Breanne Leslie

  • As correct as he may be, it doesn’t help

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    Point Pleasant, WV 

    [Rockford Twins, Doug & Bill: Declared missing December 7, 1966]

    “Doug, hand me that sparkplug right there.” I point to the new plug sitting on a greasy metal tray on the other side of the Chevy. Doug’s hands are already trembling from the frigid temperature, now dipping into the teens. He fumbles the plug, dropping it into the engine cavity. “Dammit, Doug!”

    “Well, you should’ve grabbed it yourself, Bill.”

    “Clearly.” As correct as he may be, it doesn’t help me now. I don’t think Dad has a spare in the garage and he’ll, no doubt, call me a dumbass for losing the one I did have.

    “You get under there to watch for it and I’ll see if I can knock it loose since I saw where it fell,” says Doug. Of course, he saw where it fell and of course, I’m the one crawling on the cold ground.

    “Fine, but make it quick. It’s freezing down here,” I say as I shimmy under the truck. I see him poking around with a screwdriver above me and then I hear the promising rattle of the sparkplug. “That’s it! Knock it loose.”

    But just as he’s about to get it, he stops. The bright shop light peeks down through the engine above me as he steps away. “Hey. Hey! What are you doing?” I shout but receive no response. I slide out from under the truck to find Doug staring into the woods that surround our yard on three sides.

                “Did you see it?” asks Doug. His face drips a hesitant fear but he doesn’t break his gaze from the treeline.

                “No, I was under there waiting on you to finish helping me.” He shakes his head, unphased by my frustration.

                “It looked like that thing Jay saw, I think. I didn’t see the red eyes he keeps muttering about but it was huge.”

    “You’re an idiot. It was probably a crane. We’re like a mile from the swamp. Come on,” I say pushing him to move on from it. In truth, I have heard Jay’s story and our proximity to T.N.T. has me questioning my own logic. 

    “No, Bill. I’m telling you it was huge. Taller than us.” At 6’3, that statement holds a least a little bit of water when coupled with his concern.

    “Well, your eyes haven’t turned bloody black and you seem like your brain still works. So, I think we’re good.”

    “It’s not really Jay I’m freaking out about,” says Doug, finally turning his head to make glaring eye contact.

    “Huh?”

    “Betty. Didn’t you hear?” I shrug.

    “Jesus, Bill. Try paying attention to something other than shop class for once. She went missing a couple of weeks back. And the only thing her parents could pinpoint as out of the ordinary for her was the night she missed curfew with Jay and how paranoid she was behaving afterward.”

    “What’s your point?”

    “My point is, that I just saw the thing Jay described and Betty is gone. We just need to watch our backs. Something about all of this sits funny with me.”

    “You need to stay out of Dad’s moonshine. It’s making you stupid.”

    Doug shakes his head as he turns back to the house, leaving me staring into the pitch darkness of the forest. Pitch darkness and the faint sound of rushing air. Whoosh…whoosh…whoosh. A smoldering red glow comes from the forest floor further back through the brush. I see it illuminate the gnarly branches above, and with it comes the piercing glow of the eyes. And they’re the reddest red I’ve ever seen.

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • it’s probably dangerous to even be near

    [Betty Williams: Declared missing November 12, 1966]

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    Point Pleasant, WV 

    “Jay, we should not be out here. My dad is going to kill me if he finds out.”

    “And how’s he going to find out? No one comes out here. It’s pitch dark and this is basically T.N.T.’s whole reason for existing,” Jay says as he pushes my hair back to continue kissing my neck. Sloppily.

    “No its whole reason for it existing is to house a motherload of dynamite. So, it’s probably dangerous to even be near these bunkers.” The brute continues manhandling my neck and moves his obnoxious hands to my sweater as he tries to maneuver my buttons open. “Ugh,” I groan as I swat his arm and push him back to his side of the car.

    “What babe? We haven’t been alone in weeks,” He whines like a spoiled toddler.

    “And whose fault is that? You’re the idiot that got kicked off the football team.” He leans back with a huff. “I don’t blame your momma at all for grounding you.”

    “It’s not my fault. Jim threw the first─”

    “Shhhh!” I slap my hand over his mouth.

                “What was that for?”

                “You didn’t hear that?” He turns to roll down the window so we can listen closer. The fog from our breath fills the car as the November chill creeps in.

