highly impatient. Finally, something happened. A man wear a black mask with a red X began to approach the crowd. There was a note attached to his chest. As he started to make his way through the crowd, the other men could see that the note was nailed to him. The man wearing the mask continued to make his way towards the top of the steps where James stood. When he finally reached James, the man collapsed to the ground. James bent down to check on him.

“He’s dead,” another man said from behind James. Several people had gathered around to get a closer look. “What’s in that note?”

With the help of another man, James released the note from the deceased man’s chest. He stood up and read it.

“It says,” James continued to read. “It says that we are all fools. While they may not be able to get to us, they can always reach our families.”

James instantly thought about Janelle and Tyler. They were back at the apartment. He knew that he had to get to them as soon as possible.

“All right,” James called out. “I have to go. I have to….”

James rushed off away from the crowd. Some called for him to come back while other began to go off to check on their own families.

James felt that he couldn’t run fast enough. His apartment was a ten minute walk from the library. He kept telling himself that they would be okay as he ran to his family. Finally, he reached the apartment. The door was slightly cracked open. He slowly pushed it opened and walked in. The tall being was the first thing he saw when he entered the apartment, but his eyes went directly down to his wife who was lying at the being’s feet. There was blood beneath her head.

James’s jaw fell.

His eyes slowly went back up to the face of the being. Once he looked into the being’s eyes, James instantly understood what it all was and what it all meant. All that time he had spent trying to fight it. If he wasn’t paralyzed with awe, he would have been mentally chastising himself for having been so dumb. They were in control all along. Even before the masks with the red X came into the picture. These were the ones who were in complete control.

And they always would be.

Constance’s Love

Flash Fiction…I think.

 

Constance’s Love

by Ronald Cypress

Throughout the years that she had been retreating to the woods for solitary, Constance had come across plenty of oddities scattered around the mostly vacant area, but she had never seen anything like what she found on that second day of a hot July. She had seen dead bodies before—all them in caskets—but Constance had never seen one that wasn’t prepared and set out for anticipated viewers. The sight of her first unattended body caught her off guard, but she responded better than she had expected. She hadn’t made a sound, not even a gasp, after spotting the body.

It was a young man. He was propped up against a tree, slightly slouched over to his right side. He was wearing a black, leather jacket that was unzipped, and under the jacket he was completely bare. The young man was also wearing blue jeans and black socks. In his right hand there was a gun, one that Constance surmised was a typical handgun, and under the jacket, running down his chest and stomach, was blood. Anyone could put together what had happened to the young man.

Constance started to weep once she realized what he had done and its permanence. She didn’t weep long, because something suddenly caught her eyes; the young man was quite attractive. There wasn’t any life in his eyes that were partly open; he had the appearance of a dead person. But Constance started to see more than death, and before she knew a strong feeling came over her. She sat beside the body, her leg brushing against his as she did so. The touching caused her to flinch a little, but it wasn’t because she was repulsed. It was something that was related more to her shyness.

Constance had always been a shy girl. The fifteen-year-old had thrown up several times during the previous school year because of the nerves that came along with being so introverted. She didn’t do well around people; it was what brought her out to the woods so often. Her mother had warned her that one day she would journey into the woods, go too far and never come back. As she sat next to the young man, Constance began to suspect that day had actually arrived.

She sat and stared at the boys face. He wasn’t much older than her. He was youthful and beautiful. When he was alive, girls had constantly been chasing after him, the rare Adonis whom everybody wanted, but he had chosen to be with Constance. There were even several men, some married, who had pursued the young man. The young man was always kind and never harshly rebuked anyone. No matter how desperately he was wooed the young man always kept his heart faithful to Constance.

Constance had been the fool to question his devotion. She had been the one who pushed him away after seeing a sight that she mistook as another girl coming to take her place. She had pushed him hard enough for the young man to have fallen so far into darkness that he could see no way to go on. She had forgiven him and was on her way to see him and confess her absolute love once again, but the young man had gone away. Constance had searched without rest for several days before coming upon his remains in the woods.

Her true love had left her.

She would go back home and no one would know about what had happened. She would go to school, and no one would know about her real love. They would all just go back to tormenting her without understanding that Constance was already under the ground, gone from the earth and with her love. She would be numb and mostly deaf to talk at school, and at home she would just hide away in her room and cry quietly enough so that her parents didn’t hear her. Constance was wise enough to know that the pain wouldn’t last forever. Another love would eventually come along, but there would be the understanding of what had once been. Constance knew that she would never get over the rare Adonis who had once loved her so passionately.

The young man twitched. Constance was certain that she saw him move, but after staring at him carefully for several minutes the body appeared to be completely still. Her love was gone. Constance stood up and began to weep again.

“Oh, Amor,” she said.

Constance turned away from the young man and began to walk. She wasn’t going back home, but she was heading out of the woods. Thoughts about the summer’s end stayed with her as she strolled along. She saw all of their faces and remembered how she had often wished to be invisible to them. She wasn’t going think that way after the summer ended. Constance wasn’t going to be the same girl. The love she had experienced had taken her, and she wasn’t going to come back. They could look at her now, and she wouldn’t mind. She wasn’t going to be the girl they had expected to see.

Ants in My Pants

Another old one about suspicious kids. 

 

 

Ants in My Pants

By Ronald Cypress

The mom had been listening to the kids play outside for nearly four hours, and she had begun to lose focus on keeping a watchful eye over them. All together there were a total of five kids playing in the background. Her son, Tommy, had invited his friends over that Saturday, a ritual that had been occurring almost ever weekend since he had returned to school. The mom occasionally wondered why the group never met at one of the other kids’ home, but she figured that the meeting place gave her an advantage in making sure that her child was safe.

The group didn’t do too much; it seemed that way to the mom. She found herself feeling quite confused by some of the behavior that went on while the five kids were outside playing together. Often the five kids would stand around in a circle and talk. The meeting usually took place at the far end of the backyard, just a few feet away from the wooden fence that separated their yard from the neighbors’. The mom discussed what she saw with her husband a few times.

“Don’t worry about it,” the husband said as he flipped through the channels on the television. “They’re just back there talking. That’s all.”

“Yeah,” the mom said. “But they seem so serious. It’s really weird. I asked Tommy what they were talking about, and he just shook his head. He didn’t even answer me. It’s really strange.”

The husband didn’t respond. Since he worked every Saturday, rising early in the morning and not returning until late that evening, the husband wasn’t around to see what the kids were doing. The mom knew that if he had been there to witness it with his own eyes he would understand her apprehension.

Aside from throwing a large, red rubber ball around, there was very little play involved with the group of kids. Even when they engaged in playing, the mom found their behavior to be peculiar. She wasn’t certain, but the mom assumed that all of the kids in the group were the same age as Tommy. Since they were all at least ten years old, them playing with the large, red rubber ball came off as a bit immature. The manner in which they tossed and bounced it from person to person was slightly bizarre, and the solemn looks on their faces only added to the strangeness.

When they weren’t playing with the large, red rubber ball or standing around in a circle, the five kids would engage in exercises. They did jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and other various drills around the yard. It was while she was watching them workout that the mom realized the power her son had over the other kids. Tommy seemed to be the boss of the group, and the mom felt chills as she watched her son silently and sternly lead the other kids through their workouts.

Something was going on with them. Tommy didn’t say much about what they were doing and the mom tried not to ask too many questions. But she knew that something was happening with the kids.

“You’re being ridiculous,” the dad said. “They’re just kids playing. You’re being paranoid, and I’m starting to worry about you.”

The mom agreed, or she pretended to agree. A part of her said that she was just being paranoid. The other part of her was certain that something was going on with the children. They were up to something.

