Regrets, but one

END OF DAYS SERIES: Regrets, but one.

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“What word of what I just said didn’t you understand?” Deedle said mocking him as she pulled the handgun from her shoulder bag.

“Deedle…. hold on…. put the gun down,” he pleaded rolling back in his chair with nowhere to go.

With a flick of her thumb, the laser-powered scope turned on, and she raised the red dot until it settled between his eyes.

“Don’t do this, Deedle.  I thought you were coming over here to make amends? It was a long time ago. We’re friends now, right? We’ve done business together.  This is crazy… We’re both going to die in a few hours anyway.  I’m sorry…. don’t do this…”

“I’m not going to give you that luxury… you prick….  You don’t deserve to go out with the rest of humanity.” She took aim.

“WAIT!  Just wait! I didn’t have a choice–”

“NO! I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!” She shouted cutting him off as the red dot bounced along his forehead.  She promised herself she wouldn’t lose control of her emotions over this scumbag and needed to prove to him she was no longer the young impressionable nitwit she had been in those days, new to the jewelry trade and too trusting of shitbags the likes of Donald.

Seeing him here, now, brought back thirty years of anger and sleepless nights of reenacted dreams when he claimed to have lost a piece she had loaned him; it had been her most precious piece, a vintage VCA coral and diamond leaf motif brooch worth a little more than eighty-seven grand…. a fortune to her at the time.

“Tell me, Donald…. and if I sense any bullshit… I swear I’ll blow your fucking head off!” It felt good for her to say that out loud having rehearsed this line over and over in her head during her walk along Fifth Avenue to Donald’s office.

An hour earlier, she and everyone on the planet had received a series of public service emergency alerts that a catastrophic solar flare, ten times the diameter of Earth, was heading toward them and there was no chance of survival.  The Internet had become choked with posts of people making amends and being with those they loved.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Instead of rushing home to Dov, she had sat in her office thinking of any regrets she may have had in her life.  There was one.

“What did you do with that piece I loaned you, Donald?”

He looked at her, feigning confusion.

“Donald!  Answer me!” She shouted and dropped her leg back and took straight aim.

“I sold it!” He blurted out.  “I’m sorry, but I needed the money… “

“To whom?” She demanded.

He was stuttering, looking for an answer that wasn’t there. “No-no one you know… please… put the gun away… we can talk about this.”

“You’re lying to me,” she said calmly.  “You always flick the end of your nose when you lie… just like you did right now.” She took aim down the barrel.

“OK, OK, OK… I gave it to Anna Skylovski… Don’t shoot…” he whimpered.

“You were always such a pussy, Donald. I should have known you’d give it to that slut… I hope the blowjob was worth this bullet in your head,” she said closing one eye just before pulling the trigger and for Donald to thrust his hands in front of his face and turn slightly.  The sound was much quieter than she imagined, a single pop.  She looked up to see a hole in his palm and the tip of his nose missing.

FUCK ME!” Donald screamed out as the blood began to gush.  He pulled his bloody hand down and held it, growling through clenched teeth and the bubble of his voice though the tip of his shredded nose.  Beyond him the bullet had exited the picture window, leaving a spider web in the glass.

“Damn! My aim sucks,” she said more to herself than for Donald’s sake.  “Dov insisted I get a gun to protect myself.  He even took me clay shooting, and those fucking orange pigeons went sailing forth unhindered by my bullets… I would have shot you in the balls, Donald, but I now realize you never had any.”  She laughed and raised the gun once more but jumped when the sirens outside screamed out, distracting her long enough for Donald to grab the paperweight from his desk and hurl it, striking her in the forehead and knocking her onto the floor.

She was lying there, still holding the gun when Donald launched over the desk onto her, his good hand pinning the gun to the carpet.

“You stupid bitch,” he screamed inches from her face.  She felt the warmth of his bloodied forearm on her throat as the drip from his nose landed her cheek.  He began to press down.

Her free hand was clutched to the brooch that had come loose from the fall, the long gold pin held in her fingers.  She jabbed him in the temple and felt the pin bend when it hit bone.

