Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

PRO-T-EN MAN @ Unlikely Stories E-zine!

April 13, 2019

 

Hey, everyone. I’m both excited and pleased to announce that my short story: “PRO-T-EN Man,” has been published by Unlikely Stories E-zine.

Check it out: http://www.unlikelystories.org/content/pro-t-en-man

Thanks for reading.

JLR.

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Equation @ Idiot Free Zone E-zine!

February 7, 2019

 

Hey, everyone! I’m excited and proud to announce that my short story: “Equation,” has been published to the eclectic and interesting Idiot Free Zone E-zine!

Check it out: https://www.idiotfreezone.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=837:equation&catid=87&Itemid=500

Thanks to everyone who continues to support my work!

JLR

PRO-T-EN Man (Spoken Word Excerpt)

April 26, 2018

Hello, everyone. Check out this spoken word excerpt from my short story: “PRO-T-EN Man.”

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and share.

Thanks!

JLR

PRO-T-EN Man (Short Story Excerpt)

April 22, 2018

May 4th, 2099.

United States of America.

Southwest Quadrant, Sector Two.

2030 hours.

The night came alive with the low thrum of dueling engines. PRO-T-EN Industries Corps Savant, Gunnar Eck Rourke—Job Title: Strategic Executive, Rank: Captain—sat in the comfort of his machine; military grade, custom built, and synched to his private neural-net. Molded to his form, the soft seat reclined, keeping Gunnar low as he sped along the mapped route behind a small PRO-T-EN convoy. Though traveling by autopilot, his hands lay upon the manual controls; smooth metal spheres embedded in the armrests, the throttle-ball on his left, the steering-ball on his right. Above these controls, a multifaceted console lit up the dark interior with a sharp red glow. Through his helmet visor, Gunnar saw a green 40 holding steady on his digital speedometer.

“Non-PRO-T-EN vessels and personnel detected,” Gunnar’s neural assistant, Eos, warned in its soothing, mechanized voice. Thirty seconds before, Eos had been reciting an old poem about lost, violent souls while Gunnar relaxed. Then they’d both received an alert from one of the PRO-T-EN Corps Surveillance Savants, snapping them back to attention.

A PRO-T-EN drone had identified an incoming attack, but the Savant had been too busy to launch a counterstrike, or even perform a thorough scan.

“Analysis?” Gunnar asked with a smirk.

“Four human-persons and three civilian-grade vessels, Captain Rourke. Approaching from the west. Current speed for all vessels, approximately thirty-one meters-per-second.”

Gunnar flicked his eyes from the front viewing pane to his primary monitor. The screen projected a neon blue schematic of his surroundings. All PRO-T-EN vehicles—including his own—outlined in bright green. All non-PRO-T-EN vehicles—including these new invaders—outlined in bold crimson.

“Status?”

“Unknown, Captain Rourke. The human-persons appear to be Unemployed Civilians. No data files detected, and no neural-net activity present, viral or otherwise.”

“I see. Incompetents.”

Now Gunnar glanced at his digital power gauge. A green 90 held steady, showing his primary coils at almost full capacity; plenty of wattage for a little extra maneuvering.

“The human-persons are in violation of multiple ordinances, Captain Rourke. A state of Unemployment is a Class D Transgression in all Civilian Centers. Civilians trespassing in a Corporate Sector is a Class B Transgression. Operating a civilian vessel in a Corporate Sector is a Class B Transgression. Illicitly owning a civilian vessel is a Class C Transgression.”

Gunnar’s smirk became a lupine grin. Un-Civ Incomps; lower than the lowest criminals. Gunnar, of course, knew the PRO-T-EN Industries Corps Protocols back to front. If these Incomps worked for a competitive corporation such as e-PHEMERUS Incorporated or In-E-Ware Holdings & Securities, well, the rules of engagement would be different.

But they didn’t.

Which meant that Gunnar would have to follow strict interaction procedures.

“PRO-T-EN Corps Protocol dictates that you must initiate contact in an official and professional manner, informing the human-persons of their Transgressions.”

“Ten-four, Eos. Disengage auto-pilot.”

“Autopilot disengaged.”

Sighing, Gunnar rolled his right hand over the steering-ball, leaving the convoy behind. The incoming Incomps followed—as he knew they would.

“Breaking formation,” Gunnar said, engaging his neural-net to broadcast the transmission. “Un-Civs times three in pursuit.”

