The World Below Damocles I

There were living people who remembered the Doomsday Clock like it was yesteryear.

He sprinted across the street and through the revolving door to his office high-rise.

The Doomsday Clock became an afterthought the day the asteroid scientists call Damocles appeared, and suspended itself in the atmosphere. That was when all the nuclear powers unplugged the Doomsday Clock and aimed their arsenals –away from each other– and towards the more powerful threat.

He checked his watch.

Ten minutes before his grace period would elapse.

Ten minutes to midnight…

Traffic was madness. Not that his supervisor cared. Late was late. The clock on his Supervisor’s desk was his own personal Doomsday Clock. There could be a great flood or an erupting volcano in the middle of the freeway and his Supervisor would still write him up for tardiness.

His grandfather would talk about a time where there was only one fiery ember in the sky during the daytime, as opposed to two. The sun would set and then there would be complete darkness. The other fireball on the horizon never set, and burned nearly 24 hours a day, leaving much of the earth with near constant daylight.

He put his cell phone and keys in his bookbag’s front pocket before walking through the full body scanner.

The security guard smirked at him as she sipped her tea.

He smirked back.

She was cute. He liked her. And he guessed she liked him. He thought of asking her out one day. He needed to think about it before he did.

He was alive too, but too young to remember the Doomsday Clock or a time where countries were at odds with each other. Too young to remember the time when the possibility of nuclear annihilation or mutually assured nuclear destruction was more a potentiality than a science fiction trope.

He picked up his bookbag from the conveyor before flashing his ID to the half-asleep security guard near the elevator.

He heard something about Damocles on the morning news but couldn’t remember what. If he had time, he planned to scroll through a few articles while he sipped his coffee. If he had time.

The cubicle farm looked busy.

He still wasn’t used to seeing so many people so early. Since his supervisor changed everyone’s hours to work at the same time– for lord knows what reason.

He powered his computer before taking a seat at his desk.

What was that thing I heard about Damocles….

He couldn’t remember that news report about Damocles for the life of him. It was probably something unimportant and irrelevant to his day no more relevant than a cloudy day or high pollen count.

Partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Also, Damocles is reported to have moved two centimeters.

Whether Damocles had moved forward or backward was irrelevant. People stopped caring. Even the government had slowed their efforts to safely destroy it or propel away from the atmosphere or even try to study it. The government had diverted their funds elsewhere– he believed into defense. Damocles was beginning to cost too many tax dollars.

The boss was cooking curry in the microwave for breakfast again. It burned his nostrils and made his eyes water.

Another reason he needed a transfer to another division. He couldn’t stand sitting so close to the microwave, and he believed his education was being wasted where they placed him.

He walked to the window to look at Damocles.

He remembered listening to a radio program the past where the hosts argued whether Damocles had grown bigger since it appeared in the sky and that bigger just meant it was growing closer. Of course, there was no way to substantiate or verify that claim. Scientists were baffled by Damocles existence or the nature of it and any time they tried to get close enough to study it their instruments would fall out of the sky or melt.

“Hey pal.” His older co-worker slapped him on the back.

He nodded. “Morning.”

“How was your weekend?” His older co-worker asked.

“Didn’t do much,” He replied. “Yours?”

“Can’t complain,” Older co-worker answered. “Went fishing.”

He tilted his head. “Didn’t you do that last weekend?”

The old co-worker looked taken aback by his question, as if he expected a more vague, less probing response. “Yeah… I guess I did.”

“Don’t you want to try something different?” He questioned. “Like… gardening. Or traveling.”

“Traveling?”

“Yeah, somewhere other than the same pond you always go to…”

His old-coworker stroked the matted white bush on his chin. “No… fishing at the pond’s fine.”

“Cool,” He said. “Catch you later.”

“Lunch?” Older-coworker asked. “I got fish.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” He said before heading back to his cubicle.

He’d had enough of his old co-worker’s fried fish to last him a lifetime. Plus, he was tired of the smell.

