The Party: Chapter 4 – Andy McGuire Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 4: Andy McGuire

Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of the Chief of Staff Andy McGuire entered the President Jeff Master’s private office. The Chief of Staff, Duncan Angelson was standing in the middle of the room. The president was on the sofa with a young, blond, woman in his lap. The young woman was wearing a sleeveless, low cut, tight fitting blouse in hot pink and the president had his hand up her tiny skirt, grinning like a small boy with his favorite toy. Andy thought the woman was barely legal but who knew. He moved his eyes to his boss, Duncan.

Duncan read from a folder. “Mr. President. After four years, the internment of undesirables is down. They’ve mostly been sent to internment camps and put to work for the good of the motherland. Dissidents, on the other hand—those numbers are up. But they’re getting harder to catch.”

Out of the corner of his eye Andy could see the president nuzzling the woman’s neck. He focused. “Chief, a message from the Secretary of Homeland Security.” He handed McGuire the sheet of paper and waited while the man read it.

“This is some news, Mr. President. The Immaculata have seized a small group of dissidents right here in Washington. They’re being interrogated as we speak. They expect they’ll get a number of leads on other groups.”

“Good,” the President said into the woman’s neck. “Good.” He moved his hand down her bare leg to her knee and moved it further aside. His hand went back up her skirt. “Keep me apprised. Dismissed.”

The Chief of Staff nodded. “Very good, sir. A reminder that the women’s volleyball team will be here in an hour and a half for a photo op.”

The President raised his head and grinned. “Excellent. Lovely young ladies, those.” He went back to his nuzzling, pushing the woman further back.

The Chief caught Andy’s eye and we left the room. Andy swallowed his bile and wished to go wash his hands, but he followed the Chief to his office. He closed the doors behind them.

“Make sure the President is cleaned up and in the Oval and the woman paid off and escorted out as soon as he’s done. Get the news crew into the office and set up before he gets in there.”

Andy nodded. The whole situation was disgusting but that was the world they were living in now. “The People’s Party leader, Mr. Evans, wants a meeting today.” Evans was the brains behind the president, who Andy was starting to believe was more than a little senile. But as long as he was kept in blonde young women and had time to watch eight hours of news and political commentary a day with his phone in hand to send out tweets, he was controllable. Evans, however, was merciless. Paid off by the top one percent of the one percent, the ultra-rich were now in charge of the country. Mega-corporations pretty much owned everything. The air, water and land was becoming more polluted already as environmental laws were repealed.

“What’s he want?”

“I suspect the little revolt in Congress the other day concerns him. He’s going to want those Senators taken care of.”

McGuire nodded, sighing. “Yeah. I figured as much. Can any of them be bought off?”

“Anyone who would take a payoff has pretty much been in our pocket for two years now. These are the radical hold-outs.” Andy wasn’t sure how the People’s Party had missed taking over those districts but that wouldn’t last much longer. The mid-term elections would see those Senators replaced. If they lived that long.

“See if they’ll be bought off. If not, arrange something.” He turned on his computer. He had work to do.

Andy nodded and left, stomach rolling. He was hoping they’d take a bribe. If not, the party had some people I could call. It would all look like accidents of course. They always did. And, for the sake of the visuals, they wouldn’t happen all at once. But it would happen. Oh yes. It would happen.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 3 Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 3: Devon Brown

Devon trembled in the backseat of a monstrous black SUV beside his sister, Caitlin. The truck was so big, the officers had had to lift them both up to the back seat.  Both of them had their hands handcuffed behind their backs. Caitlin was crying, calling out, “Mommy, Mommy,” snot running down her face. That bothered him. His mother wouldn’t like it but what could he do?

He didn’t understand. Did Daddy do something wrong? Why’d they take him away? Why did the soldiers take him and Caitlin away? He slid a little closer to his sister so that they were side by side. What was going to happen? Where were they going? He was too short to see out of the windows. When he tried to crane up, all he could see were rooftops. He stopped when the soldier riding up front told him to sit back.

