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Imagine sleaziest used car salesman you can think of, then magnify it by ten and that is a used Soul salesman. Every religion has tackled the concept of the afterlife but not one has really nailed it. Which means I am going to spill the beans and mind you I could get in A LOT of trouble for spilling said beans, but it's all based of Karma. Yea Earl was right. Over the course of your life you earn karma for everything you do and then when you get to the afterlife you have a choice, either walk through one door into nothing or choose to be reincarnated.

Seems simple right? Just one catch, you do not know what you will be reincarnated as. Even though it is all based on your karma score, you don't know that going in. Add to the fact that your karma score is not one metric but a series of 50 different attributes. Yes, it's very much like a role playing video game. Which makes writer think some of the early game developers beat the system. But that's a tangent for another day.

So once you walk through the reincarnation door, you transported to your Soul Bazaar. This is like a giant Amazon for new souls. Want to be a super star athlete who ALSO is a good person, you better have done something right in the previous life cause it will be pricey. The pricing has in the main stream marketplace has gotten ridiculous lately because of over crowding and lack of production. So most newly deceased are stuck in tough spot of purchasing something cheap like lowly insect or some type of rodent. However if you keep going through the Bazaar you will eventually come to the second hand soul market, the home of used soul salesmen.

The second hand soul market is exactly what it says, second hand souls. You see sometimes souls get returned or a manufacture wants to put out a new model and they have a ton of older inventory so they get sold here. Or the really bad ones will hijack souls on their "path" back to source so they can be 'repurposed'. Sometimes they will get ones in a near death state. Hell they will sale them with another soul still in them! This leads to a weird co-habitation thing and both souls end up back the two doors pretty quickly.

The other thing they don't tell you is that your karma accumulates over each lifetime, so while your memory is wiped, oh right, I forgot about that detail.

Quick side tangent, so when you die and chose reincarnation, your memories are kept in a limbo for the next time through the cycle. Their is a painful series of rooms before you get to the bazaar called transition circles, where all of your past lives memories are joined with your last trip through life. Crazy if you just spent six months living as a beetle, only to find out that in a past life you were actually a in the Beatles. Not saying that's true or that John Lennon might have spent the last 80 years as various insects. Anyway back to the soul cycle...
Haha, soul cycle.

So in theory if you knew the system, you could keep buying the cheapest soul available and building up credit till you wanted to cash in a top of the line model.

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"I been thinking we should move to Alaska, can you imagine the size of the road kill up there?" Ram said to his shoveling partner Wes as they tried to scrap what remained of a small deer off the middle of I74.

"Too cold and anything up there would probably not go unnoticed when it was hit, in fact I would wager it would probably do more damage to the car or truck," Wes responded as he reached over to pick up a loose hoof.

"Ya, that makes sense," Ram said as he threw the remaining pieces into a bucket and slowed walked around the back of the truck and hopped into the bed. He gave the driver a slow nod and they continued down the highway.

Ram had been doing this glorious job for about 5 years now, it was recession proof and he didn't have to think too much. Plus he was pretty much born for it, as in he had a rare condition where he couldn't smell a thing. Wes was new, only on the job for about 3 months. He was a real quiet at first, alway showed up earlier and ready to go as they drove up and down the state highways looking for roadkill or other hazards in the road way. Ram was glad Wes had finally opened up, it made him seem more human. At first he was worried he was on the run from something. I mean who signs up to be the guys who pick up roadkill.

No Wes was not running from anything, as far as Ram knew, he was just looking for some peace and according to him an honest days work. Ram thought there were other ways that didn't involved sitting in the back of a truck next to dead animal parts to do an honest days work. But who was he to judge how one man spent his time.

Wes looked out over the rolling hills as the warning arrow overhead signaled to traffic to get over. He rubbed his the palm of his hand which was finally starting to form a nice callus. He had started the job with perfect city boy hands as Ram called him and now he didn't have a working man's set of mitts yet, but he was getting closer. It's not every day you see a multi-billionaire sitting in the back of a pick up truck doing manual labor.

Then again, it's not like he was ever recognized, he was just another faceless entry on the Forbes 400. During the pandemic of 2020, his company or his whole social culture had prayed and exploited the less fortunate. He knew it at the time and knew it to this day. He still hadn't really decided how to reconcile his feelings about any of it. He just knew he had to get out. So he did, sold everything and moved to a small town and started this simple life. A million things always raced through his head everyday in the back of that truck.

If you are so un happy with what you did, you should just give it all away. But he couldn't bring himself to action yet, sure he had donated about fifty percent of all his assets, but a desire to be self reliant and just a selfish consumer-ish desire prevented him from giving it all away.

The truck slowed, Ram leaned his head over and then turned to Wes and said, "No shovels, but it looks heavy."

"Great, maybe I won't hit the gym after work," Wes replied.

"Gym?" Ram said as they hopped out and walked around to see a large refrigerator in the middle of the fast lane.

"How did they not realized this fell out?" Wes said as they walked to either end of it and started to roll into the median, "The gym thing was a joke."