Most Saturdays the kids stayed in the yard. A few times they did leave as a group without Tommy informing his mom about where they were going. The mom figured they were going to stay in the neighborhood. Tommy was old enough to safely play away from the house, especially when there was a group with him. The mom still had concerns, but not all of them were for her son.

One day the group met, standing in a circle for nearly an hour, and then they left the yard. The mom watched as the kids lined up. Tommy stood with authority in the back as the group of kids walked out of the yard, their steps locked together with perfect synchronicity. The mom didn’t think too much about where the kids were going; she just hoped that everyone would stay safe.

When the group came back nearly an hour later, the mom noticed that they were all holding walkie-talkies in their hands. The group was back to standing in a circle and Tommy was talking. The mom decided to step outside onto the patio. Her son was speaking in a loud and peremptory voice.

“I have given you all the code,” Tommy said to the group. The mom noticed that he was taking turns looking at the other kids’ faces. “Ants in my pants. That is the code we go by. I have made myself clear. Ants in my pants. When you hear the code, you move without hesitation. Ants…in…my…pants.”

The mom could feel herself becoming frightened. It was the way her son spoke and the determined look on his face. Suddenly, one of the two girls in the group looked over at the mom. A few seconds later, three of the other kids did the same. The only person who didn’t turn and look at the mom was Tommy. He stood silently with her back to her.

The mom quickly turned and retreated to the house. Something was going on. She was sure of it.

“They’re just playing a little game,” her husband said when she brought it up that night. “Quit worrying. We’re going to have to find something for you to do. You’re starting to lose it.”

The mom knew that her husband was wrong.

The next weekend, the mom noticed that the group wasn’t in the backyard during their usual meeting time. The only person standing in the yard was Tommy. He was standing in the middle of the yard with a walkie-talkie in his hand. The mom cracked the patio door opened so she could hear anything that was being said. Almost thirty minutes passed with Tommy standing in silence before she finally heard the code.

“All right, my soldiers,” the mom heard her son say. “Ants in my pants. Ants in my pants. Standing in the yard, and I got some ants in my pants.”

The mom looked out and saw that her son was speaking into the walkie-talkie. She waited to her a response come back, but no one returned a message. Ten minutes later, Tommy was inside the house, sitting at the kitchen table.

“Hey, ma,” Tommy said in an innocent voice. “You think you could make me a sandwich. I’m feeling pretty hungry here.”

“Sure,” the mom agreed, hastily preparing to make her son a sandwich.

An hour later, after Tommy had eaten and went off to his room, the phone rang. The mom picked it up; it was one of her best friends.

“You have to turn on the news,” the friend said. “You won’t believe this. I can barely believe it. It’s basically on every channel right now.”

“What?” the mom rushed into the living room and turned the television to a channel that was sure to have news.

On the television were images of building that appeared to have been bombed, and a bus that also appeared to have been blown up. The news headline read:

 

Two Bombings in City

 

The mom was horrified as she watched the news coverage.

“I can’t believe someone would do such a thing,” her best friend said. “This is horrible.”

“Yeah.” the mom didn’t know what else to say.

It was horrible, and she knew right away that her son had something to do with the bombings; all five of the kids had something to do with it.

That evening, the mom and her husband talked about the bombings with each other. Though they spoke about it in front of Tommy, he didn’t have a response to what had happened. The mom tried to get him to talk about it, but her son just shrugged and made a quiet grunting noise with his throat.

She thought about mentioning her theory to her husband, but decided to keep it to herself. If she brought it up, her husband would only be upset. The mom understood. Any normal father would be upset to hear their ten-year-old child be accused of causing destruction and death. But the mom remained sure that her son and the other kids had something to do with it.

Weeks went by after the bombing and the FBI and police were unable to figure out who had bombed the city. They had clues, but there were no solid leads. Videos showed boxes appearing at the bombed sites, but they were unable to see who had left them there. Some of the videos were shown on television and the mom noticed that some of the kids who played in her backyard were in the videos. Of course, the police and FBI would never suspect them; not even when one of the kids went up and touched one of the boxes.

It was just innocent child curiosity.

“That little girl is lucky she didn’t stay there long,” one reporter said as a video showed a girl that the mom was familiar with coming into contact with one of the boxes that had contained a bomb. “Just a minute more and she probably would have been killed.”

The media and law officials just weren’t going to get it. The mom was sure of it. They were just harmless kids as far as the adults were concerned.

Nearly a month passed after the bombings took place. Overall, fifteen people lost their lives, and there a couple dozen left with limbs missing and other severe injuries. The kids were still free and no one had been arrested for the attacks. The mom figured that the kids would eventually attack again.

She saw Tommy standing alone in the backyard again one day. That was how she knew the next attack was getting ready to occur. The fact that the other kids weren’t there with their leader meant that they were out and taking action. All they had to do was hear the signal. The mom stood by the patio door as her son spoke into the walkie-talkie.

“A hot day out here,” Tommy said with a grin. “A lot of bugs moving around out here. I may have to go inside pretty soon. I’ve been standing here for so long that now I’ve got ants in my pants. Ants in my pants. I’ve got some ants in my pants.”

The mom stood still, feeling almost completely numb.

Hey Diddle Diddle

Another old one.

           Hey Diddle Diddle

          By Ronald Cypress

 

Alvin Manning was a man whose nature seemed to be innately violent, and the law eventually put him away for four murders, two attempted murders and several vicious assaults. Many people said that he should have been locked up long before the police finally apprehended him. Alvin was thirty-three when he was sentenced to four life sentences. Some of the family members of his victims and others in society had called for him to be put to death, but a deal was made and Alvin Manning was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

He had confessed to the murders, and there didn’t seem to be any chance of him ever being released back into the free world. A few months into his prison sentence, Alvin assaulted another man, leaving him with permanent damage to his right eye. The assault had seemed to be unprovoked, and when he was asked for an explanation all Alvin could say was the man had been coughing too much; it was something that bothered him.

They began sending him to a psychologist. Alvin didn’t want to see the man, but the warden had come to him one evening and informed him that a group of people had taken an interest in his case. Alvin refused to go at first, but the warden told him that he could go willingly, or they could drag him to meet with the man. Alvin began to see the psychologist. Starting with their initial meeting, the man asked Alvin numerous questions about his crimes and what had driven him to commit such acts. Alvin didn’t want to answer the questions, grunting and giving nearly inarticulate responses to the questions. They could force him to see the man, but he didn’t have to talk. Alvin was going to remain uncooperative until the psychologist told him something that caught his interest.

“Some very special people are interested in you, Alvin,” the man told him. “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but there is a chance that these people could be responsible for you one day being free again.”

“Oh yeah.” Alvin smirked.

“That’s right.” the psychologist smiled at him. “They have close ties with the government, and they are looking for people like you. This is wrong to say, but you’re a very lucky to be as violent as you are. Now there’s a chance that these people will take more interest in you and help you get out of here. But first you must talk to me. Tell me about your crimes.”

Alvin didn’t believe the man, but he figured that it was a good opportunity to brag about the things he had done.

Alvin committed his first murder at the age of thirty, and he had come close to killing a few others prior to that.

“I ran a guy over once,” Alvin said. “Got into an argument with him at the grocery store. Asshole accused me of cutting in line. I had done that, but he should have kept his mouth shut. I followed him to another store, and when he got out the car I ran him over. They never caught me. This was when I was about twenty-six. I was sure they were going to get me, but all they got was the stolen car I had been driving at the time.”

The doctor took notes while Alvin talked.