                “I don’t hear anything…” but as soon as he utters the words a high-pitched ringing pierces our eardrums. I wince and hold my ears, waiting on relief from the sound rattling my skull. Seconds that feel like minutes pass and when the ringing finally ceases I lift my head.

                To my left, Jay stares ahead, the veins in his arms bulging from the tightness with which he grips the steering wheel. His mouth hangs open in shock and a red light touches everything in sight. He begins trembling and I hear a sudden and rhythmic rush of wind outside. Whoosh…whoosh…whoosh.

    Jay turns to me and blood seeps into the whites of his eyes, rendering them a rich crimson. And the ambient red light fades back to nothing. Nothing except our panicked breathing and the low, teasing glow of a crescent moon.

    “His eyes,” mutters Jay.

    “What eyes? I just saw that light. What the Hell was that?” I begin to lean out the window in hopes of a better view, but Jay snatches the back of my shirt.

    “No!” he snaps.

    “Wha─”

    “His eyes, Betty. His wings…” He pleads for me to understand the message he’s trying to deliver. Bloody tears drape his cheeks and his body shakes, from the cold or terror, I’m not sure.

    It’s clear the poor boy is in no shape to drive, so I slip out of the car to bring him around to the passenger side. My oxford meets the ground with shock. Every blade of grass delivers a static shock that travels up my body through the soles of my shoes. Even the air vibrates with a residual charge.

    ***

    On the fifteen-minute drive back into Point Pleasant, I go over the events in my mind and carefully construct a less exciting reason for missing curfew. But within forty-eight hours, Jay has managed to tell part of the football team, still babbling nonsensically, in my opinion, but they eat it up. I stay quiet on the matter because I have a reputation to uphold.

    That doesn’t stop two men in black trench coats from questioning me though. Tall with eerily plain faces, they prod for details and become frustrated upon realizing I won’t budge on my tight-lipped nature.

    For some reason, they scare me more than the red light in the woods…

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • “You in or not?” asks Mizar.

    Sunset Over Aldra

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    Point Pleasant, WV 

    “Listen, we should just go. They’re clearly occupied, she’s passing out, no one will even know,” says James in a low whisper. “You heard her. They’re trying to pin a murder on us. We need to move.”

    “Seriously? I know what I said earlier, but they got us out of town. We’d probably already be in chains or worse if they hadn’t done us this solid.” Aidan glances over to Oslo and watches her eyes flutter in and out of consciousness. Her makeshift bandage soaked in blue.

    “I’m just saying, if we are going to have a chance to bail and make a run for it on our own, this is it.” The laser fire outside settles and the empty market feels silent but deafening at the same time. Aidan’s conscience screams with dissonance.

    “No. You said I should trust more and I’m doing that. We don’t know what could happen tomorrow or in the next week. The captain could come. He will come. We stand a much better chance with backup until we can make it somewhere more desolate, the next galaxy maybe.”

    “He’s right. The short one, he’s right,” says Oslo as she coughs and resituates her bandage. James’ eyes widen and his cheeks flush. “Don’t worry. It’s really none of my business, but you guys are much safer with us until you can get further from his reach.” She coughs and winces from the searing pain. Aidan rushes over to apply more pressure to her wound.

    A clatter of metal being thrown and muffled voices travels through the busted window facing the alley. Aidan looks to James who nods in agreement, following Aidan’s lead for the first time since leaving Earth as teens, children really. Oslo reaches a trembling hand up to rest on Aidan’s shoulder and smiles with warmth and appreciation for his presence. Her wound obviously causing concern and her sudden sentimental nature.

    “Osloooo?” a voice calls from just outside the door. “Are you guys in there?”

    She motions for James to respond. Within moments, each member of the crew has a hand under the weight of her body, sharing the effort to carry her to safety. A rusty caravan waits in the alley, fueled up and ready to go. Vera bangs on the back hatch as they load their wounded comrade into the hold, clearly taking credit for the mechanical skill that secured the newest mode of transport.

    One by one, they take a seat on the skinny metal benches lining the cargo hold, leaving enough space for Oslo to rest and Mizar to patch her shoulder. The crew of mismatched women that span color, size, and species look to the men and await their choice.

    “You in or not?” asks Mizar, the first she’s actually spoken to them directly.

