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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Snowfall: Flash Fiction Friday Post

It started snowing at seven in the morning. By seven-thirty, it was coming down at about an inch an hour. Social media filled with pictures people took of the snow in their yards, their neighborhoods, their towns. No one had seen anything like it.

“It never snows this far south,” one woman said as she was interviewed by a local TV reporter. I don’t even have a snow shovel!”

Estelle turned the TV off. It was February. Why did they all panic at the sight of a snowflake. She got up and went to the kitchen to make some hot tea. Estelle had come from upstate New York. Snowfall of a foot or even two was pretty normal. It was just after noon and she’d already been out twice to shovel her short driveway and even shorter front walk.

Big improvement over New York, she thought as she waited for the electric kettle to bring the water to a boil. There it would have taken me two hours just to get the driveway cleared, let alone the walks and the decks. No, she decided. It is much better here.

Tea made, she took it into the living room and settled in under an afghan her mother had made for her and read a book. Three hours later, it was time to clear the driveway again.

She dressed lightly. Shoveling snow was a workout. Estelle grabbed the shovel out of the garage and began. It was wet and heavy, this late in the day, not like the fluffy, dry snow from the colder morning. Working steadily, she cleared the walk, then began the driveway. Halfway done she stopped to rest. The street where she lived was populated but no one was out. The snow was still falling at a fast clip, big, fat, wet flakes, drifting down, smothering all the sounds she normally heard in the area.

When she got to the street, she realized the city plows still hadn’t been through, no one had. She shook her head. What if one of the neighbors needed an ambulance. She glanced next door. Trudy Willa had been carried off by ambulance twice in the last year. There was no sign of Trudy or her husband, Dave. Obviously, they were going to wait to clear their drive. They always hired someone.

Estelle knocked the wet snow off of her shovel and got back to work. The cloudy day made nightfall that much sooner. She wanted to get this done and get back inside and make a little dinner. Spaghetti, she thought, with jarred sauce. That’ll be quick and easy. She stopped shoveling to move her shoulder around. It was hurting. No wonder, she thought. She hadn’t had to shovel snow in the six years she’d been here.

After two more shovelfuls, she stopped again. She was a little nauseous, too. Good thing she was going to make a quick dinner. Estelle looked around. The driveway was nearly done. Good. She shoveled more, tossing the snow as far as she could. This storm was supposed to last through tomorrow. She didn’t want the snow to pile up too much right next to the driveway. She rubbed her arm again. Going to have to do more arm work in the gym, she thought and went back to work.

She was close to being done and the daylight was fading fast. Just in time, she thought. She was ready for another hot cup of tea. That’s when the pain hit her in the chest, radiating out to her arms so hard and fast Estelle fell to her knees, the shovel falling from her hands. What the…, she thought as she gasped for breath. What was going on?

The pain wouldn’t stop. She wanted to get up, get inside, call someone, but she just couldn’t get her legs to move. Another sharp pain came washing through her. She fell over on her side, still gasping from the intensity of it. Get up, she told herself. You can’t lay on the driveway. You’ll freeze. But still, she couldn’t move. Estelle lay there, the snow drifting down on her. She concentrated on just breathing. Slow and steady, she thought, but any deep breath made her hurt even more.

Ridiculous. I’m not going to just lay out here. She tried to roll to her knees, but any movement just set off more chest pain. Heart attack, she thought. I’m having a heart attack. She lay her head on the cold, wet, cement of the driveway, her knees pulled up to her chest. She could feel the wet soaking into her jeans and the shivering start.

Gently. Very gently. Get inside and call the ambulance. You can do it. Don’t worry about how much it hurts. So slowly, very slowly, she rolled up, gasping with the pain and began to crawl to the garage door. It was fifteen feet away. You can do it, she told herself. This will teach you to carry the phone in your pocket. At ten feet from the open maw of the garage, she had to rest. Her knees were protesting the crawl on the hard cement. Shut up, she told them. We’ve got bigger problems. Ten feet, let’s go.