“Suit yourself,” Old co-worker said.

“Thanks though,” He said. “Appreciate it.”

His co-worker moved on and he returned to his desk.

He looked over to Evan, his cubicle neighbor, who was playing with his phone.

Evan would normally greet him first, since he was always in the office before him. But lately, Even always seemed distracted by things other than work. That time it was his phone.

“What?” Evan said without looking away from his game.

“The boss will be making his rounds soon,” He said.

“So,” Evan answered. “My magic meter’s about to fill. Monster’s about to get a dark matter charged foot up his ass.”

His heart skipped a beat as his supervisor turned the corner and looked in his direction.

“Hey, put that away,” He warned.

“Almost there.” Evan waved him off.

Their supervisor skipped over several rows of cubicles to head straight for theirs.

His supervisor had a serious but relaxed face and reeked of day old coffee and was sipping more coffee from a mug nearly as big as his orange face. .

“Good morning,” Supervisor said to him.

“Morning,” He greeted.

“Great job on the reports.” Supervisor was speaking to him but had his eye on Evan.

“Thanks,” He replied.

“Evan,” Supervisor called.

Evan grunted.

“Have a report for me?” Supervisor took a sip of his mug.

“Sure thing,” Evan replied.

“Well, can I have it?” Supervisor moved closer to Evan.

“Can you….” Evan put down his video game. “You nearly made me lose the battle, dude.”

Supervisor rested the mug on his desk.

He hated when Supervisor would rest the mug on his desk. He knew it was a territory, alpha male thing to show dominance over the space, which is why he hated it.

Supervisor leaned over Evan’s railing. “I think your reports are more-“

“Shh,” Evan interrupted.

Supervisor stood up as if he was literally taken aback by Evan shushing him.

“F*ck.” Evan slammed his phone on his desk. :”See what you made me do?”

“I’m going to have to write you up, pal,” Supervisor said to Evan as he retrieved his mug.

Evan looked up at Supervisor. “Do what you feel is right.”

The Supervisor took a sip and shot Evan an angry glance before stepping away.

“The f*ck Evan,” He said. “You trying to get fired?”

“I don’t think that matters,” Evan answered.

“What matters?” He asked.

“Getting fired,” Evan answered again.

“I guess you’re not worried about food and bills,” He said. “You must have a lot of money I don’t know about.”

“Is everyone insane but me?” Evan massaged his temples.

He used one of his McDonalds napkins to scrub away the sticky coffee ring left by his supervisor’s mug.

“There’s a ten mile wide fiery freaky rock suspended above our planet,” Evan said.

He balled up the tissue and tossed it in the recycling bin. “Yeah… I’m aware of that.”

“You sure?” Evan said.

“Of course,” He answered. “See it every day.”

It wasn’t like it rose or set like the sun. The fiery ball in the sky was ever-present. It was a flaming, permanent fixture, frozen in time

His old coworker rolled a cart to his desk to drop off several packages.

“Thanks,” He said to his old coworker.

“Screw this.” Stood pocketed his phone and stood from his desk.

“Where are you going?” He asked Evan.

The old coworker looked just as puzzled.

“To empty my bank account and travel,” Evan answered. “The world could end tomorrow… Hell, today.”

Evan walked over to his desk and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t get caught by Damocles doing something…. boring,” Evan said.

Evan withdrew his hand, entered the break broom and emerged with the microwave before disappearing into the elevator.

The old coworker shrugged and moved his cart to the next aisle.

He leaned back in his chair.

Leaning back in his chair allowed him a partially obstructed view –now that Evan had abandoned his cubicle– of Damocles fixed in the sky as a lone cloud passed over it.

He stood and walked to the window.

He rarely thought about what Damocles would do to the world if it suddenly propelled towards earth, or even away from earth. He rarely thought about what his life would, should, or could be like if he considered the possibility that there was a hidden countdown somewhere, and time was ticking away and would one day reach zero and all life would be wiped away within minutes.