He roared out and rolled over onto his back, and Deedle staggered up onto her Jimmy Choos, the gun still hot in her hands.  She wiped her cheek, straightened her suit and brushed the flip of her hair to the side while the sirens outside continued at a deafening pitch.  The end was coming.

Donald pushed himself up against the front of his desk, defeated.  “Get it over with. Do it.  Do me the favor of not having to see your fucking face as my last image. DO IT!

Deedle raised the gun and held it steady, the red dot settling between his eyes.  She was breathing heavily, and her head ached.  She looked into his eyes that were filled with hatred, and she began to laugh.  She was laughing so hard it drew Donald in as he closed his eyes and laughed achingly with her.

She wanted to pull the trigger, but the reservoir of revenge felt half full, and she didn’t want this to end, on his terms, so she lowered the gun and pulled the trigger and miraculously hit his knee.  A black dot appeared on his pant leg, and he screamed out once more, a primordial guttural, “FUCK YOU” through threads of red spittle tethered from his bloodied lips.

The reservoir had drained, and she raised the gun, held her breath, and pulled the trigger.  Another pop and beyond the sights of the barrel a black dot appeared on his forehead as if that was all that bullets did was to create black dots.  A crimson ribbon began to drip between his eyes and along his nose where it bowed like a strand of silk onto his chest.

“No, Donald… Fuck You,” she said under her breath and lobbed the gun into his lap.

She was smiling to herself in the mirrored walls of the elevator, primping and wiping his blood from her face and throat until the courtesy ping of the elevator notified her she had reached the lobby.   The doors opened, and she stepped out onto the worn marble floors with the echo of her heels the only sounds she heard as she walked toward the revolving doors that opened to the street.

Everything seemed so surreal; it was a beautiful day with not a soul in sight.  Everyone who was, were where he or she needed to be.  Deedle walked Fifth Avenue toward her Upper East Side apartment, not drawn in by the windows of Christian Louboutin or lured through the open doors of St. Patrick’s by the sobering choir of voices within.  She walked past Bergdorf’s without admiring the window displays and was amazed not to see crowds gathered around the Apple Store.  Why couldn’t it always be like this?  She thought to herself as she headed along the park with the dogwoods in bloom and over the wall in the fields beyond, horses with tiaras were grazing on the chartreuse of grass — their handsome cab owners having set them free.  She couldn’t remember the last time she walked home from work and took note of all the shops and cafes she had never been to or had known to exist.

With the crosstown walk behind her, she stopped to admire the tower of her apartment building and the duplex apartment at the top, a symbol of her success.  She thought back to the countless dinner parties out on the terrace, her love of the kitchen and cooking, the smells of fresh biscotti on the oven sheets with Dov always stealing one before they cooled.  She had some great times there, and those thoughts filled her with happiness.

It felt odd opening her own door to the lobby, where Kevin was not there to greet her with his infectious smile, eager to carry her packages no matter how small.  She entered the to its emptiness, where the elevator door at the far end of the lobby was openly awaiting her, an NYC rarity.  She rode up in silence to the penthouse floor and stepping out, the door to her apartment opened before she could remove her key.  Standing in the doorway was Dov in his tuxedo holding two glasses of champagne.

Noticing the bruise on her forehead and smear of blood on her cheek, throat, and blouse, he asked nonchalantly, “Tough day at the Batcave, Batgirl?”

“You should see the other guy…” she huffed and dropped her bag to the floor as she reached for her glass and kissed him hard on the lips.  “Come on Batman…. we’ve got some messing around to do before the world ends. Hopefully, this solar flare thing is not fake news, or I will have some serious explaining to do in the morning….”

 

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Under Eden

END OF DAYS SERIES: Under Eden

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Photo by Mark Lynch

“Shite, that was close.”

From the impact, the sky had lit up so bright we could see clearly down the street with its neatly parked cars, perfectly aligned like the teeth of a zipper. But no one was out and no lights came on in any of the homes; our neighbors had all moved to the underground.

