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Bottle in Bordeaux

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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.

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Wyvern Master

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First master yourself - Editor

Wyvern Master

by Kristen Davis

The roar of the cheering crowd pounded in Ash’s ears. He tightened his grip on his spear. The first wyvern, the aquamarine male, lay twitching as he gasped his last breaths. Ash’s attention was on the jade-green female circling him. She bled from several minor spear-pricks. Her glittery cold eyes followed his every move.

The wyvern feinted to the right then darted for Ash’s heel with her long, snake-like neck. Her beak clacked in frustration when he dodged the crippling strike. Ash swung the knotted end of his rope, teasing her like a kitten, tempting her to pounce and expose herself. She scorned the distraction. He moved closer, one step at a time, knowing she was trying the same game on him. Lightning-quick, she bounded forward with a great roar, throwing wide her slashed wings in an attempt to startle him into fright. Ash stood his ground. A practiced hook of his wrist sent the rope’s noose end sailing over her head. She balked and twisted as it tightened around her throat. Ash snapped the rope taut and walked deliberately forward into the center of her vision. The crowd’s gasp was audible. The slightest hint of fear would trigger her predatory instincts, and he would die instantly between her teeth. But Ash had never feared a wyvern.

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The Devil's Own

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and there were beasts... Editor

The Devil's Own

by Tom Olbert

Jeremy’s flesh crawled at the unmistakable sound of immense claws raking across the wooden roof tiles. In the midnight darkness, shadows danced across the bare wooden floor in the flickering light of an oil lantern.

His sister Alison screamed and clutched at their mother. “Hush, both of you,” their father whispered sternly, and blew out the lantern.  Jeremy crossed himself as the room went pitch black.  Alison’s scream was muffled, apparently by Mother clamping a hand over her mouth.

“Hush, child,” he heard Mother say in a quieter whisper still, terror showing in the faintest quiver of her voice.  The hair stood up on Jeremy’s neck at an ungodly sound, like a thousand snakes slithering across the roof.  And, a low, muffled clicking.  Shotgun blasts shattered the darkness.  Jeremy’s heart froze.  His father and two neighbor men were briefly illuminated in the flashes as they fired at the ceiling.  Alison’s screams intermingled with the inhuman shrieking that penetrated Jeremy’s heart.

He shut his eyes tightly and prayed.  He had the coldest feeling that no one heard.

#

At dawn’s pale light, the villagers gathered in stunned silence in the damp morning chill, around the half-devoured remains of their slaughtered animals.  “What have we done to bring this on ourselves,” old pastor Stephens said in a horror-stricken whisper, the others muttering under their breath.  “Ours has always been a God-fearing village.”

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Devil in the Deep Blue

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Depth and charges - Editor

Devil in the Deep Blue

by Jack Skelter

The sleek and sharklike U-boat had been stalking the British merchant convoy for five fretful hours.  Forty metres below the heaving seas, she struggled to maintain a two-knot headway against the powerful crosscurrents of the North Atlantic Ocean.

“Sound contacts at bearing three-four-seven,” the hydrophone operator whispered as he pressed the headset against his grimy ears.  “Moving towards us.”

“Periscope depth.”  Kapitänleutnant Tobias Elfe’s quiet order -- his first spoken one in the past half-hour -- reverberated through the hushed submarine.

“Aye, Herr Kaleu,” acknowledged the first watch officer, using the familiar, diminutive form of the submarine commander’s rank.  “Planesmen:  periscope depth, ten degrees up-angle.”

The planesmen twirled their wheels as the watch officer kept a careful eye on the depth gauge.  The submarine gently nudged her bow upwards.  Upon reaching fourteen metres, the watch officer ordered the planesmen to level out the diving planes.

“Periscope depth reached, Herr Kaleu.”

Elfe removed his peaked white cap and nodded to the watch officer.  “Very well.  Up periscope.”

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Know When to Lie

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I thought I was compulsive... Editor

Know When to Lie

by David Gallinger

Two men sat on opposite sides of a small room.  The table was four feet wide by six feet long, and was lined up perfectly with the floor tiles and ceiling tiles.  The ceiling tiles, however, were two feet by four feet although the floor tiles were square, and one foot across.  The room was eight feet by eight feet, and a one-way mirror was on the wall facing the short side of the table opposite the door.  The mirror was the same size as the table and the door was half the size of the table.  The floor tiles were matched up perfectly with the shape of the room but the ceiling tiles were not.  The room was sixty-four square feet in size and each tile was eight square feet in size; it should have been possible to install the ceiling so that all of them were complete tiles, with none cut down.  For some reason, they had been installed so that each wall was lined by half-tiles, with quarter-tiles in the corners, and this was really bothering Jason.  It was acceptable to him in the sense that it formed a symmetrical, repeating pattern.  The problem was the number of holes in each tile.  Complete tiles had 433 holes: that is the 64th prime integer and there were 64 floor tiles, which created a satisfying pattern.  If all the tiles were complete, there would be 3464 holes in total and that would have been awesome.  However, the half-tiles had been cut in such a way that the cut intersected some of the holes, and they were not perfectly measured; they all had a different number of holes, some of which were prime numbers and some were not, and this increased the amount of data that Jason had to memorize to satisfy his compulsion.  It was terribly inconsiderate.

