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Seed of Doubt | Audio
By John Conway
John Conway is a complex-litigation attorney and writes science-fiction, fantasy and romance stories. His recent work has appeared in Battlespace Vol I (available on Amazon),, The Lorelei Signal, Mindflights, Romance Flash, Residential Aliens, Bewildering Stories and others. Links are available He also submitted two winning genre stories in the Writers Digest 80th Annual Writing Competition and was honored as the 2012 grand-prize winner of the Yosemite Romance Writers Smooch contest.
       Solitaire handball was not enough. Bobby Fisk kicked his dusty rubber ball and surveyed the neighborhood. Madison Tucker played in her shabby yard with a set of construction toys. Bobby jammed his hands into his pockets and sneered. "What're you doing?"
       Madison didn't respond. She moved a plastic girder to a spot on the structure she was creating and examined it. She adjusted its position and then pushed, snapping it in. She selected another piece, glanced at Bobby and shrugged.
       Bobby recognized the set, like the one buried in his closet. It was stupid. Nothing fit.
       He stepped onto the overgrown grass. "Girls don't play with those."
       Madison moved a dirty blonde strand from her face. "Says who?"
       Bobby bristled. He despised her arrogance. But he would not yield. "Everybody, you freak."
       "You're the freak."
       "No, you are. Everybody thinks you're a freak." Bobby smirked.
       "Everybody doesn't count." She returned to her construction, humming.
       Bobby inched toward the structure, glaring. It seemed well-balanced and strong.
       "I'm going to knock this stupid thing over."
       She stood. They stared at each other.
       Bobby smiled. This was more like it. But then she cocked her hip and smirked. The moment evaporated.
       "What?" he prodded.
       Her eyes cut to the right. "See him?"
       "Who, Dean?" he shrugged. The carrot-top sixth-grader across the street was a jerk. But he was occupied with a bike chain in his open garageónot a concern.
       "He's not real."
       "He's an illusion. I can erase anyone I want because I control reality."
       "What?!" Bobby scrutinized Madison's expression. She seemed dead serious. The notion was nonsense. But what exactly should he say? He glanced again at Dean. "He's right there, stupid."
       "To you."
       Bobby pointed. "To anyone."
       She rolled her eyes. "He's an illusion. Only morons can't tell the difference. And if you don't leave me alone, I'll erase you. "
       Bobby's neck tingled. Madison's threat was hollow. But if he didn't prove it right now she would think he believed her. He had to call her bluff.
       Bobby drew a steeling breath. He sidestepped Madison's plastic structure, stopped ten inches from her and planted his hands on his hips. "Go ahead."
       "I don't want to."
       "Do it."
       "I don't have to."
       "I dare you."
       "I don't feel like it."
       Her expression remained fixed. She did not seem intimidated. If anything, she seemed even more arrogant. Bobby could not let this continue. His heart pounded. He grabbed her arm. It was thin and weak. He balled his right hand into a threatening fist. "Now!" he insisted.
       Her lower lip quivered. He felt strong.
       "Maybe I will!" she snapped. "You can hit me and I won't feel it. You'll be gone, and it won't be real!"
       Bobby squinted.
       She tightened her lips and glared.
       Anger welled. Bobby's fist flew across her face with a dull thud as he released her. She fell away to the ground. Victory was his.
       "Now tell me I'm not real," he said, looming over her.
       "I don't feel a thing," she said through a swelling lip. "You're an illusion." She wiped blood from her chin. "You're so stupid you can't even tell."
       She remained down. Tears dampened her cheeks.
       The flush of dominance passed. His momentary pride slipped away, replaced by the fear of punishment. He scanned for witnesses. None. He wanted to retreat. Madison remained frustratingly defiant. But so what? At least she wasn't wailing and screaming.
       Bobby stepped back, shook his head, and then turned, rushing back to his yard.
       What just happened? It made no sense. Why wouldn't she give in? Should he have just crushed her tower?
       "Her fault," he muttered.
       He glanced back. Madison sat sobbing quietly.
       Good. If she stayed quiet there might be no trouble.
       He sat on his front step. He had won. But something felt wrong. He tried to think. Madison was stupid. But that wasn't it. He tried to think harder. What was he missing? He didn't know. But one thing was certain. He was real. Didn't he prove it? Sure he did. He examined his hand. No doubt. He needn't worry about that ... or what it's like to just think he's real. No. He was real. He was pretty sure of it. Not much doubt at all.
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