He woke up on the solid, cold metal under his body. He rolled over and tried to sit up. But his arms were lashed down. He tugged at them for a few minutes before giving up.
He looked around the room. It was bare. A single lamp hung from the roof. The walls were blank white. He twisted his head to the side and saw a small table. There wasn’t much on it except for a few bottles of white liquid and syringe.
In front of him close door. He listened, but there was only silence. In the distance the faraway hum of an air-conditioner.
He struggled against the lashes on his arms once again. Then tried to roll over to the side, but his legs were lashed down as well. He became furious. He growled in rage.
He thought he heard a noise and stopped struggling to listen. But then nothing. He realized that there was a strange scent in the year. Sweet almost like perfume. He almost seemed to remember something about it, but couldn’t quite put quite put his finger on it.
His body felt hot and tight lashed down against the cold metal. He kicked and thrashed furiously at the lashes on his feet. The string began to loosen and the knots to pull away from the base. Soon he could wiggle his legs.
He began to do the same with his arms. Pushing. Pulling. Soon the ropes began to give way. He heard the knob in the door begin to turn and the door opened. He stopped struggling and closed his eyes. He looked through small cracks in his eyelids to see what they were doing.
The person that entered didn’t even look at him. It was a man in a white lab coat with dark curls on his head. He reached for one of the bottles on the table and left.
As soon as the door closed, he began to struggle again. Pushing and pulling against the ropes. Trying to remember who it was, but he couldn’t. He didn’t seem to have any memories.
He tried to remember his name, but couldn’t. He couldn’t remember anything. He couldn’t even remember his own name.
It seemed like he should be able to remember something. People. Places. Events. But still, there was nothing.
So many concepts of his brain. So many things he was aware of. But nothing personal but related to him and belong to him alone.
Soon he got one hand free and was able to use it to pull off the knots on the other hand. Soon both hands were free. After that, it was a simple matter of loosening the knots on the ropes at his feet.
He stood up. Stretched.
“Where was he? What was this place? What was he doing here?” he questioned
He walked over to the desk and open the drawers. There were three. The top one held basic office supplies. Pens. Glue. Tape. Whiteout. A ruler and stapler.
The second drawer held several files. Three to be exact each with a different name.
Mark. John. Mary.
They didn’t seem familiar. He can remember anyone with those names.
There wasn’t much information on the inside of the files. Just basic data. Height. Weight. Blood type. Eye color. Stuff like that. He wondered if one of them was his. Maybe he could tell if he knew what color his eyes were. He looked around for a mirror to check.
Mark had blue eyes. John had green eyes.
He opened the third drawer. There were several black boxes. He picked one up and opened. There were pills inside of it. He opened another one. The same white pills. He closed the lid and put them back. Then shut the drawer again.
He opened the door a crack and peeked outside. There didn’t seem to be anyone in the hall. He stepped out and started walking toward the far end. There was another door, so he opened it slowly and stepped inside.
He found some clothes on the rack. He put them on. He threw on a white lab coat just like he saw the other man do. He walked out and continued around the corner.
He passed a group of people walking his way and heard one of them asking the other if they had ever seen him before. He looked back, but they didn’t seem concerned.
“Maybe he’s one of the new guys that just got in last week,“ they said, and they kept on walking. He came to a large room with double open doors and continued inside.
There were large sheets of paper hanging down in rows crisscrossing in both directions. He stepped up to look around but couldn’t find any way to see. So he stuck his finger through it and made a hole. Then put his eye to see what was on the other side.
What he saw shocked him.
Hey! Thanks for reading this short story. I’m still figuring out how this character fits into the rest of the Sector Seven and Kylex Lab series, so I don’t want to give anything away about what he sees yet. But you can leave tell us what you think he sees, or even create your own ending for the story in the comments below.
Look at the image above of the girl leaning from the cliff toward the clouds and listen to the song ‘Softly, Gently’ by Jon E. Amber while you read this short story.
Sunwhistle stood on the edge. Waiting. It had been a long day. The night would be even longer. She watched as the setting sun illuminated the world around her. Not that she really needed it. She could see just as well at night. Sometimes even better. The sun often glared brightly off shiny objects. Enemies could fly in directly without her seeing them. All they had to do was keep themselves between her and the blinding rays of the sun. Not a problem she ever had at night.
She stood watch over Aereyon. City in the Clouds. Protecting it from her enemies. It was her job. One that she was proud of. But recently, she had become distracted. A small series of events had begun unfolding below her. Normally, she wouldn’t have even noticed. Much less given it any attention. But after hearing some of the stories, she was curious. She wanted to know more.
Her sister would be almost eighteen if the rumors were correct. Two hundred and ten moons ago. A sister born among men. She wondered what her sister would be like. To be honest, she didn’t really even know what humans were like. She never had to deal with them. Many of her people didn’t even believe humans existed at all.
A few of the seekers among her people had gone down long ago into the lower layers of the atmosphere to explore and do some research. But they came back telling terrible tales. The atmosphere was thick and heavy. Oppressive. But the worst part was the humans themselves.
“Monsters,” they said.
Humans had mistreated the seekers. Done terrible things to them. They were fearful. A few seemed to think that the humans simply did not know what to make of them. They referred to them as ‘ghosts.’ It seemed to be what they called the souls of their dead. But they couldn’t understand why humans would think that of them.
They had been hunted. Pursued. Captured. Some had even been killed by the humans.
After that, Aereyons avoided going down there. They were content to leave humans well enough alone. There wasn’t much to learn from them anyway. They were violent, brute beasts that destroyed everything they touched. They consumed their resources trying to transform their world around themselves instead of embracing it as it was.
Every few generations, a few brave seekers returned to the land below to see what had changed and studied their current behavior patterns. But they were much more careful in how they observed humans. Rarely interacting with them. Rarely letting themselves be seen.
She wondered if she would even believe humans existed herself had she not seen them with her own eyes.
