Category Archives: Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday: The Journalist

Breaking STOP
Suspect in custody STOP
Trial of the century STOP

In every hand, pocket, and street corner, digital devices flashed minute by minute updates.

The whole city held its breath.

People wanted to celebrate. To shout with anger, joy, or relief. The long darkness was over at last. The fear, the uncertainty, the grief were starting to dissipate.

But most people knew not to celebrate too soon. They had a suspect, that was all. She was innocent until proven guilty. They didn’t have all the facts and they shouldn’t jump to conclusions. It was too soon to respond. Their hearts beat faster, their minds raced to imagine what was next. But facing the exhilarating rush of emotion, most were able to with hold their judgements. It was too soon to respond.

Nadim stared at his computer screen, furiously typing updates in one window while shooting off messages in the next.

At almost the same moment he’d broken the story he’d started petitioning his editor. He’d never had the chance to serve on a trial news delegation, and he wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.

This was his story, he told himself as he crouched over his computer in the police department lobby.

He didn’t care how long the trial would last, how long he would spend sequestered away with the other members of the media delegation. This was an opportunity to see history unfold.

And it was a tremendous responsibility. He’d have to get to know every detail of the case. To live side by side with the jury, to see what they saw, experience what they experienced.

He’d keep detailed notes and file articles that would be posted nowhere.

And then, when the trial was over, he’d have to make sense of it all. The media blackout the covered the case would be lifted and he would have to report, fully and genuinely, what happened, how it happened, and importantly, why it happened.

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Fiction Friday: The Confession

I’m not sure, but I think Fiction Friday might be winding up.

***

Daphne breathed out deeply. Her advocate gave her an encouraging nod.

“Yes,” she said finally. “I did do it.”

The gravity of those words hit her with unexpected force. She expected a gnawing vortex to open, to swallow her whole. To swallow the whole room, perhaps the whole world. Nothing could ever be the same again. Nothing.

But that’s all that happened: nothing.

There was silence.

Daphne thought it would never end.

“Why?” asked Detective Jones.

It was a simple word. A simple question. A punctuation to the silence.

Daphne stared at her advocate, hoping beyond hope he would crack a big smile and yell, “Surprise! It’s all a big joke! This isn’t really happening!”

But it was really happening.

She knew that. Nothing would change that.

She looked at her hands. She opened her mouth. She furrowed her brows. She closed her mouth.

How could she possible make them understand? How could they ever understand? Had they ever known that welling of anger? That spark of fury? That unstoppable torrent of feeling?

She didn’t understand it. How could they? It had happened in another life, to another person.

She remembered the mechanics, but the emotion was unreal.

Why.

The question echoed in her mind.

Was there an answer? A real answer? She could say something. She could make something up. Give some simple story of anger or rage. Something they could understand.

But could she ever really tell them what it had been like? Those striking moments of life and death, darkness and light? Between the conception and the creation, between the emotion and the response.

Why?

There was no answer. Not really.

Why?

“I don’t know,” she said simply, a smile playing her lips.

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Fiction Friday: The Memorial

Fiction Friday is back!

***
“Thank you,” Jaden mumbled as he greeted another relative, neighbor or friend.

He knew them all, but today the faces were a blur. The conversations a fog. He said the same words over and over, but…it was as if he were far away. As though someone else spoke for him while he hid under the blankets. But every conversation brought him a little closer to the truth.

Someone brought him food. Was he hungry? He didn’t know.

“Your brother was…” a caller choked up, “a truly remarkable young man. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

They stood in silence a moment.

“Sure did know how to cause trouble, though. Heh, I remember this one time…” the visitor launched into a somewhat scandalous tale of a particularly raucous Friday night.

That was the brother Jaden remembered. “Truly remarkable,” sure, the man was brilliant, but “troublemaker”…that was more his style. And, no doubt, he thought, how Mitch would want to be remembered.

Jaden couldn’t help but laugh, tears in his eyes.

For a moment he felt okay. And that was okay. This was his time to feel however he felt.

“Thank you,” Jaden mumbled before greeting the next guest. “Thank you.”

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Fiction Friday: Bargaining

With the holidays coming up, this is likely to be the last Fiction Friday for a couple of weeks.

***

Daphne stared down at her hands, biting her lip.

“Yeah, I knew him,” she said finally. “But that doesn’t mean…you know…” She trailed off.

