The Last Spin: Flash Fiction Friday Post

By Randy Cockrell

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m not cutting this into 1000 word or less parts. You have the entire story, right here. All 1754 words of it. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day this weekend.

Ruby Ray tapped the button again and adjusted herself in the chair. The electronic spinning wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the old-fashioned slots but what could she do? The spinning stopped as she tapped the button again. Win! She smiled in satisfaction. Not a big win, but substantial.

She tapped again to start the spin and returned to her previous thoughts. Maybe less chance of the casino cheating? But, then again, they could get the tech to set the computer payouts as tight or as loose as they wanted. She shrugged. If they were going to rip off the customers, they were going to do it, Gambling Commission or not.

The spin stopped. A win, but not much. She sighed and bet again. A look around showed the usual regulars with a scattering of occasional people she’d seen before. Plus, there was a bus in today. She shook her head. She didn’t like the bus visitors. They clogged everything up and screed up the machine’s patterns. Ruby shifted again. She’d been in the chair for three hours. The spin was a bust.

“Dang it,” she muttered under her breath. She hit the call button and the little light on top of her machine blinked red. A last swallow of her now warm iced tea and the woman cruising the aisles stopped by.

“Hey, Ruby.”

“Hey, Gina.” Ruby and Gina knew each other’s names. Ruby was here every day, so she knew all of the attendant’s names. “I need a bathroom break. Can you hold my machine for me?”

“Sure, Ruby. Shall I lock it?”

Ruby knew they could do that. “No. I’m just going to the bathroom. A sign should do it till I get back. I just don’t want the bus people to take my machine.”

Gina nodded. “Okay. I’ll just hang around here till you get back.”

“Appreciate that.” Ruby slid out of the chair, waiting a moment while her legs adjusted to actually doing their job. It was getting harder and harder, she thought, over the last few months. She waddled off as her legs protested. Getting’ old ain’t for sissies.

In the stall, she checked her cash. She didn’t like flashing her money on the casino floor. Her kids, knowing she liked to casino, has sent her money for Mother’s Day. All told, six hundred dollars. There was four hundred left. She tucked it back into her wallet and left to wash her hands.

The walk back to the machine was better than the walk away. The blood was flowing and the muscles had loosened up.

Gina saw her and just as Ruby reached the slot machine, took the “Reserved” sign down. “Here ya go, hon.”

“Thanks, Gina.”

“Good luck.” Gina continued her rounds as Ruby settled back in.

She checked the totals on the screen. Good. Just as she’d left it. She hit the Bet button. The spin began. A big win. She grinned. Her months-long research into the best paying machines was paying off. Ruby upped the bet to maximum and spun again. Again, it payed off. She was up to six hundred and fifty dollars from her starting two hundred-dollar start. Not a bad haul but she figured that this machine was due to pay big. She was staying here, hell or high water, till it did.

The afternoon wore on. The cocktail waitress brought her a burger and fries. Ruby was still doing well so she gave her a fiver as a tip. She tipped Gina as well, when she took another trip to the bathroom. Her legs didn’t really recover on that trip, but Ruby just cursed her old age, eighty-one this year, and climbed back into her chair.

Later, Gina stopped by to tell Ruby she was going off shift. “Andy will be around to help if you need it.”

Ruby nodded. “Have a good night.”

Her mind wasn’t really on the good-bye, though. Half an hour ago she’d started losing. Half of the money she’d gained was gone. She changed the patter she’d been using to stop the spin. It didn’t help. Ruby put another two hundred dollars into the machine. “You’re supposed to pay off today.”

The machine responded by ending on a combo that didn’t pay off at all.

Ruby ordered a glass of beer. Relax, she told herself. It will come around again.

Fifteen minutes later, she dropped two hundred and fifty into the machine. The last of her Mother’s Day money and fifty of her own. She spun but it only paid the bare minimum. Come on, sucker, she thought as she punched that Bet button again. The pictures rotated, around and around. Ruby hit the stop. Nothing.

She clenched her jaws together, her false teeth grinding. Ruby rubbed her left arm. Thank God they got rid of the old pull handles. The buttons are so much easier. She spun and spun. The payouts crept up a little, then down to nothing. She put her grocery money into the machine. Well, she thought, the pint total for today is looking good. She spun. It went poorly. Ruby called Andy over.

“I’m on a roll, Andy. Can I get a little loan here?”

Andy looked around. “It’s your money, Ruby, but why don’t you just head home? You’ve been here nine hours.”