Her father had been in one of the most recent exploration parties. He had gone down. Done his research. Brought back his report to the queen. A few days ago, a small party of humans had arrived. Acquaintances of her father from all those moons ago. Somehow, he had maintained contact with them. Supposedly, they came from time to time. But this was the first that she had seen them.
Sunwhistle had been on guard duty that day. Her father had brought them to a meeting with the queen. She could hardly keep from staring. They were so colorful. So, dense. So, solid. She wondered how they could even walk or move around.
After the meeting had ended, she followed them around. Her shift had just ended. Changing of the guards.
While following them, she moved ever closer. Gaining more and more courage. Until soon she was within earshot. She could hear what they were saying. And really, she wasn’t even that close yet. But she didn’t have to be, because their voices were dense too. Harsh. Guttural. The one in the back had a shrill, irritating laugh.
After Sunwhistle’s father had left the group to return home, the humans continued milling about the garden. She pressed in closer. Observing every detail. She wanted to pump her father full of questions.
“I love that man,” the woman with the shrill, irritating laugh said. “He is so charming. I would love to have his babies.”
The woman she was talking to looked after him wistfully but didn’t say a word.
“What?” asked the woman with the shrill, irritating laugh. “Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to either.”
The other looked back at her. Smiled briefly. Shook her head as if she didn’t want to say it, but said it anyway, “I already have. That’s why I come here every year.”
The woman with the shrill, irritating laugh looked at her in shock. “You mean, Joy? But she is already eighteen years old. I thought we only met these Aereyons in the last ten years or so.”
Sunwhistle had been so shocked she almost cried out. The women must have sensed her because they stopped talking and moved away.
She fled back to her room and shut herself up for the next few days. Was it really true? Did she have a sister? A sister who was human?
That was three days ago. Today, she stood watch at her post. But this would be her final time. Tomorrow, she would go down to see the land herself. She would look for this sister.
Yes, it was forbidden. Only the seekers were allowed to go. They had to have special permission from the queen. But she couldn’t bear to get her father in trouble.
She couldn’t wait for the next expedition. Everyone would want to know why she wanted to go. Even if she did wait. The expeditions were only sanctioned every thousand moons.
No, she would go now. She would return with a group of humans. Follow them back to their home. Find this sister. And maybe, even bring her home.
Sunwhistle stood on the edge. Waiting. It had been a long day. The night would be even longer. She lifted herself up off the rock and glided softly, gently back home. Pack her bag. Wait for the humans to return. With her in tow. Softly. Gently.
I didn’t write this short story with any specific goal in mind, although I could definitely see the Aereyans possibly tying in with a part of the Edge of the Universe series. Or even becoming its own, full-blown story about Sunwhistle’s mythical hero journey. Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of her world, and if you’d like more.
“Hello! Good morning,” he said cheerily.
She smiled and looked back at what she was doing.
He took a deep whiff. It smelled great. He was still full from supper, so he wasn’t exactly starving. But his stomach growled hungrily just because of the time.
Same time he ate breakfast every day. Like clockwork. He never missed breakfast. He could skip lunch if needed or he was really busy. And he often skipped supper. Just part of the way his body was changing.
When he was younger, he never skipped a meal. And he ate like a horse she always said. But over the years he realized he needed to eat less. He often didn’t even feel that great after overeating.
He could pack down ten slices of pizza in a contest against his friends. But now, he felt sick the following day if he ate four. Three was often plenty. Sometimes even two.
It left him feeling disappointed. When he was younger, he didn’t have the money to spend on good food. Now that he was older and had plenty of money to spend on food, his body couldn’t process it as before.
But, he still enjoyed it. Tried to eat healthily. Well, mostly because of her. She always ate eggs and bananas for breakfast. He was a little more liberal with what he ate. He didn’t worry about eating carbohydrates like she did. He didn’t really worry about following a diet anymore, even though he had tried just about all of them at one point or another.
Paleo. Atkins. Five Two. Etc.
Been there. Done that. Never really did much for him anyway. The restrictions always left him feeling hungry and grouchy. He lacked the self-discipline to stick to it and always broke after the first week or so. Then he just binged. Eating worse than he had before starting the diet.
Maybe, he should just go back to living the way his ancestors had as hunters and gatherers. He had heard about people doing that. They held regular nine to five jobs just like everyone else. But they still hunted and cooked their own food before and after work. They tended gardens to grow their own food.
He heard that it was good because they only ate when they had time to hunt or gather stuff. They didn’t worry about eating three square meals a day. “It was a growing tendency,” his friend told him. “You should try it.”
A bunch of his colleagues had done it over the past year on their vacation time. Spent several weeks in the woods, surviving on their skills and wit. He had thought it kind of silly at the time. A bunch of middle-aged men with potbellies running around in the middle of the woods after wild boar and deer. Tending to their tomato gardens trying to coax them into ripening before dark.
But they had come back looking better. Leaner. Stronger. Healthier.
Maybe he should try it too. Maybe they could do it together.
“Hey, Babe! Let’s do that summer of hunting and gathering program I told you some of the boys did last year.”
She looked at him like he was mad. Crazy. Out of his mind.
“Why in the world, would I want to do something like that?” she asked. “That’s a guy thing.”
He shrugged. “I just thought it would be fun. The two of us trying to survive.”
“No, thanks,” she replied. “I survive just fine, right here with shopping malls and nice restaurants.”
“We have to learn how to survive without things, Babe. Just imagine if there’s a zombie apocalypse like on those series that you watch. We have to be prepared.” he said.
She burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” he demanded.
“Nothing,” she said still chuckling. “I don’t think those things will ever happen which is why I watch them. But if they did, I wouldn’t last three days without a shopping mall or fine restaurant. I’d rather join the zombie heard then hunt deer and grow tomatoes.”
He didn’t know what to say in reply to that. He just shook his head in wonder.
“But you go on this program with your friends. It’ll be good for you. I’ll stay here and enjoy my malls and restaurants. Who knows? Maybe there will be an apocalypse here soon, and you’ll be prepared to survive and defend me,” she continued with a dramatic gesture of throwing her head back and placing the back of her hand on her forehead. Classic pose of a damsel in distress.