"Ya, I figured, but you don't joke,"  Ram said as fridge crashed over and started to roll down the hill, "That's not good."

"Do we have to deal with that?" Wes said it came to a rest in the middle of the median, "I joke, I  guess I think do."

"Nah, it wouldn't have fit in our truck anyways, I am sure they would have preferred we left it somewhere easier to access, but shit happens," Ram said as they walked back to the truck, "and if you're not thinking your not sure, your joking, then your not."

Wes realized that it had been quite some time since he actually tried to be funny or tell a joke. Maybe it was his sub-conscience way of punishing himself. You have to be a somber man.

As they sun started to set and they neared the end of their shift Ram went through his usually Friday routine of causally asking Wes out for a beer at one of the four bars in town. Wes would make up some flimsy excuse and go home to his house make some dinner have a glass of wine and watch TV before falling asleep on the couch.

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Farm early is probably a term, but for Esther Prim it was just everyday early. She was a fifth generation farmer, her family had been working their quadrant of land since the 50s. Only one crop could grow on their land and lucky for her family it was quite lucrative.

She had taken over the farm when her father passed. His passing was sudden in nature, but not that unexpected. He never took care of his health and maintained an obsession with these relics called cigarettes. Esther had stolen one from a pack when she was younger and nearly died after trying it. He was in the middle of his daily chores when he just keeled over in the field. The doctor said he went peaceful and with his passing it also locked Esther into a lifetime contract on taking care of the farm. She was only 22 went it happened and cursed her luck. Most of the other families working the land around her allowed their offspring to go out and explore, but she never got the chance.

It was like one morning she had a her whole life in front of her and by the afternoon she was in her late 30's cursing the a malfunctioning nozzle in the irrigation system. But that was her life now. Up at 4am to check the fences and make sure the crops survived the night. Then it was feeding time, followed by three timed watering cycles, and then she spent reminder of the day fixing anything else that might have been broken. Which even thought the crops where lucrative, the contract that bonded her family to the land ate up most of the money. So there was hardly ever extra money for shiny new equipment.

Esther had dabbled in dating before, but it was clear he was only angling for a merger. A way to combine their quadrants. Others in her chosen lifestyle usually found their mate or partner when they were young and able to travel, but she had missed her opportunity. She was alone. Well mostly alone.

Normally she had employed two farm hands during the growing season and three or four during the harvest. Another expense, but her parents didn't procreate like they should have to provide additional workers. Then she had the offseason, even thought it was only about 3 weeks. It was always the oasis of serenity she looked forward too. The last offseason she tried to write a book, but she ended up staring at a blank page for about a week straight and gave up. The time before that, she attempted to book a vacation for herself, but nothing was affordable.

No the offseason was her favorite time because she could sit on her porch and gaze into the night sky and see everything. A brilliant kaleidoscope of colors dance across the sky, subtlety punctuated with moments of immense blackness which slowly individual stars start to appear and twinkle. Then Jupiter would erupt again, spewing heat and gas into space and the kaleidoscope would spin again.

Farming on Ganymede or Jup-M-34 as it was now referred too as was not for everyone. However with its giant underground ocean and ice shell it made for perfect growing conditions for clone shells. Clone shells were faceless humanoid bodies that could be harvest and the sculpted to sell or use in the inner ring planets.

While many of the moons of Jupiter lawless, Ganymede had been colonized around 2132 and was relatively stable. It was purchased by a large corporation who sold quadrants of land to families to work and harvest their assigned products. That's how Esther ended up here and she would probably die here. It was troubling to her assigned product manager that she had no line of succession. That meant her families contract would go up for auction, and they were surprisingly was no shortage of takers. Earth must be even worse than she had though, if people were willing to trade it in for this existence.

She had debated selling, but she was still scared of the unknown, even though that was all she wanted.

As the company's harvesting ship dusted off, it carried the last of a particular strong batch of shells. Esther was already looking forward to the upcoming peace and quiet. It had been over a year she'd spent growing this crop. In fact she had waited about 2 months longer than usually to harvest because some of the shells hadn't fully developed. Because of a lack of radiation from the Sun, her whole crop had been full sized with translucent skin. Those would never sell. So she waited, she knew she had time and as fair as she knew there were no side effects to letting them grow longer than average.  

No she made the right call and while the other croppers sold off for half the value. She held on and was rewarded with a bumper crop, lots of variety and all oversized.  

After a day or two of pretty much nothing but sleep she ventured out her barn to check on a sensor alarm that had awoken her from a slumber. One of the farm hands must not have secured something correctly and the recent tremors in the ice probably caused it fall. Upon entering she didn't see anything immediately. When a horrifically pathetic sound started to imminent from a dark corner. Confused she made her way towards the strange gurgling sound. Lurching out of the shadow was a naked clone shell. She screamed and backed away. It was scratching at its face where a mouth should have been. It lumbered or stumble forward like a new born calf, trying to use its legs for the first time before falling over again.

Esther thought in horror, this is not suppose to happen. They don't have souls or thoughts, I grow shells. I grow shells. She kept repeating in her head as she looked on at the faceless person now moaning in agony as they curled up into a futile position.