It was getting darker. The lights weren’t on. She hadn’t needed them when she’d first come outside. You can’t lay here, Estelle, she told herself. Get inside. Do it! She raised herself and crawled. Her gloves had soaked through and her hands felt like ice. Three feet from the edge of the door, her arms collapsed as another chest pain hit. She fell over and pulled her knees up to her chest, her head next to the wooden door frame. Please no, she thought. Not like this. Then she felt nothing.

Dave found her the next day when he took his fat little chihuahua for its walk—Estelle was a shapeless blob of snow near the open garage door, frozen.

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The Juniper and the Pine: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Juniper Berries

The juniper sprouted. She saw immediately that the ground was soft and luxurious. The lives of others were in her roots and the water that came, funneled slow and steady to her roots. She reveled in her tiny sprout state. Hiding among the pine straw and the random vines, the tiny alligator juniper noticed a constant parade of creatures trampling the ground over and over just a short distance away. Still. Life is life and she did her mighty best to grow.

Years later, another sprout grew.

She was a bit concerned. It was close. A bit too close but still. The water flowed and the people, as she grew to name them, still passed by, never stopping to see them.

The sprout grew. A ponderosa pine. The little juniper trembled. Perhaps she should have made a fuss. Made the people trample the pine. Still. The pine was quiet. Not a fuss. The juniper trembled. There wasn’t a lot of room. What if the water dried up?

The water still flowed. Year after year. Some years it was pretty lean. The juniper dug her roots in. It was a pocket, she realized. Deep and full of many years growth of leaves. The ponderosa roots found the pocket as well. The pocket went deep. It was a crevasse in the cliff face. Their roots intertwined. They probed, deeper and deeper.

Over and over, the roots dug deep while the top grew tall. Just two feet apart, the trees grew.

Juniper led the way. Up and up. It was a miracle. There was a space in the canopy and the sun shone down. Juniper made it a race. She grew as fast as she could. Shade made by the juniper cut the chances of the other plants. All except the ponderosa. The ponderosa loved the shade. It made it strong.

Years passed. The juniper grew tall and strong. The ponderosa grew slow and steady. It took many years. People passed by. The trail became hard packed and deep. It was a long time but eventually the trail dropped to the roots of the two trees.

The juniper cried out each time her roots were trampled.

“Hush’, the ponderosa whispered. “Dig deeper. The humans tread just the top. We are stronger than that.”

“I need the surface roots,” she cried.

“Spread out, then,” the ponderosa said. It hugged his friend, sending root tendrils to her.

The roots spread. Each crack in the rock. Each small crevasse with decaying leaves was a chance for the juniper. The ponderosa followed its friend. The juniper struggled. Each human trampled its basic root. She wailed in pain. The ponderosa hugged its friend as best it could.

“Stay brave!” the ponderosa sent to its friend with its roots.

The juniper struggled. “Just a moment. Just a bit when no one is squashing me.

For the ponderosa, it waited. It grew. It soaked in the rich, soft mulch of the forest as it seeped down the cliff face to the roots of itself and its friend.

It took many years. The juniper and the ponderosa had grown many feet. The people began to move around them. That made them happy. The water still flowed down the cliff face. It still puddled in the space in their roots.

It took many years but eventually Ponderosa grew taller than its friend Juniper.

It was a pleasant life in their little canyon. The world around them changed, then changed again, then again. The air became cleaner, more people came, sometimes just to stand and stare. Houses were built right on the edge of the canyon but not within the canyon itself. Then, fewer people came. Fewer mechanical birds flew through the air. The land and water became cleaner. Juniper and Ponderosa wondered about it but were happy anyway.

Every day the trees enjoyed the sun or rain or snow in its proper seasons. The sumac came and went, short lived that they were. The same for the shrub oaks and the few maples that lived in the canyon.

Through it all the trees shared each other and the canyon. They were the longest-lived trees around. But it couldn’t last forever. Even the longest-lived trees must die eventually. Juniper, as the oldest, grew yellow on the few branches she had left. She’d seen a thousand years and even her love for Ponderosa couldn’t stop the march of time.

