May Stories at the Confabulator Cafe

Welcome, friends. Welcome back to the Confabulator Cafe. Or, if you are here for the first time, welcome! Have a seat, sit back, and enjoy some fresh new stories, written just for you.

This month, the Confabulators were tasked to write about a case of mistaken identity. Each author went about this in different ways, so we hope you will enjoy the diverse range of stories.

We have stories from a new guest author, writing for us for the very first time, Isabel Nee. We also have an old familiar face who hasn’t been around here in awhile, so welcome back long-time Confabulator, Jason Arnett. We’re all excited to have them join us this month.

Here is the schedule for May. We hope you’ll stop by to read each of these stories!

Tuesday, May 3: “Swagger and Sway” by Emily Mosher
Friday, May 6: “D.M.(S.R.)” by Jason Arnett
Tuesday, May 10: “The Mysterious Case of the Picture Box” by Isabel Nee
Friday, May 13: “Picture Perfect” by Eliza Jaquays
Tuesday, May 17: “Fall Interrupted” by Rob Conway
Friday, May 20: “Lessone the Firste” by Aspen Junge
Tuesday, May 24: “Alexandra’s Awakening” by Anita C. Young
Friday, May 27: “The Monster Next Door” by Ashley M. Hill

Alexandra’s Awakening

The minute Alexandra Underwood walked through the front door she was confronted with the sight of her mother sitting at the dining room table with folded arms. Alex couldn’t help but wonder just how long she had been sitting there, waiting to pounce. She slowly lowered her books to the floor as if by some miracle she could avoid drawing her mother’s fiery attention.

I just need to make it to my room, she thought as she tried to move out of her mother’s line of sight.

“Welcome home, Alexandra.”

“Hi mom,” she tried on an overly cheerful voice. “I was just headed to my room to study.”

“Not before we have a conversation, you aren’t.”

“Look, I know I shouldn’t have messed with that kid, but he’s such a jerk!”

“Alexandra.”

Alex lowered her head and bit her tongue.

“You know that we can’t use our powers among the humans.”

“I know.”

“And you know we definitely can’t use them on humans.”

“Yeah, I know. But-”

“There is no but, Alexandra.”

“So I’m just supposed to put up with the teasing?”

“You are smart, Alex. You don’t have to resort to your powers to deal with a bully like him.”

“Whatever.”

Her mother took a sharp breath in and let it out slowly. “The school called me because the young boy you assaulted is telling everyone who will listen that you made him hear and hit himself repeatedly in the head.”

Alexandra tried to suppress a grin as she remembered his stupid stunned face as the control over his body was stripped from him.

“Alex!” Her name cracked like a whip on her mother’s tongue.

“I’m not sorry!” She stuck out her chin defiantly.

“Well you should be. If you had bothered to spend a minute inside of his head you would know that his father beats him.”

“And that gives him the right to pick on me?”

“Of course not Alex, but now he has been hospitalized for seeing and hearing things and will likely be put on antipsychotics.”

“Serves him right.”

“Alex.” Exasperation softened her mother’s voice.

“Fine. I won’t do it again. Even if they deserve it.” She picked up her backpack and slammed it onto her back.

“Alex, where are you going?”

“Outside. To study! Or is that not allowed anymore either?” She didn’t wait for a reply slamming the door behind her with satisfaction. The old lady looked up from trying to open her door the next apartment over and shook her head.

Kids these days, Alex heard the old woman think loudly.

“Whatever.” Alex mumbled and found her favourite bench under the shade of an oak tree.

“Jean?” A man questioned moments later through the blaring of Alexandra’s music. She scrunched her brow in concentration and hoped that the strange man would go away.

Instead of going away, however, he bent down and peered at her speculatively.

“What?!” Alexandra exploded as she pulled her earbuds out.

“Oh sorry. You are the spitting image of someone I used to know,” he explained in a strangely precise tone, as if English wasn’t his first language.

“You make a habit of befriending eight year old girls?” Alexandra looked at the man suspiciously. He had movie star looks with blond hair and chiseled features. Alexandra looked around at the busy courtyard, to assure herself that there were plenty of potential witnesses.

“A habit? I would not say that, no.”

“Okay well, I’m not this ‘Jean’ person, so you can be on your way now.” She made a production of starting to plug her earbuds back in.

Man I wish I had the ability to push suggestions to make this guy go away! She thought as the strange man lingered.

“Well I am supposed to meet someone here. May I sit?”

“Uh sure, I guess.”

“So how long have you lived here?”

“Okay seriously, dude. I have an exam like tomorrow, so I need concentrate on this.”

“Ah mathematics.” He glanced at her scribbled notes.

“Yeah, so unless you can tell me what the hell I did wrong, I need you to be quiet.”

“Ah well, you did quite well, but you forgot to carry the one here.” He immediately pointed to a smudged section of her wrinkled paper.

