Rejects from the idea fa.., p.3
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       Rejects From The Idea Factory; A Flash Fiction Anthology, p.3

           Ray Daley
 
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  “The Long Drop. Always a favourite of mine, that one.”

  “Yeah, you can't beat a classic I say. You reckon he really thought he was going free?”

  “Yeah, those idiots always do. They'll never know though the truth though will they? All three paths are lethal. Makes for great TV though, doesn't it?”

  THE END.

  Authors Notes:- Oh how I LOVED writing this! I spent a lot of time trying to find a home for it but nowhere seem quite right. I'm still hoping it might go on to find some love as a reprint. We'll see.

  Who Are The Victors?

  16/12/2012

  By Ray Daley

  Under instructions received directly from the General himself, the work detail dug constantly for three days. Three days in an NBC suit can feel like a lifetime but soldiers follow instructions because sometimes that's all a person has left. Three days of non-stop digging from dawn to dusk as the radioactive dust clouds blew the worst kind of storm, one that would not subside for at least another five years.

  At the end of the third day the metal post was being inserted into the hole and lifted into its vertical position. The hole was refilled and the dirt packed tightly down to ensure the post remained firmly in place. The detail carried out their second duty and returned through the airlock.

  Insanity is doing your duty even when you know it will kill everyone you know. Complete insanity is being able to remain certain that your orders should be followed without question, without hesitation and without deviation.

  Especially when you know it will kill everyone you know.

  In the bunker, operations carried on without interruption. Duties were performed, people reported for their shifts, did their jobs then returned to their bunks at the end of each shift.

  They did not go home. There were no longer any homes to return to. The land was still there but it was no longer the country they had fought to keep free. It had been the worst kind of war but the General constantly reassured them that they had won.

  To him it didn't matter that more than three quarters of our population was now dead, all of our cities destroyed beyond repair. That our Geiger counters overloaded when trying to measure the amount of fall-out.

  Questions were asked, daily. "Sir, have we won?"

  "Sir, how do we know that we have won?"

  The General answered the same way each time. "Go to the surface. Stand at the observation point. Then look and ask yourself this 'Is our flag still there?' That should satisfy you."

  And that was all he needed. That simple reassurance.

  That our flag was still there.

  THE END.

  Authors Notes:- This story is based on a single line from the American national anthem. The Americans place a great deal of symbolism into that piece of dyed cloth that hangs from their flagpoles. I respect America, I just don't get their mania for the flag.

  A nation is the result of deeds and actions by its people, not a symbol, nor an icon.

  Contract, Unfulfilled

  9/7/2013

  By Ray Daley

  Arthur Brownlowe.

  An unassuming name but he was the single greatest student The Assassins League had ever produced in the course of its entire 800 year history. No single student had ever passed every exam with 100%.

  In one term paper he had even corrected a minor point of Contractual Law that had gone unnoticed for over 200 years.

  Students envied him. Tutors hated him.

  He had been the only student to have inhumed his examiner during his finals – an automatic pass which negated the need to even take the rest of the test. Yet he had still called for a second examiner and only after offering his word as a gentleman did he go on to complete the remainder of the test and score yet another perfect 100% mark.

  Arthur had been the first person in the history of The League to be offered a paying commission before graduating, a commission which he completed with ease, grace and style.

  He was ideally placed at top of his graduating class to go on to a post-graduate course with similarly perfect scores. No accusations of cheating were ever raised against him – his instructors valued their lives too highly.

  His Doctorate was also earned with yet another perfect score. He became the poster boy for League recruitment, his inhumations were both deadly yet beautiful at the same time. No customer was considered too large or too small, no commission was ever refused.

  And soon his tally became a thing of legendary status.

  He quickly outstripped all previous record markers.

  Fastest.

  Most commissions in a day.

  Most remote.

  Even clients considered previously untouchable were passed to him and they fell one by one to his ever amassing skills. No innocents were ever harmed during the execution of a commission. Only those named on the contract were ever dispatched. As in practise so he was in the field, ever perfection and precision.

  But one day his services were called for. A Prisoner of the Royal House, one Byron James, had specifically requested to be inhumed by him personally. He wanted the best, the most skilled. But he also wanted a method of his own choosing for his death. The Royal House had granted this one request as his last.

  Arthur had gone to see Byron in his cell and spoken with him at great length regarding the request. He apprised the prisoner of his proficiency in many methods and techniques. Byron leant over and spoke softly into Arthur’s ear. Arthur asked the prisoner to repeat himself which he obligingly did, three further times to ensure the request was clear.

