July 28, Part 2

bernicons            “The military leaders of UK’s armed forces have met today with leaders from France and Italy to discuss strategy for the impeding war with Germany. We have with us former General Nathan Howe and diplomatic correspondent Maria Chavez to enlighten us further on just what this means. General Howe, Ms. Chavez, thank you for coming to the studio today.”

            “Of course, Rachel.”

            “So Ms Chavez, what do you think the of the likelihood that the UK can persuade the United States to join their cause?”

            “To be honest, Rachel, it’s very touch-and-go at this point. UK leaders are wary to make any sort of military alliance with the United States ever since the early 2000s when they did nothing to stop the turmoil that the US tangentially set into motion after their War on Terror campaign. Luckily, we’ve been in an extended period of peace so there’s been no real need to bring up these concerns. President Michelle Obama-Johnson expressed in a White House meeting that her nation’s government feels for their ally and does indeed want to help, but the King is hesitating to reply. Although he may not have that option for long.”

            “Are there any other world powers you can think of willing to help in this fight?”

            “As you know, the Ethiopian government was eager to send aid after the bombing of Fort George Alexander Louis- but they may not officially issue military help just yet. China is also staying on the sidelines for now. Many are in the face of Germany.”

            “Bloody cowards.”

            “Do you have anything to add about China, General Howe?”

            “None. I’m talking about the Germans Miss Carter. But the bloody Germans are cowards though.”

            “Why do you say that?”

            “The EMP bombs they drop in the battle field short circuit soldier’s implants-“

The nurse lowered the television volume so that it could barely be heard. Sam grimaced, the subtitles were moving much too slow for him to care to keep up. “I was watching that,” he said.

The nurse smiled sweetly. “I’m here to prep you for surgery, Mr. Vance. You won’t see the end of the program anyway.”

“But Richard hasn’t come yet.”

“Your family will need to hurry up then,” she said chipperly, “There’s a list of soldiers waiting for cybernetic prosthetics and today is your day.”

Sam checked the time. “But it’s two hours away.”

“Prep takes a while, Mr. Vance. I’m sure your husband will be here shortly. Now please sit up.”

She pulled away the sheet that covered Sam’s lower half and though he didn’t want to look, he did. He had been forcing himself to look at his legs; what was left of them, as they ended mid-thigh. He had been very lucky. Much luckier than Sgt. March or Lt. Colonel Whittaker or really anyone else. Sam was one of three survivors of Fort George Alexander Louis.

“Sam!” called a familiar voice. Sam looked up and felt Richard’s lips lock on his. Richard then pulled away out of breath. “Sorry I’m late.”

“You’re right on time, Mr. Vance,” noted the nurse. She eyed the two. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

“It’s not like there’s much privacy to be had here, ma’am,” observed Richard. The large room was just partitioned off to make little ‘rooms’ for the recovering soldiers.

“I’ll be back, soon,” she said in an octave lower than her regular voice as she stepped away. It was a Terminator VIII that had come out last year. Had Sam known any of this was going to happen, he might have taken Richard out to see it.

Richard sat beside Sam, holding his hand. He was somber. Sam rubbed his husband’s hand in his. “I can’t just sit on the sidelines, Richard.”

“Paul wouldn’t want you to do this,” he said, not looking Sam in the eyes. “Not to just look for him.”

“I know he’s out there.”

“No, you don’t.” Richard’s voice was much more stern. “I don’t like this idea of you getting these legs so you can go to a warzone and find Paul.”

“What am I supposed to do, Richard? He’s MIA behind enemy lines!”

“Do you really think your superiors are going to let you go on a wild goose chase to find Paul?!”

“He’d do the same for me!” Sam had yelled too loud, he could see it in Richard’s face. Sam reached out and pulled Richard’s face toward his, resting it forehead to forehead. “I’m coming back baby. I promise.”

“Sam, don’t-”

Sam pulled Richard in for a kiss. “I promise.”

First, Do No Harm (Part 2)

raboicons

“A mercy? You leave people as emotionless automatons! And that’s only if I believe your propaganda. God knows what you actually do to people.”

“Please, Mr. Jones. I’m going to have to ask you to lower your voice.”

And as he mentions it I realize that I am yelling and that Brittany is still behind me, ready and willing to end our little argument with the help of the security which they no doubt keep on ready call. It’s still hard to calm myself knowing what they might be doing to Emily even now but I know that I’ll had have to shift tactics if I hope to win this game. As easy as it was to sway his adjundant I know that the good doctor will not be coerced so easily. I take a deep breath and settle back into the leather chair, hoping that he can see I am calm once more.

“Very well. As I was saying, we do not leave anyone as an emotionless automaton, as you put it, but as beings which are much more capable of coping with the daily stress of–”

“And you’ve undergone the procedure yourself, of course.”

