The latest issue came out last month. There were a couple of noticeable changes; the first being that it was published in Australia and the second was that I won the short story contest. There was no underhanded bribery or skulduggery; it was pure attrition and blind luck. I hope you enjoy it and I will post my other entries at the bottom.
I would like to add that I am so pleased by this win that I have decided not to make any more jokes about Joel living in Queensland.
Audacity (published as Dare)
by Sean Reilly
And we're standing outside of this wonderland
Looking so bereaved and so bereft
Like a Bowery bum when he finally understands
The bottle's empty and there's nothing left
-Dire Straits, Your Latest Trick
There was a time after the Great Economic Crashes of ’08 and ‘09 when people started to crawl out of their bolt-holes. Well, some people. Most had perished in the various upheavals and epidemics that gripped the world after those twin crashes. And you still couldn’t say the word depression on TV, but then TV was gone - along with the power and running water. The Convenience Store Skirmishes that followed the Regression were horrific and many died, but they were nothing compared to The Supermarket Wars which culminated in the global cholera and dysentery epidemics. Funny how no one seemed to mind eating stray dog so much after they got used to calling it beef…
Some stayed in their bolt-holes…
“What’s the password?”
“Tell me the password or I’ll blow your head off!”
“I just went to the bathroom. I’ve only been gone a few moments.”
“Look, my trigger finger is getting itchy.”
“Then scratch it.”
A shot rang out in the night.
“Scratch it with your other hand!”
‘You better tell me the password!” cried the Doorman, “Things are getting pretty tense on this side of the door.”
“I have forgotten the password because you keep changing it every few hours,” said the Other Man, “but I’m sure you recognize my voice and if you’ll just take a look, you’ll see an unfinished Scrabble game behind you.”
“So the last word I put down before heading out was, ‘jocular.’
“What, on the triple word?”
Another shot rang out into the night.
“Cut that out! There’s only the three of us and George has been passed out for the last two days. He may even be dead for all we know.”
“His type don’t die so easy,” said the Doorman, opening the door, “Sorry about shooting at you”
And so the game resumed until there was another knock at the door. “You were followed!” accused the Doorman.
“What, from the urination platform? I doubt it.”
“What’s the password?” cried the Doorman in panic.”
“I’m not armed and I’m carrying a case of 20-year-old Scotch.”
“That sounds about right.” He said opening the heavy door.
The stranger emerged from the darkness into the dimly lit vault within. He carried a sawed off shotgun and had an AK-47 hanging from one arm. There were heavy bandoliers over his shoulders, a hatchet strapped to his leg and a Heckler & Koch .45-caliber USP shoved into the front of his belt which also held an assortment of grenades, coshes, knives and a pair of aluminum tonfa.
“Hey, you’re armed to the teeth!”
“Well, yeah, but I left my heavy gear outside.”
“And I don’t see a case of Scotch.”
“No, but I do have a bottle of Screech in my rucksack.’ And with those words guns were lowered and the Well-armed Stranger took up the third position in the game which had been vacated several days earlier. The game continued.
After half an hour of Screech and Scrabble the Well-armed Stranger remarked, “You know, looking at the words we have chosen, it appears the board is channeling the spirit of the Dark One himself.”
“Yes, in his most recent form, as the Dark President, the 43rd, but Satan all the same.”
There was a bit of mental arithmetic and then the Doorman said, “George W. Bush?”
“Speak not the name of the beast, lest we be damned!” cried the Well-armed Stranger.
“I don’t see it,” supplied the Other Man. “Okay, I’ll give you liar, impeach, criminal, torture, oil, war, unelected, debt, puppet and recession, but what about the rest?
“I was actually referring to jocular, genius, and daring.”
“…and misunderestimated,” the Doorman chimed in.
“Which I was just about to challenge; pick up your tiles.” Then he turned back to the Well-armed Stranger, “How can you describe that blackguard in such glowing terms? It’s obscene to praise him after what he did to us.”