A moment passed, then a bland voice returned: “Backup, Captain?”

“Negative. Standby for update.”

“Ten-four.”

Time to be Professional, Trustworthy, and Energetic!

In tribute to its color and design—and his love of classic poetry—Gunnar called his vehicle The Raven. The PRO-T-EN machine handled with the greatest of ease; a hallmark of PRO-T-EN engineering. Sleek, jet black, and flying five feet above the desert terrain, the PRO-T-EN logo—a raised, golden T—gleamed in the moonlight on its hood. The Raven resembled a combustion engine hotrod, but far more compact, and a hell of a lot tougher. Like all PRO-T-EN Corps vehicles, it had been molded from a secret, patented alloy developed by PRO-T-EN Chemical Engineering Savants. Reinforced throughout—including its front and rear ends, making it an optimal battering ram—coated with PRO-T-EN’s patented radiation-absorbent polymer, and armor-plated, The Raven had been driven through every Corporate Sector in The United States, and had suffered little damage. Gunnar himself had seen more combat than his vehicle, and sitting there, encased in this techno-magnificent pod, he felt no apprehension about confronting the Incomps. He chose to leave the running lights off as he raced into the darkness, relying instead upon his state-of-the-art tracking system. The secondary monitor displayed a neon blue schematic of his surroundings, and Gunnar didn’t see much in the way of obstacles. He had the nerve, the weaponry, and the room to operate.

The poor Incomps behind him didn’t stand a chance.

Gunnar’s assignment had been a simple one from the start: provide an armed escort for three PRO-T-EN transports from the manufacturing plant in Sector One, Civilian Center B—once known as Los, then New Angeles, California—to a PRO-T-EN Distribution Center in Sector Two, Civilian Center A—once known as Phoenix, Arizona. Classified freight; property of PRO-T-EN Industries, the greatest corporation in the world. It wouldn’t be a typical food and supplies run, but still, it seemed like a banal assignment. Captain Rourke needed banality in his life, and volunteered on the condition of approval for an Extended Consensual Absence. PRO-T-EN Health and Reproductive Services had already approved both applications to co-parent a child. He and his wife, Melisma—Department: Medical Services, Job Title: Executive Pharmacologist—had submitted their tissue samples sixteen months ago. It took nine months to get the approval, then seven more to secure an appointment with their PRO-T-EN Reproductive Services Provider. Not that Gunnar complained; he loved PRO-T-EN Industries, and revered his Savant Status with an ardor unmatched.

But he hadn’t been home, or seen Melisma, in a good long while.

Thus, banal or not, Gunnar saw this assignment as a golden opportunity. The trip had been uneventful until they’d reached fifty kilometers south of Civilian Center A’s perimeter. That’s when the Incomps appeared, two on Omnert Enterprises hover cycles, and two in an e-PHEMERUS mini-shuttle which had to be at least twenty years old; a real clunker which didn’t even have retractable solar charging panels. And they wanted the PRO-T-EN cargo.

Which meant dealing with Gunnar Rourke.

“Decrease speed to three, zero, M-P-S.”

“Decreasing speed,” Eos advised.

The Raven downshifted, its engine thrumming beneath the hood. Its internal magnetic field disruptor plowed the sand below, billowing dust in its wake. A black blur against the black night. Heading nowhere, seeking destruction.

“Hold current speed.”

“Current speed held, Captain Rourke.”

Another smirk as Gunnar watched the Incomps close in on the schematic. In seconds, a hover cycle appeared on either side. Although similar to their earlier century counterparts, their front forks attached not to tires, but flat metal discs. The Incomp riders leant forward, hands and forearms resting in slots inside their steering consoles. They wore dark helmets with ancient logos, and tattered white clothing; the attire of scavengers. The mini-shuttle, larger than The Raven but nowhere near as durable, stuck close to Gunnar’s tail.

Four dead Incomps, too dense to know they are doomed.

Content to indulge in this joyride for a few moments, Gunnar held his controls steady, and it neither surprised nor concerned him when he heard a sharp thunk! on the portside viewing pane.

“Physical attack detected,” Eos advised. “Zero percent structural damage. The human-person is in violation. Damaging PRO-T-EN property and endangering the well-being of an on-duty PRO-T-EN Savant are both Class A Transgressions. Lethal force is now permitted.”