I hoped the question would give him pause but of course he plowed on with barely a blink. “Would you walk into a cancer ward and ask the doctor in charge if he had undergone chemotherapy? Our procedure is an extreme one, I admit, but one which is only suitable or applicable for those who truly need it. Fortunately I am not one though I regret to say you fiance was a classic case.”

Of course it hurts to hear him describe her as a “classic case” as if anything about Emily MacIntyre could have been ordinary or classic. She was—she is one of the most unique people I have ever met and that’s part of why I love her.

“You have documents proving she was assigned the. . . procedure of her own free will?”

“Of course.” Now he’s on comfortable footing. Hopefully he will remain so as I gather my next argument. Anything to let me see her before they’ve destroyed what I love about her. “I might add too that Ms. MacIntyre was desperate for the procedure and was prescribed it by our highly qualified psychiatric–”

“Spare me.” I don’t mind interrupting him and almost gather that he expected it.

“Consultants. Emily was, you’ll notice I use the past tense, troubled by many feelings of insecurity and fear. She was consistently afraid of certain aspects of herself and others which would drive her to daily panic attacks which verged on seizures. She–”

“She’s a goddamn artist.”

“Mr. Jones, are you here to disparage our profession and the very well being of one you swear to hold so dear, or are you hear to discuss her future and that of her current surgeries?”

I swallow my pride then, remembering that I am the intruder and regardless of my threats of lawsuit the doctor and his charlatans would be all too likely to win. They know that even if I were to pursue the case it would be far too late to save Emily and I know it as well.

“Go on.”

“As I was saying, her mental distress was to a point which was far beyond the help of normal psychiatric drugs or therapy,” He pauses and and raises an eyebrow as if he is waiting for me to interrupt once more but I hold my tongue. “And she came to us desperate, alone, and seeing no other options. Many of our patients do.”

Dr. Lowe gestures behind me then and for a moment I fear that the secretary will be flanked by armed guards but she merely hands forward a fat dossier with the neatly printed title “Emily MacIntyre.”

The good charlatan doctor begins to flip through it and again I wonder if he is waiting for me to lash out again. I sense that he sees the interview as coming to an end and feels himself as the winner. Little does he know that I will tackle and push my way through every person in this building to see Emily before they’ve destroyed her. To see her once more as she was. As she is.

“Mr. Jones, was it?”

“Yes. Marquis Jones. Engaged to the woman you people are set to dismantle.”

“Interesting.” Both his eyebrows are raised now and suddenly I feel that I am the only person in the room not privy to a complex inside joke. “I will have to ask you to leave then.”

“What? Do you know what I can do to you–”

He interrupts me though, and the seriousness in his voice, so different from the affected airs which he’s held to this point, stops me.

“Mr. Jones. I am under no obligation to tell you this; however, I feel it would do you some good to hear it.” He takes a deep breath. “In our folder here we have a copy of a restraining order which Ms. MacIntyre took against you the day before we accepted her to our facility.”

Meet Janice, Part 2

kellyiconCoffee day usually came every couple of years, or whenever Satan and Jehovah could find time to slip away from work for an hour or two. Jehovah’s favorite place was a little diner off one of New Jersey’s turnpikes. Satan usually stuck to coffee and some soup, but Jehovah always bought the largest stack of pancakes the diner offered and slathered them in so much maple syrup it flowed over the rim of the plate and dripped onto the table. Jehovah never appeared for their lunch in the same form, and today Jehovah looked like a middle-aged woman, dark brown hair graying at the sides and dressed in a long, flowing cotton skirt and a blouse with a flower pattern.

“You know, when I first created the Earth and all that,” Jehovah said, stabbing a fork into the mountain of pancakes, “Pancakes weren’t really on my mind. I know they’d come along eventually, but I was always looking forward to the books and the music and the math, to watch people grow and discover the universe.”

“The meaning of life stuff,” Satan said, remembering an old conversation. He usually took the same form every time he came to Earth: slicked-back black hair, sunglasses, and a sharp suit, and always in the current style. Janice always scolded him for his vanity whenever he sent her to look up the latest fashion.

“Exactly,” Jehovah said, cutting out a towering wedge of pancakes. Through a mouth full of breakfast bread, Jehovah continued, “But who would have thought breakfast foods would be so splendid? Scones, pancakes, french toast, waffles, cheese, fruits, omelets, cereals, tea, coffee – the varieties they’ve come up with are endless. So much for omnipotence, eh?”

“So you say.” Jehovah never passed up a chance to play down the omnipotence thing, and Satan never had decided if it was to tease him or to try and make him feel more at ease. Was God capable of false modesty? There was a thought to keep one up at night.

“So I do,” Jehovah said. “How’s work?”

“Same as it’s always been. Hot and full of sinners.”

Satan considered telling Jehovah about Mrs. Timely. The angry, rebellious eons after his fall were behind them now, but still not far enough behind them to match the eons Satan spent cursing his creator’s name and working to undermine the Creation. Eden was still a sore spot between them, and bad habits died hard. Satan still considered Hell to be his, run without the interference of outside powers and resented the very idea of Jehovah butting in on his business. On the other hand, Satan liked to considered himself an adult now. Adults didn’t shy away from helpful advice, right?

