*Image taken from Finding Clarity for this week’s Flash Challenge (click on image for original post)
*Note: Am participating in the #Write28Days (February) hosted by Anita Ojeda. Click here if you would like to participate.
I was walking home one dreary day, after the graveyard shift at the Medical Center, when I turned left on 3rd Crane Ave and stopped dead in my tracks. Up above sat a man on the electric wire. He appeared to be completely engrossed in the early morning’s newspaper and accompanied by a silvery-black raven. There was an umbrella dangling on the wire between them. His appearance struck me as a bit odd with haggard clothing, and a top hat.
Glancing around, there was no other soul loitering on the street. I closed my eyes thinking that perhaps the shadows cast by the rising sun were playing tricks on me. When I reopened them and peered up, lo and behold, they were still there.
I crossed my arms and pondered for a moment. I’d been working the graveyard shift all week long so perhaps I was just hallucinating. Yes, that seemed like the most logical reason.
As my arms dropped to my sides, I walked on pretending not to see them.
All was going well until…
By the time I heard the blaring of the horn, I felt my body careening into the air and a second later, landing on the cold, wet pavement with such a force, my sneakers shot off and tumbled down the sidewalk.
As I lied there in a sprawling heap, I watched as the man tucked the folded newspaper under one arm, and with the other, held the opened umbrella over his head, and drifted up into the gray sky with the raven following close behind.
Before the darkness took over, the man transformed into a creature with white wings.
*Author’s Note: This post will serve a dual purpose. One, to satisfy the word prompt for today’s Write28Days Challenge (Glory). Second, to participate in WEP’s February’s Story Challenge (theme: 28 Days).
Glory fingered a loose strand of black hair as her green eyes stared outwards. A warm breeze caressed her petite body as she sat on the wooden steps of the white porch. The air carried a mild scent of sweet honeysuckle which she slowly breathed in.
“Enjoying your final day?” Came a husky voice from behind.
She turned partially towards her housemate, an aging, thin man, sitting in the rocker, and nodded, “Yes.”
He leaned back as he took in the mountainous view spread before them.
“It’s a shame you couldn’t be granted another twenty-eight days here,” he said as his colorless eyes scanned the horizon’s deep purple and pink hues, “it makes no sense at all as to why they couldn’t allow you to remain here indefinitely.”
“You know that’s not how it works,” she muttered as her arms wrapped around her knees.
“Yes, but it is unfair, not to mention unjust,” the man tapped a finger on the chair’s armrest.
With a shrug, she replied, “I’m just grateful to have had this one last wish before it’s all over with. I mean, goodness, I had the chance to see all of my friends and family, to say my good-byes…even if none of it was real…it was nice. Really nice.”
The man scowled as he nodded, “Yes…yes.”
“I know you try to understand, Jessup, and I appreciate it very much,” Glory said as she glanced down the expansive meadow where she could see the shadowy forms of buildings that made up her childhood town, “but you don’t have to stay any longer.”
Jessup let out a long exhale, “Yes, but it doesn’t feel right to leave you to -eh- to face your end.”
She smiled, “You are too thoughtful, but I will be okay.”
His eyes swept over her before he bowed his head, “As you wish,” and within seconds, his body dissipated into a thin cloud of mist.
Glory studied the empty chair for a moment before returning her attention to the sky. The streaks of purple and pink were quickly transitioning to layers of dark blue and black. The usual nightly orbs obscured by a looming menace in the heavens where billowing sinister clouds barely concealed an enormous fiery mass barreling towards her.
A shiver ran through her body as she closed her eyes.
Will I feel any pain? She wondered as waves of heated air brushed over her.
The earth beneath her rumbled as the roar grew louder and louder until her body shuddered right off the porch, and on the rolling ground.
Crackling and sizzling filled her ears as she opened one eye to see where the fire was when she realized the sounds were coming from her skin.
Just as the burning grew unbearable, everything went dark.
Bleep bleep bleeeeeeeep.
The blipping line on the monitor instantly became a steady line.
A tall man in a white jacket stood staring at the screen for several moments, the bushy brows burrowing which revealed the deep lines around his brown eyes.
“Dr. Cruz?” came a woman’s voice from the nearby console.
“I will never get used to this,” he said, “extinguishing lives all for what? Profit? So that our government can repay its debts?”
“No, it’s mankind’s next step in its evolutionary process. It has also helped science learn much about the human’s consciousness,” the same woman replied.
He bowed his head for a long moment, eyes closed as he pondered on her words. Then, he shook it.
“Those are just the Company’s taglines. We are nothing more than an assembling line for repurposing human bodies for those who can afford them. For the few who want to extend their own selfish, futile lives.”
“Dr. Cruz,” the woman’s tone now stern, “I wish to remind you that everything said and done here are being carefully monitored.”
He clenched his jaw, “Time of conscious death, 23:02,” his fingers tapped hard on the blue-lighted tablet’s screen.
To his left, the woman in a white jacket turned to focus her attention on the various displays of electronic devices in front of her.
“Closing the file for collateral number 230645 aka Gloria Swann,” she said as she pressed on the glowing screen, “body already prepped and ready for shipment to recipient number 02A02,”
The four-some now seated in chairs around the large oval oak table as the waiter retrieves the menus.
“I will get your orders in.” And the short black man walks away.
