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Fiction: Legal Theft Project– Unhealthy

There was no hiding from sleep. I could avoid it for a little while—with a steady diet of coffee, sodas, and on the more extreme days, Kroger brand “Stay Awake” caffeine pills. But in the end, sleep always got me. Which is probably for the best, I guess, because they tell me that if you don’t sleep you die.

I digress.

And really, the truth of the matter is going to sleep isn’t the problem. Asleep, I dream.  And when I’m dreaming, everything is fine. He’s not dead yet, I’m still making money, and everything is okay. It’s nice to be happy and okay again.

Waking up is the problem. Because no matter what, I do wake up, and always sooner than I’d like.  And I’m alone in bed again. And in ways that I cannot properly explain unless you’ve felt it too—that sucks.

I know it will get better with time. I know that every morning that I wake up I will miss him—but eventually, it will get to the point where I don’t hate laying down to sleep, eventually it will get to the point where waking up isn’t the worst part of my day. But for now…Well, I’ll run from sleep as best I can.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Early Bird

Sunrise was an acquired taste. At first it came as bitter, as Rachel pulled herself up out of bed to the blare of an alarm, got dressed in the semi-darkness of the first rays of sun filtering in through her window, eating breakfast as her kitchen got lighter, and sticking to a strict time for leaving to make sure that she was driving to work early enough that the sun was still behind the low buildings or late enough that the sun was high enough that she wasn’t burning her eyes out while she made her grumpy way to work.

But slowly, she started to notice the little things.

The first she noticed was traffic. Heading to work, she would see a car or two, and that’s about it. There was the occasional frustrating stop light that was on a timer instead of a sensor, that drove her mad, but other than that, the drive to work was so much more enjoyable. It took her less time to get to work, and she found herself in a better and a better mood when she got there.

Then she started to notice the stillness.  Since most sane jobs didn’t have start times until later—there were very few people moving around in the morning. She could look out her window while she was eating breakfast, and with the exception of the occasional bird, there was a stillness outside that made the whole view out her window look almost like a painting, one that just slightly changed every morning as the seasons went through their cycle.

Lastly, she noticed the quiet. She’d lived in apartment buildings her entire life, so she was used to hearing pipes and steps and people through walls. Her life was always surrounded by the busy through and through and other lives around her. But—when your alarm went off so god awful early, most people weren’t moving yet. No pipes, no footfalls, no annoying teenagers screaming at each other in the apartment next door. Walking down to her car, there wasn’t anyone banging on doors, or dropping things on the stairs, or any of that nonsense.

 

So, after months—they asked her if she wanted to move back to the normal schedule, the 9-5, and she answered without even thinking about it. She liked being up before sunrise.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft–Lies (505 words)

He laughed around the panic clogging his throat, but his gun never wavered from its target. Jared kept his hands relaxed at his shoulders, not even looking at the barrel trained at his chest. “Okay. I don’t want to hurt you. As a general rule, I try not to hurt anyone. But if someone doesn’t start explaining to me what is going on, I am going to start breaking rules really fast.”

Riley and Jared shared a look and came to some kind of understanding that Mark couldn’t even begin to fathom.  “Mark. Don’t freak out.” Riley’s voice was low and calm.

Mark laughed again. “Ri. That is not an explanation. And maybe we don’t use our patronizing voice on the man with a gun who has just found out he has been LIED to for a long time.”

“Okay,” Riley’s voice was still calm. “I’m not trying to be patronizing. I’m just overcompensating for the fact that I am terrified right now.  Considering that you have a gun and are very angry at me can we agree that I have every right to be scared.”

“And I have every right to be angry!” Mark countered.

“Yes. Yes, you do.” Jared answered this time, his voice a little less calm, “I understand that you’re angry but to be honest I don’t think that I will be able to think clearly with that gun aimed at me. I’ve seen what a shot you are, Mark, I know I wouldn’t live if your finger so much as twitched. Can we compromise?”

“What did you have in mind?” Mark asked.

“I won’t move. Not even a twitch. And if at any point, you don’t like what is going on, you can retrain that gun directly on my heart and I won’t even complain. But if you could please give me the chance to explain without a gun trained at my heart I would appreciate it greatly.” Jared rambled perhaps a little too fast. He wasn’t very good at the calm and low that seemed to come naturally to Riley.