“There is this one woman,” Satan said,

“Oh?”

“A suicide. Took her own life because she thought cheating on her husband with a woman was irredeemable.”

“Inadvisable, certainly, but not irredeemable.”

“That’s what I told her. I don’t think it got through, though. She believe she belongs in the Pit and I’m not sure what’ll get through to her. Any thoughts, O wise Creator?”

Jehovah swirled a wedge of butter through the syrup with the fork, seemingly lost in thought. Again, Satan couldn’t help but wonder if it was a show put on for his benefit – after all, God would know all the answers, right? – or if Jehovah truly needed a moment to think. It was one of the things he found most infuriating about dealing with the deity.

“That kind of thinking runs deep,” Jehovah said, finally. “She didn’t cheat on her husband and then suddenly decide she needed to die. These things build with time, you know, like steam in a stopped-up kettle. You might have to take extra care with this one. Go back, see what started it all.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Jehovah said, finishing off the last bite of pancakes. “The rest is up to you. Do you want to take the time to help this woman, or just shake your head and tell yourself what a shame it all is? I can’t answer that for you, I’m afraid. Never could. But I know you. You’ve never just sat by a day in your life.”

First, Do No Harm, Part 1

kellyiconThe receptionist-slashed-counselor ran her long, manicured nails through her hair, thoroughly fed up that I was taking up her time. An hour had passed by since I stepped into her small office, and since then the meticulously put-together and initially polite woman now looked like she was at the end of her rope.

“Mr. Jones, we’ve been very clear about this,” she said, and to be fair, even though her lips were pursed so tightly the skin around them was white, her professional tone never faulted. I wondered how many angry family and spouses she had dealt with as part of her job. “We don’t typically allow significant others or even family members to see the patient at this stage.”

On the wall behind her were several medical degrees in dour, professional-looking frames. A betting man could make good money wagering on how many of them came from the internet.

“The patient is still too unstable to receive visitors at this stage, and Dr. Lowe…”

“Wouldn’t want me calling my lawyer after seeing how you people operate?” I said, cutting her off. Whatever sympathy I had for her was cut short by the fact that she was standing between me and Emily. “You might be seeing a lawyer at this rate as it is. I don’t think I have to remind you that the last case brought against people like you did not end favorably.”

“Mr. Jones, there’s no need to threaten legal action. Miss Benson was fully aware of the full range of consequences of the procedure and consented willingly.”

“Ma’am, I know that at this point there’s little legal action can do. It won’t be for Emily, you see. It’ll be for me and the joy I will get from watching you and your boss being dragged kicking and screaming into court. Everyone knows that you people prey on the grieving. Do you really think any jury is going to be sympathetic to you?”

Now the woman’s face was completely white, liked someone had sucked the blood from her skin. Her frustration and professional tone were gone, and her hand shook as she reached for her phone.

“I’ll get the doctor for you.”

“Thank you.”

Twenty minutes later she led me down a hallway. It looked just like a proper doctor’s office if you didn’t know what was going on here. Besides the receptionist office, there was an examination room, a recovery room, and a room for X-rays. Beyond that, though, was a larger room behind two double doors. An audible hum came from behind the doors. The receptionist didn’t lead me through the doors, though. Instead, she turned left and led me to the office of Dr. Lowe. She hovered just outside the door and knocked lightly.

“Dr. Lowe, the fiance of Miss Benson would like a word with you.”

Dr. Lowe was a handsome man, with wavy brown hair curling around his chin, warm brown eyes, and a professional-looking lab coat. He looked up from his paper work covering his desk and frowned.

“You know we don’t see family until after the procedure is done, Brittany.”

“Yes, Doctor, but Mr. Jones was quite insistent.”

Dr. Lowe let out a little “ah” and waved her away. He motioned for me to come inside. He leaned back and rested his arm over the back of his chair, his eyes roaming over my face as if he could figure out what I was here for if he just looked hard enough. I took every fiber of my self-control not to throttle the smug-looking bastard.

“What seems to be the problem, Mr….Jones, was it?”

“I think you know very well what the problem is. I demand to see my fiancee.”

“You can demand all you want, sir, but we can’t let you see the patient until the procedure is finished. She’s too unstable. Upsetting her now could cause permanent damage to her psyche.”

“And removing her soul somehow isn’t permanent damage?” I said. “You hacks have stolen my fiance from me, and I’m here to save what’s left of her.”

Dr. Lowe’s eyes flickered and stared at something over my shoulder for a minute, and I didn’t have to look to know Brittany was probably there, her finger hovering over the button to call for the cops.