“That first murder happened because I needed money, and I just felt like killing the guy. Met him at a bar. I gave him a ride back to his place, and he invited me in. He was in the bathroom when I grabbed the knife from the drawer. I waited several minutes after he came back into the kitchen. He was going on about how he couldn’t wait to see his daughter. He was pretty drunk. Looked like he was about to go to sleep before I just stabbed him.”

The psychologist tried to get Alvin to explain more about what had motivated him to commit the murder.

“I wanted money,” Alvin explained. “And I got some. I also just wanted the guy dead. I think I wanted him dead from the moment he sat down and started talking to me at the bar when I didn’t want to be talked to.”

Alvin had a supercilious look on his face when he spoke about his first victim. His second murder had taken place not long after the first one.

“I realized that the woman was living alone,” Alvin said. “I knew she was at least in her eighties. The hag was just set to be murdered, living alone like that. No one really checked on her. I just went in through a window and found her in the bedroom. I surprised her. She didn’t scream. She didn’t say anything until I started to act. Then she started begging, telling me about how there was little money in the house. I had brought the knife with me. I kept stabbing until I realized that my hand was cut. I had told myself not to do that like other idiot murderers do, but the damn thing slipped.”

Alvin laughed.

The psychologist asked if there was a reason for killing the old woman.

“I just saw her.” Alvin shook his head. “I saw her and I just wanted her dead.”

The third victim was a man Alvin claimed had been running his mouth at a bar.

“He was just talking loud and being annoying,” Alvin said. “I sat there looking at him, knowing that I was going to kill him. I followed home and shot him in the back of the head. I didn’t think there was anyone around, but that’s what got me put here. Someone had seen my car leaving the scene.”

Alvin had managed to murder one more person before the police arrested him.

“She was walking alone at night,” Alvin said. “And I happened to drive by and see her. I just got out of the car and attacked her. She screamed before I slit her throat. I don’t think anyone heard her. It was pretty random, and they wouldn’t have caught me if I hadn’t confessed.”

Alvin talked about other crimes he had committed. Most of them were assaults on random people and robbery. After several weeks of seeing the psychologist, Alvin was asked if he regretted any of his crimes.

“Not at all,” Alvin said, smoking a cigarette that he had been allowed to have. “They’re probably innocent in your eyes, but I think everyone of those people deserved to die.”

The psychologist understood. “I have to say you are one of the coldest people that I’ve ever met. The people who sent me will have my full respect if they can improve you.”

Despite all the time he had spent with the psychologist, Alvin still didn’t know about the people he was referring to.

 

 

 

The name of the company was Tyycron, and the first representative for them that Alvin met was Dr. Kathy Peg. Sitting in the same room that he met with the psychologist, Dr. Peg talked about the program they had going and why they were interested in him.

“We’ve only worked on a few other humans up to this point,” Dr. Kathy told him. “Some haven’t been able to cope with the surgery. One made it halfway through before health issues arose and he had to be removed. We have lost one person, a man who died from issues that are still unknown.”

Alvin smoked as he listened to the doctor talk. What they were offering him sounded absurd and unreal to him. The doctor claimed that Tyycron had found a way to cure people like him. They were going to do something to his brain that would completely cure him from his violent impulses. They wanted to work on him and turn him into someone that would be idyllic for society. Alvin listened, though he understood very little about the overall goal of the doctor’s program.

“We would really like to work with you,” Dr. Peg said. We think you would be a very good fit for our program. There are risks, but I think we have developed the technique far enough that there is at least a ninety-five percent chance of success.”

The doctor talked about the risks and what might happen, but Alvin wasn’t interested in that part. She eventually brought up the fact that there was a chance that he could be released from prison if the surgery was successful.

“It would ultimately be up to the government,” Dr. Peg said. “You wouldn’t be completely free. There would be heavy restrictions on you. But if we can prove that you are cured, then that will be a huge step for not only you but the entire prison system.”

Alvin didn’t care about the others; all he was concerned with was that there was a chance to be free again.

He signed all the papers that were put in front of him before being removed from the prison and taken to the Tyycron facility. Alvin called his mother, a woman who refused to believe her son was guilty of any crime, and told her that about where he was going.

“I don’t like,” she said after he explained what they were going to do to him at Tyycron. “It sounds very dangerous.”

Alvin didn’t try to assure his mom that he would be alright.

He had very little faith in what they were planning, but just being at the facility was better than being in prison. Alvin was heavily guarded, but the food and boarding was an upgrade from prison life; Alvin imagined that people in mental hospitals lived in similar settings. There was one window in his room, and from that window Alvin could see the facility yard and the woods. A few times, Alvin would stare out of the window and imagine coming up with some kind of escape plan. He would break free and run into the woods. The idea seemed somewhat romantic and adventurous to him, but Alvin knew that going through with the operation and treatment was the best option for him.

Along with Dr. Peg, a man named Dr. Harris Reed was in charge of his treatment. Dr. Reed would be the one who would actually perform surgery on Alvin’s brain.

“Gonna cut my brain up?” Alvin asked Dr. Reed before he was sent to get his head shaved.

“Not exactly.” Dr. Reed said. “We’re just going to make some adjustments. You see, my partner and I made a great discovery a few years ago. All that violence you committed. All those foul impulses you had.” Dr. Reed tapped on the side of his own head. “They’re all up here. Right here.”

Alvin felt like killing the doctor.

The surgery last for several hours, and Alvin would remain asleep for the rest of the day. When he woke up, he felt around on his head. His head had been bandaged up, but there was very little pain. Alvin noticed that he had a very strange feeling. He felt like himself, but he knew that something was very different. Alvin called out to see if anyone could hear him. The room was dark, and looking out of his window he saw that it was night. Since he had arrived at the facility, a guard had been placed right outside his room. Alvin pulled open the small hatch on the door and looked out. He didn’t see anyone.

He went back over to the window and looked out at the trees. Alvin could feel his thought process was different. The idea of running into the woods to escape was gone. Instead, he looked out at the trees, standing high the night. They didn’t look completely real to him. The trees almost looked like cartoons. Alvin smiled as he thought about cartoons. He wanted to watch them.

“Can’t I just do that?” Alvin quietly asked himself.

 

The next day, the doctors began working on him. They ran test on him. The changes could be seen right away. One of the big changes was in the way that Alvin spoke. His voice was a bit higher, and it sounded more like a child speaking rather than a man. Dr. Peg and Dr. Reed told him that he was doing well after giving him different tests; there were a variety of tests. Alvin’s favorite were the ones were he got to look at drawings and name what he saw. His least favorite was when the doctors showed him horrible pictures of dead bodies and people being hurt. It was during one of those tests that Alvin broke down and began to cry, asking if he could see his mother.

The worked with Alvin for nearly a month before they decided that he was ready to released back into society. Once the decision was made to turn him over to his mother, the media picked up on the story, causing an instant reaction from the general public. Most of the outcry was negative towards the convicted murderer being set free.

“He should be dead,” a man said. “They should have given him the death penalty.”

“He needs to stay in prison,” a woman said. “They’re telling us that he’s been cured, but we don’t know what that means. How can we trust their word?”

The doctors and other businessmen who worked for Tyycron were prepared for the backlash. In a few interviews with the press, Dr. Peg and Dr. Reed tried to assure the public that Alvin Manning was a man cured of any impulses that would drive him to commit murder.

“Look at him as a man-child,” Dr. Reed said. “One who has had any violent impulses removed from them. Alvin is much better now. We will be monitoring his behavior closely. We are not just setting him free, but rather keeping tight surveillance on him. Believe me, you are all safe.”

