Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Even Steven by OD Hegre

Dr Steven Sampson, a rich pharmaceutical consultant, happens upon a dark company secret and decides to get out before it's too late.

Steven Sampson stood, staring down at the desktop; the clutter was gone. Sunlight glinted off its mahogany finish. Only three things remained. Steven sat down, picked up the stack of emails, letting the pages riffle through his fingers.

"Idiots."

If the shit hit the fan in the future, he'd be long gone - somewhere in the south of France. He was damn lucky one of the nimrods had inadvertently copied him on the internal emails. He'd begun moving the money around a month ago.

Steven reached over and grabbed the prescription container. Of the thousands of candidate drugs explored by the pharmaceutical industry each year, fewer than a couple hundred went on to lab and animal testing. After years of work - examining pharmacokinetics, safety, etc - just a few qualified to move into the clinic. In the end, only one of five drugs that ever started human testing in a Phase One clinical trial received FDA approval and hit the market.

Steven shook the little bottle; the pills inside rattled about. His basic research had led to one of those rare successes and he had spent years helping to commercialize Placade. It had made him rich and with time it was going to make him disgustingly wealthy... maybe. But there was a problem.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Antarctic Station Gamma-3 by Charles Howard Wise

Charles Howard Wise's character is trapped in a lonely weather station during an endless Antarctic blizzard.

Journal Entry: 7.27.2023, Antarctic Station Gamma-3, Lt Cmdr Jacob Scott

The wind is still screaming outside. It's been at least ten days since I've seen the sun. This eternal night, this white hell that I'm trapped in has numbed my mind. The weather station's inside temperature is a balmy 68 degrees and I have plenty to eat and drink. My ten companions are only a few hundred feet away in the main shelter, but they may as well be across the universe. Stepping out into this blizzard would be suicidal. The last temperature reading was 60 below zero and the wind speed was 70 miles per hour. How long can it last?

Journal Entry: 7.31.2023, Antarctic Station Gamma-3, Lt Cmdr Jacob Scott

There is still no contact with my companions. Our communications failed days ago. For all I know they may all be in the main unit huddled together in a frozen mass. The blizzard still howls outside, uncaring but majestic in its own malevolent way.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Under the Bridge by Uche Umezurike

A reluctant visitor to Lagos gets an education in the ways of the street, by Uche Umezurike

Lanky sights him first. Like a cheetah, he rises purposefully from his shadowy corner. The handsome man has just alighted from a taxi, which he must have chartered from the airport. He is supposed to walk up the pedestrian bridge over to the other side of Airport Road. He looks from side to side. Then, he sprints across the expressway.

His shiny suitcase glinting in the tangerine twilight catches my eye.

Standing on the roadside, he tries to flag down an oncoming Danfo bus. The driver fails to see him, maybe ignores him. This man tucks his suitcase under his armpit. As if sensing an enemy, he throws his eyes around himself. Then back to the expressway.

He seems like a banker. White long sleeves, an expensive tie. Trousers pinstriped. The suitcase is gilt-edged.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Twists and Turns by Kayode Raphael Adegboye

Alex's parents leave Africa for the first time to attend his wedding, but there are some things he hasn't told them; by Kayode Raphael Adegboye

It was supposed to be the marriage of their only living son. The venue was Mainland Europe and Papa and Mama Alex in their mid 70s were being checked in at security points J and K of the Alimi Nana International Airport.

'Please Papa, could you raise your hands up for us to check you?' the young cutely dressed security officer at entrance J had told Papa Alex.

Papa Alex laughed sheepishly and said, 'You think say I dey hide something. Una na wa o.'

Mama Alex was not going to query any order she was given, hence she was quickly checked in through entrance K. She stayed for a while waiting for her husband to finish up with the security operatives and about ten minutes later, both of them were guided to departure lounge 21 by one of the airport patrol policemen.

After a short wait at the departure lounge, they were both sitting side by side in the Jumbo sized Airbus 7740 for an eight-hour flight to Europe. This was their first trip ever outside of Africa and outside of their autonomous community, where they both had their childhood. The excitement was just indescribable.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spiraling Heavenly with Sonja Henie by Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz relates, with great emotional honesty and verbal diarrhoea, his trip to the gastroenterologist for a rectal biopsy.

