Reconstruction: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Laptop by Shadd am89 via DeviantArt.com

It’s Friday. The monsoons don’t start for another month and a half and my eyes and nose are so dry it feels like I’m going to have a bloody nose any minute. Staring at this computer screen isn’t helping any either. Eyes feel like they’re rolling in a sandbox.

My boss, Cassandra, sticks her head around the door. “My office. Now.”

Oh joy. I glance at the clock. Really, two thirty on a Friday afternoon? “Sure.” I sigh. If I was in trouble about something, she would have let me have it right there. No, I think as I push away from my desk. It’s something else. Some news she can’t wait to ruin my weekend with. I grab my notebook and wander down the hall.

As I get there, I see the other four department managers arriving. I nod to my friend, Callie, head of database design. Her eyebrow goes up a fraction of an inch. We both grin. It’s definitely going to be a weekend ruiner.

We huddle in her office around a small conference table. I open my spiral notebook to a clean page, noting date, time, and people in the room. These little notes have saved my bacon in the past. Cassandra starts.

“I was glad to see everyone still here. This is news that can’t wait.” She looks at each of us, then nods. “Management has decided that there will be no pay raises this year.”

That wakes up Seth. He’s always bragging about how he gets the biggest raise every year. That’s despite the rule about not talking about salary. I think he’s lying. I’ve been doing half of his work for the last three years. And, the company only gives pay raises to a small percentage. I expect Callie is the one getting the money. I know I get some. What Ellie and Bob get is a mystery.

Cassandra let the murmuring subside. “Budgets have been cut. People are going to be laid off. Least productive departments first. Some of you will be affected. Some of your department’s work will be handled by other parts of the company, either here in the U.S. or overseas. Some work the company is just dropping. They’re not going to brand on that any longer. The uproar in the room grew louder as she walked around her desk and sat in her chair.

I had all I could do not to yawn. I could see this was coming. I’d told Callie so a year ago. Anyone who could read the business journals and had an eye on the company’s investments and closings would have known. I’d already begun sending out resumes and refining my own branding. I did feel bad for Callie, though. She worked hard and had two kids in high school. She’d been hoping to hold on until they were out of college.

Cassandra rapped on her desk. “Let’s keep calm, people.” She turned a sheet of paper over, typed side up. “This is the initial break out.”

She read down the list. I had to cover my grin with my hand as she announced Seth’s department’s work was going to be picked up by the Minneapolis office. “What am I supposed to do,” as an afterthought, “and my team?”

“Offers will be made to allow you to move,” the boss said.

I knew that wasn’t going to happen with Seth. He had a big family here. His wife was executive VP across town at the biggest bank in the area.

Then both Ellie and Bob were told their department’s work was going overseas. Ellie began to cry. Bob went pale.

Cassandra turned to me. The announcements were getting worse and worse. I braced to hear that the company was dropping the work my department did altogether.

“Your department,” I could hear everyone stop breathing, “is going to be expanded. Project management is the coming thing and the company is jumping on that bandwagon.”

The others stared. Cassandra carried on. “You’re being promoted to Division Manager and you’ll be organizing the growth and hiring of additional staff. Congratulations.”

I have to admit, it took me a second to wrap my head around that. Everyone else was essentially getting the axe and I was getting a promotion. Wow! “Um, Thank you, Cassandra. I’m so sorry, everyone else. So sorry.”

“We’ll be making announcements over the intercom at three-thirty. Please keep this news to yourselves until then.” Cassandra turned that paper over again and turned to her computer. A sign we were done. Everyone stood. In the hall I gave Callie a hug. “Your department wasn’t touched.”

She shrugged. “Not yet anyway. I should have believed you last year.”

“Well, you’re good for now. It’s not too late.”

She nodded and wandered away. Cassandra called to me from inside her office.

“Yes, Cassandra.”

“I’ve been told we’re going to build up a real presence here in Phoenix. Lots of big companies moving into the state. The whole southwest, really. You up to the task?”

“Absolutely.” I grinned. “I assume my department doesn’t do the sales. Just the project management work?”