Ponderosa mourned Juniper, her rough trunk remaining just inches away. Gray, twisted, jagged, it reminded the Ponderosa of all of the storms the pair had withstood over the centuries. Then, the Ponderosa also began to fail. It took time to die but even the mighty tree had to pass. Their remaining branches, drying in the hot sun, remained intertwined, their trunks together.

Birds made hollows in the trunks to have babies. Woodpeckers came and drilled little holes to gather the insects that infested the dead wood. Moss grew in the shade, and lichen gathered in the wooden hollows. A different kind of life began in their remains as children of the trees grew around them.

Their deaths were not sad. They continued to bring life to the canyon and, they loved each other to the end.

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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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The Doomsday Vault: Flash Fiction Friday Post

burned_out_building_by_chisatowatanabe-d8mdbcd via DeviantArt.com

I opened the Doomsday vault with shaky hands. Newly promoted to manager, it was my responsibility now to open the vault everyday and check expiration dates, and other things that were located inside. Then to replace as necessary.
Standing inside the massive door, I looked around. A hundred and thirty-two years, this vault had been in existence. Books lined the shelves in front of me. How-to manuals mostly as the planners assumed that there wouldn’t be power available for computers. I sighed. Those wouldn’t ever need replacing. But, the food would have to be replaced on a regular basis. Those shelves were clearly marked and I stepped over to them to check the dates.
As I pulled the expired boxes from the shelves I thought about the current world situation. Everything seemed good. After the Korean situation had been resolved, most countries became peaceful. There was the middle east, of course, there were still a couple of groups that demanded everyone convert to Muslim, but they were on the fringe, even in their own countries. Our group monitored them, of course, but in my morning briefing, they weren’t even mentioned.
I stacked the expired material outside the door and brought in the new foodstuffs. I marked the expiration date on them and stacked them neatly on their shelves. I made note on the inventory what I brought in, then walked over to the weapons rack. Someone had decided a long time ago that there would be some weapons in the vault, just in case of trouble. I wondered for a moment who the designers thought would be around to cause trouble, then put it out of my mind. I knew that most every country had some sort of doomsday vault. I’d been to a meeting last year as I was being prepped to take on the roll. There I met the other managers. As conventions go, it was pretty small, there were only two hundred and three attendees. Not every country had a vault.
It was fun, and I’d made some acquaintances. The British manager was an Irish woman and she’d been manager of her vault for twenty-seven years. If there was a doo-dad that helped with survival, she knew of it and had an opinion on the usefulness of it as well. I took another look around the vault. Everything was in order and I was reaching up to turn off the light when my assistant ran up to the door.
“Karen. Come quick. Terrorists have bombed the capital! It’s on the news!”
I hesitated. There had been no warning this morning of any unrest anywhere on the planet. What had happened? “Call security. We’re going to get a lot of people here in a hurry.”
She nodded and ran off. I pulled the emergency checklist out and began the initiation phase. Three hundred and twenty-two people were going to start arriving any time now. If they’d escaped the bombing. I had a lot to do to get ready.
All in all, two hundred and sixty people arrived. Tales of government buildings destroyed or on fire circulated around the arrival hall. The din was deafening. We weren’t supposed to but since there were empty spaces, I allowed my assistant and her children in. Then we closed the door. There was no telling how long we’d have to stay. The noise died down as everyone moved to their assigned rooms. The monitor in the lounge was on. Newscasters were giving reactions to the attack and showing pictures of the capital in flames.
A commotion in the hall pulled me away from the monitor. Two security officers were facing a man yelling obscenities.
“What’s going on?” I came out into the hall.
“I demand to know why my wife couldn’t come in. I had to leave her home.” He shouted the question at me, all red in the face and sweating.
I recognized him. He was the chief of staff for the vice president. New to the job. “You didn’t have your wife listed, Mr. Fairchild.” If he’d had brought her, I would have let her in. Like I did for my assistant.
“I was going to list her, but there’s just so much.” He looked around at the security guards, then made his case to the people who were gathering around, watching the drama. A few nodded. “I was going to get to it.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fairchild. I truly am.”
“Open the door and let me out. I’ll go and get her.”
I shook my head. “We can’t do that until we get the all clear or we know it’s safe out there. Why don’t you go to the clinic and get the doctor to give you something to help you relax?”
“I don’t want drugs.” He was beginning to look wild eyed. “I want my wife!” He charged the security officers and the bystanders hurried off.
“Take him to the clinic.”
They dragged him off, him still screaming obscenities. I took a breath. The procedures mentioned that some number of people would not handle the emergency well. I wondered how many more there’d be. That was when I saw Mr. Fairchild running toward me. He had a gun in his hand. Where’d he get that? The security officers were running after him.
Fairchild pointed the gun at me. “Let me out!”
I held up my hand as I shook my head. “I can’t do that, Mr. Fairchild.”
“Yes, you can!” He fired.
I fell backward, hitting my head on the tile floor. It was hard to breathe, then he was standing over me.
“I told you! I told you!” He shook the gun at me.
I could see the officers take him down, wrestling the gun away from him and zip tying his hands behind him. I didn’t feel anything and I wondered about that. Shouldn’t I hurt? I closed my eyes and relaxed into a warm feeling of well-being. Let someone else work it out.
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Slave Elf Part 32: Flash Fiction Friday Post