I watch Dr. Klein smirk when I ask him why he took the biopsy, and he leans back in his deep gray leather chair behind his desk (the chair creaks, as does my heart) and pyramids his fingers and leans his chin, with conspiratorial confidence, and says, "Everything's fine, Michael. Don't worry," and I, not surprisingly, have to worry (I'm in a gastroenterologist's office, not a place where people who don't worry tend to congregate), because it may be difficult to ignore what happened to me a few moments ago while I, gaily innocent of my fate, was in that exam room just outside that door lying on my left side on the brittle white paper on the brown leather examining table facing the sallow and flaking wall while Dr. Klein primed by using multiple fingers and K-Y Jelly with practiced disregard and then inserted what felt like a mid-sized family sedan but was really an Olympus CF P20S flexible sigmoidoscope attached into an Olympus CLK-3 cold light supply and scoped too high, asked, "Can you feel that?" as I squirmed (can I feel it? I can taste it) and said just, "Uhnn," and wanted Dr. Klein to know that, no, I wasn't comfortable, didn't enjoy being here, when he ruined my inner monologue by abruptly standing and saying, curtly, too, "Don't move. I want to do a biopsy," and I blinked, which seemed, at the time, an acceptable response, and then tersely he yelled, "Alma?" and then the door opened and the receptionist, Mrs. Trott, came in, with whom I was used to having polite appointment discussions, fully clothed, too, and not with this thing sticking out of me, but, hey, she's something more than a receptionist, a supra-receptionist, a jack-of-all-receptionists, or a receptionist-plus-whatever-she-was-doing, which was holding a long thin steel wire, that is, it looked like steel when I glanced over my right shoulder to see Mrs. Trott holding the long thin steel wire with a plunger on the end and Dr. Klein fitting the other end of the long thin steel wire into the sigmoidoscope so I turned back to stare at the sallow and flaking wall and heard him say, "Now," and was somewhat petrified, in abstract fear, but not palpable fear, really, because palpable fear is a result of emotion and I had no emotion because I had an instrument the size of a 24-cubic-foot side-by-side refrigerator, with ice maker, stuck in my lower bowel instead, which tends to cancel most emotion, and conversation, and Dr. Klein repeated, "Now," quite grimly, too, and I glanced over my right shoulder, figuring, and here I'm going on pure instinct, while I should be trusting I should also be inquisitive, especially when I hear a gastroenterologist, especially this gastroenterologist, say "Now Alma," whereupon I saw Mrs. Trott plunging the plunger and Dr. Klein taking out the long thin steel wire from the sigmoidoscope and putting something bloody (my bloody!), or at least red (my red!), into a vial, which he gave to Mrs. Trott, who now had two vials in her hand (two vials containing bits of red me!), and she took the long thin steel wire from Dr. Klein while I paled disconsolately and turned away again toward the sallow and flaking wall, and he said, "I'm finished now, Michael," and like a sensuous immersion into warm butter I felt the sublime pressure of the sigmoidoscope sliding out, feeling spent, flayed, flushed, finished, until this moment, this very moment, where I now sit opposite that toad-nosed and bat-eared pip of a doctor smugly smirking and pyramiding his flatulent fingers to ape concern while I, still throbbing and quite loose down there, construct my own diagnosis, and the prognosis isn't good, how could it be, and I wipe my brow to clear what's left of my life while I stare across the desk at that maggot-toothed slug-eyed practitioner of dissoluteness and malfeasance and see him slather his molars in anticipation with a tongue dipped in bile and leer deskward at me, and I figure when I lay my head one last time on the pillow of my cancerous-ridden misfortune my wife Barbara will pout Protestantly in mock concern and my mother will exude enormous chicken-fat encased globs of congealing pulsating guilt over my deathbed, and the white soft breath of my life will spin and spiral, like Sonja Henie, and soon, while all hold their breath, mine, rasping so laboriously, will dissipate, resembling the acting careers of Adam West and Linda Darnell.

Or I'll survive and have to deal with everything.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Before He Knew It by Claire Kole

Pamela Grace, a single mother working two jobs and struggling to get by in life, finds refuge in the church - but her faith is about to be sorely tested; by Claire Kole

And I said: 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!' - Isaiah 6:5

Pamela Grace looked like a greyhound. She was a thin, delicate looking woman with straight, shiny dirty blond hair and wrists you could wrap your pinky finger and thumb around. And much like a greyhound, Ms Grace had pitiful and haunting brown eyes that always seemed to glisten like she was about to cry. It was as if she had seen a ghost and never got past the trauma or she knew some disturbing secret that everyone else did not know. She was a fragile woman living a fragile life.

When Ms Grace and her husband bought their house five years back, she had been wary because she knew several people who lived on streets with happy-sounding names where catastrophe then struck them. Ms Jane and her family lived on Blueberry Lane when her son was diagnosed with and died of cancer. And Brett Chatowski had slipped off a ladder while cleaning the gutters, hit his head, and died leaving his family to live on Pleasant Street alone. Her husband had dismissed her fear and convinced her into buying the suburban home. Ms Grace lived in an emerald green house on the cul-de-sac of 12 Sunview Way with a gravel driveway and a white picket fence in the backyard where her two small children could run around. Now it was just Ms Grace and her kids ever since he left and they got a divorce. So their catastrophe was the death of a marriage.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Empty by Stephen Cooper

Hax is pulled out of his depression by a very unusual event, and he decides to take advantage of the situation; by Stephen Cooper.

