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Spring 2008 Edition
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Author: Sheila Murdock
Location: San Diego, California

diamond icon Sheila Murdock has dabbled in journalism, firewalking, surfing, medical transcription, Feng Shui, organic gardening, and free-form cupcake baking. Having left a career as an administrator and manager in California's biotechnology industry, she is now where she desires most to be: at home in San Diego raising her offspring and leading a vegan lifestyle. She is also a freelance copy editor, writer and marketer. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Bewildering Stories, Cynic Online Magazine and From the Asylum. In addition, she's an associate editor for, a science fiction and fantasy e-zine. Five Blinks of a Life is loosely based on the execution by guillotine of Charlotte Corday during the French Terror.

Five Blinks of a Life

Lavender and jasmine scented the afternoon air in our small dwelling. Dust motes floated in the sunshine coming through the window, a procession of miniscule dots. They drifted back and forth across my sleepy eyes in time with the rhythm of Mother's rocking, and the silky warmth of her breast lulled me to dream.

Father's heavy hand and drunken breath awoke fear. The adrenaline pumping through my limbs propelled me out into the city to seek solace and safety. Streets teemed with the stench of ripe bodies, animals and waste; a mass of seeming confusion, but all had a direction. My destination was the creaking, wooden stage of the old theater and the thunderous applause of an audience.

The morning rays shone tepid in the winter sky above the waking city. Light sharpened the lines of the stone buildings and warmed the bodies assembled in the cobblestone plaza. I heard a loud, sleek whistle travel through the air, or was it the collective gasp of the audience? I felt a sudden, painless jolt.

Large fingers entwined with my dark tresses to turn my head and my memories back.

My benefactor's eyes, once sharp with purpose, were shrouded with pain and death as the six-inch blade sat sheathed in his mottled chest and ambitious heart. My ruby scarf mingled with his blood and his bathwater. I waited for his life to seep from the edges of the blade to form spiraling red ribbons upon the liquid surface. It had not taken long for his minions to arrive and restrain me.

Now, the large fingers hold my head near. It is a stranger. My confused eyes dart behind him to a gleaming steel structure which frames his torso. The French Madame is his prostitute, the Scots Maiden his equalizer, and power and authority are his motivation. The stench of the stranger's breath invades my nostrils. His snideness tightens his merciless fingers still in my hair as he turns me to the plaza crowd.

Aloft, I see that I am on stage and treated to familiar cheers from a field of many earnest faces. As always, I smile at an enthusiastic audience and my anxieties subside.

I blink once more before the applauding crowd begins to fade into the blackness of a dark history. The curtains of my eyes descend to close on my precious, fleeting memories. My lids shield my mind from the sight of my peers whose bodiless heads share my fate in a red woven basket.

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