“Alvin is almost like a different person,” Dr. Peg said. “He is much better. And if time proves that our procedures were successful then I feel like this can be a new age of reformation for violent criminals. Perhaps all criminals.”

The public didn’t know what to make of the doctors words. They were still doubtful about Alvin’s reformation and just how much had changed. Due to privacy reason, the press was not allowed to talk to Alvin after he was released. They set him free, releasing him into his mother’s custody. She would take care of him while he was being watched by Tyycron.

 

Hagith Manning was confused about what had been done to her son. The people at Tyycron had tried to explain it to her, but she was unable to truly comprehend the procedures. All she knew was that her son was going to be living with her again. When she went to pick him up, a group of law officials and Tyycron workers sat down with her and talked about the restrictions that were going to put on Alvin. He would have to wear a monitor around his ankle. For the first nine months of his release, Alvin would not be allowed to step more than ten feet from his mother’s property without an alarm being set off. In order for him to go farther, his mom would have to receive permission from the person acting as his probation officer.

Hagith was worried about her son going anywhere. Given the reaction to the people living around her, she figured that it would be best if her son just remained in the house. On the day that he came home, Alvin gave her a strong hug before rushing to his bedroom. Hagith had spoken with her son on the phone while he was still being detained at the Tyycron facility. He had asked for certain things when they talked. The way he spoke made Hagith slightly uncomfortable. Whatever they had done to her son, it made him sound more like a ten-year-boy rather than a grown man. Hagith had never felt that there was anything wrong with her son. When he was convicted of the crimes, she didn’t belief there was enough evidence to prove guilt, and she thought that the incompetent attorney he had forced him into pleading guilty. Alvin had his problems in the past, but he was still her son. She was glad to have him back, but there was something off about him.

It was more than just the fact that he was childlike.

“Train!” Alvin screamed from his room. A train set was something that he had asked for while at the facility.

Hagith had purchased an expensive one online; her neighbor, Willie, set it up so that it would be ready when Alvin came home.

Hagith went to check on Alvin and found him sitting on the floor, watching the toy train go around the tracks; it circumnavigated around a small, toy town.

“Train, the train.” Alvin began to sing as he watched the train. He looked up at his mother with a wide smile on his face. Looking back at the train, Alvin began to clap. “Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon.”

Alvin clapped some more as he laughed.

He would play in his room for a few hours before growing tired and falling asleep on the floor. While he was sleeping Hagith quietly entered the room and stared at him. She remembered how he used to fall asleep on the floor when he was a boy. Even back then he hadn’t been so childlike. Tyycron had done something to her boy. Alvin didn’t feel like Alvin anymore. She stared at the monitor on his ankle. A part of her felt like Tyycron had crossed the line, but she knew that they were responsible for giving him back to her.

 

People protested outside of Hagith’s home for the first couple of weeks that Alvin was home. There were people with signs and chants. Hagith could understand how they were upset over someone they believed to be a killer being released, but she knew that her son wasn’t a killer and never had been. She called the police after she first noticed a crowd building. They sent a few police cars out to the home, and the officers would stay nearby to make sure that none of the protestors actually broke the law. After one of them threw an egg at her house, one of the officers cuffed the perpetrator and took the man away.

Hagith wanted to go outside and yell at them all for victimizing her and her son, but she knew that it wouldn’t resolve anything. All she could do was wait for them to go away. A few weeks would pass before the protestors began to dwindle. A few times, Alvin pulled back the closed curtains to look out the living room window. He saw the signs and angry faces. In a little boy’s voice, he asked his mother about what was happening.

“They’re just upset about something they don’t understand,” Hagith told her son. She coaxed him away from the window, telling him to go play with the train set in his room. Walking him back to his room, Hagith sang his favorite song for him:

 

Hey, Diddle, Diddle,

Cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon.

The little dog laughed;

To see such sport,

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

 

Alvin sang the last line along with her.

Hagith had noticed that her son frequently sang the song at random times. She questioned him about one night, as she was helping him take a shower; he had asked to take a bath but she refused to let him do so.

“They sang it to me at the place,” Alvin said. “Dr. Peg played it for me. It became my favorite song, and sometimes she would sing it to me. I love the song.”

Alvin began to hum the tune.

When the protestors began to fade away, Hagith was left only with neighbors who were still on edge about her son being in her home. She knew that eventually they would be won over once they saw how well Alvin was getting along. The first people she introduced her reformed son to were Willie and Ebony, the married couple that lived next door to her.

“Alvin put up your train set,” Hagith told her son when she was introducing him.

“How ya, Mr. Willie?” Alvin gleefully shook Willie’s hand. “It’s really nice meeting you, mister. I really like my train set.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Willie smiled at Alvin.

“And this is Ebony.” Hagith guided her son over to Willie’s wife.

“How ya do, Mrs. Ebony?” Alvin shook her hand.

“I’m doing all right,” Ebony said, also smiling at him.

Hagith hoped that the meeting would go well. She wanted her neighbors to see that her son wasn’t a violent criminal. He wasn’t who he used to be, or what people had claimed him to be. Alvin was basically a little boy; one with odd tastes and mannerisms. But he could be trusted in their neighborhood.

During their first meetings, Willie and Alvin began to talk various topics while Ebony and Hagith talked amongst themselves. Occasionally, Hagith would look over at her son and Willie, relieved to see that they were getting along so well. At one point, Alvin brought Willie over to the living room window.

“I keep looking out here,” Alvin said. “And I keep thinking about how nice it would be to go play outside. But my mommy says I can’t, and so does the guy who comes to see me every week. They say I have to wait a little bit longer before I can travel. I bet it’s real nice out there, Mr. Willie.”

“It is,” Willie said. “And don’t worry about it. You’ll be out there soon enough.”

“I sure will.”

Alvin began to whistle a tune that Hagith instantly recognized.

As time went on, some of the other neighbors began to acknowledge Hagith and her son with smiles, nods, and waves. She could tell that they were still nervous about Alvin being in their neighborhood even though months had passed without there being any incidents. Most of the time, Alvin stayed in his room playing with toys or watching television. Cartoons were just about the only thing that Alvin would watch. Hagith tried to talk him into watching more adult shows, but Alvin seemed to find them disturbing.

When he was watching a Western and saw two men get shot, Alvin looked at his mom and told her that the show was too violent for him.

“I don’t like this.” he sounded as if he were close to crying. “That was horrible. Those guys didn’t do anything wrong.”

Hagith changed the channel. She turned the news on; the news was something she tried to avoid after Alvin was released. Hagith figured that enough time had gone by since his release and that it was safe to watch it. On the news there were stories of murders and other crimes.

“Turn this off,” Alvin cried. “Turn it off. This is terrible. Terrible, terrible stuff people are doing.”

Alvin picked up a stuffed raccoon his mom had recently bought and squeezed it close to his chest. He sang his song with some distress in his voice:

 

Hey, diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon.

 

Hagith changed the channel for him.

Close to the end of the nine months that Alvin had to spend with a monitor around his ankle, a teenage girl named Jessica who lived in the neighborhood came over to speak with Hagith. That was the first time that Alvin would meet her.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the sixteen-year-old girl greeted Alvin.

“Nice to meet you too, Miss Jessica,” Alvin smiled at her. “I’ve see you outside from the window. I’ve seen you at your friends. It must be nice to have friends and to play outside.”

“I guess so.” Jessica laughed.

“Alvin.” Hagith moved her son away from Jessica. “Jessica used to help me with things around the house. I told you about her before. I don’t know if you remember. While you were gone, she was very helpful.”

“That’s very nice of you, Mrs. Jessica. ” Alvin smiled.

