Tag Archives: fiction

Face The Morning

Susan sat at her desk, the sun shining in from the East as the sun rose over the horizon, casting everything in a rose gold blush. Something still wasn’t quite right. Reaching out she adjusted a picture frame, angling it just slightly more outward facing so that whoever sat opposite her would have very little choice but to see it. It was of herself, leaning against a low stone wall, arms extended excitedly above her head, a large, floppy straw hat settled on her head. By looking at it, it was impossible to tell if it was old or new, just that the woman in the photo was unmistakably her, being unmistakably happy, in an unmistakably plain field that could be located anywhere where fields could be found. Susan nodded to herself and placed her hands palm-down on the desktop, straightening her own posture and looking to the office door.

Aside from her office light, the office was quiet save for the hum of the overhead lights, and the intermittent click of a copier, spitting out papers somewhere in a supply room. It was as it should be then, Susan nodded in affirmation. After all, it had only just passed dawn, and no one else would be arriving quite yet to begin their day. Still, though, something wasn’t right.

Susan moved again, bringing her chair slightly closer to her desk, and began arranging her pens and paper. Carefully she lined each up by their colour, and then their height, setting them just so next to the pad of legal paper that sat, crisp, pristine and unused, within easy reach. She then removed a small palm full of paperclips from the supply caddy and set them down next to the paper. No. No, that simply did not look right. With an admonishing click of her tongue she put the paperclips back where she had taken them from, one by one, so that each lay flat atop the other within the caddy. With that complete, she nodded again, satisfied for the moment, and folded her hands, looking out her open door to the office floor.

There was a ding of the elevator, announcing the arrival of others, and the quiet murmur of conversation in the distance of the cubicle maze. Good, that was very good, Susan thought. This was how it was supposed to be, perfect and orderly. But still, something felt just a little off. Susan turned her chair just so and stopped so that she herself was angled toward her computer, the black screen showing nothing but her own reflection. There! That was it, now she knew what had been so wrong before. With careful hands, she reached up to her face, and pulled the skin up and forward, just so. It settled back around her skeletal orbital sockets and cleared her field of vision of the slight obstruction the out-of-placeness had caused. Carefully she moved down, straightening out her smile so that her lips framed her teeth, instead of sagging down to show her lower jaw. It would have been very frightful to be seen without her face on properly, Susan mused as she smoothed the skin of her neck down over her protruding clavicles. It simply would not have been a good way to start the day. A chorus of screams and madness were never good for office morale.

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It Started In a Tavern

With a final glance at his reflection, Del straightened his eyepatch then, with a deep breath, turned to the tavern proper.

“Alright, you lot. We did a good job last night, closed out some of the smaller requests. On that note, a special congratulation to Dorin, who did an excellent job filling in as the librarian, it was your work that got that last party to clear out the ghosts from the from that basement, and netted us a nice finders fee.” There was a smattering of applause from those gathered at the tavern tables, as was their custom.

Months ago, the tavern had been on the verge of going under; between the damage caused by bar brawls and groups of high ego ‘adventurers’. It had been Del’s idea to band the staff and town together to turn it around. Why was it that it was only adventures that earned all the gold, and spent it faster than they could appreciate it? Now, with the help of the town, Del had a lucrative business running, and the tavern and town were better than they had ever been. All it had required was a little bit of diplomacy, and now all of the contracts for work came to the town. Instead of letting outsiders take all the money, they had worked out a good system. They would pick up each contract from the issuer of the task, and the sub-contract it out to the proper group. They’d offer a reward for the work, much smaller than the true price, and pocket the difference. The local authorities agreed with it, as it kept the wealth local, and meant that they did not need to do the footwork of finding individuals to complete the tasks.

Del picked up the assignments for the evening, and made his way around the room, handing each of them out.