    James touches his upper breast pocket, feeling for the gem that will secure a future for him and his lover. He switches his gaze to Aidan who’s leading their journey now and carries himself as such. Tougher, more confident, and ready to take the lead, Aidan awaits his choice but is already sure of his own. He chooses survival over pride.

    “You’re sure?” he questions.

    “They saved our asses back there when they didn’t have to. If they hadn’t, they’d probably be sitting on a pretty profit right now. And you told me to learn to trust more. Can you really argue with that logic?” Both men look back to the caravan, Zya motions them to come on.

                The sunsets over the ransacked Aldran town as the caravan heads further inland toward the humid forests of Xanther. Aidan and James ride hand in hand as they watch their past fade further into the distance and they make room for the possibility of a new crew in their future.

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • “You don’t know us. I wouldn’t trust us either. I’m Zya by the way.

    They Left a Trail of Cyan

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    The next morning it’s abundantly clear that Vera is the muscle but definitely not the brains of the bandits’ operation.

    “Babe, I know you think we can trust Vera, but look. Are you watching?” asks Aidan.

    “Yeah…and?”James’ blind faith usually inspires Aidan to act braver than he actually is, but at this moment he finds him foolish.

    “Look, Mizar and Oslo are the ones plotting the jobs. Vera is moving loot to the backroom. As nice as Vera has been, I think her influence is minimal and we still need to watch our back.”

    “Please just relax. I cannot be on all the time. I need a minute.” Frustrated by James’ lack of awareness, Aidan stomps off to another corner of the warehouse. The serpent woman, who’s been silently watching the exchange from afar, comes over to join him.

    “You’re right. He’s being an idiot.”

    “What?” Panic twists Aidan’s insides, unaware of where she’s about to take the conversation.

    “You don’t know us. I wouldn’t trust us either. I’m Zya by the way. I like to stay out of the politics but I’m telling you, just because Vera says you’re in does not mean you’re in.”

    “Are you going to turn us over for a bounty?”

    “Oh no,” she says with a quick flick of her tongue. “But don’t think that last night’s job is all they’ll want from you. It took me a long time to earn my place here.”

    ***

    By nightfall, Aidan and James find themselves two villages over in a sleazier part of Aldra. Laser pistols fire around them as they hunker behind a jagged piece of scrap metal. Oslo finds cover beside them, firing calculated blasts toward their assailants.

    “I told you, James!”

    “Jesus, Aidan, don’t you think I know that? Is now really the best time for a speech?” Oslo slams down in the dirt beside them, cyan clue blood trailing from her shoulder where a laser just knicked her flesh. She shrinks her neck down, leaving it curled in an awkward position but ensuring her head isn’t blasted from behind.

    “Listen, asshats. Argue all you want, but if we hadn’t dragged you out here, you would be dead already.”

    “What the Hell is that supposed to mean?” snaps Aidan.

    “Mizar went out scouting before the sun even rose today and your marauder buddies plastered the cantina with wanted posters. Apparently you guys offed one of your crewmembers. A blue lady. Her name started with a “C”, I think. Ring any bells?” Orange laser fire disintegrates a passing rodent.

    James looks to Aidan, his mouth flat and annoyed.

    “Okay, I get it. I was obviously in the wrong,” Aidan snaps, but their argument will have to wait. Oslo is losing blood and she’s falling fainter by the second.

    “Come on. You get her under her legs,” says James as he cradles her head, neck, and shoulders. The men lift her as gently as possible in the middle of a laser fight and in the gap of fire, they sprint across the littered street to the safety of an emptied market building. There they wait for cover and extraction by the rest of the bandits and Aidan nurses his bruised ego because for once, he was certain his instincts would be the right ones.

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • “Move over earth jerk!” The towering woman slides in

    A Colorful New Crew

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    A day of hot travel through the desert leaves Aidan and James parched and exhausted, but as the caravan pulls into the village of Aquila, nestled quietly in the mountain range, they are greeted with a bustling cantina. They can smell the fragrant fruit from outside and waste no time in seeking refreshment.

    After ordering two glowing green beverages and a platter of fruit that looks more like earth’s most exotic sea anemones than anything they’d previously eaten, they settle into a dimly lit booth. James draws circles on Aidan’s hand and they rest, enjoying each other’s company, both praying to every god they’ve ever heard of that Captain and his trained snakes don’t find them.

