Categories
Poetry

Snap of the Whip

Whimpering fire

Snap of the Whip

Stones grinding then

Clack Clack Clack

Flame spills over the wood

Crack Crack Crack

The wind blows less gentle

Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh

Every time the earth sits

Creak Creak Creak

On the edge of its ellipse

(…) (…) (…)

My home in a city by a lake

Crash Crash Crash

Cream-colored brick

Thump Thump Thump

Fire flashes then

Blink Blink Blink

With a light so bright that

Crack Crack Crack

It ignites and a stray spark

Clack Clack Clack

Drifts to me and I am the sun itself

Snap of the Whip

Categories
Short Story

3186

“It was said the Pause had swallowed the earth. So we followed the Green Light. Humanity became safe for the first time in all history,” Gwen recited with her classmates. 

Placed in the front of the classroom above the blackboard was a large picture of a stern-looking man. The gold plaque underneath read, “Great Leader Andrew Brewam” The fluorescent lights flickered above Gwen and the other 15 of her classmates.

“Praise to Andrew Brewam,” The teacher said.

“May our Great Leader never die. We will serve him. Thank him for our home in Green Light, in Onica.” Their chairs scrapped back in a cacophony in the windowless underground room.

Gwen carefully unfolded her only sheet of paper for the day and rolled the last nub of a pencil across her desk, which settled neatly. History class first.

After the blinding light had receded, the country that used to be called the United States was now a dead zone. They all lived on the underside of that mirror, the horizon. Gwen had only seen paintings of it, where the water was big enough to imitate the sky. The sky she had never seen, her mother and sister, Abby had been one of the lucky ones. All of them had been born in Onica.

“Thousands of miles around Ground Zero were flattened by the change in pressure and force that resulted from a nuclear detonation, the nuclear detonation. That area is called what, class?” The teacher pointed at the worn books in front of them depicting a mushroom fireball.

“a Dead Zone,” the students replied in unison. Gwen tried not to roll her eyes.

 A note scribbled on a napkin from lunch sat on her desk, which read, “Study hard, sweetie! Dad would be proud of you! Love, Mom” 

“My grandma said that she could feel even the basement of Onica shake when Pause happened.” 

“No way!”

But, the teacher was gently tapping his ruler against the plastic grain of his desk. The purple-hued smoke caught most of the screams, the body disintegrating faster than sound could leave the bodies. They had been paused. 

“It was the foresight of your ancestors that has led to you being alive today. They, led by our great leader, were the only humans left after the world turned into a war to end the life that your grandparents once knew.” The bell rang, and in unison, Gwen and her classmates stood and recited the Onica anthem

“We rebuild united under one roof. We pledge our allegiance to Onica, devote ourselves to growing stronger as a people every day, dedicating our lives to our leader’s mission; to restart the world baptized in green light.”

Gwen went home for the day. She walked through the crowded hallways of Onica and left the spotless Green Light section where all public rooms were. She walked until the hallways became more and more cluttered, the paint on the walls showed their peeling.

Their home was small, only consisting of about three rooms. A bathroom, the main room, and their bedroom. They all shared it together.

Gwen squinted as the LED light shone in her face as she reached across the table in the kitchen.. Thin rubber covered the wires. 

“Gwen, would you be able to look for Dad’s wine opener in his room?” Gwen’s mother asked. “I can’t get this dang can open and the can opener has been missing for days.”

“Alright,” Gwen said and turned. The cardboard was smooth under her hands as she opened the boxes. She went under his desk, and a letter was addressed to a Doctor Ulrich fell out. Gwen, her brow furrowed and her lips pushed out opened the letter until it was out of the envelope by only an inch. 

Dear,

Gwen closed her eyes and pushed the letter back in. Better to not know, whatever it was.

Gwen put the letter back exactly as she had found it and took the wine opener to her mom. As she ate the canned beans and rice, and her sister chatted gaily at the table. Gwen couldn’t stop thinking about the letter. What did it say? She wished she had opened it. But as she feel asleep, her mother’s and sister’s soft breathing close by her she turned over on her side and squeezed her eyes shut. No. It was better not to know.

Before going home after her lesson, Gwen stopped to get dinner for the day. She got the silver Freezo packages and recycled water for them to drink from the ration station. She started toward the paint chipped hallways to her home.

“Excuse me, miss, but you can’t go past here.”

“What? What’s happened?”

“We’ve closed off all of the roads leading to North Onica.”

“But my mom-“

“You have another family you can stay with?”

Gwen shook her head in response. The man gestured to a group of her neighbors who were stuck waiting outside the blockade.

“You’ll stay with them for now until we lift the quarantine.”

“Where is your sister?”

“She got detention, she stayed behind after lessons.”

Her neighbor nodded. “We’ll wait for her.”

