Tress looked both ways before she crossed the street, as she had always been taught. This procedure had never failed her before, so she stuck with it. But today was the last day of anything approaching normal in her life.
The van screeched around the corner, out of nowhere. Tress didn’t even have time to register the color before it struck her, and she immediately lost consciousness.
Tress opened her eyes to darkness and silence, aside from the steady drip-drop-drip of a leaky faucet. Her head ached more than anything she could have imagined before now, a steady throbbing like a helmet, along with the occasional sharp ice pick pain in her right temple. The ice pick was so unpredictable; that’s what made it so bad. She couldn’t brace for it.
She began to test her muscles, to see what her body was currently capable of doing. Her fingernails scratched at the rough sheet that she lay on. This seemed to be her limit. Her legs wouldn’t move at all, and her arms remained too heavy to lift. Even her pounding head would turn neither right nor left.
The sweat beading on her face told her that she couldn’t take any more exercise, as feeble as it was. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe slowly through her mouth. Eventually, she fell back asleep.
Eons later, she woke again. Light shone through her eyelids, and before she opened them, all she saw was red. She thought that was fitting. She felt red.
She opened her eyes. A bare lightbulb hung over her, dangling from a chain. Her head was still too heavy and painful to move, and her eyes wouldn’t travel much farther than straight ahead. She tried to move again, and her fingernails still scratched what felt to be the same bedsheet, but nothing else seemed to be in working order.
She felt a wetness building behind her eyes and in the back of her throat, and took some deep breaths to stave off the tears that she knew she hadn’t the strength to wipe away. This wasn’t a hospital. No one who cared about her probably knew a thing about her whereabouts. The deep breaths weren’t helping.
The single lightbulb shimmered behind a layer of tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks, desperate to seek the easiest route to the shells of her ears. Tress struggled to keep her eyes open as long as she could, but eventually, she had to blink, and the twin trails of moisture trekked their way downward.
This time, she managed to stay conscious until the tears dried, much longer than the first time.
The third time Tress woke to motion. Someone was pushing and pulling her body, dressing or undressing her. A brief panic gripped her heart before she realized that this had to have happened at least once before, because she could feel that she wasn’t wearing the long-sleeved blouse that she had left the house in. And it’s not like I could stop them, anyway, she thought. The mysterious person never moved close enough for Tress to see anything but a shock of unruly dark hair.
When whatever was to be done was done, the person left the room without a word. Tress heard the sighing of an old hinge before the click of the door latch. She wondered why tears were so far from her mind at this moment. Wouldn’t a normal person be in a near-constant state of terror?
The tears came as if called. This time not merely a single track per side; this time a measurable volume of tears flowed for minutes on end before she fell asleep again.
This time, voices. She could hear them murmuring in the hallway outside her room. Tress wished desperately that they would open the door so she could hear, even if they were only going to continue to ignore her.
Her wish was answered. She welcomed the sound of the door hinge because it meant company. It meant possibilities.
It meant an injection in the IV in her right arm that she hadn’t been able to feel. As her eyes began to feel heavy, she heard the first voice in her room.
“Don’t worry about cleaning her up after. He’ll just put her in the incinerator with the rest of the biohazard. We’ll find another one; maybe they’ll work out better.”
It’s all a jumble up there in my head. This story wants to get out, that story wants to get out.
But they’re all jammed together at the door.
Well, that and I’ve been busy watching movies.
Twilight and Breaking Dawn Part 1. #sorrynotsorry
Carrie’s car backfired, and she jumped, letting go of the clutch and causing it to stall out. She rubbed the tense muscles in the back of her neck and took a deep breath. Some life lessons are easier to learn than others, I guess, she thought.
“Yoo hoo!” Someone called from the garage door. “Anybody home?” It was Carrie’s main accomplice, Sky. Their annual Labor Day Weekend bash was the stuff of legend. Mostly because of that one year when the twins had one too many raspberry mojitos and tried to go home with each other’s boyfriend.
Carrie gratefully exited her vehicle, dropping the keys in the seat behind her. She welcomed Sky’s arrival because it meant tapas were near. “Just let me grab my shoes,” she called.
Sky nodded and bounced back to her own properly maintained car to wait. Carrie was horrible about being ready on time. Today Sky ran ten minutes late on purpose just to see if Carrie would notice. Her bet was on not.
Today, it only took Carrie eight minutes to find the most disgusting pair of sandals she owned. At least, that was Sky’s assumption. They might once have been Birkenstocks, but time and abuse and disfigurement caused them to look like some alien creature had attached itself to Carrie’s flesh. And the color was just gross.