    “Move over earth jerk!” Startled from the brief moment of peace, James follows orders and scoots, nudging Aidan along with him. The towering woman slides in beside them, apparently tired of the rickety barstools lining the rusty metal bar top. 

    “So, what landed you here in this sand oven? I’m Vera, by the way.”

    “Um, I’m not sure I feel com━”

    “Oh okay, okay. I get it. Just passing the time here. I’ve already worn out my welcome with my mate back there and the one with the eyepatch is mute anyhow.” She points across the buzzing bar to a couple of stools where a purple woman covered in scales rests her head on the shoulder of another female wearing a crude leather eyepatch, accented by a head full of wriggling tentacles. 

                James is no longer struck by rainbow skin or strange appendages, but her sheer size is something he’s yet to encounter across five galaxies. At least not a woman of that stature. She has to be at least seven feet tall and her biceps dwarf his arms by several inches. Apart from her size, she could still pass for human.

                “So what’s the name, or is that sworn to secrecy too?”

                “No, sorry. It’s James and this is Aidan. He elbows him in the ribs and Aidan obliges with a nod and a half-wave.

    “So…you travel with those two?” James asks.

                “Yeah, that cheery pair and a couple more, but they’re back at the nest.” 

                “Nest?” asks Aidan, gripping James’ thigh under the table to let him know he’s unsure about their new conversation partner.     

                “Uh, yeah. It’s our base basically. Aquila is quiet. Off the radar. It’s perfect for people in our line of work.

                “And that is?” asks James, leaning across the table.

    “Oh, I saw all your gear and I thought━Sorry. We’re in acquisitions…of other peoples’ things.” Vera looks down, aware of how most people view bandits.

     But the moment is broken as the purple woman hurries over and whispers something in Vera’s ear. “Well boys, gotta go. Mizar just got word from a lookout that some nasty marauders are headed this way. We’re thieves, but we don’t mess with pirates like that.”

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • but he thought James to be the bravest person that ever lived.

    Into the Golden Sands

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    James takes the lead, barrelling down the congested street. He stretches one arm backward, clinging to Aidan’s hand, terrified he will fall behind and lose him to the blood-thirsty crew. They dodge market carts and livestock, zigging and zagging further from Andromeda’s callous betrayal. 

    Aidan holds on but his pounding gait and the chaotic crowd blur together, letting his mind jet back to the last time he and James ran like this. His memory zeroes in on the last time he feared for his very existence. 

    Society was collapsing, first the rural towns, then the picturesque suburbs, and finally major cities began to fall one by one. He met James in the sticky, humid air of Alabama. Both were fleeing south to Florida in hopes of snagging a ticket to the newly built Mars colony. Aidan left behind his family’s farm in North Carolina and James ran away from a group home in Ohio.

    Aidan secretly resented the fact that James didn’t lose any family to the collapse. He wished he had been an orphan instead of watching his mom and dad get hauled off to designated work camps, the government’s last-ditch effort to revitalize the broken economy. James always wished for the opposite. Even with the loss of his parents, James envied Aidan’s privilege of growing up with people that loved him. 

    With each sharp step and the increasing dull ache in his side, Aidan remembers how they ran from guards after scamming their way through security to sneak into the lower class passenger pool. Attendants scanned the seating area but after shedding their disguises the crew couldn’t pick them from the crowd.  Afterward, James joked about how dense the guards had been. Their piss poor attempt at identification fraud and vaguely similar uniforms were laughable, at best. At the time, they were both only sixteen, but he thought James to be the bravest person that ever lived. Even then, he loved him and knew he’d follow him to Hell and back just to be near him. 

    “Aidan, there!” James yanks his arm and points around the corner of a crumbling mud constructed bathhouse. 

    He turns in unison with James who still pulls him along, determined to keep them both alive and together. His golden tanned skin now flushed red and pulsing with adrenaline like a prize racehorse with trained tunnel vision seeking the finish line. With the last of the oxygen powering their tired muscles, they throw themselves onto a rickety caravan pulling out onto the only road out of port. 

    James collapses onto Aidan’s heaving chest and they cling to their breaths, slowly returning to a less painful state. James looks to the edge of town as they pull away and spies a mess of green hair pushing through the crowd. Andromeda. From behind her, Captain steps forward, no doubt making plans to pursue them into the mountains. 

    He never loses sources of revenue unless it’s on his accord. James assumes this will be no different, but with a steady lead and the caravan picking up speed, he lays his head back down to Aidan’s, deciding to save his worry for the future. 

