Author’s note: This story is heavily based on firsthand accounts from family friends currently trapped in the Wuhan quarantine. Heavy coat. Gloves. Raincoat. Boots. Headscarf. Mask. They say the masks don’t help, but we still wear them. Comfort, perhaps. Comfort in the familiar. Comfort in fooling ourselves. “I’ll be back, Ma,” I call out. From…
What’s Hot Right Now
Lawrence pressed the “prepare meal” switch and the processor whirred into action, mashing protein cubes into the paste that would be breakfast.
He left the machine working while he checked the meteorological forecast: minus 20 max, blizzards, improving over the next 24 hours. The snow had been falling on and off for two weeks now. The airstrip was covered, and tall drifts had formed on the north side of the main building.
He returned to the kitchen, adjoining the operations room, and switched off the processor. He pressed “deliver x3” and three plates rolled out of the base of the machine and onto the stainless steel bars that served as a shelf.
“Is there anyone out there? I repeat, is there anyone out there?”
The words had become automatic and no longer held any meaning for Karl. He sprawled on his back in the middle of the darkened control room, radio receiver clutched to his mouth. He stared up at the stars through the huge window above him as he mindlessly repeated the distress message.
He had been an astronaut for many years and had long since become accustomed to the sight of the stars, but now when he had little to do but look up at them and wait for death, he was reminded how beautiful they were. Their feeble light and that of the shuttle’s emergency power was the only thing that separated him from the true darkness that the inky black sky threatened.
“I repeat, is there anyone out there? Shuttle in distress, potential loss of human life.”
Pema stared hard at the results as if the numbers might change, might realize the error of their ways and correct themselves.
She ran the analysis again, watched as nutrient levels, base saturations, and mineral ratios spread across her handheld’s screen, held her breath again. Shook her head again. Phosphorus, off target. Not by much, but by now Pema knew that’s all it took.
The pathogen had spread.
Alan Maple is old and tired.
He loves his work. Few people spend their life working for their passion, and he’s always considered himself a lucky one. He loves what he does, and he’s good at it.
And it was easy until recently. He’d evaded that old detective for years, and even enjoyed it. He was younger then, fast and slick. But time has passed, and so had the old detective. Now, his good times are quickly nearing their end, and it began with the arrival of Christian Stanford.
Thriller & Suspense
“Hey, Megan! Have you heard the story of the Pitchfork Killer?” Tate asked from the front seat.
I sighed and looked out the window as trees flashed past. He was driving too fast, and us three girls in the back seat were getting jostled together.
“Refresh my memory,” Megan said, because he so obviously wanted to tell the story. She was a good sport that way. She had lived here for nearly six months now, so she must have heard multiple versions of Pineville’s urban legend by now.
Steve turned around and smiled at her, adoration in his eyes. He used to smile at me like that.
“It was a dark and stormy night,” Tate said in a comic spooky voice and cackled. “The local loser boy had finally had enough. He was desperate hot for the Harvest Queen, and he decided that if he couldn’t have her, no one could. He took a pitchfork from his dad’s barn and set off for town.”
How many times had I told them? They didn’t believe me. My whole family thought it was a phase, a childish trait. Every time I listened to them and forgot about it, I heard it again. It was loud and clear, unmistakable. Again, the knocking that came from inside my closet was not in my head; it was not my mind playing tricks on me. This was real.
I cried out for my mother.
Alice sank down into the deep-red, velvety, cotton-wool-comfy sofa. On a small table to her side were all the necessary provisions for an evening’s TV viewing: a bottle of Pinot Noir, some nuts, some chocolate, and a large box of popcorn.
Bernard was away at a conference for the weekend; he had his work to do and his hoped-for promotion to cultivate. He was a stickler for being active and ‘doing’ stuff, so this was Alice’s chance to be self-indulgent for once.
She sighed with pleasure at the prospect of doing nothing much at all and felt the stress ease out of her body, a stress caused by their recent move and a certain tension that had built up between her and Bernard. She shook her head now as she remembered the petty source of the tension: the sofa itself.
It had happened every Midsummer’s Eve since Fira’s grandmother had been a girl.
A beautiful woman would come walking out of the forest at dusk and take a single girl from the village.
“It’s an honour to be chosen,” the elders would say, but it didn’t seem that way to Fira. For no one knew where the girls were taken, and they were only ever seen once again: the following Midsummer’s Eve when it would be them walking out of the trees to take the next girl.