Galactic Convention: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Talk about your hive of scum and villainy. The quadrennial galactic convention was being held on Earth and I was one of the lucky lottery winners for a single, meter-long, third of a meter-wide table in Exhibitor Hall W.

I was staying in the oxy-breathers dorm, a two-meter by three-meter space where I was also storing my stock. Books. I guess I’d lucked out because most aliens found the idea of a book, novels specifically, unusual and quirky. We were only a week and a half into the month-long event, and I was already ordering more stock.

But back to the hive and scum. Nothing at the event was illegal but child-abuse and sentient-selling. If a being was within its species age of consent, it could indulge. In anything.

I’ll admit. There was a lot of cool stuff to buy, but I was on-site to make money, not spend it. Just standing at my table was an education. Several times a creature had sidled up to my table to offer to sell me one drug or another. Jewels. Tech. Tiny animals, even. These roving entrepreneurs were illegal, but they’d bought their entry tickets and smuggled in their goods. Good luck to them.

I’d had several offers, too, by creatures looking for a female human. Companion, they said. Right. I could just see myself locked in some dingy, alien crib, my body being sold for profit while I was starved, drugged, or worse, on some alien planet or spaceship. I declined. I shivered when they each walked, lumbered, or slithered away. I remained vigilant when I moved away from my table.  Like on Earth, I suspected that aliens were no less picky about snatching people if the opportunity presented itself.

Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. So many variations on sentient life. I’ll have story fodder for the rest of my life. A news crew came by and interviewed me. My book sales skyrocketed. I was pleased to see my bank account growing. Quite a change from its usual downward plunge.

The problem came about three weeks in. I realized I was being stalked. A creature, one, I realized, that had approached me the first week, looking for human females, was loitering near my booth. I paid more attention. He, or it, had a friend, loitering further away, but always within view. They trailed me when I went to the bathroom, making me apprehensive. Then, when I closed up shop for the night, back to my dorm. As far as I know, they weren’t coming inside, but I was nervous. They followed me closer and closer until the fourth day, when I reported them to security. I watched from my table with more than a little relief when the two were hauled away. A day later, security told me that they’d found a warehouse where several female women, and a few female aliens, were being held prisoner. Apparently, they were filling out their supply just before the show close.

I thanked them for telling me, but I became hyper-vigilant after that. Any creature that looked at me for even a second longer than I thought they should I took a picture of and reported to the cops. They sent a team around my booth more often and reassured me that I was safe but the last few days of the show I didn’t feel safe. I was glad when the show ended. I packed up my remaining stock and left as fast as I could.

On my drive home I constantly checked the cars behind and beside me. I made random turns when I thought a car was following me for any length of time. By the time I got home, I was a wreck, and locked every lock in the house, checking them all every hour. A glass of wine and a chat with my best friend helped bring me down to a saner level. Still, before I went to bed, I checked everything again.

I was at the grocery store, restocking my fridge, taking my supplies to my car when they struck. I’d let my guard down just a second as I moved bags from the cart to my car. They grabbed me from behind, a hand clamped over my mouth as a very strong arm pulled me away from my car. I don’t know which was uppermost, my fear or my rage. I kicked shins, grabbed the door frame, pounded him with my free arm, anything, anything. A van screeched up behind my car and my captor dragged me toward the van’s door which was sliding open. So, three men, I thought. One driving, the guy holding me, and one in the back, masked.

I tried to bite the hand over my mouth as I pulled my feet up to brace against the van. The guy in the van wasn’t having it. He grabbed my feet and began pulling. Then there was yelling from all around me. Police in SWAT gear surrounded us and the guy holding me was pulled one way as an officer pulled me another.

Away from the kidnappers, I vomited next to someone’s car. EMT’s checked me out. I was offered a trip to the hospital which I declined. I called my friend and she came over to stay with me. Turns out there was a whole planetary kidnapping plot, which the cops had discovered when I reported the first two. Hundreds of human women had been kidnapped and were being sold to the aliens.

I testified two years later. The memories had me shaking on the stand as tears ran down my face. I try to live my life, but my trust is gone. Once I thought I’d like to take a trip out into space. No longer. I’m fine. Right where I am.

Words: 973

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Social Media: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Security concept. Laptop with exclamation mark on the display

Em dragged herself out of bed, croaking, “I’m up,” at the ever-present home assistant. “Assistant my ass,” she said to herself as she hit the shower. “Arial, extra-hard on the shower, hundred and seventeen.”

“That’s not your usual setting, Em.” The oh so soft and pleasant voice made Em want to scream.

“Well, it’s what I want today.”

“That temperature is not recommended for optimum skin care.”

Em clenched her teeth. “I don’t care. Just turn on the damn shower.”

“Profanity is a sign of maladjustment and social break-down, Em. Should I call your doctor?”

Em bit back a snarky comment. The damn assistant would report her to the local authorities. She didn’t need that sort of hassle. “No. I’m fine.” She stood outside the shower waiting for it to turn on. “I’m ready, Arial.”

The shower turned on. “Thank you. Please start the coffee.”

“Yes, Em.”

Em let the water beat on her back. She shouldn’t have drunk so much last night. The stress was getting to her. Without a job, she had been assigned three extra hours of social media. If she wanted her sub, she had to do it. Wallowing through the kitten pictures and the whining of people she didn’t even know had made her eyes bleed. She needed those drinks. Whose bright idea was it to link subsistence payments with social media? She hoped they choked on it.

Done, she toweled off and dressed. The coffee was ready when she got to the kitchen. “Do I have credits for breakfast, Arial?” Her stomach could use some toast, at least.

“Subsistance allowance provides three hundred calories of food block.”