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • An Escape Glows Red

    An Escape Glows Red

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    Night after night James and Aidan watch space dust and debris pass by the Deliverance through the thick glass of the tiny cabin window in James’ quarters. Hard labor by day and the glow of the galaxy by night, they wait, biding their time until their next port. Just a few more hours now…

                When they dock on the planet of Aldra, Captain is clear on his orders. “Hit a few merchants, don’t get caught, and be back in the ship by the time Aldra’s fourth moon rises.” Aidan scans James’ face, looking for clues, searching for signs that today could be the day. James may as well be forged from stone but Aidan knows he should expect that. The man has the best poker face of any human he’s ever known.

                Captain dismisses the crew with one last gruff grunt and savage slap of his chest and the pair exit without a word to any of the other crew members. In silence, they slip back down the hallway to James’ bunk to gather their gear.

                “What do you think? Chances good today?” asks Aidan. James says nothing. Instead, he turns to a ratty duffel bag in the corner and begins to rummage through it. Aidan strains his slim neck trying to see around the mass of James’ strong frame.

                Finally, James turns around slow and careful. He holds a glowing red jewel in both hands. At roughly the proportions of an Earth-size baseball, it’s the largest gem Aidan has ever laid his blue-green eyes on. He’s entranced by its beauty, but James breaks the spell as he runs one hand over the short black stubble on Aidan’s freshly buzzed head.

                “So is this a yes?” asks Aidan.

                “Yes,” laughs James. “What do you think?”

                “I think that’s enough to support us for a couple of years, at the very least.”

                “Right. That’s the plan anyway. But remember this only works if you trust me. I trust you with my life and I need you to do the same.” A hot wave of guilt flushes Aidan’s cheeks and he averts his eyes to the tiny cabin window, too ashamed to gaze upon the substantial sacrifice James has made for the both of them. James could have been caught at any point while smuggling that treasure and Captain would have lasered his hand off, if not much worse.

                “I’m still so sorry. But I promise, no more crazy. I’m right here and I’m focused,” asserts Aidan with a driving desire to please James.

                Pulsing with electricity from new-found hope and excitement, they both throw on their gear. With heavy magnetic vests to shield them from attack and leather to brace their skin from unpredictable and turbulent sandstorms, they both finish their uniform with a holstered sidearm.

                Bullets are useless here, but galaxy weapons designers fancy the earth’s affinity for killing, so laser guns are modeled after the traditional shape and weight of a pistol. Aidan has always been fond of how it feels in his hand and he always takes advantage of additional practice at the range located within the ship’s gym. Although with the condition of their equipment, James often refers to it as the “prison yard”.

                “Ready?” asks James.

                “Ready as I’ll ever be.” They set out for Aldra, side by side, without the slightest look back at the bandit ship they’ve called home for the last three years.

                Dry desert air fills their lungs when they step onto the rusty docking platform. Crowded streets bustle with new arrivals and rushed departures. Both men know what is expected of them from here, scout the location, find an easy target, and rob them blind.

                But that’s not how this trip to port is going to go. Not this time. They have a new life to build and no amount of brute force is going to stop them.

                James and Aidan split up to cover two streets that run horizontal to one another. Best to keep appearances this close to the ship. Captain undoubtedly has goons scouting the area and any man or woman lower in seniority will snitch on any crewman in order to climb ranks. Aidan pushes through the overwhelming crowd taking in the sights and smells. He catches sight of a fried sand fruit stand and he closes his eyes for a second because the aroma reminds him of French fries, a delicacy he hasn’t tasted in almost a decade.

                James powers up the street much quicker than Aidan, which he expected. He knows Aidan’s smaller stature often intimidates him in crowds. James paces the intersection waiting to see his dark buzzcut surface from the swarm of pedestrians.

                Scanning the dusty street once again, James spies a merchant. Her stand is cleaner and more luxurious than the others he’s seen on Aldra. He guesses that she’s a traveler and won’t be here long either. She’s perfect.

                A sweaty palm grabs him and he startles, ready for combat. Aidan dodges his reflex and grins back at him, amused by his obvious example of nervousness. It’s not like James to let his guard down like that.

                “We’re doing this right?”

                “There.” James points to the unassuming merchant stand.

