Jack was starting to get nervous. He looked out at the rest of his troupe, decked out in matching black spandex. Everyone looked a little fidgety. They’d only been waiting a few minutes really, but it felt like hours. They were all eagerly waiting for their cue; that would beckon them to deliver what months of practice had given them. They finally heard the announcer introduce them, and the deep thumps of bass from the song they would perform to started. Jack forced the anxiousness out of him, it was now time to be totally in the present. He had one thing to focus on: the act.

 He strolled out onto the stage, his companions following him in a line. The bright house lights beamed into his vision. He saw the hoops, blocks, poles, and other miscellaneous props they would be using already on display. They smiled and waved as the seven of them all arrived at the front of the stage. Once they were all properly in a line, the lights died down. A much softer, white light was cast over the set. They all took one last calm, deep breath.

Now it started. In an instant the consistent drone of the bass dropped into heavy electronic music. Bright lights of every color splashed across the stage, constantly changing their hue and zipping in seemingly random directions. The acrobats took off. They jumped, swung, flipped, and twirled. They seemed to start off in chaos, everyone in different positions making different stunts. But then they converged. Two jumped together in sync through opposite hoops. Multiple hanged by their knees from bars set in a line, high above the platform. Jack jumped into the air towards the first, trusting completely on his companion to catch him. He did, forearm gripped forearm, and to the rhythm of the music Jack was handed off one by one till he was safely on the other side.

Over only two minutes, they performed a multitude of feats and dares, and were rewarded with ample applause. Jack returned center stage for the climax of their performance. He picked up a long pole, and a large tower of a prop emerged from a mechanism in the floor. Made to look like a large candle, the column stood fifteen feet high, and a flame danced at the top. Jack could smell the salt of his sweat, could hear the screams and the music, could feel the hard wood of the platform beneath him. But as he focused in on this one final task, one he had been having difficulty in mastering, the sensations of these other senses faded away.

He again breathed in deep, emptied himself of all other thoughts. He took his stance, gripped the pole tighter, and began his run. He kept the other end of the pole held high in the air. Then, as he had built speed and neared the candlestick; he stuck it into the floor, and forced the pole to absorb his momentum. The pole bent in as he jumped, and as he came higher, the pole returned the energy he had lent it and straightened itself out, throwing him above the flame. He felt the heat as he passed over, and though it came as close as a fraction of an inch, the fire never touched him.

He landed on the cushion on the other side, hidden from the audience. He quickly sprang up and came round, hands high in the air. The audience had gone mad, and Jack welcomed in the loudest cheering and whistling he had yet experienced. Letting the seriousness melt away, Jack smiled and laughed as he joined hands with his colleagues at the front of the stage, and they all bowed together.

The announcer’s voice now boomed over the jeers of the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, that was finalists Jack B. Quick and The Nimblers! What a performance! Send in your votes now if you think they should take home the crown for this season of ‘Have You Got Talent?’.

I Sat Down In My Armchair

I sat down in my armchair with a cup of coffee. I petted the plant next to me, which purred. I opened a book and read For a While. For a While was a short book, and I was done in nearly 480 trillion picoseconds. My chair started to shift under my weight, it wasn’t in very good condition, but possibly fair condition. I needed to go collect more arms to reinforce it. I got up to leave, and the cup of coffee left to start its day as well.

The Modern Magician

“Pick a card, any card.” I say to the 10-year-old girl in front of me, while fanning out a deck of face-down cards in front of her. Her hand drifts across the cards, searching for the one she prefers. She picks one out from near the end of the deck and pulls it out.

“Can I look at it?” She asks me.

I reply with a smile, “Please do, memorize it for me. Let me know when you have it, and don’t let me see it.”

She turns the card over and stares at it for a few moments, committing the card to her memory. “I’ve got it!” She declares.

“Perfect, put it right here at the top of the deck.” She carefully plants the card where I asked and I go to work shuffling the deck, making big, exaggerated shuffles and trying to be as entertaining as possible. I pull out one of the cards and proudly present it to her. “Is this your card?”

The smile she had melted into a look of confusion. She stammers a little and says, “Oh, that’s not it.”

I feign my own look of confusion. “Oh dear, my mistake.” I pull out another card and ask again more reserved, “Is this your card?”

She shakes her head, “I’m sorry, it’s still not.” I can tell she’s starting to feel embarrassed for me.

I start patting my various pockets. “I must have misplaced it, would you mind checking your pant pockets for me?” I ask her.

She looks perplexed, but she indulges my request. She reaches into her left pocket, and pulls out empty-handed, then into the right. Her eyebrows raise as her hand recognizes something that wasn’t there before. She slips her hand out, and she’s holding a card!

I question her in a knowing tone, “Ah, is that your card?”

She flips it over, and forms a huge grin before shouting excitedly, “It is, that is my card! Daddy, look!” and she holds it towards her father, who was standing a few feet behind her.

The man smiles back at her and affirms, “I see it, that was cool!

The girl turns back towards me and hands me back my card. “That was awesome, thank you mister.”

“Of course.” I reply. I take the card and flip my hand over, then turn it face up again. I’ve made the card disappear and a small chocolate is in its place. “For you.”

Her eyes go a little wider and she gasps. “Wow, thank you!” she grabs it out of my hand and steps back to join her father’s side. Her father drops a ten in my tip bucket, we give each other a nod and a smile, and then they go on their way down the city sidewalk.

That was a good showing, I think to myself. At this moment I feel a vibration in my pant pocket. I pull out my phone and see I have a call from my roommate. “What’s up Derek?” I ask after accepting the call.

“Hey Marvin, I’m at a garage sale and found a chest full of magician-looking stuff here, thought they might make good props for one of your stage shows.”

“Oh cool, how much do they want for the stuff?”

He mumbles to someone standing near him for a second and then says, “She says only $30 for the lot.”

“That’s not too bad, can you buy it for me and I’ll pay you back tonight?”

“Will do, I’ll be gone when you get home, just leave it on my dresser.” I tell him thanks but he’s already hung up on me. Derek makes his living reselling things he finds at yard sales, storage auctions, and the like. He’s always in a hurry to get to the next one before the good stuff is gone.

I spend a few more hours doing street magic, get enough tips to make a decent dent in my rent payment, then make the half hour bicycle ride back to my place.

I unlock the door to our apartment and step in. I take in the view of home; peeling wallpaper, cheap appliances in the kitchen, stained beige carpet that should have been replaced five years ago, craigslist furniture. But it was what two struggling artists and a cheapskate could afford in the city. Ben, the other struggling artist, had dozed off on the couch while some drama played on the TV. I prop my bike up against the wall and walk over to my room. I’m ready to get out of my get-up. As the door squeaks open I see something new has appeared on my bed. A decent-sized chest, maybe just small enough to tuck under one arm, was resting on my mattress. I walk up to it; it’s wood, dyed a dark black, with bright silver metal bands adorning it. Some swirling designs are etched into the wood and metal.

This is actually pretty cool, this will go great in a show, I think. I undo the latches and pry it open. This stuff looks pretty cool too. I pull out an old candelabra, some weird looking crystals, an amulet adorned with a large gray stone, a nondescript dark silver ring. I lay everything on the mattress next to the chest as I rummage through it. The last item is a book at the bottom of the chest. I pick it up, no title printed on it, bound in a dark brown leather. Must be a journal of some sort.

“Woah, whatcha looking at?” I turn around to see Ben standing in the doorway. I never shut the door so he must have saw as he walked past.

I hold up the book and reply, “Derek found this stuff at a sale, I think I might use it in an act.”

“Mind if I take a look at it?”

“Be my guest.” He walks up next to me and grabs the book out of my hand. “How did your audition go today?” I ask him.

He scans to take a look at everything I’ve laid out and then replies nonchalantly, “They said they didn’t think I had the range for the part.”

I laugh and say, “Car dealership commercials are known for their breadth of emotion.” I pick up the amulet and slip it over my head. Then I pick up the ring and slide it onto my left ring finger “Does this complete my look?”

Ben glances over at me and says with a bit of sarcasm, “You finally look like a real master magician.” He flips through a couple pages of the journal and says. “You found some real weird occult stuff, this thing is full of spells.”

I look back at him while fiddling with one of the crystals. “Dude, really, it’s a spellbook? That’s hilarious.”

He points at the page he’s looking at. “A lot of them have pictures of hand movements to do for them. This one is a spell of long-range communication. You ready?”

I sit down on the edge of the bed and rest my chin on my hand. “Blow me away.”

Ben shifts the book to balance on one hand and attempts to replicate the movements in the book. It looks like very stilted sign language. He finishes with no effect. With another dose of sarcasm he whines, “Dang, it didn’t work. I’m so surprised.”

“Maybe you just don’t have the gift.” I tell him and chuckle. “Let me give this a go.” He faces the book towards me so I can see the page. I stand so I can do a proper job. I shift the crystal I’m holding to my right hand to use my left hand for the gestures. Some of them are pretty simple, making a ‘C’ with my hand or a closed fist. Some of them have my fingers sprawl out at weird angles that are a little uncomfortable. I finish and as expected I see nothing happens.

“Holy shit.” Ben says softly. He is wide eyed and pointing. I follow his finger back to my right hand, where the crystal I was holding was glowing a deep blue. It looks as if the dark clouds of a thunderstorm are rolling through it.

“Holy shit!” I repeat his saying with a more appropriate amount of enthusiasm. I bring my hand up to take a closer look at it. As it passes in front of the pendant on the amulet the gray stone glows bright white and shines a light at the crystal, and an image is suddenly hovering in the air between Ben and me. I find myself staring into another man’s face, floating as a hologram a few feet in front of me.

The face looks startled, and exclaims. “What the…Who is this?!”

“What do you mean ‘who is this?’ Who are you?!” I exclaim back.

The man seems to have some sort of realization pass over him, then a look of fear materializes. “You hid your magic before casting this spell didn’t you?”

I reply, still exasperated. “What does that even mean?”