Em’s stomach rolled. The stuff tasted like paste. “Sure. Food block.” The delivery door opened, and an unappetizing gray block of yeast food awaited her hand. “Yum.” She grabbed it and the cup of coffee and headed to the computer. Might as well start socializing.

With diligence, she stayed at the console all morning, five of her eight hours done. Some of it standing and marching in place, just so she could keep her blood flowing and eyes open. “What’s for lunch, Arial?”

“Spaghetti and meatball yeast bars.”

Em rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any credit left from my last job?”

“It’s slated for your rent payment, Emily. Should I redesignate that credit?”

“No.” She rolled her eyes again. What she did not want to happen was to have to move into subsistence housing. They were eight by ten-meter plas-crete cells. Might as well live in a dog-crate. “Fix the yeast bar.”

“Yes, Em.”

Emily took the bar down to the street. She had to get out into the sunshine and away from the console before her brain fried. “Hey, Lucy.”

“Hey, Em. Looking for a job?”

Em hated the way news got around. Came from everyone having to be on social media all the time. “Yeah. You hear about something?”

Lucy shook her head. “Nah. You’re an architect, right?”

“Yeah. Hook me up, when you hear something.”

“Will do.” Lucy gave her a thumbs up and went back inside.

The more money you made above subsistence, the less time you had to spend on social. She was going nuts. She had to get back to work. She tapped the comms contact in her temple. “Jason Bear,” she said.

The call went through. “Hey, Em. What’s up?”

“Jase, I need a job, man. You know I’m good. I won that award last year for best design in Chicago.” She walked along the sidewalk, nodding to people on their stoops or lounging against the building’s walls.

“What happened?”

“Company went bust. The partners overextended their loans and the government picked them up for fraud. The rest of us were escorted out of the building and told to find new work.”

“Bummer. I’ll check around.”

“Thanks, Jase, You’re the best.” She hung up. No sense annoying him by hanging on too long. With luck, he’d find something in his company. He did antique designs from the 1960s. Rectangular glass boxes were not her favorite but anything to get off of subsistence. She made several more calls then went back to her apartment. She needed three more hours of social to earn today’s meals.

Months went by. She called everyone she knew. All of her saved credits were just about gone on the rent. The miserable diet had caused her to loose thirty pounds. Twelve hundred calories a day didn’t go far. She’d cut everything else. No need for the gym, that was for sure. Though there had been times she’d changed into workout clothes and hung around the door leading into the gym to button-hole people she knew coming out. She kept it light, but she was desperately looking for work. Any work at this point.

“Jase,” she said when she called him. “You hear about anything?”

“No. Not really. How you doin’?”

“It’s getting down to the wire, Jason. Your company have anything at all. Anything?” She heard him draw a deep breath.”

“Well. The job board has second assistant admin position.”

“I’ll take. Just send me the application.”

“It doesn’t pay much.”

“It pays something, though. Right. Then I can work my way back up to architect. Come on, Jase. I’ll owe you a big one.”

“Fine. Fine. I’m sending now.”

“Thanks, Jase. I’ll have this back ASAP.” She clicked off and pulled up the application on her console. The listed pay made her heart sink. Just barely what her rent was. “Fine,” she said to herself. She filled it out and hit send.

It took three days. Half a day before her last rent payment was due.

“We have received your application,” the communique said. “Welcome to the Payvil Company. You’ve been accepted to the second assistant admin position. Your files have been updated to reflect this employment. You start tomorrow.”

Em wept as relief flowed through her. She’d be the best second assistant admin they’d ever seen. Anything to get off social media.

Thank you for reading.

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OWSCyCon, Story Time, KJZZ, Brown Rain Series Updates: Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

Hey you all. I’ve been mentioning the OWSCyCon below, for over a month now. Well. Things are heating up. I’m going to be taking over the Facebook Fantasy and SciFi Reader’s Lounge on May 16th at 5pm Eastern. I know it’s still 8 days away, but I just want you to know about it and mark your calendars. See details in the Where Will I Be section below. #OWSCyCon2019  

In other OWSCyCon news, the wonderful Timothy Bateson, an administrator of the OWSCyCon and a SciFi/Fantasy author in his own right, has been doing what he’s calling Story Times. He took a section of my newest book, Slave Elf, and did a YouTube and a YourListen audio recording of it. I’m so stoked. It’s kind of weird hearing someone else read it aloud. As the author, I had my own version of it playing in my head, but Timothy has done a great job. This Story Time is a new offering for OWSCyCon and I have to tell you, I’m loving it. So, go on over to either site and have a listen. It’s about seven minutes long. Note, if you use YourListen, a popup ad appears. Just go to the little X in the upper right-hand corner, click on it to make it disappear. The audio page is right underneath it. #OWSCyCon2019  

Brown Rain series cover updates. I’ve been plugging along all last week and even with the Vellum, it takes me a lot of time to update the interior of each book. Part of the issue is learning Vellum. Another part is learning to use this Apple laptop. Third, is getting everything updated correctly on KDP publishing. At any rate, you’ll start seeing the new covers and spiffy new interiors popping up in the Amazon store soon, if not already. I’m going to revise the interior of Tested, as well, just so it matches, exactly, the other three books. It’s been a struggle but it’s getting done.

Oh, yes. I’ll be at the KJZZ Arizona Story Fest and Authors Showcase on June 1st, which is absolutely free to attend! I know, May and June 1st is a busy time for me but if you love stories, you’ll want to be at this event.

Mesa Convention Center – Building C
June 1, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Activities at the KJZZ Arizona Storyfest include: Storytellers Main Stage, Authors Showcase & Reading Stage, Children’s Storyteller Stage & Craft Area, Arizona Expo.

Fun for everyone.

