Award for Excellence for Short Fiction (Final Run-Off)
|Here are the four stories that have been selected for the final run-off. Vote for the one you liked best on FB. The voting will close on Saturday, May 12, at 8 p.m.|
Final Fiction 1
Round and Round Goes the Ferris Wheel
The night was rainy and cold but there was a crowd near the Ferris wheel. People were gathering around, some were looking at the Ferris wheel, some were staring at the concrete beneath their feet. There was no shouting, no cries of joy, no happy voices. The crowd was mostly silent, only whispers could be heard from time to time. Even the wheel made no sound save for the occasional creak. The rain drops were making circles of ripples in the puddles on the ground.
In the dark, everything – the people, the wheel, the water – looked a shade of grey.
An old man joined the gathering. He was wearing a black raincoat and a well-worn brimmed hat. Every time he moved his head, the water would spill out of the brim and run down his shoulders, but he didn't seem to notice. His eyes were fixed on the Ferris wheel. Suddenly, someone tugged on his raincoat.
A little short-haired girl stood behind him. With her bright polka dotted green jacket and yellow umbrella, she definitely stood out. She looked slightly angry.
“Why are you leaving?” she asked the old man.
He sighed, “I already told you, Sam. Where's Grandma?”
“Home. Why are you leaving?”
“You didn't tell her you were coming here, did you?”
“If I had, she wouldn't have let me. Come back with me and she won't even notice,” said the girl.
He smiled. “I would be surprised if she hadn't noticed by now.”
People started to form a line. “I'd better get going. You go on back home so Grandma won't worry about you,” said the old man.
“I'm coming with you!” replied the girl fiercely.
“No, you can't.”
“I can and I will!” She stomped her foot.
The man looked around helplessly. No one was paying attention to him or the little girl. “Listen, you could wait in the line with me. But then you have to go home.”
This appeased her slightly. She took hold of his wrinkled hand and together they joined the line. They were the last in line; no one else came that night to the Ferris wheel. They stood in silence for a moment. As expected, it was she who broke it.
“Why are you leaving?”
“I told you. I have to.”
“Why do you have to leave?”
He took a deep breath as if he wanted to say something, but he didn't say anything for a while. They shuffled a few steps forward, towards the wheel. He looked at her. “Samantha, I just have to. I don't know why. Some people do know, or claim to know. Others never find out, but at some point, everyone leaves.”
She looked sullen. “And if you left a little bit later? Wait at least till Sunday. We could go to the park and feed the ducks. Do you know there are eight new ducklings? I'll show you.”
“I'm really sorry, but I have to leave tonight.”
“I can hold you back. I'm strong, you won't even budge!”
He chuckled. “I'm stronger than you. Remember when we tried arm-wrestling last summer? I won.”
“But I won against Grandma!”
“That's true,” he nodded.
“And when I wrestled you with both hands, I almost beat you.”
“But I still won.”
She pouted a little. “All right, you're stronger than me.” She had to admit it.
The line in front of them was getting shorter. They were getting closer and closer to the Ferris wheel which now towered above them. It was old, constructed from wood and steel. It was turning very slowly so that the people in the line could get in one of its cars. There were twelve wooden cars in shape of giant birds in flight. Now that they were closer, they could get a better look at them. They were incredibly detailed, carved to the very last feather. They had big beautiful eyes. They were painted, but the colours were faded although shades of red and yellow could be distinguished. The girl seemed to be scared of the birds.
The front of the line was close. There was only a handful of people remaining. The girl started spinning the umbrella in her hand. Drops of water flew off of it, some of them hitting the old man in the face. He shielded himself with his hand.
“Stop it! You're getting water in my eyes.”
She gave it a few more hesitant spins and then stopped. “I'm nervous. It's almost time.”
“I'd rather it wasn't. I wish we could wait in line forever.”
“You really don't. Your feet would hurt. And you would have to sleep on the concrete.”
“I wouldn't mind as long as you stay.” Tears started forming in her eyes.
“Sam. I already...”
“I know! I know, I know, I know! Stay anyway. Please. Please stay with us.” She was crying.
He knelt down and hugged her. She cried on his shoulder for a while.
Dawn was about to break.
“Leaving is better for me. I can't say it's better for you and Grandma without me, but probably it is. I'm sorry, I don't want to sound selfish, but I'm tired. I'm so very tired,” he whispered in her ear.
