Short-Story.Me!

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Best Stories on the Web

A Natural

E-mail Print

Do you mind if I come in? - Editor

A Natural

by Sylvia Hiven

The shape on the other side of the stained glass door was all too familiar to Bill. He knew that dark-blue uniform anywhere, and he didn't need to squint at the glint of gold to know it was a badge. Even the damn knocking sounded authoritative.

You can do this. Just act natural.

Bill glanced into the mirror, certain that the truth was etched into his features. But an oddly calm face stared back at him. Sure, it was thin and wrinkled--and perhaps paler than most--but it was decorated with friendly blue eyes, and there was no sign of distress. No, sir.

See, you are a natural. And nobody knows.

He plastered on a slightly disheveled, Sunday morning look, and opened the door.

“Morning, Bill.” Jake Kitchener's familiar face looked back at him across the threshold.

Damn.

Bill had hoped for someone he didn't know. Perhaps one of those young new officers, or the tall black guy he never really cared to get to know. But Jake Kitchener lived just a few blocks away. Last summer during the community barbeque, Bill and Jake had spent hours tending the grill. And when you've barbequed with a fellow, you may as well have fought in Vietnam by his side. He knows you.

“Morning,” Bill replied. “You're up early for a Sunday, Jake.”

Jake shifted his weight. “I am here on official business, actually,” he said. "Do you mind if I come in?”

Read more...
 

BJ's Last Shift

E-mail Print

Outer or inner space - Editor

BJ's Last Shift

by Lawrence Karis

"This is Willie Sims, second in command of the Mars Explorer, 267 days out from Earth. I am recording this message for delayed transmission to Director Mike Jackson at mission control. By the time you receive this message, BJ will be dead." Willie looked over his shoulder at the hatch to the aft cabin. He knew BJ couldn't hear him, but he still whispered.

He walked to the storage rack where two space suits hung in readiness. He picked up the life-pack with BJ's scrawled initials and carried it back to the work bench.

"I saw this coming, but I didn't want to believe it. I hoped he would snap out of it. There's no hope now. BJ is completely insane.

"Two days ago he went through the cabin with a marker writing his initials on everything he thought was his. He even marked the dishes and utensils in the mess kit. He left a note saying that if he caught me using any of his stuff, he'd throw me out the airlock.

"I am delaying this message transmission because he changed the password and locked me out of the main computer." Willie looked up at the video display and adjusted the camera pointed at his face. "I think he would kill me if I rebooted the computer to reset the password. That's what it has come to: I kill him or he kills me."

Read more...
 

Temple of Mirrors

E-mail Print

Refreshing Fantasy setting - Editor

Temple of Mirrors

Wm. Luke Everest

On his first contract, Tzu-lung was hired to kill a famous swordsman.  Tzu-lung revered him.  General Wen had proven his greatness twenty years ago fighting the Tung Ma, a triad society.  He now lived in disgrace three day's trek from Chang An.  Tzu-lung didn't know why.  The pig-men of nobility wanted him dead.  Someone was going to kill him.  This way, Tzu-lung could meet his hero, and ensure Wen died with honor.

Tzu-lung passed the colorful fruits of the market stalls, ignoring the salesmen's shouts and the guards who flanked the gate, halberds glinting in the sun.

Yellow River extended east, wide enough it might have been an ocean.  He followed it through sopping rice fields, passed old mountains, weathered to look like musician's fingers, long and curved.  He avoided the villages, living off smoked meat in his pack, sleeping under trees and beside rocks.  When he reached General Wen's home, it rained.

It rained like Yellow River had been turned upside down.  The water seemed to freeze on his scalp.  The home was a shack of wood planks and thatch.  It rested beside a low cliff, surrounded by trees with leaves in flat clusters like wisps of cloud.  Water bounced off the wood, creating a white, hazy aura.  Yellow River lapped a mud bank nearby.  Tzu-lung planned to keep the fight near the trees.  Mud made footwork unpredictable.

No answer at the door.  Tzu-lung pushed it open.  Rain drummed the ceiling, leaked into a cooking pot and chimed like a bell.  Bookshelves overflowed along every wall.  On the table was a teapot painted with a phoenix, and half-wedged underneath it, a letter addressed to the Tung Ma.  There were two cups.  Tzu-lung drew his sword.

Read more...
 