They never saw her mother again. Not one of her neighbors who were home at the time of the quarantine were ever seen again. But even then, life went on, and only a few tears were shed among those lucky enough to be left. Her mother had always been tucked away in her study and never had time for Gwen. Her being was solely in napkins and little notes she had once tucked into Gwen’s backpack.

It was hard to say when exactly it became real for Gwen. At first, it was almost fun—a game of codes and secrets. People gathered in the streets of Onica and sat for hours, holding signs that appealed for help to be reunited with their loved ones. There were rumors that they were still alive and only just in the past year the walls that had been erected. But the crackdown in response was violent. Andrew Brewam authorized live bullets to be fired into the crowds of children and older people. 

She remembered the last time she saw Augustus in the middle of Center Square. There were two different ropes; he hung by and the one holding the sign on his chest with the hastily drawn word “Traitor.” She turned around on her hard bed, the springs squeaking, causing the closest bunkmate to shift and groan. Gwen’s stomach was in knots with remembering his last words to her.

“My parents believe that they were led to justice by a green light leading us into the earth. But-“ Augustus had produced a faded letter, the creases were worn down from being opened and shut so many times. “even though not all were able to escape into the earth, not everyone was taken to the Pause. They tell us that there’s nothing else up there. This letter says otherwise. There are survivors.” His voice had pitched passionately, “Our ‘Great leader’ isn’t doing anything but killing us. There are other ways that we can handle the virus. We can’t even go to the ration station anymore. We have to get out of here,” He had pointed to a word in the letter that read, Petesville. “There. It was the only place that escaped the dead zone from ground zero. There are people who live there, and they have three meals every day, they get to feel the grass in between their toes and the sun shining down on them and everything that we have ever read about the outside before the explosion.”

“The sun?” Gwen had tried to imagine, instead of having a roof, having a vast emptiness above her. The feeling had made her fingers twitch.

Augustus had nodded, “there’s no green light down here. The only real light.” He had pointed upward, “is up there.”

All those words made her feel as if her body had grown bigger with her emotions. The person who gave her that hope was gone, just like her mother was gone. All that remained was the hope and the mission. To learn the truth about her mother’s disappearance, about her and her sister’s exile from the only home she had ever known. To find a new home, one where they didn’t have to look over their soldier and memorize the right answers not questioning, walking around with their eyes closed.

Gwen’s heartbeat was as fast as a hummingbird’s, feeling her face get warm in the bright yellow full-body FILER Suit. She adjusted the mask to stop the protective glass from fogging. Lifting a gloved hand, she gestured for Abby to move ahead. The markings left by the plague littered the street—rotting corpses piled in the ditches that once held the water supply.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“No,” They heard boots behind them and saw the red pinpoints of the guards’ Yursh T089 semiautomatics trailing the ground yards behind them. Abby whimpered.

“Let’s go.”

Gwen passed the Brewan temple and noticed two vertical lines with a longer horizontal line, linking them with a whirlpool symbol, linking it all together had been spray-painted on the wooden door.

“Gwen, in here,” Abby hissed. 

Gwen responded, immediately following Abby. Their footsteps crinkled the suit quietly in the large empty building. Rows and rows of pews filled the hall, “It’s supposed to be here.”

Abby stood guard at the door as Gwen rifled through the wooden boxes next to the altar, muttering to herself quietly. “Blueprints… blueprints..” 

Gwen took out her lockpick and jimmied the lock of a small unremarkable desk that sat in the back office. “Aha! Thank you, Auggie.” She carefully took out the blueprints, read them, and placed them in the small case she had been carrying.

She went out into the temple hall and gave Abby the thumbs up. Abby nodded and peeked through the door. With a loud bang, the doors burst open the opposite way, knocking Abby to the ground. “Go! Go! Go!” Gwen didn’t even have time to breathe when the guards flooded in, their Yursh’s trained on her. 

“Don’t Move!”

Gwen put her arms up immediately, and her muscles froze.

They twisted Abby’s arms as they pinned her to the ground. The groans that Abby let out were permeated with pain.  The echoing marching of feet slapped the concrete floor. Gwen’s eyes darted toward the back door, her legs shaking.

“Put down the case.” The guards barked

Gwen started to lower the case to the ground slowly.

“I have a bomb!” Abby screamed. 

Gwen held a gasp of surprise. She hadn’t told her about this danger. They were just supposed to get in, get the blueprints for the town hall and then leave. Abby was just as crazy as Augustus warned. Too late now.

The guards looked at each other. 

“Let us go, and I won’t press pause on all of you!” Abby lifted her hand, holding her handmade walkie. “I’ll give you three seconds, and within that time, you will let me and my friend go.”

“She’s bluffing.” The guard on top of her shifted, causing Abby to cry out in pain. He tried unsuccessfully to pry the walkie from her hand.

“T-try me”

“Unsuit her”

“One” The guards hesitated. “Two”

“Okay! Okay.” 