“So, we’ve got a few big ones still waiting for the right group. Olav, down at the Broken Tusk, let us know that a pretty tough group is likely headed our way. We’re to look out for a female halfling, a real troublemaker who lits from shadow to shadow, and a big woman with a sword even bigger than she is.” Del stopped at the table next to Elona and clapped his hand on the small elf’s shoulder. “Sounds like they’re pretty good at what they do. Some news about how they held off an entire goblin invasion at an old fort. I think we can safely send them off to deal with that “little” red dragon problem. Start the reward low, let them feel like they’re really getting away with something, we can let them get up to 500 gold, and still, earn enough on the job to buy that new brewery.” There was a cheer at that, and Del grinned before moving on, handing out a few smaller assignments were needed. They had been contracted to find someone who could turn the undead back into their graves, and the local cleric just didn’t have the time to deal with it himself. If Del was honest, he knew Cleric Palon was just lazy and would rather read his bawdy novels then do the actual work, but a payment was payment, so that was that.

“One last thing though. “ Del stopped in the middle of the group, placing his hands on his hips. “ Turns out we set the alarm spell a little too high on the flaming goblet. Melosa, if you could tune it down, we might be able to get that one taken care of. We just need them to steal it and then the curse will transfer and Lord Bors will pay off the full reward.” There was a groan and a bit of a boo and hiss from various mouths, and Del shook his head. “I know! I thought that that little goblin would have gotten past it for sure. Would have served them right too, we wasted good stew because of the giant Goliath and might have kicked that paladin in the ass a bit for the stunt he pulled back Triboar. Now, everyone to their places, like as not all those adventurers are getting thirsty for a drink.”

The huddle broke up as each person took their place, and Del returned behind the bar. Soon enough evening would fall, and then, as per usual, the tavern would fill up with those seeking their fortune, from the newest adventures, still with a clean blade, to the oldest and most battle-hardened barbarian, looking for their next bit of coin.

 

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Touching Stone

The cold marble of the stone slab seemed to throb against Martin’s hands, like the heartbeat of some great beast dug into the earth. He had been unable to resist the urge to return to this spot, despite the warnings he had received about venturing off into the old forest alone. He knew he should have listened to his father, he normally did, but since he had discovered his place it had been all that he could think of.

Martin had come upon it by chance; he and the other boys from the village had been playing a game of Bandits and Knights in the woods. He had been the last remaining bandit, and if he could just keep the other children from catching him and stealing the handkerchief that served as their treasure, they would win. He had turned briefly to glance over his shoulder, and in doing so had tripped over an upturned root and fallen, almost directly into the stone slab, hidden by years of dead leaves and vines.

The other children had caught him, and he had failed to win the game, but deep down Martin knew that what he had found that day was more important that a group of boys playing pretend. He had come back each day for the following fortnight, exploring around the stone slab, removing the vines and forest detritus until he had uncovered a series of several stone slabs and a low ring of rough stone surrounding them. The first one he had found has turned out to be dug into the ground, a long smooth pillar half buried. He had sought to return to this place at every available moment. Sometimes, when the sun was setting and he sat quietly facing it, he could hear voices.

On this day, he had snuck off from his home after dinner. Food and home held no interest for him. He had been sitting at the table, looking out the lone window of their home, toward the forest, his stew forgotten and cold before him. His mother had fussed, wondering why he refused to eat. His father had spoken of idle hands and time, and promise to put him to work in the morning so hard that he would devour any food laid before him the following day. He no longer spoke to them about the forest, about the stones, not since the first night, when his father had all but roared at him in anger, warning him from the place. But what could be so wrong about it?

Martin had waited until his parents had put him to bed, and then longer until he heard them close their door, and saw the fire from the hearth die to embers. On quiet feet, he had snuck from the house and into the woods, intent on visiting one more time, before his father made good on his promise to put him to work. With his hand against the stone, Martin laid down, pressing himself against the cool stone surface. In the dark, he listened to the low murmur of voiced, rising up around his ears, and closed his eyes. He matched his breathing to the pulse beneath him, felt the chill as it pressed in on every side. If he listened just a little harder, he was certain that he could hear his name, being called out from within the stone.