Man Tracker

E-mail Print

the Coquille marshes - Editor

Man Tracker

by Kevin M. White

Arthur Bindell eased the '55 panel truck down the narrow mud strip that passed for a road near the Coquille marshes. The vehicle bounced and slid like a roller coaster car about to jump the tracks. This caused him to stab his upper lip with the tooth pick he was teething on.

“Son of a b-” he cursed as the wheel began to turn against his sweating hands. The brush to either side of the mud track seemed to press in as if waiting for him to slide from the road so it could grab the vehicle and pull it into the dense foliage.

The road dumped out into a grass clearing with gray light filtering down from above.  A number of vehicles were parked haphazardly in the clearing like toys tossed in the middle of a room.  A sheriff and about a dozen men stood around drinking coffee from thermoses or smoking cigarettes.

A low, guttural whine rose up from the darkness of the back of the panel truck and Arthur rapped the knuckles of his fist against the wire screen behind him.

“Shut up back there!” he bellowed.

The whining retreated in volume but didn't entirely cease.

Read more...
 

Sticker

E-mail Print
Dirty, bleak, and dangerous - Editor
Sticker

by Bryan Veldboom

Felix’s head snapped sideways at the sound of the conversation. Spanish always made him nervous. Doing what he did, Felix heard it a lot and it usually meant trouble. He looked over at a trio of Mexicans gathered around a high table, watching them empty their pockets to an aging waitress who forked over three shot glasses of identical brown liquor. Tequila. Even from this distance he could make out its sharp, distinctive tang. He felt a small twinge of excitement jolt up his arm, but he stuffed it down, taking a long sip off his ginger ale instead.

Slaughterhouse laborers. They had all the telltale signs, the restlessness, the empty eyes, as if their occupation were stamped upon their foreheads.

He wasn’t happy being back here. Greeley was a special kind of awful: dirty, bleak, and dangerous. The smell was the first thing you noticed, long before it was even in sight, that stink was all around you, drawing deep into your pores, as if marking you.

Back then it had given him headaches. His cousin Fabian had told him not to worry, that eventually you got used to it. But he never had, not in three long years.

Felix’s left hand moved instinctively over his missing fingers. Sticker had been his title back then. In a lot of ways, it still fit.

Read more...
 

Fired Up

E-mail Print
Better than fired down - Editor

Fired Up

by Michael Guillebeau

I only took this job to get fired, and now this, Josh thought, standing there in his cute little bank teller window wearing his straight guy oxford blue shirt and the tie with the blue diamonds, both from the church thrift store, with his hands in the air.  The two guys had come out of nowhere, no real memory of them walking in the front door to his left or maybe from the hall just inside that led to the manager’s offices, but there they were in white lab suits, pointing guns aimlessly around the bank lobby.  The tall one was doing the talking, telling them this was a robbery, as if they needed a program for that, telling them to open their cash drawers and put their hands up. The short one reached up and pushed the video camera by the door up so that it saw only the ceiling.

They started down the long row of tellers, starting at the end away from him in the big bank.  He watched them, curious about how they did it, had never seen a robbery before, at least not a big time bank robbery like this.  The tall guy was doing all the talking, but looking at the short, silent one for something.  There: that was it.  The silent one shook his head, and the tall one skipped a teller.  The silent one knew something; he’s skipping the tellers that have dye packs.

Read more...
 

My Salieri Complex

E-mail Print

To H.G. Wells - Editor

My Salieri Complex

An Untold Story of Griffin and Kemp

(dedicated to H.G. Wells)

by Marina Julia Neary

(University College, London, 1884)

“Awake, Samuel!  Boarding with a genius will not transform you into one.”

That was the voice of reason, one that guided me through most of my career.  Yet another voice, one of superstition and vanity, tried to persuade me of the opposite.  How I wished to believe that a fraction of Jonathan Griffin’s brilliance could project onto me if I only spent enough time in his vicinity!  I fancied our brains being like two communicating vessels, with grandiose theories and mysteries passing between them.  Little by little, that toxic swamp of self-flattering fantasies sucked me in.

Griffin, a native of Cardiff, was almost three years younger than me but only one year behind in his coursework.  He transferred to University College in the autumn of 1883, allegedly to study medicine.  I emphasize the word “allegedly”.  From the very beginning I had serious doubts that this man had any intention of treating patients for the rest of his life.  As I learned later, medicine was the profession of his father’s choice.  Griffin feigned compliance only to gain access to London’s best library and laboratory.  He took most interest in optical density and refraction index, two topics that had very little to do with medicine.