She couldn’t lie, but she couldn’t talk about it, either.

It’d be better to come clean, better for her, better for those around her. That’s what the therapist had said. And she believed it, but she couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t. She’d open her mouth and say nothing.

Words would make it real. But it hadn’t been real. It couldn’t be real. It felt like a lifetime ago. Like a dream.

The detective smiled patiently. “I’m not implying anything. We’re just trying to piece together the timeline from that night.” She paused, letting the words sink in.

“Neighbors saw you enter the apartment. What time would you say you got there?”

“Around 7, I think,” Daphne paused, deciding where to go next. There was no choice, she’d have to lie. “And then I left, around 10.”

The detective tried to keep her face a mask, but Daphne saw it. The detective thought she was lying. Her mind snapped to focus. Anger and adrenaline began to kick in. The truth didn’t matter any more, she had to survive. She’d do anything to survive.

Daphne took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. She smiled. There she was, her fearless savior.

“We had dinner together. I would have stayed later, but I had to get to work early the next morning,” the lies were coming easier now. “I almost wish I had stayed. Maybe if I had been there…maybe then this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe…I could have done something to stop it.”

Daphne’s eyes glistened as she bit her lip uncertainly. She knew how to play this game. “I know I should have come to you sooner, but…I just couldn’t. I couldn’t. It was too much. I couldn’t believe he was really….gone.” She stayed strong despite her grief.

The detective sat there silently, giving Daphne her space.

“I know it’s difficult,” the detective finally said. “But I need you to walk me through exactly what happened that night. I need your help.”

Daphne nodded silently. She was in the zone now, she could make this work. But she’d have to be careful, thoughtful.

She didn’t trust this woman.

***
Detective Jones waited patiently. She’d smoked out criminals before and this would be no different.

Be calm. Be polite. Be observant. Don’t force it. It was like playing chess. And Detective Jones was very good at playing chess. She smiled.

“I’m not implying anything. We’re just trying to piece together the timeline from that night. Neighbors saw you enter the apartment. What time would you say you got there?”

The woman she was interviewing responded – a little too precisely. Detective Jones made her face a mask, trying not to reveal her hand.

Everything told her that this woman knew more than she was saying, that she herself was likely the killer. But she’d have to get there in time. She didn’t have enough yet.

Jones listened with detached compassion as the woman told her story, shared her grief. It seemed so real, but something was off.

She took a deep breath, focusing her mind. She could do this, she knew. Just a little further.

“I know it’s difficult,” Dective Jones said “But I need you to walk me through exactly what happened that night. I need your help.”

She sat back and listened, thoughtfully, carefully.

She didn’t trust this woman.

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Fiction Friday: The Villain, Part II

Fiction Friday continues.

***
Remorse had started to creep in.

At first it was only a tiny pang of nothingness. A blind spot. Rough and calloused around the edges, but easily ignored.

But every day that hole grew bigger.

She’d wake in the morning and see his face. She’d catch glimpses of him while she walked down the street. See him smiling one moment, then broken and lifeless the next. And it only made the emptiness grow.

Daphne wondered blandly if this is how other people reacted – or would react if they did such a thing.

She’d expected it to be different. After she murdered Carlos, she’d felt – briefly – so alive. That moment was a flash a brilliance in her dull, grey, life and she’d thought, just for a moment, she thought she’d never feel so empty again.

She expected to feel terrible or exhilarated. To hate herself or feel the rush of pride. She expected to feel… something. You don’t just kill someone and walk away the same.

But Daphne felt empty now, just as she’d felt empty before.

Some days she’d tell herself that she was a mastermind. She’d gotten away with it. No one knew it was her. It proved she could do anything. She could outwit them all.

Other days she’d say she was terrible. The villain of the story if there were to be one. A vile creature hardly earning the status of humanity.

But whatever stories she told herself, they’d never ring true.

Some days she’d stand in the bathroom for hours, staring at herself in the mirror. Wondering if there was a person under that skin somewhere or just a malfunctioning robot. That would explain a lot.

Some days she wouldn’t get out of bed, passing the time just laying there for hours, staring at the ceiling. No movement, no thought.

She started to realize she needed help.

She couldn’t quite say when she realized it. But one morning she woke up, and…really woke up.

