Five Sentence Fiction: "Kept"

The ticket was waiting with the station agent in her name. No doubt he'd had his secretary take care of it, all arranged with a word and a wave of the hand between important meetings. The train would take her into the city, the cab would take her to the apartment building she'd never seen, the door key she'd be handed by the Super would let her into the apartment and into a new life.

She already knew she'd never love him, not really, not with his short temper and his selfish lovemaking and his cigar-smoking-as-status-symbol. It's temporary, just temporary.

Meet Me On The Wharf

She was standing under the very last lamp in a tight red dress, out past the pay phone and the benches. He walked to her as casually as he could manage. "Evening."

"Relax, no one's watching."

"Can't be too careful. You have the drive?"

She held up a tiny square. "Flash card."

He let her place it in his palm. "That's fine, my laptop takes them. Pretty standard now. You've already been paid." It wasn't a question.

She smiled. He nodded and turned to walk away, not hearing the rustle of the silenced pistol sliding out of her garter belt.

Real-Time Tactical

Watts slumped down against the trench wall, shoulders against support beams on either side, laid his helmet bowl-up in his lap. He surveyed the soldiers lying twisted and dead around him, and asked, lightly, "Anybody got any water?"

"Nobody has water, Watts, nobody ever has water. Stop asking." The Sergeant answered without looking down: he was scanning no-man's-land with binoculars. "I see Perkins."


He watched for a time before answering. "Not moving."

"You told him not to charge them. It's his own fault." Watts lit a cigarette, took a long pull from it, rolled the smoke around his mouth before inhaling. He held it in for ages, imagining he could feel the nicotine being absorbed by his lung walls.

The Sergeant climbed down from the edge, tossed the binoculars onto his pack. "I'll have a word with him, believe you me."

"Best do. Next time he'll get us all killed."

"What do you care?"

"I don't," Watts exclaimed, bristling. "I'm a fighting man to the core, Sergeant, born and bred. I just like to win."

"All right, all right, don't get offended." The Sergeant opened his pack, shoved the binoculars in, and fished out a tin of rations which he opened and picked at with obvious distaste. "I just don't see why it matters, winning or not. Not like it'll make a difference."

Watts took the cigarette from his lips, stared at him. "I just don't understand you, sometimes, Sergeant."

"I'm smarter than you, Watts; I'm a non-commissioned officer, after all. My analytical  and decision-making skills are heightened by design. I'm capable of reading the situation so that I can give orders. I don't stop reading it just because the fighting's over for the day."


"So tomorrow, we'll be back at our starting positions and it'll all start again, and Perkins will be reckless again because that's how Perkins is, and you'll be cautious again because that's how you are, and the battle will turn the way it turns because of some unseen hand manipulating the fighting on a scale beyond our ken."

"What, like Generals?" Watt snorted. "I've never even seen a General, Sergeant."

"Nor I."

"All I care about is doing my job."

"That's all you're supposed to care about." The Sergeant reached into his pack, grabbed another ration tin, handed it to Watts. "Here, eat something. Not long until dark, now."

They ate in silence as the glow on the horizon faded. They could hear far-off singing, bits and echoes of song that had found their way through the smoky haze laying over no-man's-land.

"They're at it again."

"I think it's 'Wacht am Rhein'," Observed the Sergeant.

"Always liked that one. Do you think it'll be Jerry again, tomorrow?"

"Probably. It's usually Jerry."

"Might be the Romans; you never know." Watts lit up. "Remember when it was the Zulus? Now there was a battle. Perkins caught a spear right through his—"

"It hasn't been the Zulu for years," The Sergeant sighed. "Now get some rest."

Fantasy Drabble #357 "Innovation"

There is a churning at the surface, a cavitation, a rending of the waters that spreads in all directions only to disperse in the waves. She rises to investigate.

A ship, a small one, all metal and paint and throbbing hum. They used to row, men did: they'd grunt in unison at the waterline, pulling themselves across the surface one stroke at a time. Then they'd stretched canvas across the sky and let the wind do their work for them. Clever men.

Now their ships cough and spit grime that settles on the water; she'd sink them, if she could.

One Night At A Time

Ant got out of bed, shuffled to the kitchen in the dark, pulled open the refrigerator door; the cold, blue light inside revealed vodka and expired milk. He stared for a while, until he could feel the cool air escaping past his arms, and then closed it.

"You need groceries, Anthony," advised Mr. Greene, from somewhere behind him.

"I know. I'll go tomorrow." He fumbled for a glass in the cabinet, rinsed it out, filled it with water.

"You were supposed to go yesterday."