Gunnar shook his head. This non-employable scum thought he could smash his way in with a roto-hammer while piloting a hover cycle at thirty meters-per-second! Typical. Gunnar had dealt with their kind many times before. He despised them and their rabid, illogical unwillingness to join the Civilian Centers and contribute to society. And these particular Incomps had to be insane if they thought they could engage a PRO-T-EN Corps convoy and stand even the remotest chance of success.

Thunk!

“Physical attack detected. Starboard side. Zero percent structural damage. The human-person has committed the same Class A Transgressions. Lethal force is advised.”

Gunnar glanced to his right as the other Incomp started in with a roto-hammer, too. Through the viewing pane, he saw the brand-new Iron Steed ’99 Series hover cycle, with its marbled crimson bodywork, and felt a pang of regret.

What a shame; having to destroy such a beautiful machine. Perhaps one day, Omnert Enterprises would see the light and sell their stock to PRO-T-EN Industries.

“Would you like me to execute an offensive maneuver, Captain Rourke?” Eos asked with an eager lilt.

“Negative. Hold manual settings.”

“Very well. Remember that safety is a PRO-T-EN virtue.”

“Ten-four, Eos.”

The Incomps kept hammering—

Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!

—and the mini-shuttle rammed The Raven’s rear bumper—

Crunch!

“Vehicular impact detected. Aft end. Two percent structural damage. All human-persons present have committed multiple Transgressions. Lethal force is now encouraged.”

The Raven wavered, but Gunnar held his course. He had these Incomps right where he wanted them, far from the PRO-T-EN cargo, and disposing of them wouldn’t be hard.

Time to dispense some PRO-T-EN justice!


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Show support on Patreon @ https://www.patreon.com/jesselynnrucilez

Thanks for reading!

JLR

Equation (Short Story Excerpt)

May 2, 2016

 

The great machine approached the dead planet with reverence, descending to the edge of its ionosphere. There it hovered with infinite patience. Searching. Recording temperatures, atmospheric conditions, radiation levels, and orbital speed. Scanning for any and all signs of life or sentience.

Just as it had been programmed to do.

In its current state, the machine appeared to be a long, trapezoidal bar; dark, metallic, and smooth. Light from the nearest star reflected off its surface, making it look aglow with energy. It waited until the planet completed one full rotation, then collated its data:

There had been life.

Once, but no more.

Noiseless, the machine began to mutate. Slats appeared along its massive length, and from its center both ends pushed outward…growing…curling…until its ends met and fused, forming a perfect circle with no end and no beginning.

Then it descended ever further, forming a ring around the dead, ring-less planet.

Again, the machine waited; every molecule vibrating from a constant stream of information. Inside its artificial imagination, the machine soared through the planet’s sky, burrowed into the crust, and immersed itself in bodies of liquid. Learning. Knowing. Understanding. It saw how the planet formed—nothing new to its memory function—and how life first appeared; also not new, but very rare. It saw how the microscopic plant and animal life became macroscopic, forming a symbiotic relationship between them. It saw great beasts rise up in a harsh, predatory world. Then, disaster. Gigantic mineral formations slamming down. Falling temperatures, crystallizing the liquid. It saw mass extinction, then rebirth. New life began. Smaller this time; less bestial but just as savage. A dominant species emerged; warm blooded, capable of thought and learning. Hence, this species evolved. In time, they began to build. They began to create. They began to change their world.

But always, their habit of enslaving and destroying each other remained.

A strange species, the machine decided. Capable of astounding visual and written works, yet capable of atrocious violence—against both themselves and the myriad species around them. Their technology focused on communication, but failed to overcome their natural divisions. Strange deities of their own design presided over them, influencing them. Even their growing knowledge of the universe didn’t help. Belief in what the machine understood as non-corporeal, non-quantifiable, and nonsensical ideas fueled this species, and somehow couldn’t be shed. In the end, they overpopulated and polluted themselves into extinction.

The cycle of this planet they in their various languages had called: Earth.

Now, having absorbed all it could, the machine had a question to answer:

Are they worth restoration?


If you enjoyed this excerpt, please subscribe, like, and share.

Show support on Patreon @ https://www.patreon.com/jesselynnrucilez

Thank you for reading!