They drove for a long time. He was glad when Caitlin fell asleep, her little blond head against his shoulder. He was too upset to go to sleep. His hands were full of prickles, but he didn’t want to shift around, it would wake his sister. Every few minutes the soldier checked his mirror, watching Devon. It scared him, so he sat very still.

It seemed like a long time but finally the car pulled up to a gate. The driver’s window went down and a soldier stuck his head in to look in the backseat. “Go on,” he said, and the car went in. They came to a big building and the car stopped at the front door. The two soldiers got out and Caitlin woke up as the doors slammed shut.

“Devon?”

“We’re here,” he told her as the passenger doors opened at the same time. The driver pulled him out of the car as the other soldier pulled Caitlin out. Devon’s legs had fallen asleep along with his hands and he collapsed to the sidewalk, skinning his knees.

“Stand up, kid.” He pulled Devon up by the back of his t-shirt.

“My legs are asleep.”

“Great.” The soldier kept hold of Devon’s shirt and joined Caitlin and her guard at the door. They went in and nodded to the soldier at the desk near the door. He nodded back and they went across a lobby and down a hall. There were a lot of halls, Devon thought, and soon, he had no idea where they were of what was going on. They were taken to a place where people in white uniforms, like doctors, took them after the handcuffs were taken off.

The soldiers left and the aides made them undress. Devon had trouble. His hands didn’t want to work. One aide had to undress him. Devon didn’t like that but there was nothing he could do. They were sent into a shower together. Devon helped Caitlin wash her face and when they came out, they were given gray cotton pants and shirts with numbers on them to wear—and picked up and put in barber chairs. Devon didn’t think he needed a haircut, he’d just been a few days ago with his dad. The barber took clippers and ran them over his head. Horrified, he watched as they did the same to Caitlin. She began to cry and fight them. One of the aides grabbed her hands and told her to shut up. It was over in just a moment, her blonde hair scattered all over the floor.

They were escorted to another place and a doctor looked at them. Then another place where there were other kids, standing in lines. Girls in one and boys in another. Caitlin didn’t like that and started crying again, calling for Devon. An aide came down the line and slapped her and told her to shut up.

“No!” Devon yelled and began to go to her. An aide grabbed him by the arm, slapped him, and shoved him back into line so hard he fell. “Get up, kid.” And the aide walked away. Devon, shaking, stood up. He’d never been hit by an adult. Never. He didn’t know what to think. Caitlin cried quietly, watching him, as the line kept moving. She reached the desk first.

“Six years old,” the man said. He waved his hand and an aide led her away. She didn’t want to go and fought the aide, but it did no good. He dragged her, screaming, “Devon,” until they left the room. Then it was his turn.

“Eight years old,” the man said as he checked a tablet. He waved and an aide took Devon away in a different direction than Caitlin had went.

“What about my sister?” he asked.

“Shut up,” was the only answer.

They entered a room where there were other boys sitting at desks. Devon saw that the boys sat, hands folded on their desks, eyes straight ahead. Not one boy turned to see him come in.

The man in the room checked his tablet, then nodded at the aide, who left.

“Boy. Pay attention. I’m Mr. George. You are now called 9280970. Remember that. It’s the number on your shirt. Say it.” He stood, staring at Devon.

“9280970,” Devon said in a voice that cracked.

“Good. There is no talking unless you are asked a direct question. Is that understood?”

Devon nodded.

“Do what you are told and it will go easy on you. If you disobey, or don’t follow directions, you’ll be punished. Do you understand?”

Devon nodded again. He tried to swallow but his mouth was dry. This place was scary.

“Sit over there, Row four, chair six. That is your place.”

Devon nodded and walked over to the seat.

“Hands folded on the desk. Eyes to the front.”