Sniffing, she wiped tears from her eyes. “You could sleep. I promise I won't wake you up early. You could sleep in.”
“Sleeping doesn't fix it anymore. I'm worn out.”
“And riding the wheel will fix it? Sleeping can't and the wheel can?” she asked.
“Yes, I'm sure the wheel will help.”
The girl sighed. She looked resigned. “Are you sure you'll feel better?”
“And you absolutely couldn't get better if you stayed with us?”
“I couldn't. I'm sorry.”
She hesitated a moment. “Then you should go.”
The second to last car, now full, rose from the ground as the last came to a stop, its door already open to let the final riders inside.
“I'll miss you,” she blurted out.
“Me too.” He kissed her on the cheek and ruffled her hair a bit.
She protested, “Grandpa, I'm too old for kisses!” But she smiled.
The dawn was about to break. It was the old man's turn to get in the car.
He let go of her hand. “It is time. Say bye to Grandma for me.”
“I will. I promise.”
“Goodbye,” she said, waving. “And don't forget me!”
“I won't, I promise,” he said and got in the car. The door closed behind him.
The rain was slowly starting to taper off.
The girl watched as the Ferris wheel began to turn. It went round and round, faster and faster, and as it was picking up speed, its colours seemed brighter and brighter. The eyes of the birds were deep green and their plumage was red and orange and yellow and light blue, as though they were aflame. They looked as if they might come alive any second and fly away to burn in the sky as new suns. And perhaps they did, because the air appeared to be filled with strange shadows.
The ground was shaking.
Then the rain ceased and the dawn broke. As the sun peered through the clouds, its rays touching the flaming wheel, the spinning and the shaking stopped almost instantly. The doors of the cars opened, but there was no one inside.
The concrete on the ground was cracked in places and grass and flowers had grown inside the cracks.
The place was deserted, save for the girl in the white polka dotted bright green jacket and the (now folded) yellow umbrella. Tears glittered on her cheeks. She stood staring at the wheel for a couple of minutes. Her hair, which somehow seemed to have grown a few centimetres longer, kept getting in her eyes. She shook her head and ran. She ran, away from the Ferris wheel, splashing through the puddles, her boots leaving circles of ripples in the water.
Final Fiction 2
The Power of Words
My name is Elisabeth but my mom calls me Lizzy. I asked her why she gave me the name Elisabeth since there wasn’t a day she called me that. But she just smiled and said that I will always be her little Lizzy. It wasn’t the kind of excuse I expected but it was enough for my mom. Her name is Angela and everyone calls her Angela but me. I call her Mom or Mommy. I am eleven years old and Mom thinks that sometimes I am an adult living in the body of the eleven year old girl, but only sometimes.
She was young when I was born so she looks like a girl rather than a woman. She is very pretty with long dark hair, green eyes and pink lips. She is tall and really thin. I hope I look like her when I grow up which is likely as many people tell us that we are two peas in a pod. First I didn’t know what such expression means but Mom explained it means that we are like one person. I believe it is true. My hair is the same colour as hers but not so long and my eyes are green as well. We are both pale mainly because there’s not a lot of sunshine where we live. Our home is a tiny white house with a large backyard where we have a wooden swing and Mom’s flowerbeds. We live in a quiet clean neighbourhood in the suburbs.
Our family is very special because it consists of only two members. There is not anybody else except my Aunt Natalie but she is just a family friend. Once I asked Mom why there is no daddy in our family and she answered, “We don’t need a daddy, Honey. Daddies only cause troubles and we are happy without them.” She also said that daddies are often strict or even severe and that they don’t understand girls like us. This happened long time ago but I remember it and I was satisfied with her response so I was no longer sad when I saw my schoolmates with their daddies. “They don’t know how lucky I am without a useless man in my life,” I thought.
There is no place for anyone in our kingdom of two girls and the reason is highly practical – everything is in pairs. We have two wardrobes, two beds with two blankets, two chairs in the dining room, and two sets of cutlery. In my room there are two large teddy bears and two smaller ones, two blond-haired dolls, two black-haired dolls and two with purple hair. We have only two pairs of slippers and two bathrobes. And most important is the pair of glass elephants in the kitchen – the mother elephant and the baby elephant. Mom said that mother is the head of an elephant family and that is why she bought these glass figurines when I was born. They are exactly like us. They have a particular place on the shelf so they can be spotted very easily. Sometimes she allows me to play with them.