“Th-“ Abby started and recoiled her head, ready to slam her face into the ground. Was that supposed to ignite the bomb?

Either way, the guards got off of her in a shot, allowing her to scramble to her feet. 

Gwen held the door open for Abby, that crazy woman. Everyone sprinted towards the back. She slammed it shut in the guards’ faces as they got out to safety. A stray metal rod scrapped in a high pitch squeal as Gwen barred the door, preventing them from following them.

The tunnel’s walls glistened in the light. The drips of water landed on Abby and Gwen’s FILER suits as they edged through, careful not to fall into the waste processing facility below on their way out. Close to Gwen’s heart was Auggie’s letter.

“Ugh, it smells.” Abby shifted her backpack of stolen provisions and STABLE anti-radiation pills from the pharmacy. There was a bright light up ahead. They inched closer and closer.

“How can you smell anything through the FILER?”

“Well… I can’t smell anything, but can you imagine?”

“Yeah.”

“What is this place?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ve never been here before? But you’ve been everywhere in Green Light.” Abby’s tone was accusatory.

“I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never seen this hallway in my life.”

“That looks like a way out!” Abby shouted and pointed to the ceiling.

Gwen craned her neck and squinted through the fog collecting on her FILER visor.

A ladder leading up the side of the wall led to a hatch with a circular handle. Abby stared at the ladder. Her feet were stuck in place as if glued.

Gwen tested the first rung of the ladder. It was solid. She shook the ladder. It didn’t move. She climbed up the ladder, with Abby close behind. She wrapped one of her forearms around the last rung of the ladder, and with her other hand, she turned the hatch. Dust rained down on them, forming a fine mist that settled on the creases of their FILER suits. Gwen pushed open the hatch. 

The sun was blinding. For a little while, they couldn’t see a thing. Their eyes were used to the darkness of being underground for their entire lives. After a while, their blindness left them. The sun reflected off the barren cracked rock that surrounded the slightly damp waste pool. 

“We’re outside.” Gwen stared out into the desert. Where there was nothing, no walls, only floor, and everything seemed possible.

“There’s no green….” Abby trailed off. “Just all bright light.”

Gwen ignored her beating heart and immediately set off toward the rising sun. It was one of the directions listed in the letter. 

Categories
Short Story

The Maker

Sweat dripped onto the sidewalk placed on the model’s cardboard. With precision, William’s nimble fingers crafted a tree no bigger than a quarter in the dark basement of a house in downtown Milwaukee. It was meant to fit in perfectly with the rest of his creations. A train track carved out its place in the green turf that made up the grass and over the Menomonee River. Even the smallest buildings were meticulously organized, painted, proportioned. They fit into the invisible blueprints that were mapped out in his mind, a replica of his hometown.

Building things calmed him. But then, the phone rang. His eyes flicked up for a moment and returned to his work. Silence and then again, the phone rang. Sighing and placing the deciduous tree carefully down he stood, his knees cracking. He wiped his gluey hands on his pants.

“Hello.”

“Is William Yaohua there?”

“Speaking.” He reached with a dirty finger into his mouth and swabbed out some spaghetti noodle hiding behind his molars. He grimaced as the familiar taste of paste lingered on his tongue.

“My name is Doctor Virginia Mary. I’m calling to tell you that your sister, Rebecca has been admitted to Columbia Saint Mary’s”

“The Hospital? Is she alright?” William’s mouth went dry and he glanced at the clock. 8:25 pm.

“She is in the hospital. She’s been hit by a car on Prospect Avenue and suffered blunt trauma to the face and chest. She is currently in the ICU undergoing surgery. You were her emergency contact.”

“Alright, I’ll be there soon.” He slammed the landline onto the receiver. The thunderous sound of his footsteps echoed his heartbeat. Barely registering the crack of the car door and the revving of the engine was the last thing that he heard on his property, besides the buzzing in his head.

Will sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from every movement of the short hand of the clock. It was as if his eyes were tied to it with rope. His hope was the only thing strong enough to be pulling his attention away every time the doors of surgery swung open, but every time his eyes met a different very busy nurse.

“Yaohua?” He stood up, the magazine he had been holding went sprawling onto the ground. The pages showed the best way to trim belly fat to the ceiling. The doctor gripped his shoulder.

“The good news is that she is stable and you can see her now. However, she’s in a comatose state and has sustained extreme injuries. There’s no other way to put this. She may never be the same again.” Will’s eyes clouded over.

“Hey, sis.” He sat down next to Rebecca and gripped her hand tightly. Her face was completely covered with bandages. “I love you.” His voice cracked, and the Electrocardiogram beeped steadily in response. “I’m sorry that this happened to you. But I’m here for you. I’ll be here if you need anything. I know you probably can’t hear me, but do you remember when mom got sick that first time? Injuries are no match for us. We always pull through.”