Giveaways:

Only 4 days left!!! If you’ve looked at my “Where Am I” page on my website, you’ll have noticed that I’m going to be at the Phoenix Fan Fusion over Memorial Day weekend. (May 23rd – 26th) I’ve decided that I should do a giveaway. A free exhibitor pass for one of those days. I know that not everyone can take off for Phoenix at the drop of the hat. But if you’re in the area, and you’d like to come see me at my booth and spend the day at the event, sign up by emailing me at connie.cockrell@conniesrandomthoughts.com. Post a picture of you with one of my books. Use the subject, PFF Ticket. I’ll draw a name on May 10th and contact the winner with directions for picking up the pass.

Where will I Be?:

If you are a fan of most any genre, I’m participating in an on-line cyber conference here: http://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/about-ows-cycon/. The event is May 17th through May 19th.  But there’s more! We’re starting the festivities early. I’ll be doing a blog hop takeover, May 16th  at 5pm Eastern time of the Fantasy and SciFi Readers Lounge. #OWSCyCon2019  #SciFi  #StoryTime

Phoenix Fan Fusion! Oh My Gosh! If you haven’t ever been to this event you need to check it out. The catalog of things to do is humongous! I’ll be down in Artists Alley, Four Carat Press, booths AA930 and AA932. Come check it out. If you’ve never been, it will blow your minds. It’s May 23 – 26th. Come see me!

The Payson Book Festival this year is going to be more exciting than last year. Mark your calendars for July 20th. Be in Payson for the book festival. Go to www.paysonbookfestival.org for all of the details!

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Slave Elf released February 19th, 2019. It is finally up on all of my other retailers in ebook format. You can buy it at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords today. You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Blue Light: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Blue Light by Randy Cockrell

Neville picked furiously at a bit of cuticle, not really noticing he was doing it until he’d picked so hard the bit of skin peeled away and left a sore, bloody mess on his fingernail. He swore mentally at himself as he stuck the offending digit into his mouth. Now that was going to be sore for days. Then corrected himself. He didn’t really know, now, did he, what might hurt and what might not.

He glanced around the waiting room. No one seemed to notice his mishap. Matter of fact, they all looked, men and women, as nervous and pre-occupied as he felt. Neville took a deep breath and wiped the now, not bleeding finger on the side of his pants, then folded his hands in his lap to keep from further picking. The raw wound stung, which actually helped him keep his mind off of why he was in the waiting room.

It had all started weeks ago in the company cafeteria. He sat with his co-worker Jim. “Hey, buddy. Have a seat. We’re talking about the alien’s new offer.”

Neville greeted the others. “Hey Sam, Bill.” He put his tray down and sat. “What new offer?”

“It was in this morning’s news feed. They’re offering to cure diseases. All kinds.” Sam made a circle, pointing at all of them. “Anything you can think of. Arthritis, heart disease, lung trouble.”

Bill piped in. “I saw that too. Migraines. Can you imagine? My wife’s been fighting migraines her whole life. She said she’s contacting them as soon as they opened for an appointment.”

Neville scratched his chin. “Really? Anything? Is it safe?”

Jim picked up his sandwich. “Must be, right? Otherwise would the government allow them to do it?”

“Hard to say.” Neville speared a bite of his salad. “Who knows what kind of deal was made when they landed ten years ago.”

Since then, of course, he’d thought it over and obtained an appointment for himself. He’d been suffering from neurological problems for years. All kinds of steroids, physical therapy, he’d been through it all without much relief. If he could get rid of the pain, it would be worth it, he’d finally decided with his wife, Joi. So here he was. Finally, it was his turn.

He followed the human nurse into the back. “Seems like a lot of people are taking advantage of the offer,” he said to her back.

“Oh yes. A great many,” she responded as she stopped at a door. Go on in. The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Neville went into the little exam room. There was a chair for him. A stool for the doctor, a standard medical scale, blood pressure machine and cuff on the wall, and a couple of nature scene pictures facing him as he sat down. In a few minutes a human doctor came in. “Mr. Kirchner?”

“Yes. That’s me.”

The doctor checked his electronic pad. “I see from your records you’ve been suffering from this for years.”

“Yeah. No one’s ever really fully identified the problem or fixed it.”

The doctor tapped the screen a couple of times. “This is just what you’re looking for then. We’ll get you in right away.”

“Um,” Neville glanced at the blood pressure cuff. “No weight check? Blood pressure?”

“Not necessary.” The doctor tapped the screen and smiled at him. “We’re going to sit you in a chair, facing panels of lights. They’re hot, I’m not going to fool you. But not to the point of burns. Then, after a few minutes under the lights, you’ll find that the pain will be gone.”

Neville’s hands twisted in his lap. “Will an alien be there?”

“No. No. It’s all set up for us to run. Simple, really.”

Neville sighed with relief. He didn’t really want to meet an alien. The pictures were scary enough. “Okay then. Sure.”

“I’ll go see if the last patient is finished. The nurse will bring you in.” He left the tiny room.

Neville started picking his cuticles but stopped when the already injured finger flared up in pain. Hot, he thought, but not too hot. Wonder what that means?

He was interrupted by the nurses knock on the door. “We’re ready for you, Mr. Kirchner.”

He followed her down the hall to a room with banks of lights on a wall, a small counter under them, and a chair in front of the counter. “Please have a seat, Mr. Kirchner. Put your hands on the counter, and face the lights.”

“That’s it?” he said as he sat.

“That’s it,” she said as she left the room. “We’ll call over the intercom when we’re ready to start.”

He nodded and waited. Soon, a voice came through the ceiling speakers. “We’re ready to start. Please remain still, close your eyes, the light is very bright. We’ll let you know when we’re done.”

“Okay,” he said, though he didn’t know if the speakers went both ways.

The lights flashed on and he snapped his eyes shut. Boy, they weren’t kidding about them being bright. A minute later, he started feeling the heat. He cracked an eye open but it was too bright. The heat was making his skin prickle. It got hotter. Neville began to wonder when this would be over. His skin felt very tight and uncomfortable. He made himself think of cool swimming pools and lost track of time.

