THE DUELING TREE

When I lost the duel, I became a tree.

I quit my occupation as an awkward young man and blossomed strong and vibrant, covered in broad leaves, casting shade upon lovers and curious dogs.

My bare branches in winter sketched out a rounded shape, as my arms once had around my love.

Paces. Twelve? Fourteen? I don’t remember. It didn’t matter. My foe dismounted that morning with the purpose to kill me, and he would not fail. I knew this and slid willingly into the funnel of the Expectations of the Human Male.

Bang, bang. They all saw him turn, fire his weapon into my back. They piled on him, hauled him back to town and tore him to pieces.

I lay on the ground alone, my blood and my flesh melting into the earth. A sweet feeling, like a long, slow dive into the cold ocean.

When spring came, I sprouted through the dry ground.

Sweetheart, you found yourself with neither of us. Hold your new love’s hand, lean on my trunk. I will protect you from the sun.

Let your children run, and climb.

I witness all of the duels. Not one of them is fair.

———-

Posted at Flash! Friday. Requirements: 200 words +/- 10, photo prompt, element required: “man vs. man.” Do go visit and check out all the amazing writers there. Quite a scene.

111

“What… doing? What?” Angelica says.

Dr. Mangrove sits patiently in the kitchen of the Tumbleweed, resting his hands on the table. “What was that, dear? I’m afraid you’re not making much sense, any more.”

“Helping… hospital… it wasn’t…”

“Wasn’t what? What hospital?” Dr. Mangrove asks. The voice hasn’t said anything about a hospital before.

“Hospital… codes… wasn’t there…”

The pain in Dr. Mangrove’s head has subsided, as the tiny mobile unit zooms through his bloodstream and obliterates his visitor bit by bit. It can’t be long, now.

“Sam was there…”

“Where? Sam was there? What are you talking about?” Dr. Mangrove says. He’s getting a sinking feeling, though, that he’s asking too late.

“Sam wasn’t there…”

“Okay now you’re contradicting yourself,” Dr. Mangrove says.

“No, no, no, no… Sam was there, they don’t know, they don’t… know…”

“What don’t they know?” Dr. Mangrove is shouting out loud, now. But; he’s pretty sure he’s not going to get any coherent statements out of Angelica. If that is who she is.

“The orderly… suicide… IV bag…”

Dr. Mangrove punches a button on the table. “Feller? Philo? May? You there?”

“Here,” Feller says back. “How is it going? You sound better.”

“I am better, and Angelica is worse,” Dr. Mangrove says. “Is there any way to pause the process?”

“I’m afraid not,” Feller says. “We’re risking adaptation and losing track of the pathogen. We’ve got to get it all as quickly as we can.”

“Well that’s too bad,” Dr. Mangrove says. “She’s rambling, and I think she might be giving away some things. She’s going on about the hospital, and the orderly, and something about an IV…”

“Wow, that’s a bummer,” Feller says. “Take notes or something. Maybe we can sort it out later. Sorry man, I wish we could do this differently.”

“Me too, I’ll do the best I can,” Dr. Mangrove says. “Drake out.”

“IV… orderly… it wasn’t Sam…,” Angelica says. “Five, five, six, room three-eleven…”

Dr. Mangrove rummages in a drawer for paper and a pencil.

———-

NEPTUNE ROAD ©2015 BETSY STREETER. PLEASE SHARE WITH A SCI-FI LOVING FRIEND!

110

Sam Brubeck spins around in his chair. Outside the enormous windows that run along one side of the room, the Casino stirs to life. The overnight crowd gives way to groups of partiers, louder music, brighter lights. Must be prime time.

“So tell me more about this item you want me to retrieve,” Sam says to whoever is on the other side of the speakers in the room.

“It’s really a series of items,” the voice says. “Fortunately, you can find them all in one place. Because they are in digital form.”

“Isn’t everything, these days,” Sam says.

“We have intelligence indicating that a set of critical codes and formulas have been stored in a non-redundant environment. We would like you to take possession of this data before it is backed up.”

“So this is actually stealing, not retrieval,” Sam says.

“Call it what you want,” the voice answers.

“Risks?” Sam asks.

“Discovery. Engagement with Vertical Technologies’ security detail. Exposure.”