The only answer was the soft beeping of the machine and the squeak of sneakers out in the hall. The clock ticked on the bedside table.

Rebecca died two hours after she had left the surgery table. Her funeral was scheduled for the day after next.

Rain-engorged clouds filled the sky. Everyone was wearing black and shivering in the autumn bluster. The casket was a deep brown color. Rebecca’s friends and families surrounded the priest, listening quietly.

“…For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands but with faith in God’s love, eternal in heaven. The word of the Lord.” The Priest closed the bible had read from and caught the eyes of William. An empathy filled them which made the corners of William’s mouth stretch toward his ears and his heart ache.

“The word of the Lord,” The crowd echoed back.

William stood at the back of the crowd. He remembered the days of sunshine of their youth and how much hope and intelligence she always carried with her. He dried his tears and forced a smile as hand after hand pat him on the shoulder.

After the funeral, the boxes of Rebecca’s things flooded into his house. He was the only surviving member of their family since neither he or Rebecca had ever married. He sifted through clothes, keeping photographs, old papers written by his sister, and an antique pocket watch then donating the rest.

He often turned the antique pocket watch over and over in his hands. Tracing his fingers over the smooth metal and glass, it was solid in his hands. Where had Rebecca gotten this watch? It wasn’t like her to keep old things around. She had always shown off the latest and greatest technology, making sure to always have the newest thing.

But now, he was late for his routine doctor’s appointment.

He drove his car carefully on the icy roads. The snow plummeted from the sky and the windshield wipers squawked against the glass. He stopped at a railroad crossing as the lights were signaling a train. Handling the timepiece in his jacket pocket he pressed the button, making the gears click and shift. It hadn’t worked before. He must’ve finally loosened the screws or something.

He stared at the graffiti on the sides of the train as it blew past. One car, two cars, three, dark caps of coal topped each car. As his car idled the hot air circulated, blowing straight into his red cheeks. Sighing, he fidgeted for a couple more minutes before he turned on the radio.

“…’an’t believe this. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s the 28th of January and an oak tree is growing straight out of the concrete on the corner of 16th Street and Vernon next to the Menomonee river. Locals state that there was no sign of any plants before 5 pm yesterday. The patrons of the local Third Space Brewery…”

William blinked and looked at the street signs. It read 16th Street. He looked to his right, a crowd peppered with the flashes of cameras gathered outside of the brewery despite the chill. He pulled out his smartphone and looked up his location. He had just passed the 16th street bridge going north. The Menomonee river had chunks of ice drift past below him.

“Other changes have been noted by city officials as the very landscape changes beneath our feet causing extreme structural damage. There is no other way to describe it as other than a supernatural natural event,” The radio continued.

A rhythmic ticking reverberated in his hand. He looked at his sister’s pocket watch and flicked the stopwatch function off. He forgot that he had turned it on.

“The changes in the landscape have shifted as policemen answer calls regarding what witnesses describe as a freak earthquake and spontaneous arboreal germination…”

The train rumbled past, the last car finally leaving William’s vision.

He spotted the tree. Its roots muscled through the deep concrete, a dark brown in the endless gray of winter. In the distance its flat broad leaves waving at him in the freezing wind. The green was as vivid as emeralds in the vast whiteness of snowbanks stacked on the sides of the street.

He approached the tree, his turn slow and thoughtful. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from its branches. He squinted. There were clumps of acorns peeking from the green leaves. Squirrels would at least be happy. He drove carefully and stared at the tree which had not been there before the train had come. How could it be? He blinked his eyes, hard. It was still there. He shook his head. It was still there. He slapped his cheeks and blinked and shook his head. It was still there. But the clock on his car dashboard still said he would be late to his appointment.

On his way home. He made a point to drive past it again. When he got home, he went straight to his basement and worked on his model. The darkness of the basement was comforting. Here, there was nothing strange. All was familiar and his eyes grew heavy with contentment. The soft sound of Miles Davis echoed softly in the corner emanating from an antique record player. The small amount of light reflected off the flat black grooved vinyl disk.

He was measuring proportions for a model of the local news tower, K48. He referenced his blueprint and then visited his model. He stopped and stared. He had left the miniature oak tree in the center of an intersection. The small street signs that he had erected read, 16th and Vernon.

An idea came to him. He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. Heshook his head. No, that was stupid. He walked away, opened up a la coix, took a deep sip and then put the can on the counter and went back to the model. He uprooted the K48 tower and then placed it directly in the center of the American Family Park, formerly known as Miller Park parking lot.

William sat on his chair. The remote slid a bit before he turned on the tv’s new channel. In his left hand, he held the stopwatch. He licked his lips.

He clicked the button and the watch ticked and then reset.

The news channel blurred. He knit his eyebrows together and flipped to the other channels, they were just fine. Clicking his watch again. He went to the news channel. It was still fuzzy. He flipped to the local news.

