If you are new to the SDS Challenge, a little background.
Three writers will each write one story a month going down the list of deadly sins. The stories can be anywhere from 666 words to 6,666 words in length, although those numbers are not set in stone. If ambitious, the writers will provide accompanying graphics. These stories will not be anonymous because some writers may want to use the same characters for each story and write a series — or book — encompassing all seven sins. Finally, interpretation of the titular sin is up to the writer. Meaning, each ‘sin’ can take multiple forms.
The sixth set of stories cover the sin of Pride. This is the offering by R. G. Broxson.
Disclaimer: The writing challenge has no restrictions and the stories will likely span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG-rating range with a few perhaps pushing into the soft R-rating. Some readers might find a few of the stories disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, and if so, stop reading and move on.
Pride and Joy
Copyright 2021 — R. G. Broxson
(5,130 words – approx. reading time: about 19 minutes based on 265 WPM)
Nurses on the 13th floor chatted in hushed tones of death, drugs, and dreamy doctors in the buffed hallways outside Percy Johnson’s hospital room door which often remained half-cracked. The nearby elevator dinged; the green Star Trek-ish triangle at the top corner lit up. Ray listened intently. The doors did not open with the trademark Star Trek whoosh; it was more of an old-school mechanical whine and a clunk.
The results, however, were the same: someone entered, someone departed, Ray thought as he sat in the straight-back chair in the chilly room. A hospital is a place for comings and goings, while others, like him, waited…and watched as he had for nearly 50 years. Ray thought about these triflings, as he had little else to do.
Ray saw his job as simple that night; he would stand guard and keep Death away from his granddaughter, his pride and joy. The girl Percy was stricken, (smitten, his Old-Testament mother would have said) with leukemia. At the emerging age of 13, she had started her period. At the time Percy had secretly celebrated this milestone with her mother. The bleeding, however, refused to stop. Two bloody tubs and an ambulance later, the doctors diagnosed leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow—prognosis grim.
The girl Percy half-opened her eyes. He stood there again, like almost every night—Death. He waited with the patience of the pyramids. Percy did not hate him, nor did she welcome the dark thing at the foot of her bed. She only accepted his presence as a girl accepts periods in adolescence, or crow’s feet with middle age—grudgingly.
Percy’s Demerol-glazed eyes shaped and reshaped the visiting shadow. She saw Him in many forms as the medley of medications dripped into her IV. He was a clown with a balloon, an angel with raven wings; and the tall hooded figure, large and looming, ever eager, yet preternaturally patient. “Now?” she asked the shifting shadow, half-hoping He would say yes.
“No, Baby. Not now.” A real, solid, even darker figure stepped through the foggy gauze of Death, dispersing its glamour into smoky tendrils. This lanky, angular figure wore a bulky, black, faux-leather jacket and an oversized ball cap decorated with ribbons and writing—’Vietnam Vet’ it announced in gold embroidery. A multi-striped ribbon of green, yellow, and red beamed beneath the bowed letters.
“Where’s Momma?” the girl asked.
“Your mother stepped out for a bit, but she’s just down the hall. She really needed a good night’s sleep. Been at your side four days and nights straight now, like a mother hen with her chick.”
“What about you, Grandpa. Don’t you need to sleep?”
Ray smiled at his granddaughter, revealing gapped and tarnished teeth. “I’ll be sleeping plenty when my time come. You need to know, Miss Percy, I won’t never leave my pride and joy.”
Percy considered his answer, then attempted her own weak smile. “Momma’s not here,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Tell me the story.”
“And what story is that, young lady?” Ray asked, glancing around the room.
“You know, Grandpa. The one you were telling Daddy the other night. I missed most of it when they gave me that shot—ouch!” she remembered.
“Oh, that story. Well, I guess it’d be all right, and it ought to be told—but just between you and me… right?”
“And Rosey,” Percy, a little old for dolls, pulled her black Raggedy Ann close.
“And Miss Rosey,” Ray poked the tummy of the stuffed doll with a gnarled finger. Percy giggled for her.
“Alright, Baby. I’ll try to keep it PG, wouldn’t want you having bad dreams.” Ray relived and re-dreamed these long ago events every night—the rare nights he actually slept. He skootched up onto the edge of Percy’s hospital bed and took a deep breath.
