Unconfined Delusions is waiting to scare the bejesus out of you! You really can’t trick or treat without it! Here’s a couple samples:
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Need a Halloween read? Something to keep you awake at night? Sanity’s Threshold, Slivers of a Twisted Mind is here for you.
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Sanity’s Threshold is not for the faint of heart. It tiptoes along the extreme and delves into the paranormal, the horror, the dark, and the weird. It harnesses your imagination and leaves you questioning the slivers of your twisted mind.
This short fiction/short story collection is for the lovers of dark realism, suspense, and the scary. “Kids Come First” details a woman’s nurture for the alien creatures growing in her belly. “Supernova” speculates the demise of our planet. “Mind Rot” speaks of the disasters of chemical experimentation. Enjoy nearly thirty additional enthralling and stimulating pieces.
Flash fiction, dribbles, drabbles, and sudden fiction have been gaining popularity and requires concise story-telling and extreme brevity.
Follow these links for a couple of the pieces, but there are many more that will take you beyond the threshold.
“Everybody get back, now!” Wesley said. “I think we better let Mark cool off. Better yet, party’s over.”
“I’ll say when it’s over,” Mark screamed, spittle flying from his lips like a rabid dog. None of the partiers needed encouragement, peeling away two and three at a time. They piled into beat-up trucks, spewing gravel as they made their escape. Mark stood panting, fist clenched, watching them leave. He pointed a furious finger at Wesley. “You’re next,” he said quietly and stomped past him to his van. “Find your own ride home.”
Mark stepped aside to let him pass, giving him wide berth. He met Sarah’s gaze, obviously shaken by the encounter.
“Come on. You can ride with us,” she said.
Mark took her hand and sighed as he looked at her. “Wow, that was intense. Guess it’s just the two of us tomorrow night,” he said with a grin.
“Did you see it? When you touched him?” she whispered.
He nodded. “What the hell was that thing?”
Sarah could feel him shaking. “The bridge does it to everybody’s aura, even yours, but none of them are like that.”
Emily stumbled down the slope after them to the car, her skirt hiked a bit too high and her hair disheveled. Sarah could tell she had been drinking. As much as she liked her friend, Emily made bad decisions.
Sarah took her by the arm. “So did that change your mind about tomorrow night?”
“No, that was totally Jerad’s fault.” She yanked her arm away from Sarah, nearly falling down in the process. “You never did like him. What’s your problem?”
“He’s a bad person, Emily. Isn’t he, Wesley?”
“Yeah, a lot worse than I thought. I don’t think I’m going to be hanging with him anymore.”
“Well, I like him, and we’re going out tomorrow. I couldn’t care less what you think.”
The ride home was quiet and the next day even quieter. Sarah texted Emily a dozen times and even called her twice. Wesley picked Sarah up, and they drove by Emily’s house, but no one was home.
“I got a bad feeling about this,” Sarah said. “You think she’s already with Mark?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t get ahold of him, either.”
They drove around town looking for them, cruised the west side, and stopped at all the hangouts to ask about them, but nobody had seen them. They went to every movie theater looking for Mark’s van but found nothing. As night settled in, Sarah finally voiced the fear that had been nagging at her.
“He took her to Sweet Water Bridge, Wes.”
“I’m afraid you’re right. Let’s get out there before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?”
Wesley just shrugged.
Mark’s van was parked on the bridge, rocking back and forth, its lights splayed across the deck, disappearing into the eerie void.
Wesley gunned his jeep, hit the last gear, and sped up the hill, the rear end fishtailing on the gravel. The rear door of the van flew open, and Emily tumbled out shrieking, her shirt ripped and her hands tied behind her back. Mark hopped out after her, holding a knife. He and his aura jerked Emily to her feet by her hair. Emily screamed again when she saw the jeep’s headlights.
“We have to get them off the bridge. He’s got too much power there.”
“How do you suggest we do that?”
“Tell him he’s a shitty quarterback.”
Wesley gave a short laugh. “Yeah, that ought to do it. Then what?”
“I’ll get Emily in the jeep and we get the hell out of here.”
“Not much of a plan, but it’ll have to do.” Wesley slammed on the brakes and the jeep skidded to a stop, spraying gravel. They both jumped out and approached the bridge.
