The title of this short story puzzle collection is intended to express a conflict of means and purpose. The ultimate outcome of an act of violence rarely redeems the brutality of the act, itself, and redemption is often violent. Life is conflict; hunger competes with satiety, need succumbs to gluttony, and death is the ultimate reward of existence. Journey into the surreal and mysterious in "Constant Is the Sound", "Listen, Darling", "Tending the Garden of Evil", "Magicus", and "Airport". Have a frighteningly good time reading "They Walk", "The Tollbooth", and "Defile". Experience the true horror that is contemporary reality in "Bus Driver, Bus Driver...", "Fatty, Fatty", and "Scrawl", or take a trip into the darkness of the past in "Spin the Wheels for Ill" and "Envoy to Klis".
Spin the Wheels for Ill: At his post in the bowels of a Japanese submarine, this frightened boy endures the unspeakable slaughter of an illicit war until he reaches the point of breaking. Then he begins opening valves that should be closed and closing valves that should be open. -- Drafted as a teenager into one of the bloodiest and most fanatical navies in the history of the world, he will spin the wheels for ill. An insightful short story puzzle.
They Walk: She hitchhikes along the loneliest stretch of highway in the most deserted hollows of the countryside. He insists on giving her a ride, despite her demurs. It will be the most fateful companionship he will ever know. -- Two people meet on a dark and lonely highway, one is dead and the other alive. For now. An insightful short story puzzle.
Bus Driver, Bus Driver: She takes her job seriously, whether it be unruly school children or an armed madman, there will be no mischief aboard her school bus. When confronted by her worst nightmare, this bus driver will put out all the stops to make certain her young passengers will all get home safely. She'll pay a heavy price for playing the hero. -- When a crazed gunman boards a bus full of small children, it makes for a bad day at school. An insightful short story puzzle.
Dangy’s Hands: Raised in an automated environment maintained within a mysterious spacecraft, they know their unseen caretaker as Dangy, which manifests itself before them as an ethereal pair of hands. Can they survive a long and perilous journey across the cosmos to arrive at a paradise that they are engineered to re-populate? -- They are the last hope of a doomed world. Dangy's hands will keep them during their long voyage to sanctuary. An insightful short story puzzle.
The Violent Ones: In this version of the future, science has learned how to identify the propensity for violence within the human mind before it manifests as action. Consequently, the violent ones are being rounded up for extermination. Unfortunately, this sort of person is not likely to go out without a fight. -- In the not-so-distant future, violence among mankind is on its way out. Almost. An insightful short story puzzle.
Constant is the Sound: Through all the green, growing places of the world, water flows. It is a force of destruction and the gift of life. Without it, nothing could thrive, despite the fact that it sometimes also destroys. Listen to this music of the Earth, for constant is the sound. -- It is the incessant symphony of life, the raucous discord of biology. An insightful short story puzzle.
Listen, Darling: If you listen long enough, you may be convinced of anything. Provided the voice you heed is sufficiently provocative... provided you are prepared to ponder its lies or truths... provided it gets to you early enough. -- What are the origins of human evil? Is it guaranteed from birth, or is it visited upon us via infantile nightmares? An insightful short story puzzle.
Fatty, Fatty: When they came to cut her out of her third floor apartment bedroom, the crowd gathered to point and laugh. A twelve hundred pound woman is not without recourse, however, and they underestimated her temperament to their own detriment. Before they could get her to the hospital, she would leave the entire town in ruins. -- She was a mighty big woman. Eventually, she grew weary of the laughter. An insightful short story puzzle.
The Assignment: Imagine the most evil person on Earth, someone who would eventually grow up to lead a vast slaughter of humanity, then imagine that person as a small child. Could you kill her in her youthful innocence, empowered only by your understanding of what she might one day become? -- What might have happened if someone had murdered Adolph Hitler as a child? An insightful short story puzzle.