Ruby gave it a quick thought. One more night in that tiny, cold, room at the retirement center was going to make her scream. She shook her head. Despite the pain in her leg, she was staying. The jackpot on this machine was going to pay. She just knew it. “No. Ask, please.”

She gambled as she waited. She was down to her last fifty dollars when the manager came over. “Hi, Mrs. Ray. I’m John Sweetwater. I hear you’re interested in a loan.”

“Yes. I’ve been a good customer. I’d like to keep playing.”

He stroked his face, his long braid swinging along his back as he thought it over.

Ruby could see that he was reluctant. “I’m sure you’ve seen my file. I’m good for it. I’m in here all the time.”

“Of course. We just…” he paused. “Well, you are a good customer. We just hate to put people in this position.”

“I’m good for it. Really.”

Other patrons were now turning to stare.

“You’re right. You are. So.” He stared at the non-descript drop ceiling for a moment. “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this? We can give you a ride home in our courtesy car.”

Ruby wondered what kind of casino this was that they didn’t want to keep a gamble in her seat. “I’m sure.” She knew. She KNEW! This machine was going to pay off tonight.

The manager sighed. “All right.” He waved Andy over. “Reserve Mrs. Ray’s machine.” He turned to her. “I’ll need you to come to the office to sign some paperwork.”

Relief flooded through her. “Of course.” She slid from the chair. Again, her legs protested. “You don’t mind if I stop at the ladies?”

“Of course not. Con on back to the office when you’re ready.” He signaled another floor attendant. “Bring her when she’s ready. The young woman nodded, and he left.

“Come on, Ruby. We’ll take care of everything.”

“You’re so sweet, Ann.” Ruby threaded her thin arm through Ann’s. “How’s that chubby little cherub of yours?”

In the office, Ann led Ruby to the chair in front of John’s desk. “Good luck, Ruby.”

“Night, Ann.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” John studied her with concern on his face.

“Yes!” She was so sure of it. It had to be tonight.

He put a paper in front of her. “The contract.”

Ruby scanned it as she absently rubbed her arm. She was disappointed to see it was just five hundred dollars. She sighed. “This looks fine.” Ruby picked up the pen john had slid over with the contract. She signed and pushed it back. “Is that it?”

He examined the contract. “That’s it.” John handed her five hundred in hundred-dollar bills.

Ruby fanned them out. It wasn’t often she got such a windfall. “Thank you.”

“Good luck.”

Her lower back hurt on the walk back but she was so happy about the loan, she didn’t care.

Andy removed the sign for her. “Good luck, Ruby.”

“Thank you, Andy.” She sat down, made herself comfortable and hit the Bet button. It was a little disappointing to see the spin come up empty. No worries, she told herself. It will come.

After fifteen minutes, she added the five hundred dollars she’d received from the manager. Her stomach was upset. It was going to take a lot of time to repay the money, but she didn’t care. This machine was going to pay off.

Around and around. Ruby stopped the spin in every combo she could. The total kept dropping. What is wrong with this? she thought. It should pay! She stabbed the buttons, frustration and annoyance making her angry. The dollar total kept dropping as spin after spin at maximum bet kept dragging it down. It was hard to breathe, but she stabbed the button again. The last time, her hand on her bosum.

The pretty pictures spun and Ruby let them spin without interference. Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her chest hurt. “Com on,” she whispered.

The spinning drew to a stop. Nothing.

Ruby leaned back in the chair. It felt as though all of the air in the room was gone. It seemed like the light had dimmed. It was all gone. She looked around. The night people were there, staring at their machines. Intense. Not like the day gamblers at all, she thought.

Her arms dropped to her sides. The cheery sounds of the different machines sounded far away. The flashing of lights softened. It felt kind of nice. Here with her friends. A few minutes later she began to lean, more, then more to her left until she tumbled from the chair to the floor.

The staff moved quickly. The ambulance was called and she was picked up. Her now still face covered with a sheet.

“That’s a shame,” Andy told another attendant after they watched the ambulance crew take her out. “So much time on that single machine.”

“Yeah,” the other guy said. “It had just paid off last night. Some old guy. He’d been nursing that machine for days.”

“Is that so?” Andy shook his head. “What a shame.”

Thank you for reading.

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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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Flash Fiction Friday Story: One Little Prayer

Stained-glass Rose Window by fmr0 via DeviantArt.com

Stained-glass Rose Window by fmr0 via DeviantArt.com

Seventy-eight year-old Karen Rogers sat hunched over on the steps of the Sharing Tomorrow building, the cold of the cracked and broken cement steps seeping up into her bones through the thin plas-cotton shift and coat she wore.

