Desperate Measures – A FREE FREE FREE FREE FREEFREE Story by Kathy Kexel

Week three … yeah, let’s call it week three. I have no idea what week we’re on. I don’t even know what day it is anymore. I just know that time passes, the kids scream at me, and I keep on keepin’ on … comes to a close for the #CovidPocalypse, and Kathy Kexel brings us to a close with her short story, Desperate Measures: an uplifting story of joy and hope and the strength of humanity to overcome.

By which I mean it is not any of those things. But it’s still a very good story. Click on the thief below to check it out.

Robert CelyDerek Elkins, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, and Joseph Courtemanche are all part of this magical Covid Quarantine Experience. You can’t get rid of me no matter how hard you try. Dr. Paul Bennett joins us Monday as we continue down the path of insanity and creativity. Here’s hoping we all see a light at the end of the tunnel soon. See you on the flip.

Two More Part 3 (of 4) – Slivers of Light

If you missed part 1, check it out here. If you missed part 2, check it out here. If you think you missed part 3, you’re in luck … THIS is part three. Let’s get started with that one right now …

**** **** **** ****

Jim Becker left work early that afternoon. A news van showed up at the garage just after the cops, and plastered Jim’s face on television, newspapers, the Internet, everywhere. He was an immediate celebrity; a big-time hero, just like The Devil said.

“If I have to tell the story one more time, I’ll shoot myself and get this over with early,” he thought. And he still didn’t know what to make of the man in the white. WAS he real? Or was Jim just losing his mind?

“I’ll have to ask Emma when I get home. She’ll probably think this is all funny.” Then he remembered. They were divorced. Emma wouldn’t be there.

Nobody would.

**** **** **** ****

The hardest part was the loneliness.

On the outside, Jim and Emma Becker seemed fine, thank you very much. They went to work, visited with friends, and saw their families on the weekends just like every good, suburban couple is supposed to do. They were full of plastic smiles, fake optimism, and just the right amount of energy in the banal stories they shared with work friends and acquaintances to not arouse suspicions that they were, both of them, hopelessly miserable.

Once they returned home from these excursions, the silence enveloped them and, with it, the loneliness.

Jim tried to fill his time with random activities he could obsess over just to keep his mind off his failing marriage. He read every book he could get his hands on, tried to grow a Fu Manchu once until Emma shaved it off in his sleep, and watched hundreds of obscure documentaries with transcribed subtitles.

One documentary about homeless children who lived in the sewers of Ulanbataar, Mongolian to escape the winter cold was the kind of stuff that could rip your heart out, except the translators kept insisting the street signs for “Slow Children Playing” should actually say “Dead Children Playing,” and Jim didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or even whether the sign had been mistranslated.

He bought an online course on Muay Thai kickboxing, but pulled a groin muscle attempting a head level kick; tried to teach himself Mandarin, but decided he was dyslexic in Chinese; and once pulled out his old high school drum set with the intention of starting a band with some friends at work. That dream went down the drain – literally, it would turn out – when Jim spent three hours attempting to master the tom pattern for the Rush song, YYZ, causing Emma to storm into the room, wild-eyed.

“Oh my God, Jim! Stop it!”

“Stop what?”

“You’ve been banging on that thing for hours. I can’t take it anymore!”

“I just need to get the transition into the 5/4 time signature,” Jim said as he tapped the edge of his cymbal ever so slightly. “I need to work out the Morse code for the letters in the title.”

“What the HELL are you talking about?”

And off they went again. That fight lasted two hours and resulted in Jim throwing his drum set out of their third floor attic window after Emma told him of course she wanted to support his dreams … so long as his dreams weren’t stupid.

The kick drum broke into several pieces, a few of which slid into the sewer next to their driveway.

“I wonder if the kids in Ulanbataar play music in the sewers,” Jim said, at which point Emma stormed out of the room and didn’t speak to him again for over a month. He slept in the empty space in the attic where his drum set used to be, and locked the door.

Which was alright with Jim. He was finally able to grow that Fu Manchu, although he ended up shaving it again after a week. Emma was right. It was ridiculous, but he would never give her the satisfaction of admitting that out loud. He never gave her the satisfaction of admitting anything then. Not to her. No sir.