JLR

Epicenter (Short Story Excerpt)

January 19, 2016

author-1

September 1st, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
7:09 a.m.
On his way to the bus stop, Martin Jericho decided to have breakfast at The Stark City Cafe. The tired old man knew he’d been under constant surveillance since the last incident—which resulted in several broken windows—but refused to live his life like a hunted animal. Besides, it had been almost two years.
Just a quick bite before I go home, damnit. In public. Like a normal person.
Of course, the P.O.P. team in the van across the street wouldn’t be too thrilled, but Martin didn’t care. They could always deduct the cost of his meal from his next isolation check.
“Miss?” Martin asked for the third time, prompting the teenage hostess to raise her finger like a disapproving schoolmarm.
“We’re full right now. It’ll be at least a ten minute wait.”
Would it be asking too much for you to look up from your phone tablet or whatever it is while we talk?
“Alright.”
“Name and number of people in your party?”
“Jericho. Party of one.”
“Jericho, okay. You can wait over by the door.”
“Thank you.”
Sighing, Martin turned and walked to the waiting area. Two wooden benches faced the restaurant, both already taken by customers. Martin smiled. No one smiled back as Martin leant against the wall. Feeling self conscious, he reached into the front pocket of his gray parka and extracted a small book of classical poetry. Soothing, comforting; just what he needed.
Good old Longfellow…
All in all, Martin had a pretty good life. Not a life he’d ever envisioned for himself, but a decent one, nonetheless. He worked for the government as a nightwatchman downtown. He had his own office in an empty building surrounded by a chain-link, barbwire-topped fence. The place didn’t need a guard, which made it ideal for Martin. He didn’t even have to patrol the floors, though he often did for the exercise. From eleven at night to seven in the morning, Monday through Friday, Martin sat in his cozy office, reading or watching T.V. The P.O.P. paid him well for this and gave him premium insurance. At first, they’d insisted on giving Martin an armed escort to and from work each night. But after eighteen disaster-free months, Martin had begged for the autonomy to ride the bus like a grown, free man. Wanting to keep Martin content, the P.O.P. acquiesced. He’d earned it, they felt, and Martin agreed.
“Jericho, party of one. Table’s ready.”
Martin looked up, smiled, and walked toward the hostess.
“Hey, wait a minute!” a young woman called. “We’ve been waiting longer than that guy!”
Finger raised, the hostess looked past Martin. “Sorry, but this guy’s by himself. You have three people in your party, and a two-seater just opened up.”
“Well, give us the table and grab another chair from somewhere! It’s not rocket science!”
The hostess gave Martin a weary look. Embarrassed, Martin looked down.
“Just hold on. I’m sure a three-seater will be ready soon.”
The angry young woman snickered. “This is bullshit!”
“You don’t like it,” the hostess replied, “go to McDonald’s.” Then, to Martin, “Come on.”
“Thank you, miss,” Martin muttered, following the hostess through a maze of tables. Behind him, the young woman cussed and argued with her friends about whether or not to leave. But Martin hadn’t meant to cause any trouble, and wished the hostess would’ve given them the table instead.
Too late now, I guess.
Before this decent yet isolated life, Martin had lived an ideal one. He’d met and married his high school sweetheart, Alma Rankin, in Eugene, then moved to Stark City after Alma got hired as a librarian for the Stark County School District. Martin also worked for the school district as a bus driver. He and Alma loved children, and had two of their own. Dennis and Dianna, who both married in their twenties and blessed them with grandchildren. They’d lived in a beautiful brick house in the Dibert District, the children and grandchildren visited often, and their golden years had indeed seemed golden. Then Alma got sick, and the luster began to fade.
“Here ya go,” the hostess said, gesturing at a table in the middle of the restaurant.
“Thank you.”
The hostess didn’t reply as she plopped a menu down and walked away. Sighing, Martin peeled off his parka, draped it over the chair, and sat facing the entrance. Waiters and waitresses bustled around him. To his left sat a married couple; she heavyset and fussing with their three children, he sullen and cowed. One of the kids had smeared grape jelly all over her face, one had begun banging a fork on the table, and the third screamed for no apparent reason. Resisting the urge to smile at the parents, Martin looked away. He knew how they felt, but they didn’t seem too agreeable at the moment. To his right sat a couple in their thirties; both slender, well dressed, and somehow detached from their surroundings. The din of rattling silverware, idle banter, and smacking lips filled the cafe.
“Good morning. What’ll it be?”
Martin looked up to see a thin young man standing beside him. Flushed. Out of sorts. Pen and notebook in hand. Picking up the menu, Martin smiled.
“Hello. How are you this morning?”
“Busy.”
Martin’s smile faded. “Oh. I see. Well, I’ll start with coffee, please.”
“And for breakfast?”
“I just sat down, sir. I’ll need a minute.”
“Right.” Rolling his eyes, the waiter left.
Guess I’ll just order the special, whatever it is.
Feeling somewhat guilty, Martin set his menu aside and moved his cup to the edge of the table. Trying to make this harried young waiter’s life a little easier, whether he appreciated it or not. Ahead of Martin sat two large bearded men wearing dirty overalls. They looked like farmhands; mean and hungry in the soft light. Martin looked down, reached into his coat pocket.
“Okay, coffee…”
Martin smiled as the waiter began to pour. “Thank you, sir. I’ll have the breakfast special.”
“Sure.” The waiter didn’t make eye contact as he walked away.
Martin frowned at the table. This was a mistake, he decided, pulling a small, framed photo from the pocket. I should’ve just went home and made my own damn breakfast. Or sent the P.O.P guys to get me something. It’s not like they’d ever say no…
Martin stood the photo against the condiment rack. In it, Alma smiled, frozen in time at age thirty-one. Her hair hung in dark blonde curls, her blue eyes sparkled with delight. Remembering, Martin’s frown became a grin. Whenever he felt stressed or anxious, Martin either read poetry or gazed at Alma. It always helped, just as his doctors had assured him.
Good old Alma. Always there for me...
Gazing at his late wife, Martin warmed his hands around the steaming cup.
The world is so cold nowadays, Alma. People are too damn busy with their gizmos to just sit and talk anymore. And they can be so rude. It’s like they’ve forgotten how to be decent to each other...


