Short Story

Unmoored

By Justine Alley Dowsett

Red in the face, Renaud Laurent stood and slammed his cup down, splashing ale on the table’s checkered cloth. “I’ll bet any one of you here,” he slurred in his thick French accent, “that I’m the luckiest man ever to have crossed the Ismeran Channel!”

“Aww, sit down and put your money where your mouth is, Renaud!” His dicing companion, a red-headed Haldoram man, nudged the dicing cup toward him, taking a swig from his own ale cup and wiping his scruffy chin with the back of his hand. “All you do is talk.”

“Ginny, another round please,” Renaud called out after dribbling ale all over his thick curly beard, “I’m about to win all of Dagan’s coin.”

“If you lose this hand, I’ll buy the round,” Dagan countered.

Renaud grinned, scooping the dice up into his calloused hands. “As you say.”

He blew on the dice in his hands for emphasis, his blue eyes twinkling with more than just drink under his thick brown brows, before he let them fly onto the checkered cloth below and waited, holding his breath.

“Ha!” Dagan jeered. “That’s a win for me.”

Renaud studied the results of the dice closely, feigning shock. “Why, I believe you’re right, Dagan.” He lifted his head. “Ginny, I’ll have that ale now.”

“You’ve had more than your share,” Ginny called back, but that didn’t stop her from delivering another cup at Dagan’s expense, sashaying her ample bottom as she did so.

Dagan scowled, seeming to realize he’d been played, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself. Seeing that he’d possible overstayed his welcome, Renaud downed his first cup and started in on his second as he looked about for another dicing partner.

“Ah, well, I guess I better call it a night,” he said loudly, wobbling slightly as he reached for his winnings from the night. Not bad, he noted, mentally tallying them, though I should’ve bet less on that last round.

He turned about, ready to depart, only to find a lithe, dark-haired man staring intently at him. Renaud squinted at the newcomer. By his appearance, he was not a sailor like most of the patrons at The Crow’s Nest. His hair was greasy and pulled back into a loose tail at the nape of his neck, and his clothes were well-tailored and expensive looking, though they had clearly seen better days.

“Excuse me,” Renaud belched. “I was just leaving.”

“Luckiest man ever to have sailed across the Ismeran Channel, huh?” the man questioned, eyeing the dice on the table. “Ever thought of playing a game with a bit more skill involved? Poker, by chance?”

Renaud looked down into his mostly full cup. “Well, it seems I’ve still got some left in me after all,” he drawled. “Why not?” (more…)

Monster Rabbit Test

Edele Winnie

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”  Allen said. His pale face was completely serious, even though what he was suggesting was ludicrous.

His skinny girlfriend Sheila shook her head, her long chestnut hair catching a shine in the light. “You’re right. I don’t believe you,” she looked again at the metal cage on the dresser and the small black and white rabbit that wiggled its nose within. “Bunny Hopwell wouldn’t hurt a flea.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you,” Allen said sullenly, brushing a lock of pale blond hair off his forehead. “You never believe anything I say.”

“That’s not true. Besides this is just a little too much- do you really expect me to believe that he turns into a monster at night?”

“Not every night. Just certain nights. I can’t tell if there’s a pattern.”

Sheila shook her head. “Nope. Don’t believe. How would you know this anyway?”

“I saw it happen. I had let him out to stretch his legs. A shaft of moon light hit him and he transformed into this big scary thing. His ears- he still had big bunny ears- they were touching the ceiling. That’s how big he was. And he looked- demented.”

This time Sheila laughed. “Stop it,” she said. “You’re just making it worse. “

Allen became pouty and it made Sheila laugh even more.

“Come on you big goof, give me a hug. I love you even if you do have a weird sense of humour.”

They cuddled on the couch for half a bit and then he wanted to watch a movie on TV. She fell asleep near the middle of the martial arts and bang bang flick and when she opened her eyes again the house was in darkness, and she was shivering and alone. Allen must have gone to bed. She padded to the kitchen to get a drink of water before joining her boyfriend and passed by the room where Bunny Hopwell’s cage was located. The little door was open and the rabbit was nowhere in sight. A long beam of moon light shone in through the window and caressed the green shag carpet. (more…)

Night Whispers

Edele Winnie

It was the middle of the night when Megan heard the soft sounds. She clamped her hands over her ears and willed the sound to stop. If only she could fall asleep this way. She’d tried earplugs but the unnatural silence made her feel panicky. Her boyfriend Derek, asleep beside her, never heard anything in the night. He’d suggested she take a sleep aid, but Megan liked natural things and eschewed pharmaceuticals. Although after several weeks of night whispering she was ready to try anything.