“Like I was telling your Papa the other night: I was born in Alabama, a long time ago. Things was different then. You may have read about the Old South in your history books.” Percy nodded, not wanting to interrupt. “The day I turned 18, I up and left my papa’s peanut farm; I haven’t eaten a single nut since that day. My papa had inherited the farm from his pappy, and his pappy had inherited it from a slave owner with a guilty conscience. My Grandpa Ivan Johnson had plowed up that cursed cotton field and replanted peanuts. Said he got the idea from George Washington Carver himself.
It was the 1960s when I lit out and there weren’t much in the way of jobs or opportunities for a black man. That was, until my Uncle Sam found out I had hit 18 and was working as a dishwasher and not tending college. He somehow found me in that little shotgun apartment in Atlanta. My Uncle sent me a draft notice and I took him up on the invitation.
The man at the recruiter station tried to get me riled up at the Vietnamese. Said them communists had killed Bobby Kennedy—I didn’t know who that was. Then he said they were behind the death of Jimi Hendrix—I just stared at him. He tried again: said those devils had got to Martin Luther King, Junior, too. Well, I jumped up and asked the man if I could go to the front of the line. Told him my Mama had cried out to the heavens for a full week when the Reverend Doctor was killed.
You see, Percy, they wanted you to want to go off and fight the war—any old reason would do.” Percy nodded, though not entirely understanding. “So, they trained me up with the Army at Fort McClellan. Dang if I weren’t right back in hotter-than-heck Alabama. But two months later I was on my first airplane ride to Vietnam. ‘Nam was for sure a hot and crazy place, but not near as bad as picking peanuts or doing marching drills back in ‘bammy.
It weren’t all that bad. I made some good friends and just did what I was told. But there was one old Sergeant that I’ll never forget; we called him Top, cuz he was the top dog in the company. He once asked for volunteers. Now, the first thing they told us in the basic training was to never volunteer for nothing. But it vexed me when nobody raised their hand. Ol’ Top looked hard at me like he knew somethin’ and asked, Private Johnson, you ever worked a horse before? I almost said no, and could have lived with it, but I couldn’t lie so I told him we had an old mule back on the farm. We called her Clementine. Top said he didn’t want to know all about my girlfriend, just a simple Yes Top or No Top would do. Then he ordered me to report to the Old Man.
Now the Old Man was a Full-Bird Colonel, the Brigade Commander. I’d been taught to steer clear of officers. I’d rather pull guard duty for a week or take point on a patrol than come up on one of them ring knockers.
But I did as Top told me. I ran the whole mile down to HQ. I reported to the Old Man, told him Top had sent me about a horse. He looked at me like I was dumber than a sacka’ hammers. Told me to run back and tell Top to send a different color GI. I saluted and ran that mile back to our firebase. I gave the message to Top. He said bull…,” Ray caught himself… “feathers. You go back and tell him I said GI’s are only one color—green.
I took off and run right back to HQ, told the Colonel that Top said I was green. By then I was dripping in sweat and huffing like a choo-choo train, but smiling. The Colonel looked at me and asked me why I was so disheveled. I told him about running back-and-forth between here and there through the jungle. He asked why I wasn’t driving a Jeep? I told him I was never taught. He looked at his watch and told me to scat. Said go tell Top to shove it, and no more Jungle Bunnies. I took off again. Told Top to shove it. Top turned me right back around without a message this time. I reckoned I was the message.
The Colonel checked his watch again when I returned. Asked me why I was smiling like a chester cat or some such. I told the Old Man that I just loved runn’n’, made me feel alive. Finally, the old man hollered for his XO. Another officer, a young Lieutenant, stepped in and locked up. He saluted the Old Man then looked at me. The Old Man says to him to take this boy down to the stable and introduce him to Grunt.
Now the Old Man had been a Cavalry Scout back from the days of the Korean War. Since then he insisted on taking his horse everywhere he went—even out there to Vietnam, in the jungle. He was a red roan, a big horse with silvery specs in his rusty coat making him almost shine when the sun hit him just right. I was to take care of ol’ Grunt; feed’im, water’im, brush’im, and walk’im about the small corral that the engineers had cut out of the jungle. The Lieutenant explained my duties and seemed to be happy to hand over the job. He can be quite ornery sometimes, the Lieutenant added. I ask him who he meant, the horse or the Colonel. He just laughed and said yes.”
