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The water roared in distaste for what was in its path. It came quickly, too quickly to outrun and too quickly to outwit. Some tried to swim, but their fragile bodies were no match for the jutting debris. The wave shattered the sliding glass door of her living room and swept her down the hallway. She tried to grab the banister, but the dominant current slammed her into the back wall instead. She stopped fighting. Then the current reversed.


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His lungs stung with each inhalation. His chest constricted, refusing to take the air that caused the pain, though this refusal intensified the attack. He stopped running and stood on the side of the road doubled over, his legs nearly buckling beneath him. She came to put a hand on his shoulder, murmured something about turning around. He waved her off. He could keep going. He had to keep going.


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Outside the tent, the air was fresh and crisp, tumbled and laundered by the nearby ocean. Inside the tent, the scent of her shampoo still lingered. Gradually though, the mesh window filtered the pungent seaweed and fish and salt from the breeze. The scents intermingled, and soon the ocean had washed away the shampoo. She would smell the sea for the rest of her trip. She could not say the same of the shampoo.


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"Come with me. I want to show you something." She had never been on campus so late at night and found it difficult to navigate. The path was poorly lit and each darkened building they passed was indistinguishable from the previous one. They were walking in circles, she was sure of it. When she slowed, unable to see where to step next, he took her hand. She needed to feel safe and he sensed that.


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As she nervously spun the earring between her thumb and index finger, the back of the stud fell to the floor. She heard the small piece of platinum bounce twice on the wood and then vanish. She dropped to her knees in a frantic search. She was so focused on finding the missing part that she failed to hear the door chime open. It was not until his freshly polished shoes appeared beneath her nose that she noticed he had arrived.


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In front of her on the coffee table sat the small wooden box. She tried to lift the lid, but the rusty hinges resisted. It took a screwdriver retrieved from the kitchen drawer to pry it open and reveal the watch. She twisted the knob on the side of the gold face, and lifted it to her ear. The gears did not spin, the hands stayed quiet and frozen at a time alluded to only by the words stamped on the underside of the watch's leather band.


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The frigid air took root in him, maliciously infiltrating his blood and immobilizing his joints. Sharp electric pains emanated from every appendage, his circulation retreating to his core. And then a breach in the circuit as whole body parts went numb. He lay still in his seat, his eyelids too heavy to lift, weighed down by ice that had formed on his lashes, an ice that mirrored the crystals forming on the inside of the windshield.


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He sped through traffic, weaving between cars, changing to whatever lane looked to be moving the fastest. He could not believe he lost the letter. He had set it on the table to retrieve his keys from his coat pocket, and in that split second, forgot it there. He yelled angrily at the road ahead, he yelled angrily at himself. A sea of brake lights glowed in front of him. He dialed her cell phone again. Still no answer.


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She had to turn the key three times before the engine turned over. Overnight, a thick layer of moisture had compiled on the side mirrors and each window. Her wipers cleared the windshield, but she was blind in the other directions. She thought she could back out of the driveway without issue. She would put the car in reverse, keep the steering wheel straight, and slowly roll into the street, just as she had done a thousand times before.


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He was a quick learner, never making the same mistake twice. Although, despite his greatest efforts, his list of mistakes kept growing. If only they would tell him the rules so he would know what to do. But that was how this whole thing worked. That was how they maintained power. Yesterday's ambush had left his inventory depleted too early. He dreaded paying the price of that mistake again.


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She had spent the night curled in a fetal position on two armless chairs married together to create some semblance of a sofa. A nurse had brought her a blanket, though it did little to keep out the cold of the room and of the situation. Still, as morning approached, she had heard nothing. She sat up and a sharp pain shot through her shoulder. Only then did she notice the other woman, sleeping awkwardly in a chair on the opposite side of the room.


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The man in the thinly rimmed glasses was pacing the sidewalk in front of the cafe. He was waiting, he was strategizing, he was watching from the corner of his eye the woman sitting near the front window. When he noticed her packing her things, he stopped, and stared at her through the glass. She struggled to stuff a thick manila envelope into her bag. She caught him staring and consequently hurried toward the back door.


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She refused to spend the money. The cash in her hands burned her palms, the padded account balance churned her stomach. Using it felt like a justification, but there would never be any justification. She had already lost too much sleep, she had moved to a new town, she had even changed her name. But the money always followed. She needed to rid herself of its burden. She would be better off. They would all be better off.


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The excessive fabrics spilled over her limbs, concealing any form or lack of form she may have. She guided the fragile-looking man into the small room, directing him to the sofa. His white hair stood up from his scalp and blended in with the long grasses of the framed prints hanging low on the wall behind him. The prints, a triptych of spring meadows, existed as an attempt to calm, but all too often that attempt failed.


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She had tossed the take-out container but the car still rank of wilted cilantro, browning guacamole, and burnt beans. She picked up crumpled napkins and torn wrappers, and then relied on the vacuum to remove the remaining layer of dirt from the floor mats. When she stuck the tip of the hose beneath the passenger seat, she heard the suction cease. Blocking the air was an unopened envelope. Her eyes widened when she saw the return address.


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The sun was burning a hole in his back. He felt the fibers of his shirt shriveling away in a singed submission. His skin wore a layer of moisture beneath his clothes, and beads of sweat kept dripping from the tip of his nose onto the excavation site. The weather was the one part of his job that he despised. There was either too much sun, too much wind, too much rain, or too much snow. Today was the sun’s turn to make his job difficult.