I just grow shells. She thought as she reached for something heavy.

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Stranger 1

"Over the course of a one day, if you live in a major city you cross paths with about 100 people." Ebbe remembered hearing a some TV show the other night and had thought there is no way that could be true. I mean she lived in a big city, well biggish, Minneapolis, and took public transportation to and from work occasionally, but there was no way she saw 100 people a day? Maybe over the course of a week. Then again how often has had she been counting the people she saw on a daily basis. It was one of those facts, that she heard and then thought she should definitely google that later. Then again she was pretty sure it was on one those Murder death kill shows, so it probably wasn't true at all, she thought the second part of it was that based on that daily average, she was likely to come across at least 41 murderers during her life time! So maybe that is why she didn't necessarily but much thought into the 100 daily number and more on the 41.

She also had taken the subway today, mostly because it was so cold that her car wouldn't start and she had no other choice, but mostly because she wanted to see if she could spot the murderer today. It was more of a game, she had always loved to people watch. But now days with smart phones, it wasn't the same. And you always caught weird looks if your face wasn't buried in your device. But she had found a few good spots recently to indulge in her favorite pass time. But today's viewing was sparse, the pandemic coupled with sub zero temperatures had keep most people off the subway and those on it, most likely were there just for the warmth.

Only five people where on her train when she boarded and by they time they reached her spot, maybe 3 or 4 had come and gone. But she had taken detailed mental notes and was when she reached her office she took some time to construct a mini-murder board on the spare notepad. She detail the following potential murders.. or just normal people who happened to share the subway with me today. First she thought she should jot down the pet names she had for each, then she could fill in the details, that way she wouldn't forget anyone.

Wanna be Cat lady
Emo punk rocker
homeless Ted Cruz
homeless Ted Mosby
Patrick Bateman
Tourist couple

Alright now for the details and maybe then I should rank them on Murder potential she thought.

Wanna be cat lady  - Smelly, could have been homeless or just liked to wear layers, older weathered face, carrying a package from the PetPros. Murderer potential, low, seemed to smile at everyone that got on and off the subway, or maybe she has already started with animals.. Still also couldn't see her pulling off a crime of passion.

Emo Punk rocker - a walking cliche, and a walking popsicle. She understands the need to express yourself, but skinny jeans and trainer jacket is close to suicide in this cold. Murder potential, next to nothing, he was too stupid to pull off a murder. However she guessed he could easily get behind the wheel and take someone out, so maybe he actually was the most likely subject.

She stopped for a second and thought about her current morbid thinking. It didn't really matter. So she pressed on..

The homeless Teds, two white males, battling different degrees of homeless-ness she though, Cruz looked fatter, plumper and had an arrogant reproachful look to everyone else, almost like he thought he was better than them. While Mosby was younger and skinner and kinda looked the lead from the TV shows. Murder potential : Cruz high, he looked like a serial killer, or maybe she just really didn't like him. While Mosby she could see waxing poetically about the morning dew, or killing his friend over some meth.

Patrick Bateman.. Damn he had slipped her mind, she couldn't remember if looked like Christian Bale's character in American Psycho or Jason Bateman the actor.

Silvo, was ethnic, but she wasn't 100 percent sure. It was bad she now assumed Italian, and that put her at the top her murder board because of you know Organized crime and terrible outdated stereotypes. He was also wearing what she thought was a gold pinkie ring, which solidified her mental picture of him as a mafioso.

Tourist couple - got on towards the end, had a few bags. Line ends at the airport. When they first got on she thought it could be a loveless marriage that leads one snuffing the other out. But then they set about for the weirdest PDA she had every seen. Even thought it was little unsettling. She thought it knocked them down on the murderer potential.

She put down her pen and look over her murder list and thought, gotta be one of the Teds. She then ripped the paper off the pad and crumpled it up and tossed into the trashcan. Powered up her computer and logged into her workstation.

Stranger 2

- Was going to pick one of the people from the murder board and tell about their subway experience.

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He really was becoming something of a relic he thought as he sulked around the half filled apartment building in Lower Manhattan. It's not like he had anything to do any more. Everything was electronic, people called or buzzed everyone in and out. Yet still he sat there every night. Midnight to seven in the morning, five days a week, for the past thirty years. Something that had started as a curiosity of what it would be like had turned into a career. Could you call it a career, if you have had the same job for its entirety? Usually a career meant advancement and the development of skills, just movement of any kind. Well technically a basketball player has the same role his whole career, but then again he's not Jordan, or even LeBron, or hell even JJ Reddick. No he just suited up for 30 years. That's gotta be worth something.

In his youth he had a strange desire to see what it was like to do odd jobs. Now these were odd jobs, not the trendy fun ones people have one TV, but board line undesirable ones, like a night door man or a long haul trucker. It was this desire that lead him to work at Chrystal Views. Built in the early 90s it had a very Trump-like facade. I.E. it kind looked flashy and elegant for a split second if you driving as fast as you possibly could and liked fake gold. However it was still hanging around, when buildings of its elk had been demolished to build more luxurious accommodations.