Ray smiled and so did Percy. Just then a nurse came in to check on the girl. “What are you smiling about, hon?” she asked, checking a chart at the foot of the bed. Before Percy could explain, the nurse’s device buzzed and she raced out of the room uttering, “Oh, him again.”
“Duty calls,” Ray said, as the door slowly closed. “And so it was with me. You see I still had to pull my weight back with my platoon, but twice a day, morning and evening, I would run back to HQ to take care of old Grunt. I didn’t mind, didn’t much care for the drinking and gambling that went on back at camp during down time. I liked spending quiet spells with that old horse. It was real peaceful. Until that night.”
Ray grew quiet and Percy’s eyes widened. She pulled Rosey closer. “Grunt was acting kind of skittish that evening, so I was brushing him down real good in the little stall. Then, like the 4th of July, the night just lit up. Artillery shells and mortar rounds came at us from all sides. Hooches and tents were getting blown up; soldiers were running about trying to get their bearings and return fire. I ran to the HQ where the Colonel stayed. The place was blasted. I pulled back some smoky boards and found the Old Man. He was hurt bad. I pulled him out of the rubble and started patching him up with my first aid pouch.
Then the Lieutenant runs up on us, says that communications are out and we need to get orders to Lima Company to fall back and form a perimeter around HQ. The Colonel looked up at me and says, It’s on you, boy. You’re the fastest man in this unit. Run back and give Top the message. We need him, and we need him now!
The Lieutenant offered me his rifle. I shook my head, knowing it would only slow me down. I ran out of there like my tail was on fire. I knew that jungle trail back and forth, even at night. Didn’t take me more than five minutes to get back to camp and find Top. I told him what the Colonel wanted and he started getting the men together.
He sent me back ahead of the reinforcements with another message for the Colonel. I ran communications back and forth for over an hour while Top set a perimeter and pushed back the Viet Cong. When daylight finally came, we saw the damage the raid had done. We lost a lot of good soldiers that night, be we had stopped Charlie from overrunning the base.
They put the Colonel on a Huey helicopter and flew him back to the hospital in Da Nang. Before he took off, he told me to keep watching after Grunt and he said he was sorry he ever doubted me. I never told this part of the story before, didn’t think anyone would believe me, but the Colonel actually saluted me as they were loading him up onto the chopper.”
“Grandpa, did the Army give you a medal?”
Ray looked at his chest, then said, “Honey, I got something even better than one of those medals. I got a bullet…and I got a name.” He reached inside the neck of his shirt and fished out something on a beaded chain. It was bronze-colored and heavy in his palm. He showed it to the girl.
“Is that a real bullet, Grandpa?”
“5.56-millimeter, ball round. It would have punched right through my chest and broke my heart.” He looked at Percy’s smooth, bald head. This time his heart did break and a tear welled. He turned and looped the chain back around his neck, and tucked the bullet down his shirt, hiding his tears.
“Top told me later,” Ray sniffed and wiped his eyes, “that when I came busting through the jungle to give them the Old Man’s orders, he’d had a bead on my chest. Top had handed me this here bullet and said that he had triggered his M16 but got a hang fire.” Percy’s eyebrows went up. “It means it’s a dud. It didn’t shoot. If it had,” Ray chuckled, “I wouldn’t be cuttin’ up with you right now.”
“So that’s why they sometimes call you Bullet, your friends down at the Old Soldier’s Home?” Percy’s eyes sparkled. For just a little while, she was a brave girl running through the jungle alongside her grandfather in a world-away war, no longer a child dying of leukemia.
“Thass right,” Ray said, poking Percy’s tummy as he had Rosey’s earlier. “Top started it; then it caught on quick. Pretty soon everyone just called me Bullet.
Wasn’t long after that my year in the jungle was up. I was still tending to the Old Man’s horse while he was convalescing. That young Lieutenant was frocked up to Captain and he called me to his hooch. Said he’d received a letter from the Old Man. He offered it to me, but I just shook my head. So he read it out loud. Come to find out, the Old Man was back in Atlanta, decided to retire causin’ his legs were all messed up. He wanted me to escort Grunt back to the states when my time was up. Said he would take care of all the red tape.
I told the Captain that I’d be mighty proud to take Grunt back home and to visit with the Colonel for a spell. The day came and I packed my duffel bag and got on a train with Grunt, giving him sugar cubes so he wouldn’t get wound up. But it took me and five other soldiers to get that horse onto the back of that big airplane. He finally calmed when we leveled off over the Pacific Ocean.