Mark considered this for a while, before slowly bringing the gun down to point at the ground. “One false move, Jared, and I swear—You’ve seen my training, you know I can get you if you cross me.” Mark countered.

Jared let his hands come down slowly as well, watching Mark carefully to make sure that the movements were allowed, lowering them until his hands were just hanging limply at his sides. His eyes followed the gun now—finally looking at the danger he had been in. He didn’t make any other moves, though, making sure not to anger Mark any further.

“Okay then,” Riley tried to smile, looking between the two men, “What is it that you want to know?”

“Everything, Riley.” Mark’s hand twitched on the gun, but he didn’t raise it again. “Tell me absolutely everything that I don’t already know.”

Riley looked once more between Mark, Jared, and the gun before she sighed. “Okay. Everything.”

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Legal Theft Project

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Dinner (574 words)

The camp was busy with people getting ready for dinner. People were dragging benches into places around the smaller social fires, pulling pots and pans off the bigger cooking fires, and laying out stacks and stacks of bowls and towels for the people to come and get in a few minutes.  Three dozen people all moving around each other with ease. It was fascinating.  I was never going to be able to figure out how to fit in here.

“Stick with me,” Alexa laughed at my shocked face, “I’ll show you what to do for now, and I promise that you’ll pick it up faster than you think.” She wrapped an arm around my shoulders, carefully to avoid the bandage near my neck, and dragged me forward into the throng.

I mimicked her exactly, getting a bowl and spoon and a small square towel, and then letting one of the cooks fill it up with a potato stew of some kind.  “Make sure she drains that bowl, Alexa,” one of the cooks said, waving a ladle in my direction, “She looks like her skin is about to fall right off her bones.”

“Yes ma’am,” Alexa grinned, “We’ll make her a useful member yet.”

“Have a good night, Dearie,” the cook said to me, “And welcome to the group.”

“Thank you,” I muttered more to the bowl of soup then to her, and followed Alexa away from the food toward the many benches slowly filling with hungry people.  At some point, Alexa came to a stop, and I almost crashed into her with my bowl.   She dropped down unceremonially onto one of the benches and started shoveling stew into her face. I sat down next to her, trying to balance the bowl on my leg and keep my napkin away from the slightly grimy benches before I took my first bite.

I wasn’t as hungry as I had been the day before, they had fed me well since they found me, but it was still an amazing feeling to have proper food.  And the fact that this stew was properly warm and freshly cooked—I could have wept.

“You look like you want the stew to have your babies,” Alexa commented.  I didn’t even realize my eyes were closed until that moment, opening them to find Alexa studying my face carefully. “It’s just potato stew.”

“It’s the most food I’ve had to eat at one time in months,” I answered honestly.

Alexa’s face fell. “Right. Sorry. Right. Most people joining are running away from cities or have been turned out by families because there are too many kids or something.  None of us were overfed by any sense of the imagination, but a bowl of stew was easy to come by.”

I took a second and then shrugged. “It’s okay.  I…” I trailed off, unsure how to finish. It had been a long time since I had food or social interaction, and I was having a weird reaction to both.

“I am sorry. Feel free to eat your food like you want to have its babies.” Alexa turned back to her bowl for a second before looking back up at me. “But—Don’t start like—actually trying to have its babies. That’s where I think it crosses the line from reasonable to crazy.”

I didn’t know what to do with her joke, so I just ignored it and put another bite in my mouth. Delicious.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft–Anson Woods (99 words)

Deep within the yew and cottonwoods, the beast waited.  His red eyes began to glow as the sun set, and the darkness overtook the woods.  If you listen carefully, you can hear his nails scrape against the bark of the trees, just waiting for someone to get close enough to strike. And if he strikes, if he gets you, then all they will ever find is a single lock of hair. Nothing more, nothing less, no matter how long they search.

That’s what they say of Anson Woods, anyways. Not even the tourists dare to go. It’s that spooky.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft–Running Away (507 words)

When mountain ranges cut across the horizon before and behind her and the blue Toyota still hovered in her rearview mirror, Terrin’s better judgment gave way to curiosity. She turned all the way around in her seat, staring out the back window. “Do you think they think they are being sneaky?” She asked Alec in the driver’s seat, “Or do they want us to know we’re being followed?”