“Not praise, my friend, I assure you; merely the truth. Jocular was his public persona, but genius was the reality. What was it Baudelaire said, 'The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist?'
“I believe that was Kevin Spacey” said the Doorman who was almost completely ignored.
“Well his ‘greatest trick’ was convincing the world that he was a spoiled, dim-witted puppet that could neither eat pretzels, nor speak English. All the while he got whatever he wanted. Absolute diabolical genius, but daring is the term that best describes him.”
“Daring? He went AWOL from the National Guard, wouldn’t even testify for the 9/11 Truth Commission without his minder and spent most of his presidency on vacation for pity’s sake.”
“That’s right, the most of any sitting president, superlative after superlative. To accuse him of lacking boldness is to deny a mountain of evidence to the contrary. As Governor of Texas, he executed the most men of any American governor in history. To become president he stole an election; to remain president he stole another. A third generation war-profiteer, he defied the world and dared to attack one sovereign country that had very little to do with his mess in New York, and annihilate another that was just sitting there. He eviscerated the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Constitution; mocked, threatened, lied to and then ignored the United Nations, brought torture back into the mainstream, spied on his own people and outed his own spies. He watched as New Orleans choked on the Gulf of Mexico, then forcibly evacuated the area with mercenaries, and sold it to developers. He turned America’s largest surplus into the most crippling deficit ever seen and deregulated banking to the point that it could be looted with wild abandon. A child could see that he is guilty of murder, treason and fraud.” The Well-armed Stranger paused, “But mostly, he sucked at the marrow of the world until it was gone and slithered off as the walls came down.”
“Well, I won’t argue with that, but it’s not as if he benefited from it in the long run. His money is as useless as anyone’s,” the Other Man said. “He’s in the wind like everyone else.”
“Oh, some say he did for the money; to make dump trucks full of money for himself and his cronies; but I’ve heard that he did the whole thing on a dare.”
“A child’s bet?” asked the Doorman.
“What was the dare?” asked the Other Man.
“The dare was that the President of the United States can do absolutely whatever he wishes, no matter what. POTUS can send a few chaps to the moon, split the atom, or any other damn thing he desires.”
“You mean like when Frank Langella said, “When the president does it that means that it is not illegal.”” quoted the Doorman staring at the board.
“Those things you mentioned might prove his daring,” the Other Man pointed out, “but that doesn’t make him the latest incarnation of Satan.”
“Look, I used to be a Senator. Just before the Second Crash, I was in one of the back rooms of the Reform Club in London. There was a robust collection of prime ministers, kings, sultans, presidents, cardinals, despots, film stars, archimandrites, super models, prostitutes, robber barons, and oilmen playing Jenga at a million dollars a tile. I saw him pull two Jenga pieces out from the very bottom of the pile and whomp them onto the top of the stack like a slap across the face. The pile swayed and heaved, but refused to collapse. There wasn’t a single law of physics holding it up, but it just stayed there.”
“Then what happened?”
“They gave up. That little turd collected his money and went to the washroom. The whole thing keeled over when he was in the can…and he never came back. That was the last time I saw him and I knew. I just knew.”
In the corner of the crypt, a pile of old laundry stirred, sneezed a few times and sniffled. Some rags materialized into the form of a hand that beckoned for the bottle. The rags fell away as the hand grasped the proffered bottle with ancient strength. The half-empty bottle was raised to a sneer, upended, drained and released; it rolled along the floor.
“Hey, that was the last of the Screech!” cried the Doorman.
“Sorry son,” he said not sounding very sorry. “That’s how I roll. It’s not my fault that people are always misunderestimating me...”
The two men turned to the Well-armed Stranger, but saw only a panicked blur of weaponry rushing out into the darkness as a fiendish voice behind them whispered, “…and it wasn’t just a dare, it was a double-dog dare.”
...and, as mentioned above, some of my other short works of fiction
Don't spook the robots
The oldest vice
The thing about lip burqas