“Stay back, or I’ll slice her neck.” Mark’s aura leered at them and flashed a black shadow-knife of its own.
“And then what, Mark, you going kill me, too?”
“Guess I’m going have to kill all three of you. You should’ve minded your own business.” Mark’s shadow grinned at them and licked its lips as Mark yanked Emily’s head back to mark her throat with his knife.
“No!” Wesley bulldozed Mark, knocking him to the ground. Emily scrambled away on her knees, sobbing.
Sarah took one last look at the bridge’s timber before touching it for the first time. Instantly she felt a surge of power sweep through her. She ran to Emily and helped her to her feet. “Get in the jeep!” Mark had wrestled Wesley to the ground. Wesley’s eyes screamed in terror. Sarah knew he could see the specter looming over him, helping to hold him down. He could see the onyx blade poised an inch above his throat. “Get off him!”
Sarah charged, her silver aura flashing. The dark aura shrieked as Mark stood up, forgetting Wesley for the moment. Mark side-stepped her attack but couldn’t elude Sarah’s silver angel who grabbed the dark ghoul and hurled it to the railing, dragging Mark with it. Wesley sprang to his feet, rushed at Mark and knocked him over the railing. Mark clung to the barrier with one hand, knife in the other, scrambling for a foothold on the slimy girders. His aura, still intent on its evil deed, clutched at Wesley’s sleeve.
“Help me, Wes. Help me.”
“He’s no good, Wes.” Sarah stepped back, watching Mark’s fingers slowly lose their grip.
“I have to help, Sarah, I can’t just let him fall.” Wesley leaned over the railing and grabbed Mark’s arm. Sarah heaved a heavy sigh and walked over to help him. She looked down at Mark and his writhing aura and took pity on them. She reached down just as Mark swung his knife at them, a sweeping stroke that would have severed her arm. She jumped back just as Wesley released his grip, and Mark plummeted into the swirling obscurity of the Sweet Water River.
Everyone in town knew her now. Emily made sure they heard the story, filling in the parts she didn’t understand with a lie that fit. Sarah still had her secret, a secret she shared only with Wesley. And she had him, the one person who understood her.
The whisper of his breath on her neck caused a shiver to flutter across her skin. She had been waiting so long; craving his embrace, dreaming about his touch, and hungry for his lips. He lifted her chin with a gentle finger and gazed at her with eyes that sent a song through her heart. His yellow aura flitted and danced around him enveloping her, mingling with her own. Finally, his lips brushed against hers.
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Sarah had a secret: she could see auras, halos of color, floating and enveloping everyone. She spun the knob on her locker as Emily skipped up wearing her usual low-cut top and too short skirt. She smiled at the pink cloud curling around Emily, like cotton candy and goodness. Most auras were light and airy, hardly visible to her, wisps and hazes of bright beautiful hues dancing about the owner’s heads and hearts. But some auras clung to their owners, dark and ominous clouds clinging to a shoulder, oozing from ears, or sliding from a mouth. Those scared her, and one in particular terrified her.
Mark was a senior, all-star jock, handsome, and evil to the core, but Sarah couldn’t tell anyone; no one would believe the Homecoming King was anything but a Prince Charming.
“OMG, he’s cute.” Emily swiveled her body, following Mark as he passed by, twirling her hair, her crush pathetically obvious.
“I guess,” Sarah said.
“You’re cray cray. I mean look at those guns and that butt.”
“I don’t know, there’s something about him, besides being a stuck up asshole.”
“I bet he’s not an asshole once you get to know him.”
“I doubt that very much.” Sarah had to admit the jerk had a nice body but that was the only thing likable about him. Today his aura was a dirty gray, swimming in his wake, but she had seen it black as crude oil, inky and malignant. It had been that way after they had lost the football game to the cross-town rival. It had been so plainly visible it surprised her no one else could see it.
“Well, Wesley hangs out with him.”
“Only because they both play football. Wesley is nothing like him.”
Sarah’s world revolved around Wesley. His buttery aura bubbled around him, shades of happiness, and honesty; and she loved him for it. More than anything Sarah wanted him to notice her. She ached for his attention, just the slightest acknowledgment; a nod, a wave, or, even better, a smile. But high school didn’t work that way. She was an outcast and everyone knew it. She hid her ability from everyone, even Emily, and people sensed her difference.