Plas-cotton, she thought with disgust. Everything made of plastic now. An image of herself as a six year-old dressed in a blue dress that matched her eyes, the light cotton material of the skirt floating around her as she twirled in a field of daisies, flashed through her mind. She snorted, drawing a rheumy stare from the old guy in line behind her. He’d sat down, too, on the step below her. Karen ignored him.

That was before the government mandated implants in everyone ten and older. She remembered her implant, on her tenth birthday. They put it behind her right ear. Those implants weren’t too bad. They could detect emotions more than thoughts. She forgot about it in the flurry of childhood school and summer vacations. It wasn’t until she hit high school, that she was made painfully aware of it.

The line moved and she had to change to the next step up.

April McGura, that was her name. Karen was in the cafeteria, looking for a place to sit when she tripped, her lunch and the tray it was on, flying down the aisle between the rows of tables. The table behind her erupted in laughter. Karen got up, knees skinned and red-faced and turned to see what she tripped on.

April, long, straight blonde hair pulled over one shoulder, brown-eyes laughing, still had her foot out in Karen’s path. “What a clutz,” the girl said. Her friends hooted. “What a clod.” “Grace in action.” “Loser.” “Been walking long?”

Karen could feel the rage building as her fists clenched. She was on the soccer team, she wasn’t a clutz. She took a step forward, that’s when the pain shot through her head, driving her to her knees. She could feel her stomach churn and without warning, vomited all over April McGura’s patent leather pumps. That’s when a teacher came and took her to the nurse’s office.

It was explained to her what happened and that she had to control herself better. What wasn’t explained was why April and her horde made the next three years of her life a living hell. They stole her clothing out of her locker while she was at soccer practice. They lay in wait behind hall corners to scare her or trip her or knock the books out of her hands. Over and over her rage at the attacks made the implant zap her. It was her last year in high school that she had some relief. April and her gang graduated the year before. Things went back to normal, or so Karen thought.

It turns out that bullies live in the adult world too. And the implants became more sensitive. Thoughts could be read, and punished. Soon it became so that any emotion other than love or lust, and sometimes those, too, would deliver the thinker a shock to the brain. Then thirty years ago, religion was declared forbidden. There would be no more Sunday services. The government turned all of the churches into government buildings or razed them to the ground.

Karen moved up to the landing. The line was moving along. She was glad, the late winter wind was cutting right through her. Like this building, she thought. It used to be the Methodist Church, not that there were many who would remember that now. She went here as a girl with her parents and grandparents. Now, it seemed, even if you let your mind go blank, you’d get a shock. She sighed. It didn’t matter.

She had been called, like the others in the line. There wasn’t enough food and housing to go around. It seemed that over the last sixty years productivity had been declining. Now, instead of taking care of the productivity, they just eliminated the elderly. It used to be people over ninety, then over eight-five, then eighty. Last year it dropped to seventy-eight. Her birthday had been in February. She was surprised she didn’t get a notice then.

She stepped into what had been the vestibule. A desk was there with a young woman and a scanner.

“Your name?”

“Karen Rogers.”

“Thank you, Miz Rogers.” The young woman held the scanner up behind Karen’s ear. It hummed gently and the woman pulled it down.

“I haven’t been buzzed in a week,” Karen said.

“Oh,” the young woman smiled. “They turned it off. There’s no point, really, is there?”

Karen shook her head. “I guess not.”

A nurse ushered Karen into where the sanctuary used to be. There was still the creamy white walls and the polished dark wood of the half paneling and the banisters and ceiling beams, but the pews had been replaced with gurneys.

The female nurse led her to the far right and up a row near the wall. The stained glass remained in the windows throwing patches of red, gold, blue and green on the people lying there. “Here you are, Miz Rogers. If you’ll put your purse, keys, phone and other valuables in this bag, then you can lie down and rest.”

Karen did as directed. What was she going to do, run?

A middle-aged technician came by with a light plas-cotton blanket and covered her up, then he prepped her arm as another tech wheeled a stand and a bag of fluid to her bedside. The first tech adjusted the bag and attached tubing. “Just a little pinch, Miz Rogers.” Then he inserted the needle in her right arm. “This won’t take long, Miz Rogers.”

She sighed. “That’s all right, son. I just have one little prayer.”

 

 

The End

967 Words

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