Past

Contributor: Amanda Rae

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They laughed and reached across the beds to touch fingers. Noah smiled warmly at Robbie which sent him into a fit of giggles. "Can you believe that couples use to sleep in different beds?" asked Noah.
"No, I can't. It's super weird. My father told me that his grandparent's grandparents slept in different rooms. I couldn't imagine not waking up to you every morning." said Robbie. They both swung their legs over the side of the bed and met in the middle for a kiss. They had traveled a long way to stay at an old hotel that had recently been restored. It was very costly but with Robbie and Noah inviting another couple along Robbie could cover their half of the cost. The other couple was outside sitting at a patio table and chatting happily.
"I am glad that we came here, however. I had to sell my soul to get us the room but I think it is worth it." said Noah.
"Babe, I appreciate the thought...and the needed vacation but I don't get your infatuation with history and a past that didn't accept our love or us as people. I would be glad if it was all gone, honestly." Robbie regretted saying this as soon as it came out. They stared at each other in silence for many moments.
"Robbie, without the mistakes of the past how could we have ever learned any better?" asked Noah. Robbie pushed himself away from his boyfriend and pondered the thought for a few moments.
"Well Noah, if you must ask I think we would be better off. When we have children of our own they won't ever have to know any differently. They won't know that anybody ever hated anyone and the next generation will grow up without hate clouding their judgment of people. They will judge people off of their personality and not the color of their skin or who they love." Noah grabbed Robbie's hand and kissed it softly. Noah wanted to explain to Robbie the importance of the past but had a hard time getting the right words out. His boyfriend was sensitive about his sexuality even though nobody had ever changed it or saw any weirdness in it. He had only saw it in old books. Instead of calling Robbie out on it Noah crossed the room and touched an old dresser.
"Do you want to know why this dresser is so profoundly beautiful?" His fingers caressed the dresser lightly and her turned back to look at Robbie. Robbie propped himself up with one arm and sighed.
"Why is the dresser so beautiful?"
"The dresser is so beautiful because is was once a beautiful tree. The beautiful tree was cut down and maybe that makes you feel angry. How could anyone cut down something so beautiful? It sucks but the tree's life does not end there. Someone else takes the remains of the tree and builds it into something even more beautiful and useful. The craftsmen sands down and makes smooth the remains of the tree and stains it and covers it with a thick coat of lacquer to protect it. The dresser is taken by someone who needs and will use it for what it's intended for." Robbie shakes his head and crosses the room with a smile on his face. He wraps his hands around his boyfriend.
" I see what you are saying, my love. I wouldn't want to be cut down and turned into a dresser but I guess without people getting cut down we could have never been built back up and have been made stronger. Maybe we wouldn't have this new world of equality and freedom without war and heartache. I'm just saying that when we have kids of our own can we just hold off on the 'tree' talk?"
"Oh, come on! I pulled that one out of nowhere! You didn't even see it coming!"
"Agree to disagree?"
"I love you."
"I love you, too."


- - -
I am a student at Full Sail University trying to better my writing. I'm kind of ridiculous.
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The First