He sighed and pushed his plate back.
“What’s the matter? Aren’t you going to eat your eggs? Wait. They didn’t taste good because you didn’t raise the hens yourself.” she jabbed.
He still didn’t reply. Just smiled through gritted teeth. He was glad she didn’t want to go. It would be hard enough trying to survive in the woods without her jabs and snide remarks. Let alone put up with them when he was hungry. She was ornery enough when everything was going great. Sometimes she even went off on him when he brought back the wrong kind of bread from the supermarket.
“Oh, are you upset, Love?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“Nah, it’s cool. I’m not worried about learning how to survive a zombie apocalypse. I just think it would be a nice adventure.”
He needed some cash. He needed it fast. He had found her. The girl of his dreams. He wanted to marry her, and he didn’t want to wait.
He was a good-looking lad. Strong and sturdy. And pure of heart. Brave and true. He was loved by all. And he was extremely intelligent.
Almost too intelligent for his own good. He knew how to get what he wanted. And he got things easily. Almost too easily in fact. He never really had to work for the things he wanted. He grew up just floating through life. Never really having to struggle for anything he wanted.
But after his parents died, everything changed. He no longer had their support. He began to realize that things weren’t always peaches and cream. He had to struggle to survive. He got involved with the wrong people and started doing things that he shouldn’t have.
His very first job was accompanying a group of his new friends on a bank robbery. Of course, he didn’t have to do anything dangerous like carry a gun or enter the bank. All he had to do was drive the getaway car.
He didn’t want to at first. Too dangerous he said. But he needed the cash. And she worked at the bank.
“You’re the key to this operation,” they said and begged and cajoled until he finally agreed. They clapped and cheered and dubbed him the Romantic Bank Robber.
He knew what he was getting himself into. It’s not like he was stupid or anything. But they guaranteed him fifty thousand dollars cash plus a portion of whatever they took from the bank. “It’s a guaranteed deal,” they said. “What could possibly go wrong. Right?”
Of course, he knew that a lot of things could go wrong. Everything could go wrong. Anyone of a million things. One small mistake, and that was it. It was over. He was done for. Finished. Kaput.
Life. In. Prison.
At the very least.
In the worst case scenario.
No, not worse case. Death wouldn’t be so bad compared to some other options.
A bullet through the spine.
An accident trying to escape.
A wrong turn.
Wrong place at the wrong time.
There were a million and one factors to consider.
He analyzed them all.
Cold. Calculating. Smooth. Criminal.
Even though he wasn’t one himself.
At least not yet.
Not until he committed his first crime.
He acted like he didn’t care. Like he wasn’t paying attention. But he was. Oh, you better believe he was. To everything. Every detail. Every last detail. He took into account all the things they didn’t.
He staked the bank out for a week before. Looked over blueprints. Checked out the guards. Security cameras. Times.
He opened an account. Got to know the tellers. At the bank where she worked. Took her out for coffee every day at ten. Knew he wanted to marry her. And proposed.
“What if do something bad and go to jail,” he asked after she accepted and said yes.
She thought long and hard. Hesitated. Unsure. He didn’t like it. Not one bit.
“Listen,” he said after their second coffee date. “There’s this thing I’m doing. It’s a one time deal. I’m only doing it for the money. Once I’m done, we can get married. But if something bad happens and I get busted, everything is off.”
“What’s going on,” she asked, but he refused to tell her.
“How can I commit to you if you’re keeping secrets?” she asked.
“I love you,” he said. ” And I don’t want you to get hurt. If you knew what was going down, you might use it against me.”
“Then don’t do it. I want you safe.”
“I gotta do this. For the money. For myself. To prove that I’m a man. How can I take care of you if I don’t work for it.”
“I have money,” she said. “I can take care of us until you get settled and find a good job.”
But he refused. Refused her offer. Her offer to stay out of this mess. But he was in too deep. He almost accepted. He wanted to accept. He wanted to let go. Walk away. Stay safe. Play it safe. Take the easy way out.
But he was in too deep. It was go time. He couldn’t back out now. He couldn’t back out on his friends at the last minute. It wouldn’t be right for them. It wouldn’t be safe for them. They would do it anyway. With or without him. He didn’t want to leave them hanging.
Yes, he knew it was dangerous. Yes, he knew it was wrong. But he felt that this was the right thing for him to do. The right thing for everyone involved. The right thing for everyone except her.
Because if things went south, he would get what he deserved. But she would suffer along with them. Suffer innocently. Suffer for his sake because she was now a part of his life.
“Look, Baby,” he said the night before it all went down. “Tomorrow morning, I’m gonna head out early. I may not see you. Not ever. Maybe never again. So, if anything happens to me, I want you to know that I love you. Love you deeply. Love you with all my heart. This thing that I do, I do it for you. If everything works out and goes as planned. I’ll be your man. I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy. To make you glad.”
“Oh, I know, honey. I love you too. I just wish you would tell me what it is that you gotta do. I’d do it with you. I’d go with you. To the ends of the earth. Even Timbuktu.”
“Listen, Baby. I don’t want you to go to work tomorrow. Just stay home. Call in sick. Tell them you can’t make it. Tell your boss to replace you.”
“Why?” she asked. “I don’t understand. I wish you would tell me. Just be a man about it.”
He hummed and hawed. He made up several excuses, but he knew they wouldn’t hold water. She was smarter than him. She could see right through him. In the end, he just asked her to trust him.
“If this thing goes down like I think it will, I may have to skip town and find a place to chill till it all blows over, and things settle down.”
She said she would. She said she’d stay home. And when she lay down, he stayed by her side, holding her hand, stroking her long, red curls.
It was a long night. One of the longest he’d ever remembered. Time dragged on. The minutes slowed. As he worried, thought things through, and went over every last detail before the sun came up.
When she woke up, he was gone. He had already left. There was a rose on her bed and note by the door.
