The News Daily
13 November, 5:27 pm. Tower Hill Station.
Heading west aboard the District rail line, a group of roughly seventy to eighty young men and women swarmed several cars taking rush hour commuters by storm. Within minutes the flash mob was in and out after robbing dozens of passengers at knifepoint. No arrests have been made.
14 November, 3:54 am. Canary Wharf.
A woman's body was found floating along the southern end of the Millwall Outer dock. The cause of death is an apparent suicide as there are no signs of a struggle or evidence that anyone was with her. No witnesses have stepped forward.
15 November - 19 November, times vary. Royal London Hospital.
It has been reported that for the past few days, numerous patients have been quarantined for contacting a virus that has yet to be identified. Medical personnel are working round the clock to prevent its spreading any further.
20 November - 22 November, times and locations vary.
In the past seventy-two hours, police have received several calls for domestic violence, following the recent wave of layoffs announced at the City's nearby utility company. In each case, the offenders fled avoiding capture. The cases are being investigated and a hunt for the suspects is underway.
The Nightly News
22 November, 6:04 pm.
"That's right Nora. I'm standing here at the edge of Whitechapel Road in East London's Borough of Tower Hamlets, ground zero for what is now going on day eleven of what many are calling 'The Scourge of Spitalfields'. It all started right here at this temple behind me when, two weeks ago, a local resident, and custodian of the sanctuary reported that its halls had been vandalized overnight. Authorities have not released the scrawled messages left behind, but since then, there has been a litany of mysterious events occurring each day, beginning with the 'flash mob' robberies aboard the Tube between Tower Hill and Monument stations.
"What is most startling is that all of the incidents have taken place within a 5 kilometer radius of where I'm standing.
"It's unknown as to what exactly triggered these events, as there seems to be no logical pattern or known motive. The sheer indiscriminate nature of these acts and the randomness of the suspect's profiles appear to have law enforcement befuddled for the moment. Back to you."
It began earlier that Fall, when Detective Ruskin received a phone call. He'd been reading about the recent dips in the stock market, a matter that was of particular interest to him. He fancied himself a shrewd businessman and dabbled in speculative investments (a luxury he could afford with a modest inheritance he'd received from his grandmother a few years prior). Unfortunately for Ruskin, neither the paper nor the phone call delivered good news.
The charred remains of a man identified as an influential real estate developer was found amidst the rubble of his home in an affluent neighborhood overlooking the Thames. His petrified body was found slumped over next to the fireplace, clutching a small metal lock box.
"What was in it?" the detective said.
"Nothing. Just the melted key, stuck to the outside," replied the voice on the other end of the line.
"Jesus," Detective Ruskin said, distracted by an Op-Ed article in the paper. "Some people have no conscience."
"Sergeant! What can you tell us?" A wall of reporters assembled outside the station as a swelling wave of angry citizens holding signs surged forward, pressing against the reporter's backs, clamoring for answers.
"We're looking carefully into every available lead," the Sergeant said. "But we have nothing conclusive right now." He signaled to his officers to stay alert.
The crowd was not interested in carbon copy speeches, and what they heard only fueled their uproar.
"We ask that you please be patient. We're doing everything we can and as soon as we have more information, we will be sure to let you know. Thank you."
As the officers walked away from the makeshift podium, the mob spread and a projectile launched from somewhere within the crowd, shattered against a parked patrol car and burst into flames.
"Did you see that Phylo?" Andromache said, nonchalantly tossing a large bubble of water, the size of an ostrich egg into the air.
Phylo was busy tapping rocks of Anorthosite with his index finger and giggling. He delighted in watching them turn into butterflies and seeing them fly away.
The water bubble remained suspended in mid-air wobbling ever so slightly.
"Something is amiss. The Arrants are at it again."
"What else is new," Phylo said, his eyes following the curlycue path of another butterfly flitting away.
The surrounding air was warm and sleepy. The sky light made their skin glow.
"Hey you two, get up and make yourselves useful," Heron said, with a look of disapproval and resignation.
"Heron, look." Andromache poked the water bubble and Heron leaned in to have a look. People were running in different directions, colliding with one another, among shattered glass and pockets of fire.
Struck with a flash of sympathy Heron directed Phylo to put away those "ridiculous stones" and to assist Andromache in devising a plan to help end the Arrant's suffering. After a deep stretch and an audible sigh, Phylo joined Andromache and got to work.
Day 12. The Palace of Westminster.
Government officials are unable to come to an agreement on the educational budget due to partisan politics. The item will be tabled and addressed at a later date.
Day 13. Shoreditch.
Three high-rise flats in the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch are burglarized while the homeowners are away, presumably at work. Fingerprints could not be found.
Day 14. King Edward VII Park.
A jogger is assaulted at a park just a few blocks from his home by what he described as "a homeless man wearing a gold watch." The jogger is fine, save for a bloody nose and a contusion on his left leg. Nothing was taken.
Day 15. Cabot Square.
A grocery store is pilfered after-hours as firefighters battle a blaze down the street. Arson is suspected. Investigators examine a possible connection between the two locations.
"Phylo! Put that back." While Andromache was scribbling her thoughts in the sand, Phylo was twirling Hope between his fingers. It took a whack on the back of his head for him to heed his sister and take notice.
"I have some ideas," Andromache said. She proceeded to draw a complex network of lines and arrows connecting a myriad of numbers and symbols.
After several minutes, Phylo's eyes glazed over.
