intheweebcloset t1_j56fow3 wrote

The husband spoke, calmed by her presence. "Did you figure out what went wrong last time?"

"No." Electra said as she turned to Simon. "But you will. Place your hands on top of mine."

Simon did as told, her tone didn't leave much space for outside opinion.

"As a doctor, you know the human body better than me. I'll supply the magic, you provide the knowledge."

She carried his hands over the woman's body, and Simon felt the patients pain as if it were his. Organ failures, blood clots, several easy to miss issues compiled into a giant problem.

As he pointed issued out, Electra surged power into the spot. They operated that way for two hours before the woman was saved. She slept peacefully on the mattress afterward, with her husband sobbing into her hair. He tried mumble thanks, but his sobs disrupted every attempt.

Simon walked the other four men out of the room. The couple deserve some privacy. Electra walked alongside him, stray sparks of electricity hissing with each step.

She told him, " It'd be a shame for your talents to go to waste here. Medical knowledge is invaluable."

Simon forced a smile and said, "What makes you think I'm wasting them. I'm doing just fine."

"Uh huh," she said, swiping a finger at a passing table and showing him the dust she'd collected. "I'm a bit of a straight shooter, so you'll have to excuse me. You should work under me. That was scary, and could have been prevented if we'd detected the signs earlier." She raised a hand for him to shake.

Simon stared, considered, then shook it. "Do you think I could save people? I wouldn't be an accessory, I could actually help others?"

"Did you forget the past two hours already? Short term memory loss isn't good for a doctor."

Simon felt he could cry. He journeyed with Electra from that day on, performing preventive screening of citizens, saving lives. Though not the way he learned in school, he'd evolved, and found his purpose again. When they saw him, they labeled him one of Electra's kind.

They called him a hero, but he was still a doctor.


intheweebcloset t1_j56fnyt wrote

Simon's purpose in life was lost long ago. He'd spent quite a few nights staring at the moon's reflective on the ocean, and envisioning a plunge of no return into its depths. The waters would cool him. They'd flow around and through him, numbing him to the world as the coerced his final breaths away.

As a doctor, he knew drowning wouldn't work that way. The process would be excruciatingly painful as salty water filled his lungs and burned him. Besides that, the heroes would pull him out long before the process commenced.

They'd fly in with their shiny armor and majestic weaponry, pull him out of the water, and present him to the townspeople like a trophy. The villagers would sing their praises. "How pure are our heroes. Willing to pause their busy days to save a useless doctor." Simon would drip before them, each drop stripping a bit of his dignity to the ground as the hero would smile and fly off to slay a dragon or evil empress.

Once they left the townspeople would glare at him with contempt. They'd ridicule him for being a worthless doctor in an age of magic, painting their town in a negative light before an idol.

Yes. Drowning in the ocean would play out exactly like that. Just like every other aspect of Simon's life, he'd fail. His hospital had failed and closed years ago. Fooloshly he'd painted a red cross on a sign and placed on the front door of this house, unable to accept the truth. People didn't need medical doctors anymore. Magic beat science ages ago, he was simply a relic.

The thought pained him in more ways than one. He should have felt glad people didn't need him. That meant they were healthy. At the same time, it also meant his life's purpose was useless. A doctor with no patients is a mere man who read a science book.

In his most selfish moments, Simon would wish upon the stars for someone to fall ill. For someone to need him.

Simon sat at his study, watching those stars twinkle when a the sound of his front door opening startled him. Burglars? But he had no money. He opened his door a crack and poked his head out. Five men wandered his hall, their muddy books squeaking against the unpolished tile. A woman dangled in their arms.

The squeaks irritated Simon's ears, and the subsequent groan he produced caught the men's attention.

One of them asked, "You're the doctor, right?" The hall was dimly lit so Simon could barely make out his facial features, but his eyes were so wide the whites glowed. Simon leaned back toward his study, sensing potential danger but the man said, "My wife is sick. She needs help."

Simon froze, then frowned. Was this man taunting him? He opened the door and said, "If she's sick call a hero. The ones who can heal do so instantaneously."

The four husband shook their heads gravely as the husband said, "No. We called a bunch of them. Even Electra, but whatever she has is extreme. They can't figure it out. Doctor, plea-"

His voice trembled and trailed off into a high pitched squeak that Simon felt penetrate his body and stir his arm hair. Simon spoke as calmly as he could. "Ok. Carry her to your left. There's a room with a queen sized bed in it, place her there."

The men left as Simon grabbed a face mask and a pair of gloves from his study. They were dusty, and defeated the purpose of the equipment, but he wore them all the same. The smell of latex brought him back to his days at university, when he was young and dreamed of saving the world. He spoke those memories out of his head and walked toward his first patient in thirty years.

She lay naked on the bed, and her husband was fighting another man in the corner of the room. "You just wanted to peek. He didn't say anything about her being..." The voices trailed away from Simon as he stared at her. She lay so still. Only under the stern scrutiny, could one notice the faint and slow rise of her chest.

Simon paced to her as the sound of pounding and slamming continued. He placed a hand on her chest, then neck, then forehead. Each one was burning more violently than the last, and the heat made his own head sweat. Her eyelids twitched under his touch, and a slight relief came when her face scrunched up.