"Good Evening, Mr Rosemont," Otis said to hammered thirty something man who stumbled into the lobby. He might an attempt to speak but decided on an awkward eyes closed head til and three tooth showing smirk.

This was usually Mr. Rosemont's greeting. He had married young, right out of college and it didn't end well. He moved in about a year or two earlier and was still attempting to live the life of a much younger man. However the divorce robbed him of the money to be able to really do it right or woo the company of a younger attractive woman. Which was clearly his goal upon arrival, however after what was probably thousands of rejections he had switched to just getting three sheets to the wind every night he could. Otis thought or maybe hoped that someone in his family or friends would say something maybe imply he had a problem. Then again he didn't seem to have that many friends.

His busiest was usually around two to three, when the bars closed, however since Covid and the pandemic he rarely saw anyone. He thought it was only a matter of time till they told him he had to go. After all he had also been living their nearly rent free for the past twenty years. This had also been one the main reasons he probably stayed as long as he did. There was a basement's basement apartment that went to a member of the staff who was willing to take calls or problems 24/7, and who better to handle it than the guy whose already there all night.

Even though he was in his late fifties he still felt he could pass for thirty seven and despite being a over six foot he still felt he could blend in and disappear. He had been through a lot even if he'd stayed in the same place. But that was the city, one that was always moving and changing. Himself as well, he developed a nice coke problem in the early nineties, like most of the rest of the city, that changed when the bubble broke in 07 and he had to take the one pay cut of his career. However with a no rent or mortgage he didn't have it so bad. His cut of the Christmas tips for those years was much leaner but he didn't mind.

RAN OUT OF TIME -- setting a 24 hour limit on the initially writing of the story.

Not sure where this one was headed thought.

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Airplane: Write about meeting someone on an airplane and a conversation you might have

There is moment of dread or excitement after you have boarded a plane and are sitting down at your seat, waiting for whoever is going to be LIVING in your personal space for the next few hours. If your single you are one hundred percent hoping it's someone you're attracted too. I don't care what anyone says they all harbor that secret desire to have a some sort of romantic comedy travel adventure and if that starts on the plane ride that's even better.

However as I sat their on my most recent trip, now a happily involved twenty-something, I was either hoping hung over tall man's dream, aka no one shows up or maybe just a smaller built person with their headphones in and with something to do. See since I always tend to take the window, I never wanted to get a sleeper. Yes, you get the benefit of no talking or interruptions, but you have to do these awkward plane gymnastics to get out and use the bathroom and sometimes the drink cart just slips past you.

It's like a bizarre lottery and the results are never exactly what you wanted, but most of the time surprisingly passable. Since Covid, I was one of the few people still in the air, those flights, my weekly flight to Corporate headquarters required that I still travelled. National Security is funny that way, prefer to be in person. The early days, it seemed like I was flying private with own massive plane playground. Sure I actually had a few flights cancelled because I might have been the only paying customer, but the freedom was nice for a while. Till about six months in, to coin a phrase from Fight Club, I missed my single serving friends. They could be intimate without the strings. I mean that in non-sexual way of course as people are weird open with someone on a plane.

I was always open to listen and careful not to divulge anything remotely personal about myself, but that didn't stop my row mate from opening up. This occurrence was only exasperated by alcohol which removed any and all filters usually. That was also because he  knew there were loads of drunks and alcoholics in the world, but everyone is always able to be airport hammered. He thought it had to do with the fact that usually you never just had ONE drink at an airport, it was always a few to calm the nerves and then just one more before my flight. Which always led to them misjudging how soon they were going to board and slamming said last one.

So here we go, I have dropped my money in the slot and the wheels are spinning what am I getting today. I was happy to have my single serving friends back, the vaccine had been out for about 1 year now, and was more than 2 since the world stopped spinning and air travel was still recovering but I was starting to see the old problems of people just being dicks again. Today's flight was from DC to Denver then he was going to

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This Old House: Write about an old house that is abandoned or being renovated

Chase Lovell was, how to put this delicately, not good at all with his hands. Which is why it was quite strange to all his friends and family when he had sold his elegant downtown apartment and purchased, what could generously be described as a dump. Ever since he saw it he had been spouting off things like good bones, natural light, and real hard wood floors. It was like he binged every episodes of HG TV and now felt he would be able to revive this hovel he purchased.

Granted it was in a lovely little seaside town and he probably paid for the land more than anything. In fact the relator was over heard in town laughing historically when he recounted the story of Chase telling him he was going to live and fix up the place. After all anyone that took one look at Chase, knew he was city through and through. From the soft manicured hands to the stylish loafers, he hadn't spent a day doing manual labor in his life. He was a writer by trade, a quiet successfully one at that. His early work was unpublished as he drank away his earlier 20s trying to write the great American novel, and thought he could only achieve this in a Hemingway like fashion. However his inheritance slowly dwindled and he took on a ghost writing gig for a well known mystery writer and took to it like fish in water.

