The forum sat silent, waiting on bated breath for the results to be announced. Then over the loudspeaker the voice claimed 78 Yea, 22 Nay. In that moment deep-throated cheers erupted. There were celebratory pats on the shoulders and backs of the colleagues. Hand over handshakes became normal. The countless hours of personal deals, negotiations, threats, blackmail and promises was about to financially pay off for the statesmen. They have approved another war under the pretense of peace. The utter word of peace could give them the power to achieve whatever they desired.

Jack sat on the side of his bed. His nightly call expressed his love to his wife and told her that there would be another war. He promised he would be home soon and not to worry. Solemnly, he ended the call and placed his cell phone on the charger. A slight smile crossed his face, because he knew his career was about to accelerate. He swung his legs into bed, and performed a quick visual sweep around his tiny studio. Jack was so exhausted he fell asleep with the night-light on.  It was from a deep sleep Jack awoken to a figure staring at him. Startled, Jack sat up and looked back. He was staring at a man who looked exactly like himself, except for his dirt smeared face, bloodied and bruised, and in adorned in military fatigues. The soldier figure stated “It is time to go.” Jack exclaimed “Who the hell are you? I’m not going anywhere.” Jack then began to hear a faint banging, which he assumed was coming from outside. He jumped out of bead to get to the window and intensely looked down both sides of the street as far as his eyes could see. The cold, dark neighborhood was lifeless. Jack repeated “Who are you? What do you want?” Then he chuckled and said “OK guys, you got me. This is a really funny joke, hilarious!” The soldier figure continued to stand motionless, facing the bed. Jack walked back over, impressed with the uncanny appearance of the soldier figure. The soldier figure slightly turned his face, staring into Jack’s eyes. “Jack you are me, and I am you. You decided to divide us into two. Power is meant to do good. It is not self serving. It’s been too many times, Jack.” The soldier figure stated. Jack stared at him perplexed as the banging was getting louder. “Christ! What is that banging?” Jack asked with anxiety. The soldier figure answered with void of emotion. “Those are all of the soldiers who are preparing this evening to go to war.” “Mister, you’re nuts!  Get out now!” Jack yelled. Finally the loud banging became clearer. It was the sound of heavy booted foot steps, in unison of many people. The stomping stopped and the soldier figure reminded Jack, “It is time to go.” Jack became petrified and grabbed his coat and keys. The solder figure yelled “GO!” Jack opened the door to find himself facing the battlefield peppered with dead soldiers. In an instant he was sucked into the hands of the fallen officers. Screaming in anguish, the ego was taken. The conscience hung his head low, with tears of blood flowing down his face, in utmost defeat, and then dissipated into thin air.

“Alex, I told you there is no Facebook while breakfast.” Al Sr. instructed his son as he sat with his cup of coffee in hand. “Dad, wait.” Alex insisted. “Your news app says that Jack Backus, Tanner Smith and Ryan Tucker have been missing for three days. Aren’t they your friends?” “I guess you can say that.” His father answered. Both father and son hovered over the tablet and read out loud simultaneously “Three statesmen have gone missing. There are no clues in this mind-boggling disappearance, except for a tiny piece of material, soaked in blood, found on the floor of their studios. Officials believe the material is possibly a frayed piece of a military fatigues. Officials are bewildered and continuing….”

Last Chance

Danny finished tying his shoes and folded his apron; hanging it over his forearm. He took great pride in looking clean and presentable for work. This was his first job he believed that would lead him into the career he wanted; the culinary arts. After his father passed away, Danny enjoyed cooking for his mother and presenting her with a warm comforting meal after her long day at work. His relationship with his mom grew ever stronger after his dad’s fatal heart attack. He never realized how much his mother meant to him. The cliché “they lived happily ever after” turned into a harsh reality. The threads of a tight knit family could come unraveled. For father and son, Brian and Danny shared a unique relationship; they were inseparable. Brian’s death devastated Danny. He grieved silently. The radical change of the household gave him a much different perspective. Danny matured over night. Soon after his dad’s death, Danny was hired part time at the local hospital, assisting the head cook in preparing meals.
“Ok mom, I’m outta here.” said Danny. Katy was transferring the wash into the dryer. She looked up at her son and asked “Do you have any plans tonight, Dan?” Saturday nights were always filled with something to do. Danny responded “I think I’ll come home and work on the fishing gear cabinet, dad and I started. I haven’t touched it since he…” Danny stopped short, not wanting to admit his father was gone. “Ya know.” he continued. “I’m not really sure. I’ll see how the night turns out.” Danny grabbed an apple off of the counter along with his father’s car keys. “Ok, I’ll see you tonight. Let’s order a pizza.” Katy responded, trying to break the ice. At that moment there was an opportunity to make a suggestion and Katy wasn’t going to lose it. “Why don’t you ask Uncle Tommy to come over and help you with the cabinet?” she softly asked. Tommy was Brian’s younger brother. He seemed so much like Brian that they soon shared the old soul bond, just as Danny and his father had. The uncle reached out to help fill the drastic void for Danny and his little sister. Tommy wasn’t married and never had kids of his own. It was out of that, that his brother’s children were the apple of his eye. The uncle and nephew were becoming two peas in a pod; except for the recent squabble, which left each other rather distant. Unfortunately they were both extremely bull headed, and Katy knew it was ridiculous for them not to speak to each other. Everyone was still trying to heal.

