Another prompt, another round of great stories to choose from. Check the stories out below and vote for your favorite!
The Man Who Watched The News
It was the advent of twenty-four/seven news that pushed him over the edge. Before then, news was like I love Lucy. Or Gunsmoke.300 words by Bill Engleson (@billmelaterplea)
Almost like reading a newspaper.
He had subscribed to both a morning and an evening daily back then.
Both pretty much the same news.
It was by some accounts a paper world.
Manageable, if not all that environmentally friendly.
Then the day/night cycle of repetition, of “Breaking News”, of an interminable onslaught of…of it all, unfolded like a never-ending tsunami.
A tsunami of news.
All of the world’s grief.
One morning, she found him glued to his television.
It enveloped the room.
“Come eat,’ she said.
“In a moment. I can’t believe what just happened.”
“I can’t believe you won’t come and eat,” she rebuked.
“You don’t look happy with me,” he whined.
“I DON’T LOOK HAPPY,” she yelled. “I’M AS HAPPY AS …”
She stopped. She hated cliches.
There were only two that came to mind.
Happy as a Clam.
Happy as a pig in shit.
That was it.
Surely there were more metaphors for happy.
“I shouldn’t have yelled at you,” she apologized. Yelling at him was uncharacteristic.
He was so pathetic.
Concerned about the world…but pathetic.
She reached in, grabbed his hand, and playfully tugged him away from the television and its rotisserie of rotting albeit meaty tales.
She poured a couple of cups of coffee and led him out on the porch.
“Sit,” she said. “Drink your coffee… And listen. This has got to stop.”
They drank their coffee in silence. The morning air was October crisp.
He started to vibrate.
It wasn’t from the chill.
“Go,” she said, resigned. “Go get your fix.”
Which he did.
“You don’t look happy, but I know you are,” Tara grinned by Hodaka’s shoulder.
The sky elf high priest watched stone-faced as his barbed black arrow burst into flames between the villagers that his last shot pinned together at the throat, ensuring exquisite agony in their final moments.
“You know me well, sister. I only get to use my bow when the sacrifices try to escape.”
The tigerling touched her tail to the back of Hodaka’s leg but kept her attention on the immolating peasants.
“Perhaps now would be an opportune time to ask your blessing on an expedition to the east?”
The pallid priest remained rigid, the only hint of his inner passion hidden deep in his dark eyes.
“You still want those scrolls.”
Tara swallowed her growl and relaxed her claws to smile indifferently.
“Always. But it’s more than that. Sister Hitomi has had a vision of a warship in the Howling Sea,” the tigress ran a finger lightly over Hodaka’s arm, carefully teasing out the emotions that only she could. “A warship with armaments unlike anything we’ve ever encountered.”
Hodaka arched an eyebrow. She had him.
“The empire has resumed military investment?”
“Bigger,” Tara paused for emphasis. “The weapons Sister Hitomi saw were from beyond The Wall of Stillness.”
“Impossible,” High Priest Hodaka scoffed, already considering the possibilities. “Our agents confirmed the wall can only be crossed in one direction. Nothing comes here from there.”
Tara’s eyes blazed hungrily.
“There is the prophecy of Our Lady’s return.”
Hodaka didn’t answer. The high priest couldn’t very well admit to disbelieving such a core tenet of their faith. Tara decided to let him off the hook.
“Either way, we can afford a little skirmish and might get some new weapons to use against the empire.”296 words by David A Ludwig (@DavidALudwig)
“Don’t worry, Martin. I’ll be here every step of the way if you want me to. I won’t let you go through this alone.”
Martin nodded, but couldn’t meet Corbin’s gaze.
“You don’t look happy. Is it because your body isn’t responding the way you expect or because I’m here?”
Martin blinked and raised his gaze. “Why would I be upset that you’re here?”
Corbin shrugged. “I dunno. We haven’t spoken much over the years and I was really surprised you listed me as your next of kin. But now I’m here and you don’t look like it’s a good thing.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I just don’t remember doing it.”
That must have been the wrong thing to say because Corbin’s expression shut down and he nodded. “Well, I know you’re okay and you’re on the mend. I can head on home to Montana and leave you to your recovery if that’s what you prefer.”
“No, Corbin, I don’t want you to go.” Panic rose in Martin’s chest. Corbin was the only person he knew and recognized in the whole damn hospital. If Martin had chosen him to be his next of kin, he must have had a good reason. Just because Martin didn’t know the reason at the moment didn’t mean it was wrong. “Please stay. I’m still trying to get my bearings. It’s a helluva thing to wake up unable to move, unable to remember anything. But I remember you. We’re long time friends, right? My memory tells me we’ve been friends since high school.”
Corbin snorted as he pulled a chair closer. “Longer than that. I’ve been your friend since third grade when you told Jason Buckner to stop picking on me just because he was afraid of admitting he liked me.”296 words by Siobhan Muir (@SiobhanMuir)
Just Another Workday
I hear Travis over in the next field scream out in frustration. I looked up just in time to see him throw his trowel, barely missing a workmate.
*That fucker’s going to get us all killed*, I thought. I blew my whistle. He looked up and walked slowly towards me.
“What’s up, Travis?”
“I’m sorry, Boss. I’m sick of this work. I’m hot, tired, hungry. And why, with all their supposed innovation, can’t they give us some modern fucking tools?” His voice rose.
I get it. We all do. I looked around at the other fields, everyone working hard and looking miserable. I hate being in charge. My job is to work them pretty much 24/7.
I wish I could commiserate, but I’m forbidden.
“Get back to work and keep a smile on your face.”
“How’s this, Boss?” He grinned at me, baring his teeth in a rictus.
I leaned in towards him. “Quit fucking around, man. They’re always watching.”
He flashed a regular smile at me. “Better?”
“Not really. You don’t look happy.”
“Whatever.” He went back to his work area and began digging.
I was making my rounds when I heard the drones. Oh, shit.
The drones stopped in front of everyone. If they detected a smile, they moved on.
I was relieved to see the drones moving quickly. Then it was Travis’s turn. *Don’t fuck this up*.
I saw him start to smile, but instead screamed “Fuck you!” at the drone.
In an instant a laser beam shot from the drone right into Travis’s forehead. He was dead before he dropped.
A robotic voice filled the air. “Man in charge—clean this mess.” It flew off with the others.
I grabbed a body bag and headed over to Travis, a smile fixed on my face.300 words by Sheri White (@sheriw1965)