Daily Prompt | Short Story – Day Nine

“I’ve got it!” Mike banged on the desk, and did what I could only imagine was a happy dance.

“Don’t do that! You’re gonna give me a heart attack!” I laid down dad’s journal and went over to the desk. Mike had constructed a rudimentary lighted table by placing broken window panes from the raid over a lamp and cardboard box. His skin glowed, but his eyes were dancing with his news. “You’ve got what?”

“This is a puzzle. This is one quarter of a map, right?” He pointed to the ripped sides. “It’s a map to the map! If you’ll look at the cities that have been circled, the words aren’t fully circled, just part of them. But! If you write them out-” He handed me his notebook.

“It’s a name.”

“Yes! My guess is this person has the rest of the map, or maybe part of it.” He leveled his eyes, “Do you recognize this name?”

“He was my dad’s driver. I don’t even know if he survived the attacks. See if you can figure out where he lives now, and we’ll pay him a visit.” I wanted to read more of dad’s journal, to piece some of this together, to see where his head was at when this all went down, but I hid it instead in the faux wall.

~~~

The small, aged woman that answered the door seemed fragile, even more so after I mentioned her husband’s name. “He’s gone, honey, I’m sorry. He was in the car waiting for your mom and dad when the bombs hit, never came home.”

The same unexpected nausea like I’d just seen a mass grave came over me, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Glenn.”

Her eyes took on a faraway look as she glanced past us, “Anger won’t bring him back, neither will worry.” She focused back on us, “What can I do for you?”

“Did Mr. Glenn ever talk about a map? Or a piece of a map?”

Her cloudy grey eyes registered something, “One moment.”

Mike nudged me in the side when she was gone, “You think she knows anything else? Maybe he talked with her?”

Before I could answer, she came back, “Here you go. I wasn’t sure what to do with that thing, I just left it in his dresser drawer.”

I inspected the map, it wasn’t singed like mine on the edges, but it was certainly part of a quadrant. “This is the upper left. Dad had the upper right.” Mike only nodded. “Mrs. Glenn, did he ever talk about strange things at the Global Embassy?”

“Talk to me? Oh no. He never spoke of the things that went on there, and I never asked.”

I could almost feel Mike wilt beside me. “Okay, thank you so much, Mrs. Glenn. I’m so sorry again for your loss.” She allowed a half smile but bid us goodbye and shut the door.

Mike made me go to McDonald’s for lunch. I hadn’t been since they rebuilt it. I mostly hid away after the Great American Genocide. I felt responsible for everyone’s pain. In their eyes, my father caused this, and I am my father’s daughter. I stopped looking into people’s eyes since the first national news spot where his name was ripped apart. These thoughts bolstered my desire to read more of my father’s journal, to piece all this together. As I pushed in my straw to puncture the lid of my sweet tea, I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do than clear my father’s name.

via Daily Prompt: Puncture

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Daily Prompt | Short Story – Day Eight

I reached for the volume button while Mike grabbed his water. “Okay, I’ve taught you offense, defense, and target practice.”

He winced and wiped his face with a towel, “Right,” we were both out of breath, “And I’ve covered computer 101, the history of genocide and a government refresher course.”

The squeaky wheels of the portable punching bag hurt my ears as I pushed it to the corner of my dad’s gym room. Mike and I both removed our gloves, unwrapped our wrists at the trash can and began stretching on the mats.

“I don’t think my body has hurt this bad since I was in Middle School soccer.”

“Nor I since dance.” It had been about a month now since we decided to get dad’s journal back. We had to fill our time with constructive activities or we would have gone crazy. I squirted water in my mouth, “No more attacks on the house since the first one.”

“It’s time.”

I nodded once, we were both ready for whatever was in my father’s journal. “Let’s go to the bank.”

He got a shower in the gym while I freshened up in my room, we met in dad’s office to go over our plans. His eyebrows raised as I loaded bullets into my gun, “What, I  want to be prepared.” I felt my eyes dance and I let a smirk slip across my face, “I have something for you.” The box that had arrived early that morning sat on the desk, “Open it.”

He glanced sideways at me but still went to the box. As he ripped open the package, I felt the giddy excitement I used to feel when I gave mom and dad presents. His eyes sparkled, “No way!”

“We don’t have time to practice with it now, but we can have target practice again when we come back.”

“My very own Glock!”

“It’s my thanks for helping me fix the door. Now, no more whining to use mine, got it?”

“Can I use it today?”

“No.” I snapped in my magazine, hid my gun in my purse and turned to walk out. “You get the revolver.”

It seemed almost too easy that we retrieved the journal and map, and exited the bank without a hitch.

“I can’t tell if I’m more exited to look over the journal or practice with my very own weapon!”