At work, Jim was a “rock star,” a real “up-and-coming high performer,” and many other hyperbolic HR terms executives like to use when they don’t know how to peg someone. When his company merged with a logistics firm from Texas, Jim found himself working in a new sea of near-to-middle-aged men wearing Walmart Khakis blue Oxford button-downs with clip-on ties.

“The new blue collar!” a co-worker told him once as he launched into an un-asked-for dissertation about stock portfolio and how amazing his recent picks were. It made Jim want to puke.

But, then, there was Samantha.

Samantha Upchurch was a project manager by trade and a spitfire by design. She wore bright, loud dresses and suits to match her bright, red hair and big personality. She liked to wear horn-rimmed glasses, even though Jim suspected she didn’t really need them.

“I wanted to be a librarian once,” she told Jim and a few team members over cards at lunch, “but there was one problem with that plan.”

“What was that?”

“I talk to the books, but the books? They don’t talk back.”

Her outsize personality got on most people’s nerves, but Jim loved listening to and, when he got the chance, talking with her. The thing Jim liked about Samantha was she asked questions. All sorts of questions.

“You play the drums? What’s your favorite band? You like Dean Koontz novels? Have you read the one about Nazis and time travel? I think Die Hard is definitely NOT a Christmas movie. What do you think?”

Jim didn’t see anything wrong with it. There was nobody else at work to talk to and, of course, Emma wasn’t saying anything. What was he supposed to do? Ignore her? Good luck with that. Samantha Upchurch was many things in life, but she was not one to be ignored.

A few months past the merger and their regular, card-playing lunch group dwindled to just Jim and Samantha. With all that time to themselves, their conversations turned deeper. Samantha was married to an electrical engineer who never seemed to want to help with the kids, and her two daughters, she admitted, were teenagers now and driving her insane.

“Sometimes I wish I could Eat, Pray, Love my way out of all this,” she said. “Except I’d go to Philly instead of India because it’s really hot in Delhi and I LOVE cheese steaks.”

Jim told her about losing the baby and how they were having “a bit of trouble reconnecting.” He put his head down and was surprised when Samantha took his hand. He looked up.

“You’ll make it through,” She said. “You love her.” The statement had the slightest tilt, as if there was a hint of a question. Jim held her gaze for a long moment, wondering if, had the question been asked, he could have answered honestly in the affirmative.

“Yes,” Jim said, pulling his hand away. Samantha pulled hers back, and they both retreated to their desks in silence.

There was still nothing wrong, Jim tried to convince himself. It was probably nothing, and anyway if it WAS more than nothing, Jim would just ignore any such advances in the future. Jim had a rule against relationships with co-workers.

“And also, I’m married,” Jim thought. “So I’ll just ignore it. That’s it. Just ignore it.”

The only problem was Samantha Upchurch was many things in life – a mother, a project manager, a purveyor of strong opinions and, of course, a married woman – but she was not one to be ignored; especially by those who, like Jim Becker, are so willing to remain interested.

Jim and Emma Becker got into one of their worst fights the morning Jim had to leave for a work trip.

Jim had forgotten to take the garbage out the night before and, as a result, the kitchen was covered in ants and smelled like spoiled meat.

“I’m sorry, honey, but I have to get going,” Jim said.

“You always do this to me,” she screamed at him. “You never listen! You don’t care!”

Jim tried to take the garbage out on his way to the car, but Emma grabbed it and they spilled the contents of the bag all over their front lawn. When Emma ran back in side, Jim followed her. As he came in the door, he heard a loud crash on the wall next to his head. He looked down. There was a broken, glass vase at his feet and a shattered rose.

Jim was shocked.

“Emma,” he said. “That was the rose from our wedding.”

“I know,” she said.


After a long moment of silence, she spoke. “I hate you. I’ve never loved you. I wish I had never met you. I wish I had never asked you to dance at the Friendly Stop, wish we had never been married, wish we had never lost … never lost …”

Emma Becker broke down crying in the living room. Jim tried to console her, but she screamed obscenities at him.

Jim Becker slowly backed out of his house, got into his car, drove to the airport, and met his co-workers at a conference in Seattle.