Contributor: Jackson Brock

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A ‘67 Ford Galaxie 500, that was my very first car. I still remember the day I got it. Our family wasn’t poor, but we weren’t wealthy either. Dad worked two jobs, being both a mechanic and an after hours janitor at the high school so I didn’t get to spend much time with him. One day I came home though, and Mom and Dad met me at the door, smiles on their faces. Dad was standing tall and proud, shoulders back, chest out, he looked like a super hero. Mom was beaming; she was so bright I am pretty sure the sun was jealous.
They took me inside and sat me down; they told me that Dad had gotten a promotion. He was going to be the head mechanic and practically run the garage from now on. He could quit his job as a janitor and spend more time with us. I was so excited I didn’t see Dad get his car keys from his pocket until he threw them at me. I barely caught them before they hit my face. He could see the confusion on my face, but just beckoned me to follow him outside.
Once outside, he headed straight for our old junk car, a Nash Metropolitan. He got in the passenger seat and motioned me toward the driver seat. This would be the first time I had driven since I got my drivers license and I was even more excited than I was a few moments earlier. As we drove Dad barely spoke aside from giving directions and saying it was a surprise when I asked where we were going. I gave up after a few times asking and just focused on driving and trying to guess where we were headed.
I almost hit the brakes when he said turn left and I realized we were turning into a Ford Dealership. We had driven all the way in and parked before I was able to speak.
“Dad are we buying a car,” I asked. He smiled at me, patted me on the back and said, “No, we are buying you a car.” My jaw dropped and I’m sure my eyes almost rolled out of my head. Dad laughed then pointed to the lot.
“Go find your car, son.”
I headed off into the lot barely aware that Dad was following me as I nearly ran up and down the rows of cars. Then, I spotted it. A deep, dark, but still somehow vibrant hunter green caught my eye. I went up to this magnificent vehicle not even knowing what it was. Over and under headlights, a long front and short back, roof was low and slanted toward the trunk instead of having a boxy look to it. The front end came to three points, one at each headlight and one in the middle. Just looking at it I could see the wind blowing easily over it as I drove down the road. I looked inside and saw wood accented dash and steering, and real tan colored leather seats.
I heard Dad whistle his approval behind me, like a catcall after a beautiful woman. I smiled as he approached and asked, “what is it?”
“It’s a Ford Galaxie 500 Fastback. That’s a good pick, Son.”
I just stared in awe for a few moments…
“This is the one Dad, this is my car.” I never broke my gaze from this beautiful machine.
“Now Son, this one is a little more expensive than I intended.” He paused for a bit, “but if you promise to do good in school the rest of the year I will think about it.” I heard what he said and thought to myself; I can do better than that.
“I promise I will, but why don’t I get a job and help you pay for the extra? This IS my car Dad.” He let out a hearty laugh and hugged me before leaving to go inside the dealership. I drove my car home that afternoon. I remember cranking it the first time, and feeling the engine rumble, like when trains go by, or a plane flies too low. The smell of new leather became a smell I will always love. The feel of the wood accented steering wheel in my hands, the power I could feel under my foot when I hit the gas. These are all things I will never forget.
“That’s a great story about you and grandpa, dad, but where are we going?” I smiled at my own son as I said…
“Turn left.”


- - -
Passionate about writing, but new to it.
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My Only True Love

Contributor: John Laneri

- -
Laura and I are in bed, listening to the sounds of classical music. We’ve made love once this morning, the intensity almost magical.

Ordinarily on a Wednesday, I would be at the country club working through a bucket of balls, enjoying the out of doors while I prepare for my afternoon round of golf.

After meeting Laura, I stopped playing golf.

It was a difficult decision at first, probably one of the hardest choices I've ever made. But, I soon realized that being with her brought the joy of intimacy back into my life.

She rolls close to me, her leg touching mine. “I love the way you indulge me.”

“Only because you're so amazing,” I reply smiling. “That's one of the reasons I love you.”

She laughs softly and settles her head into the pillow, her eyes turning to mine.” Did your wife like to be indulged?”

“Overly-indulged,” I reply quietly. “She spent everything... most of it on shopping. That's one of the reasons we divorced.”

Laura snuggles closer, her lips touching mine. “After we're married, you can indulge me by making love every minute of every day.”

“That would be a pleasure,” I reply, as I peck her lips with a simple kiss, wondering why she mentioned marriage.

Nonetheless, Laura is a wonderful person. She's only a few years younger than me. She’s petite, pleasantly attractive and very devoted to her children, who by the way, live charmed adult lives – thanks to her generosity.

She moves closer, and soon we come together with that same eagerness that began a few days after we met at a church social. At the time, she was busy ending a thirty year marriage to Charles, a wealthy but physically abusive man who drank heavily.

Since her divorce, we've lived together in her home, a large, comfortable house in the suburbs. She sees me as a loving, successful businessman with my own insurance agency. In turn, I satisfy her need for intimacy while enjoying both her sexual pleasures and a respectable part of her huge spousal support payment.

Rolling away, thoroughly spent, I leave her sprawled across the bed, basking in another mid-life afterglow, while I pad to the bathroom, wondering if I actually love the woman.

“Don’t take long,” she calls from the bedroom. “I want you again before I leave for the mall.”

