MYSTERY STORY: An Event of Endless Attendance

This isn’t your usual event. Have you heard about it?

It includes all ages, from infants to grandparents. Attendance is in the thousands.

There’s no real dress code for this event. Some have arrived in church or business clothes. Some arrived in medical scrubs. Others arrived in military fatigues. Many are wearing casual attire. Occasionally, some are carrying scripture books like Bibles, Torahs, or Korans. Others are wearing book satchels.

Among the adults, no professional wardrobe prevails, though there are several teachers, coaches, journalists, pastors, and soldiers. There is even one person that might be a state senator.

There’s a list of cities where the guests come from on the wall. The cities listed are rural, suburban, and urban. They aren’t all on the coasts, or in inland areas. New cities and towns keep getting added all the time. On first look, it seems like a concert tour listing. But here, no one is carrying instruments, and no one is setting up for a performance. Perhaps this event is in demand and something many places want to be a part of.

But there are no snacks. No tiaras, sashes, or bouquets. No participation certificates or trophies. No dance in the spotlight for anyone in this room.

So many people have showed up to the event, yet an informal poll around the room has indicated no one got an invite in mail or email. There was no virally shared post on social media encouraging turnout. There was no announcement on broadcast news or in a newspaper.

No attendees told others where they were going. When pressed further, some have suggested they didn’t know they were going anywhere unusual, or they thought they would return home on schedule. They always had before. This time, they did not.

There are rumors outside this event that it isn’t real, that’s there’s deceit at play. But if you stood in this room and saw the sheer numbers of people crowded into this hall,  you would know that there is no hoax. It’s no lie that people continue to arrive, either.

One woman commented,”I didn’t know it was time for the event, but suddenly, I was here. And now that I am here, I thought I would be the last one here. I arrived with others who are similarly perplexed. They thought as I had: surely, we’re it. But every day there are more people who come in.”

She looks around, and swallows hard, then continues: “This space is packed. Surely the fire code limit for this room has been reached. There can’t be any more room to this… auditorium? Is that what this room is called? Or, people will stop coming. But they haven’t so far. It’s really surprising. How can a room get bigger to accommodate everyone? That never happens. None of this makes any sense, I mean, does it? I’d like to go home.”

So this is a strange situation. But maybe the oddest thing of all is this: the highly anticipated moment for this event, referred to as the Happening, is in the hands of people who aren’t even here.

Some of the people here thought the volume of their group’s numbers might make the Happening sooner.

Others thought where it happened might urge the Happening’s occurrance.

Still others thought how young or old some of the attendees are might move things along.

But none of the above has had the desired impact of forcing the Happening to start. Some of these attendees have been waiting over twenty years from today’s times, close to 7600 days now, for the Happening.

Alas, it hasn’t happened yet. It’s hard to know what it’s going to take to force the Happening, but it’s painful to think how many more people will stream in, caught in the same limbo.

How many more people will attend this event?

How many more cities will make the list on the wall? Will there be one in each state? In each county?

Do you know what the event is, and what the Happening is?

SCI-FI/FANTASY SHORT STORY: A Better Country, As Seen On TV

Sid turned off the television for the first time in hours. The Leader had just announced the country had never been doing better. He smiled broadly with arms raised in triumph in front of a pristine blue sky scene and acres of green grass. He declared that he had fixed everything. It was a better country and a better world. Sid found himself was feeling self-satisfied about being a supporter the Leader. There had been so many doubters, but now they all had to eat their words. Look at where they were now. Their country of Aurelia was a shining city on a hill.

Sid realized he was thirsty. He grabbed a glass and tried to fill it from the faucet, but it came out dirty and smelled like oil. Well that was weird. He fetched a soda from the fridge and headed for the back yard.

He stepped outside. The sky wasn’t blue. It was gray and smoky. It was hard to breathe. He gagged and started coughing. He stepped back inside. What had happened? Wherever the Leader was, it was beautiful. But the Leader had fixed everything. So why would it look this way outside?It was a better country and a better world, wasn’t it?

He realized it had been awhile since he had spoken to this mother. He pulled out his phone and tried calling her. Strangely, she didn’t pick up. A strange voice answered her line instead.

“Where’s Estelle Jamison? This is her number.”

