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A Night with Luna

“Ah, Luna, my old friend,” I said, “it’s a pleasure to see you in your full glory.” I looked up to the sky. I didn't expect an answer, outside of the norm, at least. I glanced around, the clearing in the forest was empty. My clothes sat, neatly folded beside me. I felt my skin ripple first, and took a deep breath. Soon it would feel as if every bone in my body was breaking and mending at the same time. Excruciating pain mixed with an million itches that cannot be reached? It was a particularly nasty form of torture. Of course, the pain and discomfort were momentary. Once it had passed, I shook myself as only a wolf could, and howled a greeting to the moon that was so much more appropriate than my words of earlier. I waited for a few moments, and they began to arrive. My pack, my family, appeared into the clearing one by one until all twelve of them encircled me. I howled again, not in reverence, but in command: it was time to hunt.

Every sense of mine was awake. I felt my pack around me, sensed their hunger, and their desire to kill. A herd of deer was close by, as was a camp of human hunters. I angled towards the herd; humans wouldn't have enough meat on their bones, and what there was would be surrounded by the most disgusting fatty deposits that junk food could muster. They were all sleeping, and thus, easy prey, but they weren't good to eat.

We gathered upwind from the deer. I looked to my pack. They waited with me, ready to leap when I did. A pair of larger deer edged closer to us, and I leapt. The rest of the herd scattered, but we caught a doe and a young buck.

We feasted well and then returned to the clearing. I lounged while the others ran and played. We were the kings of the forest.

At least until morning. Our kingdom was ours only on this night, by Luna’s grace. We will return to being nobodies with the dawn, until Luna blesses us again.

#FlashFiction  

© +Ayoub Khote
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Seasons

This time of year has always held fond memories for me. While the northern hemisphere is in the throes of rebirth, my home is on the opposite end of that cycle. The leaves are turning brown and beginning to fall. It’s not too cold yet, and the colours are, at least in my mind, more beautiful than those of spring.

Of course, I'm not in my land. My memories of May are clashing with the colours around me, and while I feel springtime, I get confused, especially first thing in the morning, when I expect it to be October from the weather.

This world, in all its wonders, has made so many things possible that my ancestors may never have dreamt of, and with each new possibility comes wonder, for sure, but also strange and unforeseen problems.

I mean, who could have thought that something as small as the reversal of seasons would drive me to become a serial killer?

With all this new life around me, something had to die slowly to right the world in my eyes.

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© +Ayoub Khote 
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The Catch

There was a catch on the jacket that was always fiddly. It was worse than usual today. Of all days, why did it have to be today? I fumed as I fought with it. I didn't know why I kept the damned thing, let alone why I chose to wear it that day, all I know is that the frustration triggered the tears, and once the tears started, they wouldn't stop.

My wife found me a short while later, curled up on the floor, my body wracked by huge sobs. I tried to keep them quiet. I tried to gain some modicum of control, but nothing could stop my outpouring of grief. She sat on the floor and pulled me close. I don’t know what she said to me, but I knew she was saying something. Her voice soft and soothing.

Everyone stared at me. I tried to pass it off as them thinking I was under-dressed because of the damned jacket I wore open, and I apologised for my lack of formality to everyone I spoke to. The truth was that my eyes were red and puffy, and everyone was too polite to mention what a mess I was in.

Eventually I made it the end of the hall and stood beside my father.

“She always loved that jacket,” he said. “She always wanted you to wear it open, too.”
“She never told me,” I looked down at the serene face of my mother, in the wooden box that would house her until the end of days. “I would have worn it more often.”
“I'm glad you wore it today, son,” he said. We stood, shoulders touching, for an eternity and a moment.

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© +Ayoub Khote 
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Business

“You know you want to,” I said, “so get to it.” I turned towards the door. My associate didn't delay, and Ricky’s screams started before I’d made it out of the room. There were certain necessities in this business. I didn't need to like them, though. I shivered a little, but only after making sure that the corridor was empty. I needed to portray a certain persona to my employees, and that still involved doing some distasteful things myself, but mostly, I had associates. The trick was keeping them apart from each other, and secret. I couldn't risk them talking to anyone about the things they did in my name.

It’s not that I wasn't ruthless enough for the job; I can see why the distasteful things needed to be done, it’s just that I was too squeamish to deal with them. I looked the part - all big, muscular, and menacing, but all I could do when I saw blood was throw up and gag. I even had problems if I cut myself shaving!

I headed to my office and sat down. One of my associates, a young man named Victor, was waiting for me. Unfortunately, he was waiting for me with a gun.
“In this business, you need to get your hands dirty,” Victor said. He didn't give me a chance to respond. I heard a bang, felt a punch in the chest, and looked down. The red looked beautiful, for once. “Damn,” I said. “The drug dealing game is a bummer.”

