Four Very Short Stories by Joe Reilly ----“Lucy, I've already established this as a fact.

Something is affecting the degenerate. Some external factor is draining the will from his body. He can barely get through putting on his trousers without realizing the futility of it all. He's just going to take them off again that night, anyway. What's the point?” Dr. Becker slouched in his well-worn leather chair, a gift from a former mentor when the good doctor earned tenure at the Institute for Mental Lethargy. Stressed and cracked from many nights spent with furrowed brow and terrible posture, the fatigued upholstery provided the perfect backdrop for Becker's collapsed and defeated frame. Lucy knew he wouldn't be up for any more academic banter tonight. He'd let the subject get to him, and she'd notify the deputy director know as soon as she got back to the guard post. She quickly finished the last of her drink and let herself out into the fluorescent hallway, leaving her wet glass on Becker's oversized desk to make one last ring in the wood. ----Satellite dishes angled toward the brown star's surface, straining into space, grasping greedily at the granular warmth of the galaxy. One last gasp of residual infrared radiation recorded, absorbed, scanned, filtered, and stored. Enthalpy and entropy fade to zero, leaving behind absolute tranquility. Ice caked over the computers so thickly that their beige forms could barely be seen. Not a single particle of dust or errant fleck of matter stirred in the dead cosmos. We waited so long for the heat death of the universe. Too bad no one was around to see her go. ----The coyote knew to avoid the blaze of yellow lights strung around the barracks. Her ribs expand and contract, a metal frame under taut skin and patchy fur. With paws planted firmly on a cold, rocky outcropping overlooking the valley below, her ears and tail twitch with the straining effort of scouring the campsite with all available senses. The last of the drunken soldiers were either asleep at their guard posts or stumbling into their corrugated aluminum dens. Assault rifles hung at jaunty angles from slumped, bony shoulders. The flat crack from a distance and sharp hissing sound nearby meant that at least one sentry was still alert and taking potshots. Scampering from her perch, the coyote continued to look for food elsewhere. The camp smelled more like piss than a source of a good meal. They were pathetic animals. ----The delicate odor of dill pickles wafted out into the corridor, a slender lady working her way through a crowded room. Easily the most delicate aroma in the store-bought turkey sandwich, it slipped past the heavy meat and dairy barriers into the sunlight. A symphony of rich, Eastern smells simmered off of a student's hummus as subtle as from a sorcerer's chickpea cauldron being stirred with a pita. The disturbingly pedestrian reek of EZ Mac was quelled by the sensory riot spewing like shrapnel from a Tupperware full of last night's chicken tikka masala. We all pretended to not notice the offensive incursion of processed palaver generated by the ham and cheese Hot Pocket lurking in the corner, shunned.

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