 

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Bad Omens

          Lily had learned very early in life to trust her gut. It has kept her out of trouble and danger. From knowing that there would be a surprise pop-quiz in grade school, to anticipating the death of those around her, she’s always had a sixth sense niggling away when something was amiss. She chalked it up to being observant. But, since the car accident, she wasn’t so sure that it wasn’t something else all-together more uncanny, something more ancient than just a gut feeling
          Standing in the kitchen, she looked around and took stalk of the evidence that had greeted her that morning. Outside her kitchen window, under which the coffee pot she used every morning was plugged in, she met the owl’s unblinking gaze. She had noticed it right away, while she had spooned out the coffee grounds into the filter. Despite the bright sun streaming down on the leafless limb where the great bird sat, it was wide awake, ruffling its feathers and extending its wings, looking as if it had been waiting for her.
          The fresh container of coffee cream, just purchased the day before, was open; it’s curdled contents still in the bottom of her coffee cup. She had checked the best before date three times to make sure she was not misreading it, but there was no disputing that it signaled that the cream should have been perfectly fine for at least another three weeks.
          Lastly, on the kitchen table, were Darren’s work boots, freshly cleaned and oiled to look like new, despite their age. He had always been a stickler for taking care of his clothing but never before had he left them overnight on the table. There had been something off about their interaction that morning before he had gotten out of bed to get ready.  It had kept her awake, and sent her into the kitchen much earlier ten usual that morning. As such, she had been the one to see the owl, use the cream, and see his boots on the table before he had a chance to put them on.
          She didn’t hear so much as feel Darren enter the kitchen behind her, his socked feet whispering over the worn floorboards of their old but well-cared for home. Before he even had a chance to say good morning, if he was even planning to, Lily turned to meet him, tears building at the corner of her eyes, her voice hitching in her throat.
          “You’re leaving, aren’t you?” It wasn’t an accusation, just a simple question to which, her gut told her, she already knew the answer.
          “I know it’s Saturday. But I wouldn’t be going in if they didn’t need me.” His still wet hair fell boyishly over his face, even though it has long turned salt-and-pepper.
          “You’re leaving.”  It came out as a soft whisper, and a tear slipped down her cheek, hanging for a brief moment at her chin before falling. Darren crossed the kitchen, leaning in to kiss her forehead softly.
          “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll be back in time for dinner. Your sister is coming over to help, okay? I’ll be back before you know it.” He pulled her into a hug, her fragile frame pulled tight against his still hard body. Age had not taken much from him, only added to it. He pulled away again and smiled, the crows-feet at the corner of his eyes more pronounced. “We’ll have supper together and then go to the tea shop that you love if you’re feeling up to it.”
          Darren let her go, and Lily let him let her go, as he grabbed his boots off the table and made his way to the front door. She watched, crying silently as he bent down to put his boots on, the movement less easy than it used to be, and then retrieved his keys, before leaving, closing the door behind him. The owl in the tree hooted mournfully, and Lily knew that it too knew. The final nail in the coffin sealed, Lily cried as the sound of Darren’s truck grew loud, before fading into the distance, taking him away from her for the last time.

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Launching Deja-Visite, a Monthly eZine

Good afternoon!

As many of you have seen, I have been silent for some time. This is probably due in part to a lack of drive, and a general attitude of ho-hum that overtook me for awhile. I was losing my passion, bogged down by work-a-day living and an exhausting stressful job.

About a month or so ago, I decided that that was it, I needed to get back in to writing. First I thought about putting out a monthly publication of my things, to compress the publication schedule, possibly in order to give me more time.

At that moment a thought struck me, why not ask my friends? When presented with the idea of working on something together, a publication that would focus on our passions, our knowledge, and what it was we wanted to write about, learn about, and explore, my friends jumped at the chance. Working hard for a little over a month, we met and put together the idea, worked through titles and articles, launched a website, and focused a bit on social media.

February Issue-page001

Deja Visite February 2018

Our final product just went live at midnight last night! Deja-Visite is a monthly zine publication run and written completely in-house.

If you like reading about unique experiences, travel, software development, learning to code, reviews, creative fiction, and much more, come visit us at Deja-Visite!

This month: StudioMDHR’s Cuphead, The magic of Kefir, Making Moonshine, Love myths, travel to Prague, and read some excellent reviews, creative stories, and even life advise from a wise squirrel sage!

 

 

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Saturday Shorts: Country Roads

Country Roads

Even with the heater going full blast, Susan could barely feel her fingers for the cold. Her thick mittens did little to take the bone deep chill of the truck cabin away. The snow fell thickly outside, reflecting the headlights of the truck in odd ways, making the road more treacherous than it already was, the wipers working furiously. The snow danced like ghosts across the stretch of abandoned back road.