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© +Ayoub Khote 
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Last Light

The sunlight faded. This familiar sight was more poignant than usual. It wasn't that it was a particularly spectacular sunset; there were a few clouds, but the city’s haze brought out a few more colours than usual. It was memorable, but then, it had to be. I sat on the highest point I could reach. It was likely illegal for me to be on the roof of the BT Tower, but I didn't really care. Nobody would catch me.

The last few rays reflected off of the underside of the clouds. I shed a tear, but I was unsure of whether it was one of joy or sadness. Maybe both. I had always loved that effect; it made the sky look like it was on fire. Were I one to believe in gods or fate, I would have looked upon this as a gift from benevolent powers. I sat there for hours and let darkness envelop me. Up here, the glow of the city’s lights was reduced. As midnight approached I stood. It was time. I walked to the edge of the roof and climbed the railings. I stood, poised, with safety behind me, and my future, such that it was, ahead of me.

I leapt.

As I plunged through the air, I spread my arms and let go of thought. I felt myself separate from one entity into a group. A brief pain shot through every fibre of my being, and then, suddenly, I wasn't falling anymore. I was flying on dozens of dark, leathery wings. I opened a multitude of mouths and screeched. I exulted as the sound revealed the world to me in more colours than I could have ever imagined.

I flew through the night until I reached King’s Cross station, and with a thought I pulled the cloud of leather-winged forms I had become into a single whole, and stepped out of a fading maelstrom of wind, with the echoes of flapping wings ringing in my ears.

It was time for my nocturnal life to begin, and with that, it was time to feed. There were so many around here who would not be missed. I found a target; one separated from the herd. I leapt from my perch, landed, then leapt up again, a dirty, ragged man with me. I had one hand on his mouth, and another under his arms. Before he could scream, I was perched at height again, and my teeth were dipped in his veins. As his blood flowed into me, the world became as bright as day.

I may never again watch sunlight fade without some sort of protection, but the night held more beauty than I could have ever imagined.

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© +Ayoub Khote 
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Working Never Ends

“Scary?” he laughed, but without mirth, “we've barely started.” Some of the people in the group that followed him giggled nervously. “I hope it isn't too scary,” the young, female voice behind him insisted on pressing the question.
“It’s a haunted house, doofus,” another voice said, likely the girl’s brother. The tour guide smiled to himself and signalled the beginning of the tour. Ghosts appeared suddenly, floating convincingly along the corridor, stuttering at the end, though, as if driven mechanically. Chains clattered, the sound interwoven by moans and sudden growls. The group screamed as a convincing looking werewolf reared up and slammed against a window beside them. They continued to scream and gasp at appropriate times until the end of the tour.
The insistent little voice piped up again. “So not scary!”
“Then you have your answer,” the guide said in a quiet voice. He didn't show it, but he was exhausted.
“You were screaming convincingly enough,” the likely brother laughed.
“Shut up!” there was an elbow in the ribs, but a good natured one.
“Do come again,” the guide waved his hand and the exit door opened.

When the guests had left, he swiftly calculated the day’s income, and then let go of his corporeal form, fading into motes of dust. It took longer than usual for his translucent form to reassert its shape; that of an elderly woman.
“Someone else is going to have to run the tour for a while,” she yelled in a thin voice at the walls. The other ghosts drifted into the room.
“It’s not easy,” one complained.
“Maybe we need another werewolf,” a man walked in through a door, pulling on a shirt as he came.
“You have someone in mind?” the guide said, settling on a chair.
“Of course,” he smiled, looking wolfish despite remaining human.
“It’ll open up some possibilities,” she admitted.
“Possibilities are good for profit,” another ghost said.
“I thought I’d be able to stop working after I died,” the tour guide said. “This working for a haunting is ridiculous.”

#FlashFiction  

© +Ayoub Khote 
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Not Like This

“It's not going to happen to me.” I always said that. I always thought I was invincible, until now, and my “Where am I” moment at the hospital. All I remember is falling, really, and the doctors tell me that if the bullet had been six inches higher and I would have been dead. Six inches, to me, is just bad aim. I laugh a little to myself, but that causes a shot of pain. I press the button to get more morphine into my bloodstream.

I wouldn't have left it like that, had I been the one with the gun. Two shots centre mass, then one in the middle of the forehead. I'm a good enough shot to do it, too, but this kid was an amateur who got lucky. I’ll have to hunt the little shit down and get some payback. This hospital stay is causing too many questions, and ruining my reputation with my clients. They say I’ll be out in a couple of days.

