“Goodness, Charles. You nearly broke the door slamming it open like that.”

“To hell with the door. We have to leave. They found us.”

Are you certain? It’s been years. Surely they’ve given up by now.

Well, they haven’t. Damned robotic hawk’s been watching me plow for weeks. I was just too stupid to realize it until now. Where’s Peter?”

“Oh, God. Not now. He’s out with Suzy.

“Again? He spends more time with her than us these days.”

“He’s in love, Charles. They’re in love. I’ll text him to come home.”

Are you insane? They sent a robotic bird to spy on us, Margaret. Hacking a phone is child’s play to them. Pack our things. I’ll get Peter’s. We’ll pop to the theater for him.

What about Suzy? He won’t leave her behind.

“Bad enough we have to look over our shoulders all the time, and with Peter’s abilities, it’s his fate as well. That’s no life for a country girl like Suzy.

Don’t you think that’s her choice?

We don’t have time for this.

Make time. Peter plans to marry her, with or without your approval.

And if she freaks out when we tell her about us, about our magic?

We do a memory spell and leave. But it won’t come to that. Suzy is stronger than you think. I think she has latent spell abilities.

If they find out they’ll make her life hell. Damn techies. Wish they’d leave us mages alone. Let’s go welcome the girl to the family.

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The Ghosts of Northgate

Sweat dripped down my back despite the freezing temperature outside. I glanced at the frost covered window. Only inside felt like Hell’s furnace. And maybe it was. I stared in terrified fascination as flames danced across the cafeteria of the Northgate Sanitarium. Each human-shaped bonfire acted out a well-rehearsed script in a macabre ballet. One figure beat another with a rubber pipe. Another arched in spasm as electricity coursed through its body. A parody of a doctor drilled into a patient’s scull, clearly without anesthesia. Figures grappled and screamed a chorus that had probably started long before the place was shut down in the early 1950s.

The doctors here called it experimental treatment of the criminally insane. Most people called what it was: Power hungry sadists loose in a playground, all with the approval of the state prison system. God only knows how many people suffered in this place.

But that was old news. There had been rumors about disappearances in the past few weeks. When I decided to spent the night in this crumbling old building, I expected to find kids playing tricks or a new street gang pumping its muscles. Either of them would have made great stories, maybe even gotten me an early promotion at the Northgate Observer. If I wrote about this, my career as a journalist would end before it began.

Notebook forgotten, all I could do was watch the horror unfold and pray I survived the night – with my sanity.

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A. L. Kaplan Wins This Week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge.

AL Kaplan is the readers’ choice in this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge.

The winning entry is rewarded with a special feature in their site today and a place in there collection of winners which will be published as an e-book at year end.

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“Pies of the world unite! For years we’ve been upstaged at every party. It’s time we take back our glory. We should be at the center of celebrations, not relegated to some back-shelf. By the time we’re done, those smug little cakes are going to lose their frosting.”

“Can’t we all just get along? You know, play cards or something.”

“This isn’t a game, Chess. It certainly wasn’t a game when Uncle Bing proposed a merger with that two timing Chocolate Cake. Poor Black Forest still doesn’t know who his true father is. Cake has betrayed us at every turn and I’m not going to stand for it any longer. Now who is with me?”

“The Apple is in, dearie. And I’ve almost finished knitting our flag.”

“Thanks, Grannie. It’s beautiful.”

“You can count on us.”

“Glad to hear, Rhubarb. And congratulations to you and your blushing bride, Peach. Aw, nuts. Pecan! Shoo Fly! Get these bugs out of here. This is a bakery not a dump. Custard and Cream, you two man the beaters.”

“Will do.”


“Sir, yes sir.”

“Oh for goodness sakes, stop sir sandwiching and grab that glass of milk.”

“Sir, yes sir.”

“Pumpkin, wipe that silly grin off your face. Has anyone seen Coconut?”

“The wacko is hanging from the lamp again.”

“No need to be so tart, Lemon. Coconut! Quit goofing around and get the rolling pin. Mince, hand out the knives. It’s time to crumb some cake.”