As if she’d had a dream where she’d cried uncontrollably for hours while sticking her hand in a flame to make herself feel better. A dream where she was repulsed by what she was, trying to destroy herself because she knew she was beyond redeeming. A dream where the emptiness swallowed her whole, where she simultaneously felt the lash of self-loathing and the cool relief of nothingness, as though no pain could ever touch her again.

It felt like a dream. Had she really done those things? She couldn’t remember. Not really, anyway. She remembered it like a book she’d once read. The actions were there, but not the feelings. Had that really been her?

Almost in a trance she got herself up to go to the local mental health clinic.

She could talk to someone there. Maybe they could help her.

Probably not, she thought.

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Fiction Friday: The Classroom

Fiction Friday is back!

***

The classroom was noisy, chaotic. Students roamed freely or leaned lazily against walls. Some were shouting and yelling.

Everything was under control.

Nadia sat in the corner watching her class. Hardly saying a word.

“When you look at the historical use of government surveillance, there’s no clear correlation showing their use leading to a drop in crime,” one student said, adding citations of several studies in his favor.

“But this isn’t really an issue of trying to prevent future crimes,” another student chimed in, “It’s about trying to catch someone who has already committed a crime. When something like this happens, there should be documentation, a lead, something to go on.”

“But nothing like this has happened in years,” another student added. “Is it really worth recording us all the time, just for us the rare instance that we need it? What about our privacy?”

“I’d give that up for safety,” another student injected.

“No one’s really watching the video most of the time, so I think maybe it’s okay?” Added another.

“I don’t know…it seems like a drastic reaction,” another student spoke up. “I mean, this is important and all, finding this person, but…privacy is important, too. I don’t know that I want the government to have the power to watch me all the time. I mean, I don’t really do anything interesting, but…I dunno, it just feels wrong.”

The students paused for a moment, pondering all these options. The pros and cons. The tradeoffs and considerations. The bustling energy of the room died to a light hum as students screwed up their faces and shook their heads, trying to work out their own thoughts on the matter.

Nadia had her eye on the one student who hadn’t spoken up yet.

Most of the kids had been actively engaged in the conversation. Speaking out with their ideas, their research, their questions. But some people are just naturally quieter. Some people take more time to formulate their thoughts, or have a harder time jumping in two rowdy, engaged conversations.

It was no problem, but she wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to engage. She wondered if she should say something.

“This is a lot to think about,” one of the active students spoke up. “But I’m not sure what’s best. What do you think?” She asked, turning to the student who’d been silent.

Nadia smiled.

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Fiction Friday – Dialogue

Fiction Friday continues below. I’d almost thought of abandoning this particular pastime, but after hearing a some of you express interest in what happens next, I decided to continue on for awhile.

To be clear, I wouldn’t exactly qualify this story as a mystery. We do, after all, already know who committed the crime. (Or so it seems?) But, I would say, the story is an exploration. An exploration of a utopia of sorts. A world where people are flawed and imperfect, but where they work together as best they can.

***

A hard rain battered the windows. The wind gusted. Trees shook. It was a dreadful night to be outside.

Yet many had braved the storm. Pushed through the wind, huddled tightly in their jackets. Inside-out umbrellas flapping at their side.

Despite the cold storm raging outside, the community room was warm and cheery inside. The youngest kids played off in the corner, under the watchful eye of all nearby. Older kids crowded in with their parents, taking extra servings of dinner and stuffing their pockets with cookies while engaging intently with the discussion.

Three weeks had gone by since the brutal murder of a young man. A friend and neighbor. Known well by some, though unknown by others.

It felt as though the whole city had shown up at this meeting – the second in a series of dialogues to collectively process what had happened. How it happened. What it meant.

As the final stragglers dragged themselves in, neighbors greeted each other warmly. Strangers met and became friends. Soon the buzz of conversation died down as folks settled in their seats and the discussion formally got underway.

Nadia Hakim sat a table of ten, her two children on either side. Her wife, unfortunately, was still at work. Buried in the details of this very case.

She listened politely as Greg McManners went on about the value of security cameras. 

While neighbors were generally very alert to their surroundings, this crime had taken place in the middle of the night. Neighbors had been asleep. By the time they awoke to investigate, the perpetrator had already fled the scene. If there had been security cameras on the street, he argued, the perpetrator would almost certainly have been caught – if not entirely dissuaded in the first place.

Nadia had known Greg for years. He was always eager to cede his privacy in the name of protection. From his experience, she knew, it seemed like the best solution. She disagreed.