The man’s face becomes very serious, and he says, “You need to listen to me, they’ll be coming for you, what city are you in?”


Ben finally says something after watching in wonder. “What, don’t tell him!”

The man pauses for a second, thinking, then instructs them. “Go to Dearborn and Van Buren, you’ll see a dark red, unmarked door. I’ll meet you there, go as fast as you can. Run!” With that the hologram disappeared, the stone on the amulet returned to gray, the crystal again became clear.

I can’t believe that just happened, I’ve got to be on drugs. But I see Ben clear as day, we’re both stone-cold sober, and he’s just as in awe as I am. “He said Dearborn and Van Buren right?” I ask Ben to confirm.

“You’re not actually going to go meet him are you?”

“He said someone was coming for us!”

“It’s probably him!”

I take a deep breath in, try to rationalize what just happened, what we need to do. “Look, we need to act fast. My gut is saying we go meet this guy. I want you to come with me, that way you’re not waiting around if something does come here, and we’ll be better off if we can have each other’s backs, no matter what.”

Ben fidgets, he’s still processing himself. “Alright, let’s go. We’ll have each other’s backs. Come on, we’ll take my bike.” He tosses the spellbook over to me. I pack it and everything else back into the chest and exit my room. Ben grabs his keys, we book it downstairs to the street level. He makes it to his motorcycle first and tosses me a helmet. I make sure I keep a good grip on the chest with one hand, hold onto his waist with the other to keep steady. Ben peels out and we make our way to the mysterious red door.

Cargo: Chapter 5

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

“This book is to record the history of The Empress, The largest container ship ever built, on which nearly five hundred survivors of the worldwide phenomenon known as The Bug have taken refuge.”

– History of The Empress: Book One

After they’d been on land a month, they finally had all the plants they needed on the boat. It had been hard work, and they were all exhausted, but thanks to Arthur’s preaching the crew was still full of spirit. Obadiah ordered them to return, so they went to work packing up the camp.

 Denise approached Arthur and said, “You sure you want to come back, I don’t think Obadiah is going to try out your plan, even if he wanted to, and don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think you can make the swim back to shore.”

Arthur responded, “I think if I can make my case the people will agree. This is bigger than just what I want.”

“I hope you’re right. The ship’s a powder keg right now, and I don’t want to be the one that sets it off.”

They loaded their supplies onto the lifeboats. Arthur left his chest in the woods where it would stay sheltered and safe. He would be back for it. Arthur took a paddle again this time, and was able to make it the whole way back to the ship without switching out.

A crowd was waiting for them as they were hoisted back into the ship. Obadiah was front and center and led a cheer as they stepped back onto the deck. Arthur waited while Obadiah congratulated everyone and shook their hand.

Obadiah approached Arthur last. “Very good job Arthur, it looks like you were right.”

“Right, I wanted to talk to you about that, can we walk together?” Asked Arthur.

“Oh, of course, let me clear a path.” Obadiah walked Arthur through the crowd, smiling and waving at people as they waded through. Arthur had several people shake his hand as they went through.”

“I wasn’t expecting quite a crowd after hearing about all the quarreling aboard.” Remarked Arthur once they had walked a ways.

“Yes, well there were many furious people not in attendance today. This mission really split the ship, some are ecstatic that we saved everyone, while the others are angry we ever attempted it. I’m just glad the ordeal is over with and we can go back to business as usual.”

“Well I don’t think it should be over Lieut…Captain. We know the land is safe now, I think it’s time humanity returned to land.”

Obadiah didn’t talk for a while. “I hear what you’re saying Arthur, but with what’s been going on, I think it would be pushing things too far.”

“This has to happen sometime, doesn’t it? The ship isn’t going to last forever, it’s already a miracle we’ve kept it afloat for as long as we have.”

“I agree with you, I do. But it’s not gonna happen. I can’t imagine a scenario where I announce a move to land that doesn’t end in violence.”

“Look, we don’t have to make the whole move at once. Half the ship is glad we came here right? We hold a town hall, the exploration team talks about how it’s safe, and we get volunteers to start a settlement. After that goes well, everyone else should follow. We don’t have to force anyone who’s unwilling.”

“Everyone on the exploration team really wants to stay?” Asked Obadiah.

“Absolutely, and anyone else we can get on shore will fall in love it. This is where we belong.” Said Arthur.

Obadiah thought that over for a bit longer then said. “Alright. I’m sure I’ll regret this but we’ll try it. We’ll hold a town hall tonight, and you can lay it all out.”

“Thank you so much sir.” Arthur went off to tell his crew and prepare.

That night Arthur and the exploration crew stood on stage before the whole ship. Obadiah introduced the crew and then had Arthur come forward to speak.

Arthur walked forward and spoke, “We would like to share with you what our time on shore was like.” Then, with Arthur going first, and then each other crew member going after, they talked about their time on land. They shared stories, what they had done and all the things they had seen, and most importantly, that they were all still alive. When they were done, Obadiah walked back to the front, so that Arthur and him stood side by side. Arthur could tell Obadiah was nervous, which didn’t even show through when they first announced they were going to land.

“Now that you’ve heard about life on land, we will be asking for volunteers to start a colony.” Obadiah told the crowd. There was a moment of dead silence, and then the crowd erupted like Arthur had never seen before. Some were yelling, some were cheering, but Arthur couldn’t make out anything intelligible. Obadiah tried to calm the crowd, but nothing helped.

Arthur tried to help and barked out a “QUIET”, louder and more commanding than he thought he was capable of, and it worked. They all fell silent and stood looking at him. He rode his momentum and continued on. “Look, we’ve been here a month, and no one has dropped dead. You’re all alive, and we’re all fine. I feel better than I ever have. We’re not forcing anyone to volunteer, so can we stop bickering and just give this a go?” Everyone stayed quiet, aside from a few grunts and murmurs. Arthur went on. “Alright, this is how we’re going to do this. Everyone who doesn’t want to volunteer, leave now and go back to your homes. We’ll count everyone remaining and brief them on the plan.” People started to filter out, and they counted up around five hundred volunteers remaining. Obadiah and Arthur explained the plan.

Obadiah entered Thomas’ cell with a tray of food. Thomas didn’t bother to greet him. “I just wanted to let you know what’s going on.” Said Obadiah. “We’ll be sending people to shore to start a colony over the next few days. We’re going back to land.” To his surprise Thomas stayed quiet, just looked up and glared at him. “I think this’ll be good for us Captain, you’ll see.” Obadiah left the tray in the room and left the cell.

Once Obadiah had cleared the floor, Thomas walked up to the door and spoke to the guard. “He’s putting the whole ship on land now, still think you’ve chosen the right side?”

The guard stayed quiet for a moment then looked back at Thomas and asked, “What do we do Captain?”

Arthur and Obadiah spent the next few days preparing the colony. They pulled tools from storage for construction. None of their lifeboats were especially large, so they had to make trips non-stop the next few days bringing supplies and people over to the beach. They started clearing trees, making room for buildings and lumber to build them with. Life on the ship had instilled a strong work ethic in everyone, and buildings were being put up incredibly quickly.

Arthur and Denise were standing by the railing of the ship admiring the progress they were making.

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Asked Arthur.

“It really is.” Replied Denise. “You’ve done really well here Arthur.”

“I haven’t really done that much. The crew’s done all the work.”

“Don’t downplay yourself. You’ve grown into a really good leader. You’re basically the new lieutenant.”

“Maybe, I don’t really care to be in charge though.” He gestured out to the settlement. “I’m just glad I could help this come to exist.”

“That’s why you’re a good leader.” She said. “You’ve really changed the ship for the better. Obadiah’s glad for it too, you could always tell he didn’t care for the old laws. We don’t have to be so strict anymore.”

“Thanks Denise.” He stared out at the settlement a while longer and said proudly, “Yeah, this is home.”

Two weeks into the experiment and they had already gotten the five hundred volunteers set up on land. Buildings were still going up, ruins were being scavenged for supplies. They just broke ground on a field for a farm.

Obadiah walked down to the brig to tell Thomas the colony was progressing well. Soon they should have the whole ship’s support and transfer everyone ashore. He would be glad to finally let the hard dissenters out. This time of strife could finally end. As he approached Thomas’ cell he noticed the guards all seemed to be eyeing him. A lot of people were still angry with him, including some in security, but they would come around soon. The guard quickly opened the cell door, and Obadiah was surprised to see Thomas smiling at him as he stepped in.

Thomas nodded, and Obadiah felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. The guard had whacked him with his baton, and he felt a hand on each shoulder force him to kneel. The smile faded from Thomas’ face as he stood up and approached him. “You’ve done enough damage to this ship Lieutenant. It’s time we returned to order.”

Obadiah, still dazed, tried to stand and fight out of the guards’ grip. One of them kicked the back of his shin, and he collapsed back onto his knees. Obadiah groaned and said. “Stop, you’re making a mistake captain.”

“My mistake was choosing you to follow in my footsteps.” He shot back. “I’ve paid the price for that, now it’s your turn to pay for what you’ve done.” He stepped closer to his lieutenant, and held out his hand. A guard handed him a blade.

“Captain please, it doesn’t have to be this way anymore.” Obadiah begged. “Don’t do this.”

The captain ignored his pleas. “Obadiah, you have been found guilty of treason against the ship; leading a mutiny and sending crew to land. You are hereby sentenced to death.”

“Captain, stop!” Cried Obadiah. He tried once more to break free but was beaten down to the ground again. A guard grabbed his hair and pulled back, exposing his neck. Thomas slit his throat, and the guards released him, allowing his body to slump to the floor

“Alright, we’ve got work to do.” Stated Thomas. He pointed at one of the guards who had held down Obadiah. “You. Pick up this body.” He stepped over the corpse, already producing a sizable pool of blood, and entered the hallway. He saw one guard running at the end of the hallway and head into the stairwell. “Looks like we have to hurry. Guards, release these prisoners!” He barked at the other guards in the brig.