She unclamped her ears and held her breath. Silence. Blessed quiet. She exhaled with relief. She was so tired. She could feel the gentle hands of sleep reaching up through the mattress for her.

“Sss sssh ssh-law sha-law.” The whispering went. “Sshh slee she slaw.”

Megan’s eyes flew open. No. No. Why wouldn’t it stop? They’d lived in the house two years before the whispering started. She looked at Derek and he was sound asleep, his lips slightly parted, peaceful. She felt a flash of anger towards him and sighed.  

            She was wideawake now. She swung her bare feet out onto the cold floor. (more…)

Hole in the Wall: The Fifth Monday Three – Part Four

By Edele Winnie

“Jocelyn, is it really you?” Carol asked the white-coated woman up on the catwalk. “I am so…. muddled.” Carol ran her hands through her brown hair but the confusion remained. They were surrounded by buzzing machines, tubes and metal catwalks. “What is this place?”

Jocelyn laughed. “It’s definitely not the bank. The Jocelyn who works there with you is just one version of me. A sister, if you like.”

Carol pointed at one of the large glass tubes. It was filled with green liquid and an exact copy of Carol herself, floating languidly. Beside that there were more tubes and copies. Carol shook her head, unable to find words. Beside her, Gary shifted into a quivering red cylinder shape.

“I see you’ve met Gary. He’s a portal jumper. A creature that can transfer between dimensions without decomposing.”

“You make me sound so dull.” Gary complained and transformed into a star shape. “I’m actually a star.”

Everything seemed to be swirling in her head and Carol looked for a place to sit. She settled on the bottom step of a metal ladder that led to a catwalk above.

Gary changed into a rhombus. “There was a cloh enforcer right behind us.” (more…)

2016 Mission 6, 443, 273

By Edele Winnie

There were always four. That’s why this didn’t make sense. Wherever you went- corporation, village, unit, class, whatever- there were always four. But this time Melanie found five.

Melanie was a pro- not only highly trained and a weapons expert but she also had 12 years hard experience to back it up. She knew the ins, the ups and was careful enough to never even have been wounded. She was fast, thorough and deadly.

She had discovered them on her first day. It was at the Belcon Corporation head office, employing 350 with a fine dining cafeteria and company swimming pool. She’d had new employee orientation in the morning and then gone to the cafeteria for lunch. She was the new girl- short bobbed blonde, natural makeup, blue skirt and jacket- and all the company wolves took note. Clothes can’t hide real power- and Melanie was extremely fit and capable. Every wandering male eye was drawn as if by a magnet. But she ignored it. She had to. Not only was it an inconvenience, but the four would be unaffected. It might even make her stand out too much, and her cover would be blown.

Tray in hand, plate heaped with the salad of the day, Melanie strode into the cafeteria seating area prepared for the stares. She swayed her hips just a little bit more for those hungry eyes. She had to play the part if she was going to survive. She’d done it too many time before for it not to work. The men in suites looked up, the females scowled, and she was invited to sit beside a corporate vice president alpha wolf who was practically drooling. She flirted as she picked at her salad but her eyes were scanning for the four. They might be in hiding or they might be elsewhere- usually they were so used to being ignored that they were easy to spot. And there they were. (more…)

In a Perfect World

By Edele Winnie

“Are you Mrs. Dununzio?” The doctor asked. At lease she assumed he was a doctor. He was wearing scrubs, had a pulled down mouth mask around his throat and a smear of blood that was just disappearing from his white coated chest.

Carol Dununzio nodded. “How is she?”

The doctor shook his head sadly.

“She’s not dead then?” Carol had to be certain.

“No.” The doctor said, frowning. “She lived. She’s going to be fine. I’m sorry.”

Carol Dununzio tried to swallow the lump in her throat. Her daughter still lived. Jessica, aged eleven, had survived. What was she going to do now?

A moment later another doctor wheeled Jessica out in a wheelchair. The young girl looked dazed, and the brown hair on the side of her head was matted with dried blood. The doctor tipped the chair and Jessica slid out and landed at her mother’s feet.

The doctors walked away, commenting on how awful the sunny weather currently was.

Carol grabbed Jessica by the arms and hauled her to her feet. The girl wobbled, but her legs held and so Mrs. Dununzio tugged her towards the emergency room doors.

The family car was easy to spot, for it was the least damaged in the lot. It was a fiery red and only the passenger side had been crashed in. The car in the spot next to it had been in so many accidents that it was now a patchwork of different colours as replacement parts had been added. One door was light blue, the next black, the roof was orange and there were other colours and some rust too. The car on the other side had been in a head on and all that remained of the windshield was jagged glass.