“Insult my profession all you like, Mr. Jones. As much as you would like to believe it so, we never deceive our patients. In fact, we try our very best to convince them to pursue less drastic means of dealing with their emotional pain. But for some, like your fiancee, find that traditional therapy and psychiatric treatment does not work. Instead of living with so much unnecessary grief and emotional torment, they turn to us so they can go back to living productive lives.” Dr. Lowe spread his arms wide and smiled. “We don’t remove people’s emotions to be cruel. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a mercy, if you think about it.”

TJ’s Hiatus

 

Hello all,

 

When Bern and I started this exercise nearly a year ago, the purpose was to get our writer’s blood pumping and to turn us into well oiled creative machines. I’m proud to say that I think it kind of sort of worked. I have a lot of projects that I want to work on and a limited amount of time and energy, and despite the fact that SSS is designed to only take up three hours a week, I’m sure my blog mates would agree takes a bit more.

So, with that said, I will be taking a hiatus from SSS to work on some personal projects. I’m sure I’ll be back, if not as a regular then as a guest, but in the meantime, continue to enjoy the wonderful tales of Bern, Kelly, and Rabo.

 

Later,

TJ

tjicon

July 28, Part 1

raboicons

London

28 July 2114

The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), not having answered in a satisfactory manner the note of July 23, 2114, presented via electronic message by the British consulate in Berlin, the Royal Government of the United Kingdoms are themselves compelled to see to the safeguarding of their rights and interests and, with this object, to have recourse to force of arms.

The United Kingdom consequently considers herself henceforward in state of war with Germany.

Herbert Abu Lughod

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

“What the hell?”

Sam blinked the image away from his eye and looked at Sgt. March. The Sergeant blinked his own left eye too and looked back at Sam and the other privates, knowing that each of them would have had the same message showing on their own implants, sent by the command.

“They can’t mean that? War with the Germans? What about the rest of the damn EU?”

March cleared his throat and stood up from the mess hall table, his chair screeching across the smooth cement floor as he did.

“It appears they have boys, and what the other Peons do is up to them. I suppose old France will step in beside us and the Italians as well. God knows what the rest will do.”

“But–”

And the rest of the mess hall, each private, NCO, and officer slowly coming to the realizations which the message brought, stood up and began to shout, began to talk all as one. Some yelled encouragement and cheered, others began shout disbelief while a few stared gently off into space, lost in thought.

“Goddamn Germans, you know this has got to do with Israel–”

“Yeah, we may be declaring war on them but god knows they started it stepping up to Israel’s plate after they nuked the goddamn Egyptians–”

“Fucking Sand Niggers had it coming, you ask me–”

“But what about the Ukraine? They have to come in–”

“Oh god, and the Russians. What the fuck will they–”

“Always the fucking Jews innit–”

“Hey, shut up you fucker. Jews ain’t got nothing to do with it. Those Israeli assholes can fuck off and I won’t be dumped with ’em–”

Sam looked down at his own hands and thought of his brother in Jerusalem, or somewhere outside of it, working on a kibbutz. Of course all the bother over Israel had been all over the news but who could have known that there could be a war? And between the civilized states. Over Arabs.

“See what the Chinese do, that’ll be the decidin’ factor, you ask me. Goddamn gooks’ll–”

“Oh, but you know the damn Yanks ‘ave a hand in it too.”

“Ten, hut!”

The Lt. Colonel walked smartly into the mess hall, his adjutant at his side. All in the mess hall stood at attention and as a unit became silent. Colonel Whittaker was not known for his forgiving tendencies.

“Gentlemen, as you all have been made aware by the high command, we are in a state of war. I am sure that many of you have been following the appropriate news channels and are aware that we may be at war with many states but at the moment it is sufficient to say that is of no matter. All feeds are being cut off as of now. Your services will go silent shortly, so I suggest you use them while you can.”

The room remained silent of words then but there were gasps and squeaks of surprise. Many in the room had never in their lives been completely cut off from the web. Many were terrified.

“Further, to those of you who may have kin in the German Republic, do not worry. This is not a shooting war and there is little to worry about at this juncture. That being said, we will start now on high alert. Let it be known that–”

Sam looked up then, along with every other face in the room including that of Colonel Whittaker. The distinctive sound of one of the new Eurofighter Toureg fighter-bombers shattered his thoughts as surely as it shattered the commanders words and it was only in the briefest of moments that he realized the sound he’d seen in so many videos, the sound of that plane with the strange new hydrogen turbine engine, was above and in multitude.

It was the sound of that engine that overwhelmed even the sound of the shrapnel and rubble of the far side of the mess hall exploding.

Meet Janice, Part 1

bernicons            The phone had been ringing in a low, calming beeping noise for the past three minutes. Janice raised an eyebrow; there was only one entity that would be willing to be that persistent. She took the phone off the receiver. “Satan’s Office.”

She nodded cool and took some notes, “I’m sorry, Jehovah, but Satan’s in a meeting right now,” She massaged her wrinkled temples, “No. He’s not always in a meeting… Yes, I’ll personally tell him you called.” She hung up.