Finally, when the last equation was laid down, Andromache stood up and wrinkled her nose and waved her palm in a figure eight. What stood before them was a three dimensional plot of a grand organic sandcastle in the form of a beehive's interior, complete with passageways of various sizes.
Phylo's eyebrows hinted that he was impressed. "Hmm."
It all boiled down to two ways of correcting the problem at hand. As they saw it, the Arrants had lost their way and simply needed some redirection. By implanting them with the missing virtues, their actions would naturally adjust over time. The challenge was modifying their behavior undetected.
"Heron's gonna love this," Phylo said.
"Heron? There's no time for Heron. We have to act quick. C'mon." Andromache grabbed Phylo's hand and off they went.
"Be careful" Andromache said, as Phylo poured Empathy into the city's rivers and reservoirs. "We can't afford to waste a single drop." As time passed, Andromache carefully monitored the effects of the subjects below and noted their lack of reaction. She concluded that acute disinterest was counteracting any potential remedy, so she instructed Phylo to commence with Plan B.
"How come I always have to do the dirty work?" Phylo said, as his sister sitting a few meters away, peered intently into her water bubble, while Phylo wearily planted Compassion into the Earth's soil for a new crop. Upon reaching the final stage, he put on the finishing touches and plopped on the ground to rest. Flushed with excitement, Andromache said under her breath "Now, we wait."
30 November (Day 19), 6:11 pm. Breaking News.
"...and so reaching nearly three weeks of continuous turmoil, there is still no explanation or sign of letting up. If we can spin the camera around, you can see here that local grocery store shelves lay bare and mounds of rubbish continue to accumulate in the streets as collection agencies are too frightened to enter the neighborhoods. Emergency Service Personnel are overwhelmed and gravely outnumbered by the number of rioters in the streets. In fact, the only bright light, if you can call it that, is the chaos has not spilled over into neighboring vicinities. The mayhem has strangely remained self-contained within the same five kilometer radius we reported on two weeks ago. Nora?"
Nora shook her head in dismay. "Elliot. What can you tell us about the..."
"Oh! Look out!..."
"Heron, I don't know what to do. Nothing's working." Andromache was at a loss. Both she and Phylo had spent several sleepless nights refining their design, but waiting for the new crop to grow, be harvested, and reach its intended targets required time and patience; two things they were short on. The lack of access to the new crop for many of those afflicted also limited its impact. For the damage to be reversed, a more potent and far reaching solution was required.
Deep in thought, Heron tapped his chin with a quail feather. "So far, you've tried water and earth, is that right?"
"Mhmmm." Phylo said, sitting on the ground with his knees up, making a little plant dance at his feet.
Heron paced back and forth. "Well, Fire won't work, so how about Air?"
Andromache, who for a moment was distracted by Phylo's swaying sprout, sat up.
Heron continued. Phylo and Andromache were to capture Innocence and transmit it through the air from the city's highest point down to the Arrants below.
"And how do we capture Innocence?" said Andromache.
Heron looked directly at Andromache and said, "You make - a sacrifice."
It wasn't the first time Andromache and Phylo visited the World. There had been numerous times back when the Arrants began populating the Earth, that maintaining a daily account was necessary to ensure success. Shapeshifting was their way of blending in. The difference between then and now was that they had to act quickly. So, off they went in search of that one object that had to be sacrificed.
Posing as school children, they slipped into elementary schools, playgrounds and children's hospitals, but came up empty. It was when they reached the labour ward on the sixth floor of the city hospital that they knew they had found what they were looking for. They set down their backpacks and pressed their noses against the glass.
A voice sounded from behind. "Well hello, you two. You shouldn't be here by yourselves. Where's your Mum?" the nurse said. Phylo was startled. Andromache answered, "Oh, we're just looking for the bathroom."
The nurse kindly pointed down the hall. "Through the double doors and to the left." She patted Phylo on the head. "Aren't you a darling?" Phylo looked at Andromache with a smile so wide you could practically count all his teeth.
The two made their way down the hall watching the nurse's reflection in the windows of the double doors. When they saw her walk away, they ran back to the room, seized their object and vanished.
Meanwhile, Heron had been preparing the altar for the ceremony. The ritual itself would not take long at all. When Andromache and Phylo arrived, Heron said, "bring it here," and held it over an urn resting on a pedestal. Andromache and Phylo took their places and repeated after Heron, a series of unintelligible utterances. A short cry was heard, followed by a whimper and then silence.
Andromache and Phylo nodded, yes.
Their eyes followed Heron's index finger as a thin trail of smoke drew a map of the city below. "Begin here, at the periphery of the disorder. You will avoid any hindrances this way. Take the District Line toward Westminster. It's exactly one stop. It should take no more than two or three minutes. When you disembark, take the stairs up and walk south across Parliament Square. The highest point will be before you. Andromache will be watching from up here should you need anything."
Phylo offered his assurance, took hold of the cup with both hands and placed it in a satchel. Andromache took her position and Heron watched Phylo disappear through the noticeably thick air.
In the distance, the night glowed orange as plumes of smoke deposited bits of ash onto St. James Park. Two storeys below Villiers Street, a crisply dressed man stood on the westbound platform with a polished, rectangular case resting at his feet.
Unbeknownst to him, a mere three meters away was a common thief, who ordinarily made practice of slyly picking pockets and lifting unattended purses. But today, traffic was extraordinarily light and the bandit's belly was beginning to rumble. •
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10 Short Stories of different genres I wrote in 2018.