Featured post

All Nighter

Irene and I are still at work even though it’s 10 pm on a Friday night.

“Why do I keep dating assholes?” She asks.

“Because you have low self-esteem.” I reply.

She glares at me, “I do not.”

“I told you not to date people you work with.” I say smugly.

“But you dated Jennifer!” She replies.

“I dated her after she announced she was leaving in 30 days. And she wasn’t on my team. In fact, she didn’t even work on the same floor as me. You on the other hand sit right beside your ex. How’s that working out for you?”

“Horrible. Why can’t I find a nice guy to be with? Where are all the nice guys?”

“They’re behind the assholes that keep finishing first.”

“What?” She looks confused.

“Because nice guys finish last…” I explain very slowly. “And assholes finish first… therefore nice guys are behind the assholes… which is why you can’t see them… makes sense?”

“Oh.”

“You’re not the brightest bulb in the chandelier are you?” I laugh.

“Assholes like you are the reason it’s hard to find nice guys.” She says.

Nice guys, in my experience, are easy to make money out of. I take the train to work everyday and if I don’t feel like reading a book, I’m usually playing poker with other passengers that take the train regularly. The nice guys I play poker with are predictable, risk-averse, and extremely easy to read. They can also be bitter and passive-aggressive.

But what I find fascinating is that whenever these nice guys I play poker with are doing well and have made a lot of money, they always keep playing until they lose everything. They’re never content with what they’ve won and I don’t think it’s because they’re greedy and they want to win more, the real reason is that they have low self-esteem and they truly believe that they don’t deserve to win. It’s sad right? They believe they’re losers and they keep playing until that belief is confirmed.

“Don’t blame me.” I reply. “You had a perfectly nice boyfriend in high school. Until he started sleeping with his sister.”

She cringes, “Why did you bring that up?”

“Do you remember walking in on them–”

“Stop!”

“And the best part was when they went to Comic Con dressed up as Jamie and Cersei!” I laugh.

“I hope they burn in hell.” She says, her voice full of venom.

Irene and I have a lot of work to catch up on since we were on vacation last week. We were with our school friends in Las Vegas. Our trip wasn’t as crazy as the movie Hangover, nobody stole a tiger or got beaten up by a naked Asian guy. But it had been so long since we’d all been together so we just played cards and partied hard. Irene got so drunk one night that she paid a cabbie with a thousand dollar bill instead of a hundred. She realized her mistake the next day. She’s the only one in our social circle who doesn’t gamble but she lost more money in Vegas than all of us combined.

We work quietly for the next half an hour.

“Do you know about the girl who was killed in this building?” Irene asks, breaking the silence.

“How do you know about that?”

“I came across an old news article when I was googling our office.” She says.

“It’s a horrific story.” I say.

“The article I read was too short.” She says. “All I know is that a long time ago there was a girl who wanted to become an artist but her father wanted her to become a doctor. She wouldn’t obey him so he murdered her.”

“Well, that’s all there is to it.” I reply.

“You’re a terrible liar.”

“Okay fine. Jennifer told me the whole story. It’s dreadful.”

“You don’t think I can handle it?” She looks at me fiercely.

“It’s not that. It’s just that if I tell you, I’ll have to relive the whole thing.”

“Just tell me.” She demands.

“Okay.” I sigh. “So a long time ago this office building was a residential building. In one of the apartments there lived a girl who was exceptionally talented at drawing. Her dream was to go to art school. Her room was filled with her paintings. She wasn’t allowed to keep any of her work in any other part of the apartment because her father disapproved of her artistic pursuits. He was a doctor and wanted his daughter to become a doctor as well. He was obsessed with raising the best doctor the medical field had ever seen because his wife had died in childbirth and he couldn’t save her, despite his best efforts. He wanted his daughter to become a better doctor than him. But she didn’t care about medicine and just kept drawing.”

I pause for a moment before continuing, “One day he walked into her room and saw her standing in front of a blank canvas. She was getting ready to draw something. He lost his temper. He started beating her. He punched her in the nose and her blood splattered onto the blank canvas. Then he said, “That looks better than anything you’ve ever drawn.” Then he kept beating her until her face was unrecognizable. Her body looked like butchered meat by the time he was finished.”