Susan hated early mornings, when the sun was still hours away from rising, and absolutely loathed the cold. Despite these certainties, she loved the snow, as it was beautiful in its own way. It was part of the reason she had stayed in North Dakota, despite her hatred of winter. The other reason she had stayed for so many years was why she was up at such an ungodly hour in the first place, driving when it was likely that every weather and news station in the county was advising against even going out your front door.

The trailer she was towing behind the truck pulled along, following in the ruts created by the full ton trucks winter tires. For all Susan knew, she wasn’t even driving on the actual road, since the only markers that made the stretch a road in this weather was her ingrained memory from having come this way countless times before. Hell, she almost missed the turn off indicator as she came up to it, though in reality it was not an official demarcation of destination, just an old oak tree, branches now heavy with snow, the indicated she had reached her turn. With a hard jerk on the wheel, she managed to make the cut, the chains on her tires gripping the snow and the gravel below it to keep her from sliding; the trailer bounces along behind. In this storm, the tree was her only indication that she was at the pasture. The snow was so uniformly white and even that it was all muscle memory and reflex at this point, keeping her calm and steady behind the wheel.

Another five minutes of steady travel into the pasture, and she was actually beginning to be able to feel her fingers, though it could just as easily been the beginnings of frostbite, as she had had a brush or two with that in the past. It would have been glorious to be able to sit in the cabin of the truck, as the warmth began to slowly leach away the battering cold, but she was at her destination and there was no time to dawdle. She was not the only thing that was likely feeling cold, as it was  ‘ not fit for man nor beast out there’, as her dad had been want to say when he was alive.

With a deft twist, Susan cut the lights on the truck, and shifted to neutral, letting the truck and trailer roll forward to a slow and steady stop. Reaching up, she made sure her knit cap was pulled down tight over her ears, meeting the edge of the heavy scarf she had wound round and round her neck. Quickly, as if she were removing a band-aid, she threw the truck door open and jumped down, trudging through the near knee-high snow towards the back of the trailer. From inside, these was the distinctive sound of hooves on metal, and puffs of steam rose from the small ventilation windows. The bleating of a handful or tired and upset sheep echoed off the bare trailer walls, as the flock made its protest known. The smell of wet wool and lanolin was just strong enough to cut over the cold and crisp air of the storm, which numbed the nose almost to the point of being useless.

Susan could hardly blame the sheep for being disagreeable, their foul mood was something she could relate to, given the circumstances. Being pulled from warm stocks at herded into a semi warm trailer at 3;00 AM would have that effect on anyone, though some would be able to protest in much more horrendous fashions. Susan lowered her scarf ever so slightly and let loose two short, shrill whistles that cut over the wind, and the sheep settled somewhat in the trailer, letting out a few soft baa’s as back talk.

Despite the thickness of her gloves, the little bit of warmth she had begun to feel was already bleeding away, so Susan made quick work of removing the dual lock and pins that held the back ramp in place. The ramp sank down into the snow, not resting fully level, but angling enough that it would be a short transition of trailer to ground for her charges. The latch that held the rolling door secure was a little bit more tricky, especially as the snow continued to fall and quickly cover every surface it could, but years of repetition made quick work of the obstacle. As the door rolled up the sheep, who had been huddled together near the back of the trailer, began moving forward toward the ramp, more out of habit than from any command, given that this was not their first time being transported. Susan moved away from the back of the trailer, the sheep descending the ramp into the snow one after the other in some bizarre game of follow the leader. Once the last of the flock, seven in total, had founds its way down the ramp and did not look like it would be retreating back into the trailer, Susan made quick work of closing the rolling door and locking the ramp back up, before she slowly worked her way back to the open door of the cabin, making sure none of the sheep tried to follow her. They stayed where the were, huddling together in the snow-covered field, their wool blending in with the snow while their black faces stood in stark contrast, even in the relative darkness.

Putting one foot back into the cabin and hoisting herself up with the door, Susan let loose another shrill series of whistles, which set the sheep into a nervous stomping. Taking a deep breath, the cold cutting her lungs like knives, she raised her voice over the storm, shouting into the darkness;

“Come out and get them, they’re all yours!”