Julie’s brown eyes carefully study the faces around the table as she slowly sips at her wine. “So, Brad,” and turns them solely to the man sitting to her right, “What on earth have you been up to since I last saw you?”
Brad grins as he leans back. “Nothing exciting. Just work.”
“Marketing, huh?” She purses her lips, “For whom?”
“Altvision Communications.” He replies as he bit into a breadstick.
“Wow, one of the four media giants.” Her smile widen as she fingers her glass. “You must be one of the lowly assistants working his way up the career rung by now.”
He chuckles, “Hardly. Try the Director of the Marketing Department.”
“Di-rec-tor…my heavens, that’s a far cry from being a lab rat with Dalton Co-Op.”
“A lab rat?” Eddie’s hazel-green eyes sparkle as he stares at Brad across the table.
Brad lets out a laugh, “That’s Julie’s way of calling any desk clerk who worked for Dalton back in the day.”
“They were directly responsible for polluting all the lakes upstate which cost taxpayers well over a billion dollars.”
“And you don’t feel the least bit guilty for forcing them out of business and driving hundreds of people out of work?” Brad asks, the smile now gone.
“What they were doing was criminal, and it was my job to expose them.” Julie’s eyes now slits.
“Yeah, well, the timing couldn’t have been worse.” Brad grabs another breadstick. “You could have at least waited until after Christmas to break the story.”
“Are you a reporter?” Eddie’s interest now piqued as he focuses on the curly red head between Brad and Laura.
Julie shrugs, “Yeah, a crime beat reporter,” and takes another sip of the red wine.
“You don’t sound very enthused.” He says.
“It’s a job.”
“Don’t let her fool you, Ed.” Brad points a half-eaten breadstick at his friend. “Journalism’s in her blood just like her father, and her grandfather.”
“I see.” Eddie drinks from a bottle of beer. “A generational legacy that you don’t seem to relish much of.”
“It comes natural, and it made sense at the time.” She says.
“Writing comes natural to Julie all right. Did you know she’s also a published author?” Laura smiles at Julie who frowns back.
“Oh, really?” Brad says, “What do you write?”
“Guilty pleasure. Let’s not make a big deal out of it.” Julie replies.
“She writes horror.” Laura answers for her friend.
“A crime beat reporter slash horror writer. Wow, never saw that one coming.” Brad sneers.
“Whatever.” Julie flicks her long hair off her shoulders and turns to face Eddie. “What of you? Let me guess, an international spy?” She asks in a leering tone.
“You’re not too far off the mark.” Eddie replies. “I’m a freelance Threat Analyst.”
“What the heck is that?” Julie’s nose crinkles at him.
“Mainly I hunt the web for any malicious activities, and put a stop to them.”
“That sounds–interesting I suppose.” Julie says.
It was Eddie’s turn to laugh as he drinks more of the beer. “Oh, it can get very interesting.”
“What about you, Laura?” Brad asks.
Laura leans forward as she studies the flickering candle at the table’s center which casts shadows across her fair face. “I’m currently doing my Forensic Pathology Residency at North Peak’s Regional Medical Center.”
“Fascinating. We have a budding doctor with us.” Brad smiles at her.
“You did it.” Eddie says. “You’ve accomplished one of your dreams.” His warm smile causes Laura’s cheeks to color.
“It’s still a work in progress, but yeah, I’m getting there.” She returns his smile.
His expression then grows more somber. “I’m sorry I haven’t kept in touch. I never meant to leave like that.”
Laura shrugs, “You had a family emergency that required you to leave the country. Besides, it was for the best. For us, anyway.”
Eddie nods. “You’ve always been so understanding, Laurie. You deserve someone to be equally so.” His accent now more pronounced.
“Oh my, here’s our dinner!” Julie blurts out as the waiter came to their table with a tray full of food. “I’m starving!”
She wore no shoes against the jagged rocks on the trail, and no jacket against the skin-biting cold of the late autumn air. She ran away so quickly there was no time to grab anything.
The pain in her chest throbbed as she tried to ignore it. She hated feeling this way. It was a nagging reminder of all she had lost.
She stumbled on as she kept her back to the destruction that lied behind. Black smokes rose to the sky as the putrid smell of burnt flesh permeated her nostrils. Bile burned in her stomach as she covered her cracked lips with a dirt-streaked hand.
Images and thoughts tried to force themselves into her mind, but she shook them away. No, she can’t face them now. They would break her into a million of pieces; pieces that she could never put back together.
A snarled tree root suddenly snagged a foot as she tripped and fell to her knees with a whimper. The impacted skin burned, and something warm trickled down that foot.
She brushed the once golden-brown-now-mud-caked hair away from her pale face, and stared down at herself. The left pant-leg now torn which expose her ankle completely. There was a gash on top of the foot where blood oozed from. As she sat on the icy, hard ground, she debated with herself on whether she should bother to continue. With an injured foot, she’d either be an easy prey, or die from an infection.
Stifling back the urge to scream, she pounded the earth with both fists. Hot tears blinded her as her teeth ground together.
Life was so unfair! What has she done to deserve such a cruel fate? What?!
The snapping of nearby branches startled her as she sat up and peered ahead. All she saw was a thick canopy of dark hardwood trees. A moment later though there were several shadows moving within them.
The predators have found their prey.
“N-no!” She rolled over on her knees and stood up. She then scanned around but realized that it was too late to run. She reached down and grabbed a sharp-edged rock.