Category Archives: Short Stories & Vignettes

Another batch of Macabre Macaroni

Lisa Burton

The Halloween Pack

Nadine’s jaw fell open in disbelief. Sara Spears wrote her up for receiving a personal email. Her mother invited her over for Sunday dinner. It wasn’t like she invited the email. She watched Sara strut away from the cubicle, obviously congratulating herself for a job well done.

Several deep breaths later, Nadine awoke her computer from sleep-mode. Sara’s constant pacing the floor to make sure nobody looked at Facebook convinced her not to use company time to look for a new job.

Nadine’s coworkers ducked their heads and pretended to work. There was no hiding what happens in a cube farm. They all heard.

When lunchtime rolled around, Nadine grabbed a light jacket and walked to a corner bistro. Some fresh air, and a huge cup of their coffee might improve her outlook.

She took a chair at one of those outside, wire-mesh tables and waited for her half turkey sandwich. An alert banner lit up the screen of her phone. “The Halloween Pack. Free today only.”

It turned out to be one of those photo manipulation apps. It came with a bunch of Halloween themed stickers, green filters for faces, and more. If she didn’t like it, she could always delete it later.

She entered her data and gave the app permission to access her photos. She flipped through her pictures and stopped at those from the summer picnic. Nothing seemed to be good enough for photo manipulation.

“Excuse me, ma’am, were you the half turkey sand?” The waitress asked.

“Oh yes. Thank you.” The fresh bead smelled wonderful. They baked every morning here.

“Let me top off your coffee.” The girl filled her cup without waiting for a response.

This place has great food, a great setting, and great service. The people seem happy too. I wouldn’t mind working at a place like this, as long as I could make ends meet.

She took a bite of her sandwich, and looked across the street at the autumn leaves. Waves of fresh bread and avocado helped improve her mood.

She looked back at her phone. Time for Sara Spears to get hers. She was always strutting around, sticking her chest out, and looking down her nose. What a narcissistic bitch. Nadine found a photo on Sara’s Facebook page. One of those professional shots with Sara standing against the city skyline while the camera looked up at her with crossed arms like she owned the damned place.

A double chin wouldn’t do. Nadine used the graphic twice, and by sizing the sticker a bit, gave Sara a quadruple chin. She added a couple of feet to her hips until Sara looked like a pear. By the time the lunch hour ended, Sara looked like a mildly transparent, gelatinous, blue blob against the skyline. Oddly, she still looked exactly like herself.

Nadine poured herself into her work that afternoon. She would check out the job market tonight, but nobody was going to call her a slacker. It was nearly three o’clock when she looked up again.

She took a restroom break, but Sara was nowhere to be seen. On the way back to her desk, an arm shot out from the cubicle next to hers. “Sorry about what happened,” Aaron Davies said.

“No problem. Guess it was just my turn on her list. Where is she, anyway?”

“Went home. Said she didn’t feel well this afternoon. To tell you the truth, she didn’t look well either. She looked almost bloated and like her skin was turning blue. Hope there isn’t something going around. I have to umpire for the kids this weekend.”

Nadine stared off into space, and absently said, “Me too.”

After work, Nadine took the elevator down to the parking level. Helicopters roared overhead, then down the street toward the city. The sound of sirens echoed in the distance. She walked past her car to look toward town.

The streets were gridlocked. It would be hours before she could get home tonight. She thought of the little bistro, and returned to the elevator. She could wait out the gridlock there, save some gasoline, and enjoy some of their wonderful coffee.

She pulled her coat tighter as she wove between the stopped cars and crossed the street. The mid day temperatures dropped rapidly this time of year. She’d be taking an indoor table this time.

“Back again?” The waitress asked.

“Yeah. Figure it’s nicer here than waiting in my car. Just coffee this time.”

“On the house. I’ll call it a refill of the one you bought earlier.”

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“Let’s see if there’s any news about what’s going on.” The waitress turned on a small television.

Images of helicopters filled the screen. Nadine hoisted the coffee to her nose and smelled the wonderful aroma. The news cut to a shot from one of the helicopters. A gigantic blue blob, nearly seventeen stories tall, rampaged through downtown. She sat her cup down and gripped the edge of the table with both hands.