“What happened to him after?” Irene asks.

“He called the police and confessed to murder. He waived his right to have a lawyer. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death.”

“Poor girl. But I’ve heard worse.” Irene says.

“Yeah but what makes this disturbing is that the murder took place in this very building. Maybe the apartment she lived in was on the same floor as us. Maybe her bedroom where she was murdered was right here where we sit and work every day.”

“Okay, that is a creepy thought.”

“Exactly.”

Irene and I continue working.

I have so many emails to read. That’s the worst part about going on vacation, you have to come back to hundreds of unread emails and some of them are as long as the essays I wrote in school. I hate reading too much on a computer screen. It bothers my eyes. I decide to print out one of the longer emails.

But there’s no paper in the printer. Fortunately I always keep printer paper at the bottom of my drawer. I open my drawer only to be greeted by an assortment of stationery. There are notes, staplers, scissors, tape, files, binders, clips, pens and pencils. As I go through the mess in my drawer, I finally find the printer paper, which is still unopened and neatly packaged. I open the package and take out a blank sheet of paper.

Then I see something out of place.

There’s blood on the paper.

Featured post

Lost

The plane has been missing for 86 hours and 29 minutes and I have no idea when I’ll see my sister again.

I told her to stay put until I could make time to see her but she’s never been patient. And now I feel guilty as hell because if I had just visited her when she asked me to last week, she wouldn’t have just disappeared. My parents tell me that it isn’t my fault that Sonali went missing but my decision to postpone visiting her led to her deciding to visit me.

I haven’t told any of my friends or coworkers. My parents are telling everyone they know but I don’t want to deal with people’s concern right now, it’ll make me think about it more and get even more stressed. I was so disoriented this morning in the bathroom that I spent at least 5 minutes searching for my toothbrush even though I was holding it in my left hand.

I hear my phone vibrating as I’m watching TV. I don’t answer because the caller ID tells me Stacey is calling. My phone vibrates again. I decide to answer it and before I can tell Stacey I’m a little busy, she speaks rapidly, “I messaged him. It’s been two minutes and he still hasn’t replied. What should I do? What should I do?”

It takes great restraint to tell her that I don’t give a shit. I’d feel this way even if I weren’t worrying about Sonali. Stacey made an account on some dating site last month and has constantly been pestering me for advice by asking questions like: “What should my display picture be? That one from work or from when I was in Cuba?” or “What should I put in About Me? Can you write it? You know me so well.”

I take a deep breath before answering, “Stacey listen to yourself. Two minutes?”

“I wouldn’t expect such a quick reply but he clicked like on one my pictures like five minutes ago and I don’t know why he’s taking so long to reply. It’s been three minutes!”

“Just be patient. I have to go now. I’m busy with something.”

Even if this guy replies to Stacey and they start talking and then meet up and then start dating, there’s a strong chance that he’ll be an asshole because that’s the type that traps her. I first started talking to Stacey a few years ago in college on Valentine’s Day. I remember her telling me: “Your girlfriend is so lucky. You actually gave her roses and a really sweet card. My boyfriend didn’t even remember what today was.”

5 minutes later, I hear my phone vibrate again. It’s Jaxon Conway, Sonali’s boyfriend of one year. I answer it and he says, “Christopher it’s urgent.”

“Why can’t you just call me Chris like everyone else?”

“Sonali sent me a text ten minutes after she got into the plane last week.”

I switch off the TV with the remote, “What? What did it say? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Her text said, “Something doesn’t feel right.” To which I replied, “What are you talking about?” And she never replied to that.”

“You should’ve told me as sooner! I was at the airport three days ago waiting to pick her up and while I was there, every paper in the world reported that the plane had gone missing and had possibly been hijacked. Then I called you and you said nothing. Why?”

“I’m sorry. I haven’t told anyone else. I’m really worried.”

I turn the TV back on and I hear a news reporter state that some gang has claimed responsibility for hijacking the missing plane and is hiding it on some island.

“Jaxon watch the news. Right now. And tell the police what happened.”