They quickly unlocked the cells and released those who had stayed loyal to Thomas. “To the deck, it’s time to bring back order!” He shouted. Everyone gave a hurrah and marched towards the upper decks.

Arthur was on deck talking to a storage worker. They needed more tools for construction projects. Arthur heard his name shouted and turned around to a frantic guard running up to him.

As soon as the guard reached Arthur he exclaimed, “Arthur, Thomas is trying to take back the ship. He’ll be letting everyone out of the brig as we speak.”

Arthur was astonished, he had been sure that the possibility of another mutiny was gone. “We need to get Obadiah right away.”

The guard became uncomfortable and stammered, “Obadiah, he…Thomas executed him.” Arthur gasped. “I’m sorry Arthur, I watched it happen. I had agreed to help Thomas but I couldn’t go along with it. Over half of security is backing him. What do we do?”

Arthur racked his brain. It wouldn’t take long for Thomas to launch his attack, but for now they were all holed up below deck. He spoke to the guard. “Okay, you know who in security is loyal to us, round up whoever is stationed nearby and barricade the bridge castle. We’ll try and keep them inside long enough to rally up a defense.” He turned to the storage worker. “Are there weapons in storage we can use?”

The storage worker was flustered and stammered out, “Um, we wouldn’t be able get to anything that’s an actual weapon in time.” He mumbled for a second while he thought and then said, “There’s a stash of pipes close by.”

“That’ll have to do, show me.” Ordered Arthur. He took him down a level into the container area and opened it up. They both grabbed as many pipes as they could and hauled them back up to the main deck. The storage worker told Arthur, “I support you Arthur, but I don’t think I can fight my crewmates.”

“I won’t make you.” Arthur replied. “Go somewhere safe.” Arthur didn’t want to fight either, but he didn’t know what other choice they had at the moment. Arthur surveyed the deck, security had barricaded the doors best they could, and he could hear pounding from the inside. Some non-security people had arrived to help. Arthur passed out pipes and told everyone to get prepared for a fight.

They were able to keep the doors closed off and after several minutes the pounding stopped. Arthur tried to think of their next move. Should they just wait? Do they go inside and try to subdue them? A crowd formed lining the sides of the ship.

Then Arthur heard a voice above him. “Mutineers, this is your chance to drop your weapons and spare yourself judgement.” He looked up and saw Thomas standing on the second story balcony with his band of security and prisoners. He hadn’t even thought about them going up a level. They were armed not just with security’s batons but also with knives and swords. They had sure locked up a lot of people. “This is your fate if you continue this futile resistance.” He held up Obadiah’s blood-soaked body for all to see, then flung him over the railing to flop onto the deck.

Arthur gripped his pipe tighter and yelled out, “Stand your ground.” But he looked back and saw

several people had already retreated. The rest of their militia were realizing their odds, and one by one

they dropped their weapons to surrender.

Thomas and the rest of his crew dropped down onto the deck. Arthur realized there was nothing he could do with force, and dropped his pipe as well. Thomas walked up to Arthur and pushed his finger into Arthur’s chest. “You. You don’t get off scot free. You engineered this whole scenario.” He pulled out the knife he had used on Obadiah.

Shouting started coming from the crowd. “Don’t kill him!” “Let him go!”

Arthur didn’t flinch. “Hear me out captain.” He asked.

Thomas looked out at the crowd and turned back to Arthur. “Go ahead, say your piece.”

“Let those of us who want to stay on land stay on land. Anyone who wants to stay is a traitor right? And living on land is a death sentence, so you’re just carrying out proper justice.” Explained Arthur.

Thomas narrowed his eyes. He looked back at the agitated crowd as he thought over the options. “So be it.” He snarled at Arthur. He sheathed his knife and turned back to the people. “I hereby sentence Arthur, and anyone who supports him, to exile on shore.” Arthur sighed in relief, they wouldn’t die today at least.

Thomas started shipping people to the beach the same day. He didn’t allow anyone to take any supplies or belongings with them, just ran the rowboats non-stop to get the traitors off the ship. He made sure he didn’t let Arthur out of his sight until he got him off the ship, but Arthur managed to slip a message to Denise before he was forced off. Denise got some of her guys to smuggle books Arthur thought they would need back to the settlement.

It took two days before everyone who chose to go was on land, twenty-five hundred in total including everyone who had originally volunteered for the colony. Arthur held a proper funeral for Obadiah, the first body to be buried in the ground in centuries. Arthur and Denise stood on the beach together while they watched the ship get smaller and smaller on the horizon.

“There goes our home.” Remarked Denise.

“Not anymore. This is our home now.” Replied Arthur. After they couldn’t see the ship anymore Arthur turned to Denise. “Follow me, I want to show you something.” He grabbed her hand and led her into the settlement, into the town hall building they had built. There on a desk was a book titled ‘History of Humanity: Book One’. He opened the first page, still blank, and said to Denise. “Let’s write history shall we?”

Cargo: Chapter 4

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 5

“It has been two weeks since we have sent the expedition to land. We have seen no signs of activity on the beach, and similar to the previous expeditions, now presume them to have perished to The Bug. We are leaving this position and resuming our previous course.”

History of The Empress: Book Ten

Obadiah was quick to prepare the ship for the trip. They charted a course to shore. They would arrive in less than a week’s time. Obadiah made sure safety protocols were top of mind, he didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. Arthur was to prepare training for the expedition crew.

The morning after the town hall, Arthur was in the library searching the shelves for relevant books. Most of the titles still weren’t legible after getting caked in soot, but he had where each book was pretty much memorized regardless. Denise walked in while he was rummaging. She looked stressed. “How are you holding up Denise?” Asked Arthur.

“As well as I have to be.” She replied. “I don’t really have the luxury to let myself fall apart right now.”

“I get that.” He said, and after pausing for a second continued. “I didn’t have the chance to say it at the funeral, but I’m sorry about what happened. I know most of them were your guys.”

She nodded and then looked away saying, “I don’t know what went wrong, but it’s my garden, whatever happened is my fault.”

“You can’t put that on yourself Denise. It was a freak accident; you couldn’t have done anything.”

She got angry and yelled back at him. “Explosions don’t just pop up from nothing Arthur!” She took in a deep breath and sat down, then said.” I’m sorry, it’s just I’m responsible for the garden, anything that happens to it or my crew is on me.”

He sat down next to her and said, “You’re right, I’m sorry. I don’t know what it’s like to be accountable for other people, just books. But I do know that you might be better off if you did let yourself fall apart, at least for a minute.”

“I can’t be weak right now, not in this crisis.”

“It’s not weak, I bawled me eyes out after the explosion, and all I lost was some scraps of paper. This sucks Denise, it’s okay to process that.”

She leaned into the table and buried her face into her hands. He saw a couple tears roll down her cheek. He put his hand on her shoulder, and then she did start to cry. They sat like that for a few minutes, as she let out all the emotions she’d been suppressing for the last week. As she started calming back down he walked to his desk and grabbed a scrap of cloth so she could wipe off her face. “Better?” He asked.

She took it and wiped her last tears away. She was quiet for another minute still and then said. “A lot actually. Thanks Arthur.” She paused and then chuckled softly saying, “You can’t tell anyone you saw me cry.”

“Of course not.” He replied. “You’ve got a bad bitch reputation to uphold. Now I never asked, did you come in here for anything?”

 “Oh yeah. I volunteered to lead the expedition, since I felt guilty, and also I’m the best person for identifying what plants to bring back. So I need to review the plant encyclopedia.”

Arthur responded. “I’m surprised you even need to look at it, you must have gone through it a thousand times already.”

She chuckled and said, “Well I have to teach the expedition crew what we’re looking for, so I want to make sure I have my facts straight.”

He went to grab the book. The title wasn’t legible, but he knew where it was by memory. It was a thick, tattered volume that he wondered how it still stayed in one piece. He laid it down in front of her and said, “Here. You’re going to do great Denise.”

She didn’t respond, just smiled back at him, then she took the book and started her research. Arthur went back to his own work.

A couple days later he had Denise and ten other explorers gathered around a library table for his lesson.  He brought out the closest thing they had to a book on survival, “What Every Boy or Girl Needs to Know: A Guide to Camping Outdoors.” It was made for children, but it still covered some key concepts. They went over how to build a fire, how to find drinkable water, and some basic first aid. He opened it up to any questions they had about the land, and he would try to answer. Of course, the first question that came up was, “What about The Bug, do you really think it’s gone?”

Arthur responded, “Well, I really have no idea. I think it’s a real possibility, with how long it’s been since they’ve had a food source. But if I was to tell you there was no risk at all I’d be lying to you.”

They all soaked that in for a second. Then another person asked, “Well, what can you tell us about it?”

“Not a lot, but we do have some written about it, mostly from journals people wrote at the beginning of our history, before we started hoarding paper.” Said Arthur. He continued, “It was the belief at the time that they were created in a lab as a form of bio-warfare. They appear to live in the ground, burrow into people and animals to eat them from the inside out, laying eggs in their victims as they feast. One journal entry notes them seeing a corpse wiggling at the side of the road, before it erupted with an outpour of beetle-like creatures.”

“What’s a beetle?” Someone asked.

“Good question.” Said Arthur. He knew there was a picture of one in one of the books, he thought for a second, before pulling out a children’s book about a lonely bee. He flipped to a page about the bee meeting a grumpy beetle, and set it on the table for them to see. “As you can see, their main feature is a large protective shell.” The group uneasily took in the creature. “That’s really all we have on The Bug. No one who survived to make it on the ship really got a good look at it. But it’s imperative that if it is still out there, and anyone gets attacked, that they don’t come back on the ship, because then it could kill everyone aboard.” Everyone nodded, they understood the gravity of it.

They went through a couple other questions about what they might expect on land, and then Denise took over to go over the types of plants they were searching for. She pulled out the plant encyclopedia and explained the characteristics of each plant, so that everyone would know what to look for.