If you enjoyed this excerpt, please subscribe, like, and share.

A revised version of “Epicenter” was featured in Empty Sink Publishing, Issue #18.

Read it here: http://emptysinkpublishing.com/fiction/epicenter/


“Epicenter” was reprinted by The Rye Whiskey Review @ http://ryethewhiskeyreview.blogspot.com/2018/06/epicenter-by-jesse-lynn-rucilez.html


Thank you for reading!

JLR

Bobby’s Dream (Novel Excerpt)

September 1, 2014

bobbys-dreamPrologue: Daddy’s Hurt

1.

December 13th, 1988.

Stark City, Oregon.

4:57 p.m.

The phone rang.

Colleen Williams looked up, shut the heavy book in her lap.

Great. Just great.

The phone lay across the room, mounted on the wall. To answer, she’d have to rise and walk, and she’d just gotten comfortable. “Always when I’m busy,” she muttered, setting her book aside.

Another shrill ring. This time, a happy voice answered with a cry of: “Daddy!

Hands on her hips, Colleen looked at her son. He sat in the middle of the hardwood floor, surrounded by Legos.

“How do you know, Buster?”

“Daddy,” he replied, examining his toy. To the untrained eye, it looked like a mish-mosh of plastic blocks. But to Bobby, its creator, it looked like a wondrous spaceship.

Smiling, Colleen plucked the receiver from its cradle, and leant back, facing her son.

“Hello?”

“Hey, babe.”

Colleen’s smile widened. Her husband, Jake. Even after four years of marriage, just hearing his mellow voice made her tingle. “Hey there, handsome. How was work?”

Jake groaned. “Typical, I guess. One of the loaders broke down, and Brennan almost fell off a high beam.”

Sounds typical.”

“What’cha doin’?”

“Nothing much. Just cramming for my test…and waiting for my husband.”

Colleen heard music on Jake’s end; faint rock n’ roll. Heavy eighties sound. The Cars? Rush, maybe? She strained but couldn’t place it.

“I’m flattered. How’s my little Vulcan?”

“Oh, he’s fine. Just playing with his Legos.”

Colleen heard the singer, high pitched and wailing. Yep, definitely Rush. Figures. He must be calling from the foreman’s trailer.

“Off in his own little world, eh?”

“Yep. Quiet as a church mouse.” She cupped her left hand over the receiver and lowered her voice. “Now, I don’t wanna ruin the surprise, but he may have a present for you when you get home.”

“Dynamite!” Jake replied with genuine enthusiasm. “I can’t wait. But, since you mentioned me coming home, I was wondering how you might feel if I was a little late.”

