Tag: Threat

THREAT: Please, Do Not Adjust Your Threat B.A. Sarvey

Word: Threat
Word Count: 500
Please, Do Not Adjust Your Threat
B.A. Sarvey
Today had begun as most days did—quietly, cup of coffee in hand, Misha on his lap, newspaper open. But then, instead of sitting and reading, Carlton felt compelled to leave the house without combing his hair or even brushing his teeth. He had dumped the cat on the floor, the coffee into the sink, and left without shutting the door. Now, halfway down the block, the implicit threat tickled his subconscious. He hadn’t actually heard the words, “you will be the first to go” but he knew. The first to go. What did that mean, anyway? Go where? The moon? “Oblivion.” This unspoken knowledge came from seemingly nowhere. Carlton couldn’t have said how—perhaps something tugged his parietal lobe—or was it the occipital? He could never remember. At any rate, the disembodied voice that wasn’t a voice infused its thoughts into his thoughts.
The immediate effect was paranoia. Carlton stopped walking. Dead in his tracks. Had someone been following, sweat-stinking, tight-springed, fear-permeated Carlton and the other would have collided. He whirled, hoping to catch the culprit. Not even a squirrel was near. In fact, Carlton felt he might well be the last living being. Turning, he resumed walking. Five steps. Six. Again he heard, or more accurately, felt, the air of threat, of a lurking presence. It went beyond the sensation of being watched. This thing, whatever it was, infiltrated his mind by some serpentine force, snaking past his natural resistance. Speeding up, he darted left, then, without warning, broke right, but he sensed the whatever-it-was ran in sync, unperturbed by his maneuvers, like a shadow, anticipating every move. Defenses alert, he snapped around again, tripping on his own feet in a fancy fandango. This time, he felt the slightest touch against his cheek, like suede, momentarily dragging on his bristly stubble. The presence, though, had no physical form. He was sure of this now. And how do you outrun something like that?
Furtively, he slowed, side-stepping, pivoting, scanning the street, deserted but for one battered, rusty-white Chevette, so innocuous. Nobody behind bushes or peering between drapes. An unnatural glow seeping across the neighborhood lent a sense of suspended animation. Carlton was beginning to think he was in a fevered waking nightmare, when suddenly, a deafening buzz, like microphone feedback, shattered the air, bringing Carlton to his knees. Pressing hands to ears, like a vise holding a block of wood, eyes squeezed shut, face contorted, he screamed for it to stop. Whatever it was responded to his plea.
He opened his eyes to a gray vista, vertical and horizontal holds misaligned. The entire episode smacked of an Outer Limits moment: vision and brain processes blurred by unseen forces, the way the Control Voice manipulated the television.
Inexplicably Carlton was in his kitchen. Misha hopped to the table and hissed.
“May I help you?” asked the stranger in the doorway, coffee cup in hand, the suave voice belying the inherent threat. “Name’s Carlton. And you are…?”
Carlton couldn’t respond.

THREAT: Threat and Consequences by G. Ackman

Word: THREAT
Word Count 500

Threat and Consequences
by G. Ackman

Dylan slouched in the hideously orange chair in that melting teenager look so common for his generation. Although his face maintained a contemptuous disengaged mien, actually his mind struggled with his situation. Disbelief warred with shock, layered with anger and more fear than he would ever admit.

A constant racket assaulted his ears. The brrrr of the phone, doors banging open so violently they bounced against the wall with a dull thud, shouts, curses, and an incessant buzzing floated around and through Dylan’s throbbing head. Somewhere, thankfully not visibly, but definitely within hearing distance, someone was violently throwing up.

Dylan’s nose itched and he longed to scratch it, but the clank and chink of metal as he involuntarily tried to lift his hand to his nose reminded him that he couldn’t. The itch only increased, maddingly so. He saw a wife, girlfriend, arrive and embrace the scruffy man sitting beside him, whose smell practically gagged Dylan. He thought for a moment, though, how lucky that guy was. Someone was there anyway. Dylan sat alone. He wondered if his parents would show up. His dad had been pretty angry yesterday – before this. Would this be the last straw? Surely not. This was big – bigger than sneaking out, smoking a joint or two, even the money he took from his mom’s purse.