I looked down at the journal and map, if the police wanted these things, Mike would be using his new gun before long. “How about you start target practice while I study dad’s journal.” His wide smile warmed my heart. I watched him go outside the back as I pulled opened the journal. “Alright, dad, what do you have to say, I’m listening this time.”

via Daily Prompt: Volume

Daily Prompt | Short Story – Day Seven

I held out our money for the tender and nodded my thanks. The salty breeze at the off-shore gun range lifted my spirits. I breathed in and allowed myself to get pumped up for one of my favorite past times. I used to come here with dad all the time, and the good memories were nice for a change. No morbid graves to mark, no police to hide from, no memories of the family I’d lost; just me, my gun, and the sound of the ocean.

“When did you learn to wield a gun?”

“Age four.”

“Four! Isn’t that child endangerment? Forcing a child to learn guns?”

“More dangerous to not know.”

He carried the heavy tackle box full of various bullets, all caliber and points we’d ever need, and I carried our picnic basket, loaded with numerous snacks and lunch.

Mike’s clear, crystal eyes saw to my soul, here at the turquoise ocean, his eyes pierced me even more. I smiled at the memory of his reaction to me asking him to get his swimming trunks this morning before we left.

His smirk caught me off guard, “What?”

“Well, we almost seem like normal teenagers.”

I huffed, “I can’t even remember normal.”

“S’overrated.”

“I’ll let you use mom’s revolver again.” I knew once I said it he’d give me that look, he wanted my dad’s Glock, and there was no way he’d get that. After looking at his eyes and losing my breath for a second at the intensity of them, I caved. “Alright! How about we look for you one and I let you practice with both today.”

That smirk again. It alarmed me, but calmed me at the same time the way Mike made me feel. Secure but insecure, happy but scared. Calm, nervous. Shy, bold.

“You never answered my question the other day.” He held open the door for me as we entered the range.

“What question?”

“How did you get to Florida when the genocide started?”

Good feelings gone. I felt the smile I didn’t know I had on my face slip off, and a lump grew in my throat, “What does it matter?”

“Seriously, Sara? There is a ban on flights. All flights. And those pictures were from ground zero, they were fresh. You were there, weren’t you? When it hit?”

My fingers itched to wrap around the handle of my gun, to squeeze the trigger.

“The whole world was told it was a terrorist attack, and you tell me it’s an inside job. No media outlet showed those photos. And yet, here’s Sara with Polaroids. What happened?”

The heaviness in my heart pulled me back to those vivid moments. Instinctively, I swatted Mike’s hand as he reached toward my face. His eyes didn’t waver as he reached back up to me and wiped a tear off my cheek.

“Sara, you don’t have to-”

“I walked to the Global Embassy after school sometimes when I didn’t have a ride. No one knew I was there. I would sneak in through dad’s back door.” I loaded bullets for the both of us and handed him the revolver. “I overheard someone talking about the weapons they were acquiring for the trip they planned with dad. It worried me, because I knew my dad was strongly against illegal gun activity, the black market, and the opinion some had to weaponize the Global Embassy.”

“Did you tell him?”

I showed Mike how to point the gun, stand and pull the trigger, also how to hold it when he’s not aiming at a target. “No. I begged him to let me go.”

“Did he let you?”

“No.” I emptied my magazine into the paper down the range, and I watched Mike do the same. “Next time, see the target, set the sights, then shoot. If you focus on the target, you lose your sights.” After several rounds, we cleaned up and went out to the docks for lunch.

Mike unwrapped our sandwiches as I let the breeze play with my hair. “So, if he didn’t let you go, how’d you get there?”

“I booked a flight behind his back. I wanted to warn him, but he was constantly surrounded by security. When I showed up in his hotel room, he was furious! He asked what was I thinking, and when I began to tell him what I’d heard, the bombs went off. I was too late. Through all the rubble and the ringing in my ears, I heard the emergency siren. We went down there together, that’s when I took the pictures. They whisked us back home, and that’s when it began.”

“When the genocide began?”

“When the lies began. When I heard what the media was sharing, I was so confused.” I made air quotes, “Terrorists.” I shook my head and ate, though I was blind to the taste. “It wasn’t long until the genocide reached here.”

“When did you start marking the mass grave sites?”

“I didn’t start in Florida, they took us away too quick, but I started when it hit home. My home.” My chin did the annoying quiver thing, and I put down my sandwich.

“I’m so sorry you had to see that, Sara.”

I could almost feel the burden on my shoulders slip onto his a little. So much for the breeze and ocean pulling my cares away, to my surprise, Mike was doing it better. I pulled in a deep breath and rose, “Let’s go. We have to get that journal back.”