Footage of the K48 news tower played. He gasped. The tower grew like a flower out of the concrete of the parking lot in the center of Milwaukee. He stopped the watch. The tower stopped growing. He started it again. The tower resumed its rise from the bowels of the earth.

His chest grew tight. The remote slipped from his hand and clattered to the floor. He clapped his hand against his mouth. The button on the antique watch clicked as he stopped it. So too, did the growth of the K48 news tower. His eyes were wide and they flicked from the watch in his hand to the model of Milwaukee on the table to the TV, where a breathless newsperson tried to explain the unexplainable.

William looked at his model of Milwaukee and the antique watch in his hand. It was impossible… Was the model, the watch, and real-life connected?

Categories
Essays Opinion

The Book of Koli Review

As a work of science fiction, worldbuilding is the most significant element and the most enjoyable in The Book of Koli. M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli is marvelous, one of those science fiction books which did not feel like there was an author, only the character. You are so completely immersed in the world, you become as a part of it as any of the characters which populate the book. You stand among them. The themes explored technology, power, and coming of age in a post-apocalyptic world where the tree is carnivorous.

But it’s not so much about the Trees as Koli’s life in his village or the Trees, it’s how society has formed and adapted around their knowledge. Ramparts are the military and police force of the village where you are ‘chosen’ by a piece of old technology.

Koli’s realization of the truth of his world and his place in it make you want to read more and more. After reading the first one, I cannot wait to get my hands on the second one of this trilogy.

See Clare McCullough’s short story, “The Treasure Notebook”

Categories
Essays Opinion

“In infinite dimensions, all things are possible”

Ava’s story begins like most of our lives begin, at a low-paying job. Finna by Nino Cipri joins the ranks of trailblazing gender representation in contemporary science fiction.

It addresses the mental illness and depression of an underpaid service employee. Ava and her fellow works are asked to do too much and out of their job description, asked for endless service to capitalism. It reviews the injuries caused by the relentless allowance of capitalism’s oppression of the worker.  The morphing and changing scenery around them is representative of the author’s fear of conformity and Ava’s realization of identity. Until she imagines the infinite possibilities available for her future, does the main character fully realize hope.

It has an almost anti-romantic arc in that the main characters have fallen out of love. They are trying to make their way into friendship. The most outstanding impression I got from this book was not from the main character, but of the love interest, Jules who is only referred to as they/them.

The biggest strength of this book is its razor sharp-wit and the pure fun it was to read. It was touching and had qualities of exuberance and righteousness.

It challenges us to rethink the traditional and patriarchal approaches toward science, capitalism, and gender. Examining attitudes that span across generations and multiverses. All knowledge is fundamentally gendered, being construction of possibility and more oftentimes than we’d like to admit, a self-fulling prophecy.

Categories
Poetry

Delta

Waning and waxing

My heart is like the

Crescent Moon;

Soft buttery craters/

– Obscured by candlelight/

Flicker fire lit the wicker chair

Oh woe to those reeds

Those that bend those that

– Break and swell/

Waves commanded by/

That cruel changing moon.

Categories
Poetry

Place of Safety or Refuge

Meter is defined as measurement. 

The way that poetic form is definition. 

In the form of evolution,

Ink pens are royalty.

A king’s gold plated destinies and rule lines

clearly written.

Everything with a place and a home

Life attends this noble firmament.

Categories
Paintings and Photos Poetry

I, Ladybug (or the power of small things)

The aphid tasted good.

Rough grass irritated

my wiggling six legs.

Talented black spots 

decorated my ambitious

red wings.

Yet unobserved 

by the sharpest hawk’s eye 

with a clear blue sky.

I, Ladybug

matched the color

of the bright burnt sun. 

I, Ladybug

soared over mountains

and burrowed under fallen leaves

by the rushing stream

finding my way between

the cracks of a tree

near invisibility leading

to immutability

I, Ladybug, marched beneath the 

door frame and

right onto your page.

Categories
Short Story

A Job from Hell

I was born with the name, Calvin. Although it was the name that my mother gave me when I was born, it wasn’t the name people at the office called me. They usually called me Cal.I never knew what name to call any of them. I had worked at the office for years, but I had not gotten the name of any of my co-workers or even my boss. 

Yellow United Company was an insurance company. It was the only place that I have ever worked. Whenever I told people that I worked there, a glaze would come over their eyes and they would say, “hmm, very interesting,” 

It didn’t seem like the people who worked there thought that the work was interesting either. They always seemed to be training someone new when I was finally around the office. So many different faces, all without names. It was alright for me. Once every couple weeks I would get on a plane and travel around the country. When I would often come back I would see new people in the office.