Sarah shared first and fourth period with Wesley but he had no idea she existed. She sat directly behind him in math class and even snuck a sniff of his hair one time as they were passing papers to the front. She walked into class admiring the yellow aura shimmered around him instead of looking where she was going. The class roared with laughter when she tripped over his outstretched legs and fell sprawling to the floor. Wesley jumped up to help her.
“Oh man, I’m so sorry….”
“Sarah, I’m sorry, that was totally my fault.” He kicked his laughing buddy in the shin. “Shut up.” He extended his hand to her.
She looked at the hand she longed to hold so many times and tentatively reached for it, afraid it wasn’t real. His fingers wrapped around hers, warm and strong, and he pulled her to her feet. He held it for a fraction of a second longer than he needed to, inspecting her, an odd look on his face. Then he smiled, the crooked smile she had waited so long for.
“Sarah,” he said again and released her hand.
She blushed and ducked her head as she felt for her desk and slid into her seat accompanied by the snickering of her classmates. Wesley took his seat in front of her and the teacher began the lecture unaware of the magic that had just occurred in Sarah’s life. The rest of the hour soared past her as the teacher’s voice droned on in the background, a jumble of words that bounced off her new bubble of joy.
Later in the lunchroom, Emily bounced up to their table in the corner. “Guess what?”
“What?” Obviously, Sarah’s news about her encounter with Wesley would have to wait.
“Mark asked me to the movies Saturday night!”
“I hope you said no.” This was bad, really bad.
“Of course not, you know I’ve been waiting for this, like, forever.”
“I don’t like him.”
“Yeah, I get that. What did he ever do to you?” Emily snapped her gum.
“Nothing.” Sarah mumbled her answer. What could she say without giving away her secret? She shoved her lunch tray aside and gave Emily a dirty look, her own news put on the back burner. Somehow she had to stop this date. No way was she going to let her best friend be alone with him.
The high school kids spent Friday nights at the Sweet River Bridge, a place anything but sweet to Sarah. She had gone there a couple times, at Emily’s insistence, and had sensed an unevenness in the atmosphere and had refused to walk across its dilapidated deck. The rusted iron girders threatened her from a distance, taunting her, and screaming their treachery. She had watched as her high school companions walked across its forbidding surface, unaware of its illness, nonchalantly tossing their beer bottles off the side, watching them bounce off the rocks below and shatter with accompanying shouts of victory.
Sarah watched with fascination and horror as each individual’s aura morphed when they stepped onto the bridge, each one intensified and exaggerated. But Mark’s scared her more than words could describe. The moment he touched the deck his aura became something new, something vibrant and alive. It clung to him like a shadow, governed by its master, but pulsating and breathing its own life, independent yet reliant. Sarah could distinguish its features nearly identical to Mark’s but sinister and malevolent, waiting on the fringes to do harm.
The bridge and its highway had been abandoned decades ago, rerouted to bypass the canyon completely. The old road was pitted with potholes and overgrown with weeds, but it still made a great place to drag race and shoot holes in abandoned speed limit signs. The bridge’s heavy steel columns sprouted blooms of rust around every bolt and dripped their red blood down the vertical faces. The old girders creaked and groaned when a car dared travel across it, threatening to collapse at any moment.
The river and the remote location made it a favorite hangout for the high school kids. Keggers and bonfires spontaneously erupted at least once a month. Skinny-dippers tiptoed among the boulders scattered along the banks and the bravest partiers leaped screaming from the bridge into the dark and swirling waters. The Sweet River had claimed more than its fair share of lives; its waters treacherous, especially during the spring runoff.
This Friday was no different than any other. Emily dragged Sarah along hoping she would see Mark, and Sarah let herself be persuaded. She had to keep an eye on Emily. This date was a sham. Sarah knew it in her heart. Emily wasn’t Mark’s type. He wouldn’t lower himself to date her. Sarah had seen the look of contempt on his face when he stared at her back, the curl of his lip, and the wrinkle of his nose. Mark’s aura turned black when he looked at Emily. He was up to something, something bad.