Bit early to start on the whiskey, but it was time enough.

Hax sat alone, eyes red and bleary.

He had barely slept the night before; anxiety and worries had occupied his mind.

Dreams came and went with the common denominator being the lucid visions of past enemies chasing him relentlessly.

He had paced the room for hours until he was exhausted and then he had slumped into his chair and opened a bottle of single malt.

That had been five hours ago, and he was still going strong.

The bar was empty; his only company was the stale toxic smell of piss wafting in from the toilet.

The television was tuned into a world news channel which he stared at with complete indifference.

If it had been a window, he would be looking at something far away on the horizon.

Friday, February 8, 2013

For Old Times' Sake by Judith Field

A famous author returns to her home town for a book signing, and meets an old friend who still thinks about her... a lot; by Judith Field.

Lin Mansfield sat at a table in the middle of the bookshop, flanked on one side by piles of her latest book. On the other side a life-sized cardboard cutout of herself grinned, holding a copy of her first book. The words 'Now a major film!' splashed across cardboard Lin's legs.

Book signings were a necessary evil, according to Tom, Lin's agent. He was right, but today's had been hard work, especially so late in the afternoon. Sitting for hours at the head of a long line snaking round and round the bookshop, never getting any shorter. Every youngster in town would find an autographed copy of Lin's latest in their Christmas stocking.

It had been Tom's idea to hold the signing in Lin's home town. 'Local woman makes good, it'll pull the punters in,' he'd said, brushing aside her complaints that she hadn't been local for some time. 'Come on, you'll only be stuck there for a day. You'll be home by Christmas, with lots more sales under your belt.'

After four hours listening to the same few carols on a continuous loop, Lin's smile felt as fixed and artificial as that of her cardboard double. She took a bottle of some herbal 'rescue remedy' out of her Louis Vuitton bag and dispensed a few drops onto her tongue. She folded her arms onto the table in front of her and leaned forward, closing her eyes. Let everyone wait for a bit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Certain Future by Michael C Keith

Michael C Keith's short dialogue between two friends, one of whom knows exactly what his future holds.

In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away
- W.H. Auden

"Hey, man, I'm a decaying body in a year," snapped Jason, after a friend had asked him for his thoughts on how global warming would change the world.

"I'm sorry, dude," responded Marty. "I forgot. You look so healthy and strong."

"On the outside. Inside the walls are crumbling."

Marty was about to say something but changed his mind.

"Chill, man. I'm good with it. I mean there's not a freaking thing I can do about it. Better off than the rest of humanity though. You guys got to fret about what's ahead for you. No fretting about that for me. I know exactly what the future holds."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Rape by K Viswanatha Sastry

Kailash finds himself deeply attracted to two women, neither of whom he can have; by K Viswanatha Sastry.

"Suji,

"A rape has been committed before my very eyes... not once, many times. I have not been able to stop the outrage..." Kailash began writing the letter.



It all began like this...



Kailash was waiting for Suji at their usual spot in the park. Each passing minute seemed like an aeon to him. It was already 10 minutes past the time fixed for their meeting.

Seeing Suji appear at the gate of the park, he felt relieved. She walked down and sat beside him. She looked very beautiful.

"Hi Kailash, how did your interview go?" she asked eagerly.

"Fine. I hope I should get the job."

Suji felt relieved. "Thank God! Decks are getting cleared for our marriage. Once you receive the job offer letter, you can talk to my parents and ask for my hand... and then..."

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Slight Inclination by Jerry W Crews

Jerry W Crews' character has reached an all-time low in his life, and starts looking for a way out - but fate will teach him a lesson.

Some of what happened I still remember. The rest has been lost and had to be filled in by others. I have no reason to doubt what I've been told and I have no means of verifying the events.

I do remember it being a cold morning. A light frost was on my windshield as I prepared my commute to work. Instead of taking the time to scrape the ice off, I revved the engine until I could feel lukewarm air blowing out the defroster. Then I took off down the street, bent over and squinting through the small opening the warm air had made. I could barely see where I was going but that never deterred me before and it wasn't slowing me down then. At the end of my street I barely missed a garbage bin someone had set too far in the road. Not seeing it until the last moment, I swerved to the left more than I would have if my view had been unobstructed. But, by the time I made it to the highway my windshield had cleared and I settled in for the commute to work.

The traffic was flowing fine and I was convinced it would be another boring ride to the city. It was just as well as I had much to think about. My life was unraveling and I didn't know what to do about it. I felt as if I was being attacked from all sides and was defenseless to retaliate.