Janice glanced at the clock and sighed. It was already fifteen past three and there was still so much to do. She got up and straighten her pencil skirt, then proceeded, clipboard in hand to the front door which read;

sign

Janice braced herself and then opened the office door. A wave of heat crashed over her, throwing back her graying brown hair into a wild frenzy  and forcing her blazer to dance to and fro. She adjusted her spectacles. “Mrs. Timely? I have a three fifteen appointment with Mrs. Timely?” she shouted into the flames.

There was a general chorus of screams, groans, growls and crying, but no response to Janice.

“Mrs. Timely?”

“Present!” came a reply.

Janice turned to greet the woman, and raised an eyebrow. She was used to seeing faces down here that didn’t necessarily match the condemned-for-all-entirety profile, but sometimes she was still caught off guard. Mrs. Timely was a head shorter than Janice, with long brown hair that looked like it needed a good brushing. She was old enough to have laugh lines on her face, but too young for wrinkles of any other sort. Janice nodded. “This way.”

  1. Timely followed Janice into the office and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh! It’s so cool in here!”

Janice put on her work-smile. “Yes, we fixed the AC last week. It was torture otherwise. Please, take a seat.” Mrs. Timely did as she was bid. “Satan will be with you shortly, but first I must clarify your visit.”

“Alright,” said Mrs. Timely, rubbing her hands together.

Janice took up her clipboard. “I already have your name, so… age upon death?”

“35.”

“Religion?”

“Catholic, or I was born into it,” she smiled nervously, “I never really practiced.”

“Few do.” Janice smiled reassuringly, “Finally, cause of death?”

“… Suicide.”

Janice nodded without batting an eye. Mrs. Timely almost seemed surprised. “We don’t judge here, Mrs. Timely, we just take what comes in.”

“Ah,” nodded Mrs. Timely, but it was clear that she didn’t really understand at all. “C-can I ask you something?”

Janice checked her wrist watch. “Hm?”

“Why was I asked here? I’m not sure what procedure is down here, but I-”

When the hand hit twenty past the hour exactly, she gestured for Mrs. Timely to stand up. “Satan will see you now.”

Janice lead a shaking Mrs. Timely into the next room. Satan liked a simple, sleek decor, much to Janice’s disapproval. The room was laid out in black and white, both colors making a bold, artistic statement against each other. Satan, a lover of dramatics, had his chair facing away from the door and out toward the fiery canyon beyond his window. All that could be seen of him as his obsidian spiral horns that crested over his chair. “Please, make yourself comfortable, Mrs. Timely.” His voice was deep and cold, almost like thick snow crunching together.

Per the norm, Janice had to lead, almost drag the woman to the flush chair in front of Satan’s desk. When Mrs. Timely sat, Janice patted her on the shoulder, trying to give her some reminiscence of strength.

“Thank you, Janice,” Satan turned his chair around and Mrs. Timely gasped. Janice knew that sound and it was one more so of surprise than horror. Satan’s skin was a deep, blood red and his eyes were completely black, as black and shiny like his horns. His face was narrow and came to a point at his chin where he wore a goat-like goatee. Janice liked to joke that it was the goatee that they gasped at, but no, rather, it was how kind his face looked. Everything else aside, it was hard to be frightened of Satan. Unless, of course, he wanted you to be.

Satan looked at Janice with an eye that told her she should linger at the door, so she did. Then he turned his attention to the shivering woman. “Welcome, Rebecca, I hope you’re well.” Timely seemed to shutter at her own name. She almost spoke but her words were all mumbled.

“I see.” Satan placed his hands on his desk, “Do you know why I called you here?”

“Because… I took my own life?”

“No. I mean, that’s the reason why you’re in this general area, yes, but not why I set up this appointment.” He cleared his throat, “Rebecca, there are two kinds of people who come to Hell, you see. Those who deserve to be punished for whatever time is necessary… and those who believe they belong here.”

Janice stood ready; this didn’t always go was well as Satan had hoped.

“Rebecca, you belong in the latter category.”Timely looked up, confused. “B-but I took my own life… that’s a sin.”

Satan nodded. “You’re right, that’s a sin. One really shouldn’t squander the gift of life, but we need some context first before we proceed.” Mrs. Timely tensed up. “You killed yourself for a reason. Can you tell me what?” Timely’s breath became audible and shallow. She couldn’t keep looking at Satan and just focused on her shoes.

“Should I start?” asked Satan.

Timely froze. “You know?”

“I know that you were married for six years, Rebecca, to a man that thought he was ‘fixing’ you.” Mrs. Timely grasped the arms of the chair, bracing herself from her own convulsions.

“I know that you fell in love with someone, someone who wasn’t your husband, because you never really loved him.”

Timely threw her head up and protested, “I loved Henry!”

Satan looked her dead in the “But not in the same way you loved Samantha.”