The helicopter flew around the tower for a better angle. There was no mistaking Sara Spears’ face from the photo.

The monster had absorbed several cars, and one fire engine was clearly visible inside her. The flashing red lights filtered through the blue gelatin came out as purple. As the helicopter moved past, several wire tables appeared inside the monster, like the ones Nadine had lunch at. She spotted at least three people inside the blob too.

She grabbed for her phone. Maybe she could undo the manipulation and set things right. Sorry, your free trial has ended. You can buy the Halloween Pack…

Nadine deleted the app. The news kept running. Maybe it would take a second or two before things went back to normal. But they didn’t.

She opened the photograph. There was Sara, standing against the cityscape as a giant blue blob. The positioning of the photo made it look a bit like Sara was as tall as some buildings.

The news kept running as Sara moved on to the Shriner’s Hospital. Those poor people were about to be absorbed too.

Nadine held down the photo until the option bar appeared. She deleted the photograph.

The news image reacted almost immediately. Sara completely disappeared.

Those poor people inside the blob didn’t deserve this. Hell, even Sara didn’t deserve this. She was a horrible person, but this was beyond what she earned.

Nadine went to the App Store, maybe she could repeat the process, not modify the photo, and set things right. The Halloween Pack was nowhere to be found, like it never existed.

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Macabre Macaroni, second helping

Lisa Burton

Flipping

I pulled into the driveway, and my tires pushed down weeds as I pulled up to the parking circle. It was a long day at work, but I decided to start a little demolition before heading home.

Three stone steps led to the elaborate old front door, but I had to shoulder it open against years of rust and weathering. A thick layer of dust covered the stone entry.

I wound my way to the kitchen and pulled open the tattered old curtains to let some of the setting sunlight into my work area. I worked my crowbar under the stone countertop and looked into the breakfast room. With new windows, that morning view would add another twenty-thousand dollars to my resale value.

My shoulder pushed against the bar, but the stone wouldn’t budge. Then a crystal decanter and glasses appeared on the counter. Had I missed that somehow?

Slow clacking footsteps echoed down the hall to my right. A shapely woman, possibly in her fifties, walked into the room like she owned it. She wore a short, sleeveless dress and pearl colored heels that must have made the sound.

She picked up the decanter and poured herself a drink. An overstuffed chair and end table appeared across the room. Had I overlooked this stuff while I was measuring, or was she a squatter.

She sauntered to it and sat down, crossing her legs. She lit a cigarette and blew the smoke straight up.

My hand tightened around the crowbar, and I nervously checked my exit routes.

“So, what are we going to do about you?” She said in a husky voice.

“You need to leave,” I answered. “This is private property. My private property.”

She picked some invisible tobacco from her tongue. “Is it now? This is my home, and I intend to keep it that way.” She took a sip from her drink, then smirked. “I’d offer you one, but I don’t think it’s possible.”

“I’m the deeded owner of this property. I’m going to gut it, revamp the whole thing, then sell it for a huge profit.”

“Oh yeah. How much did you pay?”

“Over two million.”

“They saw you coming. My husband only paid seven-fifty when he bought it. You’ve got to admit, it’s a beautiful place though. And I’d appreciate it if you’d quit destroying my counters.”

“I’ll have you forcibly evicted if I have to–”

She leaned into the arm of the chair, and I could see the falling wallpaper moving behind her – through her head. “Something tells me that’s not going to work. See I own this house too, and I’m not leaving.”

“But it’s a dump. Maybe you want to check out something better.”

“It’s not a dump. This is one of the top neighborhoods in the city.”

“It was, maybe fifty years ago.”

“Well, it not a dump the way I see it. My beautiful floral wallpaper, the polished wood of the breakfast set. It’s all still here.” She stubbed out her cigarette in an ashtray that appeared right before she touched it.

“Those things will kill you.”

“Too late. Besides, if you knew all the things I put in this body, a little cigarette is the least of my worries. Oh the parties I used to host. They were all here, you know. Politicians, movie stars, musicians. We use to put out drugs on one of those three tier serving dishes like some people place out canapés.”

“W-w-we who?”

“Larry and I. He was my husband. House went to me after he died. You can ask him yourself, he usually shows up near the pool on clear nights.”