Forcing myself not to hear the word, 'mall', I down another Viagra then run a comb through my hair, thankful for the wonders of modern medicine.

On returning to bed, I notice her eyes closed, so I quietly slip beside her and let my thoughts drift.

As always, they return to my prior love – the game of golf.

Deep in my heart, I continue to remember the friendships and the laughter, as well as the challenging pars and birdies – things that also brought joy and fulfillment to my life. For some reason, the sport continues to call me back, begging me to return to the pleasures I once knew.

Laura rolls against me, interrupting my thoughts. “I can’t wait to tell the children we're getting married. They’ll be so happy.”

Turning to her, I say, “Remember... if we get married, you lose your spousal support.”

“No, sweetheart,” she says softly, as she laps a leg over mine. “I'm saying, the children will be happy I have you.”

Turning to her, I ask, “What do you mean?”

“It's a tedious story,” she says, as she looks away, her eyes growing misty, “But Charles lost everything in the real estate market. He has nothing, and I mean, nothing.”

Suddenly, my heart skips several irregular beats. “Can he recover?”

“It's doubtful. He's under investigation for fraud. People close to him say, he's going to prison, maybe for the rest of his life.” She wipes a tear away then snuggles closer. “It was a shock at first when the monthly support stopped.”

“But, without the payments, you'll have to curtail your shopping habits and quit supporting your children, maybe even sell the house.”

“I'm not concerned about the money,” she continues comfortably. “I have you. Now, we can be married. I'd love to plan another large wedding.”

“A large wedding!” I almost shout, as I push her leg away, my thoughts swirling with contradictions.

Sure, the sex is great, but golf is great too. And, best of all, it's uncomplicated.

She looks at me, her features expressing concern. “Is something wrong, dear? Your face is so flushed. Are you having a heart attack?”

Ignoring her, I calmly call the club to schedule an tee time, then head for the door, relieved to finally accept the fact that golf, even with its frustrations and challenges, is... and always will be, my only true love


- - -
John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
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Jogging to Cadaverville

Contributor: Donal Mahoney

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He's out there again, my neighbor, the doctor, waiting for the snow plow to pass so he can jog on a clean street.

It's 5 a.m. and we've had three inches of snow and it's still coming down but nothing can stop him.

Doc jogs every morning, good weather or bad.

This morning we meet because I'm out spelunking in the snow and the dark for my morning paper.

Going through his warm-ups, he invites me once again to join him for a jog, an invitation he extends when we meet on dark mornings.

As I have told him before, I tell him once again that I'll arrive soon enough in Cadaverville and have no desire to get there faster.

Months ago, I told him about articles in the paper, three or four times a year, indicating that another otherwise healthy man had dropped dead while jogging.

I tell him that's not a good thing.

One of the deceased, I mention, was a cardiologist like him. Can't remember his name, I tell him, but he was also young, with kids.

I go on to explain that I am a believer in Recliner Therapy, something I find very beneficial.

I add that I've never heard of a soul dropping dead in a recliner. I admit, however, that could happen but so far I have seen no mention of such a tragedy in the paper.

Thirty years my junior at least, this young doctor who jogs asks what I do for exercise as he puffs through his warm-ups.

I tell him I push all the way back in my humongous recliner at least three times a day and wiggle my toes, grab a Kleenex and blow my nose.

I tell him I believe in a holistic, head-to-toe approach to exercise.

The snow plow finally passes and the young doctor chuckles, hikes up his sweat pants and jogs off, arms swinging, through flakes of snow.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Sleepless Visions

Contributor: Taran Washington

- -
I walk around my apartment, trying to do anything to keep my body from sleeping. I haven’t slept for three consecutive days, and if I was about to doze off I would force myself to remain awake. The exhaustion is worth it though, anything physical is better in comparison to what lies in my mind. Night terrors have haunted me since I was a child, years of therapy and various medicines had helped keep them at bay.

Something changed though, the therapy stopped soothing, the medicine stopped having its effect. The doctors told me that my body had adapted to the drug and they would look for a substitute. That was six days ago, and the terrors were back to an unbearable level, making me wake up thrashing and screaming, drenched in cold sweat. Dreams always start out normal, say I would be flying, the next moment I lay in a field of bone, and the next moment I’d be running from a pursuer, all under watch of a blood red sky.