I cut the call and watch the news intensely. The kidnappers are demanding a ridiculously large ransom in exactly a week’s time or they’ll start killing hostages. Pictures of several hostages are shown and one of them is Sonali, looking bruised and shocked. Now everyone in the world knows. Authorities are also warned that if they attempt to locate the island and come anywhere near it, they’ll start chopping limbs of the hostages.

15 minutes later Stacey tries calling me again but I ignore it. She sends a text: “Chris, oh my god. Why didn’t you tell me? I’m so sorry. I’m here for you.”

I receive dozens of similar texts from friends and colleagues. My phone doesn’t stop vibrating and eventually I switch it off.

I’ve never felt so powerless. I get out of my apartment because I feel stressed and claustrophobic. It’s past midnight so I probably shouldn’t be out but my head feels like it’s going to explode. The streets are deserted and I start to calm down a little before a mugger pulls me into an alley.

He throws me to the ground, points his gun at me and says, “You know how this works and you know what your choices are.”

My hands are shaking and I can’t concentrate. Several seconds pass before he says, “Don’t make me repeat myself. Time is money.”

I quickly pull my wallet from my pocket, take off my watch and throw it to him. I also toss him my phone. He picks up my wallet, removes the cash and throws it back to me. He also throws my watch and phone back to me. And then he says, “I’m not greedy. I just need enough to help my mom.”

“What kind of trouble is she in?”

“She needs a kidney.”

“So you plan to buy her one?”

“No choice since she’s on the waitlist at the hospital and time’s running out.”

“Take my watch. There’s a pawnshop nearby. You’ll need more than a hundred bucks for a kidney.” I throw my watch back to him.

The mugger stares at me for at least a minute. He looks at me and says, “I’m… sorry for hurting you. It’s just that–well my mom, she’s always been there for me. Whenever I’m upset, she gives the best hugs.”

“I understand.” I get up slowly. My right knee is killing me. “I better go home now. You should too. Take care of yourself and your mom.”

I return home slowly and switch on the TV. Some billionaire philanthropist has agreed to pay the ransom. Most governments worldwide are against it because it’ll set a dangerous precedent but this billionaire could care less because his daughter is a hostage. I’ve never been more relieved in my life.

Birthday Fun

The clock strikes 12 and I’m 30 years old.

My phone starts ringing. Texts are flooding my inbox.

I’m currently relaxing on a deserted beach that’s hundreds of miles away from the city. The full moon is big, bright and beautiful.

Birthdays are a time for solitude and reflection. Normal people like to party and eat cake but I just like to lie in the sand and watch the waves. I’m always surrounded by people so I need at least 24 hours a year to just be by myself.

The last one year of my life was quite significant. I started my own ice cream business – Kaptain Kold – and finally started earning a legitimate living. Last night my girlfriend and I threw all of my black money in a bonfire. What I love about her is that she’s the only person who gets me. When I first told her what I like doing on my birthdays, she didn’t judge me or try to change me. She just nodded in complete understanding.

I scroll through the notifications on my phone. I’m about to shut my phone off but a certain text gets my attention. I open it. There’s a photo of Nova, my younger sister. She’s sitting on a chair and wearing a tattered nightgown. Her hands and legs are bound by a rope. A handkerchief is tied around her mouth. She has cuts and bruises on her face and body.

Nova’s clearly been kidnapped. I start panicking. I try calling the number but it’s disconnected. Then I receive another text from the same number. The message reads: ‘Her safe return will cost you dearly. Pay us before your birthday’s over if you want to see her again.’ The bank account number and ransom amount have been provided.

I immediately call my girlfriend and she picks up in less than one ring.

“You actually want to talk to another human being on your birthday?” She sounds shocked. “Something must be wrong.”

“Something is very wrong.” I reply and explain the whole situation.

Then I ask her, “Can you trace the number?”

“I can.” She replies. “Give me some time. Paying a ransom that large is out of the question.”

“The cash we burnt last night wouldn’t even cover a tenth of the ransom amount.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do my best.” She says and hangs up.