She waited as Greg finished his comment and let the interpreter finish his last few words. She looked around the table to see who was most eager to speak next.

“You raise some really good points,” her teenage son spoke up. “But, from my experience…it may be necessary to have some authority, but I find…it’s better to have as little as possible. I understand your concerns, but I’m concerned that if we put security cameras in our streets, if we hope that authority will deter people from doing things like this…well, I’m concerned that will just raise a different set of issues.”

The listeners nodded thoughtfully.

The conversation went on more than another hour. People shared their thoughts. Their reactions. Their ideas. Solutions were still a long way off, but even in the discussion, some progress was being made.

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Fiction Friday – the strain

A continuation of Fiction Friday.

***
It’d been a rough day.

Detective Jones felt completely drained.

She’d thought notifying the family would be the worst part. It usually was. Trying to remain calm and project comfort. Remaining compassionate without losing herself. That was always exhausting. She’d been expecting the strain. She’d prepared for it.

But she hadn’t prepared for the ongoing, day-to-day pressure of the case.

Nothing like this had happened in years. The public was in an uproar, eager for details of the case, for assurance they were safe. The department had been flooded with press inquires, as media clamored for the latest.

And through it all, Detective Jones battled her own demons.

No matter how many times she went over the case in her mind, she could still barely believe it had happened.

Usually, she was able to analyze cases with a professional detachment. Caring about those involved but able to marry that with a calculated understanding of the facts.

But not this time.

Every time she tried to step back, tried to take in the big picture, tried to see the nearly indiscernible pattern she’d always excelled at finding…the gruesome details of the case would snap her back down.

How could she hope to solve a case she could barely even accept?

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Fiction Friday: The Villain

A continuation of Fiction Friday….

***
Daphne walked confidently down the street, a slight smile playing on her lips.

She felt rejuvenated. Full of life. Vim and vigor as they say.

She was on top of the world. She could do anything. Be anything. It was exhilarating.

And such a shock after long years of empty grey. Of trying to fit in. Of pretending that everything was okay. But everything was not okay. She was not okay. And she hadn’t been for a long time.

But things were different now.

She watched people walking past. Caring about their little lives. Bustling from here to there. Fools, all.

And none of them knew.

Shivers of excitement coursed through her veins as each passing person shared a nonchalant greeting. Treating her as they’d always done. Just another friendly neighbor. Another average Joe.

She was bursting to shout what she had done. To tell them all. To show them all how meaningless their little worries were.

She couldn’t believe none of them knew. The emotions were pouring through her so strongly it seemed impossible no one would notice.

But then she’d spent so many years fitting in, burying her true thoughts, showing the right emotions she never felt. She was practiced at staying calm. At exuding normalcy. She was better then them.

And none of them knew.

Daphne basked for a moment in the morning sun. She had the whole day ahead of her.

What should she do?

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Fiction Friday – the call

Last week, I started Fiction Friday, a futuristic film noir. Below the story continues.

Also, I perhaps should have warned people that my fiction tends to be dark. There’ll be some light moments coming. But, I fear, not today.

***
The world was empty. A gnawing pit. Sinking. Darkness. He can’t begin to describe how he feels.

Feel. The word was wrong. He felt nothing. He felt confused. Why would someone play such a cruel joke. His mother had called him. Tears in her voice. So convincing. But it couldn’t be true. It was a joke. A terrible joke. It didn’t make any sense.

Because it wasn’t a joke. He knew that, but he didn’t. It wasn’t a joke. His mother had called to tell him. She wouldn’t make that up. His brother was. Was. He couldn’t say it. He couldn’t think it.

The police must’ve been wrong. That was it. His mother was confused. That’s why she’d say such a thing. It was all a hoax. Or a misunderstanding.

Mitch’d call any second. With some story. Some explanation. Something.

It couldn’t be true.

But it was.

Was.

Gabe shook himself and looked around. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he got off the phone. It felt like a life time.

He looked up as his wife came back in. A sad smile. Comfort in the cold darkness.

“Talked to Reyes,” she said softly. “She’ll let the foreman know. So. You don’t need to worry about work.”

They sat in silence.

“I’ll start packing,” she breathed. “We should head out in not too long. Should be with your family.”

Family.

He should be with his family. He should.

But he couldn’t. Not any more. His family would never be together again. He’d never be with his brother again. Never see his brother again.

His brother. His brother. His brother was.

His brother was murdered.

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