The Unit by Katie Jaarsveld
From the Depths by McKenzie Richardson
Everything Has a Price by Sheri Velarde
Fulfilling Killingsby M Earl Smith
Touch by TW Iain
Dark Web Demon by Kevin S. Hall
Ocean’s Bounty by Andrew J Lucas
Catfish by Samie Sands
Viral Venom by Alex Winck
Domain of the Dragon by L.H. Davis
My Skin Crawls by Katie Jaarsveld
My Name Is Human by Rob Shepherd
Catfish by Samie Sands
I smirked to myself as my fingers hovered over the laptop keyboard ready to type out my response. I tuned out the sound of screaming children, of the television blaring out one of those terrible western movies I hated so much, of the cat scratching at the door begging to be let in, and I fell into my wonderful fantasy world.
The only thing in the world that I had just for me.
Rose_Petal: Oh you know, just the usual, sitting out in the garden, basking in the sun.
Jake86: I hope you’re wearing sun cream ;)
Rose_Petal: Always, wouldn’t want to burn my wonderfully pasty skin!
Jake86: God I wish I could be with you. Factory work is so boring.
Rose_Petal: It can’t be that bad, can it?
Jake86: Oh it is, my mental boss is giving everyone hell today.
Rose_Petal: He sounds horrible, I’d yell at him if I could. If I was there.
Jake86: Ooh, what I wouldn’t give for you to be here.
Rose_Petal: What would you do if you were with me right now?
Jake86: One day, I will show you. One day, all of this will become real.
I sighed deeply, reality hitting me like a thump in the face while I clicked on the log off button. It was all well and good losing myself in another world, pretending to be someone else entirely, but it didn’t really change anything however much I wanted it to. My life was still exactly what it was.
I would always be Rose Dugger; mother of two screaming brats who would never respect me or listen to me however hard I tried, and wife to Alex Dugger, the man who might as well be awarded for being the least attentive man on the planet.
As I glanced around the messy house, noticing all the things that had been chucked haphazardly on the ground for me to pick up again, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone would blame me for what I was doing. This life wouldn’t ever be enough for anyone, would it? Could anyone be happy having only this? How was it possible to be satisfied with nothing?
I didn’t start out this way, in fact, I used to be really content. When me and Alex got married after a whirlwind five-month relationship which resulted in a secret pregnancy that everyone still assumes happened after we said our nuptials, I thought I was the luckiest woman alive. My dating history had sucked up until that point, so I was overjoyed to have someone actually really caring, someone who adored me more than anything else in the whole damn world.
I thought I’d found my happy ever after.
Fast forward five years and everything had well and truly gone to hell.
I found solace in the Internet, accidentally of course. It was just nice to escape the loneliness, the drudgery of motherhood by speaking to others. It was just all forums for other lonely people at first. Then something else happened.
I found the answer to my issues, the solution to my sadness.
I didn’t mean to start talking to Jake, and I certainly had no intention of falling for him, but that was what had happened regardless.
Jake86: Hey, I liked the meme you shared in the chatroom, it made me laugh.
That one comment, an observation on something I had shared had been the start of something new. I responded, we chatted, then everything spiraled out of my control from there. It was like a rollercoaster, I sat willingly in the seat, but I wasn’t prepared for the twists and turns that followed. I didn’t think I would end up stuck on the ride, however much it threw me all around.
The problem was what I felt for Jake was real, I loved him truly to the depths of my soul, What I felt for him had me soaring higher than air, it gave every cloud a silver lining, it just made the world a brighter place to live in.
Only now it had become just another issue to add to my ever-growing list because he wanted to meet me, he wanted us to be together, to restart both of our lives as a unit, and damn it I wanted that too. I needed the life Jake would offer me, I dreamt about it all the time, but I couldn’t take it even if I was free to do so because I’d been so dishonest with him. Aside from me feelings I had for him, not a single thing I said was the truth.
Jake would be waiting for me, with the dark curly hair and deep blue eyes he had in his profile picture on the forum where we first met and still talked all the time. His face would be the one I’d been thinking of, imagining touching and caressing, his life would be exactly as described.
I didn’t even look like the person he thought he was in love with.
At first, I stole another girl’s picture for my profile because I’d never been comfortable with the way that I looked. With hindsight, I could see how stupid that was, but at the time it felt totally logical. I could just be someone else for a little while. She was pretty too, the girl I chose at random. Her dark hair was sleeker than mine, smoother, and her eyes shone brighter. Her face was similar to mine, but almost like an edited version.
She was me, but better.
How the hell would Jake feel when he was expecting her and I turned up? I couldn’t stand to be a disappointment for him.
And then there were the details of my life, none of that was true. How could I say that I was a mother, a wife, a woman that lived in hell? It just didn’t feel right, it wasn’t every fun, so I chose much more fun details. According to my online personality, I was a freelance writer who spent too much time out in the sunshine, I had no commitments, just a wild, totally invented, group of friends that sometimes took me on night time adventures when my family needed me in the evenings.
Still, it was all coming to an end somehow, it would have to. This couldn’t ever transgress into the real world for so many reasons. I would have to find a way to cut the chord, but I didn’t know how. It was going to be the hardest thing in the world to say goodbye to the one person I truly loved, but it was the only thing for both of us. I just didn’t know what to say.
“Oi, Rose?” Alex’s voice was gruff, angry, the way that it always abounded these days. “Will you shut these fucking kids up? I’m trying to get some work done here?”
No, you asshole! You parent for once, you lazy fuckwit!
“Of course,” I answered with a false happiness to my tone. “I’ll be right there.”
My heart yearned to turn around and to walk out that front door, to leave this nightmare for someone else to deal with, but I couldn’t. I’d effectively locked myself in this cage and thrown away the key. This was my own mess, I’d made my own bed, now I had to lie in it.
“Come on, kids,” I ushered them away from their father who was staring daggers into the back of my neck.
“Let’s go and play somewhere else, shall we?”
“No,” my youngest, Brax, snapped back. “No way.”
“Come on.” Almost instantly there was a desperation to my tone, which the children picked up on. “It’s time to go and play with the toys in your bedroom now.”
“Fucking toys,” Maria, my eldest, commented casually, as if it was the sort of word that should be said in passing.
I whipped my eyes towards her and widened them in shock. “What did you just say?” I hissed, my heart thundering in my chest. “You understand that’s a really bad word, don’t you?”
“No, it isn’t. Daddy says it all the time.” She shrugged as if it meant nothing in the world.
I desperately wanted to glare at him, to make him understand the implications of his crappy parenting, but there wasn’t any point. He’d only turn it back around on my anyway, so instead, I closed my eyes and pressed my knuckles into them, blocking everything out for just a second.
“Kids, you’re coming with me right now. I don’t want to hear even one word of arguing.”
A scream brewed in my chest, I had to clamp my lips tightly together not to set it free. Because of the pressure of this frustrated tears filled the corners of my eyes. This was the life I was choosing, this was the existence I’d picked, and sometimes I wasn’t sure why.