Mark arrived in his van as the sun was setting, Wesley riding shotgun. Sarah’s heart skipped a beat when Wesley waved until she realized he wasn’t waving at her. A couple girls behind her giggled as she dropped her hand, embarrassed. Mark drove past them and parked at the top of the hill next to the bridge. Emily hopped off the hood of the car and sauntered up the slope. Mark barely acknowledged her existence and shook her off when she tried to hug his arm.
The Sweet Water Bridge pulled at Mark’s aura, like a kite in the wind it tugged and stretched the shadow. As he approached the bridge, Sarah could see his aura take shape, the malevolence becoming more and more defined. The instant his foot touched the timbers, it came to life. The edges of the shadow lost its fuzziness and grew into something distinct and solid; the head forming its own features, similar to Mark’s but deformed and muted.
Sarah climbed onto a big boulder that overlooked the river, keeping an eye on Mark and Emily, waiting for her opportunity to sneak into his van. As usual, no one said hi or talked to her, but she had grown used to it, sort of. She watched the variety of auras fade in and out as her classmates fooled around on the bridge and, basically, acted like idiots.
“Mind if I sit here, Sarah?” Wesley’s deep voice, so close behind Sarah, made her jump. When he spoke her name it sounded like a fluffy cloud on a hot day, beautiful and soothing.
“Sure, it’s a free country,” Sarah said. “Smooth,” she thought, rolling her eyes at herself. She examined the flecks of mica in the granite surface unable to form words.
“Thanks.” He folded his lanky body and sat beside her on the enormous rock dislodged from the canyon wall millions of years ago. “Sorry about today, tripping you, I mean.”
“Wasn’t your fault, I wasn’t watching where I was going.” And too busy thinking about how his lips would taste.
“Sorry, anyway.” Wesley stretched out on rock and put his hands behind his head. “I love this canyon, but I really don’t like that bridge.”
She jerked her head in his direction. “What do you mean?”
She watched him study the structure with a furrowed brow. After a minute he shrugged. “Don’t know, just seems rickety, and kids die jumping off it.”
“I don’t like it either, not at all.” Sarah pondered his statement, rolling it around in her mind. “You don’t like walking on it, do you?”
Her mouth went dry as his steel-grey eyes bored their way into her soul. “I think you know.” He paused, choosing his words. “I’ve been watching you, Sarah. You… know things about people.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The conversation was getting a bit too personal for her comfort. She started to get up, but he took her hand and pulled her back down to him.
“Yours is silver with white streaks.” She stared at him, speechless. He looked around her, outside of her, along her borders. “You can see them, too, can’t you?”
Sarah’s mouth dropped open. She couldn’t think of what to say. Could the boy she loved share her ability? It didn’t seem possible. She nodded shakily.
“What color is mine?” he asked.
“Yellow, like butter.” She shook her head bewildered. “But if this is true, how can you stand to hang out with him.” She jabbed her thumb at Mark who was hanging over the bridge’s railing spitting on people below him.
“Yeah, he’s an asshole. I like football, and he’s the quarterback. Besides, I need to keep an eye on him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see them all the time, only when I touch someone. That’s why I acted so surprised when I helped you up after tripping you. I know how gifted silvers are, and I’ve watched your reactions to people. I just put two and two together.” He paused then laughed. “Wow, it feels great to get that out. I’ve been hiding it for so long, even from my parents, especially my parents. They thought I was crazy and for a while I did, too. Then I studied up on it.”
“I didn’t think you knew who I was.” Sarah ducked her head as she felt her face flush.
“I noticed you a long time ago. It just seemed like you wanted to be left alone.”
“I didn’t want you to leave me alone.” Sarah couldn’t believe her nerve. She felt her cheeks flame up again.
“Well, I won’t leave you alone anymore, if that’s alright with you.” Wesley squeezed her hand and smiled as he admired her aura.
“I need your help, Wesley. Mark asked Emily out on a date tomorrow night. He doesn’t even like her, and I’m scared for her. I wish you could see how the bridge changes him. It’s horrible.”
“I’ve caught glimpses of what the bridge can do.”
“He’s wicked, Wesley, the evilest of evils.”
Wesley nodded. “Hey, I have a great idea. You could you go to the movie with me tomorrow night. We can double-date and keep an eye on them.”
Sarah’s world filled with rainbows and kittens. “I would like that.”