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A recent flight cross-country made we wonder what some people are thinking. In an age of electronic gismos you’d think folks would remember common courtesy, but that is far from the case. There were children on this flight and children are, well, children. A certain amount of squiggling is expected on a long flight. The occasional, yet gentle, butt-massage from the kid behind me wasn’t a problem, and even my daughter could overlook the repeated hammering on her seat. It was the noise that we found irritating. I’m not talking about screams or cries, or even loud talking. This was very loud movies and TV shows playing on various devises. Hey, it’s nice that airplanes now have Wi-Fi and lots of folks have tablets with millions of downloads. That’s great, really. But that doesn’t mean everyone else wants to listen to your favorite movie for five hours. I don’t fault the kids for these behaviors, they don’t know any better. It’s the parents I hold responsible. I mean, what ever happened to earphones?

In this case, the parents wanted to watch the movie too. The parents didn’t think about others trying to sleep, read, or otherwise concentrate on other things. So where does this leave our kids?

Courtesy to others is an important lesson that needs to be taught to our youth. It starts at home. Get some earphones and start using them. Teach your kids to use them. Go buy a splitter so you can listen with your kids and friends without forcing everyone around you to partake. Otherwise, watch a silent movie.


PS: Last night, in a nice Italian restaurant with my husband, guess what we were treated to? –a twenty something couple watching a video on their phone with the volume high enough to hear across the room. Sigh.

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Restaurant Review: Peking Chef — If You Like Bland Food This Place Is For You

Peking Chef restaurant says it specializes in Hunan, Szechuan and Cantonese Cuisine, but we found their food bland. They also offer sushi.

On a recent Sunday evening my family and I decided to give Peking Chef a try. Located in a corner of the Hickory Ridge Village Center at 6420 Freetown road in Columbia, MD, Peking Chef’s décor is clean and spacious with a clear Asian influence. We were greeted and seated right away, in the nearly empty restaurant. That’s about where the high points end. When we looked around to order, no one was in sight. Even the sushi chef had left his station. Eventually someone showed up and we placed our order.

First out was my husband’s Hot and Sour soup which was heated with black pepper but otherwise unseasoned. My daughter’s Egg Drop soup was flavorless. They were almost finished with their soup before my Chicken with Corn soup arrived. Any longer and I would have sent it back untouched. I found it bland with a hint of corn flavor and the unpleasant texture of dry chicken crumbles.

For appetizers we ordered fried dumplings and Barbecued Spareribs. While the filling for the dumpling had an ok flavor, the dipping sauce was mostly vinegar. I ended up using strait soy sauce instead. The ribs were dry and completely tasteless. Even duck sauce couldn’t save them, especially not the thin watery kind they offered.

Portions on the main course were very good sized for the price. Sadly, the Soft Shell Crab with Ginger Scallion Sauce had a soggy gummy texture. It was slathered in a sauce that would have benefited from much more ginger and scallions. The Shrimp Pad Thai had lots of large shrimp tossed with Chow Foon noodles. Other than a slight smoky flavor, it was bland as well.

Overall we found both the food and service unimpressive. We didn’t sample any of their sushi, but judging by the lack of turnover, I wouldn’t want to try it.

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An Important Job

Soot billowed up with every step Jim took. He tightened the rag covering his face and trudged on. Nothing could keep the noxious partials from seeping into every crevasse of his clothes. Before he was even halfway to his destination his skin felt gritty and uncomfortable.

Satellite dishes studded the barren landscape. Most of the huge white structures sported mounds of debris. They were meant to detect incoming enemy missiles so the projectiles could be destroyed before obliterating humanity. Disaster came anyway, but not from an attack.

He closed his eyes, remembering the day the world ended. Explosions roared across the planet, jettisoning debris from the bowels of the earth into the sky like an unkempt pimple. Earth’s skin contorted with waves. Yellowstone vanished in seconds, along with most of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

It was only by some strange twist of fate that the satellite dishes survived. Even Jim’s survival was a quirk. A colleague called in sick last minute, putting Jim at the monitoring station when the super volcano erupted. Designed to withstand a nuclear holocaust, the underground bunker was well protected and stocked. Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the country.

Jim climbed up into one of the dishes and pulled a shovel from his pack. There was no one left to fire missiles, but it was still his job to maintain these machines. With each shovelful he removed debris, letting bits of his sanity drift in the breeze with the dust.

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