 I never recognized anyone. I preferred it that way. But it was after my 37th birthday party that I began to feel an uneasiness that never left as long as I was at Yellow United. The people I had worked with were always a bit strange. Never in any way that I could explain to people without them saying that I was being sensitive or that I was the strange one.

I went back to my desk. Brushing off the dust I sat, and reorganized my desk. I looked to my left. There was a strange scent wafting from the cubicle there.

“What is that? Tuna?” I asked, trying to make conversation.

“Hey Cal, happy to see you. Welcome back to the office. It’s not tuna.”

“Yeah nice to see you again… remind your name? I’m sorry,” I said putting my hand behind my head and giving a grin.

“My name is Joseph.” He said. I stared at him. 

“Okay,” I looked to my left just in time to see my other co-worker clipping her toenails at her desk. 

“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked as a shard of toenail flew into my mouth. I turned green and spat out the offending projectile. Slamming my hands against the table, I stood. “Would you stop that? Do you have to do this now?”

“Oh, Cal. I didn’t see you there. Do you want to borrow my toe clippers after me?” She asked. My stomach turned over and my face twisted in revulsion. Her toes were yellowed and thick. I could see the fungus overgrowing and flaking off of her foot onto her desk.

“No thanks, uh what was your name?”

“Dorothy,” She said, even her smile was yellow.

“Right,” I said and nodded. It wasn’t long before 5 o’clock blissfully came around. 

“Goodbye,” I said. 

“Goodbye Cal,” The whole office said in unison. I shivered. 

The next morning I had to sit in my car for a few minutes before going in. 

“Hey Cal,” There was a young blonde sitting across from me.

“Oh, hello, do I know you?” I asked. I pushed back my receding hairline. The young blonde laughed as if I had told a hilarious joke. My laugh was hollow as I joined her. 

“What department do you work in,”

“I work in HR,”

“Oh, I thought Joseph did,” I said, earning myself a blank stare. Something squirmed underneath my feet. I looked down. The whole floor below me was covered in slugs. Brown slugs, with their mucus trailing behind them, staining the carpet with black streaks. Shining in the fluorescent lights like precious stones. Gasping, I stood on my chair. I looked around. The slugs were coming from the cubicle to my right. Where Joseph had been.

But, instead of the well-groomed if a bit fish-smelling man from yesterday, there was a boy, who couldn’t be older than 20 sitting there. 

“Do you have any salt?” He asked me. I shook my head. 

“No, I don’t”

“Pity, it’s the only way to get rid of slugs, is to throw salt on them,” He reached for his briefcase and opened it. It was filled to the brim with slugs. My stomach turned over again, looking around. Was anyone seeing this? This had to be against the rules.

“Oh, I see. Yup, slugs, got you,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead. 

“Is something wrong Cal?” He asked. I shook my head and didn’t answer. I rushed to the men’s bathroom. But a sound stopped me just as I began to push on the door. 

There was a soft chanting noise coming from the woman’s bathroom. It took a bloodcurdling scream for me to rush in. 

“Is everyone okay?” I said, bursting through the door. I looked to see a roomful of strangers holding a chicken without a head. It’s blood splattered across the walls and a pentagram was drawn on the ground. 

“I see that you are all busy, and I’ll leave you to it,” I said, turning white. “Goodbye,” I said and I ran out of the women’s bathroom. I loosened my necktie, took everything of value from my desk and shoved it into a white box. 

“Cal, where are you going? It’s not even lunch yet,” A stout woman blocked my way through the door.

“I’m leaving, I’m quitting, I have no idea who you are and I would appreciate it if you would step aside,”

“Oh that’s too bad, we’ve had a change of management recently and I would really like to introduce you to your new president,”

“No thanks, really I have to go,” I said. I pushed her aside with force and ripped off my nametag, throwing it into the garbage. I kicked open the door and went to my car. Driving away I looked behind me to see that the ground surrounding the Yellow United Company building was cracking and descending into hell. Literal hell. I laughed incredulously and wondered what I would say when I had to tell people why I had left my last job.

Categories
Short Story

The Treasure Notebook

It was dark inside the trash compactor. Hippocrates’s Green Bay packer Jersey hung off of him. Small bits of slime shone in the green light. He gritted his teeth as the light blinked. It blinked again. He cursed his late grandfather for ever leaving him that small black moleskin notebook and its dumb map leading it to his Grandfather’s fortune. 20-thousand-dollar treasure be damned. Why did his Grandfather have to be so damn cryptic all the time. Hippocrates’s screwed up his face, his eye blinking from the sweat dripping into and stinging his eyes.

                “We’ll let you go if you give us the notebook,” a voice blared from speakers just outside the small sliver of light from the outside. Hippocrates retched at the vile smell around him and he raised his hands defensively.