Thomas sat in his cell, a locked room in the bowels of the ship. He had spent his first few hours demanding to be released, but after continuing to be ignored by the guard, finally resigned himself to quietly preserve what remained of his dignity. He heard a voice outside the door, and then Obadiah walked in.

“I’m surprised you have the stomach to show your face to me, traitor.” Spat Thomas.

Obadiah sat the tray down and said. “I’m sorry Captain, but I couldn’t just accept killing people off, not without trying to save them first.”

“You’re a coward is what you are, and you’ll kill everyone on the ship for it.”

                “If this doesn’t work, I’ll be the first to sacrifice myself. I know you think this is a fool’s errand, and it very well could be, but it’s what we have to do. We’re already making out way towards land, I’ll try and keep you updated.” Obadiah left, and Thomas walked over to the door.

                “You ready to be eaten when we get to shore?” He asked the guard. The guard glanced back at him, but said nothing. 

The next few days were a blur for Arthur. Lots of people needed information preparing for the expedition; it was the most research he had ever done. Work was being done right until the day they arrived. Arthur was standing with Obadiah and Denise in the garden when the sirens went off. Groups of three, they had reached land, the first time in his lifetime they’d done it on purpose.

“We’re actually here.” Said Arthur.

“Come with me to the bridge.” Said Obadiah. “Let’s see it.” The three of them made their way up the stairs to the bridge. The helmsman was up there with a messenger. They walked up to the window together and took in the view. They were still a ways away, Arthur could just make out the tree line in the distance. They stood and watched in silence as they approached, the landscape slowly becoming larger and grander. Eventually Arthur could start to make out the individual trees just beyond the shore. As soon as they were close enough, Obadiah ordered the messenger to have them anchor the ship, and he rushed off to deliver the message. A couple minutes later they saw the sails being retracted, and the ship slowed as the anchor dragged on the ocean floor.

They were about a half-mile from shore now, the closest Arthur, or anyone, had ever been to land. He felt an odd mixture of great excitement and overwhelming dread. Everything he had been taught his whole life told him this was wrong, that they should turn the boat around and flee. But everything his heart yearned for told him to jump off the boat, swim to shore, and disappear into this lost world. He wanted to see all the things he had spent his whole life reading about. Houses and cars and playgrounds, relics of a lost civilization. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” He asked out loud.

“Aye” Answered Obadiah. “It’s a shame we’ve had to avoid it for so long.” They all took in the view for a few minutes longer, then Obadiah said. “Right, there’s work to do. Both of you make sure you’re ready to leave in the morning.” Obadiah and Denise both went downstairs. Arthur had already prepared all he needed to and stayed to admire the panorama before him.

Three of the exploration crew were sent over on a lifeboat first. They were going to camp on the beach overnight to see if it was safe, and if they lived, the rest of the crew was to join them in the morning. Arthur watched as the boat rowed to shore. Tomorrow he would be in their shoes. Finally, he would do what was always just a daydream. He loved the people of the ship, but this wasn’t how humanity was meant to exist. The ship kept them safe, sure. But it was also their prison. Arthur wanted to do more than just survive.

The next morning came, and the crew was still alive on the beach. Arthur, Denise, and the other seven explorers loaded into the lifeboat. A good size crowd had gathered to send them off. Everyone was anxious for how the expedition would go. Many still didn’t like the plan, but no one wanted to start killing people off, so it kept on going. Obadiah made a short speech about how important this all was and lowered them into water. Arthur took a paddle and they made their way to the beach. Not even halfway through and Arthur’s arms were on fire. One of his crewmates could tell he was struggling, and switched seats with him.

Denise was sitting across from him now. “How are you feeling?” He asked her.

“I’m a little worried.” She admitted. She paused and looked down, then looked back at him, leaned in, and whispered. “Honestly, I think we’re all going to die.”

Arthur responded, “Don’t worry, we’ll be fine. The overnight crew is still fine, we’ll be okay.”

She stared out at the approaching scenery and said solemnly. “I hope you’re right.”

They finally reached the beach. Arthur stepped out of the boat and planted his feet on the Earth for the first time. He wobbled trying to stand in the sand. The ground wasn’t swaying back and forth, he found it incredibly hard to keep his equilibrium. he tried taking a few steps and fell face-first into the sand. One of the guys who stayed overnight laughed and helped him up. “It takes a minute to get used to.” Arthur focused on balancing himself. The sand was uneven, which felt weird. Everything on the ship was flat. The rest of the crew was having trouble too. It was a little comical, like something he would see in a play.

Arthur got down on his knees to actually get a good feel of the sand. He dug his hands in and let it slip between his fingers. He hit something hard and cold, and pulled a shiny little rock out of the beach. He rolled it around in his hand, admiring it. He slipped it into his pocket, a token of his first experience on land.

Then he stood, and trudged up the beach towards the tree line. He noticed how the ground got harder as he hit the soil. He walked up to a tree and placed his hand on the trunk. He had read the word tree a million times in different books. But this was the first time he had ever touched one. It was hard, and rough, and the bark had little valleys and peaks as he ran his hand along it. It was amazing. Arthur couldn’t help but tear up as he took it in.

After they got their bearings, they huddled to decide on a course of action. Denise was in charge, and started speaking. “Alright, our mission is to find edible plants to bring to the ship. You all know the identifying characteristics of each plant we’re looking for. The most important thing we do is to keep track of where we are. This is a new experience for all of us and it will be easy to be disoriented. We don’t know what this landscape looks like or where we’re going. We need to keep track of landmarks so we can find our way back to shore. Some of us have compasses, it’s important to note that the beach will always be east. If you can find the beach, you should be able to make your way back to the camp. Everyone understand?” They all nodded. “Alright, let’s go.”

With that they all made their way into the forest. After only a few minutes of walking, Arthur saw something moving on the ground. Kneeling down he saw tiny creatures moving in line with each other. Denise caught what he was looking at, “My god, is this The Bug?”       

“No no, wait, it’s okay. I’ve seen pictures of these, they’re called ants. harmless.” He replied.

“Serious? I didn’t think anything would still be alive.”

“I’m surprised too, maybe The Bug had no interest in smaller creatures, or enough survived that they were able to repopulate after The Bug starved itself out.”   

They walked farther and farther into the forest. Denise would stop every once in a while to examine a new plant. She found a couple herbs that she kept, but nothing she wanted to use for the garden.

After a while they came across their first relic of the old world, a crumbling stone wall. Arthur ran his hands across the top. Someone had built this hundreds of years ago and was just now being seen again by human eyes. They each climbed over and after not much more walking came across a ruin. There were only a couple spots of brick showing under a blanket of moss and vines. The entryway had no door, and one of the guys ventured in first to test if it was safe. Arthur sat down in the grass to catch his breath, this was the most he’d ever had to exercise.

After a few minutes the guy yelled out that it was safe, and they made their way in. Any crack in the floor had some sort of plant sprouting out of it, but the house was beautiful. Old faded photographs on the walls, peeling wallpaper, a fireplace. It was like stepping into one of the photos on the ship. Sometimes he had questioned if the old world was ever really real, as if mankind had always existed on the ship, but this was real proof. He could touch and feel and see things that were just legends a week ago.

Something familiar caught his eye on a shelf. A book. He picked it up and dusted off the cover. It was a new title, something he’d never read before. There were new books to find in this land, if they found fresh paper, they could maybe even make new ones. He saw Denise shake her head at him as he dropped the book into his sack. They moved into the back of the house. Arthur marveled at every little relic he passed by.

Denise opened a door and called for them to come look. Arthur and a couple others walked into a larger room with some metal cabinets and tools strewn around. There was a rusted heap of metal in the middle. “This is a…car, right Arthur?” Asked Denise.

“I believe it is.” He answered. He saw a door on the opposite side was open and walked around to look inside. “Oh shit.” He exclaimed as he reached the other side. There was a skeleton hanging halfway out of the car. “I guess they were trying to hide but it was too late.”

One of the other explorers asked, “That’s not gonna happen to us is it?”

Arthur was about to reply when Denise said hurriedly. “I’m sure we’ll be fine. Just keep your wits about you. We should get back to the mission.” Denise had everyone file out of the house so they could continue looking for food plants.

A bit farther into the forest the trees cleared up a little bit. Something caught Denise’s eye and she ran forward a bit and pulled at a plant on the ground. Pulling it free she held it up and Arthur saw a fat brown bit at its roots. “What’s that?” Asked one of the explorers.

“It’s a potato!” She exclaimed. “We can eat it.” She walked a couple steps and pulled out another one. “There’s a bunch here, everyone start grabbing them. The leaves are poisonous so make sure to break them off, no reason for them to take up space.” She broke the stem on hers to show everyone.

Everyone fanned out and started pulling up potatoes and stuffing them in their sacks. Arthur asked Denise. “Will these work for the garden?”

She replied. “Unfortunately these are root vegetables, and they won’t grow well in the hydroponics. It’ll be fine food for the ship though, and it’ll be a nice treat for everyone to have a new type of food.”

“At the very least it’ll be good for morale to have something on top of the thin rations we’ve been getting.” Said Arthur.

They quickly filled all their sacks with potatoes, and there were still plenty more in the field. They would be back. There was another ruin of a house on the other side of the field. Denise found a large pot inside and had one of the guys carry it. They doubled back and were able to retrace their steps back to camp without much issue.

They signaled the ship and before too long a lifeboat started making their way towards them. Denise cleaned the pot out in the ocean while everyone else washed the dirt off the potatoes. She instructed everyone to examine each potato for damage, she didn’t want the possibility that The Bug could be hiding in a potato and make it onto the boat.

Two people arrived in the rowboat. Denise explained these were just for food and once a potato was rinsed and inspected it was thrown into the boat. They were able to finish loading by sundown and kept a few for their own rations. Arthur helped Denise start a fire and to fill the pot with seawater. They threw the potatoes in the pot, added some of the herbs Denise had found, and let them stew in the boiling water. They sharpened some nearby branches to skewer the potatoes on and passed them around. When it was all done everyone sat around the fire with their potato on a stick.