The old man met us at Hartsfield International Airport here in Atlanta. He was in a wheelchair, but he was still spry and ornery as ever. He asked me about my plans, and I told him I didn’t have none. He ordered me to come out to his little ranch and help take care of Grunt and the other animals. I followed his orders.
When we got to the Colonel’s ranch, Grunt was in a horse trailer. The Colonel, I guess thinking Grunt would head for the barn, unlatched the trailer gate. Grunt, probably addled after the long flight, bolted out of there, in the opposite direction. Heading for the highway half-mile away. I took off after him—full speed.
Grunt must have cramped up from the long trip, ’cause I caught up to him with 100 yards to spare, grabbed his reins and whoa’d him to a stop. We walked on back to the barn where I gave him a sugar cube.”
Is that why Captain Anderson referred to you as Bullet in his response to my letter, ‘cause you run so damn fast? the Colonel asked me.
I reckon that’s part of it, I told the Colonel.
“Now the Colonel loved him some baseball, especially them Atlanta Braves. He also had a lot of friends in the organization. They’d come over and drink Scotch and tell stories sometimes. Well, the Colonel told a Mr. McGuirk about me running down old Grunt that time, and his wheels started turning. But he wanted to see so for himself.
They woke me up and I walked down to the barn, barefoot. I was standing next to Grunt and they pointed across a field to a feller holding a lantern. They put some money in a pile on a table in the barn and the Colonel tells me I need to race old Grunt to that their lantern, about 100 yards off. I said yes Sir, and Mr. McGuirk slapped Grunt on his hind end.
He took off and the Colonel yelled at me, Go, Bullet, Go! I ran. I ran fast. I didn’t even feel my feet hit the ground or catch on any sandburs. I caught up with Grunt and passed him as we reached that swinging lantern. Then I grabbed Grunt’s reins again and walked him on back.
By then, them fellers were hootin’ and hollerin’ and slapping me on the back. Not long after that I signed a contract with Mr. McGuirk. When the Braves played at home, I’d race against Grunt in the outfield during the 7th inning stretch. We’d run from the bull pen in right field to a waving umpire out in left field. One of the honchos’ wives had stitched me a stretchy black suit out of nylon. Almost like that Spiderman—but all black.
They billed me as The Barefoot Bullet on acuzz I didn’t wear no shoes when I ran. The organ grinder would strike up the horse-racing bugles like the Kentucky Derby and the crowd would go crazy when I ran out onto the field. Hank Aaron himself once told me Man, you get bigger applause than I do; just don’t let that old nag whoop you.”
We only had four minutes for the whole production; but every night, they were the most exciting four minutes of my life—and the audience ate it up. Before every race I would whisper into old Grunt’s ear: I know you are a fine and proud horse. And then I’d give him a sugar cube and say, here, this’ll help you swallow your pride down one more time.
“Now, a horse is a horse, but ol’ Grunt knew how to play the game. He loved the limelight and didn’t seem much to care about the finish line. But he sure did love the race, the run, the journey.” Ray smiled and looked off into the distance, eyes clouded with cataracts, seeming to recall his own journey. “One reporter wrote, The Barefoot Bullet is twice as exciting as the Kentucky Derby and twenty times more exciting than Joe Garagiola’s dissertations on the infield fly rule.
I always brought my A-game to the races even though the wins against ol’ Grunt were pretty much a given. I was 140-0, although some were wire-tight. Then one night I remember whispering my mantra into Grunt’s ear, and he got all skittish again, like he did back in ‘Nam. I didn’t think nothing of it; we both had our share of flashbacks from those crazy days.
The starter pistol fired and we were off. Now, we was playing the Phillies that night and they was some sons of…guns,” Ray shook his head, remembering. “One of them fans threw a rack of black cats onto the field right in front of ‘ol Grunt. They was popping off just like gunfire back in ‘Nam. Grunt got spooked and his legs got tangled. He went down in a big heap of horse.
The crowd that had been cheering and laughing got real quiet. I was finally able to coax Grunt up off the field and back to the bull pen. Just like an injured player waving to the stands, the crowd came back to life and cheered us off. But this was going to be our final farewell and I think everyone knew it.