Devon did as he was told. This is not good, he remembered his father always saying. He was right.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 2 Capt Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Just by happenstance, I recently picked up a copy of Trevayne, written by Robert Ludlum. In his introduction, he mentioned that he wrote the book after the Nixon Watergate scandal. In part he says of Watergate: “Here was the government, the highest of our elected and appointed officials entrusted with the guardianship of our system, not only lying to the people but collecting millions upon millions of dollars to perpetuate their lies and thus the controls they believed were theirs alone to exercise.” He goes on to point out that their meaning was to keep the country theirs. Not yours or mine, or even the neighbors across the street or across town. Only theirs. “The rest of us were somehow neither relevant nor competent. They knew better, therefore the lies had to continue and the coffers of ideological purity kept full so that the impure could be blitzkrieged by money and buried at the starting gates of political contests.”

It was like that during Watergate.In my humble opinion, it is even more so now.

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 2: Captain Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn closed the electronic notebook after Bill Brown was taken away. On either side of him, Lieutenant Daryll Moss and Lieutenant Lee Woden, stood up. They’d been at the interviews all afternoon.

“Why do they all say the same thing? I want to slap every one of them.” Moss shoved his chair under the table.

“I hear ya.” Woden did the same with his chair and they headed for the door. “You’d think one of them could say something original.”

“Captain Flynn?” Moss stopped a moment at the door. “More of this tomorrow?”

“Yep.” Flynn tucked the notebook into his briefcase. “The round-up are continuing.”

“Jesus Christ.” Woden opened the door. “Who knew so many non-whites were in the country. Like that last guy. Didn’t even know he was black?” Woden shook his head. “No wonder the country’d gone to hell in a hand basket.”

The officers left the room. Flynn headed for his office. “See you tomorrow, guys.”

“See ya,” the two offices said as they went the other direction.

Flynn knew the statistics, a good portion of the country had genetic markers for other races than Caucasian. That poor bastard Brown was turned in by a neighbor for unpatriotic activities. Flynn saw from the report it was bullshit, but the genetics didn’t lie. So he’d been rounded up. Flynn sighed to himself. Cameras were everywhere so there was no show of questions or remorse allowed about carrying out commands from headquarters.

At his office he locked the notebook in the safe, it had records of thousands of people in it, and checked for end of day messages. Nothing important, he was relieved to see, so he headed home.

The next morning, he was in a meeting with the Commander, 43rd Mobilization and Relocation Squadron and other squadron department heads. It was near the end of the meeting and Flynn was feeling thankful nothing strange was relayed today. Since President Master’s had declared marshal law and declared himself President for Life, things had been crazy. Hopefully it would settle down now.

Commander Green cleared his throat. Flynn looked up. That always signaled bad news. “Gentlemen.” The commander took a breath. “Any remaining female officers and enlisted in your departments are hearby issued orders to report to Personnel for honorable discharge.”

All around the table, each department head’s notebook began chiming. “Those are the orders. Share that information with your female subordinates and send them on their way. They’ll have a week to clear base quarters if they reside there. Personnel will take care of everything.”

Flynn was relieved. The Immaculata had been male only from the start, the seventh year of President Master’s legal presidency. He’d hate to face good subordinates with that news. The other people didn’t look happy but said nothing. There was nothing to say.

He wasn’t so relived at the next announcement.

“Lastly, the transport company we’ve been using for prisoner transport has lost their contract. Now we’ll be using Weyland Industries beginning Monday. They’ll also be responsible for prisoner feeding. You’ll find new forms available to you starting Friday. Call Contracting if you have any issues. That will be all. All hail President Marshall.”

“All hail,” each man at the table responded in unison. Then they all rose and left the room.

Outside the command admin, Captain Dean Joyce caught up with Flynn. He checked the hall around them and in a soft voice asked, “Isn’t Weland Industries owned by the President’s sister?”

Flynn gave a short nod. “Yep.”

“Isn’t that nepotism? At the least, conflict of interest?”

Flynn gave Joyce a look, eyebrow raised.

Joyce took the hint. “None of my business, I guess. I just hope they feed these poor bastards better than the last company. I wouldn’t feed that swill to my dad’s pigs.”