I pulled the kitchen curtains back. A flurry of moths startled me. The stone around the pool was cracked and small trees pushed up between the stones. A foot of green scum floated on the partially filled pool.

“Not there tonight? That’s where I buried him. A lieutenant detective helped me dig the hole.” She looked up at the ceiling. “I thanked that man proper, right up there.”

“I, I, I don’t need to know this.”

“Lots to know about this place. One night a rockstar banged a socialite on that countertop you’re trying to destroy. The rest of his band cheered him on.”

“Anybody I’d know?”

“Meh, flavor of the month. You know how that business goes.” She finished her drink. “Now what are we going to do about you?”

“I’ll hire an exorcist or someone to clear this place out.”

“You can try. Lot’s of cons in that business, but there are some legit ones. Of course, I could do the same thing.”

“Wh- what do you mean?”

“Things on my side of the veil aren’t so different. Maybe I’ll hire someone to get rid of you. In fact, that would be kind of fun. Tell you what. You hire someone, and I will too. We’ll get them all together one night, and see who prevails. First one to blink has to leave. What do you say? Sounds like a party to me.”

“I’m not playing your stupid game. I’m on the hook for a lot of money here, and I’m in the right.”

“Maybe you could sue me. Good luck serving papers though. No, we’re going to do this my way. We each get two weeks to find someone, then we do battle. If you win, I’ll leave.”

“What about Gary?” I cocked a thumb toward the back.

“Larry. And he’ll do whatever I tell him. He’s a lot calmer since I pulled the trigger. He doesn’t question or doubt me any more.”

“You aren’t giving me much choice here, and I’m the aggrieved party.”

“On your side of the veil, sure. On my side, I’m the aggrieved party, and I’ve owned this house since before you were born. What’s your name again?”

“Carl.”

“You seem like a nice young man, Carl. Find your witch or whatever, and I’ll do the same. And don’t get any ideas about selling this to someone and running off. What I’ll do to them is guaranteed to get you sued at minimum, maybe killed at maximum.” She faded away, along with the chair, decanter, and the rest.

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Macabre Macaroni

Lisa Burton

Our Secret Lives

All of us have things in our lives we never discuss. Despite the age of the selfie, we might go somewhere, or do something, we don’t want to be judged for. When it comes to dreams, the sky’s the limit.

We never really remember our dreams. Bits and pieces, of course, but that’s a side of life we never understand fully. What if some of our nocturnal activities were real? What if we just didn’t remember after we awoke? Studies of sleep walkers and others show this is possible too.

Then there is the case of Lauren. Thirty-one years old, left wing liberal, vegetarian. She’s been married to her wife Tina for the last five years, lives in a quiet little house with solar panels on the roof. Tina is an international flight attendant, complete with insurance and benefits. Lauren owns an old nursery. Together they make a comfortable living.

🌑🌒🌓🌔

Lauren parked her Prius under the carport and headed inside. She pulled her rubber boots off at the door. “Smells wonderful. Do you have time to eat before you go?”

Tina poked her head around the doorframe. “Not tonight. Thought you’d be home sooner. I’m off to Denver, Seattle, and Tokyo.”

“I got another offer from that developer, Steve Roper. I tossed it in the car to read when I got here, but couldn’t help myself. By the time I read it, traffic got ahead of me.” She walked into the kitchen.

Tina tucked one of the blonde dreadlocks behind Lauren’s ear and handed her a glass of wine. “There’s roasted eggplant and some parsnips in the oven. What’s he proposing this time?”

“It’s a lot of money, but I can’t sell Dad’s old nursery, I just can’t. Besides, luxury condos isn’t what this city needs. We need a place for the homeless. We need affordable housing. Even one of those tiny housing communities would help.”

“I know, right? Look, you’ll have to text me the rest. My Uber is here, and I really have to go.” Tina extended the handle on her bag and wheeled it toward the door. “I’ll be back in four days, and we can talk about it then. For now, I can text. Bye.”

Lauren carried her supper out to the back patio, along with the bottle of wine. It was a small yard, but lush with plant-life from the nursery. Birds trilled as the sun started down. She picked at the food, but abandoned it in favor of the wine.

🌑🌒🌓🌕

“I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with that woman,” Steve Roper said to the men at his country club. “I’m offering her more than the property’s worth, and I threw in a position as our landscaper; with benefits. I verbally offered her a small flower shop on the main floor too.”