The voice said, sarcastically, “I don’t know who that is, but I guess she wasn’t needing this number anymore.” They laughed and hung up.

He was alarmed. Surely there must be some mistake. He tried his sister, Dana.

“Oh, hi Sid. I haven’t heard from you in awhile. But can you make this quick? I’m on break.”

“Sis, where’s mom? I just tried her number.”

“The Leader demanded all seniors be moved to government facilities three months ago. I haven’t heard from her since. Where have you been, Sid?”

“I’ve been watching the Mink news, they didn’t say anything about that.”

“They don’t say anything the Leader doesn’t approve of Sid, surely you know that.”

“How is that allowed?”

She didn’t answer. It was quiet for a moment. He quickly changed the subject.

“I went outside and it was hard to breathe, Dana. Are there fires somewhere?”

“No, Sid, the air’s been getting worse for years. The Leader repealed air regulations years ago in the name of creating jobs. Industry’s been polluting without restraint ever since. Everyone wears masks now and there haven’t been many jobs. Not human ones anyway. They’re all done by machine now. Machines don’t need clean air like people do.” It had all been a farce, she thought to herself, but there was no way she could say something like that out loud. She knew they were listening.

Sid seemed unaffected by her words. He said with a sense of surprise, “So I tried to drink from the faucet and the water’s dirty.”

“Yeah, it’s not good, Sid. There aren’t rules about clean water rights anymore. I use bottled water for me, Laurie, and my plants. Look Sid, I have to go back to work. All that bottled water is expensive, you know.”

“But what are we going to do to find Mom?”

“No one knows what they did with the seniors, Sid. I can’t get time off to find her, and I’d be in a heap of trouble for asking questions. The Leader always wants more money and constantly demands we make sacrifices to show loyalty so…” She was being eyed by a supervisor who tapped their watch and glared at her. Dana really wasn’t supposed to speak aloud much about observations or grievances.

“So, what?” he asked. He still really wasn’t getting it, meanwhile she was trying hard not to lose it.

“Put 2 and 2 together, Sid. She might be just gone gone. Anybody who can’t work multiple jobs likely demands government money for support, and the Leader wants the money.”

Sid was there but silent.

“But he was just supposed to take care of those people mooching off the system. We were supposed to be number one in the world….” His brain went into a robot mode where it just spat out what Mink channel had said on a daily basis for years, as if repeating it were going to make it more true and form in actuality. “We were going to have superior trade agreements and a booming economy….” But then he stopped when he remembered what it looked like where the Leader looked was in his last broadcast.

“Why….why does it look so nice where the Leader is, while we can’t breathe outside?”

“Sid, I have to end this call or I will be fired. No one I know can afford to be unemployed right now. We’ll be carted off ourselves. Bye.” She hung up.

Suddenly it was becoming clear to Sid that it all might have been all lies. Or, at least Sid thought as a supporter, he was an exception to the Leader’s policies. It was slowly becoming clear he was not exempt from any of it. Before he could ponder it any more, there was an abrupt knock at the door. He opened it. Two figures stood in dark clothes and shielded faces.

“Do you have your donation for the Leader?” they asked.

“Um, donation?” Sid scratched the back of his neck and coughed.

“Yes. Loyal citizens pay $500 a month, it’s due today.”

“Is it that day already?” he joked. “No, I don’t have it handy.” Sid was suddenly a little nervous.

“Well you’ll need to come with us, then.”

“What?! Why?”

“Loyal citizens pay $500 a month. You don’t have the money. You need to come with us.”

“Where are we going?”

“The place where non-loyal citizens go. Now get in the car!” As they issued their last command, he was abruptly shoved in the back of a large SUV with dark windows.

“But I VOTED for the Leader. I AM loyal. When did this start? I just need to go to an ATM. I need a lawyer.” Sid was pretty sure he was talking to humans. Yet their abruptness and lack of compassion made them seem like mere robots covered in skin.

“One will be appointed for you at a later date. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you.”

“But there has to be some mistake. This is all a misunderstanding.”

“There’s no misunderstanding. Loyal citizens pay their $500 when prompted. You did not. You are not loyal. You are a problem and you will be dealt with accordingly.”

Sid was in disbelief. “You are people, aren’t you? Surely you can understand where I’m coming from.”

