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Showdown by Alanna J. Rubin

For Seth Bodak

He slugged down the rest of his beer, slammed the mug on the bar, and walked outside. The hot sun beat down on him and the dry breeze ruffled his black duster as he stepped out on to the dirt road in front of the saloon. Mad Jack was already there, waiting for him. He was rumored to be the fastest gun this side of Kansas City, and he had a bounty on his head to prove it and it was Derek’s job as the law to bring him in. He pulled the brim down on his black Stetson to shade his eyes from the glare of the sun and flexed his right hand in preparation for the quick draw that was to follow. Mad Jack nodded to Derek in greeting, “Sheriff,” he acknowledged then spat. “I hope you made your peace. I hate to think that I killed a man, and he left unfinished business.”

“Rather polite of you,” Derek responded.

“Well, there ain’t no reason to be uncivilized about the whole thing,” Mad Jack countered.

“S’pose not. So, let’s do this then.”

Mad Jack and Sheriff Derek stood about twenty paces apart and stared at each other. Derek shook his hand as it hovered over the gun in his brown thigh holster. Mad Jack drew fast, but Derek was that much quicker and…Mad Jack suddenly slumped over. “What the?” Derek exclaimed and stared at the gun in his hand that he hadn’t fired.

“Derek,” he heard a woman call out. “It’s time for dinner.”

Derek sighed, “Coming, mom” he called back. “I only needed two more seconds,” he mumbled in disappointment. Derek walked over to Mad Jack and looked at the indicator on the back of his neck. “Parental Override Engaged” flashed LED indicator on the android. Derek hit the reset button on his neck and put Mad Jack into charging mode. “Next time, you won’t get off so easy,” he warned Mad Jack in a southern drawl before leaving the room and turning off the holographic image of his surroundings behind him.

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Reflection by Alanna J. Rubin

For Holley Rogers

Slowly and carefully he turned the key; the door creaked as it opened to…nothing.

The room was completely empty and it only seemed more hollow by the reflection on the stainless-steel walls. Marcus walked in, dumbfounded. The walls only showed his own brown eyes, staring back at him. But how? He had chased the three-legged creature into the abandoned hospital and could have sworn he heard the creature’s wail from within this room. He stood in its center, forehead scrunched in contemplation. Where is it? He asked himself. He made a slow circle seeing nothing, but his own blue shirt, two hands and feet on every surface, when the door slammed shut. He turned abruptly, his heart racing as he pulled on the handle to no avail. He banged on the metal walls, desperate to find a way out, his hands leaving sweaty palm prints on their surface. Marcus sank down against one of the walls, pulling his knees to his chest trying hard to hold himself together.

On the other side of the door, two men in white jackets observed Marcus through the two-way mirror. “Great job, luring him back, Lex,” one of the men commended.

The three-legged creature responded, “It’s my job to wrangle the runaways, Garrin. Especially the delusional ones. Do you think he’ll recover?” Lex inquired, genuinely curious.

“I hope so, but his delusion of being a human seems to run deep. This is the third time he’s escaped. And even surrounded by reflective surfaces, he never seems to see his own image.”

Garrin and Lex both looked on a weeping Marcus with pity as he clutched his three legs to his chest.

 

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Our Son by Alanna J. Rubin

For Sean

With clothes and blankets wrapped around him like a protective nest, he strained to hear the muted conversation his parents were having about him.

They had been arguing for the past week, ever since his tenth birthday and he couldn’t understand why. What had happened? Xavier felt brave enough to ease out of the blankets and put his ear to the wall and suddenly he could hear his parents as if they were standing right next to him. “Simon,” his mother chastised his father, “it’s time. He needs to know.”

“I disagree. He’s too young,” his father replied while pacing nervously.

“He’s going to start asking questions, and what will you say then?” His mother asked.

“I don’t know, but that’s not the point. When he asks, that’s when we tell him.”

“We can’t hide the truth forever.”

“I’m not suggesting forever. All I’m saying is not now.” Xavier couldn’t make heads or tails from this conversation. What did they mean? What didn’t they want to tell him?

Xavier found himself leaning harder into the wall when it suddenly gave way under the pressure. Xavier fell back onto his bed in surprise as the drywall dust exploded onto his face. But that was nothing compared to the surprised look on his parents’ faces as they stared at the gaping hole in the wall with awe. “I…I’m sorry,” Xavier stammered. “I didn’t mean to,” he blurted out.

“We know sweetie,” she spoke soothingly. She quickly approached him and wrapped Xavier in her arms. Instantly, Xavier felt safe. “Simon,” she called out snapping him out if his stupor. He looked at her, shock still visible on his face. “You were saying?” She spoke, her voice thick with concern and sarcasm.

Simon swallowed hard as Xavier looked at him expectantly. “Son,” he started without taking his eyes off him, “you see you’re not like your mother and me,” Simon hesitated, struggling to find the right words, “you’re special.” Xavier pulled away from his mom, giving his father his full attention. Simon sighed, “What I’m trying to say is that you’re not from…Earth.” Simon paused to let his last statement sink in.

Xavier’s eyes went large, “So, I’m an alien?” He asked confused. Simon nodded.  “Is that why you’ve both been so upset?”

“No baby,” his mother chimed in. “We’ve been arguing because this past week you started exhibiting abilities and we’ve been hiding it from you. We weren’t sure if you were ready to find out the truth, but clearly there’s no avoiding it.” She gestured toward the demolished wall.

Xavier swallowed hard; it made sense. He’d been dreaming of another world starting this last week, but now he knew it was more than a mere dream. Something was awakening inside him. “Do you know where I’m from?” he asked cautiously.

“We don’t,” Simon replied. Xavier’s face fell as a wave of fear and loneliness came crashing down, but Simon immediately noticed the shift in his son’s demeanor. He bent down and firmly gripped Xavier by his shoulders, “But no matter what, you belong here with us. You will always be our son.”

Xavier smiled feeling relieved by his father’s assurance and gave his dad a hug, but pulled back abruptly feeling a rush of excitement, “So what else can I do?” he asked.

Simon looked at his son with a glint in his eye, “We don’t know, but your mother and I will do everything we can to help you find out.” Xavier knew his world had changed forever, but he never felt more at home.

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