I just love this part, when we start narrowing it down to the best of the best. Thanks again to 5MinuteFictioner and oft winner Robert James Russell @robhollywood for taking on the tough task of judging, again, our contest. He even agreed to do it knowing what he was in for because he’s judged for us before. The man’s a masochist.
He’s narrowed it down to our five finalists and here they are in no particular order:
Congrats to you all. Here are their fantastic entries, so get to reading, and the poll is on the right of the page. See you at 9:30 tonight with the winner!
“Concentrate any harder and you’re goin’ to burn a hole in that paper,” Page teased.
“What if that’s the purpose?” Mick didn’t bother to look up. His entire being was focused on the paper laid out on the table below.
Lately the dreams had been getting worse. In every only of them he had these awesome powers. A nagging thought that lingered as beams of sun broke through the window in the morning and sent the dreams scrambling back to the land of darkness.
He knew he had the potential. Just fucking knew it.
“Stop being weird, Mick. It ain’t funny any more.” Page rubbed her arms, fighting off a chill that had nothing to do with the weather. Mick knew she was psychically sensitive. It was what had drawn them together. His beautiful lover sensed his potential long before he realized he had any.
Was that a bit of smoke rising off the page? Mick squinted, concentrating harder on the small dot of ink he’d drawn. “Come on…”
“Oh just give it up, already!” She snatched the paper away and threw it at the stove.
The ball of paper lit up like a dried out Christmas tree. Both of them stared at it, then at each other. Suddenly the source of his power was clear.
“Come here and give me a kiss, sugar,” Mick whispered, the weight of his influence nearly choking him.
And the devil be damned, she did.
You wouldn’t believe how much concentration it takes to get the needle in the vein now. You wouldn’t understand the dedication it takes to find a vein that will take the needle. They’re like rubber. They are like a clogged sink. My skin is scabby and unusable. Can I buy new skin? New arms? New veins?
How did it come to this? Aren’t I an artist? Where are my paints? Where are my accomplishments? When did I become so shaky? So sweaty? Where along the way did my dreams break and my determination to live take a backseat?
Who is riding beside me in this rusted out vehicle? Where’s my soul? The devil’s pullin’ my hair, it hurts, and feels so good.
They say you chase that first high? But these days, I’m chasing the second and third. It’s never as good as those first couple times. Probably because the shit isn’t as pure, or because I’m so edgy and wired that when it finally filters through my system, I just crash. I close my eyes and curl up in this junk and bile and piss.
It stopped being fun when Suzy died.
It stopped making sense when the smell of blood, urine, and vomit followed me around, like a gut-wrenching cologne.
And as I wanted the dark and desolate streets of my life, I can’t help but wonder when I signed up for this.
‘Fucking junkie,” they say. They whisper it as I pass. And I scream back, I ain’t no fucking junkie. Then I realize I’m not wearing shoes. Why can’t I feel my feet? Whose that staring at me in the shop window? He’s got weird eyes that bore into mine and dark circles like he’s been punched. He’s all jittery.
Now, he’s the fucking junkie.
Yesterday, I saw my mother outside the big new fancy grocery store of Hastings. She had paper bags in her hands. She had this weird poncho draped over her shoulders. When I walked up to her, she said, “I don’t have any change.”
She didn’t recognize me.
She didn’t realize what I’d become.
“Please, mom, I’m a starving artist.”
And the mom, hit home with her.
Her mouth formed a terrified circle of truth. She ran. I wish I could run.
I crouch in the ally, trying to find a vein, trying to erase my mother’s realization, trying to run away. Fucking veins don’t work anymore. Not the ones in my toes, or my arms. The shaking is too much. I can’t undo the buttons on my jeans to even search for a blue thread on my thighs to stab.
Why is my face wet? What the fuck are these? Tears.
My name used to be Thomas.
You can call me Junkie.
Lips pursed as he studied the pieces scattered across the table. Like it or not, he had to try and fix this . . . mess. God how he hated being the responsible one.
Peter spared a moment to send a withering glare in his lover’s direction. This was all Michael’s fault after all. He’d only told him a thousand times to just leave it the hell alone. But no, that would be too much to ask.