“I just came over to check on you,” Jessica said to Hagith. “Things were pretty crazy for awhile, and we weren’t sure about what was going to happen. I was going to come over sooner, but I’ve been pretty busy. I also figured I’d give you guys time to be together.”

“Everything is fine now.” Hagith said She looked at her son. “Alvin has been helping me out a lot now. And pretty soon they’re going to let him do even more than he can do now.”

“That’s right,” Alvin said. He threw his arms into the air. “Pretty soon I’ll be able to play.”

All three of them began to laugh.

 

 

Alvin was set free from most of his restrictions. The person who had been checking in on him would continue to do so for another six months. The day after his monitor was taking off, Alvin saw Dr. Peg for the first time since leaving the facility. He gave her a big hug when he saw her.

“Dr. Peg!” Alvin said. “It’s been such a long time. I hope you’re doing well.”

“Alvin.” Hagith hissed at her son. “We’re inside. Lower your voice.”

“It’s fine,” Dr. Peg laughed. “I’m glad to see you, Alvin. You appear to be doing very well.”

“I am.” Alvin quietly clapped his hands. “And they’re letting me go outside now. See these clothes I’m wearing. I picked them out especially for this day. Dr. Peg, I’m going to the park!”

“That’s right,” Hagith said. “I told Alvin that I would take him to the park today.”

“That’s good.” Dr. Peg smiled at Alvin. “I just wanted to check on make sure that everything was going alright. I brought some papers here. This is just a quick checkup. It really shouldn’t take that long.”

The three eventually sat down in Hagith’s living room. Dr. Peg asked questions about Alvin’s physical health. Hagith told her that everything appeared to be fine.

“Is there something I should be looking out for?” Hagith asked.

“No.” the doctor answered. “Everything should be fine. He should be following normal health protocols.”

Dr. Peg asked Alvin questions about his emotions and responses to things around him. Alvin spoke about how happy he was at home. He talked about all the toys he had, expressing a childish elation when speaking of them. When he was done talking about the toys, Alvin sang his song:

 

Hey, diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon.

The little dog laughed,

To see such sport,

And…

 

Alvin appeared to have forgotten the lyrics.

“The dish ran away with the spoon.” Hagith finished for her son.

“Yeah.” Alvin looked a bit disconcerted. He turned to Dr. Peg. “That’s one of my favorite songs. Remember how you sang it to me?”

“I do.” Dr. Peg said.

The doctor asked more questions about Alvin’s behavior. She asked Hagith if she had noticed anything odd about her son’s behavior.

“Aside from him behaving like child?” Hagith said, the bitterness obvious in her voice. “Everything is fine.”

“He really is doing well,” Dr. Peg said. “I know he’s different, but I would say he is now free in more ways than one.”

The meeting ended and Dr. Peg went on her way. She assured Hagith and Alvin that she would check on Alvin in a couple of months. She gave Alvin a hug before leaving. After the doctor left, Hagith took her son to the park as planned. She thought about the visit and how she hadn’t been completely honest with the doctor. There were things that were a bit off with her son; it was more than just the childish behavior. Hagith understood that was what the new normal was supposed to be for Alvin, and she had seen things that didn’t agree with the new regular.

There were things like the strange writings that Alvin did sometimes. Hagith had stocked up on paper once she found that her son loved to draw and scribble. Most of his drawings were of animals and people engaging in some type of cheerful activity. Hagith threw many of the drawings away, only keeping them if Alvin asked her to hang on to it. She had been picking up a pile of Alvin’s drawings when she saw that some of the papers had something odd scribbled on them. The papers were filled with what appeared to be a mixture of numbers, letters, and strange symbols. They appeared to be written out in an erratic manner. The only thing she could understand was Hey Diddle Diddle written at the bottom of each page.

Hagith looked the papers over for a few minutes before throwing them out. The next day, she would find more papers with similar writings on them. Like the papers from the previous day, they had the words Hey Diddle Diddle written on them. Hagith asked her son about the drawings.

“Hmm.” Alvin stared at the paper. “I don’t know what those are. I was just drawing.”

“They’re not like the others.”

“I know. I guess I was really just scribbling on those.”

Hagith didn’t ask any more questions.

The writings were strange. So were the random bouts of memory loss. Hagith noticed that her son had begun to have issues with remembering simple things. One time he forgot which room was his. Another time, he urinated on the floor after he forgot where he was supposed to go to the bathroom.

“I’m really sorry.” Alvin was contrite once he realized what he had done. “I don’t know why I couldn’t think of it. I just couldn’t hold it any longer and I didn’t know.”

There was a list of things that begun to change with her son as time went on. Hagith noticed that her son’s voice began to regularly fluctuate, going from a childish high to a deep, weary voice. She began to hear Alvin moving around the house during the night. He would sometimes sit and stare at a blank television screen, his eyes showing no emotions. Hagith worried about the changes that were happening, and she briefly considered calling Dr. Peg to talk about what was happening. Then, Hagith realized that there was a possibility that her son was returning to normal. Maybe there was hope that he could heal from what they had done to him.

 

Hagith worried some more when she heard her son leave the house was night. She listened from her bed as Alvin moved around the house and eventually towards the front door. The door closed lightly, but she was still able to hear it. Hagith got up from and checked to see if she hadn’t jumped to conclusions. She looked around the house until she was certain that her son wasn’t there. As she looked out the window and into the night, Hagith wondered about where her boy could have gone. She went back to bed, uncertain about what Alvin was doing.

The next morning, while they were eating breakfast, she questioned him about where he had gone.

“I don’t remember leaving the house,” Alvin said. “Are you sure I wasn’t in the bed? I hope I wasn’t sleepwalking.”

“”That could be it,” Hagith said. “I guess you could have been sleepwalking.”

“That must be what was going on, because I don’t remember leaving my bed last night.”

Alvin stuff pancakes into his mouth and began to hum. The tune wasn’t the one Hagith was used to hearing. She didn’t recognize the tune; it almost sounded like classical music.

Hagith tried not to think too much about what was happening with Alvin. For the most part, he was still the man-child that had been turned over to her. He spent hours in his room drawing and watching cartoons. Hagith examined his drawings, and aside from the strange scribbles, she was unable to find anything that was disturbing. Alvin was such a good boy, and he was becoming more helpful around the house. When the kitchen sink clogged up, Alvin didn’t waste anytime going to work, hastily fixing the clog. Hagith didn’t know what he had done, but the problem was fixed.

He was also picking up new hobbies. After seeing a cartoon character playing the violin on a television show, Alvin begged his mother to get him a violin. Hagith knew that the instrument could be costly, but in the end decided that it would be a nice gift for her son. She purchased him a violin and told him that if he were interested she would set him up with an instructor.

Alvin smiled at her and took the violin to his room. Several minutes later, Hagith heard a sound coming from down the hall. It was a wonderful sound, and she knew that it couldn’t be her boy. Hagith was certain, but when she reached his room she saw Alvin sitting on his bed, delicately playing the violin as if he had been playing for years.

“How can you do that?” Hagith asked after Alvin quit playing and put the violin away.

“I don’t know,” Alvin said. “I just can.”

He sang the song as he placed the violin in its usual place:

 

Hey, diddle, diddle,

Tell me a little riddle.

Can a cow jump over the moon?

 

Hagith remained slightly puzzled, but she knew that there was no reason to be concerned. Her son was clearly doing much better. She hoped that one day Alvin would be able to go out and show people just how successful the Tyycron operation had been for him. He would show them that they had all be wrong about him.

