The wind rushed swiftly by the windows of the airplane, birds and clouds zipping alongside like the slowest participants of some celestial race.
Faster now, past the mainland, the plane soared through the skies over the ocean, vast and mysterious. Everything felt perfect, idyllic; the plane flew quite smoothly.
Suddenly there came some kind of unseen turbulence; the altitude wavered, dropping slightly, rising quickly, up and down, before finally leveling out again as it passed over a series of grassy knolls. The hilly fields below were pleasant and peaceful again, a welcome respite after the prior tumult. The plains progressed to foothills, and from there on to a broad range of hunchbacked mountains. Their snowy peaks were appealing from above, although there was no time to observe this, as the plane dove towards the jagged summits. This terrible ordeal could only end in gruesome destruction!
But now amazingly the airplane was past the mountains, gliding low along the arid expanse of some spectacular desert. And now, arcing upwards, the airplane shot vertically into the atmosphere at a ridiculous angle.
This tomfoolery on behalf of the pilot was ended abruptly; the wind died suddenly, the birds and clouds faded. The plane came to a gradual stop midair, defying all physics completely.
Come inside, Jeffrey.
The plane soared down for a naturally imperfect landing, though it was the best ever in Jeffrey's eyes. And as the young boy ran to the warmth and happiness of his home, the plane sat outside- still the most fantastic aircraft ever made.
The Luckiest Grandfather in the World
Theo payed an unexpected visit to his grandson's house.
"Who are you?" asked Michael.
"I am you grandfather, Theophilus Rhodes Zweifel," he said. He stood in the doorframe for a full beat before Michael turned around to look at a woman with short hair and bangs hanging in his face, the woman that Theo knew from the pictures in the newspapers was his granddaughter-in-law. What a shame he wasn't invited to the wedding.
Ah, and how precisely like his father, Leonidas, did Michael appear. The same narrow features, the same princely looks, the same flaming orange hair that crowned the head of every man in the Zweifel family. It was a shame that Michael had lost his eyes in such a tragic accident.
"I'm not sure who you are, but you should leave," said Michael, and he closed the the door, but Theo blocked it with his foot.
"Not so fast, son," he said. "I know you lost your eyes, and you can't see me, but the physical resemblence that you have with your father, and therefore me...well, let's just say that my instinctive narcissism fills me with pride."
That shy young lady, so thin, so hidden, slowly came up from behind Michael. He looked down to where he felt her hand on his arm. "He does look like you, just thought I'd mention it."
"Well, regardless, you will let me in. I'm the current head of the treasury. I have some authority. Not that it demands that I be let in, but I'm an important man in the government all the same. It looks like the same could be said of you, Michael!"
Michael backed up. Theo allowed himself entrance into the room, unashamed of himself.
"I'm familiar with the name. Head of banking or something like that," said Michael.
"You heard the name and didn't wonder if, by chance, that some Swiss immigrant with the same name as you was of some relation?" said Theo. "Well, as it happens, I have been unable to contact your father. Have you been in touch, Michael?"
"We don't talk."
"Ah, like father, like son like grandson," said Theo. He leaned in with a smile. "I think that it's about time that we break that tradition. I would like to work with you, Micahel. You're perhaps the richest man alive thanks to your lucky investments. Very lucky investments, not to mention the surreal experiences you've gone through that make you quite unlike any man alive. Yet, you have no friends, only a wife and a sister to keep you company. What a strange hermit you are. With my help, I think this company you own could contribute to the world in brand new ways. What do you say?"
"Get out," said Michael.
"No, I don't think I will. See, I pulled some strings. I'm afraid that by several unique legal requirements, you must work with me. I just wanted to see if you would have shook my hand otherwise. Good day, Michael. I will see you tomorrow at work."
Theo tipped his hat and left, flashing another evil smile. He was the luckiest grandfather in the world.
The Book of the Dead
The fading sunlight imbued the upper reaches of the bland gray stone with a gold tincture. The shadows stretched away from my window, as if running away from me.