That night, as Jim and Samantha shared drinks at the hotel bar, Jim told her the truth about his marriage. The loneliness, the silence, everything. When he finished speaking, Samantha reached for his hand, but Jim pulled it back.

“No,” he said. “I think it’s time we call it a night.”

“Walk me to my room?” Samantha asked.


They rode the elevator together in silence. When they got to Samantha’s room, she looked up into Jim’s eyes, smiled at him sadly, and walked in.

As Jim turned to leave, he noticed Samantha had left her door open just a crack; enough so a sliver of light from within flashed across his eyes.

Jim Becker stood still in the hallway outside Samantha’s room, staring at the door, thinking. A moment later, he pushed the door open, and followed her in.

**** **** **** ****

Jim considered stopping for either a late lunch or early dinner on his way home from work, and turned left onto Peace Haven Rd instead of his normal trek down Winton. The sun shifted behind the trees, casting slivers of light that danced in his eyes, blinding him. He reached for the visor to block out the sun but, before he could, there was a flash of color and a scream.

Jim slammed on his brakes and the car shook violently before coming to a stop. He leapt out to see a mangled bicycle lying in the street. Next to it was a small child, no more than five or six years old.

The kid wasn’t moving.

Jim called 9-1-1, held the kid’s hand while he waited for the paramedics, and tried in vain to find a pulse. The kid’s blood seeped into Jim’s work shirt, staining it. Jim broke down in tears.

“Hello Jim,” the man in white spoke from behind.

“Good God!” Jim screamed, frightened.

“No … The other one, but I’m happy to congratulate you on your second.  Way to go. You’re really on your way!”

Jim was shocked. The bike. His car. The kid. The man in white? It was too much to take in.

“This,” Jim said, looking at the kid’s lifeless body. “THIS is my second?”

“Uh huh, and you made quick work of him, too. I’m impressed. Most people hesitate. But not you. You just plowed right on through.” The man in white made a hand motion like a mack truck driving through a series of barricades. He included the kind of truck mouth noises like a small child.

“You said these people were evil,” Jim said, practically screaming now. “The BAD kind of evil. People who deserved to be removed from society.”

“Oh, they are. Trust me, Jim. They are, indeed.”


“WAS a kid, Jim. You took care of that.”

Jim fought the urge to charge at the man in white, grab him by the neck with both hands, and bash his head against the pavement. He didn’t want to kill people, but this man didn’t qualify. Was it even possible to kill him? If Jim was just imagining all this, the paramedics would arrive to find Jim Becker in the throes of a psychotic break, attempting to strangle a tree or maybe thin air, and take him to the nearest padded room.

That idea struck Jim as just fine. Fine, indeed.

If, however, the man in white truly was The Devil and not just a figment of his imagination, Jim doubted he’d get two steps in before The Devil took him down. It was worth a shot, though. That kind of killing seemed justified at the moment; like Justice, as the man in which said earlier.

The man in white waited patiently for Jim to make up his mind. That soulless smile never left his face.

 “I can’t do this. You didn’t say anything about killing kids.”

“I didn’t say you wouldn’t kill kids, did I?”

Jim was about to blow up again.

“What you have to understand about me and The Big Guy Upstairs, Jim, is we’re Gods! We have an eternal perspective. We see events and their consequences played out in the fullness of time.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means when you look at this kid, all you see is a kid. I look at him and I see what this kid will become. He has the potential to be a mass murderer, a military leader who will slaughter millions, or worse … a politician. You didn’t kill a kid, Jim. You saved millions of lives. Congratulations.”

“He just looks like a kid to me,” Jim said.

“Looks can be deceiving,” The Devil said. “Just ask my third wife.”

“This just doesn’t seem right,” Jim said,

“That’s exactly what SHE said when she caught me with those college girls!”

The devil stepped closer. “It’s all complicated, I know. But you did a good thing. Trust me. This kind of thing is a science and I’m very precise. I know what I’m doing.”

“You said he has the potential to become evil. You didn’t say he WAS evil.”

“Hey. With Free Will, even Science ain’t an exact Science. You know what I mean? The good thing – well, the good thing for me, at least – is most people are not accustomed to exercising their will. They leave the decisions up to other people. Sometimes, they leave it up to me!”

