• The click-clank of milk bottles on a line woke the maid from her sleep, to the conspicuous silence from within the house. It felt heavy, the silence, weighing on mind and shoulder and ear, pressing down on her from vaulted ceilings. The child. The child was silent for the first time in years.

  • The tree’s roots spread throughout the soil, winding around the boulders that lie deep beneath loam and crushing them. The bodies that littered the ground around the tree nourished it, blood seeping down and into roots, bone powder utilized for calcium, donating structural integrity. The tree loomed.

  • “The chariots ride on,” said the general, “they ride and crash across the dunes. They fly as if on eagle wings. Slamming into the rocks like thundrous beasts, unchained by the emperors command.” The general fell quiet, his words ricocheting through the skulls of every pikeman standing before him.

  • The spark lanced forward, splitting from the mass of the bolt as it slammed from heaven to earth. The cow screamed as the spark landed on its tail, igniting the dry, brush-like hairs that make up the end.

  • The tingling raced up Chase’s spine. A flush ran through his face and he knelt over, groaning from a pain that had its origin deep within his gut. Franklin looked at him quizzically. “Chase? You all right?” he asked, knowing full well that his question was pointless–Chase had gone bright red and was shuddering violently.

  • The bones fell and scattered, bouncing across the concrete floor of the parking garage. The light of the flashlight kissed the youth’s face, casting it in glowing radiance as his eyes danced across the fragments of skeleton, reading meaning from each slant of a tibia, from each crack in a skull.

  • The bones rattled, fire racing its way up ribs and arms, licking the ivory tusks and massive, arching spine. The smoke danced, light casting long shadows, making the mammoth skeleton appear as if it were shifting, moving.

  • Heart in throat, eyes in back of head, Clinton slammed the stick forward, tipping the nose of the plane down toward the fire-scarred terrain. “Coming up on target,” he hissed through his fractured jaw, “seeking permission to drop payload.”

  • The slam-slam of the rubberstampers echoed all through the cavern of an office complex. The drones stamped and stamped and stamped, without any end in sight, eyes dead and bleeding from weeks without moving. Approving every form and decision no matter how trivial, how self-destructive. The bureaucracy of free will.