“Those are pretty general concepts,” Sam says, to the ceiling. “Not helpful. Not feeling too motivated at this point. This doesn’t sound like sneaking in to steal some beers from the mini mart. What do you know about this security detail?”

“Very little,” the voice says. “Vertical Technologies is a fortress. But we have great confidence in your abilities.”

“Wow, this is sounding better and better,” Sam says. “I can’t say I’m super enthused at this point. How about I walk out of here and join my associate Rebecca? What exactly would you do?”

The windows along the side of the room turn opaque and grey, obliterating Sam’s view of the Casino floor. Sam now can see only his own reflection, there alone in the chair and the empty room.

“Let’s put it this way – cooperate, or you will spend a long time staring at blank walls in very small rooms on Earth,” the voice says. “There is plenty to tie you to a wide variety of wrongdoing connected with your mother’s untimely demise, some of which carries some very heavy sentences.”

“I see,” Sam says. “Blackmail is fun.”

“Now, our operative will arrive in a moment to give you a briefing.”

“Gosh, I can’t wait,” Sam says.

———-

NEPTUNE ROAD ©2015 BETSY STREETER. PLEASE SHARE! INDIE STORIES LIVE ON SHARING – AND GOOD MUSIC.

Power: Doing something because you can.

Leadership: Doing something because you should.

Power: Making yourself feel important.

Leadership: Making other people feel important.

Power: Pushing down other people.

Leadership: Inspiring other people.

Power: Talking.

Leadership: Listening.

In the first Silverwood book, Helen Silverwood goes from a kid filled with questions to a young woman with a leader’s heart. She starts out confused, frustrated, mistrustful and scared. She has to push back against those who try to make her feel powerless by victimizing her or telling her that she is nothing. She has to stick to her principles and she has to listen, even when she is not sure whom to trust.

Helen doesn’t make it look easy, either. It’s messy and complicated. But it turns out, the rest of the Silverwood clan, her parents and her uncle and her brother, and even unseen mentors and protectors, are fighting the same fight along with her.

Maybe there’s someone in your life who lifts you up, too.

———-

Silverwood,” Betsy Streeter’s YA science fiction novel, is available for preorder now at Amazon and Kobo. Advance copies for review available from the publisher at books@lightmessages.com. Also on Goodreads.

109

Rebecca walks along an outer street in Scar City, sloping upward out of the Scar and toward the sunlight. High rises and city noise give way to a dense jumble of smaller bars, shantytowns and strip malls. Every few minutes she hits a button on her belt, a homing signal for the Tumbleweed.

A beep. “Beck, you there?” It’s Feller’s voice.

“Yeah,” Rebecca responds. “Are you getting this signal or what? You guys need to come get me.”

“Yeah, it’s complicated,” Feller says.

“Fill me in,” Rebecca says.

“Well, we’re in the process of removing a little something from your dad,” Feller explains. “It seems the Bird People injected him with a dose of consciousness.”

“So he’s super conscious now? What does that mean?” Rebecca says.

“No, we’re not sure,” Feller says. “But May is doing a fabulous job now, she’s really something with a game controller.”

Game controller? Is this a joke? Rebecca has no idea what Feller is saying.

“Hello Rebecca, this is Philo,” Philo says.

“Hi Philo, could you translate whatever Feller is saying? I really need you guys to come get me. We have to sort what’s happening with Sam. We both got arrested but then they booted me. I think they’re hiring him without his consent.”

“Feller is describing a pathogen introduced into your father’s bloodstream by the Bird People, and we are removing it using a game controller,” Philo explains.

“That… sort of helps, I think,” Rebecca says. “Here, tell you what. You come get me when you’ve sorted the pathogen thing. I don’t want to endanger Dad.”

“That would be best,” Philo says. “The pathogen has made it clear that it does not want you aboard.”

“Yeah well, the pathogen can take a seat. It’s my ship,” Rebecca says. “Rebecca out.”

“Tumbleweed out.”

Rebecca looks up and down the street for somewhere to get something to eat.

———-

NEPTUNE ROAD ©2015 BETSY STREETER. PLEASE SHARE! INDIE STORIES LIVE ON SHARING. AND, CHEESE.

 
 
DMS