Yes, this was big. But it wasn’t like major major. No one got hurt. And he wasn’t really going to do it. Surely they would see that. He just needed a chance to explain. Then they’d understand. He would be in for one hell of a lecture, most likely lose his phone and truck keys, maybe even some community service. He would nod, say all the expected things, suck it up, and then go back to normal.

The door banged open again and a familiar figure entered, looking neither right nor left. Dylan started to rise from the chair, say something, but the rigid shoulders of his father’s stance held him back. Murmured words at the desk, a signature on some papers. That was it, then. Dylan was ready to leave this place and go home to the lecture and his own bed.

Dylan looked up to see his dad standing over him, hands on his shoulders and an unfamiliar defeated look in his eyes.

“You’ve done it this time. Gone too far. Your mom and I – we – we – we can’t help you now.”

“But, dad. It was just talk. I was, you know, really pp-angry. Mr. Brown failed me. Ruined my chances at that job. I just wanted to scare him. You know…but I never…”

“Doesn’t matter, Dylan. I told you before that you needed to control your anger or it would control you. Now your threat to shoot up the school has landed you here, facing eight years in prison. I hope….well, I don’t know what I hope anymore.” He walked out the door without a look back. Two officers led a dumbstruck Dylan through the opposite door.

THREAT: Masked Marauder By Peg Scarano

Word: Threat
Word Count: 489

Masked Marauder
By Peg Scarano

It was mid-June. The doors and windows were open to let in the fresh summer breezes. The two older girls were finishing up their last days of school. It was a little after one and Emily was watching the Wizard of Oz for probably the 157th time. She would always don her blue Dorothy dress, put her little stuffed dog in a small wicker basket and drag her large stuffed lion into the living room so they could watch together.

Since she was content, I decided to vacuum and mop my kitchen floor. I filled the bucket, squeezed out the mop and began by the back door. Did you ever have the feeling someone was watching you? I slowly lifted my eyes to look up and not a foot away from my face was a ragged raccoon, standing on his hind legs, his face flat against the screen, staring at me with wide, shiny, glazed eyes. I grabbed the inside door and slammed it shut! “Mommy! Why did you slam the door?” Emily exclaimed in fright. “It’s OK, honey. It was an accident.”

I snatched the phone to call my neighbor as I ran through the house looking out windows on my way to close the front door. She went to her window and saw him between our two houses…staggering! I asked her to keep an eye on him while I called the police. You might think this was an overreaction, but the other kids would be walking home from school shortly. What if they ran into him?

Compared to my turmoil, the police were calm, cool and collected – a little too nonchalant for me. I patiently gave them my name and address and an approximation of the raccoon’s location and told him my neighbor was trying to keep an eye on him. When I mentioned the neighborhood kids would be walking home from school shortly, they stepped it up.

The dispatcher stayed on the phone as I told her the raccoon was staggering down our street and headed left on Argonne Place. Once he went out of my sight, my hands were tied. I got brave enough to stand on the front porch and watch diligently for any sign of the raccoon and for the kids to come down the street.

As I looked up the street I saw all five kids round the corner. My heart was still beating double time. I ran to the sidewalk and yelled to them to race to my porch. My next door neighbor dashed over to take her two kids safely home while I quickly herded Alexis, the little girl from across the street, and my two into the house. The three of them wanted to know who won the race and what the prize was. They had no idea of the looming threat.

A moment later I heard a gunshot echo up the hill that made my skin crawl.

THREAT: Kolya’s Release By Sally Madison

Word: THREAT
Words: 493
Kolya’s Release
By Sally Madison

Watching from afar, the Duke studied the horses in the make-shift corral. The young rom cleaned the temporary stable and fed the horses by himself, then began adroitly training the horses.

Emperor Macmillan II had founded a new breed called the Kaldruber. A Spanish foundation stock breed near here in Kladruby, in Bohemia, just a few years ago. The Duke had seen the animal himself and knew this was the Emperor’s missing prize. Ebony and beautiful, she was at least 18 hands. Her mane came down to near her eyes and her tail was long and full. ‘So how did this band of gypsies get their hands on such a beautiful animal?’ He thought, but he knew the answer.