In about 5 years he went from ghost writing to five best sellers and two movies and a TV show. But he still wanted to write something deeper and after hours of staring at the blank page he took off into the country for inspiration. A few days later and many terrible bed and breakfasts, he stumble across his new home. He paid cash and even though he didn't need to sell his place in the city, he felt that if he had a safe net, something to come back to, he would abandon his quest for the prefect prose.

He also believed that it would be this project could be his Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He could work on the house all day and then reflect on his accomplishments with a Zen like clarity. He knew this work would give him the way to encompass the true spirit of the nation. It would also insulate him from distractions like Television or the other great distraction his smart phone.

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In most movies the really cool jobs the new hire is chosen in some manner of cosmic selection or they pass a series of tests unusually tests, and then end up getting the job because they didn't follow the test's instructions or said something really inappropriate or outlandish that convinces the stuffy higher ups that this rebel is perfect man or woman for the job. I can say, as a recent graduate real life interviews are nothing like that. I think I actually nodded off in my last one which featured two tests, a panel interview, and a one on one with via video conference with someone important. Maybe it was this gantlet was put forth to weed out the lesser candidates, like myself who after wards, probably knew less about the actual position then I did going in. It's always the same cookie cutter questions as well, and everyone is looking for a "culture" fit. Which I have determined is a just a way to be racist or sexist or whatever-ist without coming out and saying it. Plausible deniability for the HR department or management when they just end up hiring someone's son or friend.

Ok, I know I sound bitter, maybe its because I graduated and have been on probably fifteen interviews, some of them call backs and not had one single offer. It's like I have been black balled. Every person I met seems to think I'm so impressive and a fantastic candidate yet here I am sitting in my parent's basement deciding if I should play another game of Madden or turn on some porn just loud enough to make my parents uncomfortable.

That's another thing, they supported me through school and took care of me and now I constantly think of ways to torment them on a daily basis. Maybe it's because I am just angry with my own failures and they are my emotional scapegoat. But I know it's got to be hard for them as well. I am not suppose to be here. I can't shake the feeling that they feel they have done something wrong as well. It just sucks. It sucks for me and it sucks for them, they are good people.

The worst part is you think that with all of this interview practice, I would be getting better. But I am not. Just getting worse. Probably the constant rejection that is waiting down my already somewhat melancholy natural disposition. I am not not as receptive to feedback and definitely snapped at a poor designer who asked a basic question in one interview last week.

I was about to give up and get a job as waiter somewhere, but then I would probably have to pass a drug test and with my constant rejection raining over me on a daily basis, I might have been dabbling in some illegal substances. Or would that be the only place I wouldn't be tested. Now that I thought about, most of the major companies I was interviewing for would probably want me to take some kinda of test. Which I would then fail and then I would be back to square one. It was a vicious cycle I was locked in and like I mentioned earlier, probably about to just give up.

I think there is some saying about from rock bottom hope springs eternal, or maybe it's when you've lost everything your free to do anything. Either way, I was pretty low, but I had a roof over my head and food in my belly so my plight was not as dire as it was for most of the people in today's world. Which is why when a got an email asking to come in and talk about the role of Proximity Adjuster in a support role, I didn't send it straight to the trash bin. I responded. Their was no company name or details about what a Proximity Adjuster did, just a time and place. In my response I attached my resume and asked if my name and information had been provided by one of the three or four recruiters that were currently working on my behalf and what was the name of their company as the email was just is just a blank page and after some quick research, doesn't really mean or support anything. Glassdoor had no listing for proximity adjuster, however adjuster seemed to be a prevalent title in the insurance world, which certainly wasn't sexy for my first choice, but at this point I just needed a job.

No formalities, we know all about you. Please be at the aforementioned time and place. All will be explained.

Cryptic and vague. I was hooked, I grew up watching movies and reading sci fi novels, so I knew this was my chance. The men in black were real, and with my 3.44 GPA, short list of extracurriculars and zero to no experience or combat training I was the perfect candidate.

So the day of I dressed in my best interview suit. I had three interviews suits, mostly because I had three suits, one I got for my cousin's wedding, one for formal events in college, and one for some reason I can't remember. All of these had become my interview suits. I know most people today don't wear suits into the office and most people that I'd seen interviewing with me did not wear a suit as well. But there was something about putting it one on, it helped me get in the proper mind set, like I was a super hero donning my cape to go out on patrol. That's a shit analogy because if I was a super hero I would never wear a cape. That's one of the big life lessons taught from the Incredibles.

As a headed towards 1429 Attendbourgh Court, I thought about the fact that maybe too many of lessons to live by came from Disney movies. Or maybe that most of my expected life experiences were shaped from movies in general. I mean to this day, I honestly thought I was headed for an interview with the real life Men in Black and I was about to find out if aliens really existed. I was having an heated internal debate as to if I would be able to actually server all ties to my current life. My parents already thought I was a disappointment, so maybe just disappearing would be better for them. Which made me think about what happened to J's parents or cop buddies in the movie. Did they mention something? I think they might have, but I couldn't remember. This side tangent of mental wondering took me all the way to the location. It was a basic 3 story office building, glass windows, nothing special. I parked in a spot marked visitor and headed for the main entrance, there was no suite listed on the address, so I guess I was assuming the entire building was "".

