Outside

Bright green leaves nodded, agreeing with the wind whispering in their ears. Like a million marbles rolling under the sun, in yellow and pink and white and blue, flowers shone in her face, showing off their sheen, manicured petals pollinated just in time, having lent shoulders to younglings experimenting wings.

They rest a while, but in the end they always take off. For blue skies beckoned them, casting their puffs of cloudy distractions aside, bringing sunlight to the spotlight, inviting explorers, the adventurous blood-eyed magpies and chirping berry eaters.

What a shame to be indoors, Hope wondered rolling her wheelchair out.

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Mentality

Lights blind my eyes as an onslaught of motorists zoom past, unaware of the lanky thirty-year-old in tank top and teared jeans, dragging feet along with ice coffee in hand.

Unaware… or uncaring.

It takes me a while to recover, but I don’t stop walking. There was no reason to halt in my tracks, shuffle to a corner, and lean by the railing as a boat or two bellowed from the river running below. 

I’m used to it. 

Chicago never sleeps, and neither do the millions of ants that crawl its streets night and day, heels tap dancing on metal bridges, tongues clicking in response to a muffled voice on the phone, and laughter echoing, reverberating along every alley.

I take another sip from my crush-after-use cup, the weight of which was slowly crushing the earth. I can’t afford to care anymore. I am no longer the save-the-planet idealist I used to be. 

That mentality dissolved with my business, my income.

Seven-Eleven has the best ice coffee. It’s so good that you can sense it trickling all the way down your throat, before plopping on the surface of your empty belly and filling it right to the brim.

Refreshing.

Company

She’d definitely be at the opera. Alone.

I should go too—there’s no way she’d bring the restraining order along.

War

The darkness pressed his face as cold air brushed against his exposed arms. He stepped forward tentatively—he didn’t want to trigger whatever was lurking just beyond his vision. Or perhaps it was sleeping. He couldn’t tell.

Bling!

Suddenly, out of no where, light was everywhere. Bright, white, blinding. Jason doubled over—he’d never thought lightness could hurt. As he crouched in pain, his grip tightened around Lyfe, his custom-designed handgun. Whatever was out there, he would get it. He would get it and thrash it, and get out of this hell alive. Couldn’t afford to lose this battle.

He raised his head from his navel, and—bam! A big blurry blob knocked the wind out of him. Searing pain shot up his head as blood flow scattered. Hitting the ground hard, he rasped for breath while peering for a glimpse of his attacker. It was Marcus. Marcus, his friend. Marcus, his partner. The same Marcus who who’d spent all his childhood weekends playing soccer with him, had almost cracked his skull open.

Towering over six feet, with shoulders as wide as a guitar, and muscles that bulged from its sockets, Marcus waited for Jason to stand. Jason took his time. He knew Marcus. Knew that he never liked killing dead rats. Regaining his breath, Jason stood up—there was no use stalling the inevitable. It had to end, and it had to end today.

“How dare you?” He spat at Marcus. Marcus wasn’t rattled—years of practice had taught him never to let personal emotions get in the way of getting the job done. And his job was clear—kill Jason and get the others one by one.

“Spare the chit chat.” He growled and attacked. Thrusting his fist at Jason’s unprotected ribs, he drilled his way deep, cracking a few as we did. Despite a seasoned fighter, Jason stood foolishly, his weapon still in his limp hand. But his mind raced, and he retaliated even before he’d recovered from the hit.

Swinging his arm at nothing in particular, he pulled the trigger hoping to hole Marcus in the shoulder.

The bullet never made contact.

Before he knew what happened, a grand fire erupted around him, searing his skin, tearing away at the tiny fragments of torn cloth wrapped around his calves. His brain paralysed the body, and he stood helpless as the fire enveloped his shoulders, as if assuring everything would soon be over.

Marcus was still standing, unmoved from his stance. The fire danced about him without a single graze. Jason took a great shuddering breath, and preparing to fight his way back, looked up at Marcus’s black eyes boring into his.

And it happened. A tiny piece of metal pierced Jason’s chest, crookedly making its way to his heart. In less than two seconds, the world went black.

Beep!

Game Over. The mechanical voice rang through the living room.

Ceremonial feelings

The whole world was gearing up. It was, after all, their Royal wedding. Excitement bubbled on every surface of the streets, for murmurs of rumours had spread like wildfire already. Babbling crowds lingered, in vegetable markets and liquor stores, wondering, guessing the colour of the dresses, the types of flowers, the length of the veil, and—the designer who made all possible.

The family’s feverish mirth was only too obvious, and even the bride was getting along fine.

But he struggled.

Millions of eyes would observe him throughout the ceremony. The pastor had never been more nervous in his life.