“If I have free will, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he get the chance to choose good or bad, right or wrong?”

 “Good question, Jim. But why worry about it now? You’ve got one more to go and, trust me, this next one’s a doozy. I’ve got something special for you, Jim, and – OH!. You’re gonna love it!”

Jim looked at the kid. Five years old. Probably just learned to ride that bike, probably wanted to show his parents he could ride in the street like the big kid he wanted to become and now, because of Jim, would never be. Was this really a mass murdering psychopath? Or was just a kid on a bike?

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Jim said

The Devil sighed. “It’s up to you, of course. Like I said. Free will is free will.” The devil stepped closer, put his hand on Jim’s shoulder.

“But you should know. This next person is on my list. This next person will die whether you do the job or someone else. There are a lot of other people who would help me if I asked.” The Devil smiled wide. “A lot.”


“I told you. I’m a scientist. I’ve been doing this a long time. Longer than you know.”

“Why me?”

“I like you, Jim. You’re a good man. You make me laugh. And, after all you went through with Emma, you could use a break.”

Just hearing her name made Jim want to break down into tears.

“I’m rooting for you,” the main white said. “I WANT you to make it to the end. And I’m serious. You’re really gonna like this next one.”

“Who is it?”

“Here.” The Devil reached into his pocket, pulled out a yellow Post-It note and handed it to Jim. It read: “Blue Fern Bar. Fifth and Sycamore. Downtown. 11:30. Look for the person in Red.”

Jim flipped the card over. It read: “Hugs N Kisses, Satan.”

“What if I say no?” Jim started to ask, but The Devil was gone again.

“I hate it when he does that.”

**** **** **** ****

Check out the exciting conclusion in Part 4: Heart’s Desire.

Virus by Derek Elkins – A Free Free Free Free Free Free (Free) Short Story from the Covid Pocalypse Explode-A-Ganza

In celebration of Derek Elkins’ second entry into the CovidPocalyse Explode-A-Granza Completely Free Fiction Blowout Spectacular, I wanted to write an allegory of an allegory (because Derek’s story from today is an allegory, which I looked up on Google and then pretended I knew all along), and none of the rest of our band of misfits has attempted such high-brow stuff.

So I sat down to write an allegory of an allegory, but I kept getting distracted by the Shaw Kids (aka #theSKs) in their efforts to complete an never-ending stream of homework assignments. I then threw the quest to write my allegory of an allegory onto the never-ending pile of stuff I intended to complete today and proceeded to work on some app dev tasks for my job.

Then, I got distracted by the SKs again. Then, I had to fix the network, which keeps going down. Then, my priorities at work got shifted. Then, I had to stop the SKs from beating each other with empty plastic bins. Then, I had to yell at them for throwing the toys that used ot be in the now-empty plastic bins all over the floor while I was in a meeting at work where my priorities were shifting again. Then, I ahd to help someone with a homework assignment AND crash a database all at the same time.

So I gave up on my allegory of an allegory. Because life, it seems is often about throwing a never-ending stream of tasks on top of tasks so that the important tasks you hope to accomplish never see the light of day until you read a story that is an allegory and it reminds you of your failings, so you write a blog post about your failure and hope people who have a tenuous grasp of the meaning of allegory THINK you’re actually doing your allegory of an allegory when all you’re doing is taking up space.

Click on the picture of Sisyphus to read Derek’s story, Virus. He’s a lot smarter than the rest of us. It’s really good. You’ll like it.

Histoire gratuite pour votre plaisir et votre plaisir. “The Package” de Jamie Greening

If you have followed past instructions – as I am sure you have, Gentle Reader – you will have, by now, encountered The Butch Gregory series by Jamie Greening. You will also have become acquainted with the character of Wyoming Wallace, and his penchant for solving problems with violence and sarcasm.

Exactly the kind of Project Management and Negotiation skills I can get behind!

So, when you read today’s Flash Fiction from Jamie Greening, you will know all references to previously published material therein, and will take JOY in revisiting a previously loved character and his exploits bringing a very important package to someone in need. Click on the elevator below and enjoy!