“Oh… Thanks,” she mumbled as she erased everything for the tenth time. “Who are you supposed to be meeting anyway?”

“A Sara Underwood.”

“That’s my mom.”

“Your mother?” He chuckled oddly and shook his head. “How time passes.”

“Uh yeah. I can take you to our apartment if you want?”

“Oh no, I think not. I think she would prefer if we met down here.”

“Ooookay,” Alexandra drew out the word and shook her head at the crazy man. “Whatever. Then help me with this next problem.”

“What are you doing with my daughter?” her mother demanded.

Alex looked up to find her mother, arm extended toward the visitor, and a fierce look on her face. She looked back to the man and found his arms upraised and an indention across his throat.

“Mom, stop!” Alex yelled when she noticed the man’s lips turning blue. “He was just helping me with my studying!”

Immediately her mother lowered her arm, though the hostility still remained.

“Holy shit, mom!” Alexandra knew that her mother had telekinesis and a temper, but she had never seen either in action before.

“Mind your mouth, young lady!”

The man cleared his throat and massaged the reddening flesh.

“Alex, go inside now.”

“Mom, seriously?”

“Now!”

“Whatever.” Alex muttered as she gathered her book, papers, and pencil. “Thanks for your help, mister.”

“Of course,” he answered with a new raspiness marring his previously smooth voice.

As if, Alex thought. She peeked around the corner of her apartment building and held her breath to try to hear the conversation.

“What do you want, Aulus?”

“I am pursuing a line of investigation.”

Alexandra tried to read the man’s mind to get more information, but he was blocking all of her attempts. He cast a glance toward her shadow covered hiding place before turning back to her mother. Short though it had been, however, her mother must have seen the look and suspected the source.

“You might as well come out Alex. Perhaps you will be able to answer some of this man’s questions.”

Alexandra crept forward not entirely sure what to expect.

“Alexandra goes to the same school as the Thompson girl. She might be able to answer more of your questions than I can.”

She had heard the news about a girl a few years ahead of her possibly being involved in her father’s death, but the news had been keeping a fairly closed lid on it.

“I don’t know what I can tell you.”

“Well, have you ever tried to get to know her like you just tried to do with me?”

“You mean telepathy?” Alex wondered again about his odd phrasing.

He looked up at her mother with raised eyebrows. “Forgive me. I assumed that you were unaware of your abilities given that your family lives outside the community.”

“We felt it was better for her to understand than have her regret a flash of temper.”

“Quite right.” He nodded severely, before turning his blue green eyes back to Alex. “So have you?”

“Well no… Her mind was always felt… troubled… She always avoided most of us, anyway. Everyone thinks she’s a bit of a freak.”

“I see.”

“Did she do it?” Alex blurted out.

“Alex!”

“Do what?” The visitor questioned softly.

She felt more shame from the man’s question than her mother’s outburst.

“Kill her father.” Alex whispered.

“It would appear that way.”

“That’s crazy!”

“Is it?” He asked her.

Alex looked at her mother but she only shook her head and remained silent.

“Well, why would anyone kill their father?”

“Not all fathers are good.”

“I don’t understand.”

“And that is a good thing,” he answered cryptically.

“They believe her father hurt her, and possibly her sister,” her mother provided after a long pause. “In unspeakable ways.”

“Oh.” Alex felt the connection between her and her mother sever. She hadn’t even been aware one had been open until it completely shut down. She shook of the shiver that ran up her spin. “But… Why are you asking us about her?”

“We believe she is one of the rare humans capable of seeing the future.”

“Well, I did hear about this one time she did pull the fire alarm before a fire even started. The fire department arrived right before the fire started. She’s always just been a little strange like that I guess.”

“Thank you. That was very helpful.” He stood up and brushed the wrinkles from his pants.

“Sure. Sorry about earlier,” her mother said stiffly.

“I would expect no less from a mother protecting a child. I hope you find whatever you are looking for here.”

“Thanks.” Her mother wrapped a protective arm around her.

“It was a pleasure to meet you Alexandra. I am sure this will not be the last I hear of such a promising young child such as yourself.”

“What’s going to happen to her?” Alex questioned as the stranger turned to leave.

“To Kayara?” He continued when she nodded. “I imagine she will endure untold hardships in the days ahead with the struggle to accept her gift as well as with the struggle to be accepted by those around her.”

“Struggle to be accepted? I don’t understand.”

“That is also a blessing. Some time in the future, however, I imagine you will come up against those who will try to harm you simply because of the gifts you and your kind possess. It is why your people usually live in communities.”

“Oh.” She thought of the previous argument with her mother about the bully and how Kayara had always been avoided at school and suddenly knew his words to be true. “But can’t the Guardians keep her safe then if she isn’t safe among the humans? Isn’t that what we do?”

“No, hon, that’s not how it works.”

