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Jack hated his name.

Jack Black. Jack Kerouac. Jack the Ripper. Jack and the fucking Beanstalk. He looked it up once, and the latest Census estimated that there were over half a million Jack’s alive in the U.S. at the same time as Jack.

Jack was the name of a thousand — no, a million — faces and stories. It was an everyman’s name and a great man’s name. Jack could be anyone. And Jack didn’t like that.

Jack didn’t like falling somewhere between a fairytale child and a serial killer.

He wanted to have a name that no one…

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There’s a passenger train that runs between Newtown and Charlotte. But just one. You could get on that train and ride an infinite, 24-hour loop from the mountains to the coast and back.

Not many people know about this train. Not since the cars and the highways and the planes killed the railways — killed them for passengers, at least. Trains were still the best for a lot of non-human cargo.

But when people moved, they liked to either go fast in planes or take their time on the freedom of the open road. Lying back for 12 hours, watching…

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Photo by Martin Péchy on Unsplash

“Can he hear you? He’s just sitting there.”

“He’s had a long day. Give him a little while to process.”

Mingzhu scoffed.

“Wasn’t he born, like, an hour ago? And he’s a robot, he can’t be tired.”

“He’s an AI. And not tired but…dazed. You didn’t come out of the womb knowing exactly who and what you were, much less the answers to complex algebraic problems.”

Mingzhu just shook her head again. She felt important, lucky, to be visiting John’s lab at Valkyrie Corp. It had taken over a month to get the security clearance for it—and she was already…

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Photo by Todd Diemer on Unsplash

Cars zipped back and forth behind a translucent curtain of rain, casting searchlights under the pink and white awning. Ducking into the tiny shelter, Emma’s heart skipped and she shivered. Everything seemed to slow as her entire body pulled to the left.

On her left stood Gigi. The Gigi.

The Gigi who had drawn birds — tiny sparrows, diving hawks, even an albatross — on every page of her statistics notebook in 12th grade.

The Gigi who had held her all night when she…when that happened with Sean Thompson but it hadn’t feel right, she didn’t feel right. …

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Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Tiny icy breaths of air forced Kevin out of his sleep. His skin tingled uncomfortably, and he grimaced in the chill of the…wherever he was.

The light overhead helped him see very little. Just the concrete floor beneath him, the cot he’d been sleeping in, and the walls on his left and behind him. And, of course, his own breath. But the room faded into the darkness ahead of him. But — he could hear something, a something scraping sharply against the concrete. He didn’t dare move. He wasn’t sure he had the strength to anyway.

His mind, on the…

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Yusra freely gives out two facts about herself.

First, she is a security specialist.

Second, she takes her work very seriously.

No further questions.

No one digs too deep, anyway. A genuine desire to know someone, to open-mindedly inquire about their thoughts, beliefs, experiences…requires a lack of preconceived notions and prejudices that Yusra rarely encounters.

People unlike her see a brown-skinned hijabi on a busy street or a crowded café and betray one of two emotions: pity and fear. They think this simple piece of cloth tucked around her head tells her entire story. …

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Photo by Adrian Oniszczuk on Unsplash

It’s really quite frustrating, from an engineering perspective. Structures are designed to function within a specific set of parameters. Something happens outside of those parameters — an unprecedentedly bad hurricane, an explosion, or, in this case, 50,000lbs of locks — and you’re asking for a critical failure.

Well, slightly more than 50,000lbs now. A couple had been standing at the metal railing, laughing, accenting a bubbly conversation with a grasp of the hand or a tender stroke, and as they finally drifted back towards dry land, another padlock materialized in their place.

They didn’t know any better. They didn’t know…

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Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

I stood there, panting, feeling empty.

“You need to project!” Mrs. Lee scolded. “Are you belly breathing?”

I gulped, nodding. “Yes, ma’am.”

A sympathetic smile broke the stony facade of her lips. “Let’s try it again then.”

As empty as I felt, I took in a fresh breath of air, deep as my lungs would allow, and let loose a soaring A-flat, tumbling down F, E-flat, D, and languishing in a sonorous C.

But it happened again. My voice began to tremble and hollow out. The emptiness returned. Eyes wide, I sucked in enough air to stumble on to the…

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“Iced latte for Kevin!” the barista shouted hoarsely.

A man in a checkered dress shirt, blue tie, and tan slacks snatched the plastic cup off the counter without a simple “Thank You.” In his defense, he was a bit busy trying to convince his boss he was alive.

One free hand over his Bluetooth earpiece, attempting to muffle the steaming screams of the espresso machine, Kevin gritted his teeth as his boss read him the news article again.

“Man, approximately thirty years old, Caucasian, five-foot-five, black hair, wanted in the reported disappearance of Mr. Kevin Doherty. Last seen on Monday…

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A long arm of salt water smacked Carrie in the face. Spitting, blinking, and flailing more than a little bit, she was done.

“Nope nope nope!”

“Come on!” Ira called, gesturing exasperatedly. “It’s always hard to get past the breakers.”

This time, Carrie wouldn’t even look back at him. She marched, or more waddled awkwardly, in the knee-deep surf, back to the hot, sticky sand.

Ira sighed.

“Okay then!” he shouted, scarcely expecting her to hear or care. “More waves for me!”

Carrie hugged her knees, allowing the surf to lap over her toes but no more. Watching Uncle Ira…

Kate Lewis

{ Fiction | Journalism | Music } For news updates, literary discourse, and self-deprecating humor, follow @kateolewis on Twitter. Long Live the Oxford comma

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