The last couple of weeks Mommy was busier than usual. She works as a nurse in a nearby hospital and tries to be around but it’s not always possible. “There are more and more sick people and I must stay in hospital to take care of them,” she said. “You are a big girl now, my love, you will manage to be without me for some time alright?” She was coming back from work late at night. But I was no longer a child so I understood that she had to work very hard. It continued and her ‘some time’ became ‘a long time’. I spent some afternoons at my classmate Lucy’s house, some with Aunt Natalie. I was often alone for a couple of hours but it wasn’t so bad. I played with our pair of elephants.
Once I heard Lucy’s mom talking something about Angela’s new friend and that she’s happy for her. I didn’t understand. Then one evening I couldn’t sleep so I heard Mom when she returned home but there was not only her voice. I heard some man talking to her. I thought it was a taxi driver but now I know I was mistaken. Yesterday she came home with a broad-shouldered man who was even taller than her. She introduced him as her colleague. I didn’t like him at all. He has a really large nose and black eyes. He seems too dark next to my pretty, pale mom. His name is Brian and he reminds me of a wicked sorcerer from the movies.
But Mom seems to like him and he visits us every weekend and sometimes even during the week. I don’t see why there’s suddenly a man in our house. We are happier when there’s just two of us. He always brings me a pack of gummy worms but I don’t eat them even though I love those things – I don’t need anything from him. What surprises me the most is Mom’s happiness. She is smiling and laughing all the time. I think I don’t recognize her. She smiled before but not like this. Three months have passed and she can’t see my disapproval. There is no place for three people in our house because everything we have is in pairs and I do not like living with some man who may become strict. Perhaps he will start to yell at me or even at Mom.
I’m not ready for this. Maybe she doesn’t care if he will yell at her; maybe she wants to replace me. I don’t understand. Was everything she told me a lie? Doesn’t she love me anymore? We were a great team and now there’s some stranger in between us. But I’m no longer a child and I’ll manage to be without her just like she said. I took what I thought was necessary. I wonder when she’ll notice that there’s only one elephant left.
Final Fiction 3
Of Paedophiles, Terrorists and Darth Vader
I was the last one. AGAIN! The last one in front of school waiting for Mum to pick me up. But as always something was more important apparently. “The traffic rush was even worse than usual”; “Boss gave me extra work”; ‘Blah blah blah’. I could imagine all those ‘excuses’. But what good is sorry when the time I could spend playing with my awesome Luke Skywalker action figure I got for my birthday is being wasted. “Enough, I’m going home by myself this time! I’m old enough anyways!”
Honestly, I don’t understand why Mum’s always so strongly against me going home alone. It isn’t like there’s a war on or something. And it’s not even that far. At least that’s what I thought until I realized that I had no money for the bus. “Well I’ll walk then, anyways the Sun is shining. I love it when the sun is shining!” At least I could see things and stuff. I’m very good at seeing stuff. I often see things others don’t, a funny picture on a wall or a guy wearing his T-shirt backwards. The first thing I saw was what I see every time, ‘the sad people’ as I like to call them. All those sad guys, you know the ones that work in those big buildings with those small cardboard offices, just walking around in suits with a dead look in their eyes, living the same old routine full of orders: “Wake up, you have to work! Suit up, it is not casual Friday! Eat your breakfast, or you will die! And on and on…..” Following all those stupid rules, every day is the same. I don’t want to end up like that when I’m all big and have a moustache (because moustaches are cool). „These people, no fun in lives they have,” like Master Yoda would say. Oh I forgot to say, I totally love Star Wars. Ever since my dad let me watch the original trilogy with him and his friends I’ve been absolutely obsessed with everything that has something to do with it. But I’m probably getting off track here. Long explanation short (perhaps it was little bit longer than that) I don’t want to become…uh... Oh yes! I don’t want to become a Stormtrooper, a clone with no real life outside killing for the glory of the Empire, and it really bums me out that my mum and dad who used to be so much fun are starting to be like that. And I know I got back to Star Wars but it’s a perfect way to describe what I feel and see. Mum says adults can’t always have fun like us kids but I think she’s wrong.
