Exodus

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“Auntie Mona! Auntie Mona! What is that?”

The child’s voice quavered with near reverent awe as she pressed her face against the glass of the empty observation deck, peering outside at the increasingly distant glowing sphere.

“That’s where you were born, Clarrie,” Mona Fitzgerald said. “It’s where we live…well, used to live now, I guess.”

“It’s so small.” Clarrie’s eyes never left the window as they spoke. “How did we all fit?”

“It’s a lot bigger up close. And we don’t all fit there. That’s why we had to leave.”

“But why? Didn’t you say we live there?”

Mona sighed and knelt beside her niece. “There were too many of us living on the same planet. It all adds up. Before long, we began to consume more food and water than we could possibly hope to produce. People turned on one another. They fought amongst themselves. So the only thing we could do is leave. Find another home with enough resources for the rest of us to live. A new world to start over on.”

“How many times have you had to leave?”

“Five? Six, maybe?” Mona thought out loud. “I honestly don’t remember, honey. They’ve been hopping worlds since long before I was born. It’s in our nature. We can’t change who we are. How we live.”

“Okay.” With their conversation apparently over, Clarrie returned her focus to the tiny blue full-stop in the darkness that was Ancillary Earth Twenty-Eight.

Perhaps number twenty-nine would be the one they could finally call home.

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Retribution

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“The vial, please.”

Andrew Blake held the tiny glass ampoule out in his hand for the supervising officer, Tyler Yvonne. She carefully plucked it from his palm, the thick, dark red blood sample contained within sloshing around as she brought it up to her eyes for a closer look.

“This is the one?”

“Yes. He and two others. Johnathon’s getting theirs from the vault now. Should be here soon,” Andrew replied.

“Good. I’d like to get this over with, sooner rather than later.”

Tyler moved over to the machine. It filled the entire wall of the Southwest Police Precinct basement level, looking like a supercomputer with some unusual, outwardly protruding additions. Chutes, tubes, dozens of lights of every colour conceivable, and a screen with a digital replica of the precinct’s badge emblem rotating in the centre.

“How does it work? I’ve never actually seen it in use before.” Andrew moved closer to Tyler, standing beside her before the machine.

“Do I look like I know how the hell this thing works? I just put what the chief tells me to put into it. Don’t ask again, he’s been super touchy about the subject as of late.”

“Alright, if you say so.”

Tyler broke off the blood vial’s seal and, after taking a slow, deep breath, poured its contents into a small compartment underneath the screen.

The on-screen badge disappeared and was replaced almost instantly with a profile picture of a short, angry looking male, alongside a laundry list of information. Given name, age, place of birth, current address, and, most importantly, crimes.

It was one of the longest lists Tyler had seen since they started using this machine to deal with suspects.

And, on the same token, one of the most deserving of what was coming to him.

On the bottom of the screen, several options appeared for the individual named Gus Ramoe.

COMA.

BLIND.

SHUTDOWN, followed by several sub-options including KIDNEYS, LIVER, BRAIN and HEART.

Last of all, on the far right of the screen, in the smallest possible text: EXECUTE.

“Well, newbie’s choice,” Tyler said as she pulled a small remote control from her uniform pocket. “Whaddya think?”

Andrew closed his eyes. His right hand slowly curled into a ball, shaking in anger. Or was it sorrow? Tyler couldn’t tell.

“You should have seen that house. What those men did to that family. I’ve never seen so much blood.”

After a moment of no response, Tyler shrugged. “Alright, execute it is. Again.”

She pointed her remote at the tiny button on the far right and hit CONFIRM.

Somewhere else in the city, next to the other two suspects in an abandoned home, Gus Ramoe’s entire body froze, and in a single, terrifying instant, he keeled over, sweating blood, not much longer for this world.

His accomplices scattered in a panic, running for their lives. It wouldn’t save them.

“Where the hell is Johnathon with those other vials?” Tyler groaned. “We’re going to be late for lunch.”

Imitator

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“—the house. We try again tomorrow.”

Cyril Therren sat up in his bed and rubbed his tired eyes after hearing the broken, fragmented sentence in his head. A voice. Female. Unfamiliar. Must have been his imagination. A dream, maybe.

Irrelevant.

The bedroom slowly started to appear into focus. The open bathroom door, the family photos on the wall, the dark purple bedsheets and locked clothes cabinet opposite. Cyril yawned, his long sleep having done little to ease his fatigue, and stood. His toes touched the thick, woolly carpet, a pleasant feeling which helped his dulled senses kick back into gear. Cyril reached behind him onto his bedside table and felt along the top for his glasses. He found them and put them on over his wrinkled, dark brown eyes.

A shower would be nice. Later. Coffee was the only thing on Cyril’s mind right now. Nothing else mattered.

Lisa must already be up. Cyril could hear the kettle from here, rattling and hissing in the kitchen downstairs. It sounded like an alarm clock rattling around in his head.

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Safe Room

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Liam Terrance was very mature for a boy of six years old, so he had been told. His parents brought him up well, despite their less than usual professions. Clive and Evelyn Terrance were widely known in many circles as some of, if not the best people to talk to when it came to high-tech weapons and security systems. The couple’s ground-breaking work had kept their family in the black for close to twenty years now, as well as providing thousands of jobs around the world and ensuring their employees and their families lived their lives in safety and security.

The Terrance family home was a regal, eye-catching three storey building which rested upon the crest of a large mountainous estate. A twisting brick driveway led up to the property through the rough terrain, where it ended at an undercover parking area where no less than three cars sat parked at any given time. Two for work, one for everyday use. Top of the line was an understatement. You couldn’t just walk into any old dealership and buy these specific cars. They had been specially made to Clive and Evelyn’s stringent specifications, with all three containing dozens of features and mechanisms which wouldn’t make their way to general consumer vehicles for many years.

Despite his parents’ unprecedented fame and success in military and security cliques, young Liam remained more or less oblivious to the exact details of their jobs. All he knew was they had a lot of money and were respected by a lot of people for the work they did. He also knew what they did kept bad people from doing bad things to good people. For that, he loved them unconditionally. He didn’t like bad people very much, or bad things. Neither did Clive or Evelyn.

They had talked with Liam about their work once, and only once. He remembered it well. It would stick with the boy for the rest of his life.

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Pandemic

This short story was originally written for my 2015 horror anthology, Random Number Hotline, but I scrapped it in favor of another story.

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My legs shook as I stood before the front porch of the Carner family house. I still questioned my reasons for volunteering for this grisly mission in the first place. Perhaps I felt obliged to undertake the task because of my past with the family. I knew them better than anyone else in town ever did.

Maybe it was because nobody else on my street were exactly keen on volunteering to murder a family of four. It was understandable. There was something terrible happening. Some kind of disease, or virus, or…something. Nobody knew for sure what it was exactly, or where it had come from, but from what we had heard about it on the news before the stations went down, we were all living on borrowed time.

It hadn’t arrived in our town yet, as far as we knew. We had an agreement, those who hadn’t decided to run for the airports, harbors or bus depots. There was no point in running. Where would we go? So we stayed here, and tried to hold down the fort and survive for as long as we could. If anyone showed any signs of the sickness, we were to put them down, right then and there without hesitation. Since there was a lack of firearms and people trained in their use left in town, we had to find alternatives.

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