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That Evil Witch

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Them Haddock boys was mighty close, two peas in a pod, Amos and Andy, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, stuck together like barnacles to the bow and sap to a tree, but I always suspected there might be something missing in the glue. The trouble started brewing on a Friday and boiled over like Everest by the time Reverend “Moses” Maynard hollered out his first Amen at Sunday sermon. And on that day, it weren’t more than three hours after sunup before one of them brothers was dead and the other hauled off to the hangman’s hotel.

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Trench Mouth

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1915...

They were all fed up with the war, the lives it had already claimed, the unburied dead, and the smell of them.

Oh, God the smell.

Life in the trenches of all sides was unbearable: cold, muddy, rife with vermin and parasites, sickness, and some men had gone insane. Often there were suicides.

Riley had been entrenched for a month and hadn't gone topside yet. He was twenty, still inexperienced to the horrors of war, and was dreading the day he was called to go over the top, into No Man's Land.

He had seen fear in others, before they climbed the ladders from the trenches, how they shook in their boots, soiled themselves, vomited bile from their empty stomachs, with tears rolling down their cheeks.

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Kill Switch

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Conrad was the first to go, split in two mid-sentence, the halves of his body peeling neatly apart. The weapon must have thrown itself through him at incredible speed, stretched out like razor wire: quick, but far from clean.

It should have been obvious then that it was only warming up, toying with us even. The machine could have killed us all that instant but instead it chose to give this little demonstration - it wanted us to run, to try and evade it, to fight for our lives. More than anything, it wanted to hunt. This was good, theoretically, it meant that it was doing its job and now all we had to do was ours: stay down, stay ahead of it, and try to stay alive.

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Killer Colonoscopy

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“I was being followed today,” said Cedric Gorman, CFO of the renowned Huber Moneda Hospital, to his wife, Sophia, human resources manager for Cactus Sunrise East medical clinic.

They were sitting on the patio of their condominium, admiring a spectacular red desert sunset.

“Really?” said Sophia.  “How do you know?”

During his former less-than-respectable life, long before accepting the post at HMH, Cedric had benefited from certain highly developed skills, such as those involved in detecting a tail.  However, in this case, not much skill was necessary.

“Obvious,” he said.  “Someone ducking around corners, staring in random windows.”

“Geez. Who?”  said Sophia.

“The new GI doctor,” said Cedric.  “I have an appointment with him in three days for a colonoscopy.”

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A Wallet Full of Money

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The woman from another lifetime had sent him the surprise she’d hinted at.  He waited before unwrapping the cardboard package until he had walked back to the high-rise co-op, an interminable distance from the Post Office on East Broadway.  In the package was a recording of Marlene Dietrich singing “Lili Marlene.”  He held the disc so the sun shone on the Deutsche Grammofon label, marveled at the shiny shellac, and felt as satisfied as he had been in months.

From the corner of his eye he saw the girl from the 16th floor watching expectantly, waiting to be recognized.  She nodded and he slid over on the park bench so she could sit down.

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My Grandfather's Mirror

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Once, when I was a lad in my youth, a girl of fancy asked me “why does the cage bird sing?” I told her something poetic and romantic that could only have come off as pretentious with ignorance. I now know the answer. They do not sing, they scream. It was only after gazing upon that mirror that I understand the horror of imprisonment; of only being able to stare at the world, of having all your screams and pleas come off as singing.

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Tangled in the Reeds

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When I was a boy there were tales of a lady in the lake.

During the Summer months, my friends and I would ride our bicycles out there, and swim all day. Sometimes, we would take a tent, and camp out there, our parents thinking that we were having a sleep over at Joe's.

We would tell stories, trying to scare each other, and it would work, because none of us would get a wink of sleep, convinced that wild pigs might attack us, or Donny Brooke's pitbull was loose, and hunting us down. Never did we did tell ghost stories, though, because ghosts are like fairies, just something made up.

Ghosts do exist. I know now.

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The Lonely Genius

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Mario Ober, a forty five-year-old bachelor, hung up his white lab coat,  looked around his lab to make sure his important  projects were in a state of suspension, input the directions to his unit,  stepped on the transporter pad, pressed a button, and he was transported to his unit.. It was a two-room unit with kitchen facilities. In the living room there was a sofa, a chair, and an entertainment-communication monitor that measured six-feet by six-feet. Because of toxic air, there were no windows.  However, a giant air purifier, that he invented, was housed in a twenty-five-story structure and worked constantly to bring clean air to the inhabitants of the community.

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The Flip Side of Love

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Their love story had all the makings of an old-style romance novel. Star crossed lovers who caught each other’s eye across a crowded room and both knew in that instant that they were destined to be together. Fiona was the beautiful heroine trapped in marriage that she no longer desired to be in. And Devon was the handsome successful business tycoon, who after taking just one look at her knew that his life would never be the same. But this story wouldn’t have the same kind of happy ending that stories that start in such a way usually do.

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Tweaking the Thrifty Gene

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“I’m sorry, Amaranth Q, your travel application is denied,” said the TTA’s customer-service robot.  Following some pathway in its neurocybernetic map, the robot added, “You understand the Time Travel Authority’s decision is final?”

“Yes,” said Amaranth.

Her application had been necessarily vague, and they didn’t trust her to follow the rules once she got into the past. She didn’t blame them. They were right not to. But some things were more important than bureaucratic rules.

Leaving the Federal Office Building, she walked quickly through the crowded Mariana Trench City center, then down damp, twisted backstreets to the shadowy neighborhood known as Abyssal Alley.  Here, months ago, anticipating TTA rejection, she’d found the time-travel black market, a moldy hallway, and the wizened dealer.  Now, as he smiled at her, the diamonds in his long white teeth were the brightest objects in the room.

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