I’ve already walked about half of the way, when I’ve come to City Park. I love it. There’s a bunch of benches, a fountain with a statue of some Neptoon guy. Dad said he ruled all the seas once or something. There’s also a small pond with ducks and swans and the grass. Yeah, the most wonderful thing in the world, so soft and so green, there is nothing more green than the grass in City Park. Once when we were there for a picnic I even fell asleep on it and it was the best sleep ever. This time something was odd. “DANDELIONS!” I didn’t realize it was that time of the year again. The whole park was practically littered with them. Mum makes these awesome dandelion crowns that make you look like that guy Caesar I once saw in one of the books Dad keeps in his study. Tony said I look gay wearing one. He obviously didn’t know about my awesome Jedi powers until he was flat on his back. And he was lucky I wasn’t sure what ‘gay’ means back then or he would’ve ended up much worse.
I’ve decided to sit for a while and enjoy of the park. After all, I’m a big boy walking home from school all alone; I can do anything I want. Only a free spot was on a bench next to this guy reading a book and I didn’t want to sit on the grass because it was still kinda cold. So I asked him if I could sit there.
“By all means, my friend!” he replied with a big smile.
He was different. Everything about him was so radiant. He was wearing quite unusually coloured clothes that made him look like a fairy tale character. Even the book he was reading had its title written in strangely shaped letters, every one a different colour. And while I was observing him, I must’ve have stared quite intensively, because suddenly he looked at me suspiciously, not angrily though. I tried to look like I was looking at the trash bin behind him but I guess I wasn’t convincing enough.
“So what’s a young man like you doing all alone here?” he asked me.
Only then did I notice that his voice had a funny melody to it. And also, his skin wasn’t white as I would suspect (little slow seeing things that day I guess). It was a little bit “brownish”. Evidently he wasn’t from around here. I was about to tell him about why I was there and stuff when I remembered the many lessons Mum and Dad gave about NOT talking to strangers. Well they should’ve come for me if they’re so concerned about my safety.
And so I told him what happened and stuff. He said my parents must be worried sick about me, but also that he understands my disappointment. And then we started talking about other things and stuff. He shared his life story with me. How he escaped from his country (I can’t remember the name, it was long complex and exotic), because there is a big war there. Not just any kind of war, but a kind where the country is divided and people who should be brothers are murdering each other, a civil war it is called. What could be worse than that? I feel sick just thinking about. How he searched for happiness in the West he’s heard so many wonderful stories about. How he finally decided to live in this city. How he’s disappointed about the lack of joy and empathy he thought we possessed in excess.
“You see, back home before the war we were all friends even if we didn’t know the other person. Here people are so cold and distant; it’s like they’ve no life left in them.” This foreign guy was awesome and I really enjoyed talking to him. He even liked Star Wars! And I always thought only Americans could like Star Wars. “Oh I have something here I think you will love!” he said suddenly and started rummaging inside the bag he had by his side.
“SEBASTIAN! There you are!” Dad was coming towards us. “What are you doing with my son, you, terrorist paedophile scum, you?!”
The man was absolutely shocked. “I was only…”
“Save it, I don’t care for any of your lousy excuses, get out of my sight and be glad I am not calling the police.”
I felt like Luke when he discovered Darth Vader was his father. I felt like yelling. “Noooo! This monster can’t be my father!” Dad dragged me to the car and I got one last glance at the guy standing there with an expression of complete confusion on his face.
I refused to talk to Dad for like 5 days. Mum tried to explain what he did and what could’ve happened if the guy was really this paedophile (does bad stuff to kids) or terrorist (blows stuff up). He wasn’t any of those, but I guess my parents don’t understand people can be nice without a reason. I’ll never understand why dad behaved that way, just because this man wasn’t the ‘clone’ everyone’s supposed to be. Finally I gave in and behaved like before. But only because I hope that like Luke, I’ll be able to find some good in my dad after all.
Final Fiction 4
War of Opinions
To achieve success in the Empire of Opinions is very difficult. When I was created, Sister Restraint was the first opinion I saw: she told me my life was going to be rather tricky and I was going to have to be rather tricky, too. I remember I just smiled and walked away to a meeting with my coordinator. It was the last time she talked to me. Ever since, she just observed me from a distance, never approaching. I had also other Brothers and Sisters. They had a special power to give an opinion to any creature of our world and of the world down there which was called Earth. I was told that my Sister Restraint, as well as other sisters, was my enemies; they presented the opinions I couldn't accept, that's why I have never approached them unless I had to.