“Timely threw back the chair she was sitting in. “Is this what you do here?! Is this another form of torture!? You’re just rubbing it in aren’t you?! The reason why I did it! The reason why-!” Mrs. Timely suddenly collapsed and held herself tightly. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t. But she seduced me! She knew my weaknesses and… and I was happy with her! Happy!”

Janice ran to Mrs. Timely’s side and knelt beside her. “Mrs. Timely?”

“Henry found out… Henry knew what I had done and told me of my sins. I knew I was dirty. I was horrid. There was no hope for me. None… so… I…”

Satan put a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, and she stopped shivering. “Loving someone is not a sin, Rebecca,” he said firmly, “But you have to believe that to get out of here. Otherwise you’ll just linger…”

It took Janice thirty minutes to collect Mrs. Timely together and send her away with another appointment within the week. “It was good to meet you, Mrs. Timely,” said Janice.

“Meet you…” Mrs. Timely echoed as she left.

Satan sighed and leaned on his desk with a long, sad look on his face. “Did I miss any calls?” he said finally, trying to let the stress of the appointment slip away.

“Jehovah called-”

“Christ!” he swore, “I forgot today was our coffee day!”

Janice pinched her lips into a tight smile. “Yes. He wasn’t too pleased…”

Parchment – Part III

tjiconI was still considering my plan to take some Tylenol (or Tylenol PM because I didn’t have to work in the morning and there was nothing that would require my wakefulness before 2pm), even as I knocked on the door to Apartment 42 on 8th Street.

The door opened almost immediately, “Yes! It’s you. The kid from the print shop.”

How many times can I get called kid in a day? I looked down at my shirt to make sure it didn’t say “Kid” on my name tag. “Yeah, I’m me,” I said.

“Come in, come in,” he said, opening the door, stepping to the side, and motioning madly with his hand for me to enter. I did. “Come. Sit,” he said guiding me into his living room.

It wasn’t nearly what I expected. The walls were not covered like wallpaper with more of the old parchment and weird scribbles and doodles. There were not mountains upon mountains of old books and papers chronicling all of the known, and most of the unknown, research  into mysticism and quantum physics since the beginning of time. No stuffed, taxidermy creations of beavers with cat heads with raccoon tails and eagle wings. Not even a single comic book in sight.  The tingling suspicion that they called him Mr. Glass was slightly abated.

“I was just making some tea,” he said. “I’ll bring you a cup.”

“No thank you,” I started, but he was already gone. I took a seat on his couch. It was obviously old but surprisingly nice. That could actually also explain his reclining chair, his end table and lamp, his coffee table, floor mat, his entertainment center and television, and his bookshelf in the corner.

He came back with a tea set that made me think he might be British and sat in on the table. “What kind of tea would you like? I have chamomile, earl grey, oolong, matcha—”

I grabbed a bag just to shut him up, “This one will be fine.”

“Ooh,” he said with a smile, “good choice.”

He took the bag out of my hand, put it in a mug, and poured hot water into it. He then did the same to his cup and sat down in the recliner. The man I had thought was a retiree Indiana Jones with ADHD was turning out to be Mr. Mary Poppins.

“Okay,” I said, impatient, “so tell me why I’m going all River Tam.”

“Who,” the old man said, blowing on his tea.

“Never mind. Just… what’s the deal with the super powers.”

“Well first off, I’m not certain they qualify as super powers. But I’ve never been much into the funny papers, so I couldn’t say—”

“What the hell is going on with me?” I said a bit too loudly.

He took a sip of his tea. “Well, the truth is, I don’t exactly know.”

My mouth opened to say words, but I didn’t have any.

“The parchment belonged to my grandmother,” he continued, “I found it while I was cleaning her attic when I was a teenager. And then it started. I saw the strange writings and symbols floating through the air and I suddenly knew how to do these incredible, improbable things.”

“What… how… where did it come from?”

“My grandmother told me that she had gotten it from one of her teachers in junior high, and the teacher had gotten it from some old lady in his neighbor hood who he used to mow the lawn for. Before that, I have no idea.”

“Okay,” I said as I tried to process the fact that none of his answers told me anything I wanted to know. “So, why were you making copies and putting them up around town. ”

“Well, I’m not sure if copies will work but I didn’t want to risk losing the original.”

“I mean… the purpose, what was the purpose of hanging them up?”

“Oh. Yes. Well, I was hoping what’s happening to you would happen to others.”

“What? Why?”

“Well, from your story about the flying car, you know what these… abilities of yours can do. And that’s just the start. I mean, I mostly used them to be really good at golf, but you could do amazing things.”

“So… yeah, still not getting the copies on telephone poles thing?”

He sighed, but still had an excited, goofy smile on his face. “Look at me. I’m getting old, too old to be out there stopping bank robberies and saving kids from vehicular manslaughter. I wanted to pass the torch, just as it was passed to me and to my grandmother before me. I wanted spread these abilities to the next generation.”