That relief vanished when the coughs started, so forceful the bed creaked under her twitching body. Simon took his hand off her like a guilty party as the sounds of fighting ceased.

"Doctor, what are you doing? Please help her." One of the men said, Simon couldn't tell who.

Her face grew crimson and purple veins popped out of her neck as she hacked.

Simon retreated. Stared. Then rushed to his medicine cabinet. Nothing but expired pills and liquids lay there. He had no money to update his stock, and doubted merchants carried the old goods anymore. He jumped as he heard a man whimper, "Please God. Please" behind him and the room closed in.

Simon's breath shook as he gripped the cabinet for support. Had he wished for this? The pills he clutched probably wouldn't do anything to help, but they were something. It went against all medical practice, but the medical field hadn't lived long enough to condemn him.

He had to try something, even if the woman died here. He couldn't live with himself if he didn't try to save her. Simon rushed back to the bed as the woman's husband stroked her hair and planted tearful kisses on her temple.

He saw Simon and opened his mouth a speak, but nothing but choking sounds came out as he hyperventilated. Simon shook the bottle of pills for no reason at all as he nodded to the man. He hoped the nod was comforting, as sign that he knew what he was doing.

Then he prayed he knew what he was doing as he opened the pills and a golden flash filled the room. The cause stood in the doorframe.

Golden eyed, tall, with blue puffy hair. The number one medical hero in the land, Electra. The air paused in her presence as she eyed Simon. "You're the doctor?"

Simon no longer wanted to be, but he nodded out of habit.

Electra walked to the bedside, and the men parted for her. She placed both hands on the woman's chest, and a blue light emitted from them.


intheweebcloset t1_j44ws4i wrote

Just like that, a part of seven shrunk into a lonely one.

Amber flipped through her medic handbook for spells she knew wouldn't appear. The bloody bodies on the ground were past saving. She'd have to go back twenty thousand years to find the last healer who could bring back the dead. Her efforts were better spent on current events, such as the Minotaur in front of her, separated by only fifty meters of open field.

The Minotaur roared and the wind howled in fear slapping her with blood-drenched gusts. The stench was unbearable and brought her back to her childhood, watching helplessly as a house once home burned to the ground, with her family inside. The active imagination of a five-year-old wouldn't allow her to forget the sight of those charred bodies she called family. The bodies at her feet were less gruesome than those of a decade past, but the anger burned just as intensely.

She was tired of it. Death. Healing. Being a medic. All of it. She lacked the offensive talent to fight, so she joined the medical field, hoping it would fill the hole inside her with noble acts. If she healed people, she could be happy again, like she was before that day.

But that wasn't the case. She hated healing and helping others. Her skin crawled when she brought them back from the brink of death, and they thanked her with a smile. She resented only saving people she didn't care for and never being useful to the ones she did.

The Minotaur took a step forward, tested the elasticity of the damp ground, and torpedoed toward her. A devilish thought crept to her as she watched. She should just die here. Everyone else had, so why not stand her ground and fight? She lacked offensive talent, but her understanding of medicine was second only to Daniella's. Her hands glowed that familiar amber and green, the colors twisting into spirals as they did before every medical operation.

Another roar and another torrent of wind pelted her as she extended the base of her legs and thrust one palm toward the speeding monster, still halfway away.

The wind at this point was earth quaking, and she stood in a field of chaos, the only stationary being amongst groaning oak trees and flippant grass. All smells were gone, just a burning sting as the echoes of fierce wind stole her hearing, reducing the world to a faint buzz. The creature was within its striking distance now, and pulled back an arm of pure muscle to attack.

A heartbeat pounded for an escape as she focused on the Minotaurs neck.

It swung.

She dodged left quick enough to avoid death. Splashes of blood and tattered clothing entered her peripheral as the buzz of the wind intensified.

The neck. Her eyes stayed locked on that neck.

There's a reason humans flinch at the thought of being strangled or having their necks sliced open, even more so than head injuries. It may be the most critical and vulnerable part of the body. The brain keeps animals on high alert to anticipate any threats that may arise, no matter how unlikely.

In that narrow pillar, the carotid arteries, responsible for blood flow to the brain, coexist alongside the origin of the spine: the C7 vertebrae, thyroids, the jugular, so many essential but small parts in tight packaging.

One doesn't need much power to cause permanent damage if they have access to the neck.

Amber didn't blink in that small eternity. She condensed every ounce of magic she had into a shape no bigger than a coin in her palm and struct the Minotaur just to the left of the adam's apple. The snap of cartilage and arteries popped under the force, and the Minotaur flew by her.

It stood there and faced her. She stood there, mouth open and full of her hair, unable to consider her next attack. The creature took five steps her way, whined, and crumpled to the ground.

She'd never killed anything before, on purpose at least. It felt vile, and her hand shook with a sense of defilement. She stared at them as if they leaked black sludge. One by one, she curled her fingers and stared. Her hands appeared further from her than they had before. Her whole body felt different.

And she liked it.

She looted the bodies of her fallen comrades, unable to do anything to help them, and ventured to the east, opposite the way back to the Flowa Kingdom. The place no longer interested her.