                “Brandon, I cannot give you the notebook on account that I do not have it on my person at the moment,” Hippocrates said. He noticed a smudge on his wristwatch and rubbed the smudge, only making it spread more. The light turned red. The walls wailed as they moved closer together, leaving less room for Hippocrates

“Is that so? It’s not like you haven’t come up short before in our business dealings. Even in high school, you always were a gram or two short of weed when I picked up. Always trying to screw other people over for a quick buck. Now that the stakes are higher, your idiocy is finally being paid back,” Brandon said. Hippocrates winced and cursed himself for not cutting the weed with other drugs so that Brandon wouldn’t have had noticed his past deceptions.

“Wait, wait. I have a counter offer. My grandmother, she knows about the notebook. She knows about the money and the map, so why don’t we take a break from the trash compactor and the crushing and I can lead you to her. No one gets hurt and you get your money. 20,000 dollars, and it’s all yours, all my debts, paid in full,” Hippocrates said. The walls stopped moving and the light turned back to green. Hippocrates breathed out.

                “I’m listening,” The speaker said. Hippocrates bared his teeth, lifting himself on the tip of his toes. Stench filled his nostrils. His eyes widened.

                “My grandmother. She’s the only one who knows what it is. She’s still at the football game at Lambeau, she’ll lead us to the little black notebook,” Hippocrates says.

                “How do I know you won’t just go to the cops?”

“Because I just told you where my grandmother is,”

“I don’t know Hipp,”

“How long have we known each other? You know I’m good for it, I’ll get you your money, no harm, no foul. Grandma and I will retire to Florida and ride out the rest of her retirement money. You get to keep the notebook and the 20 thousand, and you never hear from me again,” Hippocrates said.

“Alright, lead us to your grandma and out of respect for the time that we have known each other, I won’t kill you,” Brandon said.

“Thank you, Brandon, thank you,” Hippocrates said as the walls began to open. The floor beneath him began angling down and Hippocrates was dumped unceremoniously onto a pile of trash below. The wind blew across the dump as Hippocrates stretched his legs and shivered in the fall air.

“Let’s go,” A tall muscled man lifted Hippocrates to his feet.

“Oh hello!” Hippocrates said and removed himself from his grasp. “Brandon, who is this handsome man?” Hippocrates asked as he wiped his hands on his clothes, not much good that it did. The tall man frowned at him pushed Hippocrates towards Brandon, as diminutive as always even compared to Hippocrates’s modest 5’7.

“I’m glad you decided to help us Hipp, it really makes finding your grandfather’s black moleskin all the easier. Your grandfather was a tough guy and smart too. He’s hidden his money well, but as soon as I found out about the map in that black book, I knew I had to have it. It’s too bad you didn’t get any brains from him or any of his Irish mafia buddies. Now are you ready to go to the playoffs?” Brandon asked, his neck dripping with herringbone gold jewelry.

Hippocrates ran his fingers through his hair in the car’s reverse mirrors, trying to restore some ounce of tidiness. He smoothed down his eyebrows and fixed his collar.

“Yeah, I’m ready, you don’t happen to have any deodorant or cologne, do you?” Hippocrates said and cleared his throat. He adjusted his jersey and pants. The car rumbled and he shifted uncomfortably in his own stench. Brandon nodded to the tall man who sat in the passenger seat. The tall man threw the deodorant at him.

“Thanks,” Hippocrates said. They rounded a hill and over the horizon was Lambeau field. Hippocrates smiled.

“That isn’t the first time he’s heard that,” Brandon said. They pulled up to the parking lot and navigated the tailgaters and stray cans of Miller High Life that populated the lot. Brandon pulled to the entrance. The Tall man got out of the car and slammed the door shut.

“Keep an eye on this one and bring grandma back in one piece,” Brandon said to the tall man. The Tall man nodded.

“I understand. Let’s go,” The tall man said.

“Is that your catchphrase or something? It’s always ‘let’s go,’ but never how are you,” Hippocrates said. The tall man bared his teeth and the hardness of his expression made Hippocrates quiet. The tall man opened the door for Hippocrates and jerked his chin. Hippocrates got out of the car, his head down.

“Be back in an hour and a half, there’s a sale on at the grocery store and I need to pick up asparagus before its over,” Brandon said. The tall man nodded and pushed Hippocrates forward.

“Don’t think of trying anything,” The tall man lifted his shirt and reveal a very shiny black revolver.

“They aren’t going to let you in with that,” Hippocrates said. The tall man glowered and took out the gun and gave it to Brandon.

“Don’t think I can’t crush your skull even without a gun,” The tall man said.

“Understood,” Hippocrates said. He flashed a smile, “Let’s go,’ Brandon took the gun and rolled his eyes.

“See you in an hour and a half, and don’t be late. If anything goes wrong, well, I think I remember where you live, and grandma has got to come home sometime. Hippocrates swallowed back his retort and nodded.