Wesley continued to hold her hand as the sun sent its last rays bouncing off the canyon walls. With several beers in their bellies, the jocks were getting rowdy and their hollering had become an echo contest no one could win. Mark was being the usual hotshot bully, shoving his buddies, and picking fights. Sarah watched as one fight in particular heated up. Mark towered over Jerad, his running back, screaming at him, blaming him for a failed pass that had cost them the game. Sarah watched stunned and wide-eyed as Mark’s aura grew and flexed.
“You better get up there, Wesley, he’s losing it.”
Wesley jumped to his feet and dashed up the hill just as Mark charged his teammate, ramming him against the railing, trying to throw him over into the rushing Sweet Water. His aura pulsated; its arms wrapped their oily fists around Jerad’s throat, squeezing until they disappearing into the pale flesh.
“Knock it off, Mark,” Wesley yelled at him.
“Stay out of it, Wes, or you’ll be next. Losing the game was just as much your fault as it was his.” Wesley paused a moment unwilling to set foot on the bridge, then rushed his buddy, wrenching Mark away from Jared.
Wesley flinched and sprung away as if he had been bitten. He backed away, staring at Mark openmouthed, fear in his eyes. Mark’s aura turned its head and hissed at Wesley.
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I am honored to be nominated by Postcard, Poems & Prose for Best of the Net 2018 for my flash fiction piece, If it Rains. This zine packs a punch in every post.
Poppa snaps off a wheat stalk, brittle and broken. He digs the toe of his boot through the octagon clumps of topsoil looking for life below the surface, a shred of moisture, a supple root. The plant upends, clinging to the soil in a fruitless effort to stay alive.
“If it rains, we’ll be able to save this crop.”
My lips are always chapped, and the area around my eyes not covered by cloth are blistered and cracked by the relentless blast of grit. The cloth over my mouth cakes up faster than I can shake it out, but Momma says I have to wear it. More than anything I hate the crunch in my mouth. No amount of water seems to rinse it out.
Poppa squats and scoops up a handful of soil. It filters through his fingers as dead as the light in his eyes. Neither contained hope, but he says the words for me.
“If it rains, we’ll be able to pull out of this next year.”
We eat the rabbits. There’re plenty of them. Our cows all died in the last black blizzard. Poppa says they couldn’t breathe, and it breaks my heart to think of sweet old Nelly dying in the darkness, her nose filled with mud. It’s probably for the best since there’s been no grain for weeks. My legs are ripped up good from trampling down the tumbleweeds for them to eat.
“If it rains, Lord willing, the bank will let it ride.”
Poppa fills baby June’s grave. She didn’t stand a chance against the cloud of sand filling her lungs. Seems like she went from a cough to a shoebox in the ground practically overnight. They call it dust pneumonia, and it hits the young ones the hardest.
I wait for Poppa to say his line, but the drought has taken away even his tears. The land has defeated him.
Unconfined Delusions, Beyond the Threshold, will be live October 20th! Don’t miss out on the Unconfined Delusion Release Party So many prizes! Plus, I’m giving away copies of my previous collection Sanity’s Threshold, Slivers of a Twisted Mind which is available on Amazon.
“John, if you’re going fishing this morning, you better get Tanner up.” Rachel snuggles against me on the air mattress before goosing me on the butt.
“But it’s so cozy.” I nuzzle her neck, a trick that usually sends shivers down her arm.
She swats me away with a laugh. “I’m surprised he’s not bouncing around in here already. You saw how excited he was last night.”
We found the lake by accident and marveled that no one else had pitched a tent on its shores. The folks at the store called it Lost Lake and gave each other an odd look when we mentioned we were camping there.
We’re camping fanatics, and our son has refused to share a tent with us since he turned twelve insisting he is old enough to sleep on his own. He is an independent soul, to be sure.
“It’s your turn to make the coffee.” Rachel pushes me out of the sleeping bag.
“I’m going, I’m going.”
The mist over the lake leaves a film of condensation on the cover that rains down on my head as I exit.
“Hey lazy butt, get up.” I unzip the flap on Tanner’s tent. His sleeping bag is in a tangled mess, clothes are strewn around just like his room at home. “Tanner?”
Rachel emerges from our tent pulling a hoody over her head against the chill. She gives a chuckle. “One too many smores is my guess.”