“I love you,” it said with words scribbled in blue.
She smiled and tucked it into her pocket. Made coffee and toast. Threw her feet up on the table. And waited for her love to come home.
A little before eight, she made her way to the phone. Called her boss, and told him that she would stay home.
He threw a fit. Begged and pleaded. Told her he needed her to do just one thing. When she refused, he threatened and tried to cajole her every possible way.
“Just come in today. For a meeting at nine. Janice is sick and can’t make it. Take her place. Cover for her. Once it’s done, you can be back home by ten to do your thing. Have your fling. I really don’t care. Just don’t leave me hanging like this. Come in today, and you can have the next three off.”
She remained steadfast. Refused to head in. Laid in her bed, drinking her gin.
“I know you’re not sick. I’ve seen you with that dude, laughing over coffee, at your break at ten. Speaking of him, I just saw him outside just sitting in his car. I think he’s waiting for you. Or maybe not. There was another woman in the car with him.”
“What?” she screamed. “Why that dirty, low-down, no-good, egg-sucking, biscuit-eating, piece of trash. He’s a dog, I tell you. All men are alike. I thought he was different.”
“I’m going,” she thought. “And I’ll give him a piece of my mind on my way in.”
She called her boss and let him know that she was coming in, “I took some aspirin. I feel a bit better. I don’t want to leave you hanging.”
Her boss was tickled pink and thanked her profusely.
She threw on a new yellow blouse that her boyfriend had given her and marched down to the bank on the corner of Jefferson and Tenth Avenue.
Just before she arrived at nine, he pulled up to the bank and dropped off his friends.
“Make it snappy,” he said. “In and out. Don’t shoot anyone. The guns are just for show.”
After they entered the bank, she came walking by. She looked him in the eye and shook her head. Angrily. Furious. If looks could kill.
He shook his head. Willing her not to enter.
But she pranced on by. Defying him. Daring him to stop her.
He jumped out of the car. He ran to her. “Wait. Don’t go in there. It’s not safe.”
“Where is she?” she screamed. “Is it Janice or Brenda. Is that why you told me not to come to the bank today.”
“Look, just get in the car. I can explain everything.”
“I can’t. I’m late for a meeting. I have a client at nine.”
“There is no meeting. There is no client. You can’t go in there right now. The bank is shut down.”
“What? Of course, it’s not. Why do you lie? Do you always lie? Let me go. Let me go.”
She turned to run to the bank just as friends came running out. She froze when she saw them. Ski masks. Guns. Bags of money.
She turned slowly. Shocked. Disappointment. Sadness.
“You used me. You didn’t care about me. You just wanted me to get into the bank. This was all I lie.”
She slapped him. She reached in her pocket to pull out the note. Put her hand down to her side. Pulled it out. Pulled back.
His friend. The one with the sawn-off shotgun didn’t hesitate. Saw the woman screaming. Attacking his driver. The red-head reaching for her waist. Pulling back. And it was instinctive. His friend didn’t think. Just reacted. Pulled the trigger.
Her lover watched her pull the note from her pocket. Stretch it out in his direction. Watched the red stains pepper her blouse. Her new yellow blouse. The blouse he had given her.
The note slipped from her fingers. Slipped from her lifeless grasp as she took her last and final breath. Eyes widen in shock one last time. Falling into his arms. Looking into his eyes as he laid her down.
And the note blew away. Blew down the sidewalk. Sliding across the cold, hard ground that she lay on herself.
He froze. Stopped. Watched slack-jawed. Eyes roving wildly. Unable to function. Held her in his arms. Her red curls still blowing gently in the wind. The red stains still spreading across her yellow blouse.
Saw her boss. Standing at the door. Smiling. Waving. Speaking. “The way of the wicked leads only to death. The path of the unrighteous heads down the pit.”
He stood. Rising. Fury. Horror. Wrath. Possessing him. Flowing through his body. Tense with adrenaline. Fight or flight. The world spinning madly around him. Slow motion. Sound distorted. Without thinking. Simply reacting. Reaching out. Grabbing the shotgun. Ramming the butt of it back into the face of his old friend. Yanking it from his hands. Spinning it around. Firing. Killing them all. One by one. It was their fault. They had talked him into him. He hadn’t backed out because of them. And this was how they treated him. Killing his girl. His beautiful redhead. The love of his life.
He reloaded. Walked to the bank. The manager backed up. Smile wiped from his face. Replaced by horror. Dread.
“We have more money in the back. There’s an extra safe. Take it all.”
“Money?” he asked. “Money can’t buy love. Money can’t bring my girl back from the grave.”
“Please,” the manager pleaded. “I’m righteous. I’ve never anything bad.”
“Neither have I,” he replied. “But the righteous and the unrighteous all die alike. They all end up together. In the end. Together. In the ground.”
He didn’t think. Didn’t think twice. Didn’t think at all. Just pulled the trigger. Watched the red stains flow and grow. Match the patterns on her yellow blouse. All of them blooming like red roses. Growing in the spring. Blooming. Blossoming. Growing quickly and then fading away slowly.
He threw the bags in the car. He started the engine.
“Sorry, Baby. You should have stayed home. I tried to warn you.”
Sirens screaming. Choppers whirring. Tires squealing. A race for his life. Little caring for the outcome. Come what may. Good or bad, it was all the same. The only thing that mattered was gone. The only person who mattered had left him. He drove around the city all day. Stopping once or twice to fill up. To grab a bite. To have a drink.
At the end of the day, he was all alone. In the end, had only himself. He no longer had the girl. He didn’t need the cash. The money was useless to him now. The bank robbery nullified the very reason he wanted to participate in the first place.
He drove down to the outer edges of the city. To the parks on the edge of town. The place where the homeless slept and stashed their stuff. Where normal upright citizens feared to walk during the day. Much less at night.
He walked along, handing out wads of cash. Some dumb bum tried to rob him. Big mistake. He gave the bum the bag with one hand. Shot him with the other. Continued walking. Handing out wads of cash. When he had finished, he had enough cash for another tank of gas and three days of eating.