alnwick_castle_by_americamarten-dbomzh2 via DeviantArt.com. https://www.deviantart.com/art/Alnwick-Castle-706511126

Find Part 1 here.

Part 32

She woke at a noise. It surprised her how quiet it was in this dungeon. No outside sound at all, until now. A scrape out in the hallway. Delia sat up and waited. The sound of a key in the lock made scraping noises then the door opened. A black elf with a torch, she still didn’t understand why when they had magical lights, stepped into the room followed by another and a third remained in the hall.

“Come,” the one without the torch said. It was the same unpleasant tone as they’d used the night before. Was it night? Had she slept away the entire day? She rose and stepped to the door. She wished she’d had time to at least splash her face. It felt sticky from her dried tears. No matter, no one was going to look good after spending the day in a dark hole.

Again she was led to the dining room. Again, Nethene, Ceinno and Iyuno were already seated, each enjoying fine glasses of red wine while they waited. Iyuno waved her to a chair. Just as Delia was seated, Kaya was brought in. Delia grinned with pleasure. Kaya didn’t seem to be any worse for wear and better, they sat her beside Delia again. The two clasped hands and nodded.

Delia was seated next to Ceinno again. The evil radiating off of him was palpable. It made her stomach turn.

“I’m glad to see you both well,” Iyuno began. He nodded at one of the black elves. He stepped forward and poured each of the newcomers a glass of wine.

Delia reached out and picked up her water glass, draining it before putting it back. Iyuno raised an eyebrow but nodded to the elf, who refilled the water.

“Your antics this morning could be heard all over the castle.” Iyuno raised his wine glass to them. “Too bad it didn’t work.”

Delia had a moment where she wanted to retort that it had been working but Kaya grasped her hand in warning. Delia drew a deep breath and gave her friend a brief nod. “Why are we here? Are we hostages?”

Ceinno chuckled which made the hair on Delia’s arm rise.

“No. Not exactly,” Iyuno said. His voice drawled in laziness.

Delia didn’t like the way he drew it out. “Then what? It’s certainly not for our sparkling conversation.”

It was Iyuno’s turn to chuckle. “Your time with the humans has made you sarcastic. Very charming.” He traded glances with Nethene.

Nethene nodded. “We are studying you. The only raven-haired elf! We want to see what you can do. I’ll have to say the day was a bit of a disappointment.”