I nodded slowly. “So, sounds like you want me to be a super hero.”

“Well, if you want to put on one of those silly costumes, I’m not going to stop you. Just do good things.”

I took a deep breath, then yawned, suddenly realizing how tired I was. “Okay. So I have super powers. I’m gonna go get some sleep, I’ll figure out my alter ego tomorrow.” I stood up to go.

“No, no, you can’t leave. We have to start your training.”

“Look, it’s kinda late, and I’ve had a busy day of making copies and forking cars. So, training will have to wait ’til tomorrow, okay, sensei?”

“Wait… um, there’s something else I haven’t told you. Another reason I put up the copies.”

I dropped my head and rubbed my eyes, which was now becoming a habit. Could this old man get any weirder? “What is it?”

“Well, the first person I showed my paper to was my granddaughter last week. She got the visions and whatnot. I was happy, some people don’t, you see.”

“So why post the super powered promos everywhere?”

“I, um… I’m afraid my granddaughter isn’t… well, a very good person.”

“Oh my Odin, are you saying what I think you’re saying.”

The old man’s smile finally faltered, “I believe I am. I think my granddaughter might become what you would call a… super villain.”

Pineapples, Am I Right? (Part 3)

raboicons

“But it’s good just to see Rachel with someone who isn’t a disinterested prick. She’s always ended up with these passive aggressive men who made me nervous but this guy seems to treat her well, at least. And he’s very handsome.”

You humans are silly.”

“And cat’s aren’t? What do you know anyway?”

Some where around this time Elizabeth began to remember that she was talking to her house cat and perhaps she’d lost her mind. Still, she marveled, it’s amazing how quickly a person can get used to the surreal.

“And speaking of that, how the hell do you know about Sailor Moon?”

Don’t look at me, I’m just a cat. Probably just a figment of your quickly debilitating mind.”

“And what does that mean?”

She suddenly stood up in disgust and found her hands on her hips looking down at the tabby. Elizabeth was by nature a good-hearted and quiet person but to be insulted to so effectively was enough to give rise to even her pride.

Again, I’m just a cat.” Piddles paused to lick his genitals again, his legs splayed in the air, “But come on. You’re what, twenty eight? That’s like eight million in cat years and you live alone, you work at a library, and you’re talking to your goddamn cat.”

The pot of water chose that moment to boil over and Elizabeth walked over to turn the burner down, her eyes narrowed and looking towards Piddles. “Well, I don’t normally do that, but you’re talking back today.”

Again, she thought, it’s amazing how quickly you get used to these things.

Uh huh. Remember, I’ve been here the whole time. As I was saying,” Again the cat paused to lick a particularly pungent part of his bum, “You live alone, talk to your cat all damn day and, pardon my forwardness, but when’s the last time you had a guy over?”

“Well, there was Brad. . .”

Brad, tall and balding and never quite sure what to do with his tongue, whether it be in his mouth or other places. Brad who came over twice and then stopped returning her calls.

Yeah, Brad. I may be a cat but that guy was a goddamn stray. And really? How many years was that in human terms? I was still a spring chicken, is all I know.”

“It wasn’t that long ago!”

Yeah, and what about Anthony?”

Anthony, his broad shoulders and his hairy forearms which flexed in that special little way when he slipped her the paper with his number on it. The number she’d thrown away wondering how any man could ever be so forward as to slip his number to the librarian.

“How do you know about Anthony?”

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I heard about him from you for like two weeks and that one night when you kept moaning his name while played with that blue vibratey thing–”

“Hey!” Elizabeth stomped her foot on the ground and yelled at the cat, her anger finally up and the sound of the knife on the cutting board a resounding whack as she slammed it down. “That’s none of your business! And you chewed the damn thing up anyway!”

Eh, I was never that interested in your damn sex life anyway and I didn’t chew it up for the taste. It just kept jumping around under your pillow.”

“You little ungrateful. . . Turd!” She waved the knife at him then, slinging it around like a pointer as she yelled. “I feed you and I scoop your. . . your shit,” Elizabeth puffed her chest a little then, proud to have gotten her anger across, “and you talk to me like this.”

Hey, I’m just a cat remember? Just a figment of your imagination, but I’m just saying maybe you should get out more. Maybe call your friends occasionally when you’re not just desperate for help.”

*** All around me are familiar faces; Worn out places, worn out faces ***

And stop listening to such depressing music!”

Hearing the ring-tone Elizabeth picked up her phone and saw Rachel’s face on the screen again but this time it was her and Ian looking longfully at one another, Rachel’s lips a bright red and his cheek wearing a crimson imprint. Of course she changed her Facebook picture to some sappy crap like that, she couldn’t help but think as she picked up the phone and looked at the little icon, wondering if she should answer.

Looking at Piddles again, licking his privates once more, she idly picked a piece of the pineapple from its can and started to munch on it before she finally swiped the “answer” icon to the right.

