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" I Can Get That for You (For a Small Fee)"

by L. Akers

In the sprawling lights of a city where desperation sketched dark lines across every face, I am a beacon of opportunity. My name? Name’s not important, my friend. But people call me The Salesman. And I was the best salesperson this city had ever seen. 


They say a salesman will do anything to make a deal, and that someone like me, well, I had more than new cars, gadgets, or real estate to offer.  

You see, I do not peddle cheap plastic wares, or digital dreams wrapped in dopamine wrapping, but something much more important. Forget hopes. I sell life itself to anyone willing to pay. 


Survival is the name of the game. 


 Walking through the crowded streets, my tailored suit hugging my physique and screaming success, confidence oozing from every pore, my voice adorned with charm and persuasion. The trash and trite of the city never touches me, for I am a humble peddler from somewhere far better than here. 


My target, this time, is a young man named Ethan. You see, Ethan had recently fallen into...grim times. Let’s just say that the weight of desperation concerning his survival is slowly crushing his spirit.  

Perhaps that's why he is ideal prey in my world.  

 

Ah, Ethan, frail and haggard, shuffling along the sidewalk, his eyes cast down. I approach him with a smile and a twinkle in my eye, revealing nothing but sincerity. 

 "Good evening, sir," I said, extending a hand. "Robert Trent (not my name), at your service." 

 Ethan's weary eyes met mine, cautious, but in his gaze, I saw a flicker of hope. Hope was the method, but not the goal.  

 Ethan needed it to survive. To exist. 

 

"What can I do for you?" he mumbles, his voice tinged with weariness. 

 "Oh, my dear friend," I reply, gripping his shoulder. "I am not here to sell you a mere product. I am here to grant you a life itself, away from all of this (I sweep my hand for effect) pain and filth. 

 For a small fee, of course." 


 Ethan's eyes widen slightly, a glimmer of curiosity battling his skepticism.  

I relish that spark, knowing it is the starting point of a lucrative transaction. 

 "You see, Ethan," I continue, my voice a silky caress, "those who cannot afford to live, deserve an opportunity to be part of this marvelous world. And I can provide it." 

 Ethan's mouth parts in disbelief, his heartstrings already resonating with my melody of salvation. I guide him into a nearby café, the scent of freshly brewed coffee enveloping us. 

I could tell that Ethan had never seen the inside of a coffee shop before, coffee being a luxury he could not afford. 


 "The basic necessities – water, air, and life itself – we take them for granted, don't we?" I say, fixing my intense gaze upon him. "But why should you, Ethan?" 

 

He shakes his head, becoming increasingly captivated by my words. 


 "I offer you water, pristine and untainted, to quench your thirst for existence. I offer you air that invigorates, fills your lungs with the promise of purity. And above all, I offer you the gift of life, something far too precious for those who have merely stumbled upon it. I offer you the ability to exist, to survive, without worry. 

But my dear friend, there is one small thing I ask in return." 


 I see the spark of hope in his eyes dim slightly, replaced by apprehension. I lean in closer, as I whisper my proposition: 

 “I can give you all this and more, but there’s a small snag. We both know that you cannot afford this outright, but we have several repayment plans, loans, and even prepaid options. 


Or better yet, you can come work for me, Ethan! Help others find their path, just as I am helping you." 


 I watch Ethan's face contort with indecision, as he realizes my offer is both his savior and his enslavement. He must make a choice that deeply mirrors his moral fiber. 

 

"I understand the gravity of this decision, Ethan," I say gently, withdrawing from his personal space. "But remember, it is no different from the world you find yourself navigating each day. You either pay the price – whether in dues, debts, or loyalty – or you wither away, forgotten by the relentless march of time." 

 

Silence hangs between us, the weight of his decision nearly tangible. Ethan, though burdened, reaches deep within himself, confronting the chasm of his morality. 


In the end, it was survival that won. 

 

With a shaky breath, Ethan extended his hand towards mine, sealing the deal that would perpetuate his existence at the expense of his soul. 

 And as I clasp his hand tightly in mine, I marvel at the ease with which I had convinced him, assuring myself that my moral corruption is in fact a service to the desperate souls of this despicable city. 

 

After all, in a world like ours, even stealing life is an act of mercy. 