Delia dug her nails into her palm to resist a retort. Beside her, Kaya drank her water with a nonchalance Delia envied. She picked up her wine and sipped, hoping she looked as uncaring as Kaya. “So sorry to underwhelm.” She looked around the dining room with her magical sight. All of the doors had a fine mesh of magic over them. The black elves had dark brown auras. Iyuno, Nethene, and Ceinno’s were all black. Apparently in his own company, Nethene didn’t bother to project the false aura. The wine and water didn’t have any magical properties. That didn’t mean they weren’t poisoned. Delia made a mental note to see if there was a way to see poison. If she got out of here alive, anyway. “What are you looking for?”

Nethene shrugged. “Something worthy of a prophesy.”

“What do you think of my protection spell?” Iyuno leaned forward, eyes on Delia.

“It’s very strong,” Delia offered. “But I’m new at magic. I don’t really have a frame of reference.”

Iyuno looked to Kaya. “And you? You’re twice Delia’s age. What is your opinion?”

“My skills tend more toward the healing arts.”

Iyuno fell back into his chair. “I saw you both at the gate yesterday. Neither of you fool me. And with the door to your room this morning? I could feel the power. Who was working on the door?”

“We both were,” Kaya spoke quickly. “A combined effort.”

Nethene frowned. Delia could see he was skeptical. “I could feel a shield.”

Delia shrugged. Kaya took a sip of her wine.

Iyuno waved to a guard. The elf left the room and shortly, several elves came in bringing plates of food. Delia’s stomach growled immediately. Ceinno laughed as he placed his napkin in his lap. “The body can be such a traitor.”

Delia couldn’t help but blush. Kaya gave her hand a squeeze. They ate quickly. Delia still wanted to know what Iyuno was up to. When he finished his food and one of the elves took the plate away, Delia asked, “Where is my father?”

Iyuno looked toward her, picking up his wine. “He’s dead.”

Delia stared at him. A feeling of overwhelming grief washed through her with such speed she stopped breathing. She hadn’t known him that long. The strength of the feeling surprised her. Again, Kaya squeezed her hand. Delia nodded. It was possible that if these three were in here having dinner at their leisure, that her father was dead, and his force destroyed. Tears sprang to her eyes. “You lie.”

Iyuno shrugged. “We march on your father’s palace now.”

An instantaneous fear for her mother swept over her, replacing the grief. “Why?”

Nethene snorted again. “Iyuno is the rightful heir. The elves will proclaim it or they will die.”

“Liar,” Kaya called out. “Liar. Anyone can see by looking at the three of you that you are not fit to rule the kingdom.

Ceinno reached out a hand and made a grasping motion. Kaya’s hand flew up to her neck. She began to turn red, choking.

“Stop it!” Delia turned on Ceinno and with a push of her hand, knocked him out of his seat to go sliding across the dining room floor. The black elf guards were on her in an instant, swords out. Nethene leapt from his chair and had both hands out in front of him. Delia could see the magic, all black and ugly, swirling between his hands. Kaya collapsed into her chair, leaning over the table, coughing.

“Stop!” Iyuno held up a hand.

Nethene looked as though he’d been slapped, but he let the black magic die away. One of the guards helped Ceinno up. He dusted himself up and sauntered back to the table. “You see, cousin, uncle, how powerful she is.” He sat down and picked up his wine glass. “She has strength. She’d be a powerful ally.”

Delia’s eys went wide. “The is no way.”

Iyuno laughed. “Of course there is.”

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 33.

1114 Words

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Slave Elf Part 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

http://magikstock.deviantart.com/art/Camel-1-319794644

Part 2

 

As the camels followed the wagon ahead of them, I sat, half-conscious on the wagon seat. How did this happen to me? I’d asked around over the years, humans staring at the slave brand on my hand. Elves were never slaves, it seemed, but me. What was wrong with me that the elves left me with these slavers? Were elf children so plentiful that one could be snatched away and no one cared?

 

I’d seen elves in the caravan’s travels. Aloof, regal, I longed to shout out to them but Master Corpet, and his father and grandfather, made sure I was chained in my wagon when elves were about. I didn’t even really know anything about elves. Their culture, who they worshipped, favorite foods. The darkness came over me, as had for years. Snippets of memories surfaced of me as a toddler, my parents, laughing, singing, making music. I could almost hear it.