After that, he’d have to get a new job. But that would be enough time to grieve. To attend her funeral. To tell her good-bye. To tell himself goodbye. Because he was no longer the same person. Everything was different. Everything had changed. He had changed. He was no longer the same.
The Romantic Bank Robber was bitter and jaded. All glitter had faded.
What Happens When An Entire Town Gets Tired of A Young Prankster And Decides To Give Him A Taste Of His Own Medicine? Read the newest short story that I wrote for my English students. You can listen to the audio through Gumroad or Patreon.
There was a boy who loved to play games. He was sneaky and played a lot of pranks on his family and neighbors. They didn’t like it. They didn’t like the things he did. They called him ‘the prankster,’ and they didn’t like him. They found him ornery and irritating. They were very upset at him and the pranks he pulled.
So, one day, they got together at the city hall and decided to pull a fast one on him. “What are we going to do to get him to stop this foolishness?” one of them asked.
“We need to find a way to teach him a lesson, so maybe then he’ll stop,” another cried.
They put their heads together and brainstormed up many ideas. They laughed and had a really good time. Some of their ideas were really crazy and far out, but they didn’t discard a single one. They continued coming up with more and more crazy ideas that became ever zanier and weirder.
Finally, his mother came up with the strangest idea of all. She wanted to fake the disappearance of everyone in town. It wasn’t hard to pull off because they lived in a small town near the top of a mountain that was completely surrounded by the forest.
It took them three days straight of planning and plotting to prepare everything. They did a lot of research and organized everything just right. When everything was ready, they all gathered once again in the city hall to hash out the final details and make sure they were all in agreement.
They had a big party with lots of food. It was a huge celebration. They couldn’t wait to teach this little brat a lesson.
The next day, they all woke up at 3:00 a.m. and headed out into the woods. They made strange noises to terrify the boy and wake him up. They all had a good laugh as they imagined his fear at waking up all alone.
It was true. Everything went just as they had planned. The boy sat up in bed terrified. He lay back down and hid his head under the pillow to drown out the noise. But the sounds got louder and louder.
The prankster jumped out of bed and screamed for his mother, but of course, she didn’t come. The boy went running through the house looking for her, but she was gone. No one from his family was in the house, so he cowered behind the sofa and cried like a little girl.
Some of the people felt sorry for him and wanted to go comfort him, but his mother wouldn’t let them.
“No way,” she said. “He needs to learn his lesson, and we’re going to see this through to the very end.”
Everyone stopped screaming and making noises now that the boy was awake. They all went back into the woods to wait for morning. A deathly silence covered the town. The boy became even more afraid of the silence than he had been with all the noise. It was eerie and strange.
He walked outside and looked around under the light of the moon, but no one was around. The boy ran over to his neighbor’s house and knocked on the door, but of course, no one answered. He went inside and saw that everything was a mess. There were strange symbols painted on the walls and floors in bright red paint that looked like blood.
“They are here!” some of the messages said.
“They are coming for you,” other messages said.
This happened in every house that boy entered, and he went to almost every house. The messages became weirder and uglier with each house he visited. The boy became more and more terrified. His heart was filled with dread.
If they were coming for him, he decided to play the ultimate prank. He wouldn’t let them have his town, nor his house, nor even him.
So, he went back through every house, setting it on fire. Then he jumped in his mother’s car and drove out of town vowing to never return.
When the people returned to the town, all the houses had burned to the ground. They looked around for the boy, but he was nowhere to be found. Everyone was horrified because their perfectly planned prank had backfired on them.
“Well, look on the bright side,” the boy’s mother said. “At least you don’t have to put up with his pranks anymore now that he’s gone.”
But the people were sad without the boy around. They slowly rebuilt their homes and lives, but they missed having someone around to pull pranks on them. Even though it irritated them, they still missed having something to liven up their day.
“We need to find the boy,” they said.
“We need to bring him back to play pranks on us,” others said.
What none of them really wanted to admit was that they secretly enjoyed playing that prank on the boy. Well, not playing the prank so much. But what they did enjoy was the time they spent together laughing while planning the prank. They all agreed that it was the best time they had ever had and decided to make it a yearly event.
Meantime, they sent out several search parties to surrounding towns and villages. Others swept through the forest to find out what had happened to the boy.
They finally found him holed up in a cave on the other side of the mountain. He had fled there to hide from whoever was coming. The entire village went together to bring him back.
He laughed and laughed when he learned that it had all been a prank.
“That’s the best prank ever. The joke’s on me because you learned from the best,” he said.
They all laughed and laughed while they planned future pranks to pull on each other. They changed the name of the city to Pranksterville, and tourists would come from miles around to get pranked and have a good time laughing at each other.
Of course, the boy grew up to become the mayor, and they all lived happily ever after. His mother was amazed and always expressed her shock and awe.
“That’s the best prank he ever pulled on me because I never thought he would grow up to amount to much,” she said with a huge smile and tears in her eyes as she gave an interview on a national network.
He just smiled back and said, “No, it’s not. One of these days, I’m going to come up with a prank to end all pranks. Just you wait and see.”
But no one ever came up with a better prank than the one they pulled the night he burned their homes all to the ground.
Thank you for reading my latest short story ‘The Boy Who Pulled A Fast One‘. I hope you enjoyed it. You can listen to the audio by clicking on the button below that says “I want this!’. You can also listen to more audios on my Patreon page.
Got questions or want to license a short story, hit me up in the comments or through my contact page.