With a quick pull and a dive across the seats, her  head down with her arms over it, Susan slammed the door behind her, just as the whoosh of something larger and heavier than a jet engine overtook the pasture, hidden by the snow. Susan did not dare look up, did not dare even breath, until there was nothing left but silence.

-Megan

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Short Saturday: You Were Warned

You Were Warned

There was no way around it, Arthur admitted to himself. He was going to need a much bigger trash bag to deal with this.

It had been a spur of the moment decision, and act of passion and madness. Now, standing among all the carnage, surrounded by the destruction caused by his own hand and his hammer, there was no denying that he must have been insane to think he would ever be able to get away with it. Carefully, he peels his soaked work gloves from his hands, the material sticking and refusing to let go, Carefully he turned one glove inside out before using it to remove the second, hoping to avoid getting anything on his hands. With a sigh, he left his uncomfortable face mask in place, and did his best to look past the obscure and unnamable matter that speckled his protective goggles. He did not want to risk removing them at this point, as it would likely mean he would need to get more, and he had none left on hand. With his luck, he would drop them onto the floor and they would be unsalvageable for continued use. On top of it all, he knew that it would be stupid to create a reason to leave the room he was in, even for the most innocent reason. If he made an excuse where it caused him to have to leave the house, he knew, deep down in his gut, that it would only complicate matters. If he created a reason to leave the house, he knew he would leave a mess which would indicate to anyone what he had done, or that he would simply leave it all behind and never come back.

He knew that if he left everything as it was, if he didn’t clean up meticulously, he would be caught, and would have to face the full punishment for his actions. The kind of punishment that he was almost certain would completely alter his life, more so than he had altered it when he had taken the hammer in his hands in that moment of absolute certainty.

As calmly as he could, Arthur grabbed the still open bottle of water from the counter, and took a long sip. Even though it was warm, it proved to be refreshing after his exertion. It also gave him the chance to really look around and take in everything that he had done, and all the complications it had created.

He should have listened when his friends told him that remodeling a bathroom was a job best left to those who knew what they were doing, and not a good project to undertake while your wife was away for the weekend. Definitely not a project to start on a Sunday.

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Saturday Shorts: The Doctor Is In

The Doctor Is In

With surgical precision, she peeled the skin back from the muscle. With practices and slow motions, she positioned the flaps of skin down on the mounting blocks, and pinned it in place, the latex of her gloves offering a sure grip, despite the blood which covered the fingers.

Now that the skin was taken care of, moved and held away from the forearm, she could begin her work. It had been hard going, but this was not her first try. It had helped immensely that the chosen patient was in optimal condition, with no other health complications or previous work to put her into more difficult territory.

Now, her gloves were slick with blood, having taken the time to carefully deal with the subject, she knew it could not have been avoided, only made minimal so as not to become a larger concern. The inside of the gloves were even more uncomfortable, coated now with sweat that caused the material to lose a bit of its purchase. She would have rather not had to use the clingy latex gloves, but they were a necessary precaution, and the only thing that had been in stock. That shortage was something she was going to have to see about in the future.

Setting her scalpel down, she picked up her small scissors and got down to the truly challenging work. With the forearm muscles exposed, Flexor Carpi Radialis and  Brachioradialis she reminded herself,  and in such fine condition, it made it very easy to determine where the tendons lay. There was o excess fat to get in the way. Very carefully, with great concentration to keep her hands from shaking even the most imperceptible micron, she snipped the tendons cleaning, watching the tension leave it like a snapped bowstring. Setting aside the scissors, and wiping her bloody hands on her scrub pants, she smile. Carefully, as if touching china, she reached in and took hold of the  tendons, using both hands to take two between her fingers on each hand.

With a triumphant exhalation, she manipulated the tendon as if she was dealing with a human puppet, carefully pulling back on and releasing the tension slowly in order to watch the fingers on the hand open and close. The fingers responded, less smoothly at first, but soon fluidly as she learned the correct amount of force to use, Eventually the fingers waved back in a macabre semblance jazz fingers.

“See,” the girl grinned broadly, glancing up the table at the man, gagged and restrained firmly to the table, eyes wide in fear and pain not fully dulled by the sleeping pill she had slipped him earlier in the evening when she had suggested their next activity, ” I told you it would be fun if we played doctor.”