“I’m really sorry.” The soft voice barely registered, all his attention was concentrated on the disaster in front of him.
“What were you thinking? Were you thinking?” The venom in his response was unmistakable. “You do know they’re going to charge us for this?”
“I couldn’t help it.” Michael insisted. “I just . . . I got angry and I didn’t think.”
“Well that was obvious. Any ideas on how to fix this?” Peter’s gesture encompassed not only the twinkling fragments but the room as a whole.
“Not a clue. Is it really so bad?”
“I’d say it’s hopeless.”
Michael twisted his head to hide his smirk. “Well then, I guess I’ll have to find something better for us to do.”
“What could possibly be better than watching the play-offs? But YOU had to go and destroy the remote.” Peter paused in his rant, eyes suddenly riveted to his lover as he slowly pulled off the last of his clothes and turned to face him.
“I have a few ideas.” Peter watched the lanky form disappear into their room, his concentration shifting to the heat now coiling in his midsection.
Why not, he decided. It’s still a contact sport.
“Hey, can I buy you a beer?”
The man looked up at the woman who asked, scoffed and held up his beer mug. “I’m good. Thanks.”
She huffed, and took a seat beside him. “Now, Charlie…I know you’re mad at me, but I really wish you would talk to me.”
“Talk to you?” he Charlie looked over the beer he was nursing. “Well, you’ve picked a fine place to talk, huh?”
“But, we do need to-”
“-There’s nothing to talk about, Julia. Nothing at all…unless you thought about what I’ve said?”
Julia sighed, was about to speak when the bartender walked up and took her drink order. Finally, she looked up to Charlie, with pleading emerald green eyes. “Charlie, it’s so hard to think. It’s so hard to think about us being together when…when your own mother doesn’t like me!”
Charlie rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Julia, what does that matter? Is it my mother who sleeps with you? Did my mother get on her knee and ask you to marry her?”
“You haven’t even gotten on your knee to ask me anything!” Julia tossed her hands up in the air, and turned to face him fully.
She was shocked to find Charlie on his knee, his eyes boring through her soul. He looked as though he’d given up on her…with a touch of hope.
“Marry me,” he grabbed her hand, sliding a solitare onto her ring finger. “You think you’re ready to do that?”
Julia placed her hand over her heart, looking around the room for help. But, with the loud music blaring from the jukebox, the people laughing loudly from the three pool tables, and the others drowning themselves in alcohol, who was really paying attention? Who could give her sound advice?
But before Julia could open her mouth to take another breath, Charlie stood up. He shook his head, the chuckle coming out of him not one of humor. “That’s what I thought. You’re not ready yet, Julia.”
“Charlie, you know that I love you.”
“But is it enough?” he glared at her.
She wanted to touch him. Wanted to reassure him that everything would be alright.
Or, at the very least would be…
But, this was when Charlie dropped a fifty on the bar to cover his drinks, grabbed his jacket and said over his shoulder, “You still need to think about us. And the ring? That should be your inspiration of concentration.”
From outside the bubble he heard muted sirens and the distorted screams and honks of the midday traffic. They all moved at a crawl out there. Within it, all he could discern was his own breathing and heartbeat. His own…and hers. She was just in front of him, behind a fused chunk of asphalt and the rear half of an suv. She didn’t move. He concentrated on swimming towards her.
Somewhere above him floated Radovitch, unconscious, bumping against the torn up bits of pavement and asphalt, crushed cars and one huge chunk of a skyscraper that had gotten caught in the opening volley of psychic blasts that had been his announcement of his presence.
Stupid. He, Jordan, had simply wanted to take Evelyn out of the tower for a days peace. Away from the mystics and sycophants and the fawning courtiers.
Now they were trapped in the psychic blowback from Radovitch’s vicious attack, suspended in a bubble of compressed spacetime some three feet above a New York street.
It was she who had pushed him out of the way and thrown up a reactive barrier at Radovitch’s assault, absorbing the energy then exploding, resulting in this current mess. Perhaps she had not had the time to fine tune it. Whatever the reason, his concentration was all that kept him from being caught and trapped in its time cancelling effects.
He shook his head, cleared his mind, and concentrated on swimming towards her still form.