Sky shrugged, and put the car in reverse. Tapas Thursday was a tradition that wasn’t worth losing over a pair of godawful ugly sandals. Besides, Carrie’s existing fashion sense wasn’t ever anything to write home about.
On the way to the restaurant, they passed the train station, which was decorated in a giant banner welcoming some gymnast to the local competition. Sky pointed a finger at it, and Carrie scoffed.
“I haven’t been interested in gymnastics since my mother stopped forcing me to go,” she said. “Not that I was interested before then, either.”
Sky laughed. “I know, silly. Just like me and piano lessons.”
They pulled up to the fine dining establishment where all the Thursday staff knew their names. Sky parked the car, and the pair walked up to the door. A moth flew down from the awning, flapping in Sky’s face, and she flailed her arms wildly at it, panicking.
“It’s just a bug, girl, you look like you’re directing a ship into port,” said Carrie.
Sky’s face was red, and she briefly tried to defend her actions, but quickly gave up and shrugged. “I know, I just don’t like them.”
They went to their usual table in the corner by the kitchen, not normally a popular table, but they liked it because the chance of the waiter dropping their tapas down someone’s back was pretty much nonexistent.
Natalio was their waiter tonight, and he was their definitive favorite. Even before they figured out the near-the-kitchen trick, he’d never dropped a single item from their order.
Sky picked up a dot of sauce with her finger and licked it off before continuing the conversation that had flagged due to their mutual admiration of Natalio.
“So, you don’t think that I’m being stupid about Fletcher, huh?”
Carrie quickly shook her head. “Of course not! He was absolutely faithless assuming that you were going to dump him for losing his job. He’s the one being stupid. I mean, a preemptive breakup over local employment? I know it sucks, but he’s being a jerk.”
“I know, but still…it just breaks my heart. I thought we were so good together. I didn’t know about the big streak of crazy he had until it was too late. But I guess it isn’t too late, since we’re broken up.” Sky shrugged. “What about you? How does your blood work look?”
“Oh, it’s fine, lately. My serum levels are down, which is good. Hopefully it’s just a waiting game now.”
Today I generated a list of twenty random words from this site. I wrote half at work this morning and finished the rest tonight. If you pay attention, you can tell where I started to struggle with the last few words!
In the late nineties, I took a lot of road trips. I mean, a lot of road trips. One was to Radford, Virginia.
I don’t remember it like this photo; I didn’t do anything touristy while I was there at all.
I went to visit my friend from mIRC. He was older than I was then, but younger than I am now: an interesting thing to think about. He seemed to know everything. Not everything in a book sense, everything in a practical sense. He knew how the world worked.
I looked up to him. I admired him. I possibly hero-worshipped him. I probably hero-worshipped him.
Anyway, he said that I could come visit him. So I was like, cool. Let’s do this.
I threw some clothes in the back of my car and hit the road. It was a long trip, but the leaves were just beginning to turn, and it was gorgeous scenery. And the gas was super cheap in Georgia. Less than eighty cents a gallon.
I failed to dodge a possum crossing the road. It was the first time that I hit something warm-blooded with my car. I cried.
I remember when I finally got to Virginia there were so many signs telling me that radar detectors were illegal. It didn’t matter; I’ve never had one. It seemed terribly unfair, though. It had never crossed my mind before that they might be illegal anywhere, let alone in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world.
Remind me sometime to write about the brainwashing to which we subject our children in this country.
Those signs were a slap in the face for me, the first in a series. It’s a challenge to overcome a lifetime of learning, but this was one of the very first times I was out in the great wide world all by my lonesome, far away from home.
But I finally made it, and when I pulled up in front of his house, I was floored. It was huge. Gigantic. Stupendous. Honestly, it probably wasn’t all that big, but I didn’t have any friends who lived on their own in a real house any bigger than a thousand square feet, and here was this two-story monstrosity with one single person living in it.
I was impressed.
I was pretty excited to meet him. But–and I should have seen this coming, since we hung out in the #depressed room on mIRC–he was so sad. Trust me, we can smell our own.
We did a quick lap around the house, and he showed me the room upstairs where I was going to sleep, since I’d driven straight through and was exhausted.
If I had to choose one room from all the rooms I’ve ever been in to spend the rest of my life, to spend eternity, it would be this room. I am not the nerdy teenaged bookworm that I once was, but that girl is still inside me, and her love for that room is still tremendous.
It was a mess, I’ll give you that, but it was the best kind of mess: a mess of books. I slept on the couch in the middle of the room, surrounded by teetering towers of books that I’d never read. Books that I’d never heard of. There were books on the floor and books on the end table. There were books in boxes and books in bags.
I immediately felt at home. I slept wonderfully.
I spent three days there, but I don’t remember much of what we did.