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Castor enjoyed his daily commute, unlike most people who were stuck in traffic for hours, he could move freely about the train car for the hour or so from his parents home in Westchester, to his first job in the city. Like most recent graduates he had longed to dive into the city life, but in today's climate and in the middle of a pandemic he thought it be beneficial to save money and enjoy the cushy amenities his parents home still could offer.

The way he looked it at, he wasn't missing that much these days, the city still shut down for the most part, so spending the three hours daily on the train was his daily decompression. With free wifi and a beverage cart he really had no complaints. Occasionally it would a bit crowded and he couldn't take his two seats to stretch out, but those days were few and far between. Usually closer to the weekends and sometimes he would stay in the city with a co-worker.

As the train pulled out of the station at Yonkers he remember the last such weekend, that had turned into quite an adventure, this co-worker was a several years his senior and he had heard rumors that she tended to cherry pick new hires to be her for lack of a better word sex toy for a few months. He had taken on the role after her first choices was sidelined with a serious girlfriend. He had not complained one bit. However, she was now back with her on again off again relationship with a traveling thespian.

He looked out of at the Hudson as the cars jostled back and forth, it was not the smoothest ride, but it never felt out of control. He noticed their were quite a few more people on then usually. Was it Friday already? He wondered how time seems to go so quickly yet slowly at the same time. Reminded him of something the great philosopher LL Cool J once said, "Put your hands on a hot woman and an hours can feel like a second, put your hands on a hot pan and a second can fell like an hour, It's all relative."

He loved that, Castor's love of late nineties movies definitely came from his parents. After all they named him after the dopey brother in Face Off. He still to this day never knew what his parents had been thinking when they finally revealed the origins of his name. He had hoped it would have been an epic family name or something cool. But no they just loved Face Off and thank god he wasn't a girl or he might have been named Peaches.

He chuckled to himself, how could a tenured professor and chemical engineer been so swayed by a piece of trash cinema that they named their only son after the peripheral  character? Then again it was their love for those movies that brought them together, so he guessed it did make sense. "I wonder what I am gonna tell my son or daughter about how their parents met?" he muttered to himself.

Oh she was a predatory cougar who walked an HR tightrope and I broke through her harden shell to find the wonderful women inside. Then he had to stop himself as he begin to see a future and kids with this women. It had been a few nights and one long weekend. But he had to admit he had fallen hard. He knew it was naive and stupid, but he didn't really care. I mean what is the point of being young dumb and full of cum as the saying goes. However he was not suppose to have THESE kinds of feelings, the kind of feelings we you are having far off conversations with future progeny.

Castor shook his head vigorously and diverted his gaze out the window as the say the sprawling cityscape start to fade in the distance. Night had fallen and the scene was picturesque. So many times had he tried to snap a photo to capture the the way the lights danced on the glassy surface of the bay. But nothing every capture that magic witching hour quite right. He exhaled deeply and felt a sense of serenity fall over him.

He wondered why don't more people just take the train as he drifted off to sleep.

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Maybe Cecilia watched too many movies, but she had an odd habit of particular movie quotes repeating in her head throughout her daily life. If she was cutting tomatoes, she could hear Johnny Drama exclaiming, “these knives are for shit. You know Vince likes his tomatoes cut paper thin.” In which case, she would then also try to slice her tomato as thin as possible.

"What's in the Box! What's in the box!!" Cecilia thought to herself as she approached a strange package at her doorstep. Why did she seem to think about that horrific movie any time she saw an un-opened package? Most of the time, her head-quotes were lighthearted, but this one was always darker. Then again, it was one of the most quotable movie lines every. Brad Pitt’s as the tortured husband, the spittle flying out of his mouth as he tears of terror slowly creep down his cheeks. It reminded her she needed to take another sick day soon and do a re-watch of David Fincher’s filmography. Maybe liven it up by tossing in some of the music videos he cut his teeth on to start.  

It seems like everything is available to be delivered to you and a majority of these packages come thanks to the chief man in sky. Mr. Bezos. Yet most would think he himself would not get packages. Especially addressed directly to him. That's why it was odd when Cecilia received a package for Mr. Bezos. Not from Amazon, but to Jeff Bezos, Mr. Amazon. Or rather, Syndilate Composites Attention: Jeff Bezos, with her address and apartment number.

The package had arrived while she was at work and stood tilted against her door when she return home, about three feet tall and two feet wide. In her rush to get inside, she fumbled with her keys and lifted the light package inside her door as the typical Seattle rain whipped in from the awning covering her apartment entry. After a shower and change of clothes to rid herself of grease and diner smell that radiated off of her after a long double shift, she returned to box still sitting just inside her door. She walked into the kitchen and poured a glass of boxed wine and inspected the package. She had ordered nothing she could remember, but maybe it was a gift from her parents or that secret admirer she wished she had. You know, the one who left overly generous cash tips and was just waiting to sweep her off her weary feet. But really, it was probably for her neighbor, Joe, or some other generic white guy name. He was always getting stuff. She walked over to the box, which was wrapped in clear plastic shrink wrap. Smart, she thought, as it was always rainy here. She picked it up and carried it into her den and sat it down on her coffee table.

