Wanna Participate in future 7th Titan contests? Our April prompt, “Fool’s Errand” is up and ready for your submissions on the Contest page. Submit by the due date of March 15th for a chance to win.
Chris, Kurt, and Abigail had a little in house competition to lead the charge. Our January prompt? “The Twa Corbies” image below.
Abigail took third place for our January prompt with her story “50/50.”
by Abigail Dunard
Jeremiah’s life was splintering into a series of 50/50 probabilities. The hunk of metal whirring in his left eye socket was a nagging reminder that the odds favored him dead. And not just playing opossum like he had been for the last 13 days, momma’s-gotta-break-out-the-black-dress dead.
He wondered if the crows knew. There were three left. Days ago, they had filled the grove of acacia trees, their sleek bodies squashing blossoms, their steely beaks mimicking the sharp thorns.
Three’s a crowd. Jeremiah still had an audience which meant he had a shot, or three. Jeremiah swiveled his hips suggestively. The chains binding his wrists and ankles clinked. Folds of water-starved skin snagged on the ground, puncturing sores. The desert soaked up the pus. It had been days since Jeremiah had anything to offer–He was fresh out of crap, piss, and tears.
“Hungry for a piece of this?” His voice creaked through broken lips.
“We’ve got a taker!”
The crow cocked its head.
“Fat like this won’t stick around for long.” Jeremiah turned as far as the chains allowed. His stomach sagged off his ribcage.
The crow ruffled its feathers and flew away.
“What do you know? You’re not even a real crow!”
Crows, like everything in the Age of The Method, had been tested and tampered with. Real crows would have dug in by now. Real crows didn’t strategize, they acted. Real crows had nothing worth dying over, no mutated brain matter or cold fusion catalyst incubating in their beaks.
No amount of modification: not near-human intelligence nor social-hierarchical conditioning had rid them of craving eyeballs. Nine times out of ten they went for eyeballs first.
“50% of the time they’d go for the left eye.” Jeremiah hoped the odds held true if the eye was plucked from its socket, replaced with a remote-controlled vice grip, and stretched across the trap, the iris staring blindly out from its jellied membrane pool.
Jeremiah choked out a laugh. My life depends on how delicious I am. But that was where his 50/50’s led. There were other variables, other conclusions he could have reached.
Que sera, sera. Cody’s voice echoed Error Variance’s credo.
Jeremiah had tried tracing his 50/50’s back before they had spiraled into a series of wrong-side-of-the-coin choices. He couldn’t blame it on being born Labor instead of Science or on mandatory test subject assignments. He couldn’t blame it on Error Variance in their mad quest for chaos in the confines of a petri dish. That was too simple. The truth was far messier.
Everything traced back to Cody Blanchette, and not because Jeremiah hadn’t killed him instead. It traced back to the first time he met the son of Science with rebellion beaming behind pale blue eyes.
Late night meetings over half-touched hot toddies and half-whispered secrets left Jeremiah giddy with possibility. Cody’s smile flashed and flew, glimpses of a wellspring of happiness he hid deeper down than his taste for treason.
So Jeremiah approached Error Variance. As for Cody, he stayed Science. They would meet in secret until Cody gained power enough to strike from within. But, like all experiments, variables were unaccounted. They met once more, polycarbonate glass between them and a prison sentence hanging over Jeremiah’s head.
Initiation night for Error Variance was a doozey of a 50/50. Variance required an act against The Method with a target of their choosing. God, let it not be murder. But it was. The knife, chosen for its chaotic potential, weighed heavy in his hand as he waited for his target.
Whichever Blanchette brother walks through that door first.
Jeremiah closed his good eye; his bleary vision was playing tricks. Brody Blanchette was a harmless sort. Someone moved in the branches. But it couldn’t be Brody, he had been first through the door.
“Cody? Have you come to forgive me?”
“I wouldn’t forgive me either.”
“I couldn’t have done it if you were first.”
The body landed with a soft thud. How long had he been waiting in the branches?
“He was 12.”
A second body landed, lankier but with the same blue eyes.
Something about the second body twisted Jeremiah’s guts. “So was Becky Warner when she left for assignment. She never made it out of the lab.”
“So now we’re even?” He cocked his head.
“You’ve got it all wrong–” said Jeremiah.
“No, you do. You’re not breaking The Method. Why do you think Science tolerates Error Variance? Data. Even rebellions founded on chaos fall into patterns. Find the pattern; find the weakness. And honey, do you have weak spots.” His voice was shriller than Jeremiah remembered.
“I don’t expect forgiveness. I need you to know I did it for you.”
“My 30 minutes are up.” Cody stood, but he had only just arrived.
Jeremiah heard a noise like rattling cell doors. He felt his arms and legs spreading wide. Jeremiah struggled, but the chains pulled until he could only move his head.
“They’ve offered me a plea bargain, 50/50 odds. Should I take it?” The eye socket whirred into position. Somewhere a Science-born watched, itchy finger on the trigger.
“Que sera, sera.” Cody flipped a coin and pressed its face to the glass before letting it drop.
The coin landed on Jeremiah’s chest. But he didn’t feel cold metal. It was heavier, soft and warm.
My final 50/50. A tract of raw flesh stood out against blue-black feathers. Jeremiah remembered the knife, felt the resistance as its blade caught on Brody’s adam’s apple.
Brody cocked its head, peering at the decoy eye.
“Cody!” Jeremiah yelled.
But Cody had flown away as he had when Brody died, moments after Cody had held the door, “After you, Bro.”
Jeremiah wondered if Cody had known all along.
Up close, the crow’s feathers shone like puddled oil, a metallic rainbow glow. He was a harmless sort.
“Hungry for a piece of this?” Jeremiah turned his head and met the crow with his one good eye.