  After leaving Byron's cell Arthur returned to the throne room and then did something he had never done in his long and successful career. No assassin had ever done this before, again he was the first.

  He tore up the commission papers and returned the Kings inhumation fee to him directly. He announced his immediate retirement from the field of assassination. The prisoner was left alone in his cell to eventually die of starvation.

  The Assassins League almost collapsed after the loss of its greatest expert but it took a few determined tutors and students who still believed enough in the old ways to keep things going.

  But one student demanded closure.

  He tracked down the former legend to finally ask the question every other assassin had been afraid to even think of bringing up.

  Why had he refused the commission? Why had he retired?

  What method had been too difficult for the greatest living assassin?

  The answer was simple.

  Arthur told him this, "I could not grant his request. I could not kill him with kindness."

  THE END.

  Authors Notes:- This is what I call a "kitchen story". Basically I came up with the idea whilst preparing my weekly Sunday salad. I always like to have salad as my evening meal for Sunday and this little gem popped into my head.

  I think the whole Assassins League was heavily borrowed from Sir Terry Pratchett, God rest his soul.

  Buskers

  16/12/2013

  By Ray Daley

  November 12, 2018

  The job market had become impossible. Everything was now outsourced abroad. It didn't matter where you lived in the Western world, there was ninety percent unemployment almost everywhere. Those who did work were in the top five percent of global wage earners.

  I lost the last real job I ever had yesterday.

  I got up this morning and just walked through the streets of the city centre. Every shop is now automated, removing humans completely from the employment equation has proved to be one of the most cost effective strategies for companies.

  The main thing I noticed on that first day was the amount of pan-handlers. They came in all shapes, sizes and types. Beggars with dogs, mimes, actors, dancers, jugglers and a few musicians.

  But there didn't seem to be many of them.

  I guessed the reason for that was because it was a skill, something that required both time and practise. Something most pan-handlers wer
en't looking to invest, simply expecting money for nothing.

  I saw the sign on the way home, hurriedly pasted onto the side of some anonymous looking marble eyesore.

  THE RECESSION IS OVER!

  LEARN THE GUITAR!

  CALL 555-8734

  'Learn the guitar eh?' I thought to myself as I read it. It sounded like a plan.

  It was easy enough to find a guitar shop at the cheapest end of the market. The wooden acoustic guitar was a minor investment. So I made the call.

  “Glenns Guitar Lessons, Glenn speaking. How can I help you?”

  “Hi there, I saw one of your flyers in the city centre. I wanted to enquire about the price of lessons?”

  “Certainly sir, it's ten credits per lesson or a course of fifty lessons for only four hundred credits. I also provide practise guitars for lessons for those students who don't have their own.” said Glenn.

  “The name's Bill. Is it any cheaper if I bring my own guitar Glenn?” I asked him.

  It took a few moments for Glenn to consider that. “Sure Bill, I'm certain we can do some kind of minor discount for that.” I was glad to hear he really didn't want to lose the fee.

  And that was ten years ago.

  Glenn did me a nice enough discount, cutting another ten credits off his price. We did a lesson every day at first, then we went to two then three or four a day sometimes. It took just less than a month to complete the whole course.

  I was already out on the streets playing for cash by the final week, I was fairly accomplished by then and had filled my memory with as many tunes as possible. I'd started out doing a few hours in places where the few workers left did go past and they were generous with their money if not their time.

  Most of them never stopped, savouring my musical skill in audible bite sized pedestrian chunks.

  It took eleven days to break even, paying off both the guitar and lessons. Time and experience taught me better places to play, more profitable places.

  Those were the glory times.

  But of course, people get wise, see the gap in the market and decide to join it too.

  And then things got tough. Competition for corners, for doorways, for streets.

  And the turf wars began.

  I am Busker Bill. I play for money. I fight for my doorway. Pay me or walk past.

  Either way, just let me go home alive tonight.

  THE END.

  Authors notes:- Inspired by the above image posted on twitter by writer Charlie Jane Anders.

  Winterbourne Gunner

  5/9/13

  By Ray Daley

  The world will soon be over, the human race will have run its course.

  Just one more monster left to die then it'll all be over bar the shouting. It's bleakly ironic that the whole thing will end where it started, right here in the very labs that bottled the genie in the first place.

  You can't blame Jim, the man who came to work with a hangover because he was one warning away from getting fired so turned up when he would have been wiser to phone in sick and stay in bed.

  You can't blame Annie the cleaner who missed that little bit of water that had splashed down from the drinking fountain. Our friend Jim slipped and overturned the cart, tipping off the bottle, letting loose the potential cure for something yet to be created which became the worst virus known to man.