A short shake of the head was Flynn’s response. “Seventeen hundred calories is the regulation. Doesn’t say anything about the gourmet level.”

“I guess.” Joyce dropped back and turned right into his corridor.

Flynn agreed with the guy, but he wasn’t going to say so. Too many cameras and out in public spaces especially, microphones too. He was sure his office was bugged. He was also sure his car was too. No matter. He’d joined the Army fifteen years ago. He’d pledged to support and defend the country every four years since then. He’d been chosen to join the Immaculata. An elite force, he’d been told. Part of Homeland Security, helping to combat attacks against the United States.

And so it seemed, the first couple of years. They’d rounded up several groups identified by the FBI and the CIA as fomenting dissent and radicalizing youth, especially in urban areas. He thought he’d been doing some good. Now, this wasn’t what he’d signed up for but there didn’t seem to be any way out. His own wife was Army. While he didn’t have any female members, his wife worked in Communications, the squadron commander, for Pete’s sake. Dinner was going to be unpleasant.

At his office he reviewed the interviews for the day. He was a third of the way through the list when a name popped out at him. Zuri Flynn. His breath caught in his throat. It was his sister-in-law. His heart sank. Her family was Jewish. His brother was going to be crushed. He loved Zuri.

Flynn closed his eyes. Thank God there were no children. That would be too much. Why did they put her in his interview room? A message, he was sure. If it could happen to his family, it could happen to anyone. He leaned over and grabbed his trashcan and vomited. Better to get it out of his system now. He wouldn’t be able to offer any emotion in the room. Zuri would be devastated.

Thank you for reading.

Sparky the Spiney Lizard: Flash Fiction Friday Story Post

Sparky lived in the desert. She liked it there. It was hot and dry and the sun beat down from the sky every day and make her feel all warm and sleepy.

Sparky set off on a trip, one day. She felt the need to find a new home. The one where she grew up was very crowded with her brothers and sisters. So she bid everyone farewell, and began to travel.

She came upon a very nice agave. It was just beginning to send up a flower stalk. The flower bud at the top of the stalk was at least ten times bigger than Sparky. Evening was coming on so she crawled under the lowest leaves and went to sleep.

In the morning, she crawled out, oh so slowly, as her blood was very cool, to lie in the sun. It felt very good there and as she warmed up, she whipped out her long tongue and caught a passing fly. Yum! Breakfast. This is a nice spot, Sparky thought to herself. A nice place to hide and bugs passing by to eat. What else can I ask for?

Sparky explored the area,  A rock wall was a short distance away with a nice flat top for sunning herself and great little cracks between the rocks for hiding if a bird happened to fly overhead. There was wooden fence as well which Sparky climbed. It went up very high but Sparky wasn’t afraid. Her toes had sticky pads and she could hang onto the wood of the wall very well. What surprised her though, was the sight in front of her when she peered over the top.

It was a riot of color and flowers. Sparky had never seen so many flowers in her whole life.

“Hi there.” Suddenly, a giant butterfly flew up from the flowers and hovered in front of the lizard.

Startled, Sparky blinked. “Um. Hi.”

“I’m Indigo,” the butterfly said.

Sparky watched the long lower wings shift and sway with the butterfly’s fluttering. “I’m Sparky,” she finally remembered to say. “What is all that?”

Indigo fluttered down to the flowers and back to the top of the fence. “That’s a flower garden. I just love it. All kinds of different flowers with lots of nectar for me to eat. It’s nice and moist, too. The human who grows the flowers, waters them often.”

“Oh.” Sparky rolled the thought of nectar and water around in her mind. “I don’t eat nectar.” She blinked and quick as a flash, lashed out her tongue and caught another fly. “And, I’m not partial to a lot of water, either.” She shivered a little at the thought of cold water on her warm, dry skin. “But if you like it, great.”

“Thanks.” Indigo fluttered down to the flowers. She settled on an orange one and Sparky thought Indigo’s purple and blue wings looked very nice against the orange. “There are a lot of bugs, too, if that’s what you like.”