"Alexa, turn on the TV," she said aloud as she turned over the plain-looking cardboard box, looking for the address information. Finally, she found it at one of the top corners of the end of the box.

Syndilate Composites

Attn: Jeff Bezos

1294 Athem Dr Apt 203

Tacoma, WA 98403

"What the hell?" She muttered to herself. First, she couldn't even imagine that someone like Bezos would even get his own packages. I would send them through an LLC or something weird to prevent his address from ever being listed or known. Second, she had never heard of the made up word, Syndilate. Maybe the internet had, and she quickly grabbed her phone to do a search. After a frustrating battle with auto correct (No I don't want SYNDICATE!!!) Google returned no record of a company or anything with that name existing.

What to do? She pondered. If she took it back to the post office and she wasn’t even sure they delivered it, there was no return address or postage markings. She was sure it would just sit there unopened until the richest man in the world swung down the local post office to pick it up. Fat chance of that happened. It has to be a practical joke. There is no way this is actually for him. Another Fincher movie came popped into her head. Maybe this was the start of an elaborate game that rich play to break the mundane monotony of life. Or maybe she was about the star of some new reality TV show. See what happens when regular Joes get packages meant for rich people. She heard the trailer voice say the tagline in her head.

What's the harm in opening it? An internal battle raged in her head, with two voices debating each side.

“It is a federal crime to open someone else mail.”

“But does a package not delivered by the US Postal service still make it a federal crime? And how else would she be able to find out how to return it, if she never opened it?”

“No, it's a crime.”

The tiny angel voice in her head won and she would do the right thing and take it to the Post Office or maybe the Amazon Distribution Center that was only a few blocks away tomorrow morning. She set it on the ground and went to get another glass of wine.

Three more glasses later.

Ahh, what the hell. This had not been a snap decision, but a slow crescendo to the epiphany to open it. After the fourth glass, she got a small box cutter from her kitchen. Then mid way through fifth she slid out the blade and carefully removed the plastic wrap. She stopped at removing the plastic wrap for the time being as a new internal debate raged on. Get another glass or go to bed. It was after midnight and she had been told nothing good comes after midnight.

With a bolt of courage, she pressed on. She turned the box long ways and placed it between her knees and cut the tape at the top of the box and dragged out the flap. She built some kind of dramatic suspense in her mind before finally opening the box. Finally, after a deep breath, she lifted the lid and looked inside to see nothing.

"Well, shit," she said, "No wonder it was so light."

Then something funny happened. The room spun and faded to black as her eyes got heavy. The TV fade out and she was now surrounded in darkness. Her eyes were open, but ensconced in blackness. Her body stopped spinning. It was quiet. After a moment, she heard inaudible sounds. She couldn't feel or see her body. It felt like she was moving and it was hot, desert hot. Suddenly, the movement stopped. More sounds were outside, only muffled. She opened her mouth to speak, but her muscles didn't respond. She tried to move her legs or arms, but seemed like they weren't there. There was nothing but complete darkness.

The sounds got louder. There were two male voices and then doors opening and closing. She was moving again, but slower this time and more deliberate. Someone was carrying her. Maybe there was a gas leak in the building and the fire department was in her apartment, carrying her to safety. She could now smell heat. It reminded her of a summer spent in Arizona. A dry, sandy smell filled her nose. A strange comfort came over her and it was like she was back in Arizona looking out under the night sky, except everything was still black. Now the sounds were much closer, and the darkness seemed to lighten. A small ray of light appeared in front of her like a beacon breaking the darkness and she heard a familiar voice say, "There's blood.."

Then, after what seemed like an eternity, the silt opened and bright, blinding sunlight assaulted her corneas. She made out an audible shudder as her eyes slowly adjusted to the light. And she realized how she knew the voice. Staring down at her was the actor Morgan Freeman. He looked terrifyingly down at her and then off into the distance and back to her. She tried to scream again, but nothing came out. Morgan stood up and took off in an unseen direction. She strained to hear what Freeman was yelling as he disappeared from her view. Finally, it became clear.

“John Doe has the upper hand now...”

Cecilia knew the line by heart, but nothing made sense. With all of her concentration, she forced her head to jerk from right to left. Her surroundings rocked back and forth, and her view of the blistering desert sun fell sideways. In the distance, she saw three figures yelling and bickering. Cries of pain and anger came from one man before she saw the muzzle flash, followed by several more. The shooter marched past the body and towards her. She squinted at the silhouette as the sun set behind him and the mountains in the distance. A moment the figure was standing over her sobbing. He knelt over and picked Cecilia up gently and clutched her tight to his chest. Cecilia smelled his perspiration and guilty. She tried to move her arms, but they were not there. In fact, nothing was there. Cecilia had become nothing but Gwyneth’s severed head.

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Would you rather be rich, successful, healthy, or famous? Why?