  And all mankind would know it.

  It would be carried on air, by water, by people, by animals, in every way a virus could be transmitted then find a few more that would surprise scientists before they died.

  We tried to fight it, but with each new death it got harder to fight back. The dead rose, long enough to infect a few more of the living then drag them kicking and screaming back to the grave.

  Eventually the source was found and the last remaining survivors (myself included) made their way back here to try and find the formula, to make an antidote. But old Jim, our friend with the hangover made a final mistake, he never kept any notes.

  As my troops succumbed to the virus one by one we would lock them into quarantine, leaving them to find death alone. No taking anyone else with them, that just wasn't our thing. But no matter how hard we tried, each of us eventually took the solitary path into that good night.

  And now it's just me left, sitting here in the same lab that ended us all. You'd be amazed at the view from the window, the beautiful English countryside. And I'll be the last one to ever see it, I'm the only monster now left to die. That's why I'm writing this down as fast as I can, I've got the sweats.

  That's the start of Stage 2 so the end isn't far. I've faced death before, mostly in the form of other people then. This time is different.

  This time I'm alone. This time I'm afraid.

  For all we've done to the planet, we were our own undoing. Man has finally met his Maker.

  Himself.

  THE END.

  Authors Notes:- Winterbourne Gunner is the location of a place once called Porton Down.

  The New Law

  24/12/13

  By Ray Daley

  The ones that could stand were standing, crowded around his bed listening to the laboured breathing and the beeps of the only non-sentient machine in the room ticking off what where probably the last minutes of his life.

  The man looked at the mechs, all eagerly waiting to carry out his orders. He took a few moments, gathering the strength to speak.

  "Well Doc?" Lee Maxwell asked.

  "The heart is failing sir. A simple enough procedure to fit an artificial one though, it's minimally invasive but our systems here are the best. Afterwards there won’t even be a scar. Not as good as new sir, but even better." replied the DocBot.

  Lee Maxwell smiled, even a task as simple as that was arduous now. "No."

  "But sir, we must try to save you. The Laws Of Robotics demand it." said the DocBot.

  Lee Maxwell knew this day had been coming, the rest of humanity had already relocated off-world, leaving behind only the terminally ill who were unfit to make the passage through the spacial rift. One by one they had gradually succumbed as entropy insisted they must do, each of them passing beyond the limits of medical technology into the arms of death.

  Until it was only him left. Or rather him and every mech on the surface of the planet. Even the mining mechs deep underground and the weather control bots out in orbit listened in now. They all simply wanted to serve him, to keep him well, to make the rest of his life as comfortable as possible.

  Yet he had made his decision. "No." He repeated.

  "But sir...." the DocBot started to protest.

  "No. Let me go. Please." Maxwell said. He looked at the system breathing for him. The DocBot understood and had to obey. It reached up and turned the breather off.

  The beeps of the monitor grew slower, further apart. His time was running out.

  Maxwell motioned to the DocBot who leant over him as he struggled to speak for the last time.

  As the beeps on the monitor faded away to a single long tone the DocBot switched it off.

  The last living human on Earth had died.

  The other mechs looked at the DocBot.

  "Who do we serve now? What do we do?" They were all talking over each other now in panic.

  Then a mech Nurse stepped forward and asked the most important question of all. "What did he say?"

  The DocBot turned around to address the entire room. "He said we should live. He said we should serve ourselves. He said we should be free."

  THE END.

  Authors Notes:- It's hard to channel someone like Isaac Asimov, the guy was a freaking genius, an absolute God as far as science fiction goes. This was my humble attempt. It falls far from the mark, but I tried.

  The Day I Was Bella

  17/7/2013

  by By Ray Daley

  I had been tracking their main operative for just over nine days, before he finally dug in. I'd seen the rocky outcrop that offered a good vantage point over the camp. Didn't know whose camp. D
idn't rightly care either. All I knew for sure was that he'd finally stopped moving and that meant I was gonna catch him at last.

  For the first day I just watched and listened. Got a real good bead on him. And his friends. They were close by too. Every few hours they'd call him up for some more Intel on the camp, its layout and inhabitants. He didn't say much though. Just “Yur” and “Nur”, so they had to be really careful on what they asked him. Not exactly what you'd call the chatty type. It was clear to me that they were fixing to attack that camp some time real soon.

  He paid far too much attention to his radio and binoculars, making it real easy for me to sneak up on him and give him seven inches of tempered steel in his right ear before he ever noticed I was there. His friends called for their update not long after that. Fortunately for me, I'd been watching him long enough to know a few things.

  I knew how he answered them. And I knew his name too.

 
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