After the meeting, I realised I would be a pretty important creature if I had to work the very day I was created. Funny thing was I could do whatever I wanted – I could use whatever tool in whatever way to achieve my goal. I could kill anyone. The surprising thing was I was never going to die. But what my coordinator stressed was my goal, my task. I was created to spread one idea into the universe. Everybody was created for a certain reason. To be play my role well, I first of all had to know all the opinions of my world. Then, I was ready for my task. It was a concrete idea, very specifically defined, but still very hard to carry out. I was going to boil the atmosphere down there, confuse every single mind of those already spoilt creatures living on Earth and beat my sisters.
I remember every single person that was to become subject to me. When I was ordered to present my opinion, there was no way of turning down my voice in the mind of the person – I was the boss. I was Evil and my angelic sisters were the only ones who could stop me although they knew they couldn't unless their coordinators would tell them to do so. I had leeway to do what I was created for. My opinion was going to grow stronger and rule. That day was going to be The Day. All my people were going to feel the power of my opinion again.
My secret weapon relied upon the way I put the opinion into their minds; I always dropped by in their hearts. It was exactly the thing no one expected. I did not just put the opinion inside their minds – I used the most powerful driving force of human life – the most dignified feelings whooshing up right from their nest were mixed together with my opinion. Shortly after I did it for the first time, fraternal twins Brother Pride and Sister Pride came to visit me. I felt their impact upon me again. It felt so right. I was wondering whether my influence upon the others felt the same.
Before I could start the real battle, I had to make my success secure and satisfy my encomiastic essence. I visited my nemesis, Tolerance.
“Hey, Tolerance, you are going to be dealt a fatal blow today,” I grinned from ear to ear.
“Ah, is that you again? When will you admit that I am nobler and stronger than you have ever been, my little brother?”
“Come on! You know I am just waiting for my moment. The time has come. You will see what I am capable of. I have been preparing for this day for centuries; no one will destroy my joy! Do you hear me? No one can stop me! And you, the opinion I hate the most, the opinion which has been thwarting my plans and all efforts forever, you are not going to defeat me again.” I bent over slightly with a threatening face and pointed my forefinger at her in warning: “Never again!”
She gently smiled, tossed her long golden hair over her shoulders and scurried away. Anger and Abasement came to visit me. They brought red to colour my cheeks. My fists clenched. Oh, how I hate her! I wish she would die today!
I left my guests behind and set out to find my friend Rectitude to ask her for support in the matter. I trusted her because she helped me although she not always considered it to be right, but she usedn't to think much about things; she just wanted to know what it would bring.
“I need you as never before,” I greeted her.
“Oh, really? Did I finally use enough forcible opinion? I'm very glad of it. I haven't witnessed anything radically right in the last few days. Just some brave policemen, some very seriously uttered speeches, some new inventions, a few fulfilled dreams and that's it. But still, you cannot imagine how much fun I have every day with those stupid creatures! I think Sister Courage operates a lot down there. They are willing to do anything just to be happy or to do the right thing. It is hilarious, isn't it? Yesterday, one of them tried to stop a bus by holding on to its windscreen wipers. Were it possible, I would die laughing.” She was bottling up another burst of laughter inside of her. “So,” she patted her thighs. “What have you come for?”
“I need your support. Give me more of your opinion to rule the world. I have a plan, I have the reasons and explanations for the coordinators but I need you to make it real.”
“Oh, poor boy, do you really think it will work this time?”
“Yes, I'm sure. I've made a lot of mistakes in past centuries, but this time, I'll strike unexpectedly, quickly, premeditatedly and faultlessly. Trust me, because I trust you; that's why I have finally come to you.”
“First, tell me of your intentions, dearest. I need to know what I am supporting. Although we are all the same age, you have less power over the creatures and less experience in knowing your capabilities.”
“Do you remember those good old days when people didn't think about the reasons to hate each other? When they hated just because of differences in appearance? You know, the times of colonization and slavery?”
“Of course I do. I had to help my Sister Tolerance a lot to pull through. You did a great job then.”
“I know, I know. That's exactly what I want to do again. But this time much better. You will be on my side and will help me instead of Tolerance.” I looked directly into her passionate, reddish eyes and tried to use what the creatures down there call conviction.