Arthur felt inspired to speak and got everyone’s attention. “I’m not much for speeches, but I think today warrants one. You were all brave to volunteer to be here, and I’m glad you came. We’re pioneers. Today, we did and saw things no one has done or seen for three hundred years. The first since the old world ended to walk on land and live. The first to see ants, the first to enter a house, and now…” He held up his stick and said loudly, with more fervor than he’d ever had before. “The first to eat a potato.” A couple of the guys started to feel his energy and whooped in response. “We’re the beginning of a new era. To being the first.” He held up his potato again towards the center and everyone held their stick in to join his.

After that everyone chowed down on their potatoes and broke into conversation about how the day had gone. Denise tapped on Arthur’s shoulder and asked if they could talk. They walked down the beach a ways until they were out of earshot. She said, “I’m worried Arthur. This place is amazing, but from the way you sounded it sounds like you want to stay here.”

“Well, if we don’t die here it seems like the thing to do.” He responded.

“Oh, come on Arthur. We can’t stay here, it’s dangerous. It’s pretty but it’s a place of death. You saw that skeleton.”

“It was, lifetimes ago. It’s hard for me to shake the feeling we shouldn’t be here too. But that’s just because it’s what I’ve been told my whole life. Now that we’re actually here, I’ve never been more sure of what I’ve wanted. This is where we belong. It’s where I belong at least.”

“I don’t know… I don’t know if even Obadiah would want us to stay here. He wants us to quickly get the plants for the garden so they can leave. I think Obadiah fully expects us to die here as well.”

Arthur put his hand on her shoulder. “Well we’ll prove Obadiah wrong. We’ll prove it to him, to Thomas, and everyone else who thinks we can’t survive here. All we have to do is not die.” He gave her a little smile.

She did not return it. “Alright, well, time will tell. I guess we should head back to the group, it’s getting awfully dark.”

They continued to search the land for the next week. They worked on emptying the potato field. They found fields of lettuce and strawberries, which Denise said would work in the hydroponics, and started transferring them over to the boat. Denise picked up spices and herbs whenever she found them. They wouldn’t use space for them on the boat but she like that she could actually flavor her food for once with something other than salt. Arthur would collect trinkets whenever he found something he liked, and added to his stockpile of books. Most books he came across had been ruined by water and time, but he found a good one tucked away here and there. He used a chest he found to store everything so they would stay safe and dry. He was glad to see the more he hiked the less winded he got.

As each day passed and no sign of The Bug, Arthur became more and more confident that this is where they belonged. Arthur’s talks about the society they could build became more and more impassioned, and the rest of the exploration crew became more and more captivated with his ideas. Two weeks into their mission, Arthur and Denise were walking together down the beach after another campfire dinner.

“I’m going to tell Obadiah we should move to land, I’m sure of it.” Said Arthur.

“What if he says no?” Asked Denise.

“He won’t. He can’t. Not after seeing us thrive here.”

“But what if he says no, Arthur? Are you going to go back to the library?”

He stared out at the ocean, catching the silhouette of the ship on the horizon, barely visible in the moonlight. “If he really says no…I’ll stay here. I can’t imagine going back to living in a box, not after I’ve experienced all this. You don’t really want to go back do you? Here you have all the plants in the world.”

She thought for a second. “I certainly don’t want to stay here without everyone else, but…” Denise was cut off by a holler from the campsite.

 They looked over and could just make out the lifeboat on shore. They paused their conversation and walked back to the campsite. As they got there they saw they had just come to pick up another load of food. “How’s everything back on the ship?” Denise asked one of the crewman.

He sighed and said. “It’s getting pretty dicey. A lot of people don’t like that we’re still here, that Thomas is still locked up. Half the ship refuses to eat what you guys are bringing from shore. A couple fights have broken out too.”

“Nobody’s been sent to compost have they?” Asked Arthur.

“Luckily no, Obadiah’s hasn’t been keen on enforcing executions. We’ve had plenty of people thrown in the brig though, it’s nearly full.”

Arthur replied, “The guards must have their hands full, we’ve never had more than a couple locked up at a time.”

“Indeed, a couple of them have started raising trouble about it too. Obadiah hasn’t punished any of the guards though because they’re the only reason he can keep control right now.”

Denise shot a look over to Arthur, “I don’t know if your plan is going to pan out.” Arthur didn’t respond, just crossed his arms. “Well I hope you guys can finish soon, before we have a second mutiny.” Said the crewman.

Next Chapter

Cargo: Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

“After a trade with another ship, a former cruise liner named the SS Elizabeth, we have all the equipment we need to start a hydroponic farm below deck. We believe this will give us a steady supply of food for the years to come. Modifications are currently being made below deck to accommodate the operation.”

– History of The Empress: Book Six

The next few days were a whirl of activity, everyone was in overdrive. A service was held for those who died during the incident, thirty in total. There wasn’t much time to grieve, it was kept short so that everyone would return quickly to their tasks, and the bodies were promptly sent to compost. Gardening was working hard to repair their equipment, and several people were reassigned to gardening to cover those they lost. Fishing took on extra help as well to try and increase food intake, though it didn’t seem to help. Arthur had already started work on replacing the documents they lost, spending most of his time tracking people down to fill in the gaps in his memory.

Thomas and Obadiah were both busy keeping on top of the progress. Thomas had Arthur transcribe a new entry for the histories, without the usual ceremony of gathering everyone together. Obadiah had stopped by to look through the old histories. He was very interested in the previous expeditions to land. The lieutenant asked him to keep his visit quiet, which Arthur agreed to. He knew the captain would be furious if he found out, and he didn’t want any part in the drama. Arthur looked through those parts of the histories as well, he couldn’t stop thinking about going to land. He asked the Lieutenant if they could meet sometime to talk, and Obadiah invited Arthur over for dinner. Arthur’s stomach was already screaming from the rationing, and welcomed any extra food. He arrived at the lieutenant’s place just after sunset.

Arthur knocked on the door, which Obadiah quickly opened and welcomed him in. “Thank you for coming Arthur. Here, take a seat.” Arthur sat down at the table. Obadiah handed him a cup of water and laid out their dinner, grilled fish with bell peppers.  They each took a few bites and then Obadiah started. “I know why you wanted to talk, and I’ve been thinking about what you said about sending a team to land. It’s intriguing but dangerous. We’ve sent people to shore before and they’ve never come back.”

Arthur had been thinking about it a lot himself and had a quick response. “WE haven’t, people a hundred years ago did, and we have no idea what happened to those crews. They could’ve fallen off a cliff, not gotten eaten by some insects. Whatever bug killed off the old world has to have died off by now, their source of food has been gone for hundreds of years now. What I know for sure is half of us will starve if we stay here, the water can’t support us. This is our best chance. If the crew we send dies, at least we’ll know. Captain would doom us all rather than the small team we’d send to the land.”

“I just keep thinking, what if we make a mistake and The Bug gets on the ship. At least we can guarantee some of us survive by just staying in the water and fishing until we can grow more food.” Said Obadiah.

“I understand, but we’ll be careful. Like you said, we’ve made close passes to land before and nothing has ever gotten on the ship. We could potentially lose a few men on this expedition, but if we do nothing, we guarantee we lose at least two thousand. Men, women, and children. I think this is worth the risk.” Replied Arthur.

Obadiah paused to mull it over, then after a long sigh he said, “Okay, I think you’re right, it’s a risk worth taking. But you understand what we’ll be doing. Captain will never consider this, we’ll be throwing a coup.”

Arthur was solemn. “I know. I never thought I could betray Thomas, but I love this ship, and this is what needs to be done.”

 They spent all evening planning out how they would pull it off. They had to be careful, if they weren’t successful, they would both be sent to compost.

Obadiah spent the next day finding department heads to talk to in private. He first met with the head of security, as the guards would be crucial to making their plan work. Once he had security, everyone else was pulled aside one by one. He gauged their thoughts on going to land. Those who agreed were told to spread word of a town hall meeting to take place that evening, with clear instructions to keep word away from the captain. A few leaders protested and threatened to tell Thomas. These were quickly escorted by security to the brig to be held for the time being, and leadership of that department given to someone sympathetic to the cause. He arranged for waste management to ask Thomas to come in that evening to discuss some issues, since that would take place on the opposite end of the ship from the town hall.

The time quickly came for the meeting to start. Obadiah, Arthur, and the department heads stood at the head of the bow facing everyone. Arthur saw many anxious and worried faces among the crowd. Obadiah began his speech. “Citizens of the ship, as you all know, an explosion destroyed our garden earlier this week. The damage was extensive, and it will take a long time before we can feed ourselves again. Leadership has decided that the best course of action is to go to shore, to source new plants for food.” This caused a lot of uproar in the crowd. “Please, please, calm down everyone,” urged Obadiah.

Someone yelled from the crowd, “Where is Captain Thomas?!”, followed by many shouts echoing the question. As Obadiah was about to offer a response, Thomas emerged from the crowd and barged up the stairs of the platform.

“What are you doing Lieutenant?” demanded Thomas. “This is not what we decided, you think you could lie to the ship and I would just roll over and agree?”

Obadiah responded, staying calm. “I’m sorry sir, I didn’t want to do it this way, but you’re too stubborn, everyone else here is willing to take the risk.” He gestured to the department heads. Thomas gave them a stern look, to which many of them sheepishly looked away.

 Denise took a step forward to speak to Thomas. “Please Captain, you know this is what we have to do. We all just want what’s best for the ship, for our families.”

Thomas huffed, “You’re all weak, we’re still here today because we’ve made hard decisions, this is no different.” The captain then turned to face the crowd, which was still riled. He gave a loud bellow, “QUIET!” Everyone immediately went silent. “People, we will not be going to shore. We will figure out how to get through this, but we will not do anything so foolish as to send people to land. As your captain, I promise-” But he didn’t get to finish his statement, for Obadiah and a guard grabbed his shoulders and forced Thomas down onto his knees.