IF you have no idea what I’m taking about, Go to Jamie’s page, so you can read up on the Butch Gregory series, and get the full extent of excitement and nostalgia from Jamie’s new story, “The Package.”

The Rona – A FREE FREE ABSOLUTELY FREE Short Story from Rob Cely

The Covid-pocalypse continues, and so do we!

Welcome to week three of the Fantabulously Free Flash Fiction Fandango. … Yes, I feel about saying that, but who cares? Let’s keep moving!

Today, Rob Cely joins the crew with his short story, The Rona. Click on the locked door to read this more-chilling-than-I-expected-it-to-be tale.

Side Effects – an ABSOLUTELY FREE story from Kathy Kexel

Happy Friday, everyone. Happy GOOD Friday.

Kathy Kexel comes today with a brand new, table turning story about COVID-19 and those most vulnerable. It’s called “Side Effects” and it’s a great read. Give it a shot by clicking on ZZ TOP’s beards below.

That’s three weeks of #CovidCaptivity stories in the books. How’re y’all liking it?

Our original plan was for fantabulous author, Rob Cely, to join the crew tomorrow. However, since Saturdays are difficult for readership (and since it’s the day between Good Friday and Easter … and Rob is a pastor), we decided to slot him to Monday.

#JoPrime (aka Joe Courtemanche) will jump in with a story on Sunday, then Rob on Monday, Jamie Greening on Tuesday, Derek Elkins Wednesday, YoursTruly (aka #OtherJoe) on Thursday, and Kathy Kexel batting cleanup again (as she does so well) next Friday.

Two More Part 2 (of 4) – A Pool Of Blood

Did you miss part 1? Go back and read it here. If you can’t do that, listen to it here. If you can’t do that, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

*** *** *** *** ***

Jim Becker pulled into the basement floor of the parking garage at work an hour early the next morning. He wore a pair of dark sunglasses, and he had a headache the size of Montana.

“What happened last night?” he thought. “And why do I want fried chicken?”

He shook off the headache as best he could. “No matter. Today, I turn over a new leaf. Today, I start new.”

Jim glanced at the picture of Emma he kept on his dashboard. The one from their trip to Cabo six months after they lost the baby. Emma was laughing and trying to hide behind a beer bottle. Blue Moon was her favorite. She’d thumb little pieces off the label. By the time she was done, the bottle was empty and the label was in tatters.

They were happy then. At least, that’s how it looked in the picture.

Later that night, after the photo, Emma made a comment about Jim’s choice of clothing: one of those old Bart Simpson t-shirts. “Eat My Shorts!” Bart said. That shirt always made Jim laugh.

“You’re not actually going to WEAR that, are you?” Emma asked.

“Why not?” Jim said.

And off they went.  Two days into the vacation that was supposed to clear their minds and reset their marriage, and a simple wardrobe disagreement turned into Armageddon. By the time it was over, several dishes in their resort kitchenette were broken along with their naïve perceptions about how easily an expensive trip can solve anything but the resort management company’s desire for additional revenue.

Jim and Emma’s married life turned into a never-ending cycle of fights:  long stretches of silence punctuated by a few days of intense, screaming matches. The roller coaster ride was exhausting, Jim thought, but at least those weeks of not talking to each other gave their vocal chords time to heal so they could scream even louder when things picked up again. Silver linings and all that.

Jim had taken to marking their fights by the things they broke. There was the serving tray fight, where Emma threw a large, glass tray they’d got as a wedding gift into the living room wall like a Frisbee. It shattered over the couch, bursting shards of glass into the cushions. They kept finding little pieces of glass in that couch for months afterward, despite having vacuumed it so many times, Jim was sure they’d sucked up more fabric through their vacuum cleaner’s lint guard than was left in the couch itself.

Then, there was the kitchen table fight where Jim once slammed his hand onto the table top, causing it to collapse on an already wobbly leg, breaking into three pieces. They had dinner on the floor the next night. After that, they took their dinners alone, in separate corners of the house. That’s how they ate from then on.

It was easier that way.

There were many others – the unnecessary skateboard fight, the battle of the flannel pajamas, the Jane Austen meltdown – and with each flare up, they grew further and further apart.