                “Well, all right. Let’s do this quick and get the Hell out of here,” says Aidan. James takes the lead, plowing a path through the lingering bazaar customers. Aidan watches their six, his natural role in every dangerous assignment they’ve encountered on their celestial journey thus far.

                James stands off to the side until she finishes an exchange with an elderly man selling a family heirloom. His sunken eyes hold a lonely sadness that hurts to look at. Aidan stares at the collection of broken glass and dirty sand at his feet instead.

                The merchant finally steps to their corner of the bodega. Her wild red tendrils and almond-shaped violet eyes are striking and James finds himself wondering if she’s human species or a hybrid. It’s a challenge to read societal lines once the earth’s atmosphere has been crossed.

                “Excuse me, sir. Can I help you fellas, or are we just going to stand here?” She has a thick Aldran accent with twinges of the southern United States, an odd combination for sure. Nevertheless, James moves on.

                “We require discretion, Miss. Please.”

                She raises her eyebrows with a nod and holds out her hand. “Let’s see it then.”

                Aidan neglects his watch and peers around James to listen to their transaction. She takes the gem into her delicate hands and turns it over, examining for cut and clarity. It glows even brighter in the natural light.

                “Well?” Aidan asks from behind James. The merchant’s eyes have a glimmer all their own. She hesitates before speaking and a smile creeps into the corner of her thin, painted blue mouth. She hands the gem back to James and hurries to a metal safe hidden behind a flimsy false wall within the frame of her bodega. The men look to each other and back to the rummaging merchant,  anxiety bubbling. The fiery-haired woman comes back with an embroidered cloth bag jingling.

                “Is this enough to own your gem?”

                James takes the bag into his hand, feeling the weight of the coin inside. It’s heavier than any bag of currency he’s ever owned.

                “Open it,” chimes Aidan. James obliges and he sees the most beautiful collection of gold and silver, more than enough to secure passage and safety. Aidan feels a burning reminder to check their six as he’s been too focused on the money for too long. Andromeda stands twenty feet behind them, a smug deceitful smile gracing her face.

                Aidan drives a sharp jab into James’ side and he looks over his shoulder to check the threat. A fellow crew member or not, she’s here to rise in rank. They watch helplessly as she initiates her com watch to call the captain.

                “Just take it!” James thrusts the gem back into the merchant’s hand and they bound toward freedom, weaving through the crowd as fast as they can, the threat of a deadly chase hot on their heels and only a few miles between them and the safe cover of a rough mountainscape.

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

  • Green with Envy and Destruction

    Green with Envy and Destruction

    By: Breanna Leslie.

    “What do you mean you haven’t seen him?” asks Aidan, frustration clouding over his sunny disposition.

    “Well, why should I know where he is? What the Hell has your panties in a bunch anyway?” asks Andromeda with a rosy blush emerging from underneath her yellowy-green complexion.

    “James told me he was going to the galley with you. And that was over an hour ago!”

    “And I’m telling you, I haven’t seen him. I haven’t even spoken to him since last night.” Andromeda shrugs to once again convey her innocence and avoid being thrown into the middle of a heated lovers’ quarrel. 

    “Fine. I believe you, but I have to find him. It’s not like him to avoid me like this. He never does…” A fury bubbles inside Aidan as his suspicions grow.

    Aidan’s thoughts pilfer through a Rolodex of unsavory positions he might find James in and his quickening steps pound down the shiny silver hallways of the drifting ship. He flies past the viewing windows, completely ignoring the glimmer of the stars outside.

    His trembling hand comes to rest on the first of three scanners that allow passage into the engine room. Only two containment hatches stand between him and the most recessed section of the ship. Aidan thinks that if he were to plan the most severe deception, he’d definitely do it here.

    Each scanner takes its time verifying the grooves of his palm and the agony of the wait eats away at him. In the last hatch, he sways back and forth, his skin vibrating with anticipation. Beep. Finally clear of the heavy steel standing between him and the truth, Aidan slows his steps as dread replaces adrenaline.

    Between the drone of the nuclear engine and the soft clicking gears turning deep within the belly of the ship, Aidan can hear James and Calliope speak in subdued voices. Even with their words muffled through a wall of glass and background noise, Aidan makes out the searing phrase “You promised me you wouldn’t!” seethes James.

    “Go ahead and try to stop me. Then, everyone will know exactly where you stand,” says Calliope in a venomous gloating laugh.