“I don’t see how she can hold out much longer,” Everett Hosmer said. “As downtown grows, there are less customers for a small nursery. People won’t drive by perfectly good nurseries in the suburbs to visit her.”

“I know, but she seems to miss that point. I need her corner for the entrance to the whole project. We have our timing too, Everett. If Crandleburg breaks ground first, we’re going to be playing catch-up. I don’t want to deal with all those early-bird discounts and free upgrades. Donnie builds a good project, and I don’t want him beating us to the punch again.”

“Maybe you ought to have something to eat. She may come around by Monday. You’ve been drinking, and things might look better in the morning.”

“I intend to do a lot more drinking first, and I’m not hungry.” He walked behind the bar and grabbed a bottle of Talisker. “Put it on my tab. I’m going to walk the grounds and take in the night air. Tell Cici to take the car home, and I’ll find a ride later.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. I really hate that nursery woman, and need to flush her out of my mind.” He headed out onto the golf course.

The call of an owl came from Driscoll Park. The country club bordered a huge state park with tall pines, camp sites, and volleyball courts. The far side of the park bordered a reservoir that drew people on the weekends. Steve occasionally saw deer on the back nine, and ambled that direction.

🌒🌓🌔🌕

Lauren was sound asleep on her lounge chair when the moon crept over the trees. The light in its full configuration landed on her like a spotlight. The transformation started as hair, beautiful silvery tipped fur covered her from head to toe. Her feet extended, and claws grew from her toes.

Her sinuses expanded and lengthened. Her ears migrated and took on canine shape. The smell of the birds that sung her to sleep filled her nostrils. She rolled off the lounge, spread her toes, and stretched with her butt in the air. Fangs glistened in the moonlight as she yawned.

She scratched behind her ear and took in the local scents. Once fully oriented, she trotted around the house and peered around the Prius. She ducked down, as she was nearly as tall as the car now. It was late, and the residential streets were empty.

She trotted off toward Driscoll Park. The lakeshore was empty now, but a few embers glowed where water-skiers had abandoned campfires. She went through the campgrounds, sniffing at tents. The hunger hadn’t landed yet, and she had other goals before hunting.

She loped off into the forest, and headed for the large stone outcrop. A lone howl reverberated through the trees. She wagged her tail and headed toward the sound.

He waited beside a gigantic ponderosa log that fell fifty years ago. He remained in the shadows, but the tips of his black fur stuck up in the moonlight. Nobody would have noticed him, but there was no fooling Lauren’s nose. He trotted down the hill toward her.

She wagged her tail, and rubbed her shoulder in a patch of wild sunflowers. Eventually turning onto her back and rolling in them. He sniffed her and wagged his tail. She licked his face. He smelled of whisky, but the alcohol had no effect on this form. He jumped playfully over the top of her, crouched and leaped again. She met him mid-jump, and they frolicked in the moonlight.

Once their meeting was over, they got down to business. There were homeless people below the dam, an up-scale event near the band shell in the city park. One of these would provide a nice meal, then they could lick each other clean and cuddle the night away. If those familiar hunting grounds failed them, the tenters weren’t going anywhere, even if they were too close to home. The lunar cycle would provide them with three nights of bliss, hunting, gorging, and mating.

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How about some free days?

Once upon a time, I wrote this book called The Enhanced League. It’s my take on a baseball league where performance enhancing drugs are not banned. It’s a little bit science fiction, and a bit human drama.

I wrote it as a collection of short stories and micros. My personal growth plan was to have these stories all set in the same environment, and to tell an overarching story from cover to cover.

It seems like I’m always trying something new, and this book has a few pieces that I called Anthems. These are short bits in second person point of view. They were well received by the reviewers, so I wrote a new one for this post. (Personal theory: second person is best in small segments.)

I thought it deserved a bit of music, and video clips seem to be the simple way to add that in WordPress. This may be my favorite movie scene of all time.

Spring is in the Air

It’s been a long winter. The series ended in spectacular fashion, but that was back in November. Sure, you tried to get into football, maybe checked out the Winter Olympics, but it wasn’t the same.