-Megan

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Saturday Short: Just Like Granny Annie

Granny Annie’s apple pies!

Nothing like a heaping helping of delicious apple pie to chase away a busy day.

Try Granny Annie’s and you’ll be surprised at how the worries just melt away.

You haven’t had a pie until you’ve tried Granny Annie’s Granny Apple Pie!

The radio switched back to the afternoon’s smooth jazz, its sounds filling the small kitchen as Alice worked. Alice had always prided herself on her pie making ability, and her crusts were simply the flakiest in the neighbourhood. She  made apple pies that made judges cry, and she had the county and state faire ribbons to prove it. She had even been in the Great Northwest Exposition Finals, beaten only by the creations of Granny Annie herself. That was nothing to bat an eye at, since Granny Annie had been winning first place ribbons for her pie since before Alice had even been born.

Of course, now that Granny Annie had gone to meet the Almighty Pie Man in the sky, Alice saw nothing between her and complete victory in the upcoming Country and State Fair competition. She would even be so bold as to go beyond and say that there was no one left in the whole Midwest region who could come close to her skill with a crust. of course, she would only ever think that in the privacy of her own home kitchen; best to be humble and gracious in the public eye, don’t you know.

Alice had been practicing all winter, adding new twists to her crust, and tweaking the flavours just so. She had redoubled her efforts since the news had announced the passing of Annie, knowing that there would be housewives and gastronomy aficionados coming out of the woodwork to try to snatch up the accolades and sponsorships that had once belonged to the old women. A gap had been created at the very to of the massive pyramid of pie backers, and there would be stiff competition ahead. But Alice had something that none of the others had, something that she had ventured far afield to get, and secret back to her home.

Now, Alice had that ace of her proverbial dress sleeve, and a sprinkle of new magic on her apron. Delicately, she cut herself a piece from the pie she had just removed from the oven, letting the savoury scent cascade through the small room, curling her toes at the warmth of it. She hoped that it would taste as good as it smelled, this was her first savoury pie, and she could not afford to have it not be delicious down to the last bite. Alice smiled as she carefully pressed her fork through the golden crust, the gravy leaking out across the plate. With measured steps, she brought the fork up, being sure that no drops fell on her apron. Raising it in salute to the other side of her kitchen counter, she took a bite, closing her eyes to enjoy as the flavour slipped over her palate. She found it delicate, the texture not that much unlike chopped roast beef, but the flavour more mellow, like a slow roasted pork loin. She ate the bite and exhaled slowly before smiling, all in all, it could use more spice, but it was edible, and that was what Alice needed most

” Oh, Granny Annie, for all your prizes, your pies lack a little in the kick department. Still, you certainly make a very nice pie.”

Alice smiled again and winked at the skull set at the other end of the counter, over seeing the oven. It provided no comeback, no quip. Granny Annie had always been humble and very soft spoken.

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Protocol

Protocol

Three blinked at the reflection in the mirror, focusing on the grey eyes staring back from the other side. Nothing was different, nothing was out of place. When Three has woken up that morning, to get ready for school as usual, it had been with a strange feeling that something had shifted, but no matter how Three looked at it, everything seemed just the same as it had the day before, the week before, the month before, and the year before. Nothing has changed.

Turning off the light, Three went to the kitchen, once again, the same routine as every other morning. There was a protein shake sitting on the counter, next to a lunch bag and a copy of the daily paper. As always, the front page flashed in warning; bold, red letters warned the readers of the graphic content, alerting them that what lay beyond the front page was not suited for most. The articles would likely offend many, or turn the stomach. Instead, the front page suggested that all the reader really needed to know was that the weather was going to be pleasant, and that the two district teams that had met in their races the previous night had tied, and decided to be friends and compete again the next night. With that, it brought the collective all-time records for both teams to 0 Wins- 0 Losses- 2,950 Ties, a respectable performance history for both teams.

Three disregarded the paper, as always, and made to grab the protein shake. Three’s hand hesitated a moment, and instead of grabbing the drink, took the lunch bag instead. Three was not really feeling exceptionally hungry, so it would not do to waste valuable time on the drink. Ready for the day, Three approached the front door. As the door opened, an option warning popped up: “YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN BREAKFAST. PLEASE RETURN.” The warning, while optical, blocked Three’s entire field of vision, and the entire doorway. Three hit the exit button, but the warning merely re-appeared, effectively keeping Three from leaving the house to begin the journey to school. With a sigh, Three returned to the counter and picked up the shake, and the warning window disappeared. With the way no longer blocked, Three could leave without further issue, though the time for travel had been cut considerable closer than was comfortable.