“I don’t know, to be honest, but I’m not sure which is worse,” Alec answered, glancing back up to the rearview again, “Because if they think they are being sneaky, I’m disappointed that they would send such tragic amateurs after us.” Alec swerved into another lane, going through the motions of trying to lose the Toyota. “And if they want us to know we’re being followed, then they are confident in their ability to take us—and it’s not like we’re easy to subdue.” Alec cut off a silver Subaru who laid on the horn for a solid thirty seconds.

“Hmph, you’re right,” Terrin groaned, turning back and around and falling heavily in her seat again with her arms crossed over her chest, “Disappointing.”

Alec held out his outstretched hand, wiggling his fingers until Terrin interlaced her fingers in his, squeezing his hand. “Are you starting to regret running away with me?” he asked.

“No, God no. Definitely not in a hundred years.” Terrin answered immediately, “I just wish we’d run away a little more effectively.  We’re better than this, you know. If we’d given it twenty minutes more thought…” Terrin trailed off with a vague little gesture of their interlocked hands.

“Ah, but if we’d given it twenty minutes more thought, then we would have lost that whole spur of the moment spontaneous act of rebellion due to love thing we had going for us,” Alec countered.  He could practically feel Terrin rolling her eyes, so he pulled their joined hands to his lips and kissed the back of her hand.  “I’m not wrong.”

“You’re not wrong,” Terrin agreed, pulling their hands back towards her to kiss the back of his hand.  “But the spontaneous act of rebellion due to love thing is definitely going to make our lives a little bit harder in the short term, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Alec sighed, glancing at the blue Toyota again. “What do you say, Ter? Want to make it a proper high-speed chase? See how desperate they are to catch us again?  I bet I could get up to a hundred ten on this street.”

Terrin turned to glance behind them again, then gave Alec a huge grin. “Gun it, Love. Let’s see what this baby can do.”

“Oh, I love you,” Alec laughed, leaning forward in the seat as he stepped on the accelerator.  Terrin laughed, rolled down her window, and waved to the blue Toyota as they put distance between them, before showing them a rude hand gesture.   “Let’s show them what spontaneous acts of rebellion due to love are capable of.”

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft–Letters From The Capital (505 words)

“This is getting ridiculous.” Maggie yelled, crumpling a page of the letter into a ball and throwing it hard against the opposite wall.

“Well, he’s been threatened. Repeatedly. That’s bound to make anyone a little paranoid. We’ll ask him not to next time.” Nan answered carefully, always the peacekeeper between her sister and brother.

“William sent us a letter, in code. When I translated it out, it was in code again. And that was in a third code! Each message took an hour to decode, and then another, and then another.” Maggie was balling up more and more paper, throwing them at her sister’s head now. “And even that isn’t the whole letter! He’s sent us a paragraph a day for the last six days, and the letter isn’t finished yet!”

“He doesn’t want anyone else to get his messages,” Nan offered weakly, “His sisters are the only ones who can know his secrets.” She says the last part like she wasn’t one of his sisters, like she hadn’t sat there just as frustrated as they discovered the third code of the paragraphs.

“Why? What are they going to do with the fact that the orange shipment that he received wasn’t as good as he thought it was? Or with the fact that he got a green jacket for Christmas?” Maggie threw the last piece of untranslated paper at her sister, nailing her in the center of the forehead.

This was the way of the Davis siblings. Maggie was loud and brass and sure that nothing in the world could hurt her—no matter what they threatened. William was quiet and fearful and believed that the only way to remain safe was to act cautiously, growing more and more fearful the older they got. And Nan went back and forth between them, begging Maggie to be more careful, and asking William to take more risks—the glue that held the family together and keep everyone moving forward in the world.

Nan sighed as the paper hit her, but didn’t rise to the anger that Maggie wanted. Instead, she tried to appeal to Maggie’s logic. “What do you want me to do, Mags? The Letter is probably all sent now, all in its code.  I already agreed that we should ask him not to do this again. What else do you want me to do?”

Maggie shifted uncomfortably in her seat—trying to think of something, anything, to demand from Nan now—but she couldn’t come up with anything. “I still don’t like having to decode letters from my brother’s a paragraph an hour at a time.”

“It should be over tomorrow,” Nan offered, based more on hope then on actual proof. “One more hours work and we’ll have the whole letter.”

“I sure hope so,” Maggie groaned, letting her head fall against the desk in front of her. “For my sanity’s sake.”

And for my patience’s sake, Nan added in her own head, getting up to clean up the mess of paper’s Maggie had left.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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