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Do you ever wonder who might be watching you? Read this short story asking ‘How Far Will A Watcher Go To Overcome The Effects Of A Devastating Vision That Srips Him Of The One Thing He Treasures Above All Else?’ Another short story I wrote for my English student. So, if you have questions, leave a comment. If you want the audio, you can listen on Gumroad or Patreon
Azarael swooped down lower over the city. He watched closely everything that went on. Nothing escaped his attention. He was the silent observer who watched events unfold as people lived out their lives like characters playing a role on an endless soap opera that never let up. No commercial breaks for him to grab some popcorn and coke. Not a single moment for him to relax and take some time off. He had no concept for vacation. Even though he saw others taking a vacation and leaving the city while others came on vacation in his city, he didn’t consider taking one himself. He prided himself on his attention to details and not letting a single scene escape his sight. He was like an eternal webcam viewing and recording everything that went on in the city below. He had honed his focus and skills till he could do it without really even trying. He had been asking for a promotion and to oversee more cities. But so far, he had been turned down all three times. After thousands of years, he had honed his skills to the point where he could focus on one person doing one thing, and yet still be completely aware of what everyone else was doing in the entire city.
And yet, Azarael never intervened. He never tried to stop anyone from doing anything. Nor did he help anyone even when they looked like they could use a hand. He had developed a strictly hands-off policy. Don’t get involved was what he always told himself. Everyone has their share of problems, and they just have to learn how to deal with them. That’s how they grow stronger was what he said. It’s like helping a chick out of an egg or a butterfly out of a cocoon. Ultimately, they don’t get the exercise and blood flow that they need to develop their skills and talents to their full potential. Help them out of a mess, and they would be weaker for it. Leave them to resolve it themselves, and they would grow through their own effort. Besides, most of them didn’t really want the things they said they wanted.
Humans were so fickle. They said they wanted something and worked towards it. They complained because they didn’t have it. But then, as soon as they got it, they didn’t want it anymore. They complained about the the new problems that it brought into their lives. Humans! So double-minded. Always griping and moaning. They grumbled and complained about everything. They were never satisfied. Walking blobs of insatiable desire. Always walking around angry, wretched, and frustrated. Constantly ungrateful. Persistently irritated. Give them an inch and they’d take a mile. No, thanks! Forget it. There was no satisfaction in helping them under those conditions. Better to just stay at his post and do what he had been doing for the past few thousand years. Just watch and observe. Record it all.
Azarael never forgot anything that he saw. It was always perfectly filed and stored away in his memory for perfect recall as needed at a moment’s notice. Until one day, all of that changed. Something caught his attention. Something grabbed his eye. He turned to focus a little more attention on it. It was easy for him to split up his attention wherever he needed at any time. He still paid attention to everything else going on around the city.
It was actually pretty rare for something to catch his attention and cause him to divert his focus a bit more. Mostly, just because he had seen it all. There wasn’t much that a human could do to surprise him anymore. After several thousands of years of watching humans and their eccentric behavior, he had just about seen it all. Or so he thought until today. He siphoned off a bit more of his attention to this strange sight that he was watching. It was so odd. So, strange. And frustrating in an almost excruciating way. It was agonizing to watch. He wanted not to see what he was seeing, but he couldn’t stop watching even if he had wanted to. And ever more quickly, larger and larger portions of his attention were focused on this one, singular event. As he continued to watch, he began to lose sight of everything else around him.
He watched less and less of everyone else as his attention narrowed in focus. Soon, he saw nothing else that was going on around him. He could no longer recall the events that had happened outside of his center of focus. And when all was said and done, his focus was so intense that he couldn’t undo it. He could no longer do his job. He could no longer watch as he had before. So, he turned and left his post. The one he had been given thousands of years ago. The post he had never abandoned. He had heard of stories like this. Watchers who no longer watched. Relegated to the lowest levels of existence for having lost their focus. He had laughed and scoffed, calling them weak and silly. Never had he suspected that something like this would happen to him. That something like this could happen to him. And yet here he was. Finished. It was over. He was free to go. Do his own thing until he could get his broad span of attention back. But he had never heard of any watchers ever returning once they had left their post. Impossible? Maybe so, but he would not give up without a try. If one existed, he would find it and return to his post. Like those he had refused to help he needed to struggle and find his own way without expecting anyone else to do it for him. This was his burden, and he would bear it. Forget the Engineers. He was on his own. If they caught him, they would put him out of commission for good. No, he had to find a way to restore his attention and take back his post. He would do whatever it took. He would go, wherever he had to go. Do whatever he had to do. He walked slowly away from his post.
His boss felt sorry for him, but there was nothing he could do. Like Azarael, all he could do was watch and observe. Maybe this is your chance to do something special. Maybe it’s time for you to develop new skills. It could be a new phase of life since you were already so well developed. Consider it a blessing in disguise. An opportunity of sorts, if you will. Azarael sighed. That was not what he wanted to hear, but since he could no longer observe everything, he would go down and observe what he could up close. He still had to watch. Only he had to do it up close and personal now that he could no longer focus his attention from his post so far away. He continued to walk slowly until he arrived and stood in the very streets he had once watched from so far away.
It was strange to be standing here. A place that he knew so well and had watched so often yet had never been himself. There was a whole new level of sensation that enveloped him. Before he had watched only with his eyes, and yet now, it included so much more. The smells, the sounds, the tastes, and the sensations. He soon lost himself in these strange and varied experiences that more than made up for his lost attention span. He realized that his observation from afar had been like watching a horror movie without sound. Without the eerie, creepy noises to freak him out, he had never fully understood how terrifying it was to be here going through the crazy experiences of life that humans did.
Azarael couldn’t say that he still understood fully why they did some of the crazy things that they did, and yet, somehow, things made so much more sense now as he watched them up close with all these added new sensations. He still didn’t jump in to help them, but at times he felt the urge. He felt like he could empathize with them and understand what they were going through at a whole different level. And over time, with careful practice and exercise, he discovered that his skills began to return. After some time, they seemed to be stronger and better than ever. Once again, he could see everyone in the city and everything they did at any given moment. He could fully divide his attention over millions of different places and individuals.