Mr. Greene was a flicker of movement in of the corner of Ant's eye, at which Ant didn't try to look directly. It would have scared him, had he not known. It had scared him, when he didn't know, when he'd first moved in. "It's too far a walk; what do you want from me?"

Ant walked slowly back towards the bedroom, still in the dark, and stubbed his pinky toe on the hallway corner, almost dropping the glass, and spilling the water. "God-dammit."

"You could turn on the light."

"It'll just wake me up more." Ant leaned against the wall, holding his foot in his hand, gingerly manipulating his toe with his fingers, trying to figure out how badly he'd hurt it. "It feels broken."

"No it doesn't. It would hurt worse."

"It hurts a goddamn lot."

"It would hurt worse."

Ant put his foot on the floor, cautiously putting a little weight on it, and then a little more. "You slipped up, there, 'Mr. Greene'. You made a mistake. If you're not just in my head, how do you know how much it hurts? How do you know? If you're an actual honest-to-god ghost and not a hallucination from me going crazy. Or from not sleeping. Whatever."

"I know how people act when they break a bone, Anthony."

"Fuck off." He hobbled into the bathroom, turned on the light, immediately squeezed his eyes shut. He could see the glow through his eyelids, a faint orange washing across the field of black. Eventually he opened his eyes a sliver, to give his pupils time to adjust.  He set the glass down, raised his foot again, tried to get a good look at the pinky toe. "It'll be black and blue tomorrow."

"Probably. Take an aspirin, Anthony, it's an anti-inflammatory. It'll keep the swelling down."

Ant refilled the water glass and opened the medicine cabinet. He grabbed the aspirin bottle; he hesitated, then grabbed the sleeping pill bottle.

"That's not a good idea."

"I need to sleep."

"You slept a little last night without them."

"Two hours. I need more." Ant picked up the glass, turned off the bathroom light, opened his eyes wide, waited for them to adjust. "I need to sleep."

There was ambient light in the hall, from the streetlamps outside, from the moon, from neighbors' porchlights; once he could see it he started for the bedroom again, sliding the hand with the pill bottles along the wall to keep his distance. He shut the bedroom door behind him, sat on the edge of the bed, switched the lamp on the nightstand on to its lowest setting. He set the glass down, set the aspirin bottle down, stared at the sleeping pill bottle. "How many, do you think, Greene?"

"One. But you can do without. You—"

"I took two last time, and it didn't work at all. Just made me fuzzy until the sun came up."

"You took them at four in the morning, Anthony. Just take one."

"It's three thirty-seven now."

"Just take one."

He stared at the bottle some more. "Let me think about it for a minute."

"About what? Whether to take one or two?"

He shook the bottle, listened to the sound of the pills in their dozens bouncing against the plastic. "It's more a question of two or all of them at this point."

"I really don't like it when you talk like that."

Ant scanned the room, tried to focus on Mr. Greene, could never quite get a bead on where to look. "I don't get you, Greene. You're dead. If you're real, I mean, if you're not a figment of my imagination or a symptom of some psychosis. You're a ghost, which means you're dead. You don't seem that bad off. Lemme ask you: do you have trouble sleeping?"

"Anthony, please be serious. Just take two. Take two, and an aspirin, and fix the edges of the blackout curtains, and close your eyes, and put everything out of your mind. You'll fall asleep."

"The neighbors will wake me. The upstairs neighbors will stomp around and—"

"Put earplugs in. You have earplugs in the nightstand drawer, half a package."

"I don't like those, Greene. What if there's a fire?"

"You'd hear the smoke alarm even through the earplugs, Anthony, I promise. But there's not going to be any fire. Don't even think about that."

"I wouldn't want to burn." Anthony opened the bottle, spilled its contents out onto the comforter beside him, pushed the loose pills around with his fingertips. "Slip away quietly, that's one thing. Burning would hurt."


"Oh, shut up. I'm not going to do it. I can't do it. You know I can't." Ant picked up two of the pills, tossed them into his mouth, grabbed the glass, washed them down his throat. "It'd be humiliating. People would say things." He  didn't bother with the aspirin, he didn't bother putting the rest of the sleeping pills back in the bottle. He laid back on the bed, his legs dangling off at the knee. He closed his eyes. "Why can't I see you, Mr. Greene? Seriously."

"What do you want me to tell you? That I'm not a real ghost? Do you even believe in ghosts, Anthony?"

"Of course not."

"Of course not. Hand me your glass, Anthony, you'll spill water on the bed."

Ant held up the glass, and the weight of it was gone from his hand, presumably to the nightstand. "Thanks."