You listened to the Hot Stove reports on the radio. There were some good free agents this year, and you earmarked a couple for your team. You knew they were long shots, but like all baseball fans, you live on hope and faith.

This year was different. Teams refused to pony up those ridiculous contracts like in the past. Guess they finally figured out super-stars aren’t so super, seven years into a contract for mega-millions.

Passive fans always want the team to spend money and buy all the free agents, but you know better. This is because the business side is every bit as interesting as the game on the field. There’s only so much money, and you have to keep an eye on the future. It’s hard to extend the contract of your ace pitcher next year when you spent it all on some hotshot this year.

When it all shook out, your team settled for an import pitcher from Japan, and a few minor league guys that might come up late this year. For the most part, you’re fielding the same team.

That isn’t bad in some ways. They made a run and got into the playoffs. They might have done better if it weren’t for the injuries. All you need is just a bit of luck and… we’re back to hope once more. Maybe those minor league guys can cover the spots if an injured player has to take some time off. There’s always hope.

You watched the trucks pulling in to the stadium. You imagined they delivered sports apparel and the newest bobble-head dolls of the popular players. It’s too early for hotdogs and other perishables. Still, it’s getting close.

The grass is green, not like it will be in May or June, but all the dead thatch is gone. You watched them testing the lights over the stadium, and Spring Training is underway five states away.

Kids always put a lot of faith in Spring games. You know they don’t mean a thing, and you’re just hoping to get through without somebody getting hurt. Players get their work in and get ready for the big show, that’s what it’s all about.

The radio guys are looking for stories, so they come up with things for you to worry about. So-and-so seems to have lost some velocity on his fastball, or such-and-such seems to be swinging and missing more. You know they’re trying things out in Spring Training, and working up to their full skill set. They’ll be ready, have a little faith.

Hope and faith, they fuel the baseball fan’s world. It’s almost time to take the field and welcome summer in the best way possible. Grab your cap, ice the beer, turn on the game, and let’s watch some baseball.

***

Those who read Enhanced League seemed to like it. It never seemed to get enough readers to make a splash. Now here we are at the end of Spring Training, and the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. What better time to trot it back out and do a small push.

Today through Saturday I’m holding free days for The Enhanced League. I’d appreciate it if you’d pick up a copy, maybe add it on Goodreads. In it’s debut, I had Lisa making the rounds. Here is the poster that came out the best from her promotional efforts.

Lisa Burton

I added it, because images draw attention, but also for some of you to use. I’m not going to spend a lot of money on a free promotion. If you want to reblog this one, I’d be grateful. Some of you may prefer to assemble your own post. You can clip the Anthem, cover, umpire Lisa, however much or little you want. And thanks for considering The Enhanced League.

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Vivid dreaming last night

This doesn’t happen every night, but when it does it’s usually interesting. Here is the dream I woke up from last night. Oh, and the extra spacing at the beginning is on purpose. So is the last word.

***

Cybernet Library Access Point……………………

 

General Public Profile…………………..

 

Sarah,

I stole this computer from an abandoned library. Dogs are howling down the street, so I don’t have much time.

Wind is from the west, but I can’t smell them yet. They must be east of me. I hope they’re east of me. I won’t let them get their tentacles on the baby again, I promise you that. Little Bit is fine, but she misses her mommy.

I’m going to head north, then veer west. We might make the safe zone in three days, two if we’re lucky. Whatever you do, stay in the safe zone.

The howling is getting louder. We’ve got to go. Love you.

PS: Hope they aren’t monitoring the library sy

2001 A Space Odyssey GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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Does this Macabre Macaroni still smell okay?

Lisa BurtonHi Gang, Lisa Burton here with the last of Macabre Macaroni for 2017. So far, we’ve raged through the streets as a monster while exploring some of the broken things about various systems. We’ve looked behind the curtain at a hospital to poke a stick in the idea of accountants running our medical professions. We even pulled up a lawn chair for the end of the world.

I’ll, sadly, be retiring my witch’s hat for now, but not until I go trick or treating. I may get to wear it a bit during the editing of Craig’s novella, The Hat.

Today, we’re just going to enjoy a bit of nature in a story Craig calls Little Brown Bat.

Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat crawled out of a crack along the cliff face. The crack, no wider than a bottle cap, had housed bats for over a hundred years.

