None of the roughly five thousand students who crossed the Cramer University campus every day gave much thought to why the tan bird was installed atop the student center. There was a plaque, but it was old and nothing of interest to anyone of the twenty-first century. In truth the bird had become the target of a great competition that came around every spring.
The grounds crew at Cramer got really steamed when the tradition began nearly three decades earlier, because trying to get the paint removed from the homemade catapults was no easy task. But as with all things knowledge and preparation provided a way to lessen the lasting impact.
Also, even though he made a yearly declaration the practice was forbidden, the university president had come to enjoy the spectacle and had increased the minimum distance this year to challenge the partakers of the hijinks. The engineering students felt equal to the task as their prototype testing proved they could reach their target.
But there was an unknown player in the mix this year. Known simply as the Eagle Squadron their boast was that they could hit the bird on no less than seven of ten attempts.
There was a game Jed and Kelly enjoyed as they moved through their life. Any time they saw a couple they tried to imagine their back story. There was all kinds of tales they concocted over their time together, tales of spies, lovers overcoming obstacles and more.
But when they happened across the sleek black statue at the airport it seemed to stump them and their usual story creation fun. Both Jed and Kelly stood in silence as they took in the piece of art. Watching live people was a whole different experience than trying to build out a story for this unmoving couple.
“Medusa cursed them,” Kelly suggested.
“What?” Jed asked.
“Medusa, you know the lady with the snakes for hair.”
“Yeah, okay. So how did they get her attention?” Jed asked.
“He is her son and she wanted him to marry another,” Kelly answered.
“I can buy that. Boy she got them just before the kiss that would have destroyed her!” Jed finished the story.
It was such a treacherous time that no one could be trusted. There was infiltrators from King Ebsen’s legions of Red Guard all throughout King Landry’s kingdom. Anyone without a solid and known bloodline was suspect. Trying to wage a war became more of a process of thinning out suspected malcontents and traitors. So much so that a mechanical device became a trusted tool.
The first dozen or so times the heavy gate was used for its purpose the effect was chilling. The process of removing those who fell victim was something etched into the minds of those tasked with the job, sure to remain on their minds forever.
The king knew this could not go on for long. The truth was that too many questions remained even after the sentence was imposed and there was no way to rectify the errors. King Ebsen was going to win their struggle and envelop King Landry’s pride and joy. Unless, King Landry thought, he could rig the gate just so.
Photo copyright – Sally-Ann Hodgekiss
This was one of Professor Hollin’s favorite days. After a semester of teaching classic history to college students he got to entertain a class of six year olds as they toured his home city. Over a decade he had come to absolutely love this day. At first he declared he had no business doing such, but a little girl eight years before had changed his mind with her imaginative interpretation of his city’s storied architecture.
Now he looked forward to the six year old perspectives. Stopping in front of classic piece he asked his young charges what it was about.
“He is giving his friend a high five,” Mario suggested.
“No, he is petting his dinosaur,” Luisa chimed in.
“He is learning football, but doesn;’t know it means no hands,” Luigi added.
“I think the sun is in his eyes, like it is in mine,” Carolina said, her little hand failing to filter the bright sun on her face.
Hollins motioned for the youngster to come toward him out of the bright light. Yes, this was so much more fun than listening to the college class with their pompous, know-it-all attitudes.
A cell phone ringing in the city was not unusual. Millions rang every day. But this was one of those cell phones that were all over the news. The red ones. The ones that brought extreme happiness or extreme fear and loss. The authorities cordoned off every one they found after a half-dozen experiences. Sure two people answered the phone with the reward of more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes. But on the other four occasions thirteen lives were ended when the devices exploded.
This time when the phone began to ring the police presence was more than ever before. It was necessary because there was still enough folks desperate for money that would take that awful chance. No authority had any knowledge of a difference in ring between the cash phones and those that brought death. All they knew was that a new type of terrorism was created with no leads to provide their suspect or suspects.
In fly circles Freddie the Fly was a legend. He had survived longer than anyone else could remember. But he also had put up with more. There was the near miss of the Venus Flytrap in December of ’16. The scorch marks from the Zapper of February ’17. But what irked Freddie most of all was the saying he heard from humans, “If I was a fly on the wall!”
Freddie finally got his say one morning when he found a leftover can of Five Hour Energy and a laptop open to the word processor. He decided this was his time.
An Open Letter to Humans, by Freddie J. Fly:
If you think being a fly on the wall is all that then let’s trade. First of all I barely ever get a chance to rest my wings on said wall before you are trying to whack me with whatever is in your reach. A newspaper, flyswatter, hairbrush, hammer or another inanimate object is usually on the way.
Trust me there is no information or activity in the world worth your life. Buzzing around is a little less hazardous, but you still are after me. Just let me be, well, me!
Freddie J. Fly
Henrietta knew this day would come. She had nightmares about it for the first few years, but when nothing happened she began to allow herself to believe all would be well. Now she watched the new gardener as he rolled his wheel barrow out to the tree. The very same she had loved and then feared for so long.
It wouldn’t take long for the word to spread around her town. It was small, with very few people to fill the need she had. Her initials and his would be an easy mystery to decipher. Then the supposition would begin and quickly their secret child would be no more.
Part of her, the piece that had guarded and feared the secret so long wanted to stop this process. But the realist, which as she aged became stronger in the battles of her mind, knew the time was past for this to be revealed. With her mother’s mind in its present condition she would not even understand the ramifications of the letters carved into the tree. But how would she explain it all to Lily, the child who thought she had no father?
“Brothers and sisters of the Royal Order of Flying Dragons, I now call this meeting to order. I want to first thank all of you for assembling in this hallowed place, where our forefathers saw their greatest defeat. ROFD has struggled for too many years under the oppression of the Ninth Kingdom, but that is all soon to be so much history!
Our numbers are legion! Our power never higher than it is today. The alliance with the little dictator on the Asian Peninsula has proven to give us more fuel than ever before!”
Lucius and Sydnor listened to the Big Dragon Who Thought He Could as he powered through this “huff and puff” speech. They were members of the Shadow Six, the espionage wing of the ninth Kingdom, here to make sure the BDWTHC led his forces to the certain defeat they required.
“Little does he know the Billionaire President is going to remove the little dictator on the Asian peninsula. Then all their precious fire juice will disappear!” Lucius said, tugging at his dragon suit to assure their stealth.
“Boom, boom then no juicey!” Sydnor laughed heartily.
Everyone could hear the low grumble work up through their leader’s throat before escaping in a sound of disgust. Lars Sunvold shook his head at the sight. He knew his greed would eventually come back to bite him, but in all his dreams this sight never materialized.
Sven, his dependable right hand did the speaking. “Lars, they have hijacked our boat! How can we return home now? We have all this gold but we can’t get it in there and get the boat down too!”
“Yes, that is a big problem for us!” He scanned the area around the boat as it rested safely out of the water some three hundred yards distant. He could see Englishmen everywhere, just waiting for their heroic rescue attempt.
All tensed as rustling in the bushes caught their attention. A smiling Nils approached nodding happily.
“You’ve been with their wine or their women haven’t you?” Sven asked with contempt.
“No, my brother, but I have found something interesting. They left two guards to protect their big boat, the one we saw two days ago. It is more than enough for our needs.
Lars strategic mind quickly warmed to this idea. The possibilities could be endless.