Alvin continued to wander out of the house during the night. Hagith didn’t try to find out what he was doing or where he was going. Going back to sleep, she decided that her son was probably just restless and needed to walk. The night was a good time, because there probably wouldn’t be any people to stare at him as he moved through the neighborhood.

Alvin’s nightly walks were the first things that came to mind when Hagith received the shocking news about Jessica; the teenage girl had been found stabbed to death in her bedroom.

A police officer was the one who told her about what had happened.

“No!” Hagith cried out.

The officer had stopped by to ask her questions about her and her son’s whereabouts during the night.

“I was right here,” Hagith said. “And so was my son.”

Hagith felt confident in her words because she knew that it was the truth. She hadn’t heard Alvin leave his room the night before, though she had heard noises coming from the room. Her son was innocent.

“Could I speak to him?” the police officer asked.

“Yes. He’s back in his room. Do you hear that? That’s him playing the violin, right now.”

Hagith lead the officer back to Alvin’s room.

“Alvin.” Hagith stopped her son from playing. “Something terrible has happened.”

The police officer shook Alvin’s hand before telling him about Jessica’s murder.

“Oh my!” Alvin seemed shocked. “That really is something horrible. I can’t believe anyone would ever do that to her.”

The officer asked Alvin about what he had been doing during the night.

“I’ve been right here,” Alvin said. “I was in my room watching TV until I fell asleep.”

The police officer had no choice but to take Alvin’s word for it. He thanked the two for their time and left.

Hagith already knew what was going to happen amongst her neighbors. They were going to start looking at her and Alvin more suspiciously. Alvin was the most likely suspect in their eyes, though there was no evidence to prove that he had killed Jessica. Hagith decided to not address their suspicions, figuring that they would eventually see that Alvin was not guilty.

Making an arrest in the murder took longer than Hagith expected. Weeks passed by, with the neighbors saying very little to her, before a teenage boy was arrested; the boy turned out to be someone Jessica dated regularly.

“I know that guy,” Alvin said. “Jessica introduced him to me before she died. He doesn’t live that far from here. I thought he was a pretty good chap. Sad, if what they say is true.”

The boy denied everything, but the police had found the murder weapon on his property. Plus, there were rumors that the boy and Jessica had an argument a few days before she was murdered. They arrested him and charged him with murder.

Once they had the teenager in custody, Hagith noticed that her neighbors began to have friendlier faces when looking at her and her son. She hoped that they felt guilty for even considering Alvin to be responsible for what had happened to Jessica. Hagith thought about it when she was alone and she couldn’t help but laugh. She knew that she had some suspicions herself, especially when she found brown gloves tucked away under Alvin’s bed. She had seen them before, and when she picked them up to exam them, she noticed that there was a substance on them. To Hagith, the substance appeared to be blood, but she couldn’t be sure.

Staring at the gloves, Hagith heard her son singing in the living room.

 

Hey, diddle, diddle

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon.

The little dog laughed,

He laughed and laughed and laughed.

 

Hagith heard her son laughing in a boisterous and deep voice.

Hagith picked up other clothes that were on the floor and took them to the laundry bag that was in her room. She would give them all a good washing, and she would try not to think about what had happened to Jessica. It was a sad thing, but the killer had been caught; the neighborhood was safe again. The main thing that mattered to Hagith was that she had her son back, and he was still such a good boy.

 

 

One

This is an old story. 

One

By Ronald Cypress

 

Sarah Bryan was surprised when the man from the government arrived at her small apartment one day and informed her that she was the winner of the Special State Lottery. When she first opened the door and saw the man standing before her, dressed in a black suit, Sarah assumed that he was either a detective or a well-dressed sales person.

“Are you Mrs. Sarah Bryan?” the man asked her.

Sarah Bryan nodded. “I’m her.”

“Congratulations,” the man said. He smiled at her as he lifted up his hand to hand her a piece of paper. “You have won the Special State Lottery. May I come in and discuss the process with you?”

Sarah was shocked by the news. She had won the Special State Lottery. Like the millions of other people who lived in states with the special lottery, Sarah had assumed that winning it was something that could never happen to her. She had known about people who had won the lottery before; her own brother-in-law had fallen victim to the random selection.

“I can’t believe it,” Sarah told the man who had just given her the news. She assumed he was from the government and invited him to have a seat on the couch in the living room. “Is this real? How do I know this is real?”

Her guest smiled at her as he began to go through his pockets.

“It’s real ma’am,” he told her. “Misrepresentation of the Special State Lottery is a very serious offense.”

The guest set the paper he was holding down on Sarah’s coffee table. He took a pen out of his pocket and began to write on the paper.

“So.” Sarah was still standing up. She could feel herself starting to get jittery. The news was pretty big for her. It was something that was completely unexpected and unusual for her mundane life. “How does this all work? When does it happen?”

The man from the government looked up at her, and for the first time Sarah noticed the nametag he was wearing around his neck. There was a picture of him, and beside it was the name Stan. Sarah knew that her winning was certainly real once she saw the name. Her sister, Anna, had been visited by a man named Stan after the death of her husband. The Stan her sister described to her was elderly and looked nothing like the Stan that was sitting on her couch.

“I’m going to go over all the rules,” Stan said. He moved over towards the end of the couch. “Please, have a seat.”

Sarah slowly sat down on the couch. She was still surprised by the fact that she had won the Special State Lottery; however, the shock was starting to settle down, and Sarah was beginning to think about what she could do with the prize she had won.

“All right,” Stan said. “So I’m sure you’re aware of what the Special State Lottery is. I believe your name was chosen from a group of people who were entered into the pool by random selection. Or did you apply to be in the lottery?”

“I didn’t,” Sarah said, shaking her head. “I never really thought about doing so.”

“About ninety percent of the winners so far come from people who were just randomly selected to be in the pool. I will go ahead and ask you now, would you like to decline the prize from the Special State Lottery?”

Stan had a stern look on his face as he stared at Sarah.

“Decline it?” Sarah stopped to think about the prize.

“Yes, ma’am. We always allow our winners to decline their winnings. I would say that about ten to fifteen percent of winners have declined the prize. That number is starting to dwindle, though.”

Sarah tried to think about what she would actually do with the prize that was about to be given to her. Everyone knew what it was, and though she didn’t know much about it herself, many people were informed on how the whole process worked. Unless the prize was declined, someone always had to pay each time a person won the Special State Lottery. The final results could be so cruel, and that was what caused Sarah to question if she really wanted to accept the prize.

“I’ll take it,” Sarah said, assuming that she could always change her mind.

“Okay,” Stan said. The stern look left his face, and he smiled at her again. “You are always free to not go through with accepting your prize if you decide that you don’t really want to. About two to five percent of people do end up not going through with the prize.”

“I understand.”

“Before we move on, I just need you to sign right here.”

Stan pointed to the paper that was sitting on Sarah’s coffee table. There was a red X and a line at the bottom of the page.

“Should I read over it first?” Sarah asked.

“You can. I’m going to give you the gist of all the important stuff that’s on there”

“Okay.” Sarah picked up the pen that Stan had placed on the coffee table and signed the paper.

Stan looked around the apartment. “This is a really nice little place you have here, Mrs. Bryan.”

“Thank you.”

After she was done signing the paper, Stan checked the signature before telling her more about the Special State Lottery.

“As you probably know, this has been around for twenty-five years. We’re closing in on our twenty-sixth year. Over those years, we’ve had nearly five thousand winners of the Special State Lottery. You are now part of that rare club.”

Sarah listened to Stan, feeling anxious as he went over some of the history of the Special State Lottery. She really just wanted him to talk about the prize, the rules pertaining to the prize and the expected final outcome. Stan went on about how the government came to form and allow the Special State Lottery. Sarah’s anxiety kept building up until he final began to talk about the prize.