Lambeau was packed. Every seat was filled and the sun shone. As the two made their way to the ticket booth, a group of women wrinkled their noses at Hippocrates’s stench. Hippocrates grinned, his face going red and winked at the ladies. One of them gasped and averted her eyes. He caught his reflection in the mirror and ran his hands through his hair again, wiping off some of the more obvious slime patches and with a couple of disgusted looks the cashiers waved them through.

“Is it something I said?” Hippocrates said smiling to the tall man. The tall man grunted and pushed him forward.

“Where is she?” The tall man asked. Hippocrates rifled around in his pockets drawing out his stained ticket stub again

“She’s… she’s in section 1A5. Pretty good seats I have to admit. Grandpa may have led a life of crime but he had good taste,” Hippocrates said.

“Whatever,” The tall man said, dragging Hippocrates behind him. They walked down the steep flights of stairs as they saw the football players in green and gold warming up on the field below them.

“There she is, my grandma. Isn’t she beautiful?” Hippocrates said and pointed as he caught sight of an old woman decked out in cheesehead gear. He quickened his step and the tall man checked his watch.

“Grandma!” Hippocrates shouted. The old woman turned and smiled but her face froze as she saw the state that Hippocrates was in.

“Hipp, my goodness what happened to you? Did you slip in dog poop again?” Grandma asked.

“Grandma, don’t embarrass me in front of my friend,” Hippocrates whined and hugged his grandma.

“What’s wrong dear?” Grandma asked the tall man, “Here,” Grandma drew out a small plastic wrapped pouch of tissues and handed them to Hippocrates.

“Listen I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble and now I need to get that black notebook that Grandpa gave me right before he died,” Hippocrates said.

“Have you been gambling again?” Grandma asked. “Your grandfather wasn’t a perfect person but I hate to see you making the same mistakes that he did,”

“I’m sorry Grandma, but my friend here really needs the notebook. Well I need the notebook too, We’ve got to go now,”

“What do you mean, the game hasn’t even started yet and you’ve been looking forward,” Grandma said and the tall man, after glancing at his watch again took Grandma under the arm and helped her up. “Get your hands off me young man, I’m talking to my grandson. Have a little respect for your elders,”

“Grandma, please just listen to him,”

“No, your grandfather gave you that money Hippocrates, I am not giving you the black notebook now,”

“Well, I’ve already sort of lost it,” Hippocrates said.

“Lost it?”

“I had a couple bad hands at the Dragon Turtle,”

“What are you doing spending time at that dingy place? Alright, since it seems like you really need it, I’ll come with you and miss the game,” Grandma took out the black notebook from her bag and handed it to Hippocrates. Hippocrates cradled the key to 20 thousand dollars to his chest. He flipped through the notebook and saw the map.

“Really Grandma?” Hippocrates said, putting the notebook behind his back.

“Really,” Grandma said and stood, Hippocrates helped her gather her things and they slowly made their way to the exit. Just as they were about to pass the ticket booths.

“I’ve got to visit the bathroom before I go, you know these old bones and age. Emergencies become very dire,” Grandma said and squeezed Hippocrates’s arm with a knowing look. Hippocrates knitted his brow together.

“Oh course Grandma,”

She leaned in, “I’m going to call some of your grandfather’s friends. They are here in Lambeau right now, I knew something was up this morning and so I made some preparations. This isn’t the first time someone has tried to put a squeeze on your grandmother, trust grandma, I know what to do,” Grandma said and they walked her to the front of the ladies’ room. The tall man crossed his arms and surveyed the area.

“Women and their bladders amirite?” Hippocrates joked, smiling. The tall man frowned at him and ignored him. After about twenty minutes the tall man checked his watch again.

“What’s taking her so long? Go in and check,”

                “But, it’s the ladies’ room, do I look like a lady to you,”

                “you don’t want me to answer that,”

                “Right, right, I’ll be right back,” But before Hippocrates could so much as take a step forward Grandma tottered out. In her liver spotted and wrinkled hands shone a menacing revolver. She pressed it against the tall man’s back. A stream of people passed unaware of the danger that they had just been placed in.

                “Don’t you move young man, now. You are going to leave Lambeau and tell your boss that he should give up any ideas he might have to harming either my Hippy or me. I’ve got the whole irish mafia waiting at my house. If there are any questions, he’s going to get his answer in bullets you understand me?” Grandma said. The tall man paled.

                “I understand,”

                “Now go and let me enjoy this wonderful fall day with my grandson,”

                “Okay,” The tall man, visibly shaking beelined it for the exit.

                “Wow, now that was bad ass,” Hippocrates said.

                “Language, Hipp and don’t you go getting yourself into trouble again. Let’s go watch the game. Seems like we’ll be able to enjoy our money from grandpa for a little longer,” Grandma said.

                “Thanks grandma!” Hippocrates said and they gathered up their green and gold gear and went back to their seats to enjoy the game.