 

The snap of a quirt on my thigh brought me out of my dream. Tears flowed unbidden at the sudden pain. When I blinked, Emil was on horseback beside the wagon, laughing. An evil laugh that reminded me he didn’t care if I hurt or not.

 

“Master Corpet bids you read this and write a response.” He handed me the paper. He didn’t want to throw it in case it blew away. He’d be the one chasing it down.

 

I took it and nodded. “Right away.”

 

Emil snorted then wheeled his horse around and galloped off to the rear of the caravan where the horses were being herded.

I opened the paper and read.

 

Master Corpet,

 

Greetings and well met. Lord Verden passed away last winter. A great loss to his family, friends, and the city, Katzin, as well. As his nephew and heir, I will greet you at the palace at your earliest convenience. Send word on your arrival and an audience will be arranged.

 

As to your business, Uncle left clear direction. I will continue to support you in your endeavors. We will speak of it in person.

 

Lord Trayford

 

Nothing unusual. Much of Master Corpet’s work was done in person, so I wasn’t concerned about that part of the letter. That the old Lord was dead, again, humans have so short a life, I wasn’t surprised by that either. I’d never met the man. I puzzled a bit over …your endeavors. As the master’s book-keeper I was sure I knew all the master’s business. Some of it less than legal, but there seemed nothing Lord Trayford could help with, unless it was protecting the caravan routes from competitors.  I folded the letter and tucked it in my sleeve pocket. No response could be written until the wagons stopped and we neared Katzin.

 

After we camped and I had fetched water for my wagon, I went to see Master Corpet. I stood silently at the back of his wagon as he gave direction to the camel drover leader, the slave minder, and Emil. Emil spit in the sand at my feet as he left the master to take care of his tasks.

 

Corpet grinned at me. “And you, little Delia. What do you have?”

 

I swallowed my gall at the diminutive. I was forty years older than he was. “Other than announcement of our arrival in Katzin, do you want anything else included in the letter to Lord Trayford?”

 

He shook his head; his turban ends swinging gently. “No. That will be all. We will arrive tomorrow. Give me the letter in the morning and I’ll send it from the gate. The lord won’t be ready for me until well after we get to the caravanserai and I have a chance to bathe and refresh myself.”

 

“Yes, master.” I bowed and turned to go.

 

“Delia.”

 

I turned back to him. “Master.”

 

He studied me a long moment. I could feel myself begin to tremble. What was he thinking?

 

“When did you come to us?”

 

I bit my tongue at his choice of words. Come to us? As though it were my idea and I was an honored guest? “I was six, Master. Sixty-three years, eight months, eleven days.”

 

He nodded. “My grandfather. Papa told me. That’s a long time to be a slave.”

 

I shivered, clasping my hands so that he couldn’t see them shake. “I think so, Master. That’s three human generations. A whole human lifetime.” I lifted my chin as I spoke then fearing I’d gone too far, ducked my head and shifted my gaze to the sand.

 

He grunted. “Indeed. That’s all.” He turned and went into his wagon, calling for his personal slave, Sam, to bring him wine.

 

That’s it? I thought. That’s all he wanted? Still trembling I hurried back to my wagon. I put the kettle on for tea and sat at my table, waiting for it to boil. What was that about? What is Corpet thinking? One more day until we arrived at Katzin. We went there every year, twice a year. Out and back on the Corpet trade route. The far end being Midton, the end we just came from, Kitgate. Over a thousand miles, back and forth for the last sixty-three years. Sandstorms, raiders, famine, drought, I’d seen it all, over and over. The water boiled. Half I poured into my mug and dropped in a few tea leaves. The rest I poured into the basin and added cold water.

 

I washed away the dust of the day as best I could and tossed the dirty water out the back of the wagon. I watched it disappear into the sand. Like me, I thought. I was tossed into the mass of humanity, never to be seen again. My chest grew tight at the thought. Lost. Lost.

 

 

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 3.

961 Words

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