When I awake my vision is obscured by white and red pixelated lights and all my body acts on is the primal urge of escape. Three days ago, my last attempt at sleep gauged my worst reaction. My body woke, but my mind was still in the hell, my body ran through my room resulting in me crashing into and unhinging both my bedroom door and my nerve.

So here I am still after 72 hours, doing all in my power to remain awake and sane. Fidgeting at every sound, my heart jumps into my throat as I hear a knock at my door.

“Y-yes…w-who is it?” I ask shakily as I walk forward.

As I reach the door, there comes a crash as a hand holding a knife protrudes through a hole in my door. I fall back onto the floor screaming, but as I face the door again the knife, hand, and hole in my door are gone. I curl up into a ball shaking and crying, I grab my head and yell.

“What the hell is happening to me?!”


- - -
My name is Taran Washington, I'm a college student studying Management Information Systems. I elected to take a couple fiction writing courses and found myself with a new hobby. Now I write some flash fiction from time to time and I thought I would try my hand at submitting!
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Glory

Contributor: Robert Bates

- -
I've waited my whole life for this. It's the state championship game and we are down by one point. I dribble past the midcourt line while the crowd is counting down the seconds.

“Five! Four!"

Sweat drips in my eye but I can still see Devon open and waving for the pass. He's supposed to take the last shot, but he doesn’t understand. This is my moment. I can already see that championship ring on my finger.

"Three! Two!"

This is it. I jab step and drive, successfully getting around the defender. With a victorious smirk on my face, I jump in the air, raise my elbow, and release at the top of my jump just like coach taught me. The ball begins its perfect arc towards the rim and I can feel the whole gym watching me in my moment of glory.

I miss.


- - -
Robert Bates is currently studying General Business at Louisiana College. He enjoys, reading, writing, chocolate ice cream and Christopher Nolan movies. He has no idea what he is going to do once he graduates college, but he hopes it will be interesting.
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Cold War

Contributor: Mel S.

- -
“I just don’t understand, Bill. Why can’t I come with you?”
“Ellie, please understand. You can’t ask me any more questions. I’m only authorized to tell you that the President has requested a team to investigate certain Communist threats and I’ve been chosen as part of that team. I have to move to Sacramento today. Alone.”
Ellie swirled the last of her scotch and soda, listening to the tinkling of ice against the glass, and demurely crossed her legs. She risked a furtive glance into his eyes to determine if there was another reason for him to abandon her. She only saw concern and sadness in his baby blues. She selfishly wanted him to tell her everything, to defy his superiors and take her with him. Or at least tell her what he was getting himself into and why she couldn’t help. She had the distinct feeling that this would be the last time they would see each other. She wanted to leap across the cheap hotel table and hug him close, to breathe in his smell, and beg him not to leave. But her legs would not move. They both sat silent, avoiding each other’s eyes, the sound of the swirling ice breaking the silence.
“How will I know that you’re okay?” She kept her eyes downcast, the tears threatening to spill down her perfectly powdered cheeks.
“The room has been paid for a month in advance. I’ll call you as often as I can. You’ll know it’s me when I say ‘tulips make your eyes smile’. Will you remember?”
The tears spilled then. Coursing down her cheeks in hot streams.
“Of course I’ll remember. That’s the first thing you ever said to me.”
The Santa Monica winds whistled through the fence as they sat in vacillating silence. They had only been married a year, still getting to know each other. Bill knew that Ellie loved him. Not as deeply as he loved her but he’d had a head start. He was a patient man and knew that she would come around—if they only had more time. Now, it seemed they might never get the chance to grow into the love they were capable of. Bill involuntarily reached for Ellie’s hand and then withdrew it just as quickly. She hadn’t noticed, lost in her own thoughts.
“My bus leaves in 20 minutes,” he said. His insides felt like they had turned to stone. His guts churned, burning him up with worry, regret, and wistfulness for the fleeting love of his life. He stood, slowly leaned into her, and kissed her softly on the forehead.
“I love you, Elisabeth,” he whispered.
Her hands trembled, the ice clattering in her tumbler. She did not lift her head as he padded softly across the tiny room. She did not look at him as he stuffed his cigarettes into his trousers. She did not stand as he picked up his satchel. She did not say a word as he exited the room, looking back over his shoulder to capture one last look at his wife. The door clicked shut behind him.
“I’m pregnant,” she whispered and drained the last of her scotch.