She'd avenged her party, her new family, already. Now, she desired to avenge her old family.


intheweebcloset t1_j0qmepb wrote

Kaibler’s right eye twitched as the faint tinge of ezextial color wafted through the gray billows of smoke. The color was inhuman; an unholy pigment one could best describe as an awkward mix of orange and pink. Only those blessed with sight could see and smell the odor of decayed flesh that trailed it. Lucky us, the young man thought.

His glowing staff decorated his left hand, and he raised it, prepared to disintegrate the leftover demons from his initial attack when the smoke thickened and solidified around him. He heard the blood-piercing cry of wolves and jumped as two sets of purple eyes pierced the smoke. Bloodhounds. I don’t want to get caught in this. He turned and saw three more sets of eyes behind him. His peripheral caught the ignition of another few groups until they surrounded him. He thrust his right hand into his robe, squeezing the book he taped to his chest.

The hounds stalked him, pacing in a steady clockwise pattern as they moved. The smoke caved in and warped around them until Kaibler’s position resembled the eye of a tornado. He bit his lip so hard he drew blood. Not even he could take on these many bloodhounds, yet he didn’t want to summon his pet this early. He’d done it far too much already. He couldn’t dream of living to reach his goals at this rate. It was as if the world understood his grave sacrifice to summon and forced him to do it as much as possible.

No, I’m the greatest warlock in my generation. I can do this without her. Once the hounds pounced, his body moved without permission. Before he could stop himself, he yanked the book off his chest, elevated his staff, and screamed, “Kitsune!”.

An intense voice laughed for only his ears to hear as a spirit consumed the smoke with no warning. The veins in his right arm pulsed a sickly, luminescent green, and blood escaped from his fingertips. The blood curdled in the wind, and unappealing lumps bubbled until they settled in the shape of a fox.

The fox was beautiful, its color a marvel humans had yet named. Perhaps none other than warlocks could even see it. It’s fur sleek and shiny, yet its eyes were ravenous, and the fox’s actions did not betray that. It bull-rushed the hound, which fled and whimpered at its sight, and mauled them with an unhinged jaw. Shark layers of canine teeth tore through each one, but purple mist rose to the sky instead of blood from their injuries.

The sight made Kaibler sick. It always had. He turned away before correcting himself. No. If I’m to complete my ambitions, such views will be familiar. Plus, though he’d never admit it to Kitsune, it didn’t sit right with him to allow the fox demon to bear this burden alone. The responsibility of damning her kin and herself in the process.

The onslaught continued through whimpers and screams. The hellhounds usually sounded like demons but adopted the whimpers of domesticated dogs when cornered. They were only lower-tier demons, yet they possessed the ability for such manipulation. The thought made Kaibler’s blood curl as he considered what other demons awaited him.

Kitsune finished the job and pranced back to him, and her eyes showed no emotion a human could read. The smoke cleared out, revealing the depressing ruins of a once lively town. Sure, there were a few survivors, but Kaibler knew from experience that no home survived an attack like that. Once demons broke the fallacy of safety, the home was no more. As he pondered this, a deep voice called to him from behind.

“Thank you, man. That was amazing.”

Kaibler didn’t respond.

The voice grew louder, and the hairs on Kaibler’s neck rose, feeling the distance between the man and him close.

“You saved us. I’ve never seen a Warlock in person before. I think you guys get a bad rap, man. Please shake my hand. I owe you so much.”

Without facing the man, he knew the words weren’t sincere. The cadence of his footsteps betrayed him. Slow. Methodical. Measured. Those weren’t the sounds of a man relieved to meet his savior but a hunter sizing up its game. He stood there as the steps came closer and closer, even as he could feel their elongated shadows embrace.

Kitsune’s voice rang in his ears. “To your right. Now.”

He dashed two steps to the right as the flash of Kitsune’s fur blazed by him. For a split second, he heard the pained cries of the man behind him. He didn’t have to endure that human cry of despair for long. He never did. Yet those split seconds added up like the loose change of centuries ago used to. He wasn’t sure what his mind believed he could purchase by collecting them, but he felt the weight all the same.

“Yuck. I hate the taste of bad humans. Your species is full of bad actors. Humanity is a collection of tainted and sinful creatures.” Kitsune shook her mane as she spoke. As always, her fur remained flawless through battle, Kaibler was sure she just enjoyed shaking herself.

“Right back at you, demon. Although at least we have the decency not to eat your kind. We just kill them.”

“You vanish them to the purgatory of my home-world. So they can torment my land with war for all eternity.”

“The same thing happens when you eat creatures.”

“I am allowed to defile my land as I see fit. It is mine to do as I wish. You Warlocks make a mockery of all that is holy. As such, you desecrate my land because your victims Heaven nor Hell will recognize them.”

Kitsune’s voice alternated between growls and speech humans could interpret. Kaibler’d heard this spiel enough times to feel in the blanks. His relationship with his pet—who would bite his head off if she knew he thought of her that way—had long become predictable. As his right arm dangled at his side, he knew it’d be useless to subpoena her for sympathy. She’d say he earned it. Humans who steal the magic of the spirits deserve punishment. He also knew right about now she’d remind him of their deal.