He squinted at the setting sun, but decided to leave the roost early. Soon the nighttime sky would be full of his brethren, but Little Brown Bat knew something they didn’t.

They would all head for the college campus nearby and hope to find the night insects fluttering around the lights surrounding the quad.

Little Brown Bat was headed for Randall’s Marsh. Situated on an abandoned farm, the waters had not been dredged for swimming or poisoned for mosquito control.

Sometimes, if he was early enough, he could catch the last of the day-flying insects. Fat blowflies, and yellowjacket wasps full of meat, made for a satisfying snack. It takes a lot of food to keep Little Brown Bat in the air.

Once the sun set, the marsh itself always had a hatch of water borne insects. Sometimes they were mayflies, sometimes caddis, and if he was lucky a giant stonefly or two.

He ducked into the forest along the way, the shade protected his sensitive eyes from the setting sun. He caught a lazy moth in his tail and flipped it into his mouth on the way to the marsh. A tasty snack this early at night.

He veered onto the muddy two track road, and stayed about three feet off the ground. A fat blowfly gave him hope that he arrived early enough.

Wild yellow iris bloomed along the edge of the first pond, and spread across the boggy area. Later tonight the scent might attract one of the gigantic sphinx moths, nearly as large as he was. He moved on to the first small grassy mound, but it produced nothing more than a pair of lawn moths.

By the time he reached the earthen mounds, he’d scored a juicy yellowjacket and two more flies. The sixth mound remained bare earth. It takes time for the grass to grow over the fresh dirt. It appeared a coyote or some other creature dug deep here. Little Brown Bat caught flies by the dozens.

He made two more circles, but he’d caught all the day insects this evening this evening would offer. On his final turn he spotted a fresh hole.

Barely three feet deep, he knew it wouldn’t be long before it was filled back in. That’s when the day insects came. Sometimes they swarmed by the hundreds over the fresh mounds. He would be able to scoop up flies two and even three at once with his tail.

His friends could fight over the night insects at the quad, and scare the coeds to death. This was the place for Little Brown Bat. The holes always became a fresh mound in three days.

His radar detected the first of the caddis flies coming off the water’s surface. The day flyers were finished, but Little Brown Bat knew the ponds always held an abundance of night hatching insects. They’d been much more abundant this year for some reason. He veered out over the surface of the water.

The swollen faces of three coeds watched him from below the water’s surface. They’d been here for over a month, and the night insects seemed to hatch with greater frequency. They no longer screamed at the site of a tiny bat.

His radar detected a fluttering stonefly, and he veered left. He nearly brushed the exposed rib cage of another coed along the shore as he scooped with his tail, but he caught the huge insect.

Yes, Randall’s Marsh was a lonely place, but it was perfect for Little Brown Bat.

***

If you enjoyed Macabre Macaroni 2017, you can always keep reading. Stories from previous years are available in the sidebar under the category Short Stories and Vignettes. If you’re really into it, and we hope you are, you can pick up some of Craig’s short story collections. Go to his Amazon Author page and look for either of the Experimental Notebooks, or both of them. You can also find some of Craig’s work in the anthologies Quantum Wanderlust and Macabre Sanctuary.

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Fresh from the microwave, it’s Macabre Macaroni

Lisa BurtonWhat if you were offered a front row seat to the end of the world. Would you take it? It’s a sight no humans have ever witnessed before.

What if that seat came with a price? You get to go on, but you have to throw the switch. Could you do it? Could you justify this act somehow? Someone is going to do it, but the price of survival is you taking the action yourself.

Would you weigh the consequences? Would you feel like a lottery winner, or prefer to move on with everyone else.

This little snippet explores this choice. I hope you enjoy it.

Collateral Damage

Lieutenant Scott Davies pulled the Humvee up to the bunker and parked. He left the keys in the ignition and the door open.

Captain Rhodes stood beside the airtight door the Navy provided to the project. “Scott.”

“Byron.”

“Let’s get inside and monitor the phone. Close the hatch behind you.”

“We still have time, Scott. I want to breathe the air and listen to the night sounds.”

Byron put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I understand. Secure that vehicle and make it quick.”

“Why? Who’s going to steal it?” He removed the keys and locked the automobile.