The lights snapped off. “You can open your eyes, Mr. Kirchner.”

He did, and blinked. Neville examined his hands, flexing them, turning them over and back again.

The door opened. “It’s complete. How do you feel?” the doctor asked.

“Different. But I like the way the hands move.” Neville looked at the doctor. The process is really very efficient, isn’t it?”

“Very. We’ve taken over half a million humans already. Best idea the council has had in centuries.”

They shook hands. “Nurse will lead you out the back. Good luck with your new life.”

“Thanks.”

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The Home, Part 5: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 4 here.

Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts in Deposit Photos

The Home, Part 5

At five till two, the staff that was going to the meeting were already in the conference room. The security guard had the door open while Ralph made a big scene getting broom, trashbags, mop, and water-filled bucket through the door into the lobby. Mike was trailing along with the buffer. Edna had a stack of buffer pads. I stood at the door with a clipboard and pen. “Okay,” I said as I made check marks on the paper. I smiled at the guard, who was glaring at the four of us. “That’s everything. Thank you, Austin, for holding the door for us.”

Austin wasn’t happy, and he grunted in what sounded like disgust. “Just get on with it,” he said. “We’re not supposed to have the door open this long.”

“Of course. Just let them put the stuff down. Shall I hold the door while you go with them?” I smiled sweetly, doing my best not to let my excitement show. This was going to work!

He looked with alarm at the other three, steadily marching toward the front door. “Yes. Yes.” He hurried across the lobby. “Hey. Stop right there.”

I slipped out into the lobby and let the door close behind me, holding it so it barely snicked as the lock caught. I rushed across the floor. Ralph put the bucket down, dropped everything but the broom and shoved the handle end of it right into Austin’s chest.

Edna all but threw the buffer pads to the side and Mike let go of the buffer. I really expected a horrendous scream from Austin but he was making little mewing sounds instead, eyes wide in shock. Mike and Edna ran for the front door. I grabbed Ralph by the arm. “Come on.” He was standing, staring at Austin, hands still on the broom handle. “Let’s go!”

He nodded, releasing the broom and took two steps then went back.

“What are you doing?”

“Keys.” He dropped to his knees beside Austin, still making those noises, and searched his pants pockets. Ralph pulled car keys from the left pocket. “Got ‘em.” He rose and ran to the door Mike was holding open.

I don’t know about the others, but outside in the sun I was nearly blind. “This way,” Edna called. We followed her to the parking lot. I had my hand over my eyes, looking through the spaces between my fingers.

Ralph was holding the key fob out, pressing the unlock button until we heard the car horn of a newer model four-door sedan. To say we ran was an understatement. Ralph took the driver’s seat. Edna was front passenger. Mike and I slid into the back seat. “Let’s go!” Mike yelled.

That’s when a klaxon began to sound. “Hurry!” I yelled. I looked out of the car windows. That noise was going to bring the neighbors. But there weren’t any neighbors. There were no other buildings within sight.

The car tires squealed as Ralph floored the gas and pulled out of the parking space. Security was running out of the building.

“They’re going to catch us!” Edna yelled.

“Not if I can help it.” Ralph had both hands on the wheel, white knuckled.

I slid back into the seat and put on my seat belt. We were already going so fast I was scared to death. Mike saw what I was doing and did the same. “Look out!”

One of the security guards was just about at the parking lot. We just had to get past him and we’d be able to drive down the driveway and out of here.

Edna covered her eyes. It looked like we were going to hit the guard. I held my breath. At this speed, Ralph might lose control of the car if we collided with the guard. We brushed by it, it’s hand out. I could hear it thump against the rear window, right in front of Mike’s face.

“Hoo!” Ralph yelled. “We made it!”

We were at the edge of the parking lot, driving onto the access road. That’s when I saw the shimmer. “What’s that?”

“What?” Ralph asked.

Then we hit it.

I woke up in the infirmary, sick to my stomach and fuzzy-headed. Some noise was piercing my brain and I just wanted it to stop.

It was coming from my right. I turned my head to look. It was Ralph. A monitor beside him was screaming, a bright green flat line running across the middle of it. A monster came to Ralph’s bedside, made a note on an electronic pad, then turned the monitor off. He pulled the sheet up over Ralph’s face. He noticed me watching, then left.

Ralph dead? How? Then I remembered the car. We were out! What? I was trying to get my brain to function when Dr. Jenkins appeared at my bed. “Laurie. How are you feeling?”

“What happened?”

“You and your friends tried to escape.” He took a pad from the monster I saw cover Ralph. “You had your seat belt on. That saved you.” Jenkins shook his head. “Your friend Edna died on impact.” He stared into my eyes. “I know you planned this. Now two of your friends are gone.”

“Mike?” I asked.

“He’s been transferred to another facility.”

Sadness and grief came over me like a mountain crashing down on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I could feel tears leaking from the corners of my eyes and running down my face into my ears. They were all gone?

“I’ve called for your son.”

A small bright spot of hope. “Stan is coming?” It was so hard to focus. What kind of drugs had they given me?

“He’ll be here this evening.” With that he handed the pad back to the other monster and left.

I drifted in and out of sleep. They brought me a tray, but I couldn’t face the glop that they’d served. My stomach rolled and I pushed it away. I fell back to sleep. I woke up to voices in the hall. Was that Stan? I tried to focus on the conversation.

“What happened?”

“She led an escape.”

“Escape? How’d you let that happen?”

That was Stan’s voice. What did he mean by that?

“Your mother is very smart. It was a long-term plan and she and her friends carried it off beautifully. The training said humans were smart. They were right.”

“How is she now?”