To obtain more information, the Duke engaged the young rom in conversation about the horses. What kind of ailments did each of the horses have? How easy was each one to train? Which were pulling? And which were for sale? Eventually, the Duke asked, “What’s your name?” Kolya was the response. After further discussion, Kolya recounted a brief history of his capture, but he was treated well by the troop. They were his adopted family.

When shouting erupted from across the camp, Kolya and the Duke looked to see a previous buyer accusing the leader of lying, and moving forward with raised fists to carry out his threat. The Duke perceived a look of disgust on Kolya’s face. Kolya had seen that ubiquitous lying so many times before; the distraught man was probably right. The Duke stood back and reflected on the young man. He liked Kolya and could use someone like him.

After the altercation was settled, the Duke approached the leader to purchase 5 of the horses. The leader proclaimed he wanted 6 dukas for each of them. The Duke gave it a thought and said, “I’ll give you 3 dukas for each, or I’ll give you 20 dukas for all five, if you throw in the trainer.” Leaning into the leader’s ear, the Duke whispered “or I could just tell the Emperor where his prized Kladruber had run off to.” The leader was taken aback. ‘How could this man have known?’ the leader thought. ‘Should the Emperor find out about the prized horse, it could be the end of him and his troop. Kolya was a good trainer but not good for the business, he was too honest. He would hate to see him go; he was almost like a son… almost’.

The leader put out his hand to shake the Duke’s, but the Duke pulled back, covering his money pouch. “I will be back in just a minute,” said the Duke.

Approaching Kolya, the Duke asked. “Do you want to come with me, and be my trainer? I need someone who is loyal, honest, hard-working, and skilled. Are you the man I’m looking for?” The huge smile on Kolya’s face sealed the deal.

THREAT: Threat By Anne Nassar

Word: THREAT
Word Count 500
Threat
By Anne Nassar

There was a knock at the door. She froze, terrified. She told herself to calm down, and stop being melodramatic. It was Marisol. She was an Elder. There was no hierarchy amongst the Elders, nevertheless, the other Elders deferred to her. This was due to her advanced age, her regal carriage, her direct manner of speaking, but also because she was related to the majority of the church’s members.
I’m sorry to show up announced, Marisol said, but your phone is out of service. Nancy nodded. Is your husband at home? Marisol asked.
No, he isn’t.
Is it all right if I wait?
I don’t know when he’ll be back, Nancy said.
Where is he?
I don’t know, Nancy said.
When did you see him last? Marisol asked.
Over a week ago, Nancy said, and he was gone for several days before that.
What’s going on, Nancy?
I don’t know. He won’t talk to me.
Marisol pursed her lips. She looked as though her patience was wearing thin.
In your opinion, is he in his right mind? Nancy wasn’t sure what she ought to say. She knew that Marisol was no friend of hers. But she needed to talk to someone about what she was going through, and no one else had asked.
I think that he is having a spiritual crisis.
Based on what?
Based on…he said that he isn’t fit to be my husband, that I deserve better. And he’s stopped washing, and he’s lost a whole bunch of weight, and he’s been sleeping on the ground….
Marisol nodded and said, he’s fallen into sin. He’s penitent.
I don’t know that.
How do I find him? Marisol interrupted.
I’ve told you already, I don’t know.
Why don’t you call the police and file a missing persons report?
He wouldn’t like that one bit, Nancy said.
Oh, should I care what he likes? she said, and snorted, with derision, He is shirking his responsibilities. I am here because someone has died. His family would like to bury him. What shall I say to them?
Nancy shrugged – what could she say?
You are taking this very lightly! Marisol barked.
No, I’m not, Nancy said. She began to cry. She felt like she used to when she was an undersized girl, who got cornered on the playground by bigger girls who wanted her lunch money, her hair ribbons, her earrings.
Marisol said, If you are protecting him from the consequences of his actions then you make yourself an accomplice.
Look, Nancy said, her voice quavering, I have an onion and a can of tuna and then there’s no more food. I don’t have any money. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any friends or family in this state. And my husband has left me. Now, get off my porch. Go, scare the soul back into the dead guy.
Nancy shut the door.
It was awhile before she stopped shivering, before her body understood that the threat had been averted.