“Non-loyal citizens aren’t people. Loyal citizens pay the donation when prompted. You couldn’t pay the fee. You are a problem.”

“How is it a donation if it’s required?”

“One more statement out of you and we may use force. Being rebellious isn’t helping your case, disloyalist.”

He never thought he’d be referred to with that term. As they drove away, Sid realized that they repeated the same things over and over, the way he had with his sister just an hour ago. There was no flexibility, no reasoning. His mind was racing, but things were clicking into place. He hadn’t seen some neighbors in months. Actually, some in years. His mother had been determined to be a liability and that’s why she disappeared. Perhaps all the people that had been called problems before that had also been innocent, or simply misunderstood. The Leader was demanding money, or deleting them one by one.

“This isn’t fair,” he whispered, but he was clapped on the head with a baton before he could get any more words out. He slumped in his seat.

“Disloyalists don’t matter. Disloyalists are a problem.”

KIDS SHORT STORY: The Bee Garden

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite at Pexels

Dillon was sent to the principal’s office again. This time he had to meet with a school resource officer. Not a policeman, but a retired clergyman, Solomon.

“Good afternoon, Dillon. How are you doing today?”

“I’ve been better. I don’t know why I’m here. Or, I do but I don’t think I’m wrong.”

“What happened?” Solomon knew something about why kids were asked to see him, but asking questions helped illustrate how the child saw what was happening.

“I got detention for beating up one of those weird kids in their hats. By why can’t they just dress like everybody else?”

“I see. Why does he wear the hat?”

“I don’t know. But shouldn’t want to fit in with everyone else? I wouldn’t wear weird stuff to school. I’d get beat up. So that’s what I did to him.” Dillon presented his case as logically as he could.

Solomon responded calmly, “I see. Do all the children at school look like you?”

“Mostly. It’s a charter school.” Dillon said. Solomon realized that this wasn’t going where it needed to as quickly as it needed to. Time to take a walk.

Solomon asked, “Dillon, how about some fresh air? If you come with me for a moment, I want you to see something.” Solomon told a receptionist they would be taking a little walk.

They walked down the street when Solomon had them stop in front of a patch of wildflowers. The town had planted them to help the bee population. Now that it was spring, every color of the rainbow was in bloom: lemon yellow dandelions, pink coneflowers and milkweed, blue bachelor buttons, magenta cosmos, lilac verbana.

Solomon stared at them, then turned to Dillon. “It’s nice isn’t it?”

The boy was unphased and disinterested. “I guess, but it looks messy.”

“Do you think this field look as nice if the milkweed demanded the space all to itself?”

“What is milkweed?”

Solomon offered another example, “That pink cluster over there. See the striped caterpillar on it?”

“Yes, now I do.” Dillon answered.

Solomon looked at him and asked again, “What about the dandelions, what if they decreed the space was all theirs?”

Dillon shrugged and said,“I don’t know what a dandelion looks like either.”

Solomon pointed it out. “It’s that dark yellow one over there. Could the other plants change color to comply with what the dandelion wanted? Would other bugs and birds be able to survive with just one species of plant?”

“I don’t know, maybe not.” Dillon seemed bored.

Solomon, sensing he was running out of time, stopped with the questions and got to his point. “But you see nature coexists beautifully with differences. Everything looks different and there’s a purpose for all of them. We’re creatures on this planet, too, and we must do the same. It should come, pardon the pun, naturally.

Dillon rolled his eyes. “That was a bad joke, but I guess I see what you mean.” Solomon checked his watch, and they started walking back to the office.

“Well how about this. You don’t want to be in trouble again, do you?” Solomon asked.

Dillon spoke a little louder this time, “No, it makes my parents mad and I don’t get to play video games for a week. It totally su–stinks.”

Solomon didn’t address the language Dillon used, that was for another time. The point was stopping the bullying with one last pitch. “What if…you were nicer to that strangely dressed boy? You might learn something surprising. He may like video games too.”

“Really?” Dillon furrowed his brow and looked at him in utter disbelief.

They had reached the office. Solomon said,“Yes, really. Give it a chance, tell me what happens.” Dillon was permitted to go back to class. The principal happened by just a few minutes later, seeming stressed about discipline at the school.