Tending the Garden of Evil: She's a lonely old woman with a green thumb and she seems harmless enough to the uninitiated. When a vagrant takes shelter in her garden, however, he learns the unspeakably evil source of her success with all things green and growing. -- Homeless and wandering through a neglectful city, he finds his place, tending the garden of evil. An insightful short story puzzle.
Marvin’s Onion: Like an onion, his plan for her conquest is multi-layered and complex. First, he must educate himself, then he must use that education to accumulate wealth. Finally, he must find a way to enter into her life as an equal. In the meantime, however, he can always jog alongside her in the park, just another stranger on the trail. -- He loved her from first sight and determined to have her, despite his poverty and her wealth. Fortunately, he is a very clever young man. An insightful short story puzzle.
The Tollbooth: As the zombie apocalypse begins, a small group of tollbooth attendants find themselves locked in their booths, which are heavily armored against run-away automobiles. At first they curse their situation. As they watch the world fall apart around them, however, they realize they are safe for the time being. It's better than being outside among the crazies, but how long can they survive? -- Better a tollbooth than a cannibalistic feeding frenzy! An insightful short story puzzle.
The Conquering Sands: In the limitless expanse of the cosmos, intelligence need not be confined to water-filled flesh. For every form of imagination, there is an embodiment of it out there in the void. On this world in this system, everything may be uniquely alive, from the rocks to the sandstorms. How does one conquer the wind? -- It's an alien intellect in the shifting sands of a waterless planet. Journey here to die. An insightful short story puzzle.
472 Malign Terrace: Every ten years they are drawn from all over the country. It's always the same, four boys and three girls, each with an exceptional mind and each mired in a neglectful or abusive life sure to eventually destroy them. The spooky mansion at 472 Malign Terrace will become their home and their salvation, strange and mysterious though it may seem. -- Neglected by his addicted mother, 472 Malign Terrace is the one chance this boy has for a normal life. An insightful short story puzzle.
Defile: Upon hearing of a lost fortune in pure, refined opium, western adventurers stationed in Afghanistan for the war decide to retrieve it, despite repeated warnings about the dangers that confront them. When a local guide leads them through the desert into the mountains to a dark and foreboding crack in a towering precipice, they again shrug off the man's dire insistence that they return home. Their decision to enter into the defile is one they will soon regret. -- In the barren, combat-wracked heart of Afghanistan, evil dwells within a craggy defile. An insightful short story puzzle.
Scrawl: The worst of the worst, he is notorious even within a notorious system. When the worst prison riot in the history of human corrections threatens to bring down the walls, he will trade his knowledge of it for removal of his tattoos, one by one. When he's finished, he'll seem another man entirely, and this is the key to his freedom. Literally. -- He grew up hard and fast in the rough places of the city. By the time he lands in prison, his flesh is covered with scrawl. An insightful short story puzzle.
Airport: During the final years of the Soviet Union, the government started building an ultrasecret airbase in the center of a vast wilderness. Its secrecy outstripped its management such that construction continued despite its abandonment. Occasionally, an errant aircraft drops somebody on its tarmac, and they are never seen alive again. -- At the end of a late night international flight from India to Russia, a weary traveler finds himself deposited in a lonely gate of an empty terminal. As he navigates its endless gates and corridors, the hapless traveler begins to realize he has landed in no ordinary airport. An insightful short story puzzle.
Magicus: She has come to his office to give birth, but she is accursed and he knows it. Fortunately, she has chosen wisely and she can afford the best phy-magician in the country. He will safely deliver the demon inside her, and then he'll help her to determine who would cast such a spell on her, in the first place. -- This is an age of science in magic. A phy-magician must master both trades with equal alacrity. An insightful short story puzzle.
Envoy to Klis: Klis would be their first failure and it would mark the end of their conquest. When the Mongol envoy entered into the city walls, he offered its citizens the same thing the Mongols offered every conquest - tribute or extermination. The city inhabitants would refuse the former to brave the latter and they would survive. -- The Mongol hordes once marched from the Far East into Europe. An insightful short story puzzle.
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