THREAT: Modern Change By Sam McManus

Word: THREAT
Word Count 500
Modern Change
By Sam McManus

“Give it another chance,” she said, as she sat on the picnic table in her peasant blouse and plaid skirt. She was a picture of the modern woman, secure in her demeanor, waiting for the world to catch up.

“This was the third time,” he replied, from his accustomed place on the patch of grass at her feet. With his manicured goatee and skinny pants it was easy to see why she associated with him, picture of the modern woman that she was.

But she frowned at his response. Life was no fun without adventure, without the possibility of breaking out of their cocoons and having a chance to fly. That was his problem: he was way too hung up on possible consequences instead of on experiences.

“And if Stephen King had given up the third time he was rejected…” she began, but he put up a hand to stop her. A soft hand with no scars.

“…then we would have a lot less fluff in the world,” he added, but without a touch of malice. It was the game they played, the two of them, on their Saturday mornings in their backyard, the picnic table as their touchstone. But it was getting a little old. Three years will sometimes do that.

“But we would miss so much too,” she said. It wasn’t part of their set routine, and he cocked his head as if he were a robot hearing the words for the first time.

She shifted on the table, her butt a little numb as it got every time they acted out this part of the play that was their life. There was a silence as he digested what she had let slip from her lips, like a schoolgirl who had opened her legs for the first jock who paid attention. He sat on the grass, cross-legged, his lips pursed as if in prayer.

“I wouldn’t miss the you you’ve become, though,” he finally replied. It wasn’t said in a cruel tone, but the threat was apparent anyway. If she was going to deviate from the script, then so could he. And he had a lot more practice.

“I’d rather be this me, and give change a chance, than be whatever version of you this is, the one that can’t move past tradition, past the past,” she said. She couldn’t look at him as she said it, the tears tracing trails down her ivory face. It wasn’t fair, she thought, that he always put her in a position she had to claw out of to survive.

It was supposed to be their safe space, the backyard, the only place in their world that should have been free of judgment, of latent condescension, but even that had been ruined.

“But…” he started, then stopped. “But,” he continued, “I just can’t call to cancel the cable. They always make me feel horrible, and I have to hang up.”

She couldn’t even look at him anymore. He was dead to her.

THREAT: Laurel Doves Chapter 9. The Hiding Game By Sharon Collins

Word: THREAT
Word Count 499

Laurel Doves
Chapter 9. The Hiding Game
By Sharon Collins

As Mother Superior’s thoughts deepened, the dreams of another sleeping dove darkened into nightmare. Lisette again played the Hiding Game. Alone, her six-year-old-self scratched the dirt, mimicking others she had watched. But her efforts were useless. There was nothing to glean. The summer wheat, which had screened her from threatening eyes, was not nearly ripe. Frightened but obedient, she hid, muffling her sobs as Mireille, of the Gitane, limped within earshot.

A copse of beech on the outskirts of Lisette’s tiny village yearly sheltered bands of the traveling people known as the Gitan. The month of May was waning and Mirielle’s family was making its way to the coastal town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to celebrate the Feast Day of Sainte Sarah, the Patroness of the Gitan. Contrary to the popular belief that all “gypsies” were thieves and scoundrels, Mireille was well respected by the Cathar villagers and welcomed into their homes. Mireille, a healer, and Lisette’s Grandmother, a midwife, had much in common, and so, each eagerly anticipated their yearly visits.

So when news of more Cathar burnings reached the encampment, Mirielle strode off toward the village, intent on helping where she might. In her rush she stumbled, turning her ankle sharply. Although she stopped to wrap it with a dock leaf and a tight linen bandage, she did not take time to brew willow tea. So pain slowed her progress, giving her fears ample time to multiply.

As she neared the village, the ache in her ankle and her growing unease were stoked by the smell of smoke on the breeze. As she limped, Mirielle nearly missed the faint sobs coming from deep within the wheat field. Torn between her mission and investigating the cries, the fire-charred timbers she could now see in the distance made the decision for her. There was no longer anything she could do for her friend the midwife; of that she was sure. Heartbroken, she turned toward the center of the field.