“So as you know, Mrs. Bryan.” Stan said. “Because you have won our lottery you will be allowed to select one person for termination. I can sit here, a representative for the government, and promise that you will face no form of prosecution for the termination of the person you select. You will not be directly involved with the termination, and the person you choose and their loved ones will not be aware that they were chosen by you unless you choose to reveal your choice to them. It is not our policy to ever reveal our winners’ names. This is all confidential. It may not actually seem like it, but we do put in a really good effort to keep all of this private. I even chose this time and place because I knew you would be alone with no around to listen. If anyone finds out that you won our lottery, it will be because you have chosen to reveal it.”

Sarah began to look around her apartment, feeling slightly paranoid about what Stan from the government could have done in order to get information on her.

“Not everyone is eligible for the Special State Lottery.” Stan kept talking as Sarah looked at certain items around her apartment. “We do not allow convicted felons to participate. Even those with misdemeanors are starting to have a hard time getting into our lottery. Your record is completely clean, and that probably contributed to you winning. There are other things that will disqualify a person from being considered for the lottery, but obviously none of those applied to you. There are certain people who cannot be considered for the lottery, and there are certain people who cannot be considered for chosen termination. I’m sure those that can’t be chosen will be obvious. No high-ranking employees of the government. No currently enlisted military personnel. No congress members. All of law enforcement is off the table. We cannot terminate non-citizens. If the person is a prominent public figure, good or bad, we are very likely to decline that person.”

“I think I get it,” Sarah said. “I will have to chose a regular person and hope that they will qualify for termination.”

Stan smiled at her. “That is correct.”

Sarah continued to listen as Stan finished going over rest of the process. The last thing he discussed was the time limit.

“You have six months to chose someone,” he said. “Someone will be checking on you once a month until you choose. I don’t want you to feel rushed. You should really think about your choice. I’m going to leave a card with you, and there’s a number on that card that you can call whenever you do make or decision. Or you can just call if you have more questions. That’s not my direct line, so you won’t be speaking to me. In fact, this will be the last time we’ll talk or meet.”

Stan went into his the left pocket on his pants and pulled out a business card. He handed it to Sarah.

“Remember,” Stan said. “Take your time with the decision. Make sure that it’s the right one. I would say that about seventy percent of people who take our survey after the termination express regret over the person they chose.”

“Survey?”

“Yes, we will ask you to take a very short survey after the termination. If no one is chosen in six months, we will give it to you then.”

“I see.”

It became clear that Sarah understood the whole Special State Lottery process, and Stan decided that it was time to move on. She walked him to the door and asked one more question before he left.

“Your name isn’t really Stan, is it?” Sarah stared at the nametag.

Stan smiled at her.

“My sister’s husband was killed by someone who won the lottery,” Sarah said. “A man named Stan visited her after he was killed to tell her that Carlos had been chosen and there was nothing that would be done about the murder. It was a different guy. I bet none of you are really named Stan, though.”

“Okay.” Stan kept smiling at her. “Time for me to be off. It was nice meeting with you, Mrs. Bryan. You have a very nice evening.”

Stan turned and began walking down the hallway. Sarah kept her eyes on him until he reached the end of the hall and turned right.

After the man from the government left, Sarah tried to eat dinner. She prepared a small meal and sat at her tiny dinner table to eat. The lottery was on her mind, and after a few bites of food Sarah realized that she wasn’t hungry. She got up from the table and began walking around her small apartment. Sarah went into her bedroom and paced around her bed, thinking about what she could do with her prize. She didn’t really want to terminate someone. Taking another person’s life was cruel, and it wasn’t in Sarah’s nature to be cruel.

Besides, she didn’t really have any enemies. There was no in her life that she couldn’t real stand or detested. It seemed like that would be the only reason to go through with selecting a person for termination. Sarah sat down and began to watch television. One of the shows that she watched daily was on. Sarah tried to enjoy it, but she the thought of the lottery kept bothering her. It was starting to seem more like a bother rather than something to rejoice about.

Sarah considered the possibility that having another person terminated wasn’t much of a prize. The main attraction seemed to be the fact that a Special State Lottery winner could have someone killed and never have to face punishment for the termination. Sarah remembered how she often heard people talking about how they hoped that they would one day win the Special State Lottery. Everyone always seemed to have a person in mind for the termination. Sarah knew that she once felt that way, but now that she had actually won the lottery she was no longer sure about those past thoughts. No matter what they had done, having someone terminated just seemed wrong.

 

A few weeks after receiving the news that she had won the Special State Lottery, a couple of Sarah’s coworkers began to discuss the lottery and what they would do if they ever won. One of the coworkers mentioned that she had a certain person from her past in mind if she ever got to terminate one person. The guy she was talking to admitted that he would probably select his ex-wife, a woman he claimed had cheated on him and took several things that were very valuable to him. Sarah sat at her desk and listened to the conversation. There was some suspicion that the coworkers knew about her winning the lottery. Sarah hadn’t told a single person, but she still worried about the news getting out.

The people discussing the Special State Lottery continued to talk about the people they would possibly kill and how they wouldn’t regret their decisions. It wasn’t until another coworker joined the conversation that the possibility of not wanting to take another person’s life came up. Sarah listened as the coworker talked about how they would never be able to go through with having someone terminated.

“I just couldn’t do it,” the coworker said. “I would just feel horrible actually selecting someone to be terminated. I knew someone who was killed by the lottery. A guy I used to work with was put to sleep by the government after someone chose him. His family doesn’t know for sure, but they think it was a neighbor of his, someone who had a problem with the guy because of where his car was parked at on the street.”

Sarah found that she was starting to lean towards not going through with actually choosing a person to be terminated. Not only did it seem somewhat horrible to her, but she also couldn’t think of a person that she really wanted to remove from the earth. The only person who came to mind was the ex-wife of her sister’s late husband, Carlos. Almost five years had passed since Anna’s husband had been taken from work and shot in the back of the head by the government.

“There’s nothing I can do about.” Anna had told Sarah. “They said that the murder was completely legal by federal and state standards. No one’s going to do anything.”

Shortly after Carlos was terminated, the sisters sat down and tried to think of who would want to kill Carlos. He was in his early forties and had worked as a bus driver for over a decade. No one seemed to have a problem with him, and the only suspect Anna could come up with was Carlos’s ex-wife.

“She’s the only person I can think of,” Anna said. “She’s the only one I know who would have a strong grudge against him.”

Months after Carlos’s death, Anna would call and tell Sarah that she had met with Carlos’s ex-wife.

“She seemed really heartbroken about his death,” Anna said. “She truly seemed sad that he was gone. I don’t really think it was her anymore. I’m not sure, but I have my doubts now.”

During the phone conversation, Anna also mentioned a strange encounter she had with a woman who showed up at her door one day.

“She gave me some flowers,” Anna said. “And she said something about being passenger on Carlos’s bus. She said she was really sorry about what happened to him. I guess she must have been a regular passenger on the bus. She didn’t say too much more, just that she was sorry and would pray for my family.”

Anna would continue to have her doubts about Carlos’s ex being responsible for his murder, but Sarah kept her as the number one suspect. Now that she had a chance to terminate someone she considered making Carlos’ ex her target. Sarah thought about going through with the selection, but she knew that the termination of Carlos’s ex-wife wouldn’t settle anything; it could even make Anna more upset.

Sarah would have to keep ruminating over whom she could choose.