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The Dragon Bride

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I do... Editor

The Dragon Bride

by Jenny Schwartz

"Listen, dragon," began Princess Julia of the Kingdom of Vanarre. Her hands were on her hips, her right toe tapping. "This can't go on."

The Southern Dragon, bigger than a house and with a row of spear point spikes along his spine, looked bemused--as well he might. Julia often had that effect on people. Who else would open parley with a dragon by chiding him like a naughty puppy?

The dragon opened his mouth and sent a stream of flame to incinerate a nearby pine tree which flared like a torch before falling into powdery ash in the intensity of the maintained flame. The dragon blinked in a satisfied manner, then glanced sideways to see how Julia had taken the demonstration of power.

She brushed ash off her wine velvet skirt. "That was very thoughtless. This is a new dress." It laced tightly across her bosom, emphasising her full figure. Julia was a big girl.

An odd rusty sound emerged from the dragon.

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Breaking the Line

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Who said fishing is relaxing - Editor

Breaking the Line

by Ken Lizzi

The line jerked quiveringly taut, the rod bowed, held in a graceful yet perilous arc.  The reel spun out forty pound test like a hypervelocity spider.

“Fish on!” I called.  And indeed it was: a dorado, a flash of rainbow green in the sun leaping and diving, shattering the glittering liquid diamond plate of the Pacific.

“Very good, Dylan, that is indeed a fish,” agreed Scott, mimicking the tone of an adult indulgently praising a small child.  “I realize that it is an accomplishment for you to recognize a fish, not having managed to bring one aboard the boat before.”  He chased his sarcasm with the remainder of his morning Bloody Maria – a peppery concoction of tequila and tomato juice poured into plastic cups by the mate of the Marlin III.  Mine rested, half-finished in the cup holder of the port fighting chair of the forty foot vessel.  “Try not to let this one get away from you.  No one is going to reel it in for you..”

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The Pixie Purse

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Could Tinkerbell be bipolar? - Editor

The Pixie Purse

by Doug McIntire

I’d noticed it lying on the floor for days, but I ignored it. I thought it was gum wrapper, or some other piece of trash. When I finally picked it up, I realized that it wasn’t just some wadded up paper. It was a tiny little purse, about the size of my thumb, maybe a little smaller.

At first, it appeared to be an accessory for a Barbie doll, but as I looked at it, I could see that it was too well made to be a toy. I got out a magnifying glass and studied it more closely.

I could see tiny stitching and embroidery on it, as well as a zipper. I took tweezers and ever so gently, pulled on the zipper and opened the purse. Inside, I found clothes; a pair of doll-sized shorts and a halter top. There was also a pair of tiny panties. They were also too well-crafted to be doll clothes.

I couldn’t imagine how the purse ended up on my bedroom floor. I went back to examine where I’d found it.

There was a rather large gap under the bedroom door and the purse had been just inside, about eight inches from the opening. I closed the door and realized that it matched the depth a cat’s paw could reach.

My cats were always losing things they played with, like the plastic rings from milk jugs. I would find them under the couch about the same distance in. They were probably playing with the purse and pushed it under my door where they couldn’t get at it anymore.

But that still didn’t explain where it came from.
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The Grove

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Leave me ALONE! - Editor
The Grove

By Keith J. Scales

What did I notice first? That the trees described a perfect circle, and I was at the center of it? That the moon I glimpsed through branches was full, but misty and wreathed with drifting clouds? Or was it the whispering?

I sat on dry grass and looked up and out from my circle at the world beyond, gradually realizing that the sounds I had been hearing for some time - wind in tree limbs, wind over grass, wind in the air above - had other sounds within, and those sounds, when I bothered to listen carefully, had sounds within them, like many instruments playing the same tune, except that the innermost voices of all were not making music but speaking. To me.

The voices were trying to tell me something, whispering, constant, insistent, sometimes urgent, they were trying to reach me, trying to teach me, to show me something, trying to make me understand something I had known for a very long time but had forgotten. What was it?

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When You're Alone

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Sounds like my weekend - Editor

When You’re Alone

by Jonah Koenigseker

Karen was gone. She had been gone for three weeks now and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Due to the season, friends and family called to wish me happy holidays and inquire about how I was doing being that it was the first Christmas without Karen.  The calls were appreciated, but invariably the well-wisher would quickly be escorted off by whiny, over caffeinated children or a demanding wife to perform some tired annual ritual. During the lulls between calls, I began to feel an intense tinge of loneliness. Christmas had always been a time of cheerful gatherings and exciting festivities for me.  Now I was living hundreds of miles away, on the outskirts of Detroit, and while their well wishes were somewhat comforting, I was still alone.

Following an adjustment phase, I made the decision to cure the emotional and mental paralysis ailing me. The first few days of the next week I immersed myself in repetitive, tedious work, something to occupy my muscles and mind. Cleaning. Folding clothes. Going through and organizing the boxes in storage, something Karen always nagged me about doing. I missed her, even the sometimes incessant nagging.
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