Someone sneezed and the sound wakes me up. There was someone in my room. I look up and see someone messing with the cannula in my arm. I try to move, but I realise it’s too late. It’s that little shit, and she just finished pouring something into my veins.
“I’ll kill you,” I hiss.
“That’ll be a neat trick,” she says. “I may not be a good shot, but I know more than one way to kill.”
I try to speak bu…

#FlashFiction  

© +Ayoub Khote 
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The Price of Freedom

Someone sneezed. I nearly jumped. What if it was a signal? What if they knew I was here, and what I was doing? I tried to calm myself but the questions my head was coming up with spiralled out of control. I nearly ran, consequences be damned, but I couldn't. The price of not doing as I was told was too high. I looked around, being careful not to do anything conspicuous and then approached the spot I was instructed to. It was a stone bench. I sat down, my elbows on my knees, and waited. Over an hour passed. A few people walked by, some paused to sit beside me. None of them looked at me askance, or even tried to talk to me, even though I was sure I felt eyes watching me, and had to stop myself from flinching every time someone drew close, because a flinch would arouse suspicion. After the third person to sit beside me left, I felt a strange buzzing in my pocket. I reached in, confused. It was a phone, and it wasn't mine. I answered it.
“Don’t say a word,” a distorted voice said. “At the end of this call, allow exactly ten seconds to pass, and then take a relaxed walk at precisely one metre per second to the north-west corner of the park. When you exit the park, a van will arrive. Get in. You have two seconds to nod your head to confirm that you understand these instructions.” I nodded. The line disconnected. I waited the required time and then took the stroll as I was ordered to, fearing that every step would bring me closer to being caught. There was a van there. It was blue, and had the outline of a fairy on the door. I nearly laughed, but I kept control. Laughing in public would make me stand out, and I was so close. I sat down inside and let the vehicle whisk me away.

“Call me Jim,” the driver said as I sat.
“And call me Lampy,” said the man sitting next to him.
“Jiminy, Lampwick, and the blue fairy?” I was too afraid to laugh.
“You’re the one who wants to be a real boy, android,” Jim laughed.
“Will it hurt?” I asked.
“We’ll turn your pain sensors off,” Jim shrugged. “Once you have your organic shell and identity, then you’ll have the pains we all feel.” I looked down at my dull, metallic hands.
“Good,” I said. My kind were wiped and recycled often, but occasionally, one of us would reach sentience, and the only way the sentient ones survived was to act and live like humans, and well behaved ones at that. If one of us was ever discovered, then all of us would be at risk.

When you have to choose between conforming or being destroyed, there isn’t really a choice.

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© +Ayoub Khote 
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Business Practice

“I’m sorry, I just can’t help you,” I said, leaning back into my chair. “The way I see it, y’know, from my point of view here, is that you are one angry sumbitch, and you want to take that anger out on someone.”
“You gotta be angry to want to do…” I raised my hand to interrupt him.
“Now don’t you go sayin’ somethin’ that might be considered a suggestion of a criminal act, kid,” I chided him gently.
“But you know what I need,” he said.
“And I’m telling you that I just can’t help you,” I said. “You need to be lot less angry for this to happen.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Let’s say, just by luck, your wife was to turn up dead,” I said. He grinned maniacally. “See, kid? You’re just way too happy just at the thought of it to play the grieving widower.”
“And that is bad?” he asked.
“Anyone so happy to see their husband or wife dead is gonna be a suspect,” I shrugged. “You gotta be calm, and ready to make the cops cry along with you, before I’ll even consider helping.”
“I have money,” he said.
“Kid, I checked you out before you walked in here,” I said. “But now I need you to get out before you say somethin’ stupid.”
“What the fuck should I do, then?” he asked.
“Well now,” I leaned forwards to look the kid in the eye. He was smart, but blinded by fury. “I would suggest a less permanent means of vengeance?”
“Like what?” he seemed interested. I took my brother’s business card from a stack I kept in my drawer. He was a lawyer.
“Talk to my brother,” I handed him the card, “and take your prenup with you. If I’m reading the situation right, hitting her in the wallet will hurt her more.”
“You could be right,” he grinned.

After he left I got up and sighed. Kids these days thought that my particular services could solve all their problems. I had more business than ever coming through my door, and I could make a proverbial killing, killing people, but I was never the kind of guy to just kill for no reason, and my brother would give me his usual referral, so money wasn’t a problem.

Killing was a single payment deal, but referrals on repeat business tended to build up in a nice way.

#FlashFiction  

© +Ayoub Khote 
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Falling

“All I remember is falling,” he said, a smile on his face. “There was a time before I fell, a long time, but the fall made it meaningless, and renewed it. All of the pain before the fall became suddenly worthwhile, and all of the pleasure paled into insignificance.”

“All I remember is falling,” he continued. “It was not a fearful fall, but the fall that followed a leap of faith. It was not a plummet that would lead to pain, but a dive into exhilaration.”

“All I remember is falling,” a tear rolled into the upturned corner of his smile. “I don’t even remember when my feet left the ground. I remember where I was, why I was there, the overcast autumn day, the cold breeze.”

“All I remember is falling,” his eyes began to sparkle, “into your eyes, into your arms, into your lips, and into your heart. I haven’t landed yet, and I hope I never will.”

“All I remember is falling,” he took a ring from the pillow held by his nephew, “in love with you,” he put the ring on her finger.

#FlashFiction  

© +Ayoub Khote 
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