“Hey,” His supervisor tapped him on the shoulder. “We’re all heading downstairs for coffee. You should come with.”

“Okay,” He said.

“Now that what’s his name has resigned there’s an opportunity for you,” His supervisor shielded a smirk behind his enormous coffee mug. “An opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Yeah.” He gave Damocles one last glance before facing his supervisor. “A lifetime…”

But how long was a lifetime?

The world could end at any second.

The Docks I

He tossed his cigarette over the edge of the pier.

Smoking was his nastiest habit, but he couldn’t help himself. It’s what he’d always done after a tough job. Especially after killing someone.

The nicotine was starting to ease the jitters in his jagged, broken hands.

“You should get that checked out.” His partner approached with his rifle on the ready.

“I’ll be fine,” He answered as he looked over his shoulder to his partner.

He checked his hands. The blood had soaked through the wrapping on his hands.

“You’ll turn into one of them junkies.” His partner slung the rifle over his shoulder and drew a pistol.

“Been there, done that,” He turned from the peer and walked past his partner. “You found the brother?”

His partner shook his head. “You?”

“Nope,” He said. “I can barely tell these junkies apart.”

“Suprised you found the girl.”

“Me too.”

“Boy can’t be far behind.”

“Nope.

He had to take out a dozen of the junkies to get to the girl. For drugged up and malnourished people, junkies had ungodly strength and endurance beyond logic. His mark nearly gnawed off his hand before he was able to subdue her.

“These bastards bite hard,” His partner said.

“Yeah,” He grabbed the potato sack holding the unconscious woman and slung it over his shoulder before walking the body to his car and popping the trunk. “And they’re strong.”

“We should check another nest,” His partner suggested.

He popped the trunk and dumped the body in. “No.”

“Why not?” His partner asked. “We don’t, another suiter will.”

“Don’t care.” He slammed the trunk closed. “Bad idea.”

“I need that bonus,” His partner said. “Ain’t leaving without the brother.”

“Shit,” He muttered.

His partner would do it with or without him.

“They’re only two of us,” He said.

“Those ghosts are more interested in the next high than us,” His partner said. “Just help me look through one of their nests.”

He watched the charcoal colored smog overtaking the river.

“Just one?” He said.

“Just one,” His partner answered.

He sighed. “Just one.”

The smog reminded him of something he couldn’t quite remember, but he could feel it gnawing at his subconscious mind.

He checked his ammunition before following His partner to the hangars just beyond the docks.

All the hangars were opened and abandoned. No traces of ever being used. Except one.

“Got your bolt cutters?” His partner asked.

He drew the cutters from his belt. “Yep.”

The fog had grown thicker over the years.

It bothered him. He didn’t know why it bothered him. He couldn’t let it bother hi-

“Hey?” His partner snapped a finger in front of his face. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” He answered.

“You keep looking out there,” His partner said.

“Ever thought of just catching a boat out of here?” He asked.

“I mean, I could,” His partner replied. “But never thought about it.”

“Why not?”

“Just never did.”

“Not curious?”

“Not one bit.”

He drew his pistol.

“You’d be sailing to another shithole place,” His partner answered.

“You sure about that?” He asked.

“The whole planet is a shithole.” His partner said. “Why not remain in the shithole you’re familiar with.”

“How do you know?” He asked.

“Should probably just sail out there.” His partner said. “Since you’re so curious.”

“Perhaps I will,” He answered.

“Could use the bonus to buy a boat,” His partner said.

“And I’ll sail to the edge of the goddam world,” He said. “And you’ll ride out too.”

“Count me out,” His partner said. “I’m fine an dandy in my shithole.”

“Know anybody who’s sailed out of town?” He asked.

“What do you mean?” His partner questioned in reply.

“Have you ever seen boats sail out?” He inquired.

“All the people I know are businessmen,” His partner answered. “They’re too busy making money to go sailing.”

