It wasn’t my favorite place to be – honestly, I could think of dozens of places that I’d rather be – but considering it was well past three in the morning, my options were pretty limited.  The only restaurant still open at this hour would be swarming with drunks at this time of night, and all of the fast food places were either closed or drive-thru only.  I’m not sure why any bakery would be open twenty-four hours, but the donuts were good, and I guess if the employees have to be here to start baking, you don’t really lose much by never closing.

I’d stashed my work clothes in my car, but switching them out in favor of shorts and a t-shirt wasn’t enough to prevent me from reeking of taco meat and cleaning chemicals.  It was probably my hair, absorbing sweat throughout the night underneath my hat.  Well, hopefully it wasn’t as noticeable as I thought it was.  Normally I’m not very self-conscious about my appearance, but she’s here again tonight.

It’s been almost three weeks since I moved into town.  I’ve been able to talk to a few of my friends over email, but it’s not the same.  I was hoping to meet new people, but my coworkers are just… so unlikeable.  Sure, it’s fast food, so I don’t have high hopes, but usually there’s at least one or two people who are passable humans.  And maybe during the day, there are.  But Carroll’s got me working night shifts, and you can just feel the poverty and broken dreams weighing everyone else down.  Add in the part where I don’t watch sports, and you’ve got the perfect mixture of absolutely nothing in common.

My mother suggested that I get out of the apartment more.  And she’s not wrong, but it’s easier said than done when your sleeping hours take place during everyone else’s afternoons.  I tried the coffee shops for a while, all two of them that are open past midnight, but they’re filled with different sorts of crazy.  Maybe I’m being too picky.  The bakery hasn’t been too much better, except for her.

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Eight Hours

Commander Alexander Towncroft couldn’t sleep. And he hadn’t slept in several days. Earth’s first intergalactic embassy had the unfortunate luck to be positioned right next door to what must be the most unlikeable race on the planet, the Napli delegation. For days now, he’d heard nothing but their drums. Big drums, small drums, drums banging and bashing away outside of his walls. For three days he’d gone to work to their rhythm. And for three nights, just as he felt himself falling into sleep, they seemed to get louder just to jar him awake again. He could only be glad that they hadn’t developed a fondness for the cymbals, yet.

He laid down for what he was sure would be another fitful night, knowing that he would toss and turn and hear the drums. Even a few hours would be better than nothing. He needed to be bright and shiny for tomorrow’s big welcome ceremony with the neighbors. It was an eight hour ceremony and he needed his strength. He could muffle the sounds, but even with a dozen pillows over his head he would never be able to block out the vibrations that were coming through the walls. His head felt like someone had inflated a bouncy castle inside of it and invited the neighborhood over for a sugar-fueled jumping contest. He could almost see the primary colors of it all invading the darkness of his room, but that was probably just the hallucinations setting in.

“Bugger this,” he grumbled as he got up.

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“Ma’am?” She turned around to face a sheepishly grinning man. “I’m afraid you have—ah…” He cleared his throat delicately while tugging on his earlobe. “There’s something attached to your… skirt.”

Warmth rushed to her cheeks as she twisted about, trying to spot the object in question. Something white flashed at the corner of the eye, sticking out from under her butt. She grabbed for it, coming into contact with a sticky, paper stick. She tugged on it, feeling the skirt shift away from her rear, but a few tugs could not pry it free.

She drew in a breath, counting to three before returning the man’s smile. “Thank you for pointing it out, that could have been embarrassing.” Her daughter must have left something on one of the chairs. Something she had licked, and by the feel of it licked quite thoroughly. This was why she kept a spare change of clothes in her office, clothes she never took home. Her assistant took them to the dry cleaner once a week and returned them straight to the office. She had enough suit separates to last her an entire week. Continue reading

Mischief After Midnight

They had always told her not to use the shortcut after dark. But she was running late—practice had run long, and her parents had told her under no uncertain terms she was to be home in time for them to leave for a very important dinner meeting with her father’s boss.

So she ran as fast as she could, and when the overgrown community garden came into view, she cast a nervous look over her shoulder and the sun that had vanished behind the skyline.

It was either cut through the garden and make it home in time, or go a mile out of her way to the end of the block and risk being late.

So she cut through.

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Burning Bones

Steven’s finger hovered over the “Accept” button, the soft green light of the ATM lighting his face. He hesitated and looked at his watch, as if the time wasn’t displayed prominently on every wall and every television. 6:52. He checked the nearest wall. Yep, it still had the right time. He looked behind him, stalling. If someone was standing behind him, waiting to use the ATM, then he would have to make a decision right there. He could hit cancel, take his empty wallet and mostly empty bank account home, and even get there in time to tuck his kid into bed. But there was no one behind him, no one waiting.

His finger pressed the button. “Thank You For Allowing Us To Serve You,” the machine flashed, as his money started spitting out. Twenty dollar bill after twenty dollar bill, three hundred and forty dollars total. “Would You Like A Recipt?” The machine asked him in glowing green print. He stabbed at the “No” button. He didn’t need a piece of paper to remind him of the two dollars and fifty seven cents that were in his bank account. Besides, first thing tomorrow morning, it would all be back before anyone knew it was gone. All of it, and all the rest, and more. A big one was coming. He knew it. Not just a big one, but The Big One. His bones were burning, as his dad used to say whenever he felt a hot streak coming on. His bones were burning, and he was ready to walk out of this dingy place a winner.

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