“Also, human, do not forget why I humor your requests. It is not out of companionship; you will fulfill your end of the contract.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

“With no exceptions. When I tell you what I demand, you will fulfill it with no qualms.”

“It’s hard to guarantee I can do something when I don’t know what’s asked of me. I don’t even know if I’ll have the power to do it.”

“You will. You will have the power by then.” Kitsune’s tail perked up as she walked through the ruins beside him. Kaibler thought she’d be a cute fox if she weren’t a literal demon. Hell, he had to admit she still was, even with that factored in. As far as blood-lusted, upper-tier demonic creatures went, she’d surely win best-groomed pet.

He wished there was a way the two of them could be friends, as stupid as that sounds.

For one, he was a human—no a Warlock—and for two, his kind directly contributed to the destruction of her home. Spirits like her lived peacefully until Warlocks came and vanquished the souls of their enemies to the Realm of Spirits. Kitsune became a demon out of necessity, as only demons could be summoned away from the chaos. Only by tainting her soul could she find peace, even if it were temporary. What type of hell would make you consider maiming demons a peaceful option? He wondered.

That’s why he never rushed to dismiss and return her to the realm of spirits when she completed a mission. It was probably the guilt eating away at him. His right arm burned at the thought. He glanced down and saw the veins still pulsing in it. The green color faded but was still etched within like the dying cinders of a fire.

He tried to hide the pain, but his body physiologically twitched against his will on occasion. Kitsune kept watching him from the corner of her eye. She didn’t miss a beat in her stride, but her muscles were the slightest bit more tensed. Kaibler was too preoccupied to notice. He coughed blood but contained it in his mouth, not allowing it to leave his body and enter the external world. As long as the world didn’t see it, he could pretend it didn’t exist.

Kitsune broke her silence and asked, “Whatever you’re chasing, Warlock, it must be more important than your soul for you to go to such lengths.”

Kaibler shifted through his memories. The good ones, the bad, the memories of despair, and his eyes flashed as he remembered the memories of home. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s worth it for sure.”


intheweebcloset t1_iyf1r39 wrote

"So, what was your sister like?"

Priscilla continued to wash dishes, and began to hum.

"I saw you crying, you know?" Zack searched for the words. "You seemed to care about her more than you let on. You never really talked about her."

A condescending laugh erupted from Priscilla's mouth, the first true-to-character moment since the funeral. Zack was tempted to search for the scar again. Maybe he'd just missed it.

She spoke in a low tone, eyes trained on the dishes. "My sister. She was a bit of a loser, I guess. That's probably why I never spoke of her. She was an anxious girl who didn't know how to interact with people, so maybe she just pushed them all away. Convinced no one truly cared about her."

Zack remained silent.

So she filled in the air. "She went crazy, and no one could tell her a thing, especially me. She probably hated me. She always felt I was so headstrong and competent; maybe she felt I looked down on her all these years." Her scrubbing began to slow. "Really, I probably loved my sister more than she loved herself. She was just too broken a woman to see it, before it was too late.

Zack noticed tears welling up in her eyes and rushed to comfort her. "I'm sure your sister knew how special your bond was when she passed." He hated seeing people in pain, so it was instinctual. He was still cautious of this Priscilla, though.

It was her turn to remain silent, so he continued. "Love is complicated." He recalled what Priscilla told him about Love on their honeymoon night. She'd jabbed a nagging finger at him and exclaimed, "Love is a pragmatic decision. No one is entitled to it, as it doesn't exist. It's a decision forged in fire each day. You can love anyone.

He'd cried when she told him, his illusion of being viewed as Prince Charming crushed. He asked this Priscilla, "What do you think about love?"

She hesitated, biting her thumb before answering. "I think Love is like a flower, guaranteed to bloom if nourished and protected. I don't think you ever truly love anyone, just their avatar, their place in your life. My sister would probably agree."

An interesting take but different from what he'd expected from Priscilla. Before he pounced further, Clarice danced into the room, tortured goldfish in hand. The fish was belly up in his little beg. PETA would have our heads for this, Zack thought.

"Daddy, Mr. Bubbles is taking another nap and won't wake up," Clarice said.

Priscilla pounced on the interruption. "Well, I'm sure he'll be bright and awake tomorrow morning! Daddy will read you and Mr. Bubbles a nice bedtime story for sweet dreams." The smile on her face was so sweet any child would eat it up, but an adult would feel sick.

Clarice left the room, and Zack began a slow, defeated stroll after her until Priscilla spoke again.

"She's had quite a few of those, hasn't she?"

"Yeah," Zack said.

"That's the beautiful thing about being treated as a child; the mature try to save you from the reality of life." She scrubbed harder on the dishes as she spoke.

Zack pondered the phrasing before turning towards her. "Do you think some vicious nemesis killed your sister? Someone she pissed off?"

Priscilla hesitated. "Probably not. We come from a family of weakened constitutions. Disease and illness plague us. She probably knew she was dying and chose to go out on her terms." She shrugged. "A bastard of a fighter to the end, I guess."