They walked along the docks and approached the biggest building on the pier.

“These businessmen have yachts?” He asked.

“Of course,” His partner answered. “Several.”

“Any of those yachts leave port?” He questioned.

His partner looked off to the smoggy sky. “Probably. Will have to ask next time.”

He couldn’t think of a time when he’d ever left Rose City, or whether he knew anybody who had left Rose City.

His lip quivered.

“You got a smoke,” He asked his partner.

His partner shook his head.

“Shit,” He muttered.

His overthinking would always get the best of him when he didn’t smoke. The last drag was all he had left until he got back to town.

“C’mon, let’s clear this place out,” His partner said. “The wife’s expecting me home early.”

“Alright, I’m good to go,” He clipped the chains on the door.

His partner nodded as he pulled the hammer back on his pistol.

He opened the door.

A gathering of glowing white eyes stared out to them from the darkness.

“Alright…” His partner lowered his pistol and drew a picture of their target along with a glowing white vial. “Free drugs for the first junky who leads us to this kid.”

Fleeting Tale Vol. 7

He is clumsy. His footwork is ineffective.

He moves in and instantly eats a jab from the amateur boxer– his much taller opponent.

Five years of training for a fight and all he could accomplish was walking chin first into basic jab-cross combinations.

He can’t move without being hit.

No place to go.

Hands are getting heavy. Guard dropping and chin rising every time he presses forward to strike.

Pop!

The lanky boxer snaps his head back again.

He never sees them coming. He justs tastes and smells the rubber of tall boxer’s glove every time he moves in to throw an off-balanced punch or kick.

He’s hit with another jab.

He wants to blame the art he’s been training for the last five years, but that would be unfair to blame an art for his lack of spatial awareness, balance, fight IQ, or overall skill. None of that has anything to do with the art.

Smack! He takes another light jab to the nose.

Ding Ding.

Jab to his eye.

The bell sounded and ended his vicious pummeling, saving him from further embarrassment.

How could he blame the art. It wasn’t the arts fault he hasn’t picked up any real, effective skill in five years of training. .

As he walks to the sideline and removed his gloves and headgear, he thought about all the awesome practitioners who came before him his Sifu would brag about daily. People he will probably never reach. He thought about taking an art that would be more effective against bigger opponents specifically.

He took a seat on the ground and tool a guzzle of water from his bag.

The tall boxer was holding back the whole time. He knows tall boxer would have made quick work of him if he wen’t at even half his power.

He rotates his wrist.

He believes he jammed his wrist trying to punch through tall guy’s cross guard.

He can’t rely on speed, and what was the point of ox-like strength when he couldn’t even get close to opponents without getting clipped.

He removes his shin pads to massage his sore legs.

Tall guy checked one of his clumsy kick and he felt the impact through his pads.

He didn’t know his body. He blames the art. It wasn’t for him. It wasn’t for taller, more skilled opponents.

He watches as tall guy obliterates another one of his training brothers on the mat with the same jab-cross combinations he was hit with.

Tall guy’s combinations look so smooth and effortless. They are much slower when he watches other people on the receiving end of tall guy’s gloves, but the combinations were blinding when he was the one getting hit with them.

He put his water aside.

All of a sudden he doesn’t feel so thirsty. He doesn’t feel like he deserves water for his poor effort in sparring.

He watches at tall-guy dances around his opponent.

Tall guy moved like a tall guy. Tall guy knew his reach and he knew to stay out of range.

Why couldn’t he move his stocky body around without crossing his feet.

He removed his gloves and completely removed his shin pads.

He is done… for now. No sense in sparring, or learning anything new if he didn’t understand how to best utilize it for his body. If he didn’t know how to attack and move without getting his jaw clipped by simple jab-cross combinations from tall, long armed boxers.

He grabs his Gym-bag and bowed before leaving the Gym.

It will be the last time they see him for years. When he returns, he will be a better fighter.