Not much taller than a child herself, Mirielle, could barely see over the dancing wheat stalks. “Qui va là? Who is there?” she called. The sobbing quieted, leaving only the hum of insects to fill the tense silence. Picturing, the midwife’s small granddaughter, Mireille shivered with fear and hope. “Lisette? Is it you? Fear not ma petite; it is your Miri. Cry out child so I can come to you.”

Squealing with relief, Lisette rushed toward the sound of her Miri’s voice. Watching the wheat flow like a wave heading straight for her, Mirielle ignored the blaze of fire in her ankle, and scooped the child up. No shoreline could have held back the tidal force in those tiny arms and legs as they wrapped themselves around her. It was clearly Lisette’s intent to never, ever, let go. Responding in kind, Mireille pledged her own heart with equal embrace, and in that moment, a bond was forged. Knowing the child would never have been abandoned, Mireille turned her back on the ruined village.

THREAT: Perfect Harmony By Josh McMullen

Word: THREAT
Word Count 495

Perfect Harmony
By Josh McMullen

Elodie sat at the bench and played the piano softly, something she always did when she needed to get away from everything. Today, she needed to escape more than ever. People had found out about her secret and threatened to tell everyone. She couldn’t understand how they could be so cruel, so oblivious as to why she had to keep this under wraps.

While she was plunking out her tune, she hardly noticed her friend Leo sitting in the back of the auditorium, feet up against the back of the one in front of him, eyes closed, listening to Elodie’s melody. When she was done, he walked over to the piano and sat next to her. “What’s wrong?” he said. “You only come to the auditorium when you want to play the piano, and you only play the piano when something’s bothering you.”

She said nothing, and began another tune, this one slow and mournful. Leo had been her best friend for as long as she could remember, but they were polar opposites from each other. He might be at the forefront of most things – captain of the baseball team, lead in the school play – but she was content to sit in the background or on the sidelines, playing her music. She slowed the tempo just a little bit, as if waiting for him to push further.

“Come on,” Leo said, growing more disappointed. “We’ve been friends forever. You know you can tell me anything, no matter how embarrassing or off-the-wall it may be.”

Elodie stopped for a second and realized he was right – though, no one really knew that the two had been friends since birth. She knew he had a crippling fear of heights, while he knew she had a birthmark on her shoulder the shape of a star. But now, they knew something not even he knew, and the threat that they now held over her head made her shake with uncertainty.

Leo touched her shoulder and moved in closer. “You know you can say anything to me…I won’t get mad or embarrassed.” His comment was met with only silence, with a frenzy of indecision raging underneath. She began playing again, but this time the notes seemed as unsure as her thoughts.

Leo shrugged, giving up on trying to understand. “Okay…it must be something pretty big if you don’t even feel comfortable telling me,” Leo said as he turned to walk away. He was stopped, however, by Elodie’s hand on his arm.

“Wait a minute,” Elodie said. “I have something I need to tell you.”

She slipped her hand in his and looked up at him with the aquamarine eyes he had admired for so long, and suddenly, he knew.

“Oh…” he said softly. “Me too.”

She sat back down at the piano, now playing happily as he left for practice. Just like it had always been, where people sought to sow discord, Elodie and Leo found perfect harmony.

THREAT: Sympathy for the Devil You Knew By Mike Cecconi

Word: THREAT
Word Count 494

Sympathy for the Devil You Knew
By Mike Cecconi

I went to the K-Mart going-out-of-business sale to mourn an America that has now passed away, no less grotesque in its consumerism but certainly less invasive. An America past where at least the oligarchs and plutocrats worried about making money off your kids in thirty years, not just this financial quarter, this dividend report, this threat of leveraged buyout by Bain Capital.

An America where at least the rich folk who owned everything lived in a mansion at the edge of town instead of some techno-bunker two thousand miles away in Silicon Valley or Bentonville, Arkansas. Mr. Potter from “It’s A Wonderful Life” would be small potatoes, positively quaint, in comparison to this vulture capitalist now, just as lost in the face of it all, teetering maybe on the same snowy bridge as George Bailey, contemplating the finer points of oblivion and hoping to be saved by a Kickstarter drive instead of a telegram from Sam Wainwright, hee-haw, but I doubt it.