"Oh." Zack moved toward the door. Before he left, he stopped and said, "you were never this polite before the funeral. Lots of attitude and snide remarks. I wouldn't mind a bit more of it."

"That so?" Priscilla tossed the dirty dish in her hand into the sink. "Then how about you clean these fucking dishes, and I read her a bedtime story."


intheweebcloset t1_iyf1m9s wrote

"Daddy, daddy, look!"

His youngest child, Clarice, dashed through the hallway. One hand held a soggy, half-eaten chocolate chip cookie, the other a plastic bag filled with water; an orange goldfish shook in it, eyes wide in terror. Or maybe that's just how they naturally looked.

Regardless, Zack pitied the poor animal.

"Mr. Bubbles woke back up just like you said." Clarice shook the bag with reckless abandon as she spoke. It'd be a miracle for any fish to survive more than a week with her, and miracles didn't happen in this world.

Zack and his wife - Priscilla - replaced 'Mr. Bubbles' for the fifth or sixth time that year. It felt almost cruel to keep this secret from Clarice, but children were better left shielded from the world's cruelty.

He smiled at his daughter and whispered, "we told you the Bubblenator would be fine, didn't we?" His throat felt sticky from the fake-sweet voice adults spoke to children in, but he continued. "But please, keep it down for mommy's sake. She's a bit sad right now. Ok?"

Wide, searching eyes met him, but a verbal response attacked him from behind.

"Mom's doing fine." His teenage son - Trevor - said. He stuffed three whole cookies in his mouth and choked out, "She's cooking up a storm and humming in the kitchen. You ask me, never been happier."

That's precisely what I'm worried about, Zack thought. His son didn't understand women. If they went more than two days without complaining, it was suspicious. His wife had gone seven, a code red. He imagined biting into a soft cookie she made especially for him, only to find divorce papers hidden in it like a fortune cookie.

His blood froze over at the thought. His greatest fear was his wife coming to her senses and leaving him - maybe she'd leave the kids with him, to add insult to injury.

He orders his son to pretend to be a good brother and watch Clarice, and he prepared to face the monster in the kitchen. She was ready for him, draped in a pink frilly apron. Her skin looked moist and soft; lush lashes accentuated her narrow eyes. She held a black spatula, perfectly balancing two warm cookies. She crooned -"Hi Honey,"- in a voice the sirens would envy. The perfect wife.

But not his wife. The Priscilla he knew only eyed him like a worm, berated him for his unhealthy eating habits, and disciplined him like he was the third child. She'd badger him about the clothes in the hamper, the smell of beer on his breath, and any other shortcoming. Secretly he welcomed it; it was a sign she hadn't given up on him and the marriage yet.

He was still trying to figure out what to make of this new pattern of behavior. He grabbed the cookies, smiled, and asked her, "anything you need me to do?"

"Hmmmm. No. You can relax and watch sports." Priscilla said.

"What about the trash?"

"I took it out already."

"I could wash the dishes."

"Cleaned those while I cooked. It's always easier that way."

"The gutters?"

"I hired someone to do it while you were at work."

Zack's frozen blood began to crack. His wife may have already realized that she didn't need him. He'd hoped he could keep the wool over her eyes until he was on his deathbed, only croaking the truth to her at the last moment. You've been bamboozled. Major life events had a way of making anyone reevaluate their lives, and she had a doozy of one last week.

Eight days ago, she attended the funeral of her estranged sister. The details burned vividly in his mind. It wasn't hard; there was little to remember. A minuscule crowd consisting of him, Priscilla, and their two children were the only ones to attend.

Before the funeral, his wife hardly spoke of this sister, so he assumed she was showing face. But at the event, her head hung like a dog caught stealing Thanksgiving ham, and he swore she used the cover of the rain to mask her tears. Since then, her bold and slightly - probably more than slightly - condescending demeanor had been replaced by this new bubbly avatar. She was a peace sign and dance away from being a damn anime character.

"Look, Priscilla, if you want to talk about the funer-"

"Oh dear, I forgot the ingredients for dinner. I'll have to go to the store." She vanished before he could stop her.

Pre-funeral Priscilla would have made him get the ingredients.

It was always like that when he mentioned the funeral. She'd do anything in her power to avoid talking about it. In one of his less exemplary moments, he'd asked while they lay in bed and gleefully watched her tie her hair back and straddle him. Replaying the manipulative moment in his head made him feel sick. Divorce was coming, for sure.

The following day, Zack began a last-ditch effort to save his marriage. He scavenged the attic, searching for mementos from the past, anything that could pull the old Priscilla out of the animated clutches of this new persona. Through the dim light, his eyes located a dust-covered album book. He scoured the book looking for ammunition and only found questions.

Each picture in that book contained two avatars of his wife. He assumed camera malfunction at first, before the dim light bulb in his mind sparked. Twins. Her sister is a twin. Cool, he thought. He placed the album book down and descended from the attic before the lighting of epiphany struck twice.

Twins. Twin sister dead. Wife is acting different. Almost like a new person.

It was impossible, that type of thing only happened in movies. If he had talent, he'd make a kine Hollywood scriptwriter with his impressive imagination. Childish imagination, Priscilla would say, unless she was dead.