“He’s not in there.” Panic sets in. “Tanner!” My voice echoes across the lake.
“What do you mean he’s not in there? There’s nowhere for him to go.”
“It’s a small tent, Rachel. He’s not in there.”
“Then where is he?”
“Tanner! Tanner!” Our combined voices create a symphony of hysteria. There is no place to hide, no trees, only the lake, and our previous day’s wading trip proved it’s no higher than Tanner’s belly button.
Rachel checks the tent again and looks at me wide-eyed.
“Do you think…?” Her gaze drifts across Lost Lake.
“He’s on the swim team, Rach. Besides, a toddler couldn’t drown in this pond.”
“Then where is he? Tanner! Tanner!”
I take her in my arms. “We have to calm down. He probably walked to that little store we stopped at. It was only a half-mile or so away. Let’s drive down there before we freak out.”
“I’m not freaking out, John. Our son is missing!”
“He’s not missing, we just don’t know where he is right now.”
“Come on. Let’s go down to the store.”
The bell jangles over our head. The man at the counter gives us a big smile. “Good morning! You folks are up early.”
I waste no time on pleasantries. “Have you seen our son? He was in here yesterday with us. He seems to have wandered off.”
The grizzly fellow removes his hat and scratches his bald head. “Well now, can’t say that I’ve seen any boys around here lately. How old is he?”
“He’s twelve. He was with us yesterday.”
“I remember you folks, but I don’t recall your son. It was just the two of you.”
Rachel’s voice grew pinched. “No, we all came in together. John, show him Tanner’s picture.”
I pull out my wallet. I have his most recent on the top where it is visible as soon as I open it. I rifle through the contents.
“It’s not here.”
“What do you mean? I just saw it yesterday when you paid for the fishing license.”
“It must have fallen out. Don’t you have a picture?”
“In my purse.” She pulls out her pocketbook. “What the… John, my pictures are gone.”
The bells at the door announce another customer. A pleasantly plump woman enters.
“Morning folks. How was your evening? How were the smores?”
The man behind the counter explains. “Darlene, honey, these fine folks say their son is missing.”
A veil of dread shrouds her face. “Son?”
Rachel rifles through her purse. Panic frosts her voice. “Yes, our son, he was with us.” She stops her search. “You saw him.”
Darlene shakes her head. “Don’t recall.” She exchanges a knowing glance with her husband.
John catches the slight. “What do you know? Tell us where our son is.”
“I’m sorry, folks. We don’t recall you son. Maybe you ought to talk to the police.”
Darlene hugs her husband. “Didn’t you tell them not to camp at Lost Lake?”
“It’s been ten years since anything like this has happened. And the other missing kids? None of the parents could prove they even existed. Maybe it’s all just a coincidence.”
“It’s not coincidence. It’s Lost Lake.”
Our days are numbered. The fireball in the sky will make sure of that. It’s too bright to look at, but I stole a peek through my fingers. The glowing sphere is larger than the sun; yet it’s light years away. Keplar’s Supernova, in 1604, was the last time something like this was recorded. It was 20,000 light years away and visible in the daytime for three weeks. That little kitten has nothing on this tiger.
I don’t go outside anymore. My air conditioner hums at full speed, on the coldest setting. The house shimmers with heat. I touch a wall and feel the heat fight its way through the plaster. I wonder how long the power grid is going to hold up under this much strain. My guess is, not long. Already I hear the drag of the motor as it tries to stay ahead of the temperature.
Water is rationed and only turned on for a few minutes a day. Usually it runs dry before I fill all my bottles. The plants give up one brown, crinkly leaf at a time and surrender to the pull of gravity. A crunchy carpet, that used to be grass, borders my sidewalk. The pond at the end of my driveway is a puddle surrounded by octagonal slabs of dried mud. Koi carcasses guard the edges and watch me with hollow eyes. I haven’t heard a dog bark or a bird chirp in days.
They say the shock wave will obliterate our solar system. Of course, life on earth will be gone long before that happens. The destruction will wipe out our corner of the galaxy with the energy of a thousand suns. It will be goddamn spectacular.
I’m not one who clings to false hope or prays for divine intervention. I don’t want to see the oceans boil and my skin melt. I’m not waiting.
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