Colleen’s eyes narrowed. “Late, huh?” She pictured him there, grinning; knowing full well he could charm the scales off a snake.

“Well, it’s Dan’s birthday and the guys wanna go out for a few beers.”

Pursing her lips, Colleen stiffened. Good ol’ Daniel Brennan. He’d thrown Jake’s bachelor party four years ago and wound up unconscious on his parents’ front lawn. A night out with that lunatic could lead anywhere.

“Danny’s another year older today, huh?”

“Yeah. I’d like to buy him a beer, beat his ass at darts, and tell the crew about the time we went out on that double date. You remember that one, right?”

She did. That story ended with Jake, Dan, and two disgraced Mormon girls; drunk, naked, and almost getting arrested. Great. Now she had to decide if she trusted Jake to behave himself around Brennan.

“You guys aren’t planning to go streaking tonight are you?”

Jake laughed. “No streaking tonight, babe. Honest.”

Sure,” Colleen replied, her cynicism waning.

“One beer, one round of darts. Whaddya say?”

Thinking, Colleen took a deep breath…

What do I say?

Well…

Sure, I want my husband to come home. Of course. I’ve been cooped up in this apartment all day, waiting for him. Why should he get to go out and have fun without me?

But…

I can’t keep him on a leash. And I sure as hell don’t want him to end up like my father; going straight home every day, no friends, so miserable that he can’t stand it.

No fucking way!

“Alright,” she decided. “Spank Dan for me.”

“You got it, babe! Thanks! And, hey, don’t bother to cook. I’ll bring home a nice big pizza. You know how Bobby loves pizza…”

Pizza? But we have plenty of food…

Colleen began to protest, but gave up. Jake wanted to be nice, considerate. Those qualities came as natural as his penchant for mischief; as his goading, diabolical charm.

“Pizza sounds fine. I won’t have to cook.”

“And,” Jake continued, lowering his voice, “after dinner I’m gonna take you out…”

“Out? But—” She’d almost said: But who’s gonna watch Bobby?, then caught on. Grinning, Colleen chewed her lip and waited for the punch line.

“Well, there’s a really great place I’d like to take you to…”

“Uh-huh.”

“Yes. It’s called…The Shower!

Colleen felt another tingle. “Ooh…is there a dress code?”

“Oh, yeah. Don’t wear any.”

Now she blushed as Jake’s voice rippled through her. “Sounds steamy,” she whispered.

“It will be, babe. I promise.”

“Then don’t be late—”

“—’cause it’s a very important date.”

“I love you.” And if you were here right now, I’d show you how much.

“I love you, too.”

“Have fun, then.”

“I will, babe. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Colleen heard a brief swell in the background music, then a dial-tone.

Oh, my Jake…what you do to me.

The young woman slipped the receiver into its cradle, pressed her forehead to the wall. Eyes closed, Colleen stood there awhile, taking long breaths until her pulse settled. She hated to let go of that warm, gooey feeling, but reminded herself that it would return. Oh, yes…later on, when her husband took her in his arms beneath the hot shower spray.

A very important date…

Colleen turned, facing her son. Bobby still sat there, clicking his plastic blocks together with a look of deep concentration.

Ah, my special boy.

Yawning, Colleen shuffled to the sofa, sat down, and heaved the fat book onto her lap. She needed to study, but Bobby remained a terrific distraction. As a mother, she’d hit the jackpot. A healthy son who almost never got sick, and made little noise, even as an infant. Sure, he grew fussy from time to time, but nothing more. In fact, he never bawled like an average baby. Even when she’d taken him for his immunizations.

Oh, God!

Colleen smiled, recalling how her pediatrician had dropped his syringe just before giving Bobby the last round of shots. He’d tried to play it cool, insisting that something knocked the needle out of his hand, and his feigned perplexity still cracked her up.

Good ol’ Dr. Larsen.

Aside from being quiet, the boy also soared in all areas of development. Bobby, Dr. Larsen assured, rated in the top one percentile regarding vocabulary…whatever the hell that meant. Colleen just knew she had a budding genius on her hands—which she found amusing, since she and Jake had both been average students.

Maybe Jake’s right. Maybe he really is a Vulcan.

Bobby, still sitting with his Legos, felt Mommy watching him; her gaze like sunshine on his naked skin. Warm. Comforting. And when Daddy came home, he’d feel the warmth of his love, too. Not just for him, but also for Mommy. A shared heartbeat, pulsing between them.