Ah, that was my boy.

“She’s fine. She had a seat-belt on. Right now we have her heavily sedated.”

“Can she talk?”

“Yes. I told her you were coming.”

“Fine. Let’s go in.

I tried to wake up more. Of course they’d drugged me. Monsters. I just wanted to see my son. I tried to focus as they entered the bay. There he was. He must have come straight from work. He was still in his suit and tie.

“Stan?”

“Yes, Mother.”

I reached out for his hand. “Stan. Get me out of here.”

“We can’t do that, Mother.”

I looked up at his face. Tears began to flow as I saw at his gray-green skin.

Thank you for reading The Home.

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The Home, Part 4: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 3 here.

Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts from Deposit Photos

The Home, Part 4

The next morning, over the watered-down oatmeal, we put our heads together. “I’ve been awake most of the night, thinking about what we can do to get out of here. We should become trusty’s.”

“What’s that,” Edna asked.

“Trusted inmates,” Ralph said.

Mike nodded. “We become the best inmates ever. No complaining, no causing trouble.”

“Tattling on the others.” Ralph sighed. “I don’t like that part.”

“If we don’t, they aren’t going to trust us.”

“Maybe we can just report minor stuff, that wouldn’t get people in trouble.”

Edna was soft-hearted. I had to sigh. “Sure. Just as long as they buy that we’re now docile as sheep.”

It took us months. Winter came and went. Spring was in full swing. “Time to put this into play.”

“Good,” Mike said. He was much sharper than he had been last summer. He was off of all of the meds they’d been giving him. “What’s the plan?”

I looked around the room. We’d ticked off all of the other inmates. None of them would even look at us anymore. We were safe to talk. “We get outside of the security door. Ralph, you offer to mop the floor out there. We’ll all do something that takes us out there or that puts us near the door. Once we’re there, open the door and we’ll get out.”

“What about the guard?” Edna looked scared.

“We’ll take care of the alien.” I had just about all of the kowtowing I could stand. If I had to run the gray-green skinned monster through with the mop handle, I was going to do it.”

“Does anyone know where we are? How do we get to a town?”

I shrugged. “There has to be a parking lot and cars. We’ll figure something out.”

All three of them nodded. They were as sick of being meek as I was.

After breakfast I went to Dr. Jenkin’s office. I’d become his personal assistant. I’d had to explain the concept to him but once he understood, he latched on to me like a leech. I fetched him coffee, retrieved reports from the printer, did his laundry, and any other menial task he could think up. Once he realized I was a former counsellor, I was even allowed to type up patient notes. I’d found out about every one of the inmates here. Every single one could see that the staff were alien. I’d learned how to make myself so handy, that the staff began to talk in front of me.

They knew we could see them. It was some kind of immunity, the way they talked about it. People who weren’t immune, could only see them as regular humans. I told the others, of course. It made everything so clear. My boy didn’t hate me, he just didn’t realize what was going on. I needed to get out and warn him. Him and his family.

In the meantime, the residents here were being gaslighted into thinking they were crazy, that there were no aliens. I ran into Edna on a trip to fetch coffee for Jenkins. She was washing woodwork in the hall. “Hey.”

She looked around and replied. “Hey. How’s it going?”

“Good. Jenkins is having a staff meeting at two. That’s when we make our move.”

“I’ll pass the word.”

I went on my way. Having Edna in the halls was a life-saver. She could pass messages between us easily. I found Mike in the kitchen. He’d been taken on as kitchen drudge. While he put cups away, I grabbed one and gave him the word.

“I’ll be ready. Maybe take a pot of coffee to Jenkin’s office?”

“Good idea. I’ll be waiting.” I left with the coffee on a tray with some cookies. Jenkins loved cookies. That would put him in a good mood the rest of the day. I still had to figure out how to get Ralph outside the security door.

“Dr. Jenkins, coffee.” I put the tray down on a side table, then poured him a cup. I put that, and a napkin with three cookies on it, on the desk, close to his hand.

“Thank you, Laurie.” He picked up a cookie and munched on it. “Umm, that is so good.”

I swear the monster began to purr. “Um, as I was walking by the outer door, I noticed the floor out there is in a real state. Not a good impression at all when visitors come in.”

He sipped his coffee. “Well. Yes, you’re right. I’ll have someone clean that up.” He started to go back to his reports.

“I can tell Ralph. I swear he’s a genius with that buffer. Did you see the dayroom floor? It’s like glass.”

He looked up. “I don’t…”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll tell him. You don’t have to look after every little detail.” I started to leave the office. “Oh.” I turned around just at the door. “I don’t want him to be in the way of the staff. When would be a good time for him to get cleaning?” Then I waited, all innocence.

I could see him struggle with the decision. I knew he didn’t want Ralph out there. But there were guards. Come on, come on. Say two o’clock.

“Have him do it at two, while I’m having the staff meeting.”

“Good idea.” I had to restrain myself. I didn’t want to look too enthused. “Should I tell Security?”

“No. I’ll do that. You just tell Ralph.”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll do that right now.” I could feel my heart beating against my ribcage as I left the office. This was going to work!

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The Home, Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

See Part 2 here.

Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts from Deposit Photos

The Home, Part 3

Ralph and Mike waved. I waved back.

In the doctor’s office the guard motioned me to sit down.

Jenkins nodded to me. “Mrs. Nathan.”

“Doctor.” He wasn’t too bad as the aliens went. At least he could speak clearly.

“You took a walk this afternoon.”

I waited. Let him ask me a question. I wasn’t going to give up anything I didn’t have to.

He fiddled with his pen.

If he thought I’d be uncomfortable with a long silence, he was wrong. I had been a counsellor and knew all the tricks of the trade. I folded my hands in my lap and waited in the blessed quiet.