No. Get that out of your stupid head, Zack thought. Someone would notice, this isn't a movie. Life isn't filled with mindless side characters, utterly unaware of their surroundings. He pushed the thought to the side of his head. He was at peace until he remembered it was a closed-casket funeral.

It was all too suspicious. But, try as he might, he couldn't let it go. It made sense in a moronic way. His wife, perfectly domesticated? Priscilla? She'd rather be stoned by molten rock. He had to do something to quell his stupidity.

At dinner, he asked Priscilla to pass him the mashed potatoes. When Trevor reached, Zack launched into a speech about following direction and obedience. Trevor left the table, storming up a storm of attitude. A small price to pay.

When Priscilla reached to give him the mash, he clutched her wrist and pulled her shirt sleeve back. He searched. Zack had picked Priscilla up mid-tantrum in his foolish younger days and spun her around, hoping to defuse her with humor. He wasn't aware of his surroundings and spun her into a pole. His diffusion attempt backfired. The mark from that day was not on this Priscilla's arm.

Her eyes narrowed at his touch, but she flashed a smile.

After dinner, he insisted on helping Priscilla clean the dishes. She resisted but allowed him to hover around.

A stale silence sat in the kitchen with them. She did the scrubbing; he passed her dishes. Conspiracy theories swam in his mind the whole time until he finally unleashed them.


intheweebcloset t1_iyb2i8k wrote

"Regret is the bitchy older sibling of reflection."

Those words screeched from Gary's television as he lounged on his couch; cherry-flavored ice cream rested on his lap as he devoured his favorite television program, Cheaters. He sat in darkness to enhance the glare of the show, scooping greedy spoonfuls of cherries and scheming his dark secrets. The scene was so tranquil until it wasn't.

He heard it before his eyes witnessed it, the thunderous footsteps of his wife storming down the stair to disturb him. She wasted no time kicking his door open, posturing a wide grin with a thick stack of papers in her hand. He cocked his head back and held back a groan.

"Babe, guess what? Your brilliant, gorgeous, and creative wife just got published." She said. Her arms flew like an inflatable tube woman at a car dealership as she flicked on the lights.

The light's glare attacked Gary as he clapped and refocused on the television. "Great job Pani! I'm sorry, I was kind of in the middle of some-"

"I want you to read it." Pani thrust the manuscript at him, stalking him down like a predator. Then, she burst into a sprint as her prey began his escape.

"Never been much of a reader, you know that," Gary said. He jumped over the couch's ledge and paced around her, hoping to slip past her into the staircase.

Nothing doing. Pani nipped his escape attempt in the bud, cutting off his route and closing in on her prey.

"I want you to be the first to read it!" She cupped his hands together and plopped the manuscript into them. "Most men would be honored if their wife held them in such high regard."

"Most men don't hate their wives making them read as much as I."

"Me." She said.

"Exactly. You want to make me feel stupid with your fanciful words and speech."


"See? This is just your way of punishing me for no reason." He paused. "Wait. I'm not even the first to read it. Didn't the publisher have to read it to approve it?"

Pani darted her eyes to the side; she courted with several cheeky remarks before saying, "you're the first who matters to me." She rubbed his slumped shoulders and said, "don't worry, the message in my novel is so clear I know you'll get it.

"You sure? You know how everyone whispers jokes about me? If you ever want to keep a secret from him, just put it in a book. You know the man can't read."

"Yes, but if you ever had a secret for me, I'm sure it'd be on a tv show somewhere."

They both laughed, and Gary caved in, flipping to the first page of the manuscript and reading:

The green-eyes man was in a band. Stand the green-eyes man said. Cand. Is what the green-eyed man land. Hand is needed for the man to befriend. Wuh-wuh-wuh-sand.

Gary couldn't believe it. His eyes glossed over, his arms went limp, and his jaw slacked as he processed. That sounds like some shit I'd write. Oh, dear. He looked everywhere he could beside his wife's unguarded eyes as he gathered the right words, the right words to avoid an argument.

"Good." He said.

She stared at him as if he was the god of ignorance. "You've read one page."

He flipped to the end and smacked his fingers. "Mmmmm, mmm, finger-licking good story right here."

"That's cheating! You don't just go to the back of the story!"

"You know I don't like reading."

"You could be great at it if you exercised a little commitment!"

Argument unavoided.

The following two weeks were rough for poor Gary. Pani refused to speak, look at him, or even nag him. The tension in the air was ripe as a Georgia Peach. How a woman of her miniature stature could emit such animosity was the next great wonder of the world, or a great question, something like that. It was a secret she knew, and Gary had his own secret.

He adored his wife with all his heart, yet she wasn't the finest apple in the orchard. She could satisfy hunger pains from time to time, but she lacked that lushness, that utter fulfillment factor you got from biting into a juicy morsel of forbidden fruit. The peaches are always sweeter in someone else's yard, as some would say, or maybe that was just him.

Gary isn't his novelist wife, so let's be straightforward. He was cheating on her.

Almost every month, like clockwork, he'd meet his Mistress - Emma - at a hotel on the third Saturday of the month. Today was that Saturday. When his wife approached him, he was fully prepared to go on another 'purposeless drive' around town. But her words cut through that plan.