It was the silence that bothered Jim the most. Their little house grew so quiet you could hear clocks ticking from their neighbor’s living rooms if you listed hard enough. Jim and Emma went whole weeks without speaking. The mountain of unspoken words deafened the subtext of any conversations that, by some miracle, pass between them, killing any chance they had to truly reconcile.

Ships passing in the night; unaware anyone else is close by.

Six months later, Jim got a promotion, and suddenly found the need to work late nights, even when no real need existed. On many such nights, Emma would be out with friends or pursuing her own hobbies when Jim got home, which he often misconstrued as a slight against him.

“Why should I come home early, if she doesn’t want to see me?” he thought, and would go to bed before she got home just to piss her off.

Despite all this, Jim still loved Emma, still made plans in his mind for their future together, still hoped to one day have kids. This was just a temporary darkness, Jim rationalized to himself. They’d pull through. Eventually.

That was somewhat true in its own right, and Jim and Emma Becker may have eventually worked things out.

If not for Samantha.

**** **** **** ****

Jim sighed and stepped out of his car.

“HELP!” A woman’s voice nearby. “SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

Jim ran across the nearly empty parking garage to find a large man in a pair of faded jeans and a black hoodie attacking a woman next to a minivan. Jim grabbed the guy’s shoulders from behind.

“Hey! Watch it, buddy,” Jim said.

The attacker grunted, pushed Jim away easily. He was a few inches taller at least, and had maybe fifty pounds on him; all of it pure muscle.

Jim threw what he thought was a jab at the man’s head, then followed with a cross aimed at his chest. The man dodged Jim’s punches easily and rushed him, grabbing Jim by the waist. He pushed forward, trying to shove Jim to the ground where, he imagined, the man would pummel him like an MMA fighter.

“I’m about to die!” Jim thought to himself. He crouched, then shoved his body upward, like he was trying to leap over a large set of boxes at the gym. His arms flailed as he twisted, catching the attacker’s chin with his left elbow. The man’s head flew back and the hood came off. Dazed, he stepped back, and let go of Jim’s waist.

They made eye contact. The man looked scared, almost surprised. He didn’t look angry; almost embarrassed to have been caught attacking the young woman next to the van.

He stumbled backward, tried to catch his balance, then tripped over a parking block next to an old Toyota. He fell, hit his head on the pavement with a loud CRACK, and stopped moving instantly.

Jim approached cautiously, afraid the fight would continue. But the man’s eyes stared off into the distance, focusing on something neither Jim nor anyone else this side of eternity could see. Blood began to pool around his head.

Jim looked to his right. The woman had apparently passed out in the commotion.

“Uh oh,” Jim said, and called 9-1-1.

When he hung up, he heard footsteps from behind. Jim turned, and there he was. The man in white.

“Hello, Jim,” The Devil said. “That was your first. You’ve got two more.”

Jim stared at him in disbelief. The morning birds began to sing in the trees next to the parking garage.

“Wow,” the man in white said. “That was unexpected. Most people usually scream something like ‘Holy crap!’ or ‘How the hell did you get here?’ Or sometimes just “AAAAAAH!’”

“What the hell?” Jim said.

“There we go.”

“You’re real? Last night was REAL?”

“The pathetic cry of a thousand college girls,” The Devil said, shaking his head sadly. “Of course I’m real. I’m real, you’re real, that blond next to the minivan is real, and all the blood that used to be in this dead guy’s head is DEFINITELY real. Real and staining my suit.”

The man in white lifted one of his feet in disgust.

“I can’t believe this!” Jim yelled.

“Neither can I! Do you know how hard it is to get blood stains out of a white suit?” The man in white spit into a rag and wiped at a spreading red spot on his pants. “I just had this dry cleaned!”

He futzed a bit more with his pants, grunted in frustration, then continued. “I just wanted to say congrats on doing a great job with number one, but look at this. My suit! This will never come out.”

“What do you mean two more? I didn’t kill anyone.”

“He looks pretty dead to me, Jim.”

“But Murder? I didn’t want…”

“Woah! Wait just a minute there, Jimmy. Murder? MURDER? You didn’t think I wanted you to murder anyone, did you?”