Back at the ranch, the Colonel gave me an old revolver and pointed out to the barn. Said Grunt’s leg was fractured and I was the best to do it, to say my peace and make it quick. I argued, but I followed orders. I took that .45 out to the barn; I looked at Grunt and he looked at me. He nuzzled up on me and I fetched him a sugar cube from my jacket pocket. I told him how proud I was of him for being such a good horse and a good friend. Then I put the barrel of that gun up to his forehead…”
“No, Grandpa, you didn’t, you couldn’t!” Percy tucked Rosey under her chin.
Ray paused, not wanting to frighten the girl—for God’s sake, hadn’t she gone through enough already? “Truth be told,” he finally started, “I did and I didn’t.” Percy looked up at him, her mouth still in a quivering O. “I followed my orders and pulled that trigger. But just like that time when Top drew down on me, it misfired. I took that as a sign from Providence and threw that gun across the barn.
Then I started runnin’, kept running clear out of the county. At some point I saw a sign that read Welcome to Forsyth County. Another spray-painted sign behind it said: Nigger don’t let the sun go down! Well, it was already dark and I was dog-tired and I didn’t have nowhere else to go.
Just a half-mile into town I got blinded by headlights. Then another truck pulls up with a spot light, kind they use for poaching deer at night. Someone behind the light says, Don’t you read, boy? I says, Not too good. Then they says they gonna go ahead and school me up a bit. The next thing I know, I’m waking up in a hospital and an angel is saying to me, Good thing you got such a hard head.”
“That was Grandma, right? That’s the first thing she ever said to you.” Percy smiled, remembering hearing this part of the story at a long-ago bedtime, getting tucked in by her mother and father when they were a full family.
“That’s right, hon. Then you probably remember that your Grandma was my nurse and she was also the Preacher’s daughter. She got her daddy to take me in. Even helped me get a job as janitor, right here in this hospital.” Percy shook her head—she remembered.
“I been cleanin’ up after sick folks for nigh on fifty years now. I seen way too many of them come and go. And when I see Him standing there at the foot of their beds, I know which ones He’s going to take on cuz He always takes something from’em. I watched him hunker there right before your Grandma passed; He took her memories with that Alzheimer’s. I seen Him hidin’ in the corner like a spider when they took the tubes out of your Daddy, my boy…my pride and joy. But he ain’t getting you, Baby Girl. He ain’t getting you.”
“Old man, you don’t get to pick and choose who comes and goes,” a raspy voice from the darkness declared. “That’s my job. Yours is to wipe up blood and bile, piss and shit. I’ll wipe the tears.”
Every shadow in the room coalesced into one. It stood beside Ray. It morphed and molded until it became a half-forgotten figure from a half-century past.
“Top, is that you?” Ray asked, looking at his old Sergeant there in the room.
“I’ve come back for some unfinished business, Private Johnson. Give me that bullet back and I’ll make sure it finds its target this time.” The Sergeant laughed, his mouth opening wider than it should; fat maggots tumbled out. Ray felt for the bullet beneath his shirt. “You dodged that one, but you can’t get away from me forever,” the decaying Sergeant said.
“You need this don’t you?” Ray realized. Death, in the olive drab of a long-dead soldier, said nothing. Ray pulled the bullet out from his collar and held it swinging by the chain.
“I collect tokens,” Death hissed. He pulled at a chain around his own neck. Ray saw that the beaded chain held a pair of dog tags that caught the flicker of blinking lights from the myriad of monitors in Percy’s room. Ray’s old Sergeant, he knew as Top, butterflied the two tags, displaying them like a maniacal magician; he showed them to Ray.
Ray winced as if the words on the metal plates were shrieking spiders. Raymond Ivan Johnson, Jr, was the name imprinted. The thing fanning the tags laughed again and began to change. The uniform faded to a chocolate-chip, they called it. The man inside the desert uniform was now different; he was Ray’s son, Percy’s father, a man wounded badly in Afghanistan. Drugs and depression had finished him; he had died in a room two floors below.
The more familiar dead soldier turned to the girl. “The worm waits, Percy; it’s time to go.”
“No, Daddy, not you. Not this way!” Percy cried. She held Rosey up between them, a stitched shield of cloth and cotton.
“I’ll add that little dolly to my collection,” Percy’s phony father grinned. He reached for the doll with only one arm, the other a ragged and bloody stump flapped at his shoulder like a wounded bird, jetting freshets of blood like an old water pump.