The clock on the wall behind him ticked off the seconds. Loud in the quiet room.

“Why did you leave the dayroom, Laurie?”

Score one for me. He spoke first. And now he was trying the friendly familiarity tact. When I entered I was Mrs. Nathan. “What do you mean?” I put on an innocent face. I was having fun for a change.

“The staff tell me they found you in your room.”

I shrugged. “I don’t recall.”

He tapped his pen on the desk top and took a deep breath. “Now, Laurie. Let’s not be difficult. What’s the problem today? It’s not like you to be a trouble-maker.”

“I could use another blanket on my bed.” If I had to be in here, let’s see if I could get something out of it.”

“Perhaps you were confused?”

“I’m not confused. I’m old.”

Jenkins wrote a note in his book, glancing up at me as he wrote. “We’ll see about another blanket.”

Well! I was surprised at the quick capitulation. “Thank you.”

He nodded and checked his file. “You’ve been with us six months now. How are you enjoying your stay?”

I did my best not to grind my teeth. Enjoying my stay? Did he think this was a resort? “I’d rather be home.” Who knows. Maybe he’d listen.

“Hmmm.” He flipped though the file. “It says here you were having difficulty at home alone.”

“No. I wasn’t.”

It was his turn to shrug. “Your son thought so, Laurie. You were falling, unable to keep your home tidy.”

“That’s not a crime, last I knew.”

“But it is a health and safety issue. Your son was very worried about you.”

“So I can check out at any time?”

His head slowly shook. “I’m afraid not. Your son signed you in. Don’t you remember?”

I did remember. I was furious with Stan. I told him it was just a cold. I was fine but he insisted that I needed full-time care. I had been helpless because I’d made him my health proxy after my husband died. For just in case. Now I was here. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“You’re seventy-eight, Laurie. It’s time for you to relax and let others take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself.” I clenched my hands into fists. He didn’t answer and that made me even more furious.

“We can’t have you wandering around, Laurie. I think a few micrograms of benzodiazepine would be appropriate. To keep you calm.”

“I’m calm enough.”

Jenkins nodded but pushed a button on his phone. The door opened and the goon who’d dragged me in here came in and stood behind my chair.

“Carl. Please take Mrs. Nathan back to the dayroom. There’ll be a new prescription for her in the file.”

Carl, if that was its real name, put a hand on my shoulder. My skin crawled. The interview did not end the way I had hoped.

“Laurie, we’ll talk again.”

I snorted. Some talk. I stood up as Carl squeezed my shoulder. I jerked it away form him and marched out of the office ahead of the goon. I plopped into my chair. When the goon left, Edna, Ralph, and Mike leaned over to look at me.

“What happened,” Edna whispered just loud enough to be heard over the noise box.

“I lost. The so-called Doctor Jenkins prescribed something to keep me calm.”

Ralph looked horrified. Mike and Edna were concerned. “Oh, no,” Edan cried out.

I had my arms crossed in front of me to control my shaking. I didn’t want to end up like Ralph, drooling and mindless most of the day. “My own fault, walking in there with an attitude.”

Mike asked, “What did he say?”

“He said I can’t sign myself out, for one thing.” My knee started bouncing. “I was sick when my son signed me in. I’m fine now. I could go home.” The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. What was wrong with Stan, signing me into this pit?

Edna put a hand on my arm. “I’m so sorry, Laurie.”

I hated the comfort her hand on my arm gave me. I wanted to be angry. “Can you see that all of the staff are aliens?” I asked it suddenly. I wanted confirmation that they saw what I did.

All three of them looked around in alarm.

“Shh.” Mike put a finger over his lips. “They’ll hear!”

Ralph looked sick. I wondered if he was going to throw up.

“So you see it, too?”

They all nodded but were keeping their eyes down.

“We need to do something,” I said.

If anything, Ralph looked even more sick.

“Do what?” Edna asked. “We’re helpless in here.”

Mike and Ralph nodded.

“Crap!” I put a hand on my knee to keep it from jumping up and down. “The first thing we have to do is stop taking their miserable drugs. They’re making us stupid.”

Ralph brightened. He was always better in the afternoon. “How?”

I grinned at him. “I don’t know. They’re pretty diligent about making us swallow those pills.”

“We’d have to make sure we act as though we took them.” Edna stared at the ceiling.

“Docile.” Mike nodded. “Not too active.”

“But then what?” Ralph asked.

“We get out of here. I’ve had enough.”

All three nodded.

I sat back in my chair. We had a team. Now we needed a plan.

Return next week for Part 4.

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The Home, Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post


Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts.jpg from Deposit Photos

You can find Part 1 here.

The Home Part 2

After lunch was a dull time. They passed out tiny cups with pills. Designed to keep us quiet I thought. When I first arrived, I threw the pills at the four-armed jailers, but that just made them hold me down and force the pills into my mouth. Eventually I gave up resisting as a waste of time. I wasn’t even annoying them, and I hated being forced.

The screen blasted more depressing images. I’d like to read a book, in a quiet place, a view out of the window of a broad, green lawn, a pond or stream in the distance. Not going to happen. I’ve never even seen windows in this hell hole.

I thought about Ralph’s question at lunch. How did I get here? Is everything I remember a lie? No. Wait. I remembered the pudding from lunch. I could taste the rich chocolate. My husband died years ago. My son graduated from high school as valedictorian, from college as Magna cum Laude. He was a famous engineer, had a beautiful wife. Wait! I have tow grandsons, lovely boys, smart as whips. They were real, right? There were pictures in my cell of my boy and his family. Even of my husband and me at the beach. Right?

I began to panic. There were pictures, weren’t there? I wanted to get up and go check but the monsters didn’t like us to get out of our chairs. I looked around. The afternoon jailer was at a desk, pretending to do something. I really wanted to check for those pictures. Glancing at the monster, I got up.