- - -
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Saying Goodbye

Contributor: Maggie Giles

- -
That heart shaped lock hangs on my door, reminding me of better times. It makes me think of you. The heart shaped lock hangs on my door, whispering forgotten memories. Accusing, pleading, crying, begging. That heart shaped lock upon my door.
The key is long lost; it went missing almost five years back, but it didn’t matter then. I didn’t want to remove it. I still remember the day your strong hands took my small ones and held them tightly while we closed the lock together.
“A symbol of our love,” you swore. “We will never be apart.”
My eyes fluttered shut as you kissed me. Your lips were always warm and soft. I never knew how your touch could always be so perfect. But it was.
That heart shape lock still hangs on my door. Whispering, haunting, mourning.
The day you left, my heart went cold, hard and metal like that lock. You swore it wouldn’t be long. You swore you would come back.
“You are my everything,” you told me. “We will never be apart.”
Your hand caressed my cheek as the soft breeze from the open window tousled your messy brown hair. We swayed in the warm sunlight, dancing to the sound of the blue bird’s song. We stood in the middle of the room and you told me you loved me. But love was never enough.
Then you squeezed that lock and smiled at me. “Good thing we lost the key. Now you will have to hold onto me forever.”
The twinkle in your eye told me you meant it as a joke, a loving memory. But that didn’t last. It became a burden I didn’t know how to lose. But it was also one I didn’t want to.
You never did come back, even though you said you would. You never said Goodbye; you said you didn’t need to. Instead you touched my heart, saying you’d always be there. At the time it meant everything, now I can barely feel that touch.
Sometimes I curse your stubbornness, looking back now and asking myself what I would have said, what I could have done. Maybe I would have stopped you. But I couldn’t stop you. Neither of us had a choice. When you’re fifteen, nobody takes your love seriously. Adults don’t understand.
I stand from the small box that I am sitting on. My room is completely packed, my life ready to be moved away. Except the lock. My delicate fingers wrap around the cool metal and pull. It doesn’t budge. It never does. You swore it would stay as strong as our love. I take comfort in this.
I flop back down on the cardboard box, filled with my high school memories. My family and I are leaving my childhood home. We are moving north, to another city. I was accepted to attend a university and my parents wanted to follow me. I wish you would follow me too. I wish you could see how things have changed.
I searched my room as I cleaned and packed, hoping I would find the lost key, hoping I could take our heart with me. But it was in vain. The key is lost, as you wanted it to be, and now, three years after you left me behind, I finally have to say goodbye.
I study the lock for some time before walking back to the door and holding it in my hand once more. The once cool metal feels warm to my touch, like your love is radiating through.
Tears spill out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks, I wish I could take this part of you with me, but I know it is time. I lean in and press my lips to the warm metal.
“I love you,” I whisper. “I’m sorry I never got to say Goodbye.”


- - -
Maggie Giles is a 20 something Canadian author working full time as a marketing associate for an industrial gasket manufacturer. When backpacking through Europe, she developed an interest in writing and began writing historical fictions from the Tudor era in England, but her writing interests span larger. She has also dabbled in thrillers, scifi, horror and more recently starting a fantasy series.
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Cold Night Under The Streetlight