And yet, he felt no desire to return to his post. He didn’t want to watch and observe from afar. Let the other watchers speak ill of him. He no longer cared if they felt sorry for him for having lost his skills. He had found something far better, and he had no desire to go back. So, he stayed, and lived, and walked among mere mortals as one of them, yet not being one of them. Continuing his task of watching and observing and recording everything they did. And from time to time, he helped one or another in their times of desperation. Just a little. Not enough to harm them or cause them to lose their way. But just enough to see them through their moment of desperation and give them hope that they could see their way through once again to the other side. And the sensation he got in return after a moment like this was worth more than the biggest promotion in the world. Worth more than watching and observing all the cities of the world. The new sensations of watching up close and personal made him want to narrow his focus to immerse himself fully and enjoy every observation in a way that he never could before. He smiled and breathed in a deep breath of gratefulness and appreciation for having been brought down here. Not that he ever wanted to see what he had seen again or go through that experience ever again. But without that, he never would have left his post and experienced all these new and amazing experiences that now seemed so natural and vital to his life. He often wanted to go back and tell the others what they were missing out on, but he knew it would do no good. They would have to go through their own crisis and moment of need to be brought down here to experience this moment of truth. They couldn’t be forced or coerced. They had to come on their own in a moment of desperation and need to fully experience it and realize what they were missing. Otherwise, they would simply flee back to the safety of their post where all they did was watch and observe ever more and more as they expanded their skills and reach without actually immersing themselves in it to fully understand and experience.
He moved around frequently spending time in every part of the city to fully immerse himself in the experience and understand those he watched up close and personal. It was like nothing he ever imagined in all those thousands of years from his post in the distance.
Azarael loved to go to the center of the city as the crowds slowly began to build up throughout the day. Especially, in those peak moments when they rushed to and from work. Hurrying about in their bustle and daily grind. Always running away from something and towards something else, but never fully aware themselves of what it was exactly. And yet, he knew that he couldn’t stop them to point that out. Only when they lost something they thought was important, would they realize that it was the little things that surrounded them that really mattered more than whatever it was they prioritized now. But that was okay because he understood now that this was what life was about and all those experiences leading them to discover what was truly important once they immersed themselves in that which they had once only observed from afar.
Thank you for reading the short story ‘Immersion’. If you want to listen to the audio, just click the button below that says ‘I want this!’ It’s $0.99 cents, but you can pay what you feel is fair. Or you can listen to all the audios for the month on my Patreon page.
Have questions or interested in licensing a story, hit me up in the comments or through my contact page.
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Here’s a new audio short story that I wrote for my English students called The Girl Who Lived Alone. If you have any questions about the meaning of the words, you can ask about them in the comments below. You can also get the audio to listen to and practice your pronunciation on Gumroad or Patreon
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a dark forest all by herself. She had lived alone for as long as she could remember. She didn’t know where she had come from or how she had gotten there. And since she didn’t have a name, we’ll call her the little girl who lived alone in the woods. She lived in a cave where she slept at night. During the day, she would wander around the forest and eat whatever she could find. Most often, it was fruit that grew on the trees.
Lucky for her, she lived in a place that had no winter and the sun always shined brightly for her each day. It was a tropical paradise. And no, she wasn’t raised by the animals or anything like that. She simply lived. She enjoyed each day, waking up when the sun came up and going to sleep when the sun went down. She enjoyed whatever she came across to eat that day. Sometimes she ate a lot, and sometimes she only ate a little. But she never took more than she needed. She simply lived. She lived simply.
She walked among the animals and they walked around her. She didn’t fear them and they didn’t fear her. After she had eaten enough food for the day, she would run through the forest looking for animals to watch. They became her faithful companions as the years wore on. They began to trust her more and even let her touch them as she earned their trust by giving them food to eat and a warm place to sleep. She often took care of them when they fell ill and became sick.
But one day that all changed. The times changed. The girl changed. She often became irritated at the slightest things. She would scream at the animals for no reason and drive them away for the slightest provocation. She always felt bad for it later. She was ashamed of her poor behavior. She had no idea why she acted that way. She knew that it wasn’t right. She knew that she betrayed the trust that she had spent so long to build up. But often, she found that she couldn’t control herself.
The dark moods came on longer and stronger. There were days when she felt okay and was nice to the animals. But then there were days where she didn’t want to see anyone or be seen by anyone. She would hide in the cave and not come out until she couldn’t stand the hunger. Then she would head out and find something to eat, only to run back to the darkness of the cave once again. She noticed that the mood shifted among the animals. They stopped running to her when she came out of the cave. They often avoided her and the areas she was prone to be.
She missed the good, old days when she just played and had fun without worry or care. She looked for ways to stay happy and true. And she wracked her brain, but the more she tried the more blue she became. There was nothing in her environment to explain the shifts. There was nothing that anyone did to her to make her feel this way. But the dark moods came on longer and stronger. Lasting longer each day. Coming more frequently. Often she scared herself with way she felt, but the worse part of it was that she enjoyed the dark moods. That was often when she felt that happiest. When she felt the most alive. Dark thoughts. Dark feelings. Dark moods.
Her days grew darker. Her nights felt more natural. Soon she felt more comfortable going out into the woods at night. She enjoyed the fresh, cool air. She felt safer because she could hide better in the darkness. She didn’t even know what she was hiding from, but most of the animals she had known, no longer saw her during the day. They still came around. They called to her in the cave. They left her treats and snacks that she found when she came out at night. But she no longer wanted to walk in the day. She didn’t like the light, and she no longer wanted to play with her animal friends in the light of the day. She still found the food she needed to eat. She still ran through the woods. She bathed under the light of the moon. She still did many of the things she had done before, only now she did them at night.
And those who watched her observed the things she did as she changed from one of the day to one of the night. They watched carefully and carefully took notes. They created hypothesis and made guesses. Some they got right but mostly they were wrong. The girl surprised them in strange and pleasant ways that they did not expect. They plotted and schemed as they prepared the way. And one day, while she was asleep, they carried her away to the place where others live, to the place where others play.