Enda gasped, “Laura!”

“Shh!” I took one step. Then another. Ralph and Mike stared, open-mouthed. I went slowly down the row of captives. Each of them reacted to my escape with raised eyebrows, gasps, and even holding out their hands as though asking for help to go with me. I ignored them all and kept moving. As I cleared the end of the row, the last woman made a sound.

“Shhh,” I hissed at her.

She stared, wide-eyed as I checked the goon at the desk. It looked to me like it was asleep but who knew. As quietly as I could, I continued on to the door and slipped outside.

The hallway led to several so-called treatment rooms. Then a cross-corridor to the right which led to the rooms. That’s where I stopped and checked to the right. That direction was where the doctor’s offices were. I knew that because they took me down there once a week to talk to the doctors. If you could call it talking. Most of them spoke gibberish. They tried to speak English, but they weren’t any smarter than the gray-green horrors who tortured us every day.

It was against the rules to go down that hall without an escort. That’s because that was also the way out. I eyed the end of the hall. The security door was closed but through the window I could see the guard on-duty. It was talking to another one of the aliens. Good. It was busy and not looking in this direction. As fast as I could, I hurried to my room. It was down this hall, left into another corridor, and eight doors down on the left.

In some demented show of care, they made us create a picture that had our name on it to hang on the door. I smirked when I reached my door and saw it. I’d drawn myself, right middle finger up and a scowl on my face. Maybe the jailers knew what it meant, maybe not. I didn’t care.

Room. Hah. More like a cell. The single bed was hard and the blanket, thin. I hurried to my dresser. On top were my pictures. I picked up the one of me and my husband—yes, us at the beach, and gave a sigh of relief. I’d remembered correctly. Placing it back where it belonged, I looked at the other pictures of my son, his family. They were real. I wasn’t crazy.

The cell door opened. One of the guards stood there making disapproving noises. It grabbed me and strong-armed me back to the day room. After popping me into my chair, it went over to the room guard. Even though it was their language, I could tell it was getting chewed out.

“Oh, Laurie! That monster is going to have it out for you now.” Edna patted my arm. “What did you do?”

“It was worth it. I went to see the pictures on my dresser.”

Edna looked at me, her eyes wide. “What for?”

“To make sure I remembered them correctly.” I grinned. “I did. The monsters haven’t broken me yet.”

Edna shook her head. “What made you think that?”

“Ralph’s comments at lunch. You know. How did we get here? I was starting to think I was imagining my life before this hell hole.”

Edna patted my arm again. “I know. Some days I wonder if this had been my whole life.” She sighed. “Those are the bad days.”

I clasped her hand. “Tell me when you get those days. We’ll tell each other our stories.”

A tear glistened in her eye. “Thank you, Laurie. You’re a good friend.”

Two boring hours passed, the damn screen blaring inanities, when a guard appeared in front of me. “Doctor Jenkins wants to see you,” it said, nearly clearly.

“Fine.” I got out of the chair.

“Good luck,” Edna called out as I walked away.

The Home, Part 3 will appear next week.

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The Home, Part 1: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts.jpg from Deposit Photos
Morgue__Table_by_anaisroberts.jpg from Deposit Photos

I wrote this for a project that fell through and I just felt that it shouldn’t go to waste. So here it is.

Part 1

“Let me go!” I yelled as the four-armed witch grabbed me up out of my chair. Anyway, I think it was a she, who could really tell? Its gray-green skin was paler than some of the others. She shoved me into today’s first torture of the day—the showers.

Today it was too hot. It was always blasting my skin. Tenderizing it I guess for the next step—squirting foul-smelling slime all over me, then sand-papering my whole body before re-blasting me with hot water.

The witch shoved me into a new prisoner’s smock and forced me back to my chair. My hair dripped water onto the smock. An unintentional torture, I think. They’d cut my hair nearly to the scalp when I’d first arrived. It still had enough length to hold water though. Now I could sit, shivering in this cold day-room until it dried.

At first I’d tried to ask for a blanket but I’d given up after several days. They chittered something that sounded like, “soon”, but it never happened. So now I just wrapped my arms around myself and shivered.

Next to me, Edna, who’d gone through her turn before me, leaned over. “Cold or hot?”

“Hot.”

“The witch used a brush on me.” Edna shook her head. “I’m surprised I have any skin left.”

I nodded. Like I said, a new torture every day. The current one was in front of us. A large screen showed pictures of death and destruction. The sound was too loud, and I couldn’t understand it. I think it was meant to demoralize us with the horrible pictures and the sound. It kept us from talking to each other—we couldn’t hear.

A new alien came by, one I hadn’t seen before, and wrapped a wide rope around my arm. I hated this. It began to swell up, tighter and tighter until I wanted to scream. I wouldn’t give these monsters the satisfaction. It chirped something at me—who could tell with the screen blasting—and took the rope away. It was Edna’s turn and like me, she wouldn’t give it the satisfaction. She rubbed her arm when it left.

“I don’t know what the purpose of that is. I mean, if they want to take off my arm, why don’t they just do it?” She sniffed and craned her head around to see her arm. “Look.” She pointed at her arm. “A big red spot. Like it started then changed its mind.”

“Monsters,” I said. I’d had those same spots on my arm.

We stared at the big screen in shared misery. Ralph, sitting beside Edna, was weeping while he mumbled to himself. He was here when I arrived. He sat with me and Edna at feeding time. Past Ralph was Michael. Mike didn’t ever say much. He was an old-timer here too. A few weeks ago, he’d started a riot in here. He struggled out of his chair and began yelling and throwing things.

It took three of the gray-skinned monsters to subdue him. Then they gave him a shot of something that knocked him out till the next morning. Now they gave him a pill that made him stare into space, drooling and glassy-eyed.