Contributor: Joshua L Hawkins

- -
“Come on, come on.” Eli said and twisted the key in the ignition again. The engine of the old car sputtered and died like a sneeze cut off in the throat. A soft cloud of steam rose from the hood of the car in the frigid night.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Julia said from the passenger seat. She pulled her large coat tighter around herself to try to keep warm.
“I swear, every single time I think I have this thing fixed it goes and screws up again.” Eli said and slammed the heel of his hand into the outer edge of the steering wheel.
“So, what do we do now? Julia asked. She pulled a cigarette from her purse and lit it.
Eli gave her a stare from across the car. “Smoking? Seriously Jules?”
“Yes seriously you moron. It’s midnight, and I’m stuck in the freezing cold because my boyfriend’s piece of shit car won’t start. Who cares if your precious car gets smoke smell in it, I don’t.”
Eli reached over, and snatched the cigarette from her lips. “I don’t care about the car.” He said, and looked at her abdomen. “I care about the baby.”
Julia sighed. “I’ve already told you what I’m doing with the baby.” She said, and withdrew another cigarette.
“So that’s it then? I don’t get any say so in whether our child is born or not?” He shifted in his seat so he was facing her more than before.
“You aren’t the one who has to get fat, and walk around with a five to ten pound lump in your stomach for nine months. Damn right you don’t have a say so.” She said, and then with a grunt of disdain she lit a second cigarette.
Eli looked over at her baffled as she took a few long drags on the cigarette.
“What?” She asked, and held up her hands. “You want me to be a house wife, or something Eli? You want us to get married, and move in together, and take care of this baby? No Eli. That isn’t what I’m going to do, get that through your head. I don’t care how nice of a guy you are, marriage is out of the question.”
“At least think about it Jules, I mean we could raise this baby together.”
“No.” She said, and took another drag of the cigarette. “I’m only twenty-two years old Eli. I haven’t had my share of fun. If I have this baby now I get to kiss all that away.”
“So?” He asked. “What is a few years of getting yourself hopelessly drunk, and sleeping with three dozen guys you’ll never remember, compared to raising a child. A child Jules, a child that we brought into this world and that we should be responsible for. I don’t want you to get rid of it. Keep it, please.”
She finished her cigarette, and looked over at him. Their eyes met for a moment before she turned away, and sighed. “I can’t Eli. I just can’t do it. I’m not ready for this kind of thing. I know that has to be the most clichéd response to getting pregnant, but I’m just not ready for this.” She wiped at her eyes before the tears could spill down.
“At least think about it, okay? I mean you don’t have to make a decision right now do you?” Eli asked.
She shook her head and pulled her bundled coats closer. “I’m sorry Eli. The decision has been made.” Her hand grasped at the door handle for a moment and then without another hesitation she opened the door and climbed from the car. The lone streetlight above them bathed her in bright yellow light.
“You don’t have to do this alone Jules.” Eli said from the driver’s seat.
“It may have taken two of us to make this baby.” She said, and leaned down to look at him once more. “But it only takes one of us to fix the mistake.” She stood straight, and let the door swing closed in front of her with a loud clang. Taking a deep freezing breath she backed away from the car, and turned towards the vehicle’s rear. Then she started walking, tiny puffs of steam emitting from her lips as she breathed in the dark cold night. Behind her Eli stared through the icy rear window of the old beat up car.
“Nothing is a mistake if you can love it.” He said to the empty cab, and then he turned back to the front of the car, and tried the ignition again. It turned over once more before dying in a gargling wheeze of smoke, and then the silence of the dark cold night fell upon him.


- - -
Joshua Hawkins began writing in ninth grade during a creative writing class. His love for expression through words spread throughout the rest of his schooling and now he attends Full Sail University for his Bachelor's in Creative Writing for Entertainment.
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Tethered

Contributor: Ali Banner

- -
Daggitt cursed the Company protocol that tethered him to his partner. They swam into an underwater cave, separated by only ten feet of cord that attached to each of their suits through a special harness. Eleven dives and the Company decided he still needed a guide.

“Keep your eyes peeled, Daggitt.” Roberts’s voice infiltrated his helmet. “Don’t wanna miss the tunnel.”

He swam faster and harder than the rest of the crew and his knowledge of ancient artifacts was essential to the Company’s success, but Daggitt was better known for getting lost between the pub and the motel next door. “Just do your job so I can get the hell out of here.”

Roberts smirked. Daggitt imagined the cord around his neck. Soon.

The walls closed in, jutting masses of rock that threatened to crush them as they headed for an even narrower channel. In the past, Daggitt ignored his surroundings; the formations blended in the background and made for a pretty scene but meant nothing. Now they were waypoints to guide his return. He memorized each smooth contour, each jagged edge. Even the plant life sprouting through the cave floor highlighted his escape route.

