Fiction Friday: The Girl With the Gift

[My apologies for the lack of Fiction Friday lately. But I'm back! A special thanks to my friend Melody for telling me about her crazy dream that served as the initial inspiration for this piece. Enjoy!]

Keeping secrets was all I knew. As natural as breathing. Such was the price to pay when born extraordinary in an ordinary world. Before my grandmother passed away, she made me promise to guard my secret, no matter the cost. But even as I promise passed from my lips, a certainty swelled within me. I knew that one day, I would break it.

The world was ending. It was obvious. But apparently, only to me. Trying to show my friends what I saw was met with confused looks and nervous snickers, followed by a mass exodus from my life. Consequence number one of people finding out the truth according to granny. 

Be prepared to live a life of solitude and harsh judgement.

Despite what I saw, the world continued to thrum along all around me. Clueless commuters and tourists meandered through the park on, what they believed to be, a beautiful day. A red-faced man knocked into me without apology, too caught up with yelling into his cell phone. I wondered if he would still be such an ass if he knew that this was the beginning of the end. Would whatever had him steaming mad be worth it?

Gazing up at the sky, my breath hitched at the sight of how much the tear had grown. It was like a frustrated artist took a giant knife and jammed it into the canvas of our world, starting deep in the heavens and dragging it toward earth. The slit between our world and whatever lay beyond glowed in the purest white.

My lungs filled with electrified air. My chest heaved. But I stopped myself short of screaming: Look! Run! Save yourselves!

I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t some tin foil hat wearing doomsday conspiracy theorist. I was just a girl with a gift. A girl whose main worry a week ago was whether or not Billy Ortiz was going to ask me to prom. And now, it was hard to believe that I’d ever cared about something as inconsequential as a dance. There would be no prom. Hell, soon enough, there might not be a Billy.

Or a me.  

I felt a tingling at the nape of my neck and I knew the time was near. It always started this way. Soft, almost comforting.

The brilliant slash had reached earth and disappeared along the horizon. I watched in horror as a blackish gray dot mutated into a long, skinny tendril. It unfurled from within the glow and entered into our world. Smaller tendrils sprung from its tip. As the terrifying appendage reached toward the ground, I heard the first screams.

The tingling in me grew and morphed into a pounding pulse that wracked my entire body. My abilities weren’t limited to just seeing what others couldn’t. I was gifted with a wide array of gifts. Each one important, according to granny, in fulfilling my ultimate purpose: to save the world.

Fiction Friday: [Salvaging for Hope]

Despite living with a rowdy crew and the staleness of its recycled air, it was docking that Shapiro hated the most. The Vulture was an old girl, decommissioned before he was born. The odds of her dock being compatible with another ship was slim to none. The seesawing to make it work always left a queasy pit in his stomach. He learned the hard way not to look out the window. The lurching sent the stars dancing in non-rhythmic streaks and sent his head swirling. Shapiro wasn’t built to be a salvager. But life loved to throw curveballs.

As a civil engineer on Pis Aller Colony II, he spent his entire career at a desk. He worked hard to create a world that was not only functional, but beautiful. But, as with anything involving human nature, there were those who disagreed. A faction of underground rebels made it clear they weren’t happy with the government’s vision for one of the last remaining colonies. From stolen equipment to strategically placed bombs, setting work back for months, their presence had everyone on edge.

Shapiro stayed out of his colleague’s conspiracy theory discussions, preferring to keep his head down and complete the work of making a better world for his wife and daughter. But, from the day Katerine and Mela were kidnapped, he regretted his lack of fraternization. Maybe if he had joined in, he would have realized his job put his family in danger. He would have realized he needed to take steps to ensure their safety. But he hadn’t. He failed them.

Worse, the faction was rumored to have fled the colony soon after. Unconfirmed sightings of them off-planet was how Shapiro found his way onto the rusty, clunker known as The Vulture. If his family was out there, he would find them.

A loud, metallic clang filled the ship and vibrated under his feet. They had docked. Already suited up, Shapiro waited anxiously for the door to open. While the rest of the crew sought out items to gain them favor and bonuses, he set off for clues that could lead him to his family.

Debris peppered the floor and somewhere in the distance, water dripped. He swept his light over the rust-dripped walls and rivets until his beam caught something up ahead. Shapiro stopped in his tracks, confused. As the newbie, he was always sent the furthest from living quarters because quality personal effects fetched the highest trade value. But, up ahead, according to the plaque on the door, was the holy grail of salvagers…Captain’s Quarters. The civil engineer in him argued the implausibility of what he was seeing. The ridiculousness of a ship’s Captain hunkering down this deep in the belly of his ship. But he pushed those thoughts aside because he had work to do.