It was an older kind of evil, K-Mart, that had at least some sense of time and place, could still co-exist with local small businesses instead of killing them and whole cities along the way to score one more point at the Stock Exchange. I got my first He-Man figures there, my GI Joes, my bicycle, my clothes, my sense of what the world was.

So, Godspeed Herkimer K-Mart. Godspeed stale lunch-counter popcorn dreams, Godspeed blue light specials miracle, Godspeed musty garden center smells, Godspeed to the world that I grew up in with no beginning and no end, that just simply was, but was not and now is simply gone.

Godspeed smaller monsters from a time where monsters at least knew when they were full,
when monsters knew that you could only eat so many villagers, if you wanted them to make more villagers so that you could eat again in eighteen years. Godspeed to monsters with some modicum of perspective, buried now beneath stained linoleum floors, in retrospect, there were spaces to escape the smaller monster then, there were joys to be had in the spaces in-between.

Godspeed Herkimer, once redolent with record shops and magazine stands, now just bad tattoo parlors, a War-Mart at the edge of town and a hulking concrete scar where K-Mart used to be.

I went to a K-Mart going out of business sale, to mourn a way of life I thought was always going to be then I drove home. Past the War-Mart supercenter selling smiles, semi-automatic rifles and plastic American flags all made in China, to prick my fingers and check my blood sugar because I am changing too. I’m diabetic, the doctor says, I have consumed too much too and now I am at risk of being destroyed as well because I could not help myself. I just ate, and I ate until I started destroying myself. I am America in my own way, I suppose, I was really just visiting myself.

THREAT: Pencil By Terry Rainey

Word: THREAT
Word Count 498
Pencil
By Terry Rainey
Sister Mary Xavier, SPC, kept vigil in her black habit while we read about a jumping frog from Calaveras County. Since I’d already read the story my mind wandered to the unique desk arrangement in SisterXland. Three rows directly faced Sister, the “extra attention” section, which included my best friends. I sat in the middle of the other three rows, which slanted away from the windows and towards the extra attention rows.
My friends were straining to look studious, fearing SisterX’s Pittsburgh-steel eyes, her sarcasm and her constantly twirling pencil. X emphasized points by flicking the pencil against her palm, on her desk, and, occasionally, on a student’s head. The pencil’s silver end had no eraser and was flattened, with flared edges. She called it the business end of the pencil. “No eraser?” my mother asked once. “Even the Pope needs an eraser.”
Suddenly, Sister snapped “Herman, keep your eyes open.” Herman jolted awake so quickly that his book fell and resoundingly smacked the floor. X stiffened. She barked a few of her favorite derogatory terms – urchin, twit, disgrace – and concluded with the essential X saying, “Must I Continue!” It was not a question.
“Must I continue?” We’d heard the phrase from our older brothers and sisters. We loved adding endings to it, like “…torturing all you kids?…ruining young lives?…being so scary? …doing karate on your head?” Having the last word on Sister, out of her earshot of course, was pure pleasure.
OLPS legend was that only one kid ever challenged a “Must I Continue.” Johnny Kotapish. Johnny was one of 11 Kotapish kids and got lost in the muddle of it all. Seven years ago, Johnny had blurted, “Yes. Please continue, X.” SisterX’s hands shot up to her ears hoping she and God above be spared such blasphemy. But her arm got caught in her habit and it bumped the pencil, which shot out of her hand, and landed, point first, in the white of Johnny’s eye. Did it stick there? Did he run screaming? Did it stay that way till the ambulance came? I was still afraid to look Johnny in the eye.
SisterX was not getting anything out of Herman, who’d woken so suddenly that he couldn’t come up with a satisfactory grovel. Herman’s obliviousness didn’t sate Sister X’s need for immediate contrition. In exasperation, she rolled her eyes sideways towards the windows, and, surprisingly, locked stares with me.
I was thinking about Herman’s plight and about growing up in the swarming Kotapish household, but mostly about the pencil in Johnny’s eye. Quivering. I was uneasy, fearful, and a bit wretched. I never disguised distress well.
Sister X paused. My pitiful expression seemed to satisfy her hunger for repentance. She’d found reparation from another source and it completed her circle of justice. The threat had been conquered and the world could go on spinning. She cleared her throat, hefted her book, and directed me to read aloud.
Mark Twain could now speak to us.