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Could you post it here for those of us that refuse to use Facebook? I am interested in reading. :P

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Here it is, dfelt:

Dreaming of an eased burden, I popped the latch. It made almost no sound in the still and quiet night. Above the sky went starless and sapphire as it neared the horizon, and I took a deep and silent breath. Such a small thing, popping that latch, a minor betrayal. But it wasn't so, the betrayal was huge and I knew it. I would leave, and They would come. They would enter by my facilitation, and then do evil. No one would be hurt, and I would get my cut. Insurance would cover the victims I was to hand to Them, and we would all benefit. So went the lie.

The need to survive through these times of want and deprivation drove me like a goad. Always short of what was required simply to go on, and watching as each unexpected setback added hungry days to the month. I had learned to live on close to nothing, and how to do without, but hunger is a hard thing to ignore. The grinding oppression of thankless toil and no hope for a return to better days drove me into Their trap.

On a warm and steamy late summer evening with no hope of sleep, I decided that a few drinks tonight would be a fair trade for one less meal tomorrow. Gathering the shreds of pride and a glimmer of independence, I put on my least shabby clothes and walked to the bar. Beer has a way of making a man feel whole when he really isn't, and I am not immune to the effect.

The exiled smokers outside the front door were just shadows, each with its glowing ember moving in a repeated arc as they smoked. The scent of burning tobacco set my receptor sites screaming for the nicotine I could no longer afford to buy. I began to turn back, to abandon the small comfort of a beer and a smoke, to try again to accept this new reality. The reality that said things would not get better this time, and that I had to get used to it. Always I had been able to tolerate reversals and defeats, to grimace and move on. But now the game had changed, no one still believed that the nation would recover and opportunity would begin to knock once more. No one talked about it, but we all knew that we were living through the irreversible decline of empire. Even the smiling politicians had abandoned the fictions of hope they had preached during the first decade of the fall.

From behind my turned back, a hand appeared holding out a pack of cigarettes - Marlboro reds, or the local counterfeit version more likely. "You look like you need a smoke, Dude", said a voice. I turned to the voice and looked into a smiling face. "Go

ahead man, take one". "Thanks" I managed. " No sweat, I have plenty. If you need another later just find me", he said through a smile that didn't know his eyes. I thanked him again and moved off to smoke in my own shadow. Things like that just don't happen these days, so I watched The Smile and his friends as they went back into the bar. The light that spilled from the open door showed that they were five in all, and too well-fed, and well-dressed for young men in their twenties. And something else was wrong, anyone so fortunate would not spend time at this bar with its watered-down beer, and "local" whiskey. I should have listened to that voice that told me to run, but I did not. I followed them into the bar. That Marlboro had been real.

If I had money, or looked like something the local predators wanted to play with, I would have been afraid. But I was broke, and looked the part, and the grey in my hair wouldn't attract the sickos. I was still cautious though and went to the far end of the bar away from where the gang of five were swilling beer around a pool table. I ordered a cheap

draft, and tried to disappear into my collar. The Smile kept looking my way, and I noticed something else - they were drinking out of bottles! I recognized the brand, one that I had once been partial to before the collapse. But this little shack of a bar didn't stock anything in bottles. Then, I began to know fear.

The Smile must have sensed that I was ready to bolt, and in a moment, I was surrounded by the whole gang. They laughed and slapped me on the back and told me that it was my lucky night. The Smile stuck another Marlboro between my lips and threw my glass of draft swill against the wall. "You're drinking the good stuff tonight, My friend!" he bellowed. And I did. For hours they clustered around me as the bartender retreated as far as he dared and the other patrons slipped into the night as quickly as they could. I'd been chosen for something, and they didn't want to see what that might be.

I was thinking about how hard the morning would be with a cigarette hangover as well as a beer hangover from all that I had been 'encouraged" to consume that night when they dragged me outside. They hustled me off into the empty parking lot that once served the local McDonalds before it went belly-up. I felt my back up against the bricks in the little offset of wall by the old drive-through, firm grips on my arms and shoulders. The Smile did all of the talking.

"You've had yourself a pretty good night, haven't you you old f@#k?", he began. "Now, that we've given you a gift, we want one in return. We know who you work for, and you are going to get us into that house. Tomorrow night, you are going to open the latch on that back door by the kitchen, go back to your place, and go to sleep. And, you are going to take a double dose of these to make sure that you are asleep", he whispered, shoving a bottle of pills into my shirt pocket. I slid down the wall to the ground as they released their grip on me and just stared up at them in silence. The Smile continued, " You do as we want, and there will be a bonus for you, more than you make in a year licking their boots. We do our homework, and know what's in that house". He paused, I suppose to give me time to think about it, or reply. I stayed silent. A darkness came into his face then, and knives suddenly glittered in their hands. "You WILL do as we say, or die right now. And you will get it right tomorrow night, or die then. Make your choice", he sneered.

I made that choice, and convinced them that I was all for it. Pressing to know what my share might be, and that they wouldn't be stupid enough to kill anyone. In fact, I was so convincing that I became willing. After all, what did I owe to those who stole my labor and felt no guilt that I couldn't survive on the pittance they paid me? Those pills would hide my complicity, and my share would be enough to escape this place and begin again!

I went home, slept soundly, and had no hangover in the morning.

So here I stand, the latch is popped and I've done my part. But I'm frozen in place, not moving away, not letting things play out. Somehow I know that all of it is a lie, there will be no share for me, and no mercy for those inside. And it is wrong, and it does bother me. I had asked the wrong question when I asked what I owed my employers, I should have asked what is was that I owed to myself. And the answer came to me at once, I owed it to myself not to foul my own life with a crime like this. Not to betray a trust I had earned honestly. Not to allow my circumstance to dictate my morality. Not to fall with empire. No, I would die tonight, but I would do it with an intact soul. And maybe, with a bit of luck, the bottle of pills would take me before the knives. I've secured the latch and written my story on this scrap of paper bag. I know the place to leave it now, may it shed light on the cost of empire gone bad.

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We'll written, I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next chapter. :)

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Thanks dfelt, I'm not sure if there will be another chapter. I like to write short stories - the shorter the better.

But anything is possible.

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Thanks dfelt, I'm not sure if there will be another chapter. I like to write short stories - the shorter the better.

But anything is possible.

BUT BUT BUT you left me hanging with what really happened to him?

From a character development stand point, I would love to know how he got to where he is currently and how did the 54 bafoons know about him and was it only for theft of the family or more devious reasons for why they were doing what they were planning to do.

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I will give you this much though, his world is our world - about ten years from now.

And, I expect to be writing other stories about that time and place.

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