Mrs. Dununzio pushed Jessica into the back seat where the dead cocker spaniel was.   They’d found it by the side of the road about a week ago. It was long dead though and there were barely any insects in it anymore. Jessica was still bleeding lightly from her head wound. She lay down on the ripped seats in the back and wrapped her arms around the dead dog. (more…)

Dead Bus

By Edele Winnie

Ellen cursed and tried to start the school bus again.  The morning was cold and it was starting to rain.  The motor coughed and choked but did not catch.  The last of the other school buses had just left the muddy lot.  She pounded the steering wheel angrily while the rain began to drum on the roof.

All the grade school kids would be waiting in the storm.  She had no way of contacting anyone at this point.  Ellen considered giving up, but shook it off.  She just wasn’t made that way.  She was a fighter.  She found herself staring at number 13, the bus at the back of the lot that was never used.

It had begun to pour. The dull grey sky dumped a slurry of rain onto the bus lot.  With her coat over her head, Ellen hurried to the little building- they called it the key shack- where things were stored.  The keys, all gone now, had labelled hooks.  The hook labelled thirteen was empty.  It had always been empty.

There was no phone in the shack and Ellen had forgotten her cell phone.  She could drive somewhere, she thought, and phone her boss.  By then all the kids would be wet and late for school.  Thunder cracked overhead and startled her.  The rain was pounding down and she did not want to rush out.  There were cupboards in the shack and she began to look through them.  She found the keys in the old table with the battered drawer.  The key fob read thirteen.  There were two keys, one was obviously for the ignition and the other appeared to be for a padlock.   There was a raincoat by the door and Ellen pulled it on quickly.  If she was going to get those kids to school on time she had to leave now.  She opened the door and ventured out into the storm to number thirteen.

She did not look long because she was hurrying in the rain but the bus looked fine.  The tires looked good and there was less rust than on her usual number 42 bus.  The door was padlocked.  Ellen fiddled with the keys and popped the lock off and climbed the steps.  The bus did not smell like feet, or lunches, or little girl nail polish.  It smelled a little musty.  Outside the storm hammered on the bus roof, lighting punched the sky and thunder howled.  Ellen was safe inside.   (more…)

REVELATION

Lori Lorimer

Racetrack’s a funny place. People says they come here for entertainment, but there ain’t nothing they take more serious. It’s the gambling. They see themselves hitting the big one and taking it all home in a big bag. Course, that never happens, but it seems some always had that idea. Mind, there’s a few can come here and just spend a few dollars and leave, and it don’t bite them. But others, well, they get hooked the first time they’re here. I think it’s got something to do with the horses. Maybe they think they’re not really gambling cause it’s live animals.

I been here near forty year, ever since about 1955. Started out as a groom, then got a lucky break to start as a sulky driver in the races. Even got to travel around the state for a while. But then I got hurt in a bad pile-up and the boss offered me this job. I’m sort of a security guard now. It’s okay, but I sure do miss the horses. I’m not so close to them no more.

I remember this one young feller, back about thirty year ago. His daddy knew somebody and got him into the barns as a groom. That’s the starting point, where you learn everything. He wanted to be a driver and could have made it, too. He had a good touch with horses and was showing some real promise on the practice track. But then I start seeing him in the stands, and at the window, and I thoughtwell there goes another one. He’d caught the gambling bug. There’s a certain look they get in their eye when that happens, a kind of intense focus when they watch the horses or read the program. There’s despair when they lose, but it ain’t long before they’re looking at the next race. (more…)

Man in the House

Edele Winnie

“Are you going to peek in the window again?” the little girl asked.

“Isn’t that cute?” Derek poked his wife awake. It was the middle of the night and they were in bed. “Josey’s talking in her sleep.” They could hear their three year old daughter babbling away in the next room.

“Mommy and Daddy are sleeping.” Josey said.

“That doesn’t sound like sleep talk.” Sabrina slid her nightgown on. Josey’s room was right beside and they kept the doors open.

“Mommy’s here!” Josey said when Sabrina appeared.

Sabrina kept a smile fixed to her face. Josey was not sleeping. She was wide awake. “Hi Sweetie. Who are you talking to?”

Josey laughed, and all of Sabrina’s tension evaporated. Josey was a sweet playful child and had probably been playing make believe.

“Talking to the man.” Josey said. “Funny man gives me candy.”

Sabrina tickled Josey under her chin and made her laugh. “Well I think your funny man is probably sleeping now, and so should you. See, its dark outside. That means sleep time.” She tucked her daughter under the covers. “Sleep now. Play when the sun comes out.”

Josey was such a good girl. She gave a big sigh and closed her eyes. Sabrina watched her for a moment and then began to tiptoe out of the room.

The baby monitor on the side of the crib crackled and a male voice said “Josey, is she gone?” (more…)