I remember that I cleaned the kitchen.
I remember that we went to the DMV because he had to renew his license. I was impressed with the technology there; heck, our DMV is still a completely disorganized circle of Hell, twenty years later. We went today, and it was closed for server issues. I also learned that some states don’t charge for vanity plates. He had one; it was his mIRC screen name, most of the vowels removed.
And I remember that we went to his ex-girlfriend’s house.
Everyone has that ex. The one that screwed up your life. Or the one for whom you screwed up your own life for love of them. She was his. And they still hung out, because he wasn’t over her.
She had roommates, other friends of theirs. They smoked some pot, and I declined.
There was this weird vibe that I didn’t understand at the time. It was months before I did understand, because that’s when he sent me a copy of his autobiography, and I found out that she was that girl.
And even reading what he’d written, and witnessing them interact, I went on to make the same mistake. Find someone, the wrong someone, waste time with them, lose them, pine over them, get them back, wise up, ditch them for good. That’s how my story went. I’m luckier than some.
I went to visit him again a few months later, maybe a year and a half. He’d moved to another state, a little closer this time, but still hundreds of miles away. He was better then. Happier. And closer to being over her. I was glad to see that.
I don’t remember who disappeared first, him or me. But it was perfectly in character for both of us. No goodbyes, just a never heard from again kind of ending.
He was secretive where I was open, but I did learn his real name. I’m afraid to look him up, though, because of Jeremy. I’m not so sure that I could find him anyway. He wouldn’t have a Facebook. Unless he’s changed so much I wouldn’t recognize him, in which case, I think we’d both rather I remember him this way.
Through the rose-colored glasses of memory.
Frank picked up his phone and called the pet store. The empty aquarium had been bubbling in his living room for far too long, and it was time to do something about it.
Some punk kid answered the phone with disinterest, and Frank simply ended the call. There was no way a part-time teenager would know anything about tropical fish. No way.
He pulled on a pair of jeans, shoved his feet into some sandals, and grabbed his keys from the table by the door. It was only a couple of miles to the pet store. He flip-flopped his way in and paced back and forth in front of the wall of fish tanks for nearly an hour.
All four of the employees had stopped by to check on him, more than once, but he waved them off, a fierce look of concentration on his face.
Finally, he froze.
“That’s him!” Frank announced to the whole store at the top of his lungs. Three of the employees immediately trotted over to find out which was the magic fish. Frank’s finger was following a beauty of a yellow tang, lazily flicking its tail as it circled the tank.
The pony-tailed girl wearing a name tag that said Deloris quickly snatched up a net and a plastic baggie for the lucky fish. She deftly scooped it up and tied the baggie before handing it to Frank. He cradled it lovingly and headed straight for the registers.
Frank nestled to bag into the crook of his elbow to use one hand to open the drink cooler and snag a blue Gatorade, which he placed on the conveyor belt. He paid and brought his new friend home.
Frank never took a break from the upkeep of his saltwater tank, so he popped the fish right on in there and stepped back to see how it liked its new home. He gasped, appalled that he’d nearly forgotten the most important part. He unscrewed the Gatorade bottle and used an eyedropper to collect a bit.
And then he counted four drops into the aquarium.
Frank wasn’t quite right in the head.
Caroline smiled approvingly down at the scale, happy to whittle down her waistline like the tortoise, not the hare. She stepped off and grabbed her toothbrush to fill it with minty freshness from a tube. Teeth properly cleaned, she washed her hands and put her contacts in. She blinked her eyes rapidly, making sure everything was in place, and cinched her bathrobe belt around her waist before heading for the kitchen.
With the kids gone, and Kenneth long since kicked to the curb, Caroline loved a good peaceful cup of coffee while catching up on her Facebook feed. She drank her Folgers black, and with the cup steaming like a house afire, she carted her laptop out to the back patio to take in the sunrise.
She chuckled at cat videos while sipping her morning joe,and suddenly remembered her desperate need for corn tortillas. She pulled her ever-present notepad and pencil from her bathrobe pocket and flipped to a fresh page. The pencil felt a bit odd in her hand, so she held it up like a pistol, and she sighted down the barrel. It looked fine. She shrugged and precisely printed corn tortillas on the first line.
Nothing was groundbreakingly new in Facebookland, so Caroline gently closed her laptop and leaned back in her chair, crossing her left leg over her right. She held her mug with both hands and took a long sip of her now-cooled coffee, letting the steam bathe her pores. The clouds in the sky blocked her view of the sunrise, so she sighed and tucked her notebook back into her pocket as she rose to go inside and dress for the day.
TBP OLWG #27 15 minutes, I choose 17.