“Wow, that's very courageous. I wonder whether Courage hasn't given you too much of her opinion.”
“Help me, please. You know we opinions have to cooperate to have power. I need you now. I'll give you a hand later, when you need me.”
“You fool, haven't you yet found out no one needs you? You are the opinion which needs the others, no one needs you. You cannot pay me or any other opinion back.”
“You are lying. That's not true. Just give me the chance to rule and I'll show you what I can do! It is very easy to need somebody powerful, somebody who rules, but were it me who ruled, I'd show you what the real Empire should look like! Give me the chance... Give me a hand!” I literally begged her. It is such a horrible feeling when you have to rely upon somebody.
The thought whether there existed an Empire of Feelings that could be bribed or persuaded to help me to become more self-confident flashed through my mind, but I rejected it and went on. I had no time to turn from my plan.
“I won't disappoint you; some of the creatures will be happier living with me, only the minority will suffer to make the majority happier than ever before. Please, call off your daughter Doubt and let me do what's right.” At that moment I felt the opinion of Lie permanently settle in my mind but I still didn't know why. “Maybe I could try it with you...” she started and I smiled.
My day spent with Doubt yesterday had been worth it. I had tried to persuade Doubt to leave me and choose another permanent target. I’d suggested Rectitude. I needed her to help an evil Brother. She wouldn't do it without Doubt's intervention.
“I honestly want to see what our cooperation would be like, but... never mind, let's see what you can do with my gift.” She smiled reservedly and breathed her opinion into my mind. I almost felt the specks of the sparkles softly settle down onto the piles of the other opinions, some of them remaining still and some twisting around.
I closed my eyes and stood up to leave. “Thank you, Sister.” As I looked at her for the last time before leaving her forever, she sadly smiled and got a slightly mannish look. I wrinkled my brow, but shortly after I left her sitting there alone with her thoughts I forgot the changes on her face and focused.
My time was approaching. I descended and found the people I had chosen before. I breathed the sparkling specks of opinion into their minds shooting to their hearts at first and smiled again. That day was going to be the stuff of legend. Shortly after I let the first different President of the United States be killed by the inhabitants of his motherland, I attacked all the capitals on the African continent with missiles launched from North Korea. The morning rush hours were unusually hurried and the evening rush hours were going to be even more so. As I watching those funny guys who willingly not only accepted my opinion, but also bettered it, I thought Pride should have come. After few minutes of waiting, I noticed neither Brother nor Sister Pride has come. Only Doubt was bothering me again. I was wondering what happened to Rectitude and her support, but I didn't have time to find out why her specks stopped twisting and tiredly dropped onto the pile of the opinions instead. I had to go on.
In the afternoon, Third World War broke out. Gypsies were forced to move to one place; I had chosen Germany. I had hoped people there still highly valued my opinion presented via My Man three centuries ago. The house painter painted the most impressive house I had which spread to the whole world. As night began to fall on the world of creatures, I decided to use the ace up my sleeve. I focused on the isolated parts of the world and countries I had never used that much before. I had to be sure my rule would become entire and compact. My plan involved also Russia. It was a tough nut to crack, but finally, I wagered on their nationhood consciousness. Before, in my previous attempts to rule, I had underestimated Scandinavia, but this time, those countries helped my plan. It was a large area, a great prison for all European Africans. Rational China was my Houyhnhnm land fearing the rest of the world full of strange normal people. Prejudices emerged from under the surface and the world was going to be Mine very soon!
The 21st century was amazing. I was strong as never before. I even outstripped the 20th century, because this time I didn't allow time for the Rosa Parkses or Martin Luther Kings to intervene. I knew about the matter more than anyone else. I had all opinions of the others known and rejected, because mine was right. It was right to select the creatures; in the Empire we have to know who is who, who came from which ancestors, which boss is suitable, what hair and eye colour is the most appropriate, what nose shape and width is optimal, which height is normal or abnormal. We have to know how to put opinions in their minds and convince them they are right. Our coordinators supervised us; if what I did wasn't right why would they let me to do it? I believed in Me.
Now, I'm making friends with Betrayal. He knows me and he thinks as I do. He thinks I was about to win but that Rectitude betrayed me. I will get even with that harlot! Her days are numbered.