"Baby, the Galleria Mall has a 90% off sale on lotion and hand soaps. Do you think you can get some?" She asked.

The Galleria Mall was in Houston. Four hours from their home in San Antonio. A ridiculous distance for lotion, regardless of price, but a chance to get out of the dog house.

"Sure, I wouldn't mind at all! You know I love my Saturday drives anyway."

She wrinkled her nose and kissed him. "Sure do. Thanks, babe."

He hopped in his purple-coated Chevrolet Corvette and marched to the Houston mall, wishing he'd picked a better lie for his Saturday excursions. He'd always hated driving.

Shoppers crammed into the mall, making it nearly impossible to move. The lotion store's line overflew, extending past the Gamestop several stores over. Awkward conversations between image-sensitive women and men who didn't own mirrors occurred.

I'll just tell her they ran out. It wasn't much of a lie; surely they'd run out when he made it through the line. He pocketed his hands and whistled the Cheaters tune, eyes scanning the scene.

A lot of beautiful women out were in the mall. Everywhere he looked, he saw nines, tens, elevens out of ten. Everywhere except one location, a cardboard cutout of his wife enshrined with novels.

He walked towards the bookstore - Novels-A-Million- and felt his jaw drop. Young girls were practically fighting to pick up a copy of his wife's novel. All for a copy of that trash? There must have been something good in the middle section he skipped.

He wrestled with a Zoomer for one of the last copies, licked his fingers - he's seen it on tv, and turned to page one.

A few things shook him.

Most pressing, his wife's name was in the story. That was different from when he had read the story before. His reading skills weren't that bad.

Pani was a superhero in this story. A magical woman adored by men and women alike. In the story, she fought the forces of evil, all demons of sin.

She fought a demon of pride, lust, and so on. His wife was crazy for sure, so many enem-

He fingered the words on the page, the demon of adultery, Gary. Surely a coincidence, he continued to read the story:

Emma, Gary's dumbass assistant, aided his demonic endeavors. Emma was a bimbo with a robust body, able to bring a grown man to tears. Not from their eyes but from where the sun doesn't shine.

Gary felt his blood freeze over. Emma? Did she know about her? Flustered, he flipped to the back of the book.

...and when Gary returned to his little lair, he found it empty with divorce papers on the counter.

The book escaped his fingers and crashed as he rushed back to his car. He raced home, unlocked the door, and ran to the kitchen. He stopped at the sight of an emptied room. A stack of papers lay on the kitchen counter.

Halfway through the manuscript his wife shared with him, lay divorce papers.


intheweebcloset t1_iy4tidr wrote

A man sat in the woods, face and chest enveloped by the orange glow of the flame before him, all other sides of him in darkness. Crickets roared and owls crooned from tall trees, creating a soothing environment for the man as he unzipped his maroon-soaked knapsack and pulled out a slab of raw deer meat.

Fresh. The man had just killed it himself. The iron scent induced a comforted sigh from him as he tossed the meat into the fire, listened to its cackle and went to his knees for prayer.

"May the gods bless me with go- better fortune. Despite all the misfortune which has befallen me, I still believe. May your spirit fill the void felt by my fami-" He stopped and turned.

"I would very much prefer my food unburnt. Did you know that Isley?" A voice said. A deep voice at that, its bass resonated through Isley's molars.

Isley knew something was off before the words even greeted him. Mid-prayer, the wood behind him had started to emit a pale blue glow so intense it painted the flame in front of him a lilac color.

He couldn't have known the sight waiting behind him, the presence of a semi-transparent pre-pubescent boy fitted in an oversized t-shirt and sneakers. His attire and stature suggested youth and innocence, yet his eyes and slight tilt of the head hinted at maturity.

"Isley?" He paused. "How do you know my name is Isley?"

"I would hope one of my devout believers wouldn't be foolish or a simpleton. Take it all in. Think about it, and the answer will come to you." The boy said. With a snap of his finger, the rosy flame behind Isley dismissed itself. He extended his hand with a smile and said. "Offerings are much better when they're personally delivered anyway."

Isley froze and considered running away. Thought better of it and reached for the deer meat sitting atop the ashes, much to the boy's dismay. "No, you fool!" Too late. Isley grabbed the deer flesh and understood the warning immediately.

A scorching pain shot through his arm as the child berated him.

"I can't believe you did that! It was a joke. I didn't believe you would grab meat straight from a fire! Are you stupid? Does that brain come with a warranty?" On and on he went.

Tears stained Isley's cheeks as he listened, and a smile crept on his face. "I'm s-so glad. My wife strongly believed in you, and you sound just like her. So I guess there truly is a bit of the gods in each of us."

Yet his smile lived shorter than his tears, dying young like all good things. He doubled over as images of his family haunted his memory. His deceased family. His extinguished family, whose deaths he accidentally caused. He wept.

Eyes narrow, the boy approached his trembling body, squatted, and placed a hand under Isley's left shoulder blade.

Panic shot through Isley's spine upon the cold touch. He felt violated, as if the touch had probed his very essence. Probed and seized all his secrets. Secrets he didn't know he had and strewn them around the public forum of his mind.