Leaving the house, Three walked for at least a dozen yards before stopping, setting the still full protein shake down on the barrier that separated the walking routes. These barriers kept students of Three’s age and younger separated from the adults walking to work, the transports carrying goods and supplied, and the older students on their way to the secondary school building.

Other students feel into line on the path to the school. All walking the same way at the same pace. They said good morning, exchanged their happiness over the outcome of the game the night before, and contemplated their lessons and exercises for the day, which would be both pleasant and informative. No one spoke about the news beyond the front page of the paper.

It was the exact same as the day before. The same as always, unchanged in pattern. Still, Three continued to experience that same nagging sense of weight and shift, as if something was fundamentally different from  what it had been before.

Once all the students were inside and seated at their desks, the bell rang. As it happened each morning, their daily exam popped up on their desktops. Each student was faced with a series of four questions. They were the same as always, there was no variation, no change.

  1. How are you feeling? Well (correct)
  2. Who won last night? Both teams (Correct)
  3. Who holds the highest office in the government? The Chancellor Supreme (correct)
  4. Did you eat your breakfast?

At the last question, Three paused. Three had never paused before. Here it was. This was the difference, the shift that had been brushing up against the back on Three’s consciousness since waking. It had been felt before it had even occurred; the effect before the action that would generate it. It was as if Three had made this decision before it had even been a decision to make.

With a quick eye dart, Three glanced around the room at the others; all of their screens flashed a pleasant green, indicated that they had finished their daily exam. Indicating that every answer was uniform, correct. Tentatively, with a fluttering of unknown emotions, Three purposefully wrote his answer.

4.         Did you eat your breakfast? No.

It took a moment, but Three’s screen winked closed, and a new window popped up. First it opened in front of Three, and then in a cascade of pings across the room to the others, all looking straight ahead. The new window advised the students that everything was fine. And additional subset window opened in front of Three’s eyes, containing a set of three very clear instructions: Three was to remain quiet; to remain seated with hands placed flat on the desk; and that Three was to await the arrival of a task force which was being dispatched to remedy the detected compliance violation.

It became obvious that Three was the only one to receive these instruction, as the rest of the students remained calmly seated, looking straight ahead as if nothing as out of the ordinary. Three drew a deep breath, as for the second time that day, a wave of emotions that had never previously been felt took hold. Three had somehow knows, right from waking, that the world was shifting. As it turned out, it was only Three’s world that was shifting, and Three had been the one to set into free fall. Looking from the other students to the window, Three’s feet shifted a fraction of an inch. It only took a breath for Three to make another decision that had never been made before, another change to the sameness and repetition of the routine. With a quick breath, Three made a break for the open door.

Change was within Three’s reach, the door felt as if it were just there, waiting. Suddenly, Three was sprawling forward, reached by sensations that had previously been unknown, to which Three could ascribe no known words or past experience. The sensations forced legs  and arms to contract and lock awkwardly, no longer responding to the brains impulses to move. They sensations caused Three’s teeth to clamps down hard, pinching cheek tightly between strong molars. A second later, and that uncomfortable sensation was paired with the explosion of stars, as Three’s head met the ground with a thud, ears ringing. With vision swimming in and out of focus, Three felt hands grab that collar of their shirt, hefting them up from the ground, holding them suspended.

As three’s hearing returned, head pounding, there was the sound of a voice, speaking in controlled, clipped tones. As the voice spoke, they began to move, Three in tow above the ground. “Unit Three is contained. We will bring them in for evaluation. All other units in this zone appear to be functioning as normal, all coding pinging green. We believe this is an isolated incident. Please be advised to re-initialize protocol in 90 seconds. Extraction complete. Alpha Team signing off.”

Not a single student in the classroom seemed to notice what was going o, focused on the screens in front of their eyes, as if the words “All is well” were enough to keep them from curiously investigating the ruckus taking place behind them.

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Filed under Saturday Shorts, Short Story