“As a matter of fact, that might be one of the best ideas I have heard. Thank you Alexandra Underwood, daughter of Sara.”

“Sure.” Alex blushed at the unexpected praise even as her mother’s grip tightened around her shoulder.

Mom, you’re hurting me, she thought loudly at her mother as she shifted her shoulder under the iron grasp.

Sorry, her mother’s voice sounded inside Alex’s head.

“Be well, Underwoods. I hope you enjoy a long and plentiful life.”

Her mother seemed slightly paler as the man walked away.

“Mom? Who was he?”

“That, my dear Alex, Aulus Tuccius. The angel of death. I hope you never have the occurrence to meet him ever again.”

Alex watched the strange man leave and thought he felt very lonely and not at all terrifying.

I hope you find happiness, she thought after him, and for a moment he paused as if he might have heard her.

The Wandering Library

“If you don’t tell me where the library is, I’m gonna shoot you in the head.” Azalee cocked her shotgun and leveled it at the man’s face. Her stance was menacing, but her tone was bored. Of all the damn bounties, why had she been assigned a damn library? Road warriors were supposed to take down fleeing targets. The thrill was in the chase, after all. Libraries stood still. Could anything be more boring?

The man stared up at her defiantly, though. “You’ll never find it. It’s lost, lost, lost.” He laughed, then—a manic sound.

Azalee raised an eyebrow. “I know it’s lost, old man. Why you think I’m harassing you? Tell me where it is.” She was getting nowhere with this old crazy bastard, though. He wasn’t properly motivated. Surely there was a life other than his own he valued more.

She fired the rifle into the ceiling. The old man flinched as dust powdered his face, but it was the squeak from the cupboard that Azalee had needed. She gave the man a wicked smile and turned the rifle on the cupboard.

“No!” he yelled. “No, please! I don’t know, all right? Nobody knows where the library is. It’s lost. It’s been lost since the End of Days. I swear it!”

“Come on, gramps. Gotta give me something to go on, here. Word on the road is you know a thing or two about it.”

The old man darted a look to his hidden whoever and licked his lips. “I know a thing or two. But it’s not enough, ok? The library moves. It’s the only way to keep it safe. Keep it hidden. Any time anyone thinks they’ve tracked it down, it’s gone again. Moved on. It’s how it’s stayed lost for all these years.”

The man blinked rapidly as Azalee lowered her rifle.

“That a fact?”

He nodded, arms raised before him as he nodded.

“A wandering library. Interesting.” Perhaps this bounty wouldn’t be so boring after all.

She popped the shell from the gun, catching it in midair. “You tell me what you know about where it’s been, ya? And you and your cupboard can live.” Continue reading

The 34-Year Harvest

The old farmhouse survived the second alien harvest. Kate wanted to make sure it survived the third one. The 17-year anniversary was coming up and Kate sat at a dining room table covered in materials scrounged to make shells for her father’s shotgun.

She always thought of it as her father’s shotgun instead of hers, though he’d been dead for over thirty years. Killed in the first arrival. Just like she thought of it as his house and his table. The china in the cabinet was her mother’s. The silver and the crystal water goblets were her grandmother’s. The only things that she thought of as her own were the post-harvest additions. The maps of the county pinned to the walls. The metal shutters. The supplies and pre-harvest books stacked up the walls almost to the ceiling. And the bunker. The storm cellar under the house that she and her neighbors had strengthened and stocked to hide from the attacks. These were the things that she would pass on one day.

Her daughter, Jean, burst into the room. “Mom, there’s a man coming up the drive. Never seen him before.”

“Run to Boyce’s farm and raise the alarm,” Kate told her, taking up her father’s gun.

She waited until Jean was safely out the back door and into the fields before she stepped off the front porch. They’d converted it to a wheelchair ramp when they rebuilt it after the last harvest. Boyce’s farm was miles away. They wouldn’t get here in time to help, but at least it would get her daughter out of the way. Continue reading

Shiloh

The notice screen lit up, filling their darkened bedroom with a soft blue hue. Quinn ignored it. They had drawn the blinds the night before, when they stumbled into bed exhausted after Quinn had cried, not for the first time, on the anniversary of his mother’s death. He had every intention of sleeping as long as possible, his head still throbbing from too much to drink, from the weight of his grief.

“Quinn.” Elpida’s voice had faltered, as though she had tried to cut herself off from saying his name but couldn’t quite stop. He yawned and rolled over, blinking to bring her into focus. “Quinn, it’s from the population commission.”

He rolled quickly from the bed and crossed the room, goosebumps forming on his skin. She wasn’t wrong — he didn’t think she was, but he’d needed to see it for himself. The official summons for their appointment at the seed library, six months following the submission of their marriage forms.

The screen went dark. Elpida grabbed his hand and squeezed. “We knew it was coming. We’ve prepared.” But her hand shook.

* * *

Continue reading