She nodded. “I take over the Sales. VP.” She looked smug. I’d heard that she and the operations manager were close. Maybe that paid off. I don’t know. “Congratulations. We’ll still be working together.” With that she made a quick, little face that let me know she hadn’t thought about that, but she pulled it together quickly. “Yes. Of course.” She turned back to her computer. “The president will see you at 10 on Monday. He wants to talk plans with you.”

“I’ll make a note.” I left the office and went back to my desk. In half an hour, my team was going to be hitting my office door. I poured more chocolates into the bowl on my conference table and got on my computer. Time to pull up notes on how to run a bigger department.

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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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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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Poetry: Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Grand Canyon

Three poems today. The first one titled, the others, not. Three different poetic forms. If you’ve never tried poetry, give my friend Susan’s site a look. Just pick one that looks like fun and give it a try. You can play with these all year, not just in April.

Self

I believe in the power of self,

The right to find one’s own path,

The need to be alone,

The necessity of failure,

The power of success,

travel, good food, and fine wine.

But not in soul-sucking meaningless work, just to keep body and soul together.

I believe in the joy of a task well-done.

I believe in equal measures of work and play.

I believe in education,

spirituality, love, and sheer kindness,

And I believe that everyone deserves more than one chance.

Rain.

It can

Help plants grow,

Wash them away,

Or bring sweet relief from a sunny day.

The clouds fill the sky, all black, ominous,

Then fat drops fall,

Plop in dust,

Muddy,

Wet.

Forty Years

It’s been over forty years since we met.

It’s been a lot of miles, too.

Our wedding, of course, friends gathered round us.

Then to Germany, A daughter born,

then Virginia, Italy, and South Carolina.

On to England where our little girl became a young woman.

Arguments, travel for fun, rotating shifts, being so tired.

It’s all been part and parcel of our lives.

Retirement, staying in one place for over a decade.

Moving once more to a place warm and bright,

Where nearly another decade has come and gone.

It’s been worth it. Every hard day. Every good one.

All worth it. With you.

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Poetry: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Hello to all. It’s still April and that means National Poetry Writing Month. I’ve been following along with author and poet Stephanie Peterson Abney as she leads several of us along a path of getting to know many poetry forms. Following are a few of the poems I’ve written since the last post.

The pine is much, much, much, larger now.

Rhyme Royal Poem

“The Pine”

It stands sentinel in front of my house.

The shade it does cast helps keep my home cool,

Tall and green, it makes pinecones, so I grouse,

In the spring, pollen collects on my tools,

In my nose and eyes, I feel like a fool.

I could cut it down, no pollen around,

But then where’s the shade, none would be around.

Grassy hills from this year’s wet spring.

Next is a gogyohka form of a Quintain poem

Green grass

covers the rocky hills

making them look soft

rounding their shapes

in the morning sun.

This is a Poiku, a Haiku based on a popular song.

“When I’m Sixty-Four”

When I get older,

Sincerely wasting away.

Will you still need me?

From the Beatles, When I’m Sixty-Four

So you can see I’ve been having a lot of fun with poetry this month. Why don’t you check out Stephanie’s website and try your hand at a few?

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Poetry: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Daffodils in a pot in my front yard.

Well, here it is, Saturday, and I forgot to post on Friday. If you read my Monday blog posts, you’ll know that I’m participating in April’s poetry month. I’ve posted some of my poems on my Facebook page but here are some others.

My Mom came to stay awhile.

She traveled, dined, and visited,

while settling into her lavender-colored room,

All through the autumn, So I could hold her hand when she passed.

Hike

A walk

Moving through woods

In peace and quiet

Movement

Tree

Green and tall

Standing in my yard, quietly

Like a quiet sentinel

If only it could speak

Pasta.

Food of the Gods.

Each bite fills my mouth with joy.

No matter the sauce, at my seat,

It brings comfort and warmth.

Woods in the morning

Mist rises between the trees

Sunlight filters down

Morning birdsong cheers me up

My heart rejoices with glee

That’s it for today. Enjoy your weekend.

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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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