Come home soon, Daddy, he thought, snapping another Lego block into place.

Come home soon.

Behind him, Colleen sighed, opened the book, and returned to her dull studies.

2.

5:31 p.m.

I’m done!

After thirty minutes of studying, Colleen couldn’t take another second. Bobby had wandered into his room, and now the apartment seemed a little too quiet. So, yawning, she set the book aside and went to check on her son.

What’s the little Vulcan up to?

Colleen found him sitting on his bed.

“Wanna watch a movie, hon?”

Bobby smiled. “Movie!”

She smiled back. “Then come on.”

Colleen chose Enemy Mine, one of Jake’s favorites. Jake had loved science fiction ever since he’d been Bobby’s age, and owned VHS copies of all the classics. His love had already rubbed off on Bobby, but spaceships and laser guns didn’t interest Colleen. At least this one starred Dennis Quaid, her favorite actor.

With any luck, I’ll even stay awake.

3.

An hour into the movie, Bobby heard it:

(Oh, no! Please, no! NOT NOW!)

As if from a bullhorn, the words shot through his mind, resonating static.

(NOT NOW!) it echoed. (NOT Now!)

He stiffened.

(Not Now!)

That voice—so anguished, so unmistakable—belonged to Daddy!

(not now!)

Fading, yet the horrid, writhing emotions remained.

(not now!)

Fright; outrage; pain.

(not now!)

Then, gone. Nothing but a memory.

Weeping, Bobby turned to Mommy. She sat next to him, hands in her lap, ankles crossed. “Mommy!” he cried, tugging on her arm. “Daddy’s hurt!”

“Huh?”

Dozing, Colleen’s eyes snapped open.

“Mommy!”

She turned to Bobby, saw tears on his face, and swept him onto her lap.

“Honey, what’s wrong?”

“Daddy’s hurt!”

What?

Bobby curled into Mommy, becoming fetal in her arms. “Daddy!” he cried, clutching two fistfuls of her pink tank top. “Daddy’s hurt!”

Daddy’s—? Aw, shit…

“No, no, no,” Colleen said, thinking she understood. “Daddy’s okay, honey. He’s just late, that’s all. He’s with his friends.” She glanced at the VCR clock to reassure herself:

6:33 p.m.

He’ll be home soon…

Sniffing, Bobby shook his head. “No, Mommy! Daddy’s hurt!” The tears had slowed but the urgency remained.

See what happens when you don’t come home, Jake?

“Bobby, I’m telling you that your dad is—”

“He screamed.” Bobby looked up, his dark eyes far too intense for any four-year-old. “Daddy screamed.”

Colleen fell silent. Bobby looked so serious, so certain—so adult-like—that it frightened her. What the hell could he be talking about? she wondered, and before she realized that Bobby might know something, her grown-up sensibilities intervened.

Honey, you just heard something that scared you, that’s all. Everything’s okay.”

Bobby sniffed, shook his head. “No, Mommy.”

Yes,” Colleen insisted. “It was either the movie or…or maybe somebody yelled out in the hallway.”

“No! It was Daddy!” Pleading with her now, eyes wet and bloodshot.

Daddy’s not here right now,” she said, steeling herself to teach a harsh lesson. “How could you have heard him?”

Confused, Bobby stared at Mommy. He couldn’t explain how; couldn’t even begin to understand. But he knew, and as he looked into Mommy’s eyes he understood that she didn’t believe him. Wouldn’t try to believe him, either.

“Well?”

Sighing, Bobby released Mommy’s shirt.

“See?” Colleen said, cradling him. “Everything’s okay.”

And even though he knew otherwise, Bobby felt better. The warmth of Mommy’s embrace soothed him. So he decided to be quiet until Daddy came home, or news of the Bad Thing arrived.

Thank God.

Disturbed and anxious, Colleen tried to focus on the movie…but to no avail. She’d seen Enemy Mine too many times.

Been there, done that.

Now where the fuck are you, Jake?

Still curled in Mommy’s lap, Bobby tried to sleep…but the phantom outburst returned; echoing, keeping him awake.

Keeping him petrified:

(not now!)

(not now!)

(not now!)

4.

7:35 p.m.

Colleen stared at the digital clock, and in the short eternity between seven thirty-five and seven thirty-six, she grew very concerned:

Goddamnit…where is he? Why doesn’t he at least call?