    “No one will believe your diluted ramblings.”

    A sharp crack within their hatch alarms him. Screams follow and heavy clatter soon after. Aidan abandons his fantasy to rush the glass door. Even with this betrayal, he couldn’t bear to watch James sustain injuries.

    Through the safety glass, he spies James and Calliope fighting. They both push and claw for a metal chest held between them. James is strong, but her tenacity is a challenge for even the strongest male. She scratches his eye with sharpened nails and blood seeps down his face as he continues to struggle.

    Aidan breeches the door with the captain’s code he stole months ago and rushes both parties, sending Calliope to the ground where her temple makes contact with the sharp edge of the control tower to the final hatch, the last barrier between them and the vacuum of space. A blaring alert sounds and both men sprint to security behind the glass door, James grabbing the chest on the way.

    It’s much too late to grab her when they turn around and realize Calliope lay unconscious on the hatch floor. She’s sucked from the ship as they look on, helpless and torn between guilt and victory. Aidan can’t deny the satisfaction he feels.

    “What were you doing with her? How long, James?”

    “What? You think we were━”

    “Yes, what else would I think?” pleads Aidan.

    “You could think that I’m a faithful partner and not a manipulative cheat. But I guess that’s too much to ask.” James’ face sours and his emotion towards Aidan cools.

    “Then, tell me what the Hell that was. She’s dead. What is so important that you would risk everything being back here with her?”

    “She stole our last bounty. Stole it right from the captain’s quarters and I wanted to expose her. It could have earned our passage off of this metal deathtrap. Both of us.”

    “James…”

    “Forget it. I have no reason for escape now.” James heaves the chest onto his broad shoulders and trudges away, through the automatic decontamination mist and machinery.”

    “But…I’m sorry,” sobs Aidan through watery eyes and thick impenetrable shame.

    Days pass without words for either of them. Aidan has heard nothing of the stolen chest or the illegal use of captain’s codes, so he assumes James did his best to sweep it under the rug. Again and again, they pass each other in the galley and ignore each other as they pass in the sterile metal hallways. Aidan watches James’ reflection in the mirrored walls, but neither offers to look back and face the heartache.

    Finally, late at night under the glowing red nightlights, Aidan makes the slow guilty walk to James’ quarters. He doesn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms, but the shame will eat him alive if he doesn’t try. He left a stain on James’ heart and a woman is dead, which weighs on him, even if she had sinister plans.

    Before he came round the corner, he hears the soft padded steps of bare feet coming towards him. He holds his breath as the captain will dock his pay if he catches him out right now. “It’s a security risk,” he would say.

    But, no, he finds the shimmer of golden skin, messy curls, and sorrowful eyes staring back at him. James looks up with wistful eyes and a quivering bottom lip. They stand an arm’s length apart, unsure of what comes next.

    “Aidan…”

    “No, let me start. I’m sorry I let my jealousy cause this. We’ve been together since we left earth. We saw the nastiness of this business and we’ve survived it, together. That’s the only way I could have made it. With you, and only you.”

    “I know. And you were wrong for doubting me.”

    “So wrong,” says Aidan, his voice shaking and tears wetting his cheeks.

    “But I’d probably be dead if you hadn’t come back there. She would have done anything to get that bounty.”

    “Maybe, but that doesn’t excuse my━”

    “Aidan, stop. I forgive you. We’ve gotten through worse and we’ll get through this. And dammit, we’re going to get off his ship. Neither of us deserves to belong to Captain and we can do this if we trust one another.” James reaches his arm around Aidan’s shaking shoulders and calms his cries, soothing him in the strongest embrace. “Like I said, I forgive you. Now let’s move on and get off this damn ship so we can start our real lives together.”

    Written By: Breanna Leslie

    Breanna Leslie is a former therapist turned aspiring writer. She earned a master’s in psychology in 2015 but ultimately decided she would like to be more present for her family. Currently flexing her writing skills as a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, she has been published in the literary magazine Write Bitch Write and Lulu Publishing’s Share Your Scare anthology. In her spare time, Breanna enjoys blogging, painting, running, and drinking an absurd amount of coffee. Her goals for 2020 include gaining experience in the freelance world, more short-story publications, and finally submitting her YA novel for consideration.

    Website: https://btlesliewrites.weebly.com/

    Blog: https://hereatjeffersonhouse.com/

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/breetleslie/

    Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.


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