Would the god know?

Would it know that his own foolishness killed his family? He never mentioned that part in his prayers.

Would it know he wished he had been the one to die every day, not them? Despite his best attempts to seem grateful?

Would it know... would it know he secretly cursed the gods themselves? Spiteful at their very existence?

In truth, praying had long been a tradition for him. A habit he carried out mindlessly with little belief. His wife is the believer in the family, or rather she was. But, unlike him, she'd always been strong, reliable, and intelligent. So why was she the one to die from his mistake?

Though he didn't believe, the prayers were his only repentance.

The young boy removed his hand and flopped next to him on the Earth. His eyes searched Isley's as if double-checking a room stripped bare. Finally, he spoke.

"I would like to hear your prayer more intimately this time. Please share it with me."


intheweebcloset t1_ix621e3 wrote


intheweebcloset t1_ix5nh1i wrote

“Tea is a beverage full of contradictions, of possibilities. It’s a liquid made from solids, it can be served both hot and cold, it can both awaken and relax. If a portal through realities exists, is it really so surprising that it would be tea? Scoot said, a sly smile gracing his face as he struggled to cut his pancake. He surely believed he words to be profound.

Trent — his waiter — did not. Why do I always get the nut jobs? I swear if I didn’t have a million dollars of student loan debt, I’d rip this apron off and choke my supervisor with it. He flashed his best HR appropriate smile at Scoot and said, “that was an enlightening conversation. Thank You. Enjoy your meal!” He rushed away from the table, only for Scoot to snatch his arm.

“Don’t forget what I told ya now.”

Don’t roll your eyes, you can’t get fired. Again. “About the government being run by highly functioning llamas with transformative abilities, or the number four being a fake number planted by aliens?”

“Both. But especially don’t forget what I told ya about the tea.” Scoot reeled Trent’s arm in like he’d caught his first snapper after days of starvation. Then he whispered, “Think about it, Illuminati, triangle, right? Triangle starts with the letter ‘tea’. Not only is it a drink, it’s also a letter!”

“That’s a bit of a stretch.” His customer friendly tolerance was dwindling by the nano-second.

“Whats your name kid?”

Oh dear lord save me. “Trent.”

“By Grace! You’ve been blessed with the eye, kid! Your name is book ended with ‘teas’!”

Tip also starts with ‘T’ and I swear I better get a big one for dealing with this shit.

It took twenty minutes before Trent escaped the void of Scoot’s conversation. He shot the shit with his co-workers in the back during his break and waited over fifty tables throughout the night. The dining tables were a revolving door of new and returning customers, all eager to eat overpriced food and shove stale jokes down his throat. All except one. Scoot’s. At closing time, each table emptied, ready for cleaning. Except Scoot’s.

He sat there blissfully unaware of the sounds of sweeping and squirting cleaning products. Not a flinch at the stench of bleach, as Trent doused every uninhabited surface with it. Suddenly, he sprang up and hurried out of the restaurant. Fucking good. Before he departed, he turned and faced Trent’s direction. Fucking not good. “Don’t forget to read the tea leaves, boy. It’s a saying for a reason.”

Fortunately for Trent’s job security, Scoot left a split second before his patience did. He inspected the last uncleaned table in the restaurant; no tip.

The next morning, his troublesome little brother, Anton, roused him out of bed.

“Wake up! Wake up!” Anton assaulted his mattress and peace. “The leaves are falling. They look so cool. Come look!”

“Yeah, yeah, they fall every year. You live long enough, the excitement of falling leaves wears off. Actually, for life in general.”

“Hurry! I’ll wait for you outside. Let’s go build a leaf-man!” Anton bolted out of the room, delivering his best Usain impression.

A leaf-man? He might be the second dumbest person I’ve spoken to in the last 24 hours. Trent re-snuggled himself under his comforter and a revelation dawned on him. Falling leaves; in June? With measured caution, he left his warm bed and trailed his brother outside. When he opened the front door, he froze.

A blizzard of green leaves pelted the Earth. The sun’s light struggled to peek through, instead settling to light the ground a rich emerald. The concrete jungle he inhabited favored the palate of an actual jungle. All the grays and unnatural colors of the world converted to earthy tones.

Compact blades of light green leaves littered the surface. To his left, a tornado fortress of leaves encased his parent’s vehicles. To his right, half a single Spider-Man covered shoe lay on the ground. A staple character in Anton’s catalogue of role models. But where was Anton?

The leaves on the ground were dense, but too shallow to hide a boy’s body — no matter how young he was. He probably went back in the house for me. Yet when Trent turned around, the house was no longer there. It vanished without a single parting message. At this point, Trent was sure he’d slipped up and consumed whatever drug Scoot took.

Scoot. Why would he think about that old man at a time like this? He reasoned with himself and examined the leaves. Ah-ha. Tea leaves. As a waiter, he’d prepared tea on many occasions for patrons. The very sight of the leaves made his hands ache. What he saw scrawled on them made his stomach turn.

“Congratulations. The fourth dimension has selected you for interdimensional testing. We welcome you Anton.”