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The radio had played static for the last thirty miles, but at this point, any noise was better than no noise. Ever so often the lines on the road would blur. He would briefly squeeze his eyes together as tightly as possible and then slap himself across the cheek. This bought him another five or so minutes. He could not afford another late delivery. Then the engine sputtered and one of his tires exploded in a deafening blow beneath his seat.


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She watched each minute of the first hour tick away slowly and painfully. The second hour she spent doing lunges across her long narrow apartment. During the third hour, she thoroughly scrubbed and disinfected every surface, from floors to counters to walls. The fourth hour gave way to new furniture arrangements and four bags of clothes to donate from a freshly organized closet. It was now the fifth hour and she still could not sleep.


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The dryer was hypnotic. She looked forward to that twenty-seven minutes, her mind locked in by the cycle, but free from everything else. The bell on the front door broke her trance. A man, weathered and deep in conversation with no one, walked to the far end of the laundromat. He undressed down to a worn t-shirt and boxer shorts, and stuffed his heavy layers into a washer for their monthly rinse.


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Every doctor she had consulted wrote it off as chronophobia and prescribed pills for the anxiety. She had found the man’s address online. It took three rings of the doorbell before he opened the door.
"It's moving too fast," she said as she stumbled inside.
"What’s moving too fast?" the man asked.
"Time." She felt the room spin. "I need you to make it stop."
"What? Time?"
"Yes, time. Make it stop."
"Are you sure?"


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He was uncomfortable. Someone had turned on the air conditioning. Cold air penetrated the thin blanket that concealed him, and he could feel each hair follicle on his legs painfully standing on end. A nurse was in the hallway updating his doctor. She kept using the word unresponsive. He tried to get their attention. He screamed, but his lips never parted. He kicked erratically, but his legs remained dead weights on the mattress.


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He could not believe he was sitting on the front step waiting for a cab. Enraged, he used the closest flower pot as a convenient projectile. It shattered against the fence, the pickets sifting shards from soil. He caught a flash of yellow rounding the corner. He met the cab on the street. He had no desire to linger. "Airport," he said to the driver. "Do you have bags, Sir?" the driver asked. "No," he replied. "Just drive."


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Yesterday, the cashier asked about his scar. He was elated to share the story of the collapsed scaffolding. "It was a year ago. I'm sure you heard of it. I was on the local news!" The cashier shook her head. The day before, he told the waitress at the cafe of his valiant effort to fend off a rabid dog. He has told stories of muggers, grenades, chainsaws, and even a crocodile. He has told every story he could think of, every story but the truth.


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On his first day, a box containing a stapler, two pens, and a cactus was waiting for him in his cubicle. A small note taped to the cactus pot said, "Smile, you won't be here forever." Hopeful, he had placed the cactus on the desk and the supplies in the drawer. Ten years later, the supplies still sit in his drawer, and the cactus still sits on his desk, only he had scratched out the word Smile and replaced won't with will.


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In the evenings, she would sit in the worn wingback chair by the window, an unfinished quilt on her lap, needle and thread in her hand. With her husband at sea for weeks on end, she would stitch to pass the time. The needle pierced the fabric as his boat did the waves. Over and under, around and safely through. He would return when the quilt was complete. He always had before and she refused to think otherwise.


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She had pretended to faint. They had placed her face up on a gurney and were rolling her down the corridor. With her eyes closed, her lids glowed under each passing light. Seconds passed in darkness and then the glow appeared again. She kept track of this light, counting fourteen illuminations. Then her lids glowed green. This was the exit sign. This knowledge was priceless.


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Fear drew passengers to their windows. With oxygen masks strapped to their faces, they stared through the layers of plastic and glass, their eyes begging for a clear stretch of land. A rush of futility swept through the cabin. Mountains pierced the sky for miles, an endless pine forest filled the valleys. Hands gripped the armrests, heads pressed firmly against the backs of their seats. Then the overhead lights went dark.


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The desk was riddled with glitter glues and regular glues, dried-out markers, dull pencils, and broken crayons. There was a drawer for colored paper and a drawer for scraps, but neither was distinguishable as such. She plunged a paint brush into the blue paint, and flung it onto the paper. Strokes of red, orange, purple and green already covered the surface. With infinite vision, her imagination soared. She was the masterpiece.


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My father was arrested on casserole night. We had just sat down at the dining table, the walnut shone with a coat of fresh oil. Baked tuna and milk wafted from the orange rectangular stoneware that served as our centerpiece. My mother was holding my father's hand to say grace when we heard the knock. I remember his eyes. He knew who was at the door before my mother opened it. I have not eaten a casserole since.

PS 365 2012 Disclaimer:
All stories written for this blog's 2012 project are works of fiction.
Thanks for reading and have a happy day!


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I will die on a Thursday morning, 6:12 a.m. to be exact. Eighty-four years to the day, hour, minute at which I was born. My mother did not know this date when she gave birth to me in the gas station bathroom just off the Interstate. She did not know ahead of time the day of her own death. I long for those innocent days. But the world has changed. There is no way to unlearn my fateful date. Knowing has changed everything.


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The brass burned his palm as he spun the door knob. He squinted, fresh autumn air blasted his face. He felt the hairs of his nose disintegrate. His hands cupped his ears, the noise of the passing cars perforating his ear drums. Then he stumbled back into the foyer, kicking the door shut in the process. The timer read twenty-four seconds. He was proud of this time. Now he could relax, not having to try again until tomorrow.