The door eased open with an ear piercing squawk. The room smelled of mold and metal, adding to the war already raging in Shapiro’s stomach. He zigzagged the light from wall to wall and along the floor. The room was waterlogged and everything in it was soaked in shades of black, gray, and brown. Then the light’s beam caught a flash of pink in the far corner. It was only a tiny peek, but in the den of drab it shined like a beacon.

Shapiro carefully sloshed his way across the room, kicking aside long-forgotten debris. Memories that had once meant something to someone, now disintegrating and floating in rust water. The closer he got, the more he worried that his OxyBreather was faulty. But common sense pointed him toward the truth.

The temperature on Pis Aller Colony II was a steady sixty-eight. Always. His daughter never left home without her favorite pink jacket. The one that was the same shade of pink peeking out from under the layers of dirt and water stains.

The combination of hope and fear shortened his breath. The addition of the heat from his tears threatened to fog his view as he reached his gloved hand toward the corner. The first tug sent something into the water heavy enough to splash the glass of his helmet, but Shapiro didn’t care. He tugged again at the fabric that could potentially spin his world into overdrive. This time it slid out with ease from its watery grave.

The zipper glinted under his light. The sleeves hung slack and heavy, dripping. His gasping cries echoed hollow in the helmet as he clutched the jacket to his chest.  

This find wouldn’t get him in his bosses favor or garner him a bonus, but to him, Shapiro had just salvaged the most valuable thing on the ship. 

Fiction Friday: [A Few Years]

Barton Marshall’s tooth slipped from its gummy pocket and hit the porcelain sink with an unceremonious clunk. Every sign he’d ignored before now took center stage in his mind. Releasing a long, sour sigh, he knew no matter how hard he tried, there was no denying that he’d been duped.

“You’re an old man,” he said to the reflection in the bathroom mirror. His eyes, nestled atop bulging dark folds, stared back and, through the fading steam, offered a wordless agreement. Lightning bolts of pain chimed in from his lower back with a “Here. Here”. His creaky joints extended the only audible notes of solidarity.

He shuffled his way out of the bathroom and into the sterile room he woke up in. Lifting his feet seemed like an inefficient use of the little energy he had left and his well-worn slippers scuffed across the tiled floor. Reaching the bed, he plopped down, allowing gravity to do most of the work.

Barton’s friends and family had begged him not to do it. But to him, they were overreacting. Back in the twenty-first century it wasn’t uncommon for people to donate blood for some extra cash. He’d even read about people going as far as donating their sperm. Their eggs. So what was a few years?

A few years.

When he woke up, he had a bad feeling, but chalked it up to post-surgery haze. And even though making it to the bathroom had been a chore, he swatted away the thought that they had taken more years than he had agreed to. Hours ago, he would have had the strength to fight. To allow his rage to run the show. But hours ago he was a twenty one year old with his whole life in front of him.

Staring at the spots on the back of his wrinkled, fleshy hand, he figured he must be somewhere north of eighty. The thought added eighty pounds of tired on top of his already exhausted, fragile frame. His head hit the pillow and his body softened atop the stiff mattress.

As his mind drifted and sleep wove its way through every part of his rapidly aged body, Barton hoped when he woke, he’d discover this had all been a nightmare. Or at the very least, that he had enough money to buy some of his years back.


Fiction Friday: [The Photo]

Working late was bad enough without feeling guilty every time he looked at the photo on his desk. In it, Holly’s eyes sparkled, radiating warmth and, as always, her smile spread tightly across her face as she always made a point to keep her lips pressed together. Even now, despite the events of the morning, he was drawn in by her face.

Mark couldn’t remember what the fight was about, but he was sure it was over something stupid. And if he was being totally honest, he also knew it had been his fault. It wasn’t the first time he allowed stress from work to creep into his home life.

His eyes wandered once again over to his wife’s face after tapping away at his keyboard for almost an hour. His fingers froze and it felt as though his heart had, too.  His eyes burned and watered as he stared, unblinking at the photo. The same photo that had adorned his desk for almost ten years. Well, not the same.

Not anymore.

The only spark left in Holly’s eyes was one that ignited fear. Her tightly pressed lips now flung apart in a frozen scream of terror. Mark squeezed his eyes shut and convinced himself that he was just tired. Too many hours staring at a computer screen.

