The year was 1986. My home, a typical home in Suburbia, USA. My life, a typical American teenager, filled with angst and dissatisfaction at my lot in life. Little did I realize how that life would soon change.

The summer of my sixteenth year was hot and humid, as most summers were in sunny Florida. My car was an old Chevy with the cloth interior roof held up by thumbtacks, the best I could afford on the money I saved working nights after school at the local movie theatre. Weekends I'd drive to my boyfriend's house, past the streetwalkers trying...

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Joshua parked in front of the iron gate, irritated at this sign, just one of many from his absentee father. He was never there when he needed him. Where was he when he was six and skinned his knee riding his first bike? When he brought home his report card? When he needed help getting into college?

His father wasn't there when his mother died. Where was the hand of the older man when he needed comfort, standing at the grave of his closest family on a deceptively bright and sunny day? Where was he when the accident took his...

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Leaving was the easiest decision to make, and the hardest action to take. He fingered the photograph of his wife and daughter, remembering the last time he'd held them in his arms, crying as the rain washed away his tears. He remembered the wailing sirens, the questions, the looks on people's faces - faces filled with a mixture of sadness, suspicion, and contempt.

He thought about the judge, the look on condemnation as he sentenced him, as though the loss of his family wasn't punishment enough. He visualized walking past the liquor store, his steps heavier as he forced himself...

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Maurice looked at the empty mailbox and sighed.

His pension was supposed to be delivered today; first of the month, just like always, but instead the inside of the cold metal tube held only a few bills and a postcard advertising the latest whatever that he didn't need. What he needed was his damn pension.

He took a deep breath and took several careful steps back up his driveway to his front door. He checked around the bushes, painfully walked the outer perimeter of the house, even checked the cat flap, but no pension.

Son of a bitch, those damn...

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Jane made a desperate grab for the coin, spinning in the air. With a flip, Safura had set her fate in motion. Heads, eternal life; tails, never-ending darkness.

She had to catch the silver disk before it landed on the platform.

Panic filled her like water in a vase, her fear overflowing and spilling onto the pavement, evaporating almost instantly in the heat of the noonday sun. "Gods DAMMIT!" she cried, tripping and falling toward the still turning disk. Her fingers grazed the silver, and it landed, still spinning lazily, on its edge.

"You lose," stated Safura. His mouth turned...

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Water, water, everywhere...

Betty woke up on the cracked desert ground, lips parted, straining to take in every bit of moisture from the air. Her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth, coated with she knew not what.

Her dream had held water, more than she could imagine. She'd sailed on blue waves, dived in billowing surf, lain on her back and watched the pillowy clouds float on currents of air through azure skies.

Yet all the boards did shrink...

Her feet had burned from the heat of the wooden planks keeping her small skiff together. The ocean itself...

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Penelope loved the fountain, loved the way the water sprayed, cooling her in the hot sun, making her clothes cling as she called her joy to the heavens.

"What are you doing?" asked the man in the blue uniform.

Some sort of park official, thought the girl. "Nothing. Just enjoying the water."

"This isn't a waterpark, you know," said the man, a note of disapproval hanging from his lips like a dangling cigar, ready to drop and burn.

"So?" she asked. She kicked up a fine spray as her feet pattered against the thin layer that had built up over...

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That damn tree was going to fall on him, he just knew it.

What use was the open sky, the billowing waves of blue, or the sunlight streaking through the clouds to illuminate his path along the sandy shore, when as soon as he walked beneath that leaning palm, it would crash upon him like the hammer of fate.

Perhaps he would stay where he was. The water was cool, the breeze refreshing. If he traced his steps back, he might rediscover that berry bush and fill his belly with its sweet fruit.

But what was life without a little...

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Travel light, but take everything with you. That motto had served Herschel well all these years and he wasn't about to abandon it now.

He stepped over the fresh corpse. Putting down the gun, its barrel still hot and smoking, he went into the bathroom for his toothbrush, grabbed the bills from his roommate's rapidly cooling hands, and walked out the door.

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Giving in wasn't an option, but there was little else she could do.

"Ok, ok," she told the young galant with the sharp blade, "take whatever you want. Just don't hurt me."

The rascal had a look in his eye so sharp it could cut glass. "What I want, my lady," he said, drawing the space out between words to give them import, "is you."

The young woman's eyes widened, her ruby lips opened, but words failed her.

Reaching down, he made himself ready for his reward; then laid his hands upon-

her chastity belt.

Freed of the constraints of...

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