“I’m sorry captain.” Said Obadiah as they attempted to force his hands behind his back to bind them. Thomas swung his head back and bashed his head into Obadiah’s nose. Obadiah stumbled backwards as Thomas elbowed the guard in the stomach and staggered to his feet. The two officers faced each other, anger in their eyes. Obadiah wiped the blood from his face and yelled loudly. “Captain Thomas, I hereby relieve you of your position. You will be restrained to the brig until a time deemed appropriate for your release.”

“That’s funny Obadiah, as I hereby relieve you of your position. You are charged with treason against the ship, of which you know the punishment is death.” He spat. Several more guards jumped onto the platform. Thomas commanded them, “guards, arrest my Lieutenant.” They hesitated, looking back and forth between Thomas and Obadiah.

 Obadiah moved closer to Thomas, keeping a defensive position. “I’m really sorry Captain, please don’t resist.”

“The hell I won’t.” Thomas said as he charged. Obadiah was ready for him, ducking a swing as he caught the captain, throwing him into the deck. He pinned Thomas to the ground as the guards rushed up. They helped him bind Thomas’ hands behind his back with rope, and then three of them took a struggling Thomas down to the brig.

Obadiah finally returned his gaze to an uncomfortable crowd. “People, allow me to be very honest about our situation. Contrary to what you’ve been told, we do not actually have the food reserves to last until the garden is at capacity again. The truth is if we stay on our current path, we will have to let half the ship starve to allow the other half to survive. Think about your family, your friends, your neighbors, your workmates. Think about which half of them you’re okay with killing off. It’s certainly not a choice I want to make. We have the chance to send an expedition to land, bring back plants for food, and save us…all of us. If I’m wrong, we’ll reinstate Thomas as captain, and I’ll accept my fate in compost. But I, just like all of you, want what’s best for the ship. I do not choose this course forward lightly, but it is our best chance to ensure our survival.”

The crowd stayed quiet. There was no joy in what was just told, but no one voiced any protest. They were coming to terms with this new reality. Obadiah dismissed the crowd, telling them to resume their duties, and that they would begin preparations soon.

Next Chapter

Cargo: Chapter 2

Chapter 1
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

“Reginald, a young boy aged twelve years, was caught stealing medicine denied to his ailing mother, on account that the doctors thought the chances of her recovery were too slim. This was his second offense, the first being theft of food the previous year, and he was sent to compost yesterday evening. His father, also named Reginald, fought the guards in an attempt to rescue him, and he too was sentenced to death. This marks the end of the Cooper line.”

– History of The Empress: Book Fourteen

It had been a month since the island encounter, and life had quickly gone back to normal. Arthur was in the library and had just set the theater troupe up with the Canterbury Tales, and they were already busy running through the script. He’d already seen this play five times, but there were only a few different scripts aboard to use. 

Gerald, one of the older mechanics, came in with four teenagers. Arthur greeted them, “Hey Gerald, I’ve got the welding manuals you’ll need for today ready, and a table prepared for you.”

Gerald replied, “Thanks Arthur, we’ll be in here the next two days to get these kids trained up. Then hopefully they’ll be some work for them to do this week so they get some experience.”

“Not too much work I hope,” Arthur said with a laugh. “I like it when the ship is in one piece.” Gerald took the kids over to the table and prepped them for his lesson. There was nothing else to do for the moment, so Arthur returned to reading a book on pet care. Pets didn’t exist anymore, but he enjoyed getting glimpses into what life was like in the old world. He read on for the next hour, Gerald’s voice droning on in the background, various outbursts as the actors practiced their lines. As he was turning one of the last few pages, a loud boom roared from beneath him. Arthur, startled, dropped his book and gripped his desk as a huge vibration spread from the floor and rose into the ceiling.

“SHIT!” Yelled Gerald as the tremors rocked him and he fell to the floor. Arthur, shaken, stumbled towards Gerald to try and help him. He was already being picked up by his students as he reached him.

“You okay?” Asked Arthur as he helped him into a seat.

Gerald groaned, “Aye, what the hell was that?” He put his hands out on the table to steady himself and noticed he was holding a crumpled half of a paper in each hand. Arthur grabbed them and frantically tried to straighten each half out. “Arthur, there are bigger things to worry about, the ship’s been hit by something.” Scolded Gerald.

Arthur sighed heavy. “Right…. right.” He collected himself and looked around. The library seemed undamaged, and the shaking had stopped. He turned to the students and asked if they were okay. They all nodded. “Well, best thing to do is wait here until a guard lets us know it’s safe.”

Gerald had also gained back some composure, and responded in disgust, “You coward. We need to protect the ship.” He stood himself back up, though still shaky on his legs. “Come on boys, let’s move out.”

Arthur hated confrontation. “Uh, no…no, no one can leave.” He breathed in and continued, “The hallway could be flooded, or…or there could a fire. We can’t risk anything happening to the library.”

Gerald blew air out his nose. “Well you stay here then, but we’re taking action, that’s our duty. Let’s go!” He walked towards the door. His students were hesitant but started following. Arthur knew he couldn’t let him open that door, he hurried past Gerald and stood in front of the door. “Arthur, I’ll only tell you once, you get out of my way.”

Gerald was intimidating, he was older but still muscular, especially compared to Arthur’s pudgy self. He summoned what courage he could and stood his ground. “Jerry, I am the department head of this library and I order you to stand down.” The threat was clear, disobeying an order from a department head was a punishable offense, this was drilled into everyone from childhood. The students knew it well and returned to their seats, although they were all visibly uncomfortable.

Gerald’s eyes were cold, intense. Arthur could tell he didn’t want to take orders from the librarian, especially when he believed he was being stopped from doing his duty. They both stood there for several moments, staring at each other. Arthur felt ready to start trembling but kept his composure. Finally, Gerald relaxed his shoulders and sighed, and took a step back. Arthur turned around and started to lock the door. “Okay, we’ll all wait here until we get word that it’s safe.” Before he could turn the lock, Arthur was grabbed by his shoulder and jerked into the floor.

He looked up and saw Gerald throw the door open. The moment he did, thick black smoke erupted into the room. It was only a few seconds before he couldn’t even see a few inches in front of his face. He inhaled and instantly felt his throat burn and started violently coughing. He stood up and brought his shirt up over his nose, which helped some. He tried to call out to the others, but just wound up coughing more. He tried to think of what he could do to help, he felt for the door and started banging on the metal with his fist, trying to orient the others to his position. It took a minute, but he felt someone pass by. He reached out and helped guide them one by one out the door.

Soon no one else was coming, he had counted nine people leave, but there had been ten others in the library. He wasn’t willing to leave anyone in here alone. He wandered out to try and find the last person, but soon became disoriented. His eyes were watering badly, and he had lost his sense of where the door was. His shirt fell down and before he could fix it, he accidentally inhaled another big breath of raw smoke. He started another coughing fit, and not stopping he fell onto his knees. He couldn’t see, and he was having a hard time breathing. He felt his consciousness slipping, and as he was going out he felt himself being pulled upwards…

Arthur came to on the deck. The sirens were going off, and there was a mess of people rushing every direction. He looked up and saw large plumes of smoke rising into the air. He coughed as he sat up. It was better, but his lungs were still raw and his eyes burned.

A doctor finished up with one of the theater girls and came over to Arthur. She gave him some water and checked him over. “You look awful.” She remarked.

“I know, the smoke probably didn’t help either.” He tried to laugh but it hurt, then he asked, “Is everyone okay?”

“For the most part. You and Gerald got the worst of it of everyone who’s gotten out so far. Gerald collapsed as soon as he dragged you outside. He’s stable but still unconscious.” She replied. Arthur couldn’t believe Gerald had opened that door, who knows what’s happened to his library. A knot formed in his stomach as he thought over the possibility that their entire collection could be ruined. The doctor finished checking him over, gave him some water, and said. “I think you’re going to be alright, come find me if you’re still having trouble breathing after a while. I’ve got more people to help.” She quickly stood up and jogged over to someone else who had just been dragged out of the ship.

Arthur tried standing, his legs were weak but he managed to pull himself up using a railing. He lifted the canteen up for a drink, it was soothing on his sore throat. He chugged half of it before he forced himself to stop and save the rest. As he looked around again, he spotted Gerald’s body, it looked like he was starting to stir. Arthur made his way along the railing until he reached him, just as his eyes strained to open. Gerald groaned and Arthur helped him to sit up. Gerald tried to say something but went into a coughing fit.

“Here, take my water.” Said Arthur as he handed him his canteen.

Gerald drank slowly, with much more restraint than Arthur had had, then cleared his throat and spit onto the deck. “Thank you, Arthur.” He said, then looked away and after a short silence, continued. “I shouldn’t have opened that door, I was foolish and put everyone in that room in danger. I’m sorry.”

Arthur thought about the harm Gerald might have caused to his library, and responded. “Well…I don’t know If I can forgive you right now.” He paused for a second, then added. “But thank you for coming back for me.”

Gerald nodded and said, “That’s fair, I still owe you for what I’ve done.” With that they both just sat for a while, passing the canteen back and forth until it was empty, and watching the situation progress. Security had donned protective suits and masks to find anyone still and pull them out. The suits were shiny and clean, it was the first time they’d been pulled from storage and used. They didn’t stay that way for long as they went into the smoke to find survivors. Arthur felt sick to his stomach as he watched everything unfold. The first people they brought up were passed out but still breathing, like him and Gerald had been. Then the bodies came, one by one, covered in burns and blackened, all found in the garden. He hoped they had at least died quickly. Arthur wondered what that meant for their main source of food. After a couple hours the smoke had mostly stopped, and those hiding out in the floors below the garden were pulled out, all fine and intact, as the smoke hadn’t affected them. Power was redirected to the ventilation system and the remaining smoke was pumped out of the ship. Thomas and Obadiah were in the middle of everything the whole time, giving orders and directing crews. After everyone had been accounted for and the situation was under some modicum of control, Thomas came over to Arthur.