Read more...
 

Cold Steel

E-mail Print

Hot blood and... - Editor

Cold Steel

by David Pilling

Hasan Al-Asim, outlaw, assassin, thief for hire and currently a mercenary soldier, watched indifferently while the Duke of Slaveni was slaughtered by a howling mob of men-at-arms.

Cornered with his back to a tree, the doomed nobleman reminded Hasan of a stag at bay surrounded by a pack of hounds.  Grimy hands ripped the Duke’s pole-axe from his grasp and pitched him into the thick winter mud. Halberds, spears and axes smashed down onto his fine gilded plate armour as he struggled to rise.

The Duke’s ignoble death was the last act in a long and bitter war between the Kingdom of Salymra and Slaveni, a rebel province. Eighteen months of war, of slaughter and siege and fire, and Hasan had somehow survived with nothing worse than a few scars and a lot of difficult memories.

He had been shrewd enough to sign up for the winning side, which was why he was not one of the scattered fugitives currently being pursued through the woods while their master was butchered. Always a military blunderer, the Duke’s last mistake had been to lead his army into a forest ambush.

“Three shillings says he drowns first.” said a rough voice.

Hasan turned to its owner, a hard-faced stripling named Hungry Jock. Jock was an army scout like Hasan. Unlike Hasan he was a tough Wastelander with a casual attitude towards murder, rape and other people’s property.

“I don’t care to wager upon a man’s death.” Hasan replied quietly.

Read more...
 

Mythos of Blood

E-mail Print

Wood scraped against Theseus's leg.  He caught the wreckage as a wave pushed it into his face.  His legs shook as he stood.  The sun stung his eyes.

The shipwreck lay two thousand paces east, its smashed hull washed onto the beach where the tide would gnaw it.  A palm forest rose from the sand.  Beyond, steep crags covered in brush jutted above the thick canopy.  All was silent save for the rushing of the waves.

The sea stretched into the northern horizon.

Theseus pulled one of his legs up and stepped towards the beach.  The splash resounded over the bay.  Theseus curled like a startled cat.  He scanned the forest.  Every shadow, every shift of a leaf could be a savage denizen.  The canopy stirred.  Theseus yearned for a weapon.  A red parrot flew away and the silence returned.  He let his breathing slow, focused on the rush of the waves.  He walked in rhythm, his ankles pushed and pulled by the tide until his feet touched hot sand.

All the islands in the Mediterranean looked alike to him.  This one could be small and deserted, like the islands in Homer's tales, or there could be cannibals awaiting him under the canopy.  At least the ship's carcass was in sight so he wasn't totally lost.  He might find a weapon there.  He might even find another survivor, but he doubted it.

Poseidon had seethed the previous night.  Theseus remembered leaping from the ship when the storm toppled her.  The sea had been liquid ice.  The waves had risen around him like black giants.  That was his last memory.

Read more...
 

Bottle in Bordeaux

E-mail Print

An oenophile ordeal - Editor

Bottle in Bordeaux

by Bruce Memblatt

I am Louis Supree. I am five feet and ten inches tall. It’s no accident the vineyard I own in Bordeaux is the most successful vineyard in France. I humbly submit I have an incredible sense of smell which allows me to blend and break down the nuanced aromas of each wine to produce the highest quality vintage in the region. I’ll tell you how good my sense of smell is, my nose is insured by Lloyd’s of London. It’s true, for five million dollars. Wine is my life; I can ascertain the intensity and development of any wine in an instant. My love for wine has brought me happiness and many comforts like the exquisite home I own that overlooks the vineyard. The house is a very old house and it was built by a Duke. It’s hard to grasp how good times were in this dark hour, but I can still remember the fragrant days, the banquets, the grapes filling the fields in the sun, but you don’t want me to talk about these things. You want to know how I got here. All right, I will tell you.

Read more...
 


Page 75 of 81

Sign Up for Short-Story.me Info!




Featured Stories

Written by: Saul Greenblatt
Art and Amy Rollins drove along a desert road in the southwest.  “There’s something serene about the desert.  I love... Read more..



Buy Featured Story Placement

RSS Feed