I felt like shooting the sun. But I knew even I couldn’t make that shot.
Besides, it was behind me. I was peering across the crowded street to the rooftop garden where a young man lounged in his undergarments, reading a book. I hoped, for his sake, it was a good one, worthy of his final moments.
As I took out my gear and began setting up, I asked myself the question. If I was about to die, what book would I want to read? To Kill a Mockingbird? I laughed at the thought. There was irony in that.
Maybe a murder mystery. An Appointment with Death. One thing was certain, if I died, it would be with the grin of my last joke forever immortalized across my inert face.
Until it rotted. But that was life. And this was death.
I peered through the sight and lined up the cross-hairs. I had a perfect shot from here. Maybe I didn’t know my employer, but he sure knew what he was about. And all I needed to know was my job, the fact that my boss had money, and a few good jokes.
I waited. Through my binoculars I could tell he was nearly through with the novel. I wasn’t busy that night; I would give him time. I’d let him finish reading, then I’d kill him.
The sun disappeared and the shadows deepened. He moved only once, to turn on a light. Then he returned to his reading.
I wondered what book it was. I couldn’t make out the title. But I guess that didn’t matter. I was less curious why I was hired to kill him, but that didn’t matter either. Even if I was just a toy, the instrument in a stronger arm, I didn’t care.
I enjoyed what I did. That was all that mattered to me.
Oh, and the money. Yeah, the money. That, too.
Finally he turned the last page. His eyes roved down the page, though I couldn’t see them. Then he closed the book, closed his eyes, and leaned back, sated and smiling.
One of those books that left you feeling there was nothing more to life than that brief escape to fiction, I hoped. Because, for this fellow, there was nothing more to life.
I aimed. I pulled the trigger. And I packed up.
Time to pick up a check and then head to the bookstore.
The Big Kids
Captain Ashby surveyed the battle from his ship in low orbit, watching the Federation's warships chip away at the defenses of the enemy Union. Far below, on the barren ground that had once been fields full of flourishing crops, Federation troopers marched to their graves. A few dozen of them were shredded to atoms by a Union laser cannon, the beam sweeping wide across the battlefield from a tank-like machine. Ashby watched the atrocities of warfare play out before him, numbed by his years of service, desensitized by the brothers and sisters he had seen perish against the Union. They were the enemy of the Federation long before his birth and they remained an enemy now.
Ashby tried to remember what it was they were even fighting for. Land? Resources? He didn't know anymore. All he knew were the toys of war, his soldiers, trudging through any obstacle to defeat the Union. That was all he really saw the battlefield as - a toy box someone had tipped over, letting the contents spill out for children to play with. His superiors used the lives of real people, men and women who had served and dedicated years to the Federation, like simple playthings. In the distance, a Union shuttle was smashed to bits by a small Federation cruiser, much like the tiny spaceships he had played with as a boy, in the comfort and safety of his bedroom.
Ashby was glued to the window, ever curious about the battles. He had come a long way from being in the thicket of energy bullet fire, and one of the few survivors of his original company. As technology improved and humanity found more devastating ways to wipe one another out, the death toll grew. The fallen in battle were less seen as causalities and more like statistics. Ashby didn't understand it. He'd come so far from being a boy in his room crashing starship into one another, but standing on the bridge watching the chaos, Ashby began to rethink his position. He was the same boy, he just had bigger boots and a bigger ship. A Union star cruiser was approaching his ship from several miles out and he listened as the energy cannons opened fire on it. In a matter of moments, Ashby's crew had successfully ended thousands of lives, sending their remains out of the sky and down with the rest of the wreckage. Chunks would indiscriminately crush Federation and Union soldiers alike - a very graceless way to die.
The communication monitor beeped and a message crackled through. "Captain Ashby, we have gained a foothold on the peninsula below. Shall I give the order to begin phase two?"
Ashby sighed. Once phase two was under way, the Federation would undoubtedly take back the planet from the Union. Intent on closing his toy box up as soon as possible, Ashby touched the monitor and replied, "Permission granted. Let's take back the Earth."