Enemy Mine had ended. In its place, a banal game show, unwatched by either Colleen or Bobby. Colleen hadn’t left the sofa, and Bobby still lay in her lap. The living room had grown dark, bathed in the TV screen’s soft glow. Colleen would’ve gotten up and turned on a lamp, but that would’ve meant disturbing Bobby; perhaps upsetting him again.

‘One beer, one round of darts’ my ass! You’d better get home quick, babe. You’d better be sober, and you’d better have a good fucking excuse for freaking your son out and making me worry…

This is bullshit!

Ninety percent bluster, of course. But sitting in the shadows, wondering about Jake, had gotten scary.

Oh, how she wished Bobby hadn’t put that horrible thought in her mind:

Daddy’s hurt.

Now it didn’t seem so foolish.

“Damnit, Jake!” she whispered, remembering Bobby’s panic-stricken voice:

He screamed.

Daddy screamed.

But then it clicked. If Bobby hadn’t been on her lap, she would’ve face-palmed in disgust. The answer had been right there all along. Dan Brennan. Good ol’ Dan, Captain of the Midnight Streakers Club. This had to be all his fault. He and Jake must’ve started drinking, telling stories, and now, well, who knew what they’d gotten up to?

Well, let them have their fun. Colleen couldn’t stay mad at Jake.

But she wanted to strangle Dan.

Oh yeah, Danny-boy…you and me are gonna have words. You and me are gonna—

The phone rang.

Colleen scooped Bobby off her lap and rushed over, bare feet slapping the wood floor. Behind her, Bobby uncurled himself. He watched, serious and expectant, as she ripped the receiver from its cradle.

Hello?

Heart sputtering, Colleen flicked on the light.

“Colleen?”

A man’s voice; not Jake’s. Panic rose up in a cold wave.

“Yes! Who’s this?”

A deep sigh, then, “It’s Dan.”

Finally!

“Where’s Jake?”

Dan’s voice broke into wet sobs. “Oh, Christ…I’m so sorry!

“Dan? Where’s Jake, Dan?” Screaming now; growing hysterical. “You tell me what’s going on, right now!”

“There was an accident—”

Accident?

“Punks, Colleen. Goddamn punks. They…stole a car. Ran a red light. Hit us in the intersection…”

Shit!” Colleen gasped. “Are you alright? What about Jake?

“I’m at the hospital. The Camaro’s total—”

Another gasp. “Put Jake on the phone!

“That’s the thing, Colleen. Jake didn’t…uh…he didn’t—”

OH, MY GOD!

Before Dan could finish, Colleen threw the phone down. For a few horrible minutes nothing mattered; not even her son. Grimacing, convulsing with tears, she pressed her hands to her face and slid down the wall behind her.

NO! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING! JAKE, GODDAMNIT! JAKE, COME HOME!

Quiet and morose, Bobby watched Mommy unravel from the sofa.

JAKE! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?

By the time Mommy sank to the floor, he’d lapsed into tears with her.

JAAAKE!

Bawling, because he’d been right.

Daddy screamed.

GODDAMNIT!

Daddy was hurt.

NO, NO, NOOO!

And now—

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

Daddy’s never coming home again.

5.

11:43 p.m.

Colleen and Bobby lie in bed, both exhausted. She hugs him close, and he curls into a ball of soft flesh. This ordeal has been unbearable. The future, once so bright and full of love, now seems cold, bleak, and empty.

Neither knows what lies ahead.

Both are plagued with abstract fear.

Fading, Colleen kisses her son. The reality of Jake’s death is still new and horrible, but at least she has Bobby. And lying there, holding him, an unanswered question weighs heavy on her mind. Something she’d meant to ask hours ago, before the police arrived. Before she’d been asked to identify her husband’s mangled remains at the morgue.

“Bobby?” she whispers, unable to wait any longer.

“Bobby…how did you know?”

A moment passes.

Colleen feels the gentle rise and fall of her son’s chest, and knows that he’s asleep. The moment’s lost, and in the coming days, with so much hardship, the question will slip from her harrowed mind.

Eyes closing, she sighs.

The morgue…

…that…was…the worst…

Beaten, Colleen gives herself to gentle slumber.

On this night, there are no bad dreams.


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“Bobby’s Dream” is available in paperback and digital formats here:

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Thank you for reading!

JLR


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