“No, Percy, don’t,” Ray said. “Here,” Ray turned to Death, a cruel incarnation of his own dead son. “You want a token? Take it! Go on, take it!” Ray tossed the bullet to his soldier-son who turned like a cat and caught it in mid-flight with his one remaining hand. Distracted from the girl, Death clutched Ray’s prize.
Ray seized the chance and grabbed Rosey from Percy’s hands. He kissed the girl on the cheek and whispered, “You’ll always be my pride and joy.”
“If’n you want to take something from my Granddaughter, Son, you’ll have to get it from me first.” Ray reached down and cradled his foot. He hooked off one shoe by the heel and peeled off the sock. With a last pizazz of showmanship, Ray tugged off the remaining shoe and flipped it up like a homerun hitter flipping his bat and showing up the pitcher.
The worn black shoes tumbled randomly at Death’s desert boots. “That one’s my pride,” Ray pointed to the first shoe, “and that one’s my joy,” this one bounced off of his son’s leg. “Now come on, sucka’…Catch me if you can,” Ray grinned with sparse teeth; he stuffed the doll inside his jacket, and sprinted out the door faster than any eye could see.
More shadows pulled and pooled together into the specter of Percy’s father, granting it a lofty and monumental mass like a civil war statue. The thing morphed. Its flipper-like vestige of an arm lengthened and its form darkened. The traditionally hooded figure of Death appeared now atop a decaying skeletal horse. Dried, leathery patches of rust-colored hide flecked with silver stretched over a gleaming rackwork of bones. Shriveled organs somehow held together, undulating, pulsating, even beating with random rhythms.
Untethered eyes rolled in their hollow sockets while domino-size teeth glistened below a long lipless mouth laced with froth. These bone-bleached teeth chomped, crackled, and sucked at a thick bit forged of sawed-off fibula.
“I love a good challenge,” Death said to no one in particular, as he pulled back the reigns. “Come on Grunt,” Death cupped his bony hands over the horse’s one remaining ear. “Let’s catch’em. Giddy up.” The horse took off the same way Ray had left the room. The door opened as Death on his steed charged in chase of an old black man running with a raggedy black doll named Rosey.
~ 0 ~ 0 ~ 0 ~
“It’s cold in here, Baby,” Michelle said as she put a hand to her daughter’s warm and clammy forehead.
“I’m fine, Momma. But I think I had a crazy dream.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about it, Darling. But first I’ve got some bad news…” She took a Kleenex from her purse and dabbed at her eyes and nose.
“It’s your Grandpa, Honey. He’s been on a ventilator down on the second floor for a week now. We didn’t want to worry you about it…because of your condition. But between the Covid and the Agent Orange, he never had a chance. He’s gone, Baby; your Grandpa Ray is gone. He went so fast.” She crushed her daughter to her chest and wept for her lost father, but Percy didn’t cry—she secretly smiled.
~ 0 ~ 0 ~ 0 ~
“Miss Percy, can you tell us,” the virtual reporter pushed a virtual balloon out of her way, “after 120 years, what is the secret to such a long life?”
The old black woman seated in a dyno-chair fixed with oxygen tubes and monitors seemed to think for a moment. She sat up, gathered herself and said to the floating camera. “They say you can’t outrun Death.” She shook her head dramatically. “But nobody ever told that to my Granddaddy, the Barefoot Bullet.” Now she smiled wide. The virtual reporter looked confused, blinking in and out on the monitor. A bug in her ear whispered ‘dementia’. The reporter recovered quickly with a north-south nod and a toothy smile, the best answer to any rambling granny.
“But, Grandpa, if you can hear me,” Percy looked directly into the camera, “I’ve lost everyone I’ve ever loved. I watched them all come, and I’ve seen them all go. My time is way overdue. I need you to swallow your pride, Grandpa. I need you to slow down.”
Here are the links to the other two stories:
The Ghost of Solstice Future <<link
Writer: E. J. D’Alise
Word count: 2,160 words – approx. reading time: about 8 minutes based on 265 WPM
The Brothers Proffit <<link
Writer: Perry Broxson
Word count: 10,130 words – approx. reading time: about 38 minutes based on 265 WPM
If you’ve read all the stories and care to cast a vote, here’s the link to the Poll:
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