“Meeoorrww?”

 

Please Don’t Go, Part 3

bernicons            “FUCK!” she swore.

“One more!” encouraged the doctor.

With a final, horrible scream, Gwen pushed, grasping Rodney’s hand. A moment ago she wasn’t sure who would faint first, her or her boyfriend but now all she cared about was the screeching of an infant. Gwen wanted to take a breath but found her lungs would not obey; her throat tightened as did her grip on Rodney’s hand as she brought herself as high up as she could to see…

“It’s a boy!” declared the doctor, holding up a tiny person with a thick mess of black hair crowning his tan head.

Rodney smiled and kissed Gwen’s forehead. “Not a fawn…” she breathed. No one seemed to notice.

Hours later, Gwen held her little boy in her arms and kissed his head. “You’re fucking beautiful,” she whispered.

Grandpa Pat yawned. “You both are.” He stood up from his chair in the corner of the room and came around to Gwen’s bedside and brushed the hair from her face. “I’m going to get some coffee. Rodney, want to stretch those legs?”

Grandpa Pat had caught Rodney in mid-stretch. Rodney grinned and looked to Gwen, “You need anything?”

Gwen shook her head. “I’m fine.” Rodney kissed her and walked out with Grandpa Pat. Gwen looked around and sighed. She wished her parents would have come, but they had been so furious… It was pointless to think of it now. If they wanted to see their grandson, they’d have to come around eventually.

She looked out her window into the hazy wetlands in the distance. It was just a dream, just a strange, strange dream of another place. Gwen had hear that women went though some crazy hormones during the entire 9 month journey. Maybe that was all it ever was.

“Hello, Gwen.”

She gasped and turned, seeing the handsome young man she had met eight months ago. “Isaac?”

He smiled and his piercing blue eyes twinkled, “You did very well, he’s beautiful.”

Gwen brought the baby closer to her. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come for my son.”

“He’s not yours,” hissed Gwen, “I’ve only ever been with Rodney.”

“Ours is not the kind born of lust, Gwen, we select a vessel to carry our young,” Isaac approached. “And I chose you.”

Fury welled up inside her, “You- what?! Didn’t I have any say in this?”

Isaac appeared perplexed, “You accepted my invitation. You didn’t say deny me.”

“I didn’t say yes either!” the baby began to stir in her arms. Gwen looked down and began to rock him as gently as she could with her rage beginning to boil over. “Get out! I never want to see you again!”

“I can’t leave without my son-”

“He’s not yours!” Gwen reached to her side and grabbed the nurse buzzer. “Get out now or I’ll get someone to throw you out!”

Isaac looked at her sympathetically. “It won’t work, Gwen.”

“What-?” Then Gwen saw them. The ferns growing on the floor and creating a lush carpet of flora beneath her. “RODNEY!” she cried but the hospital room melted away revealing a surreally beautiful forest. The sun hurt her eyes. She wasn’t in her bed any longer, but standing in the woods with her babe in her arms. “Take us back!

“I can return you to your world, Gwen. You are the mother of my child, I owe you that much.” Isaac approached, his arms extended. “But first I must have my son.”

Gwen spat in his face. “Fuck you!” And she turned to run.

Her legs were weak and she soon found it hard to breathe. The baby woke up in the chaos of the run and started to wail. “Shhh, please baby. Shhh!” Gwen try as she might to sound calming, the panic in her voice betrayed her. Her feet were stabbed with twigs and stones but she kept running.

A shadow leapt over her and the power figure of Isaac in his stag form cut her off. Gwen slide to a halt and scrambled to turn another way. But Isaac was quicker and again stopped her escape. Tears welled up in her eyes. “No!” she screamed, “No please!” Isaac backed Gwen up into the board trunk of a tree. “Not my baby! Please, no!” Gwen choked on her own tears.

Isaac the man stood before her again and his face almost read of pity. “My people are in dire need, Gwen. They need our son.”

“But- Rodney- no, please! Not my baby!” She searched Isaac’s eyes for any sort of compassion, but found no such thing. She was washed away in the blue of his eyes.

 

 

Gwen sat in her hospital and for a moment it was as if she had never left. She just stared blankly out in front of her. Then she heard the gentle coo of her baby. Her eyes darted toward the window, where Isaac stood, holding her baby and smiling at him lovingly.

“NO!” She spilled out of her bed, crawling toward Isaac.

Isaac frowned. “Please, Gwen, don’t hurt yourself.”

“Don’t pretend you care!” she could hardly make her arms obey her. “My baby-!”

“Will be safe with me,” Isaac knelt down beside her, “I promise.” He meant it. She knew he did. “Goodbye, Gwen.”

Isaac turned from Gwen and took a step toward the window.

Gwen reached her hand out toward him. “…please don’t go,” she wept. Isaac paused. “Take me with you…”

His hand was cool to the touch, just as it had been eight months ago. And they were gone.