Mike stood and stretched, but instead of helping me gather the trash, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward the water. For a short, simple moment, we were two people, playing in the ocean.

via Daily Prompt: Tender

Daily Prompt | Short Story – Day Six

Mike dropped the revolver onto my dad’s desk and planted his hands on his head “Sara, oh my God, that was-” He was breathless, even though we’d done nothing but sit there in silence.

I bit my bottom lip, I had no idea either, but it really didn’t surprise me. “I know.” The revolver was loaded, so I gently picked it up, thankful it hadn’t gone off when Mike dropped it. I’d need to teach him about weapon safety.

“That was the police!”

“My father warned in his journal not to trust anyone.”

Dad had assembled a false wall behind his desk, no one but us knew about it. He told me and mom one day as he walked us through his self-constructed facade, that if something ever happened, for us to hide until the noises were gone. Mike and I had waited a good ten minutes before I thought it was safe enough to speak or move.

“What do we do now?” He paced back and forth, glancing each time at the wall from where he’d just emerged. “Wait, you said your dad warned you about something?”

I waited to see where he was going.

“So…he didn’t write a journal per se, more like a message?”

“Why?”

“If he was sending you messages, we need to study them. He could have already given us the key to who was really behind the attacks.”

This is where I would seriously need Mike.. Though I’d never met him before the park, I’d seen him at school, and mostly in the library. “You’re right, but we can’t go back to the bank just yet.”

His excitement fell, “Why not?”

“Look I just accessed that safe deposit box, I haven’t used that thing since I went to get my driver license a year ago, I don’t want to set off any alarms.”

“Alarms?” His squinted his eyes and tilted his head, “What alarms?”

I pointed downstairs, dreading whatever mess they’d left behind, “Those were police officers, they are looking for something from my father. If I show up to the bank more than usual, I’m afraid someone will be watching.” I could almost feel his frustration as I reached for the gun polish in dad’s gun cabinet.

“What are we going to do? How long will we wait? We need to get this done ASAP!”

I could feel myself smile while I waived the empty revolver in front of him. “I know what we can do while we wait.

via Daily Prompt: Polish

Daily Prompt | Short Story – Day Five

I smelled my father’s uniform, but it didn’t smell like him, it smelled like ash. Though it had been safely encapsulated in my father’s study, the attack still managed to ruin yet another piece of my world.

“Why did you let this happen, daddy?” I rubbed the many colors on his jacket and smoothed the wrinkles out the best I could.

“Can I come in?”

If I hadn’t been sitting down on the floor with a pile of dad’s stuff on my lap, I’d have hit the ceiling. “You scared me!”

A smile was lingering on Mike’s mouth when I looked to him, “Sorry.”

There were times when I was caught off guard and forgot the effects of the Great American Genocide again. We had no security detail anymore, no one was in this big, old house but me. If any stranger had come inside our house before GAG, we would’ve been alerted by at least three different servicemen stationed at checkpoints on the property.

I breathed in deep, gently laid dad’s stuff back in his enormous chest and stood. “What are you doing here again, Mike?” I fully expected him to launch into a sermon about why my father was a bad man, I’d heard it over and over since that day. Been told at least twice on live, national television.

Well, now it was different. Now I had evidence things were not what they seemed.

Mike shoved his hands in his pockets and slid his thumbs through his belt loops, “Just came to check on you.”

I waited for more, but he was silent. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“What’s our next move?”

Our?”

“Yeah, I was thinking, since the media lied about the attacks, I figured they maybe weren’t completely honest about your dad, either.” For a second, I saw Mike turn into a nervous boy, just like the first day we met in the park. It was kind of adorable.

“Thank you.”

He walked farther into the room, “So, this was your dad’s office?” He looked around the room and I could tell he got the same feeling I used to get while dad was working. Even though he was gone, his presence was still powerful. “So, that journal?”

“Was dad’s.”

“What’d he write in there? And why did you hide it in the safe deposit box?”

“He chronicled what really happened that day, and months before that.”

Mike nodded, “And you hid it because?”

As if God himself answered his question, we heard a loud boom downstairs, and several people entering the house. I reached into dad’s cabinet and tossed an old revolver that was my mom’s at him and I grabbed my father’s Glock and bullets. “Because there are people that want him shut up, and I won’t let that happen.”

via Daily Prompt: Uniform

Daily Prompt | Short Story – Day Four

I wiped off the brassy surface of a bullet we found, and laughed at the situation. Mike and I were totally different, but mixed together, we made something interesting. A team, just like the brass with its zinc and copper combination.

