Parasitism by Michael James

Prompt:  Mastermind | Word count: 1000 | Genre: Short Story

Jarred Hickey wasn’t smart. He liked to be called Hicks, from the movie Aliens, and he liked saying a particular quote from the movie, “Outstanding. Now all we need is a deck of cards.” Even when it wasn’t appropriate. Quiz nights, Trivial Pursuit, and just general chatter around meals were a challenge for Hicks. He’d tried reading, but didn’t understand many of the words and ideas. He tried eating the right foods; salmon, garbanzo beans and cauliflower were all recommended. He even started watching documentaries on war, and how they made crayons. Nothing helped.

Hicks didn’t believe in destiny or fate, it was the good Lord God that guided his life, so when the Masterminds leaflet landed at his feet during a blustery afternoon he said a short prayer of thanks.

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Getting In by Michael James

Prompt:  The Club | Word count: 750 | Genre: Short Story

Harold was content. Mostly. He had everything he wanted: a widescreen TV, fast internet, and a decent PC for gaming. He’d been smart with money, and was now enjoying a comfortable retirement. Not in a traditional retirement home, in a retirement estate – a community for older folks. He took the odd holiday, his kids were pretty good about popping in every other week, and he always went to visit them for Christmas. His elderly neighbours were a good bunch, offering pleasant nods and good mornings in passing. Life was good and peaceful.

His peaceful existence came to an abrupt end late one Tuesday night with “damn neighbours making a noise in some fancy complex over the fence”.

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Bump in the Road by Michael James

Prompt: Going Home | Word count: 500 | Genre: Short Story

You’re on your way back from a working holiday. The road is deserted. Not just quiet, but dead. No trucks, no cars, nothing. It’s so quiet that you consider using cruise control and sitting cross-legged on your seat. It’s a mad thought, one you quickly dismiss. Nobody is going to believe how quiet the N3 is. You use your phone to take a picture, feeling like a survivor after some apocalypse, possibly zombies. Your old school buddy Alex is never going to believe this. You send him a WhatsApp that says, “Hey cunt. Super heavy traffic back from old Durbs!” You consider adding a crying emoji, followed by a wink.

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Captain Galaxy and the Moonbeam Raiders by Michael James

Prompt: A white lie | Word count: 2500 | Genre: Sci-Fi

It was bedtime, but grandpa was visiting, so Matthew knew he could push things for at least another hour later than his official school-night bedtime. His mom made stern eye contact as 8PM ticked closer, letting him know that she knew what he was doing.

“Time for bed, monkey boy,” Matthew’s mom called on the way to the kitchen, carrying a well-scraped dish of macaroni and cheese.

Grandpa stood up. “Do I really have to get up now and put this creep to bed? I thought he lived in the tree outside. Why is he even in the house?”

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Outcross by Michael James

Prompt: New Life | Word count: 1000 | Genre: That would be telling

Stan tried to mask his heavy breathing behind the squeaking gurney as it rattled along. He fought the urge to run. Struggling to keep up, he did his most dignified-looking speed walk. A lifelong abusive relationship with hamburgers was to blame. His wife, Delia (she hated that name and went by Bridget instead), lay on the rolling hospital bed and screamed. Her wailing caused such an unusual commotion that anyone who could move fast enough, dove out of the way. Delia was supposed to pop on the weekend. It’s Thursday, for fuck sake, Stan thought. Anthony and the boys were waiting for him at the local O’Hagans. It was a tradition: the first Thursday of the month. Of course, the baby was coming tonight. His night. Delia was silent just long enough to suck more air into her tar-crusted lungs before the next round of gasping, moaning and swearing started.

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Day 31 by Michael James

Prompt: Conversation with my spouse | Word count: 1200 | Genre: No idea really

The funeral wasn’t fun. Everyone and their mother telling her about “better places” and “how random life can be”. None of it was news. Just something people say to make themselves feel better. All of her just wanted all of them to disappear. Ralph had come into her life four years ago. They were everything to each other. The kind of magical connection you only have in movies and romance novels, if you read that trash. Rose only read decent books and the odd comic book here and there. Their life together was perfect, right up until it ended.

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Number 3 by Michael James

Prompt: The List | Word count: 1500 | Genre: Thriller

The first one was easy. No wait, the second was easy. Number one felt like too much preparation before I snuffed her out. I spent too much time following her around, stupidly making notes so I could track her movements. I mean what if they found that notebook. Lucky I burnt it and then collected the ashes and stomped them and then flushed them down the toilet. Two flushes just to be sure you know. Perhaps I should start at the beginning here. Get you up to speed. This is kind of a confession, more or less. I’m leaving it behind for someone to find but I don’t know why. It’s a way of dealing with things. I didn’t really know all the people involved.

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