“Do you think you’ve got through to him? If he keeps acting up he’ll have to leave.”

Solomon nodded affirmatively. “I feel pretty good about it and he’s going to tell me how it works if he’s tries being nicer to a child who is different from himself.”

“Thank you, Solomon.”


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KIDS STORY: An Undaunted Caterpillar

A small green caterpillar was suspended from a transparent thread. She hung precariously ten feet below a tree leaf on a breezy day.

She was only just learning how thread worked when she fell off her leaf and her thread spooled her way, way, way down.

Was it possible to get back up? She wanted to get back to eating leaves, or taking a nap on the underside of one before the afternoon sun got too hot and cooked her soft little body.

But her leaf was all the way up there. She could barely see where it was, but the thread knew the way. So she started climbing.

A blue jay passed by. “You’re lucky you are too tiny to be a satisfying snack, and I’m too busy to clip your thread.”

The little caterpillar paid him no mind and kept climbing.

A larger caterpillar saw her and cried, “what are you doing out there? Something will eat you any minute! You never leave your leaf!”

The little caterpillar paid him no mind and kept climbing.

The breeze blew the little caterpillar closer to a spider’s web.

The spider said, “I have a nice secure net full of thread here.” She patted it to prove it. “Why don’t you climb on over?”

The little caterpillar hung tightly on to her thread and waited until the wind died down. She swung back and forth, back and forth, and back, and forth. Then her thread was back to its resting position. She started climbing again. She thought she could see her leaf up ahead.

Two squirrels jumped from branch to branch overhead, causing the leaves to tremble, including her leaf. For a moment, she thought about jumping herself to get the journey over with. But her legs had no knees and no hips, no means to jump. So she kept climbing.

She was getting close now. It started to lightly rain. Drips falling onto her face made it hard to see, but she kept climbing. Eventually, the rain let up.

By now she had passed thousands of leaves. If she had swung on her thread hard enough, maybe she could have got it caught on one of them and climbed off. Or maybe she would still be swinging in the air. She kept climbing.

At last, she reached her leaf. It smelled like home. Slivers of sunlight hit it just right: it was warm, but not too hot. She pinched its surface with each of her little feet. It was so good to be here. Then she crawled to the underside and took a nap.


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KIDS STORY: Pebble

His first memory was feeling cramped. He was tucked into a warm ball with his feet near his eyes. Wriggling around, he discovered his mouth could punch a hole in the wall. So he punched a few more. Then, pushing hard with his feet, the wall gave way. All at once, he was surrounded in blinding light.

A large-eyed, pink, naked little creature was squatted and looking at him. Several speckled rocks surrounded them. Around them, prickly sticks and needles were woven together. A very large, furry soft creature dropped in over them both.

The other pink creature started crying loudly, “chee, chee, chee,” with its mouth agape. The large creature stuffed something in its mouth. It used its mouth to lift away the shells of the wall that once held him captive.  Then it leapt away.

“What is that? And who are you?” he asked.

“I’m Cloudee. You’re Pebble. That’s Mom, she feeds us. I’m hungry. If I cry, I get food.”

As Mom returned, Cloudee and Pebble “cheed” their hearts out. This time, Pebble got the food. The large creature spoke to him.

“Hello, Pebble, welcome to the world. This is your sister, Cloudee. And I’m expecting a few more of you to arrive any day now. I’m going to hunt some more bugs and worms, and I’ll be right back.”

Pebble swallowed. It might have been bugs, it might have been a worm, but either way, yum. He was still hungry, though. He wondered where the others were hiding.

Here comes Mom again. He and Cloudee cried once more, and this time, it was Cloudee’s turn.

Mom made about twenty more trips to and fro, alternating which baby bird got a bug. The light around them seemed to be getting dimmer. When it was almost impossible to see outside, Mom settled down over the two of them and the warm, speckled rocks.

“I need you little ones to go to sleep now.”

“Mom, what am I?” Pebble asked.

“We’re birds. We can run. We can glide. We can fly. We eat bugs. We’re covered in feathers.”

“I don’t have any feathers, Mom. Neither does Cloudee.”

“You’re babies.”

“Where are my feathers? Will they ever grow?”

“Your feathers are sprouting. They’ll fill out soon, I promise.”