 

 

When we go we want to taste the air and see the sun going down and not have the taste of someone else’s exhale lingering in our mouths or staring up at a filament, waiting for it to extinguish and be left alone in darkness with only our fear leaning in.  The underground was not for us, but I suppose for those who have chosen to stay below, there is something to be said for not knowing or seeing the end coming.

For us above, we enjoy free rein of the big box stores and the design outlets to get all the lumber, tools, and furniture needed to build a roof deck on our flat… something I had always wanted to do for my family but never had the funds to do it.  It’s bittersweet under these circumstances, but our roof deck rocks.  We have a full working tiki-bar and a well stocked drinks cupboard up here with unobstructed views of the sunsets.  And the sunsets have been magnificent lately, even knowing the colors are fed by the ash of every living thing that was incinerated from an impact.

We have allowed our fifteen-year-old daughter, Louise, to drink alcohol along with us, enjoying these last days together as a family.  Tonight’s concoction of a drink is a Commet-Kaze, but instead of Triple Sec we used Orange Curaçao– stuff we could never afford but is now readily available at the off-license… free of charge of course.  Honestly, I hope the end comes soon because we are running out of clever drink names.   My youngest, Alec, is a space nut.  When we had a family vote to stay above or go under, he was the most vocal of staying above; he wanted to see what was coming.  For the record, it was unanimous, we all wanted to stay above.  A weird lot we are.

Ever since the announcement that Earth would pass directly into a catastrophic asteroid storm, spelling out the end for us all,  Alec has been glued to his kit of computers and monitors lined up on the dining table. Seated upon his newly acquired oversized luxury office chair with his feet dangling, he has been tracking everything coming in; it’s like having the ESA in our sitting room.  He has informed us that the impact we just saw was an 8 on the Torino Scale with a low MT potential… whatever that means.    He said if it had been a 9 we would have been okay but we would have had to remain inside for a while, but if it had been a 10, well, that would have been a bit of a damp squib.

Louise has been on a mission every day now, looking for pet stores to liberate or following the barking or meowing of dogs and cats left abandoned in their homes. When we find them,  we open the doors, cages and pet food.  We even take the freshwater fish to a freshwater canal or pond and take the saltwater fish to the sea, but we need to check in with Alec before going there in case an 8 or 9 hits off the coast creating a tsunami.

My wife, Jenny, has been a rock through all this.  Me, well, when you have loved someone for eighteen years, every day as much as the first, someone you would instinctively put your own life before theirs… well… I can’t think about that right now.  It’s been a long day.  We’re off to bed.

We were awakened by the alarms from Alec’s monitoring alerts, Jenny and I still in a tangle with the lingering scent of our lovemaking around us.   We knew the drill.  If this was going to be the one to take us out, we wanted to be together through to the end.  Jenny would gather up Louise, as I headed down the steps to the sitting room to find Alec inches away from the monitors, the screen data reflecting off his specs as he nibbled away on a biscuit from Marks & Sparks.  Now that we were directly in the path of the storm, Alec has been sleeping here on the couch under a litany of graphs and hand drawn eclipses of near misses and impacts, looking for the one that will do us in.  He never had a passion for sport or music and had always been a bit of a loner with his technical books and sci-fi pulp fiction, but this makes him happy, happier than I have ever seen him.  So be it.  The kit he put together came from the Apple Store and smaller bits and PC shops down the block.  I’m not sure of what his kit does, but he seems to know of inbounds before anyone in his circle of plusers does.  Lucky us.

“Alec.  What does your crystal ball show?” I said coming up behind him, making sure to slide my slippers on the floorboards so as not to startle him.

“Daddy, you should see this one. It’s big.  A 10 with a high MT.” he said not turning away from the screens.

I stooped over his shoulder, trying to see what he was seeing, but all I could make out was a ball of multicolored elastics knowing somewhere beneath it all was Earth.

“Hmmmm….” was the most meaningful response I could come up with.

“This is the one,” he said without the slightest doubt and proud that his forecasts have always proved to be spot on.

I palmed the mop of his hair, thankful he got the hair gene from his mum. “Let’s get up on the roof then,” and I helped him into his pullover hoodie with the phrase, Waiting For The Asteroid, written in front.