“Mom, this is not the time. I’ve got to get to work.” Danny said uninterested and turned around to leave. “That’s the problem with the both of you. You’re both bull headed.” Katy exclaimed, as she watched Danny rub his little sister’s head, enough for static to cause her hair stand on. “Hey!” Chloe said, patting her hair down. “See you guys later, love ya.” Danny shouted as he closed the door behind him.

It was 3:30pm sharp as usual and Danny swiped his time card and placed his apron on. He walked through the kitchen saying hi to everyone, while he tied the apron strings behind his back and he felt his cell phone buzz. Pulling it out of his pants pocket, the ID displayed “Uncle Tommy” This was definitely not the time he thought. Danny rejected the call and walked up to his supervisor and asked, “What’s up, Patty?” “Great timing, can you start dicing the tomatoes? I am running a bit behind.” asked Patty. “I’m on it.” Danny answered. Danny felt guilty for not answering, but his uncle knew he started his shift. He figured he could leave a message and, get back to him later. The kitchen was loud, with the radio blasting and the sounds of pots and pans clanking on stainless steel surfaces and stove tops. At every moment the hustle and bustle of the kitchen crew overwhelmed Danny in the beginning, but after 8 months, his movement was in sync with everyone else. He took direction from his supervisor and at other times he just knew what needed to be accomplished and went about getting the job done. Patty often told Danny, she couldn’t have found a better assistant. The compliment sometimes made him blush. It soon turned into 5pm dinner time and Patty shouted out to everyone in the kitchen “Let’s roll, guys!” The kitchen crew got into place and soon the clanking of dinner plates and remarks of dinner requests were spoken simultaneously. It was extremely fast paced as all 75 patients, in ward 7 needed to be fed at Mercy Hospital. To the inexperienced eye it was chaotic. Some were breezing in and out of the walk-in refrigerators, grabbing the last minute items and others were cranking up blenders that sounded like mini race cars. Through the commotion, the last five patient trays were in line and the ruckus began to slow down momentarily. Danny placed a small portioned salad bowl and desert on tray 75 and raised is arms to mimic championship. Patty chuckled at Danny and claimed to everyone, “and another successful night!” as she wiped up pieces of food dropped on the steam table. Immediately everyone transpired into clean up mode. Danny was required to collect the trash, which he dreaded, since he had to go down to the basement to get to the dumpster. He placed the bags in the oversized plastic cart and rolled it into the kitchen service elevator, pressing the dirty button. There was only one floor to descend, yet the rickety elevator ride could instill fear. The door quietly rattled and slowly opened exposing a dimly lit dry goods supply room. Danny had to get to the other side of the room and finagle the cart through a small door. Even though there was one floor separating him from the kitchen, it amazed him how eerily quick the basement was. Danny wedged the cart through the door and faced what appeared to be a mile long hallway. A damp, moldy stench rushed up his nose from the severely neglected environment. It was cold and the cinderblock walls were now a dingy painted almond color. Up above his head were exposed tarnished and corroded pipes, coated in condensation which constantly dripped. Danny felt repulsed as the water hit him on the base of his neck and on the crown of his head. He quickly wiped the liquid off, with a couple of brisk swipes of his hand and vigorously pushed the garbage cart through a set of double doors. At that moment unexpectedly, the hall was brighter and cleaner. The timeworn light fixtures were mounted on the walls, were new and shiny and the smell of freshly painted walls was actually welcoming. In the distance he could see some activity going on. Danny was surprised to see so many construction workers the closer he approached. “This is weird. There is never anyone down here. It’s about time they cleaned this area up.” He thought. Danny weaved the garbage cart around some of the ladders, acknowledging the workers with a “Hi” and a nodding of his head. One of the workers said “Sorry for the mess, watch your step.” Danny responded “No problem.” and kept moving. He slowed his pace as to not knock over the supplies peppered along the way. Men in paint blotched overalls buzzed by him in glance, while others were reviewing electrical schematics. For the first time, Danny felt at ease. He had company. One of the workers asked “How’s it looking?” Danny smiled and said “great!” The worker just smiled back as he picked up a can of paint and walked away. Danny could see the exit door wasn’t to far away. Just to the side, he noticed there was a guy leaning sideways on the wall. The man’s features were a little difficult to distinguish. He did know that his hair was brown and appeared slightly messy. He had jeans on and was also wearing a t-shirt bearing a fishing pole with big bold words printed, “Gone Fishing!” Immediately, he stopped walking and said to himself, “dad?” The person resembling his father was wearing a t-shirt that Danny gave his father and uncle for their birthdays. Danny also had one. The man’s arms were folded; his legs crossed and staring at Danny with a slight smile. Danny attempted to pick up pace to get to the end of the hallway, but couldn’t manage to go as fast as he wanted. More and more tradesman walked around him and the lighting began to blink on and off. Danny swerved around the workers and supplies, bobbing his head sided to side to get a better look at the stranger. Just then, the cart abruptly stopped as the wheel got stuck on a piece of dry wall. His eyes locked on to the stranger. Danny couldn’t help but stare back for a moment. He believed it was his father and he needed to reach him.