Meanwhile I get off the beach and get into my car. My girlfriend is a computer wizard. She hacks companies and famous people and then offers to create better security systems for them so that they’re better protected against hackers.

And a few minutes later, just like I expected, my girlfriend sends me the name of the person who sent me that message and their address. I immediately start driving there. Hopefully Nova is there. It’ll take at least an hour, it’s in the middle of the wilderness. A half hour later I realize this is a familiar route. I’ve been here before. And the last time I was here, things didn’t go well.

I’m headed towards a house I never planned to return to. It belongs to my ex-partner, Mercury. That isn’t his real name – it’s just a nickname he was given because of his mercurial nature. Mercury and I used to be drug dealers. He used to make the product and I used to find the customers. I abandoned the business long ago, not on good terms.

To make things worse, Nova and Mercury used to date. So this isn’t a random kidnapping. When I left the business, she left him. Mercury blamed me – accused me of poisoning her mind against him. But the truth was that Nova just fell out of love with him. It happens. Love doesn’t always last forever. They weren’t as compatible as they thought they were. But Mercury will always blame me.

I reach Mercury’s house. It’s in the middle of an open field, with mountains not too far away. I march up to the front door and kick it open. Strange, it was unlocked.

“Nova!” I yell out. “Mercury!”

No one answers.

“Mercury, leave Nova out of this. Let’s settle this. Just you and me.”

I hear laughter come from upstairs. I see Mercury walking down the stairs slowly, with a shotgun aimed at me. I immediately pull out my pistol and point it at him.

Mercury laughs, “So now what? We shoot each other?”

“I don’t want to die on my birthday.” I reply.

“But you wouldn’t mind if I died right? You’d love to shoot me right now wouldn’t you?” He asks. “I knew you’d find me. Your girlfriend helped you didn’t she?”

“Mercury, just tell me where Nova is and we’ll forget this ever happened.”

“That’s it? That’s how you want to play this? You walked out on me two years ago and you don’t even want to stay for dinner and catch up?” Mercury asks.

“I left because I didn’t want to end up in jail or dead. Those are the only two outcomes when it comes to drugs. You’ve dodged both for longer than I expected, but sooner or later one of them will catch up to you.”

Mercury moves closer to me, “You left me. And you also made Nova leave me.”

Before I can react I see Nova sneak up behind Mercury. How did she escape? She seemed tightly bound in the picture Mercury sent me. She’s moving like a cat. She reaches Mercury and gives him a hard push. He falls down the stairs and drops his gun. Nova grabs the gun and fires right at his face.

Both Nova and I don’t say anything for several moments. Mercury is dead. It’s my 30th birthday and I’m looking at my former best friend’s dead body.

“Are you okay?” I ask her.

“Yes.” Nova replies. “I convinced Mercury to let me go. I told him I loved him and I wanted to be with him again. I told him that you convinced me to stay away from him but that I’ve regretted that decision ever since. So he untied me. As soon as he untied me, you barged into the house and he told me to stay put while he dealt with you.”

“Looks like you dealt with him.” I reply.

“Indeed.”

“I shouldn’t have bothered coming here, you would’ve taken care of him regardless.”

Nova smiles, “Exactly. This must be the first time in 10 years that you’re seeing and speaking to someone on your birthday right?”

“Yeah. But I don’t mind. I’m just glad you’re okay.”

I hug my little sister.

50 Word Story: Back to Square 1

The cute girl he’s had a crush on forever adds him on Facebook. Unbelievable. He’s been too scared to even speak to her but this latest development gives him the courage to finally interact with her. His first move: poking her on Facebook. A few hours later she unfriends him.

50 Word Story: Love At First Sight

A family is shopping at a mall.

The daughter and another boy make eye contact.

She smiles and he blushes. She decides to give her phone number to him.

Then her father slips a note in the boy’s jacket.

The note says: If you want to live, don’t call her.

50 Word Story: Hunting Trip

Father and son are on a hunting trip in a forest.

But the little boy accidentally shoots his dad and starts crying.

Luckily the bullet only grazed the father’s thigh so the injury will be easy to hide.

“I forgive you.” The father tells his son. “But don’t tell mom.”