“I’m very proud of you, Alec.”  I said reaching down to zip him up, tucking the hoodie around his ears to keep out the chill.  When we got to the roof, Jenny had the mushroom heaters going and a hot tea for me in hand.   We sat close together on the outdoor furniture, our overly fluffy slippers up on the ottomans while passing the tin of peanut butter shortbreads, from Luigi Zuck.  This was our routine; no one should have to go out without the finest shortbreads at hand.

“See it!” Alec said jumping up and almost losing his glasses.

It started as a white dash in the night, elongating and brightening as it raced toward us.

“It’s traveling at 24.360 Kilometers per second,” Alec said.  He moved to the edge of the deck, leaning over with his hands on the rail, then looked back at us with a child’s innocence.

I reached over and pat Jenny on the knee.  “He’s right about this one.”  And stood up to join my son at the railing, my arm draped around his tiny shoulders, pulling him tight.  I was proud of him and he knew it. Jenny led Louise to the railing, standing beside me as I reached for her hand and felt the wedding ring I had slipped onto her finger eighteen years ago.  We looked up at the dash in the sky, its cobalt blue tail under a gown of white forming a cone.  It was beautiful, I had to admit, like a slow moving shuttlecock entering the atmosphere.  Then from the tip of the cone, the object projected outward, a second stage, plunging into the lower atmosphere and growing brighter, affording us a clear look down the entire block of flats as if it were daybreak.

“Shades down everyone.” And I helped Alec with his before my own.  It was bright, even through the welding goggles we were wearing. I knew Jenny was looking over at me and I turned to see her smile beneath the dark lenses.

“Don’t think you’re getting your back scratched, tonight,” she said as a statement of relief.

I laughed. “It’s been wonderful, Jen.” and I leaned in for a kiss, her head tilting to the side, her lips slightly parted and I knew her love for me and I for her would never dim.  As we kissed, we drew in Alec and Louise.  There is something to be said for the human spirit, something that feels it will never extinguish, even where it can’t exist.

Author’s Note:  This third short was inspired by a fellow G+’er, Mark Lynch (Lynchy), who lives in London and posted a beautiful sunset of his street. It moved me and I knew the story to come with it belonged here. Thanks Mark for the image and please extend a thanks to your  lovely wife for the ‘squib’ reference… I’m still laughing……

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View From My Kitchen

END OF DAYS SERIES: View From My Kitchen

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Image by Ann Swanson

They said it would come, that it would start with a sunset of such unbelievable beauty it would bring tears to your eyes.  They were right. It was quiet. Eerily quiet.  No bird chirps or the whine of motorboats speeding across the lake. No one in their back yards, no joyous shrieks of children chasing fireflies, no smell of fire-pits and no sound of car tires rolling down the crushed stone roads, eager to get to their weekend camps.  Everyone was down in their last-minute shelters with not enough supplies to outlast what was about to unfold.

My children, grand children, friends and neighbors begged me to come with them into the town’s shelter.  But why miss the last sunset one would ever see.  Where was there to go?  Nowhere.  It would take ten-thousand years just for the fires to burn out, and the only reason they would extinguish would be due to the absence of oxygen left on Earth.
I know it might seem selfish–that I should spend the end of days surrounded by family and friends–but I just wanted to spend it in my kitchen, overlooking the lake where I can see the memories of my grandchildren out on the dock, their silhouettes with fishing poles matching the paintings in my home .  So here I stand, glass of Chardonnay in hand and raising it to the sky, thankful I was given this sliver of time to see and experience this magnificent world and hoping my next journey will be as spectacular. Cheers.

Author’s Note: This short was inspired by a friend’s profile picture update on Facebook (Ann).  Although my interpretation is a bit dark and not what she intended.  Thanks, Ann….  it is a beautiful image.  Then I thought about building a collection of shorts based upon the End Of Days told through the eyes of the people who wrote them.    Enjoy.