It had been a few days since the Millennial Park Grave Site, and I’d come to see the value in having Mike around. He pulled me out of my laser-thinking, and that was a good thing.

Before him, 24/7 I would think of what needed to be done, what had happened and what would happen soon. I would get to a point he referred to as zombie-like. He easily brought me out of that mindset, but I never let him forget how important this work was.

“So, lets run through this again.” I paced in front of him as he sat on my parent’s couch.

“Where are your parents?”

I leveled my eyes on him, “Mike.”

“You’ve never shared, and to be honest, this place is like a freakin’ Hilton.”

I tried to hide my frustration with him, prodding where he shouldn’t. “Please focus.”

“Okay, Zombie, but you tell me what happened after we do this.”

I rolled my eyes and sat down beside him, “Look.” I pointed to the pictures I brought out as a last resort. They were of the first places genocide was attempted. “These people were poor.”

He stared at the pictures, and it was obvious he’d never seen them, the media would never show these, not because they were too gory, but because they were true. “Where did you find these?”

“Doesn’t matter.” I tried to take them back but he fought me for them.

“Jesus, I’ve never seen anything like this.” His shoulders slumped forward a little.

I could only imagine he was staring at the child who’s face had been half blown away. That’s all I could see in the picture anyway. Before he switched to the next one, I had to look away.

“Sara, is this what you’ve seen first-hand? Is this what you’ve pulled into your graves?”

My chin quivered before I could stop it, “Yes.”

“That journal, the brass bullet and the map, they lead to something. Or someone.”

I smirked, though nothing was truly funny, “Careful, you’ll turn into a zombie like me.”

“So you took these pictures? Where was this?”

I flipped it around and showed him the writing, “A small town in Florida.”

“Wait, I remember a story on the news of a bombing in a small town in Florida.” He shook his head, “The media said that was an act of terror, the country was so saddened, but-”

“It was an inside job.”

He put the pictures down, “Sara, when I met you, I thought you had lost everything. You were living in the park. But this house, the money you’d need to travel to Florida, especially with no flights allowed?” He shook his head, “These bodies are fresh, this was taken before any news outlet had gotten to the scene. What’s going on for real?”

This was where I could potentially lose Mike. I walked over to the large picture window in the parlor and let the sun hit my face.

“Zombie?”

“My father worked with the Global Embassy.”

“Okay.”

I turned, frustrated that he’d make me say it, could this kid possibly not know who my father was? “Mike, he was the President of the Global Embassy.”

Just as I’d expected, Mike shot up off the couch, turned and walked out.

It wasn’t two seconds later I heard the front door slam. I sighed, not even knowing I was holding my breath. I let myself fall onto the couch. The only way I could think to process the emotions I felt was to focus on the tasks at hand.

via Daily Prompt: Brassy

Daily Prompt | Short Story Day Three

Mike handed me the old leather-bound journal, and what looked like the upper right quadrant of a map. Three of its sides were carefully ripped, and singed a bit.

The book seemed to have been taken better care of, or in a safer place, considering it was not singed, only dirty. I placed them into the safe deposit box, then led the way out of the bank.

“Where to now?”

I closed my eyes against the scorching sun as we exited the bank, and fought the emotions building in my chest. “I have something I need to do.”

I had known Mike for a few days now, but he had an uncanny way of making me uncomfortable, of seeing straight through me, and completely understanding me. All those things, all at once. Part of me hated feeling so bare in front of him, part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to feel everything alone.

When we got back to Millennium Park, I stuffed the tail of my shirt full of the stones once decoratively placed around the faded, broken park sign, he did the same.

“So you’re the one marking the graves?” There he went, reading every move I made.

I couldn’t speak without crying, so I didn’t speak, I only nodded once.

We placed the stones around the portion I had marked with a flag made out of an old shirt.

“What are you calling this one?”

It was a few minutes before I could actually speak, and even when I did, I could hear the strain in my own voice. “I found several small bones, and I’m thinking they were just playing in the park when it all happened. I’m calling it something simple. Millennium Park Grave Site. Maybe one day, we’ll know who’s buried here. Right now, I just want them to not go unnoticed.”

Mike bent down beside me and helped me place the stones. “How big is this one?”

“I think they rounded all the bodies up and laid them where the pavilion once stood. Look at how it’s fresher than the ground of the playground demo.”

He nodded. “Makes sense.”

We worked in silence after getting more stones. “They’re calling it The Great American Genocide.” He chuckled a little, though nothing was funny. “I think they should call it the Attempted American Genocide.”

“I think it’s ironic the initials for their coined phrase is The GAG.”

“Well it didn’t work, now did it.”

A let myself smile, “Nope.”

 

via Daily Prompt: Portion