If the captain was at all stressed about the ordeal, he wasn’t showing it. “It’s safe to go back inside now, I’m going to send you to the library to take stock of the situation and do damage control, I’ll send some helpers with you, feel free to direct them as you choose.” Said Thomas.

“Yes captain, right away.” Responded Arthur. He got up, feeling much better now, and started making his way back inside. Thomas motioned at a group and a small crew started following him.

Arthur tried to mentally prepare himself as he approached the library. The hallway walls were stained black from the smoke. It covered the lights too, and he could barely see as they made their way. He saw the entrance; the door was still open. He gasped as he walked inside. Soot was everywhere. He took a couple deep breaths to keep control of his emotions. He came upon some loose papers that had been left on the table, completely black. He tried to rub out the black but it was baked in. Arthur couldn’t stop a couple tears from coming out at this point. He went to the shelves and took stock of the literature there. There were several sections that were mostly single unprotected pages that had suffered the same fate as those left on the table. Their charts and some of the more important documents were stored in chests and had been protected from the smoke. He pulled a book off the shelf, the exposed edges were black, but upon opening the book, the contents were fine. He pulled several other books and all were the same, stained on the outside but fine on the inside. He noticed some of the covers he was able to smudge the soot off. He gave orders to the crew assigned to him to gather dry cloth and to very carefully work through the books and clean off what they could. He started to catalogue in his mind what had been completely destroyed. He was familiar with many of the volumes, and many people become familiar enough with particular works they use for work, that he thought they should be able to use their paper to partially recreate some of what they lost. This was still the worst thing to ever happen to the library; but he was relieved that it wasn’t quite as bad as he initially feared.

They worked all through the night, and most of the rest of the ship was tasked with some sort of assignment as well. Arthur was exhausted by daybreak, but department leaders were to report to the garden to meet about the situation. Arthur still had no idea what had actually happened.

Arthur stepped inside what was the garden, a huge room taking up several floors below deck. Every surface was black, not a single plant in sight. All the department leaders were standing in a circle, faces sullen. Thomas spoke. “I see we’re all here. It was a long and demanding night for all of us, and I imagine we’re going to have many long nights going forward. Let’s go ahead and take stock of the situation. Denise.”

Denise, the head of gardening, gave her synopsis of the situation. “An explosion occurred in the garden yesterday afternoon. We don’t know exactly what caused the explosion, but believe the chemicals used for the hydroponics were improperly mixed. The explosion completely destroyed some of our equipment, but between what’s in storage and what we can repair, we should be able to get the garden working again, though probably not back to full capacity. None of our plants survived the blast.” Her voice cracked and she paused. There was some trembling in her hands, but she kept her composure and continued. “Nor did anyone who was working within the garden when it happened. We have seeds that survived in storage, but it will take at least a year to get anywhere close to what we were producing, and at least six months before we will have any new food to harvest at all.”

Obadiah spoke, “Half of us will starve if that’s true. Do we have no faster solutions?”

 “Nothing, we didn’t plan for something this catastrophic. We have food reserves, but even with heavy rationing it will run out well before we can grow enough to feed everyone. We could maybe go two months before we will have to choose who to feed and who to starve.”

 Thomas asked Jules, the head of fishing, “Is there any way to increase what food we can take from the ocean?”

Jules replied, “You know the answer to that Captain. We already take everything we can. We’re lucky to find the fish and plants we do.”

 While they talked, a terrible thought had been nagging at Arthur. After summoning enough courage he spoke up. “I have an idea, and I know no one here will like it. What if we were to go ashore, and find fresh plants to transplant into our new system, so we can resume harvesting right away.”

A flash of anger appeared on Thomas’ face. “Arthur, you know we can never go ashore. We are the last of the human race, what you are suggesting is a fool’s errand, one that would kill us all.”

Arthur stammered to respond, but Obadiah spoke instead, “I think it’s worth considering Captain. We can take precautions, send only a small team ashore to get what we need. We have the lifeboats; the ship doesn’t have to get close to shore.”

Thomas responded again, yelling this time. “And what if the team comes back to the ship and brings The Bug with them? The water is where we are safe, I will starve half the ship before I sentence every single person to death. I will hear no more of it.”

Obadiah stood silent for a moment before resigning. “Of course, Captain.” Arthur didn’t dare push it either.

Thomas breathed in deep through his nostrils, then returning to his normal restrained and dignified voice, spoke again. “Right, Denise, go ahead and make use of whatever resources you need to get the garden up and running as soon as possible, that is our highest priority. Jules, I want you to form a committee to brainstorm ideas to increase our food supply. The smallest chance is worth pursuing right now, our lives depend on it. Arthur, how is the library holding up?

Arthur got his composure back and tried to respond matter-of-factly. “Better than I expected, most of our collection is intact, if not dirty. Although I don’t know how the smoke will affect the books’ integrity in the long run. A decent chunk of documents were effectively destroyed, but I think many of them could be partially replaced from memory using our paper reserves.”

“You are authorized to access our paper, however, only for documents with utility. Unfortunately, stories and poems aren’t worth the paper.” Arthur nodded in agreement, saddened, though it was the response he expected. Thomas continued. “I spoke to Gerald, who admitted to opening the library door against Arthur’s orders, causing the damage. This was corroborated by others in the library at the time. Though it was his first offense, the consequences of his decision were grave, and I ordered him to be executed overnight.” Arthur and several others gasped; Gerald was well known on the ship. Obadiah looked away. Arthur felt sick. Gerald had harmed his library, but he didn’t want the man to die. Although, he wondered if he wouldn’t have been executed soon anyway. If Thomas had to start making decisions about who gets food, a prisoner would surely be the first to go.

Thomas went down the line with each department head, confirming their plan of action going forward and the priorities of their resources. As he was wrapping up he said, “Now we all know this a most terrible situation, the hardest tribulation we’ve ever faced in our history. We’re all going to do everything we can to save our people. Everyone on this ship needs to pull together, the most united we’ve ever been. For now, I don’t want the full gravity of this predicament to make way to the people. For anyone who asks, with heavy rationing we will have enough food until we make repairs, as long as everyone does their part. You’re all in charge for making sure your people stay in good morale. At the same time, you all need to make decisions on who we will keep and who we won’t.” This statement caught their attention. “As awful as it is, it seems we can’t keep everyone, and the sooner we remove mouths to feed, the more people we can save. Now let’s all go do our jobs.”

The atmosphere was even gloomier than when they started. Despair was on everyone’s faces. Even Captain Thomas, ever the stoic, had some anguish in his eyes. Everyone went to their duties, preparing their lies for the people. Arthur returned to his smoke-stained library. His help had been reassigned elsewhere on the ship, so for the first time since the explosion he had a moment alone. He sat down to clean his books, and wept.

Next Chapter

Cargo: Chapter 1

Estimated Reading Time: 45-50 Minutes

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

“As the last known ship on the water, the people have stopped calling the ship by her name ‘The Empress’ and now simply refer to her as ‘The Ship’.”

– History of The Empress: Book Twelve

Arthur woke up to sirens. He focused his attention as he shook off the daze of sleep. The blaring was coming in groups of three; land had been spotted! He rolled out of bed and quickly got dressed, eager to see it. Stepping outside, several other neighbors were rushing out of their containers as well. He joined them in running through the metal pathways to the side of the ship.

There was quite a crowd gathered as he got near the railing. It was hard to see between all the shifting heads, but he could make out an island just a couple miles away. He was surprised by how near they were, Arthur had never been so close to land. Others had caught on as well.

“Are we safe?” “How could they let us get so close?” “The sun just rose and it was a cloudy night, you can’t expect them to have reacted sooner.” “You can almost make out the trees, wow.” “What if we had beached? We could all be dead right now!” “We’re still plenty far, navigation knows what they’re doing.”

Arthur turned his attention from the crowd and studied the island more. It really looked quite beautiful, glistening sand melding into a thick forest. He was a little sad this would be the closest he would ever get to it. The riggers had already released the sails on the side of the ship, and they were turning away. He watched for a while longer. People slowly started to leave as the island got smaller and smaller. 

Just as he turned to walk back home a messenger approached him. “Arthur! There you are. Captain wants you at the bridge.”

“I knew something would happen on my day off, I’ll head up. Thanks for letting me know.”

 “My pleasure.” The courier disappeared into the maze of cargo containers and Arthur jogged to the bridge castle . The bridge was up several flights of stairs, and he was short of breath as he made it to the top. Opening the door, he noticed the view of the ship through the large window that wrapped the bridge. Rows upon rows of cargo containers topped with solar panels; little people weaving in and out. For how big it seemed from the main level, their world seemed much smaller against the backdrop of the open ocean. Just a pile of metal boxes floating on the water.

All the department heads were already there, caught up in conversation. As the librarian, he was technically a department head too, though he only had himself to manage. 

Captain Thomas saw Arthur and motioned him over. “Thanks for coming Arthur. We were just discussing the island pass from this morning, we were all quite surprised.”

First Lieutenant Obadiah added, “Our understanding was that we were at least sixty miles from land, so to be within only a few miles of an island at daybreak was very concerning.”

Arthur responded, “Our records don’t show us getting that close to land since we sent the last expedition 200 years ago.” Arthur took in a breath, as he was still winded. “I heard a lot of scared voices gathered by the railing.”

Thomas replied, “Yes, we’ll have to hold a town hall to calm everyone. For now, I’d like to record this event and review our charts so we can recalculate our heading. Would you take us to the library Arthur?”

“Of course, Captain,” said Arthur. He rather he had been sent to meet them in the library in the first place, but there was no use in griping about it now. The group made their way downstairs. The bridge was the top level and the library located just below the main deck. The library had been built into the center of the ship to make sure their records would be as safe as possible. Having arrived Arthur unlocked the door and welcomed everybody inside. They each took a place around one of the tables while Arthur laid out their charts. They reviewed their position and heading, and concluded that they were mostly correct in their position, but that the island they passed had been previously undiscovered. The map was updated, and their current plan reconfirmed.