At feeding time the monsters walked us to what passed for a dining room. They slapped paper plates on the table in front of us. I sighed as I eyed the pasty-looking gray mass on the plate. Another torture.

I didn’t think these aliens were very smart. The slime on the plate looked something like real food but it tasted as bad as it looked, if it tasted like anything at all. I sighed and picked up my spoon. They didn’t provide forks or knives.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” Ralph said.

Edna and I stared. Even Mike turned to look.

“I mean, how did this happen?” His face was so sad, his eyes confused. “This isn’t what I expected.”

I nodded. “None of us did, Ralph.”

Even Michael nodded.

I ate a spoonful of the slop. Today it was tasteless. At the end of our dining experience, supposed pudding cups were passed around. When I opened it, it was brown. Supposed chocolate. About all I could say for it was that it was smooth. I remembered chocolate pudding from my childhood. Whole milk, hot, with real chocolate and cornstarch whisked into it. Then a dollop of real butter at the end with that rich smelling vanilla. I could have eaten the whole panful if momma would have let me. She always put plastic wrap over the top, right on the pudding, so it wouldn’t develop that thick skin.

I realized tears were running down my face and I wiped them away before the others saw. Especially the monsters. Never let them see you in pain, is what I always said.

Part 2 next week.

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The Universe Calls: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Lightning in the Night Sky

The Universe Calls

When I was seven I could hear the whispers. I told my mom about them but she said I was thinking of the voices on the television.

When I was ten, the voices were louder. Not loud enough to make out what was being said, but they were there. After years of telling my parents, I finally understood that they couldn’t hear the whispers and didn’t want to know about them either. I kept the voices to myself.

Every year the voices grew louder, until I could clearly hear them. No one else I knew heard voices, so I kept it to myself, even when they became so loud it was hard to hear the teachers in school, or even mom and dad or my sister or brothers.

I kept to myself and surprisingly, it didn’t take long for people, even my family, to just kind of, overlook me. My brothers were so boisterous that they attracted all of the attention. What they didn’t attract, my sister did as she acted out with skirts too short and boy friends too wild. My parents had all they could handle. I wasn’t a problem so they just left me alone.

By the time I was sixteen, I could tell who in school might be like me. We were the outsiders. Not picked on, just hanging around the fringes. Slowly, I made friends with them. It wasn’t easy to draw them out. Like me, they’d learned to keep quiet. Eventually, though, we had our own table in the cafeteria.

The others had their own gifts. That’s what we decided to call them. Carl was a math whiz. He could see the answer to any math problem. Secretly he’d gone to the biggest university web sites and pulled their math department’s toughest problems. He’d solved them all but didn’t tell them. He worked with Gillian, who was a computer hacking genius, to break into the government’s sites and find their hardest problems. He solved them as well. Tony was a mechanic. He could fix anything. Along with Claire, who could design anything, they built some fantastic new devices, but we didn’t share. Bob was a plant guru and Cecelia could manipulate light. Sound was Patel’s gift. He could make it open, close, build or destroy.

By the time we’d graduated, we’d cracked Wall Street and all of the overseas financial markets and purchased land and had housing and labs built. We told our parents, the ones who cared, anyway, that we were going on a walk-about. My parents both cried as they protested they didn’t know where the time had gone and they hardly knew me.

That was an understatement. We went to our secret hideaway and called others like us from around the world to join us. The voices kept us busy. They wanted us to build all of this great tech. They pointed out where we could improve things. Soon we had kids, well, young adults, now, come who were charismatics. We started them on political paths as the rest of us prepared.

It took a lot of time as we maneuvered our politicians into place in each country. Our military experts had to run interference several times but by the time I was fifty, we were ready.

We’d changed the laws, planet wide. Kids received proper schooling, food, and medicine. More and more children had the gift and we put them to use. Warfare fell away and the last dictator was gone. Cities were cleaned up and the environment, close to collapse when I was a girl, was recovering.

That’s when the voices told me to assemble our leaders. Not the politicians, but the leaders of our little group that I had assembled decades before. I was the conduit, where we’d received our instructions so far.

I spoke as the main voice in my head spoke.

“We congratulate you all,” said the voice who called itself Notion. “You’ve worked hard and followed our instructions. Well done.”

The group in front of me cheered. When they quieted, Notion continued.

“It’s time for us to join you. And for you to join us. We will arrive in a week. Meet us at the spaceport you’ve built. We’ll be together at last!”

There was much cheering at that and while the others asked me what else Notion was saying I could only shake my head. Notion was gone.

Preparations were made. A band was assembled, the best of our musicians that existed. Bunting was raised along with a speaker’s platform. No instructions for the kind of housing Notion and the others needed were given but we prepared an entire hotel with every kind of food Earth had to offer available.

The day arrived, and we were ready. I was on the platform, along with the original group. The ship, if it could be called that, landed. A bright ball of energy and smaller energy balls separated from it. They floated over to us. I could hear Notion.

“Greetings, children.”

I repeated the words before I realized that everyone could hear it speak. It continued as we all gaped in surprise.

“We are grateful for your diligence. We appreciate your efforts.”

I watched as other balls of energy left the ship and as the ship shrank. A ball of energy hovered over each person present. Other balls of energy drifted away. Notion hovered in front of me.

“And you, Cheyenne, we thank you most of all. It’s time for your reward.”

I was surprised. What reward? No reward had ever been mentioned. We were just saving our planet.

Notion drifted closer. Its light was blinding but not hot. I turned my face up to it as it drifted closer. I wasn’t afraid. I closed my eyes. I could feel it touch me, a tingling. Then warmth crept over my whole body. There was a flash of pain, then nothing.

Notion shivered, then made itself draw a breath. It opened its new eyes. “Ah. That’s nice.”Share this:
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