 

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Mylar

END OF DAYS SERIES: Mylar

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Photo by David Nadas

Geri!.. Don’t do that. It will be political suicide and end your career.  It’s not that bad—”

“NOT THAT BAD! Are you kidding me, Dave? You need to pull the plug on this!  We’re talking about the end of days here.  They have no clue what they are about to do… All the data… All the research I’ve conducted points to the fact that this experiment will be a run-away process–”

“Just listen to me, Geri. I’ve read the data and it’s….” he said coming to a halt.

“It’s what… Dave? Inconclusive? Is that what you want to say to me? I can understand these button pushers up here not taking me seriously…” she said with a snort, catching the irony of the situation. “But you Dave! You of all people…” and she stopped, a pointless end to it.

He could hear the sadness in her voice as much as the pain felt in his heart for what he was about to say to her.

“Yes… It’s inconclusive,” he said from the hammock in his backyard. There was silence on his connection to Geri who was orbiting 250 KM above him. His phone was resting along his shoulder as he looked up through the tree branches at the sky, so blue and crisp on this Indian summer day that he never wanted it to end.

“It’s inconclusive because no one has ever lived through the consequences to make the data conclusive. I’m sure this same scenario was played out on Mars eons ago…. There’s your conclusive evidence, Dave. All you need to do is look at Mars. It’s scorched.”

“Geri…. I promise… nothing is going to happen. I know you’re the smartest person on this project and everyone on the team up there has read your report and they feel the same way as I do. Trust us on this. I’m sure some folks on the Trinity Project in ’45, including Oppenheimer himself, must have had some worry in the back of their mind that what they were about to do could end the world. But it didn’t happen. They trusted their research.

“It’s not the same, Dave. They weren’t trying to open a wormhole with a so called controlled singularity.”  He could hear the mock in her voice.  “And it’s my research we’re talking about here!”

“You’re right, Geri. It’s not the same thing, but it is the same level of research and much more. We’re not calculating these models with slide rules; we’re using quantum computers on this, Geri. We’re about to make a gigantic leap for humanity and you will stand among history’s greatest scientists that has ever lived.”

There was more silence between them.

“Geri? You still there?”

“Yes, Dave.”

“Then we’re good on this?”

“Dave…”  she said ignoring his question.

“Yes, Geri.”

“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me—”

“No need to thank—”

“Just hear me out, Dave,” she was running short on time.  “Don’t talk. I would never have had this opportunity without you in my life. I would never have had the chance for this opportunity had it not been for you on that cold morning, seeing me in the shadows outside, Alley Bakes, as you strolled by with that bag in your hands.” She let out a saddened laugh. “I don’t even know how you picked me out from under that cardboard box…. and now that I look out from the portal of my bay, I can see all of New England below without a cloud in the sky there. I bet you’re out on the hammock, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Good.” she said.

“I look forward to seeing you upon your return,”  and he held up his wrist to see the counter ticking down.  “T minus 1 minute, Geri. How come you’re not with the team?”

“No view there and I wanted to see Perkins Cove for the last time.  Dave, It should be beautiful. You’ll see a bright flash and although you won’t see the X-ray projecta, it will bore a silent hole through the atmosphere creating a brilliant circular rainbow… a halo around a spot of emptiness….  I’ll have been gone by then and you will have about a minute to reflect on the life this world has had. Nothing lasts forever.”

“Geri… come on.. don’t think that way,” he said with a chuckle in his voice. “I thought we were good on this one?”

“Bye Dave.”

“Geri….” but he stopped short when a flash blinded him from above and he turned his head to shield his eyes. When the overload on his retinas began to clear he looked up and could see the partial circular rainbow through the branches and got up from the hammock and moved out into the clearing of his patio along the cove. The sun was low in the sky behind him,  but above, at the center of the rainbow he could make out a black dot. He stood there, looking up until he felt the skin on his arms begin to crawl and the hairs on his forearms were curling into ash and drifting away. His eyes sparkled, but this time like melting Mylar, and everything went dark. His heartbeat was pounding in his chest and he could hear the blood boiling behind his ears as he dropped onto the pavers and pooled there as bird after bird thudded to the ground around him with the sound of flesh and earth sizzling before a shockwave of dark fire swept over.

 

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