Diagnosis, by Ann-Louise Truschel

My doctor came into the examining room. “I have your test results,” he said and proceeded to read them to me. At first, I didn’t understand what he was saying. I looked puzzled. Then the doctor explained what the results meant.

All I heard were the words “not treatable.” I left the office in a daze.

I sat in my house for the next few days, trying to deal with the news. Then I decided to make plans for the rest of my life – or what was left of it.

I made my “bucket list” – for a very small bucket.

Rose, by Eric Smith

One thing you must understand about girls—eventually they’ll break your heart. That you can depend on, man. Take my big sister Rose, the only girl among four brothers. We nicknamed her Sissy.

Rose walked me to school every day. If she resented it, she never let me know. Back then I seldom reflected about how Rose might turn out. When my thoughts did turn in that direction, I imagined her happily married with three kids and a laid-back husband with a steady job.

Shadows fell, but Rose became a good woman, I’d say, even if not the Virgin Mary.

Steel Warriors, by Reg Wulff

They were the tip of the spear.

The elite battle-hardened metal toy soldiers that fought countless battles. They’d defeated the dastardly brown army men and banished the evil Star Wars figurines to a galaxy far, far away.

But nothing prepared them for the carnage that lay before them.

Jack had been ripped mercilessly from his box. GI Joe was torn limb from limb. Mr. Snuggles had been disemboweled, stuffing protruding from his furry abdomen. Their green plastic brothers chewed to unrecognizable pulps.

From across the room the enemy’s terrifying battle cry reverberated

Ollie the Dachshund was closing in on them.

Moving On, by Russell Conover

Brad fired up the engine and headed out. He’d packed all his belongings, and prepared to move far away.

What he’d done was awful, he knew. He was in jail for years, until being set free this week. Now he was ready to start fresh.

Was he ready to return to civilization? Could he handle everyday life, and the guilt over his terrible actions? They seemed appropriate at the time, though he hadn’t been thinking–and the memories still haunted him.

Brad started to choke up. Be strong, he thought. You’re better now. Life will improve.

Always keep the faith.

The Oldest Man On Earth, by Don Tassone

Angle Inlet is a tiny, secluded town. Technically, it’s in Minnesota. But to get there, you have to go into Manitoba and then back south. Outside Alaska, it’s the only place in the United States north of the forty-ninth parallel. The French built a fort there in 1732.

That’s the year Jacques Bernard was born. He was born in Angle Inlet. There’s a rumor that he still lives there. I know it’s crazy, but I had to find out for myself. So I set out for Angle Inlet to see if I could find the oldest man on earth.

A Total Failure, by Gordon Lawrie

A total failure at school, he’d turned to petty crime – housebreaking, drugs, cars, nothing violent – and employment had been hard to find. Then someone evil radicalised him, promised him purpose in life and eternal paradise.

He was given instructions for the bomb: some basic chemicals, a large bag of nails and a cheap pay-as-you-go mobile. Set it to explode at the exit as the crowd left the football match that night; plant it just after they’d all gone in.

The bomb blew him up at precisely 20.00 hours. At school, he’d never really got to grips with the 24-hour clock.

Harsh Justice, by Fliss Zakaszewska

The eunuch stood, head bowed, hands extended on the granite top.

“Despite the operation which made you fit to guard my wives, you were caught pleasuring my … um, 37th wife … manually.”

The sultan stretched back, robe flowing by his side, and nodded sharply. The axe fell; the eunuch staggered, blood gushing from his now stumped wrists.

“Never will you touch my wives,” sneered the sultan.

The eunuch swayed, then threw himself at the sultan’s groin, teeth bared. The guards pulled him away, his master’s genitals in his mouth.

“Nor will you, majesty,” were his last words as he died.

Nothing And Everything, by Don Tassone

Growing up, he had nothing. His family of ten was packed into a tiny ranch home. They shared beds. They took turns wearing donated clothes. They couldn’t travel as a family because they had only one car. They often had Sloppy Joes for dinner.

Now he sat alone in his magnificent, ocean-front house. He took a sip of Gaja Barbaresco, which always helped him digest filet mignon.

Through his sliding glass doors, from the beach below, came the happy cries of children playing. They reminded him of his childhood, when he was too young to know he had everything.

Boys Will Be Boys, by Eric Smith

Two brothers fenced in a vacant lot with swords they’d ordered from the back of a cereal box. Two friends wearing private-school uniforms passed by in the gathering darkness and asked to play with the swords. Soon, the four boys took turns fencing, a gambit that ended with the two private-school friends competing. The rubber protector fell off a sword, and its exposed steel point penetrated one boy’s chest to the heart. He died instantly, though the others first thought he feigned injury. After confiscating the swords, detectives grilled the surviving boys for hours before releasing them with a rebuke.

In Good Hands, by Charles Boorman

“Something about mother’s sudden death puzzles me,” said Mildred into the telephone. “I understand,” replied Dr. Schneider. “Let’s talk. Make an appointment to see me.” On the way, lost in thought, Mildred ran a red light.

She woke up staring at a fluorescent lamp on the ceiling. Someone bent over her; she recognized the face. “Hello, Mildred. You had an accident. You can’t move or speak but I know you can hear me. We need to operate immediately but before we put you under,” smiled Dr. Schneider, “I want you to know I’m going to take care of you personally.”