"Beyond the Ashes"

by L. Akers


In a solitary world locked away in the corners of the universe, humans (a curious race of conceited, hairless apes) reveled in their supremacy, believing their ingenuity a beacon of power and a testament to their dominance. Technologies advanced at the speed of light, and the societal construct emerged as an iron fortress, seemingly indestructible. But, as they say, pride comes before a fall.  


A group of corrupt elites and ruthless politicians, their hearts devoid of even a speck of compassion, slowly and deliberately began to suck the life out of the world. The societal structure, robust as it may have seemed, started crumbling, disintegrating under the weight of their greed and avarice. The world, pushed to its limits, was shaking, trembling on the brink of collapse.  


And collapse it did. 


The doomsday tidal wave swept over the planet, a molten tide of rapidly rising temperatures and a toxic cocktail of dense, deadly moisture. What once had been a thriving civilization, a juncture of technological marvels and endless progression, was reduced to ashes. Nothing but a forgotten prop in the twisted theatre of destiny, obsolete in the grand scheme of the universe. 

 

Nature evolved relentlessly, choosing its path around the ruins of our world, sprouting through the cracks of our arrogance. Humans, once the apex of evolution, were humbled. Standing in the ruins of their world, they trembled, facing the raw, relentless power of the world they had so foolishly taken for granted.  


But humanity, with its tenacious spirit and undying hope, persevered. The remnants of our race, united in their hardship, returned to our ancient roots. Back to the old gods of mud, blood, and bone they went, their refuge in an era long passed. And in the sacred rites and rituals of yore, they found an old, forgotten truth.  


Nature didn't need us. We needed her.  


In our humble submission to her, we experienced a paradigm shift of understanding. We found realities far richer and more profound than our discarded technologies, transcending the boundaries of tangible existence. The planet to which we had borne witness had been but a fragment of the possible universes it could morph into, and somewhere in those cosmic transformations, we found our divinity etched in the stars. 

 

In the realms of Nature, we found ourselves, and in ourselves, we found everything. In the devastation, in the beauty of rebirth from ashes, humankind remembers the strength of unity, the power of perseverance, and the importance of respect for the world that enables our existence. 


And thus, we stand now, humbled, yet stronger. Destroyed, yet ready to rebuild. In reverence of Nature, we move forward into the new world, for everything. In the end, our rise from the ashes isn't just about survival. It's a testament to the beauty of unity, complexity of life and the power of the human spirit – a call for unity at the end of the world.  


From the ashes, we rise. 


"Out of the Darkness: A Metaphor"

by L. Akers

There was a young girl whose world was enveloped in darkness. She did not know how she had ended up in this place, only that nothing seemed to make sense anymore. The light that had once shone so brightly in her life had dimmed, until it was nothing more than a faint glimmer on the horizon. 

  

As the months passed, the darkness crept closer and closer, until it consumed her entirely. At first, she stopped talking to people, finding it too exhausting and overwhelming to expend the energy it took to communicate. Then, she began to retreat from the world altogether, spending hours upon hours in her own mind, endlessly spinning in circles. 

  

Eventually, she stopped eating, stopped sleeping. Her days were marked by a profound emptiness, a sense that everything she had ever known had been taken away from her. The people she used to love became strangers in her mind, their faces, and voices distant memories. 

  

But just when it seemed that all hope was lost, something miraculous happened. Slowly, ever so slowly, light began to filter back into her life. At first, it was just a flicker, barely noticeable amid the darkness that surrounded her. But as time passed, the light grew brighter and more persistent, until it shone as brightly as it had before. 

  

The girl began to talk again, tentatively at first but then with increasing ease. She slowly began to venture outside her own mind, testing the waters of the world around her. Some days were harder than others, but she learned to be patient with herself, to take things one step at a time. 

  

And so, with time, care and love, the girl stepped out of the darkness and into the light again. She rediscovered the joys of life - the taste of good food, the warmth of a hug, the sound of birdsong in the morning. She remembered what it was like to connect with people, to build relationships that were meaningful and fulfilling. 

  

As she emerged from the darkness, the girl realized she had been here before. Many times, in fact. She had been overwhelmed by the unrelenting demands of the world, and her body and mind had shut down in response. But with patience and care, she had found her way back to a place of peace and hope, where she could once again thrive and grow. 

And in that moment, she found something new.

Hope.