Urban legends are cool, right? It's a tall tale that gets passed around or down from generation to generation about a something that makes their neighborhood special. But these days no hoods last forever, and with those changes, the legends die. Trey Fields had spent his whole life in about a ten block radius of his home in Baltimore. He was old enough to know where to go and where not to go. His older brother and de-facto parent had schooled him at young age about the proper ways to handle yourself. Those lessons included who to talk to and who to avoid.

He didn't know much about his dad, other than he was currently serving time upstate. He learned around age seven that meant prison. The unseen benefit of his father being way created a bubble for his family. They were able to move freely whenever and wherever they wanted. He didn't think to much of it, because it didn't effect him. He reckoned one day he would look back on how naive he was, but for now as a fourteen year old boy. In fact he was happy being the quiet, nerdy kid who liked to read.

His favorite pastime was hanging out at the corner barbershop. He knew it was cliche and a tired troupe of his community, but that didn't stop the stories and conversations from being real. His brother worked their part time doing the sweeping and cleaning. While the owner liked Trey, because they shared a passion for literature. His brother failed to see the value in reading. He argued you can see or learn everything on your phone with Youtube and that was much easier than reading. This short-sightedness was fine with Trey.

But he didn't understand the allure of a story, sure videos could showed you world, but in Trey's mind he felt, tasted, EXPERIENCED the worlds in his books. I mean he could spend the day at Hogwarts, or in the land of Hobbits, or in the fictional Oasis, or maybe we wanted to see what it was like to relieve Churchills first year in office in a bunker while Germany place flew overhead and air raid sirens rang in his ear.

Sometimes however the stories were better heard first hand. Which is why he loved tucking himself in the back corner of the shop and listening to the buzz of the clippers and the quick fire banter of customers. One particular story always resonated with Trey and the tall tale varied depending on who was telling it, but the story of the Concrete Genie or the Charm City Oracle, was quite the urban legend.

Trey preferred Walt Sr, an older patron who usually came every other Tuesday to get his beard lined up and his neck trimmed, version the best. Walt claims to have met the Oracle in his youth and to this day attributes his outstanding healthy to his one encounter. According to Walt, this is the way it goes..

It only happens around dusk, at a time when it's not too cold and not too hot. A single beacon of light will reflect off the water in the bay and illuminate a path for the chosen. Now to get chosen, you have to do something worthy of an audience. Walt claims his act was giving his lunch to an elderly gentleman the day before. But what ever you do it, it has to be a truly selfless act. Which is what makes it so hard, because if you know head of time that are you trying to do something to see the Oracle, then it can never truly be a selfless act.

So, if you have done the truly selfless act and therefore been chosen, the light will shimmer over one alley, which you have to enter alone. The oracle only sees one at a time. Upon entering the ally a shadowy figure emerges and declares you are worth. He or she asks if you are willing to accept the consequences of your decision. Of course you say you do, and then he says the following. Which also kinda changes with each story teller.

I stand before you to offer you a choice of dire consequence.
I will grant one of the following:
A life of good and outstanding health,
An existence of immense wealth,
Or the fame acknowledgment from around the world.
Chose carefully for the means to end could be your undoing.

It was always the last line that intrigued Trey the most, because this is where the oracle became something sinister. Often in literature the serpent or villain of a story hides in plain sight, this tale was no different. This line implied a transaction, a deal with the devil, because Trey had learned at an early age, nothing came without a cost. His families freedom had cost their father his freedom. No one who would offer you something so great without their being a catch. Anyway, Back to Walt's story.

He explained that he had heard of the oracle before and knew of the tales of others. Plus a friend of his cousin chose wealth and he was murdered three years later. Albeit after winning the lottery and sixth trifectas in a row at the dog track. So Walt, being a shy person by nature, decided the only choice for him was the a lifetime of being healthy. So he took the health and he doesn't look a day over 55. Yet he's  nearly 95. And Walt like the natural story teller he is delivers this line with aplomb. The entire shop erupts with chorus of laughter and razzin' calling Walt crazy. However Trey did know him, in fact he'd seen his driver's license and he wasn't lying.

He moved like a 30 year old on the basketball court, and besides the whispers of grey in his beard and sideburns you would never know he was about to turn 100. But Walt liked it that way. One evening he walked Trey home because his brother was still busy at the shop. Trey had some many questions to ask him about the oracle but he refrained until they reached his apartment building stoop. He asked him when will you know it's your time and doesn't he get bored? Walt paused for a moment and looked wisp-fully off into the distance. He responded, he wasn't sure but he had spent his life looking for his one true love and still she alluded him. Funny he thought aloud, I got all the time in the world, but no one to share it with. He smile and patted Trey on the shoulder and headed off down the street.

Maybe it was because Trey had spent so much time reading or he was just smarter than most people his age, but he was not fascinated by the Oracle and the promise of the grand expectations, but the cost. Until that day he had thought Walt beat the devil and chose correctly, but he was wrong. You don't beat the devil at his own game, he just finds another way to win. Walt would have his health till he took it himself or some else did, but he would never find the only thing he ever wanted. The devil of Charm city took his one true love.

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