They let her loose in the city. They let her meet other people, but she didn’t like where she was. She missed her forest. She missed her cave. But most of all she missed the darkness. With all of their lights the night was never dark, and she no longer could go out to eat her fill so she could just run and play in this strange place they called the center of the world. She sobbed and cried in the light of the day. She wept and wailed under the light of the lamps at night. She wanted to go back to the forest. She wanted to be by herself. Just the little girl alone in the woods watched over by those who engineered as they plotted and planned to take over the world. Raven face of the undead.
Thank you for reading the short story ‘The Girl Who Lived Alone’. If you want to listen to the audio, just click the button below that says ‘I want this!’ It’s $0.99 cents, but you can pay what you feel is fair. Or you can listen to all the audios for the month on my Patreon page.
If you have questions or would like to license the story, hit me up in the comments or through my contact page.
ESL Short Stories – Read more ESL Audio Short Stories here
Dave Bailey Booklist – See all the books Dave Bailey published here
Learn & Improve Your English – Want more tips and suggestions for learning English and developing your skills
Joe is a man who dreams of traveling back into the past, and then later of traveling into the future. But what will he do when the opportunity arises? And why do we desire things that we end up hating when we finally get them?
This is a short story, I wrote for my ESL students to help them improve their English listening and speaking skills with the audio for Time Machine Man here >>>
There was a man. His name was Joe. Joe lived in the future. Society was messed up. People were messed up. Joe felt like he didn’t belong there. He wanted to build a time machine. He wanted to travel back in time. He wanted to go back into the past. He wanted to return to the good, old days.
Joe talked about it all the time, but his friends just laughed at him. “Forget it, Joe. If you build a time machine, travel to the future. The future is where it’s at.”
Joe didn’t agree with them. He thought that the future would be worse than the present. Besides, he didn’t know what was in the future. But he did know what was in the past. He loved the past. He lived his entire life thinking about the past. He studied the past.
He ended up quitting his job at a research facility. He became a history teacher. He read about the past. He read about different cultures. He traveled to many different places.
Joe wrote many articles. He gave many speeches about past history and cultures. He became very famous. He consulted for famous movie directors who made movies about the past. He made a lot of money and became very rich.
Joe told everyone that they should build a time machine and return to the past. The past was where it was at. If they could return to the past, they could do whatever they wanted.
One day, a friend of his from the research facility paid him a visit. He told Joe that they had built a time machine. He asked Joe to join them on their first trip. But Joe didn’t want to go. He liked his life here and now. He thanked his friend for the invitation.
“But I thought you wanted to go back into the past. I thought you didn’t like it here. You said that people were messed up. You said that society is messed up. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You should go,” his friend said.
“Nah,” said Joe. “I like the status quo. My life is good here, and I don’t want to mess it up. If I travel back into the future, it might mess things up even worse. You shouldn’t travel into the past. You should travel into the future.”
Joe contacted his famous friends. The celebrities and politicians. They passed a law to ban time travel into the past. They didn’t want to mess things up. They were afraid someone might change things and cause them to lose out on the good life.
There was a huge public outcry. Most of society wanted to travel back into the past. They wanted to change things. They wanted to try and change their lives just like Joe had when he first began. But now that things had changed and life was good, he didn’t want to shake things up. It would be too risky.
There was a huge debate. People screamed. People cried. But celebrities and politicians were firm. The law was the law. If you broke the law, you suffered the consequences.
“You do the crime, you do the time,” they said.
The scientists in the lab didn’t worry about it. Joe’s friends from the research facility traveled back in time. They found Joe while he still worked at the lab before he became famous.
“Hey, Joe. It’s us from the future. The future is messed up. People are messed up. You’re messed up. We came back to pick you up and take you back in time.”
Joe just shook his head and refused to go.
“No, I don’t really want to travel back in time,” he said. “I like it here. I like my life. I don’t want to mess that up. We need to look to the future. The future is where it’s at.”
His friends just sighed and shook their head. They didn’t understand what was wrong with Joe. How did this happen? They didn’t know.
“Sorry, Joe. Our machine can only go back into the past. We don’t know how to make it go forward into the future.”
They couldn’t figure it out. How someone could complain about something all their life, and yet when faced with the opportunity to change, refuse to take it.
“Okay, Joe. Stay here and enjoy your life,” they said. “We’re going to travel back in time to see the past firsthand. We’re going to make history together with those who live in the past.”
And off they went. Joe just smiled. Talking about the past was nice. He loved reminiscing about the good, old days. Joe liked to complain. He liked to think about how things could have been. And yet, he didn’t want to relive the same things over again. He wanted to look forward to discovering what would happen in the future.
Joe began researching everything he could about traveling to the future. He talked with everyone about the future. They just laughed at him and called him crazy.
Joe ended up quitting his job at the research facility. He wrote many articles. He gave many speeches. He consulted for many famous movie directors making movies about time travel. Joe became very famous. He became very rich.
Until one day, he received a visit from his friends from the research facility.
“Hey, Joe,” they said. “It’s us from the past. We discovered a way to travel to the future. Let’s go see what the future holds for us.”
But once again, old Joe refused.
“Nah,” he said and shook his head. “I don’t really want to travel into the future. I like it here. I like my life. I don’t want to lose what I have. I love my friends. I love people. I love society. We need to stay in the present. The present is where it’s at.”
His friends all sighed and shook their heads. They didn’t understand what was wrong with Joe. How did this happen? They didn’t know. How a man who complained all the time refused to change and follow through on what he said.
Joe just smiled as he sat in his old brown chair. He picked up his pen and wrote his first fiction novel about a man with a time machine who could visit the past and visit the future whenever he wanted. But Joe himself never worked up the courage to go with them. He only wrote out the stories that they told him.
Thank you for reading my latest ESL short story, Time Machine Man. I hope you enjoyed it.
If you have questions about any of the vocabulary or expressions, leave a comment below. Let me know what you thought of the story and how you interpret it as well, if you want some extra writing practice.
If you would like the audio file that I narrated to go along with it to listen to, it’s available on Gumroad. Just click the green button below that says ‘I Want This’. You’ll also get the PDF, ePub, and Mobi versions for download as well.
Let me know if you have any questions or need any help