When he opened them, not only was Holly still clutched in the grip of fear, but Mark had to lean in closer because he noticed something else that hadn’t been in the photo before. A shadowy figure lurked behind her. His mind was sluggish with confusion and he reached forward, rubbing the glass with his thumb to make sure it wasn’t just a smudge.

His stomach knotted when the image remained and he scrambled for his phone, dialing his wife with quaking fingers.


Relief washed through Mark when he heard her voice.

“Hey, it’s me. I just…I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Holly said with a slight edge in her voice. The remnant of their unresolved fight.

“No reason. I was just…”

Mark’s words trailed off as he took another look at the photo. He was shocked to find that the shadowy mass had grown larger. As if it had drawn closer to Holly. As if it was right behind her.

“Mark? Are you still there?”

Before he could respond, the phone—and every molecule in his body—flooded with the sound of her scream. Mark watched in horror as the black outline of a hand slid over Holly’s mouth in the photo and his heart raced as his wife’s scream grew muffled in his ear.

“Holly, I’m coming,” he yelled over and over as he bolted from his desk.

Consumed with getting home and saving her, Mark never heard Holly’s phone hit the floor or the sounds of her struggling end. 

Fiction Friday: [Owusu]

It wasn’t a body as much as pieces. Four to be exact. Two arms and two legs. And they weren’t the first sets of limbs to be found. Discovery of the first had sent the media into a frenzy. With the second, serial killer was splashed across every headline and flung from every news anchors lips. After the third, they gave the killer a name…The Butcher. This new find might just send the city into a full blown panic.

The call came in a little after 2 am. They called in Detective Anita Owusu, who wasn’t on duty. She was not a happy camper, drumming her perfectly manicured nails impatiently against the steering wheel the entire ride. The street lights would occasionally glint off the purply-gray polish on her squared shaped nails, drawing her attention.

“What’s the deal?” she asked Suarez who approached her as she arrived. “This isn’t our case. Why are we here?”

Her partner rubbed the back of his neck and couldn’t quite meet her eyes. Her stomach fluttered, nervousness wasn’t an emotion she’d ever seen him wear.


Following Marino’s voice, she looked over to find him standing next to Jackson in the tall grass. They glowed, spotlighted by the work lights that formed a harsh line against the blackness surrounding them. Suarez grabbed her arm when she took a step toward them. She waited for him to speak, but instead he pushed up her sleeve, revealing the tattoo on her left wrist.

“What’s going on, Suarez?”

Instead of an answer, he studied her face for a moment before dropping her arm and heading toward the scene. An uneasy feeling trailed behind her as she followed him. Marino and Jackson stood awkwardly as they drew closer.

“Sorry for bringing you down,” Jackson said. “It’s just…”

He exchanged an uncomfortable look with Marino. Then, they both looked to Suarez.

“Just show her,” Suarez said.

She hated being treated like the odd man out and after all her years on the force she didn’t deserve it. The three of them not only knew something, they worried it would upset her. The idea that it was because she was a woman made her angry.

“You got me outta bed for this, so let’s see it,” she said with an edge.

Marino and Jackson parted, allowing her a clear view of the limbs that lay in a square on the grass. The legs parallel to each other and the arms, the same. Slender and delicate, they were undoubtedly female. Just like all the others. Suarez passed her a pair of gloves and Owusu knelt down next to the morbid display as she slid her hands into them. The first thing she noticed was how clean the cuts were. The media’s moniker was even more accurate than they knew.

Starting with the leg on her left, she scanned them each carefully before settling on the left arm at her feet. She was used to tamping down any outward indications of panic, but it was gathering and swelling to a level that she couldn’t control. She tried to swallow, but her throat had gone dry. The sound of her jackhammering heart pounded in her ears.

“Owusu?” Suarez sounded tinny and distant.

She jumped up and ripped the glove off of her left hand and pushed up her sleeve. Holding her arm out in front of her, the butchered limb lay below, out of focus. She studied the black Enso circle that surrounded the open heart made of barbed wire at her wrist. She had designed it herself, an overly stylized reminder of her past. Of how protecting her heart needed to be a priority. Even more telling, the tiny “m&d” that filled the small gap where the circle didn’t quite meet. An homage to the first to break her heart. Her mom and dad.

She looked down at the ground and back to her wrist several times. The tattoo on the bodiless limb was an exact match. There was no doubt. She lowered her arm in an effort to hide the shaking, but she wasn’t able to stop the tears. She watched as they splashed down, striking the victims hand. A scream formed in her throat as they rolled down toward the perfectly manicured, square shaped, purply-gray nails.