The stranger raised his hand up, gesturing a wave and walked up the stairway. Danny yelled “Wait!” and raced to the end of the hall. Getting to the stairway he flew up, climbing two steps at a time to get to the first floor. He swung open the door to find the lobby empty, except for the security guard sitting at the front desk. Danny walked slowly up to the guard, and asked “Did you see where the guy from the stairwell went? He was wearing a t-shirt with a fishing pole on it?” Sorry Danny, we haven’t had any visitors for at least an hour now. Are you expecting someone?” Disappointed and confused Danny answered “No.” He walked back to the stairway door questioning what he witnessed. The event flooded him with both joy and sorrow and he knew he just needed to go home. The incident was too overbearing, and instead of punching out at his normal time of 9pm, the time clock registered 8:38pm. By leaving this early, Danny figured he would be home by 9. As he walked to his car his mind went over what he had seen. Danny believed his father visited him in his dreams and maybe now he has chosen to visit him when he is awake. He wished he could tell him mom, but knew, she would have a logical explanation. Danny found comfort in believing that death could not severe his bond with his father, so he would keep the incident to himself.

In deep thought, he clasped his seat belt and placed his head on the head rest. The adrenaline rush stole his energy, but yet, he found the strength to hold back his tears. Just as Danny exhaled deeply his phone began to buzz. It was his uncle again. Danny reluctantly answered the phone. “Hi Uncle Tommy” Danny answered in a low pitch. “Hi Danny, you sound pretty tired.” His uncle commented. Danny took that as an opportunity to cut the phone call short. “Yes, I am. Can we talk in the morning?” Danny asked. “I won’t keep you Dan. I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said the things I said and I want to make things right for us.” Danny clinched his eye shut. This evening was extremely emotional for Danny, but he knew this apology was something really hard for his uncle to do and he needed to listen. Danny began “It’s ok.” Tommy interrupted. “Sometimes we say things out of line because we really care about those we love. I know it sounds crazy. We become flustered. We want the best for our loved ones and in our passion our mouths spew words, which do not help the situation. I am so proud of you Danny and I want things to be good with us.” “They are Uncle Tommy.” Danny confirmed. “Losing your dad has been the hardest thing. Bad things happen in life and as hard as it is, it still means moving forward. A ridiculous argument shouldn’t prevent us from doing so. Now go home, ok?” Tommy finished. This was way too deep for Danny, but it gave him a sense of relief. “Ok….let’s do some fishing tomorrow. I need to talk to you about dad.” Danny couldn’t hold back. “I think I saw dad tonight.” “Danny, even though he is physically gone, he will never leave you. When people care deeply, love each other, nothing can ever come between them.” Tommy always had the right words to say, just like Danny’s dad. “Thanks, Uncle Tommy. I’ll call you in the morning.” “You need to get home Danny. There is always time for fishing. Love you dude.” Tommy had to confirm. “Love ya too, thanks Uncle Tommy.” Danny ended the phone call. His phone beeped, alerting Danny that the battery life was almost depleted. Then he looked at the time and saw it was 8:38pm. It was then, within the next second, the time changed to 8:39pm. Danny knew the time couldn’t be correct. He shook his head and commented “Great!” Mumbling to himself, he complained “and this is a new phone!” He continued to start the car and the LED clock displayed 8:39.

