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Marked for Death

By Edele Winne

Coco was a small yappy black and white Shi-tzu dog with a talent for sniffing out those about to die. She had proven it eight times on dead end Mercy Street where mostly seniors lived, by camping out on the front porches of those about to expire.

As you can imagine the Mercy street residents were uncomfortable around little Coco.  Coco’s mistress, 89 year old Annabelle Coumbs, pshawed the whole business and refused to discuss it.  But everyone else did.  As the older residents passed away with Coco standing guard new younger people moved into the freshly vacant houses.  Mercy Street became an interesting mix of older and newer, seasoned and fresh, those about to die and those with long lives still ahead.

Muriel Robert was thirty one.  Because she was thirty one, she did not think about her health.  She considered herself unremarkable: short and thin with bobbed mousey brown hair.  She had smoked for six years in her teens but that was years ago.  At first she was pleased to find the charming Coco camped out on her porch, and then perturbed as she remembered the death vigil stories.  She petted Coco, who was most appreciative, and then went back into the house determined to ignore the death watch.

Maybe the dog just stopped here for a rest?  Maybe it was chasing a squirrel?  Muriel chewed at her nails.  It’s nonsense.  Coincidence.  Coco wanders everywhere and people only notice when someone passes away.  Besides, I’m thirty one!

            Muriel gave the dog a worried look and a pat on the head as she left for her evening shift at the hospital.  As a nurse she was no stranger to people dying, she’d hardened herself to it.   But now everything was different- she was looking at the possibility of her own death.  Was it going to be a car accident?  A sudden heart attack?  A crazed shooter at the hospitable or maybe even an earthquake?  She was too busy thinking such things and didn’t stop at the red light.  A dark blue pickup smashed into her passenger side and started her car spinning up onto the sidewalk. (more…)

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November Snow

By Ben Van Dongen

The alarm on my watch buzzed and beeped. I had a fuzzy recollection of setting it the night before, but at six in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why. Another hour, or dozen, of sleep would have felt amazing, but I relented and got up. I had a cot in a little room of the space I’d rented a few months prior – another fuzzy decision. There weren’t any windows in the room, so I was shocked to see snow on my way to the bathroom.

The building was on a little side street – glorified alley – called Maiden Lane. The scene was undisturbed, picturesque, and unwelcome at such an early hour. I had originally thought of the space for the detective agency because it was sleazy and run down when I was a kid. I figured it would be perfect, but in the years since I’d been there, the area was transformed into a hipster’s paradise. It was a Mecca of fashionable cafes, art studios, independent designers, and boutiques. I had a year lease though, so I tried to make the best of it. (more…)