Sparky nodded. “But what if the human waters?”

“Oh. Don’t worry. Humans make a lot of noise. You’ll have plenty of time to get away before you get wet.

So, Sparky lived in the front yard and Indigo lived in the back. They met every morning in the garden after they warmed up and ate, and played, and rested. Best friends for life.

Tornado: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Tornado by sh4d0wqu33n 
https://www.deviantart.comsh4d0wqu33nartTornado-20808879

Tornado by sh4d0wqu33n
https://www.deviantart.com/sh4d0wqu33n/art/Tornado-20808879

It’s become a thing. Really. It never used to happen my mom said. Never. It was the mid-west, she told me. Kansas, Oklahoma, those kinds of places. Not Arizona. Not Nevada or Utah. But now—now we all have storm shelters.

It’s bad right now. Spring. Right. The worst. The sirens go off nearly daily. We grab our stuff, head down into the shelter. Last month we were down here for three days. One tornado after the other. I don’t complain. I live, well, lived, in a trailer park. There were dugout shelters but not as good as the one here at school. There’s water in this one. And vid. The teachers want to hear the news, but we get to watch the latest stuff too. It’s not so bad.

I haven’t told them mom was lost in the one last month. She was high and didn’t hear the sirens I guess. The whole trailer park was wiped out. I told admin she was in California. They’re lettin’ me stay here. For now. No matter. Graduation is in a month and a half. I’ll be able to do my own thing after that. Momma called me Heidi Bateson. After my dad’s mom, I guess. She never said.

Global warming they called it. I don’t care. That was twenty years ago. What’s that to me now? The planet, they say on the vid, is in a major drought. All of the weather patterns have gone haywire. What’s that to me? I’m a poor kid from a poor area. No one gives a crap about the likes of us. I just need to be smart. Stay in the groove that will keep me in food and shelter. The geeks have it easy. They’re always talking about gettin’ on with the big gloms. I guess. There has to be somethin’ else valuable.

Space is an option. I’m healthy. They need miners. I see the ads all the time. Then there’s the planetary ships. I’m not a geek, but they need healthy women, right? Go somewhere, like they say, the old Earth. Like it used to be.

Acting. I’m acting all the damn time. I could do that. Get rich. They couldn’t do anything to me then. I’d have all the best. A gold-plated shelter. Plenty of food and water. Any vid channel I want.

The teachers all drone on and on about what has to be done next. Like it makes a difference. Like anyone cares. It’s always gonna be like this, right? Desert forever. I’m a red-head, I use my sunblock just like they say. No sunburn for me. Not many red-heads now, I hear. All the better to be an actress, right?

My friend, Bectie, is one of the geeks. Don’t know why she likes to hang with me but she’s cool. She says I should stay away from the boys. There’ll be a big market for a girl like me. Genetics, she called it. I guess cause there’s not a lot of red-heads. Maybe that’ll be a card for the planetary ships. Stay cool, she told me. I believe her. She’s ultra-smart. Her parents work for the gloms. One of the biggest. All into the planetary ships and the food tanks. She’ll have a spot, she says. She’ll take me with her. I play hard to get but she’s right. And she’s cute. I can dig that.

I do have to try and get one thing. My mom had a gold chain. A locket, she called it. Kept it in a secret place in the trailer. I’d like to get that. Gold is valuable. Not much left to be found. So I need that. Had a picture of my granma and granpa. I never met ‘em. Died before I was born. Ma said they died of heart break. I don’t know what that means. She said their ranch died. Not sure what that means either. But no matter. If I get that chain, I’ll have gold. Maybe enough to be an actress.

As soon as the storm ends, I’m headed to the trailer. Some of it must be left, am I right? Some of it?

###

Announcement over the school loudspeakers:

That’s it for todays activities. Now, a roll call of yesterday’s student losses.

Howard Dukelow

Ethel Lipowitz

Miriam Skrownek

Heidi Bateson

Donnie Ford

Steve Barca

Tina Morales

May God take mercy on their souls.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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?