Danny walked through the door, hung his jacket and as he was about to place his keys on the hall table, he looked at the miniature grandfather clock as it softly chimed at nine o’clock.” “Mom, I’m home.” He announced his presence and felt a cold chill. The only light that was on was coming from the kitchen. Danny walked in and repeated himself. Katy’s eyes were bloodshot with tears rolling down her cheeks. Innocently she looked at her son. A sunken feeling of dread washed over Danny when he saw the grief in her face. Danny pulled up the chair beside her, and asked “What’s wrong…is Chloe alright? What’s going on?” Danny continued, placing his hand on her shoulder. Trying to gain composure, Katy slightly tilted her head to the side endearingly, apologizing for the news she was about to reveal. “Danny, Uncle Tommy was in a car accident today. He didn’t make it.” Danny’s eyes widened and he swallowed hard. He sat back in disbelief. The nodding of his head indicated he couldn’t accept what he was told. “I just found out an hour ago. I would have called you, but I knew you were coming home soon.” All Danny could ask was “When?” “It happened 3:30, this afternoon.” Katy spoke with streams of tears running down her face. Danny abruptly stood up and placed the heel of his hand on his forehead. Out of the corner of his eye, Chloe stood in the doorway with tears rolling down her cheeks. She stood frozen staring at her older brother. As Danny turned to face Chloe, she darted towards her him and wrapped her tiny arms around him tightly. Embracing her, he found himself speechless. He whispered to her “It’ll be ok Chlo.” as he picked up her petite 8 year body. Chloe nestled her head on his shoulder, quietly sobbing. Katy once again, wiped the tears from her eyes and straitened herself up and said “I am going over to Grand’s house. They are inconsolable. Do you guys want to come with me? Danny answered “I can’t Mom, not tonight.” Chloe swayed her head with a nod, and told her mother she wanted to stay with Danny. Danny couldn’t take much more. He promised his mother he would go to see his grandparents in the morning. “I’m gonna take Chlo up to bed.” Chloe’s head popped up and asked if she could sleep in her big brother’s bed. “Of course squirt.” Danny answered, trying to smile. “I’d like the company too.” She placed her head back on his shoulder and held on tightly. As Danny began to walk to his room, Katy grabbed his hand and told her children she would return home that evening. She stood to give them both a kiss and with a hug she said “I love you both so, very much.”

Danny placed his sister in his bed, covering her up and caressed her head. Hearing the garage door close, he grabbed his phone and was about to tell Chloe he had to make a call and would be right back. The exhaustion encompassed Chloe into a deep sleep.

“Mercy Hospital, maintenance department, this is Mike.” The voice on the other end greeted. Danny was happy he didn’t go into phone mail. “Hi Mike, it’s me, Danny.” “Danny my boy, don’t tell me you locked yourself out again?” Mike chuckled. “No Mike, I’m home. I just need to ask you a question.” Danny stated. “Ok, sure kid, what’s up?” Danny hesitated for a moment. Then he asked “Where exactly is the morgue located in the basement?” “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that question. Danny, you’re not setting something up for Halloween, are you? Mike asked concerned. Danny got impatient and told him that plans were not being made and asked Mike again. Mike went on to explain. “Well, you go down the hallway to get to the exit door for the dumpster, but just before you turn right and there is another long hallway. It’s at the very end. You know, it’s the hallway right where the stairwell is to get to the main lobby.” Mike answered. Danny’s faced drained. “Why do you ask?” Mike went on. “I’m sorry Danny. It was a little busy down there tonight. We had quite a few patients pass and there was a horrific car accident just a few miles up the road. The two drivers didn’t make it. You didn’t see anything that you shouldn’t have seen, did you?” Silence remained on the line. “Danny, are you there?” Mike asked. With a quivering voice, Danny replied he was still on the phone. Thinking of something fast, he suggested “It might be a good idea to put some extra lighting fixtures up, while the construction crew is renovating.” “What construction crew, Dan?” Mike questioned. “You know, the plumber, painters; the guys who are installing the new lighting fixtures.” Danny elaborated. “Danny, I haven’t hired any crew to renovate any part of the basement. The big wigs barely allot enough funds to upgrade the morgue.” Mike answered flustered. Hastily, Mike rushed Danny off of the phone. “Uh Danny, if that answered your question, I’ve got to go see what’s happening downstairs. Bye.” It was then the cell phone used its last bit of battery life.

Danny sat on the side of his bed and reached to pick up the picture of his dad and his Uncle Tommy. It was his most recent and favorite picture. It was the last time the three had shared a fishing trip. That day they had all worn the same t-shirt, with big bold letters, “Gone Fishing!”