“Until a moment ago, I thought you were just a bad dream. Now, I don’t know what to think. “

“Well, That’s not how it works.” The man in white sat down next to Jim on the hood of of the old Toyota. It dented beneath him.

“All these stories you’ve heard about me, with God as the good guy and me as this malevolent evil force? Those are nice kid stories, Jim. But that’s not the real world.”

“God and me? We’re on the same team! He gets all the good people singing hymns in church on Sunday, making casseroles and cakes for bake sales, and reading bad romance novels about women in bonnets clutching their pearls at anything that might get their engines running.”

“And me?” The man in white looked at the body again. “I handle the rougher crowd. Like Mr. Wanna-Be-Rapist here.”

“Which one am I?” Jim asked.

“You ain’t no Boy Scout, that’s for sure. No bonnets and pearls for you. But you’re not a rapist like this guy. And you’re definitely not a murderer.”


“Let’s call it a happy accident. I’ve been watching you, Jim. You’ve had a rough go of things these last few years. I figured I’d let you in on some of my work and, as a token of my thanks, you get your heart’s deepest desire. Pretty good deal, isn’t it?”

“My heart’s deepest desire?” Jim asked. “What is this, an after-school special?”

The devil laughed out loud. His voice echoed off the empty walls of the parking garage around them. “I knew I liked you, Jim. That’s why I chose you. You’ve got a certain je ne sais quoi.”

“I don’t know. I don’t like the idea of killing people. Like ACTUALLY killing people.”

The Devil stood up from the dented Toyota and stepped closer. “The world is a dark place,” he said. “You don’t see it like I do.”

“What do you mean?”

“A man raping a woman in a suburban garage? That’s child’s play.  I’ve seen murder, rape, and worse on a massive scale. I’ve seen grown men – some of them men of the cloth – abuse children in unspeakable ways and, when they were done, they turned around sold those children to the highest bidder, and move on to another. I’ve watched normal, everyday people turn a blind eye as their supposed authorities whisked their neighbors away under cover of darkness merely because of their race or religion, and then pretend that the putrid stench coming from the smokestacks nearby wasn’t what they thought it was; what everyone KNEW it was. I’ve seen people wipe out entire nations – millions and millions of innocent people – because a madman in a party hat told them his version of God said it was holy and just.”

The man in white stepped so close, Jim could smell his breath. Hot mustard gas and roses with a faint whiff of mint.

“I have seen evil face to face, Jim. I have tasted it; felt its incessant beat that drives into men’s brains, drawing them to it, let the tendrils of its smoke fill my nostrils, scintillating my taste buds. I know evil, Jim.”

“Some people learn evil from childhood because that’s all they see in their world. Others get caught up in it due to circumstance or because they lacked the strength to stand against it. But some people, Jim. Some people ARE Evil. Evil to their core.  They revel in it; take joy in it. They take Evil to new heights of creativity even I cannot fathom.”

“God says everyone is redeemable, and maybe that’s true for him. But down here, in the Real World, where large men in black hoodies attack innocent women for no reason, those people run rampant. They take advantage of good people like that poor woman over there. Like the people you work with. Like you.”

“Those evil people need to be stopped, Jim. I don’t call that murder. I call it Justice.”

Jim stared at the pool of blood. It just kept spreading. Jim wondered how far it could go, whether it would ever stop.

“I don’t know,” he said.

The Devil stepped back and smiled again. “It’s a lot to take in. I know. But don’t worry. This will all make sense in the end. Trust me.”

Police sirens in the distance.

“Listen, I have to get going. Your next one is right around the corner, so be ready. And buck up, kiddo. You saved this woman’s life. You’re a hero! Enjoy it.”

**** **** **** ****

Check out Part 3: Slivers of Light

Hold Up. Wait a Minute. Let us get some JAMIE in it.

It’s been an extremely long day here in Shawville, but I finally made it here to share today’s story from Jamie Greening. Jamie’s been working on some science-fiction short stories recently, and he’s knocking it out of the park.

Which is nice, because there’s no baseball going on at the moment. I’m just glad SOMEONE is knocking it out of the park.

Take a moment and check out Jamie’s latest FREE FREE TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY FREE WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED short story, Academia.