Soon, a month went by and she received a visit from another man who worked for government. The first thing she noticed about the man was his attire. He dressed very much like the first man who had shown up to inform her that she had won the Special State Lottery. He was even wearing the same type of nametag, and on that nametag was the name Stanley. Sarah smiled when she saw the name.

This Stan was much younger than the first who visited her.

“It’s been one month, Mrs. Bryan,” Stanley said, sounding upbeat as he talked to her. “I’ve been assigned to just come here and check to see if you made a selection yet.”

“I haven’t.”

“Okay. No one in mind? No one you’re seriously considering?”

“No.”

“Okay. Are there any questions? Is there anything you’re possibly confused about?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay. Well, it’s only been month. There’s still plenty of time. We don’t want you to rush to a decision. Just take your time, and let us know when you decide. I’ll be back in a month to check again. Please don’t feel pressured. We all understand that these things can be very difficult.”

Stanley left her apartment, and once again Sarah was left to stress over what she could do with her lottery prize. Just before going to bed that night, Sarah sat at her kitchen table and tried to make a list of people she would consider for termination. Only two names were written down. There was:

Patricia

That was the name of Carlos’s ex.

The other name was:

Martin

That was the name of her late husband’s supervisor. The man had completely lacked compassion when it came to her late husband’s terminal illness. The way he acted during Derek’s slow passing had only caused more stress on the couple. Sarah had never forgiven him for the way he had treated her husband as his health failed. The only thing that had mattered to Martin was work performance and profit. Sarah figured such a greedy and uncaring person belonged on a list to be terminated.

Sarah stared at the two names on the list. She was sure that Patricia had something to do with Carlos’s death, but she was one-hundred-percent certain. It would be a shame to have someone taken out because of an erroneous belief. Looking at Martin’s names, Sarah could still feel hostility over how he had acted. She still wasn’t sure that she would be satisfied or untroubled by having the man terminated.

 

The deadline for Sarah to choose whom she wanted to select for termination got closer and closer, time speeding up in her mind as she struggled to make a final selection. Around the third month she came close to telling Stanley that she would just go ahead and decline the opportunity to utilize the prize she had won. The two only talked briefly about that option, and in the end Stanley convinced her to keep thinking about the other possibilities.

“We all understand how you feel,” Stanley said. “You still have three more months. Please don’t feel rushed. Just take your time, really consider the people you may want to choose and make the right decision.

The fourth month came, and Sarah still didn’t have a person. She had made several lists; the longest one included almost twenty-five names. Sarah had decided to consider anyone who had ever crossed her or done her wrong. She had gone back as far as middle school, writing down the names of classmates who had bullied her. Having one of them terminated would be a way of retribution, and no one would ever know that she had been behind their deaths. Sarah considered the possibilities, but something kept holding her back from actually selecting a person and giving their name to the Special State Lottery.

“We get plenty of revenge kills,” Stanley told her during his fourth visit. “A lot of people do take this one-time opportunity to go ahead and kill someone who offended them in the past. You’ve mentioned you had a few lists. Maybe you could just narrow it down.”

Sarah shook her head. “I don’t think so. I just don’t feel like I could…”

She looked at Stanley’s smiling face. He was always smiling, and he made it seem so simple to just choose a person for termination. The choice wasn’t easy. All Sarah could think about was the regret she would feel after the termination was executed. She had doubts about actually selecting someone. It was very possible that she could choose the wrong person.

“This is the only chance we get, right?” Sarah asked Stanley before he left her apartment. “We can never get put in again?”

“That’s right. We only allow someone to win one time. Even if you decline, you won’t ever have this chance again.”

“If I choose, then I really have to get it right, don’t I?”

“Please, Mrs. Bryan, do not allow yourself to be stressed by this.”

Sarah couldn’t help but feel the pressure. She had become determined to make a selection and use her prize. The biggest thing she worried about was picking the right person. Sarah looked over her lists each day but was unable to pick a person with confidence; she couldn’t even decide which ones were her top picks. Patricia and Martin still looked like good candidates, but other names had made it onto her lists and they all seemed like they would be the right choices.

Sarah also considered that they could all be the wrong choices.

The fifth month arrived, and Stanley had his final talk with Sarah.

“We understand why you’re so hesitant,” he said. “I know how you feel. I’ve been working this job long enough. I just want to say that no one, none of us, will consider you to be a bad person after you make your selection. This is your prize. You’ve won it. Plenty of other people have gone through the same process, and most of them were good people. I know you’re worried about the termination, but tell yourself this…It is only one person. Just a single—probably insignificant person—who will be terminated. One person gone won’t devastate the world, and it’s very likely that very few people will even notice the person is gone. There’s not many days left. Please make your selection and let us know as soon as possible.”

Sarah thought about what Stanley said to her. She began to repeatedly remind herself that all she was doing was taking one live, a single life that would barely be missed. Sarah kept looking over her lists until a few weeks before the deadline. With two weeks left to decide, Sarah realized that she was making the process too difficult.

“Really, it’s simple,” Sarah told herself one night.

All she had to do was select one person she wanted terminated. A person suddenly cam to mind, and Sarah realized what she should have been focusing on months ago. She called the Special State Lottery the next day and informed them that she had made a decision. The person she spoke to on the phone informed her that Stanley would be by her apartment shortly with another paper for her to sign.

“I’m glad you’ve made a decision,” Stanley said as he took out the document that Sarah had to sign. “I understand you don’t know this guy’s name, but your description should be get us to the right person. We’ve already got someone investigating the situation right now. Once we have gone through with the termination, we’ll call and let you know.”

Stanley gave her the paper to sign. Sarah stared at it and considered if she was making the right choice. Someone was getting ready to lose their life because of her.

“This is it?” Sarah asked, staring down at the signature line.

“That’s right. I expect he’ll be gone it a few days.”

“He’s been so rude to me.” Sarah continued to stare down at the paper. “And he’s been rude to other customers. I really like the place. I get coffee from there almost every morning, and every time he’s behind the counter he seems to have a negative attitude. Maybe I should just call the manager. Maybe this doesn’t need to happen.”

Sarah looked up at Stanley. He remained silent and just smiled at her.

“But…” Sarah put the pen she was holding down onto the paper. “Maybe this is what does need to happen.”

Sarah signed her name.

The next morning, before Sarah left her apartment to go to work, she received a phone call from the Special State Lottery.

“Hello, Mrs. Bryan,” a man said. “I’m calling on behalf of the Special State Lottery department, and I am calling to let you know that the termination you selected has gone through.”

“Oh.” Sarah almost dropped the phone.

“If you have any inquiries about the termination, please feel free to call us. In seven to ten business days, you should receive a survey in the mail. We would greatly appreciate you feeling out this survey and mailing it to us. This survey will allow us to make better assessments and modifications for our program. On behalf of the Special State Lottery department, congratulations on your win and have a nice day.”

It was all over. Sarah felt relief and shame. There was nothing she could do to take back the choice she had made. Sarah left her apartment and headed towards the coffee shop she patronized. The boy she had selected wasn’t behind the counter; he would never be there again. Sarah waited behind three people in line and thought about what her choice really did for the world. It was just one less person around.

Sarah kept reflecting on what she had done. Her mind fixated on what she had chosen to happen.

Finally, a voice distracted her.

“Good morning, ma’am.” the girl behind the counter said. The girl was familiar to Sarah. She was one of the friendly people in the world. “What can I get for you this morning?”

Sarah looked up at the menu. With no one being rude or making her feel rushed, she felt free to take her time to order something that she hadn’t tried before. Sarah talked with the girl behind the cashier about the different drinks. There were so many different drinks to choose, and Sarah wanted to get it right. Whatever she chose, it would have to be a good selection.

 

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