Byron never answered, having headed inside. Scott followed, but left the hatch open.

“You take the south button, I’ll take the north,” Byron said. “We will place our hands on our buttons and the commands will be press, turn. Execute your move immediately, no countdown. Understand?”

“Yes, Sir, but–”

“But what? We have our orders.”

“Maybe the phone will ring.”

“We’re already thirty seconds overdue. Hand on your button.”

“My sister and her husband are out there somewhere, you know.”

“They’ll never know what happened. None of them will. You trained for this moment, and volunteered for it I might add. Failure to execute is considered treason.”

Scott placed his hand on the south button. At Byron’s command he executed the moves exactly as practiced. “It’s just another drill, right? The phone will ring and we’ll have to stand down, won’t we?”

Byron pointed to the countdown clock on the wall. Ten minutes. “Not this time.”

Scott headed back to the hatch.

“Where do you think you’re going? We have supplies for two months then the shuttle will come.”

“Byron, I respect your rank, but we have ten minutes. I want to hear the insects one last time. Feel the cool night air, look at the glow of the city lights on the clouds.”

“Alright, I’ll go with you. Do you think we’re wrong tonight?”

“Orders. We follow orders, don’t we?”

“Politics, religion, drugs, global warming, it all ends tonight.”

“I get it. No more terrorism, no more suicide bombers, whatever. I sat through the same training you did. No more butterflies, flowers, tigers, or anything else either.”

“The sea will mostly survive. There are some remote islands that will be untouched. Those are the ones we’ll inhabit once the orbiter decides it’s all clear. They’ll send a shuttle, Scott, I promise.”

“Do we even want them to? Maybe we’d be better off to wait outside with everyone else. How much time left?”

Byron peeked back inside. “Eight minutes.” He leaned against the bunker wall and looked up. “I wonder how many people are looking up at that moon right now, completely oblivious.”

“Lovers, children catching fireflies, old couples rocking on the porch.”

“Terrorists, smugglers at sea, fanatics, zealots.”

“That’s the point though. We can kill the people, but not the ideas. People are going to disagree over some things.”

“Yeah, but according to the big brains, not anymore. Defending our way of life is no longer sustainable. Eventually we won’t be able to keep ahead of the arms race. That’s why they poured everything into the orbiter and the seed bank.”

“Who got to choose entrants onto the orbiter?”

“You can’t worry about that stuff tonight. They made tough decisions, and we’re taking tough actions. The reboot of Planet Earth starts in… three minutes. We have the rest of our lives to debate whether it was a mistake or not. Come on, Scott, let’s get inside.”

They went inside and Byron sealed the hatch. “We have books, games, and food downstairs. Maybe we should get to it.”

“Who decided what was appropriate to survive in the new regime?”

“I don’t know, man. You have to accept some things as fact.”

“We could still stop it, you know.”

“This is a one shot deal. We can’t wait around for debate, then do it later. This is happening and there’s nothing we can do.”

“But we could, Byron. We could.”

“It requires two of us acting in concert, and I’m not acting.”

Scott slid open a tiny slot and looked through a foot of darkened glass.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking the last look at everything. Art, literature, music, that all dies too.”

“Remember your training. We’ve had a year to wrap our minds around this. There’s meditation space downstairs, and it sounds like you could use it.”

“And I will, but I’ll see this first.” Scott wiped zinc oxide around his eyes and face. “The brains are doing the same thing as the terrorists you know. They’re forcing their will upon everyone else.”

“I’ve had the same thoughts, and I don’t want to see it. I’ll meet you downstairs. Do you want me to microwave a burrito for you?”

“No. I went to a nice French restaurant before I came here, and put it on a credit card. It’s not like they’ll ever collect.”

“Looks like you’ve found some acceptance in all this. No more West Nile Virus.”

“Political campaign season.”

“Spam email.”

“Split shifts, required overtime.”

“Road construction.”

“Sounds like you’ve found some comfort. Besides, you can always remind yourself that you were just following orders.”

***

Lisa here again. If you’re enjoying this year’s Macabre Macaroni, there are more of them available in the sidebar. The category is “Short Stories and Vignettes.” Craig also produced several books of this stuff and at 99¢ each they’re a steal. You can find those on his Amazon Author Page.

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