Arthur put away the charts and unlocked a second door in the back. Arthur didn’t have a reason to go in this room often, but it was his favorite room in the ship. He opened the door and took a moment to take it in. Among storing their historical documents and most precious books, this room contained the ship’s entire supply of unused paper. Arthur loved the idea that they could take these blank slates and turn them into something new. But outside of occasions like these, nothing new would ever be written. This paper’s usage was entirely pragmatic. They couldn’t afford to waste it on the creation of new stories or plays. Once it was gone, it was gone.

He picked up the historical log. They were on the fifteenth book capturing the ship’s history, and it was nearly full. His grandfather had started this one nearly sixty years ago, and he would be the one to finish it and start a new one. This book has taken the longest to write of any of the history books so far. The first ten years of the ship’s history produced the first seven books, but as time progressed, they saw less and less other boats. The rest of humanity died out and the only things to write about was what happened on the ship, and leadership has done their best to make sure there is as little to write about as possible. The last event was from eight months ago, when a man had been caught stealing from the garden. It was his second offense, which meant he had been executed and sent to compost.

After grabbing fresh ink and paper, He sat down and recorded the captain’s words describing today’s events. Captain Thomas kept things dry and factual as usual, noting how close they came to the island, the time at which it was sighted, and the addition of the island to our charts. He did make a note that the populace was upset by the event, but that there was no reason for alarm.

 The captain finished and then said, “We had an exciting morning, but it’s time we all returned to our duties.” Everyone started shuffling out, but Thomas and Obadiah stayed behind. Thomas spoke to Arthur, “Thank you for facilitating today’s writing, I’m aware you were supposed to be enjoying a resting day.”

“Oh, it was no trouble Captain,” Arthur replied. “It’s not like we planned on nearly hitting an island.”

“No, but we were lucky today, I fear what would have happened had we beached. Our position is perilous enough without land sneaking up on us on a cloudy night.”

Obadiah chimed in, “The people are riled up as you heard. We are going to hold a town hall meeting tonight and wanted you to share a story from the ship’s history, something that speaks to the importance of unity and trust. Stories help us stay glued together I think.”

Thomas spoke up again. “Indeed. Unity is important, and we can’t function if people question the capabilities of the leadership. I think The Ark incident would do well for the message Arthur.”

Arthur said, “I’d be glad to, I know that story well enough, I can prepare something by tonight.”

“Thank you so much Arthur,” said Thomas. “And I apologize again for working you when you’re supposed to be resting. I’ll see to it that you have another resting day to replace today.” Thomas and Obadiah left, and Arthur went to the room in the back to review the histories and prepare the story.

Everyone gathered at the bow of the ship for the town hall. It was the only open space that could accommodate everyone aboard. There was a platform at the very front of the ship where Captain Thomas, Obadiah, and Arthur stood together, overlooking the crowd. Arthur felt out of place being showcased right next to the two officers. The captain was stately and self-assured; there was a quiet certainty in every movement he made and word he spoke. Although he was pushing sixty, he was still fit and in good health. The Lieutenant was in his mid-thirties, only a couple of years older than Arthur, but in much better shape, and possessing much more charisma and confidence than him. Arthur felt very unimpressive standing there on the stage.

Thomas stepped forward and started his speech. “We’ve all had a rousing morning. Many of you are worried about how close we came to land today. The island we saw had not been previously known on our charts, but we were never in any danger of beaching. We saw it at daybreak with plenty of room to maneuver, and we would have picked it up on our instruments if we had gotten any closer.” Arthur knew that wasn’t true, many of the ship’s instruments had been damaged over time, and nothing they can still use would have helped them. But that wasn’t public knowledge, it was a good lie. Thomas went on for a while longer, until he got to where Arthur came in. “Now I think it’s good for us to remember our history, to remember why it’s important that we trust and cooperate with each other. Our librarian, Arthur, will be sharing a tale from our past. If you would Arthur.”

Arthur stepped up to the front of the stage, every eye upon him, waiting for how he would inspire them. He always had a tough time getting his voice to carry, he just hoped they would be able to hear him. “Thank you, Captain. Uh, this story is from one hundred and fifty years ago, of The Ark, the last ship that we ever encountered.” Some murmurs swept through the crowd, he hoped it meant they were interested. “We had responded to their radio for help, the first message we’d received in ten years, and the last one we ever had. The last of their ship was disappearing under the waves as we arrived, and the survivors were waiting in their lifeboats. What had happened to their ship? Their second-in-command had convinced part of the populace that it was time they returned to land. They had recently had an accident that damaged their desalinator, and they were scared they would die of dehydration otherwise. He led a mutiny against their captain, and took over the ship. In his haste to go ashore, they disregarded safety protocols while sailing through a dangerous storm. The ship took on too much water, and they fled as it sank. Those who had participated in the mutiny were left to the sea, and the rest of the survivors were welcomed aboard and are part of our lineage today.”

“Thank you, Arthur.” Said Captain Thomas as he walked back to the front of the stage. “It’s a terrible thing when the rules that keep us safe are disregarded. We are the last of humanity, it is all our very great responsibility to keep each other alive, to protect this ship that we all call home. It can be tempting to have doubts, but it is your complete trust in me, Obadiah, your department heads, that keeps us alive and breathing. We’ve survived the ocean for three hundred years. Do your job, obey the laws, we’ll be here for three hundred more.” Captain took a step back, Obadiah started clapping. The department leads joined in, followed by the rest of the crowd.

It was clear the town hall was over, and the crowd started shuffling back towards their containers or back to their duties. Arthur was glad to get off the stage and finally head home. As he laid in his bed, he imagined what it would be like to have walked that island. To touch the sand, the trees, the dirt. The image of the beach and the forest was burned into his head. Of course, he would never know, to set foot on land was to die. All he would ever know was books and metal. 

Next Chapter

Kyle Has an Interview

“Kyle entered the conference room, dressed to the nines in his best suit. He eyed the lady about to interview him. She had jet black hair that rolled down like a waterfall stopping just below her shoulders. She had a slim figure, but curves in all the right places. He would be glad to work under her any day. Her full ruby lips parted and her alluring green eyes went wide in surprise.”

“What the fuck did you just say to me?” She demanded.

He stood still, realizing what he had just done. “Was that out loud?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

She stood up, a deep anger emanating from those emerald eyeballs. “That was highly inappropriate. We will not be interviewing you, get out!” She yelled the last part.

He slumped his shoulders and sighed. “I understand.” He turned around and shuffled his feet back out the door. As soon as he crossed the threshold to the hallway the door was slammed behind him.

He turned around. No, this is the time to be confident. He thought to himself. He tried to open the door again, but it had been locked. Peering in through the window, he saw her with a landline phone being held up to her ear, the other hand hurriedly dialing some unknown number. He banged on the window and shouted, “HEY! This interview isn’t over yet!” She glanced up at him, flipped him the bird, then started saying something into the phone. He pointed his finger at her and shouted again. “If you don’t hire me it’ll be the biggest mistake of your career!”

She hung up the phone and walked briskly up to the glass. Finally he had her attention. But instead of apologizing and asking him back inside, she closed the blinds! Kyle thought about what he should do. I need to go up the chain. I’ll go right to the president, he’ll admire my guts and make me his VP. He turned around to go find an elevator, but was surprised to find two security guards planted squarely in his way.

“We’re going to have to ask you to leave sir.” Stated one of them plainly.

“You need to show me some respect.” Kyle said proudly. “I’m soon to be your boss.”

They shared a tired glance, before the same guard spoke again. “Really dude?” He questioned.

“You better believe it!” Exclaimed Kyle, and he plunged forward, ready to take hold of his destiny. He expected them to step aside as he pushed between them, but instead they each grabbed one of his arms. Looks like things were about to get physical. His mind ran through similar scenes from some of his favorite movies. He knew what he had to do. In an instant he spun his body clockwise, swinging his left leg around to sweep the one guard’s legs out from under him. Curiously, as his foot connected to the back of the shin, the guard stayed standing just as he was.

“Hey, stop that!” The security guard ordered. He was stronger than he looked. Kyle turned his attention to the other guard, who was a little older, and he hoped would be weaker. He couldn’t stop a devilish grin from forming before unleashing his deadly attack. Kyle swung his head forward and headbutted him right in his stupid nose.

The older guard held his face and they both let go of his arms. Kyle turned to face them both and crossed his arms. “That’ll teach you to mess with Kyle.” He told them.

The one who had somehow survived his terrifying leg attack brought his arm up holding a small can, and pressing his pointer finger down on the top, sent a vicious cloud of pepper spray right into Kyle’s eyes. As Kyle collapsed onto his knees crying and clawing at his peepers, the guard checked on his partner. “You okay Ron?”

Ron was rubbing his nose and replied, “Yeah I’m fine, mostly just surprised me. Crazy motherfucker we came across today huh Ben?” They both glanced over at Kyle, who was still rolling on the floor, sobbing and rambling something they couldn’t make out.

Ben said. “I’m gonna have the cops come pick this guy up, let’s get him to the lobby.” They dragged him to the entrance of the building and restrained him until the police showed up.

By the time the police arrived, Kyle had regained enough composure to stop blubbering, although his eyes were still bloodshot red. He shouted at the cops as they walked up. “Officers, thank goodness. Arrest these men, they’ve assaulted me and are holding me captive.”

They both looked him over. “He attacked you guys while you were escorting him out, right?” One of the officers asked the guards.

Ben replied. “That’s right, headbutted Ron here right in the face so I had to spray him.”

“Alright well we’ll take him to the station and book him. We’ll put him in the squad car and then get your official statement for our paperwork.” They handed Kyle off to them, who was wriggling like a madman.

Kyle screamed, practically shrieking as they forced him into the cop car. “YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME, I’M THE PROTAGONIST!” He started to cry again. “I’M TELLING MY MOM!”