“Here we are,” said Roberts. The tunnel opened into a small grotto with a marble statue erected in the center and rough nooks carved into the surrounding walls. “The Shrine of Amondeen.”

Amondeen watched as they swam over to the hollowed spaces, the two divers peering inside each tiny cave. Most of them stood bare, no doubt looted by plunderers who had visited in the centuries since the fall of Amondeen’s palace, yet some offerings to the ancient god still remained. Daggitt turned over a bronze chalice inlaid with smooth rubies and estimated its value; years of experience hadn’t tamed his greed.

“Remember what we’re here for,” Roberts warned.

“Of course. The Company sent me to find Amondeen’s Scepter, and that’s what I’ll do.”

“It will be an invaluable addition to the Museum.”

Not if I can help it. Eleven dives with the Company and Daggitt hadn’t seen a single penny. He set the chalice back in the shelf. He would return for it later, now that he knew the way.

Roberts motioned and Daggitt followed him to a dark corner of the grotto. A flat boulder leaned against the wall, and Daggitt pressed his fingers along a ridge where the two masses collided. He pulled back, testing for motion; the boulder gave way but fell back into position as Daggitt lost his grip.

“And word in the Company is you’re the strong one.”

Idiot. “Shut up and help.”

Together they rolled the rock aside and uncovered a narrow cavern with a deep trench in the floor of the grotto. Daggitt knelt to the ground and aimed his flashlight at the bottom. “Bingo.”

Amondeen’s Scepter lay in the trench, centuries of dirt and grime encrusting the solid gold staff. Hundreds of small sapphires, amethysts, and emeralds spiraled around the rod from end to end, and a large eagle sat on top clutching a pearl. Even covered in soil its worth was immeasurable. Daggitt’s heart pounded in his ears.

“That it?”

“Yep.”

“Nice.”

Daggitt examined his guide. “You’re smaller. You should jump down and pass it up to me.”

“Afraid of getting lost, are ya?” He snickered and lowered himself into the trench. His feet scuffed the walls and landed on either side of the scepter.

As Roberts crouched down to dislodge the staff, Daggitt pulled a switchblade from his utility belt. He released the catch and flipped out the knife. His garbled reflection stared back at him.

“Man, this mother is heavy! Ya sure you’ll be able to carry it back?”

“Oh, I’m sure.”

Roberts hoisted the scepter to shoulder level and Daggitt used his free hand to drag it along the ground, pulling it out of reach. He pointed his knife at his partner. “I suggest you stay down there.”

Roberts held up his hands. “Whoa, is this because I joked about you getting lost? Lighten up, man!”

Daggitt laughed. “Did you really think I’d let the Company take one of the world’s most valuable artifacts and let it rot in a museum? Eleven times I’ve been down here. Twelve, now. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing! Well, twelve is my lucky number. It’s time for me to collect!”

“So what are you gonna do? Leave me in this ditch? You can’t find your way back.”

“Ha! I paid attention this time. I don’t need you, or the Company, or this damned tether!” He lowered the knife to the cord between them.

“Ya sure you want to do that?”

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to choke you with this.”

“Suit yourself.”

Daggitt sawed at the tether until it snapped in two, finally freeing himself. He swam toward Roberts to finish the job but halted halfway. He could feel water trickling into his helmet. “What the hell?” He locked eyes with Roberts, who wore a knowing smile.

“Just remember, you’re the one who cut the tether. Company special issue.”

Terror seized him as realization settled in, but he was too frightened to scream. The water kept coming. He searched for the tunnel but its opening evaded him. He fought and struggled until the water filled up his lungs and he could no longer breathe.

After Daggitt’s body stilled, Roberts switched the channel on his communicator. “Do you read me, Home Base? Yeah, Daggitt turned. I told you he would.” He paused for a moment to listen. “You’re welcome, Home Base. I knew my design was flawless.”


- - -
Ali Banner is a former English teacher who spent two years teaching in Handan City, China. She is currently a Creative Writing student at Full Sail University. She lives at home in West Virginia with her roommate, Emily, and her dog, Sparky.
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