“And Cloudee’s?”

“Cloudee’s will, too.”

“When will the rocks open, Mom?”

“The rocks?”

“These speckled hard things around us.”

“Those are eggs. They’re your brothers and sisters, Pebble. They should arrive soon. I’m really tired now, Pebble. Get some rest.”

“Will I wake up in a rock again, Mom?”

“No, Pebble, it was an egg. Not a rock. That happens only once. Now shut your eyes. I can’t keep mine open one second more.”

“I have so many questions.”

“You can ask three more tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mom. Goodnight.”


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KIDS STORY: White Duck

There was a white duck that wasn’t happy living on a farm, even though he was eating all he wanted. He could sleep in a barn on rainy days.

He’d had siblings, but some went away to other farm families. His parents disappeared when he was 1 year old. They went behind the barn with the farmer and never came back. Other older ducks had also gradually disappeared behind the barn. He heard that one day he too would go behind the barn, and he probably wouldn’t see any of the other animals ever again. No more sunshine on his feathers. No more splashing in puddles on rainy days.

And the white duck realized that, for a duck, he had never been in the water. Could he even paddle? He definitely would never fly, his wings were too small and his body was too large. But swimming more would be nice.  And never learning what happened behind the barn would be a relief.

So one lazy weekend afternoon, white duck started walking. He disappeared from the farm and roamed through multiple yards. He quacked hello to squirrels, turkeys, and rabbits. He saw cats and dogs, too; both made him nervous, so he walked a little faster. When it was getting too dark to see, he found a quiet spot among some shrubs or scrub palms, and he nestled down to sleep. The next morning he set out to do more walking.

One day he found a large lake with a small island in the middle. He was nervous to keep walking for any more days because the days seemed to be growing shorter. So he decided this lake was his new home for awhile.

He trotted down to the shore and stepped out into the water. He was slow paddler at first, the water’s resistance was strong. But he made it to the island. Several feet away, he saw much smaller ducks than himself feverishly diving underwater for fish. Another duck with a dark green head swam near to him and started submerging its head in the muddy shorefront.

“Is there food down there?” white duck asked green headed duck. He wasn’t even sure he and the green-headed duck would speak the same language.

“There’s bugs in the mud and fish in the water. All I can eat in an afternoon. It doesn’t get better than that,” the green head duck replied before re-submerging.

 White duck wasn’t used to foraging for food, he usually ate grain from a bowl and the occasional bug in the farm yard. But he would give it a shot. He ducked his head under and started poking at the mud. Bugs came out and he snapped at a few, just missing them. When he came back to the surface, out of breath. Green headed duck noticed his struggling and said, “It’s easier if you filter mud through your bill small bits at a time. When you feel something moving, swallow it.”

“Oh, okay. Thank you. This is all so new to me. I never swam until today.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” said the green headed duck, “but you don’t look like a Mallard, a Grebe, or a Bufflehead. I’m Michael, I’m a Mallard.” A brown duck about Michael’s size paddled up beside them. “This is my partner, June. We’ve been together about 3 years, we’ve had 15 children.”

White duck responded, “I’m, I’m…I don’t have a name. I left the farm where I grew up. I started walking and found this lake. The days seems to be getting shorter so I stopped here. I’d never noticed the days getting shorter before. Is that normal?”

Michael said, “Yes. Many of the trees are going to change colors and then lose their leaves.  It’s going to get colder. I think people call it Autumn. You made a good call leaving your farm. You’re a big duck and people eat more ducks in the colder seasons.”

White duck was surprised. When he thought about it, he recalled it was a little colder in the barn when the older ducks disappeared. “Yes, I suppose I was.” He felt his eyes getting watery. June noticed the reflective look in his eyes.

June said, “Well we don’t want to make you sad. We have a beautiful lake here and bugs aplenty. We fly to lots of ponds, golf courses, and yards. This is one of our favorite spots. We always come back and the island is a great spot to sleep. So, what do you want your name to be?”

White duck thought back to feed sacks he’d seen at the farm. “Red Top?”

Michael said, “Red. We’ll call you Red. We’re going to go fly around to some other spots, for now, but we’ll be back when it’s getting dark.”

“Good to meet you!”quacked Michael and June as they took off, flying over the tree line and off into the sky.