Tap Tap Tap

He sits at his desk tapping the pen against the wood. His eyes are glazed, looking through his computer screen. The rhythmic tap, tap, tap of his pen is echoing in his mind. Somewhere in the distance a copier hums to life and spits out warm pages.

He’s thinking about nothing, about everything. He’s thinking about what it was like to be a kid, free and unbound. He’s thinking about what it’s like to be an adult, chained and captive. Tap, tap, tap. He hears metal against metal instead of plastic against wood. The clank of a hammer as it slams onto the link of a chain.

His kids would be getting off the bus soon. His wife would be arranging them at the table for “homework hour”. She’d prep dinner as their tired faces look over pencil and paper. Steak was on tonight’s menu. Tendorized by his wife’s  vicious pounding. Tap. Tap. Tap.

When did his life get so boring, so predictable? Get up, work, eat dinner, watch TV, sleep, repeat. Mix in the occasional obligatory barbeque and you’ve got his life in a glass case. He can hear the fingernail tapping against the viewing glass as some giant spectator chuckles at his dull life. Tap. Tap. Tap.

There’s a phone ringing. Are we all just robots, going through the motions? We do what’s expected of us. How many can really say they’ve lived outside the box? How many, at death’s door can say they’ve done everything they ever wanted? As the coffin is nailed shut, how many can say they have no regrets? Tap. Tap. Tap.

He realizes the phone ringing is his. The spell is broken. The tapping stops. The office sounds return.

“Copper’s Paper Products. Marketing your brand one page at a time, Trent speaking.”

Cool Water

She sat alone in her office, swiveling back and forth in her chair. The fan above her head rocked a rythmyic tune as she waited for her computer to load. The blue screen in front of her displaying circling dots. She let her head fall back against the chair and she stared at the ceiling. Stucco patterns overlapped in ugly clumps.

The walls were pale blue, too pale. It would probably be considered sky blue, but the sky never seemed this shade. She noted the many nail holes that dotted the walls as she swiveled back and forth. The holes were remnants of the previous resident who appeared to like hanging things.

As she swiveled left and right and left again, she stopped and lifted the edge of the blinds to peek outside. All she saw was black. She swiveled right again. A pool of water was collecting at the bottom of her glass. A drop of condensation slid down the plastic to join the other fallen drops.

After seeing that her screen had still not changed, she lifted herself from the seat and went to the bathroom to splash some cold water on her face; to wash the sleep from her eyes. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. It was not a reflection she was particularly proud of, but it also wasn’t horrible. She turned her head right, then left, shrugged and turned her attention to the faucet.

She let the cool water pool in her hands before bringing them up to splash the water on her face. It felt good. She scooped some onto her neck as she leaned over the sink. It was refreshing and calming. She straightened and dabbed her face and neck with her hand towel. As she hung it back in its place she glanced at her reflection then turned to walk away.

She stopped before she had fully taken a step. She turned and faced the mirror. A red mark was on her neck where none had been before. She leaned over the counter to get a closer look. She rubbed the mark. It was flush with her skin, not raised as she might have expected. It felt no different than her skin. It wasn’t warm or tender to the touch.

She turned on the hot water and rubbed the mark with soap and water. It didn’t change. She heard the sound of Windows loading and decided to worry about the mark later. Her fingers lingered on the spot as she walked back into the office. 

Her cat looked up at her with a pitiful expression when she found him in her seat. She laughed and picked him up, setting him on her lap as she sat down. He lept from her lap to find his own place of comfort. She logged into the computer and played the waiting game again as the updates finished installing.

There was a tickle at the back of her throat. She coughed and tried to it. Her desktop loaded and she clicked on her browser, ready to work on her client’s webpage. The tickle was persistent and she rubbed her throat, trying to massage it away.

She updated the banner images and went to work on updating the “contact us” page. She took a long drink of her water hoping that would clear her throat. She tried to ignore it, but the itch became more intense. It began to feel as if her throat were closing. She rubbed it again with no change.

She stood and went to the bathroom. The mark had grown. It spread across the entire right side of her neck. She coughed again trying to get rid of the ball that seemed to be lodged in her throat. She watched the mark crawl along the front of her neck and toward the left. 

She could barely breath now. She clutched at her throat. She scratched at the mysterious mark, but only began to bleed when she scratched too deep. She watched her face darken and her eyes redden. As she silently choked for air, the edges of her vision started to darken. She began to feel weak and grasped the counter for support. She stared at her reflection in the mirror and had just a second to see the red mark completely cover her neck before her world went to black.

I’m a Sinking Boat

Today’s (bonus) boot camp prompt is:

Sinking Ship 

You realize  the  boat  is sinking,  but that’s  not  the  worst thing  that  could  happen.  The  worst thing happened  last night.

My boat is sinking. I’m going down. Water is flooding the cabins, the hull, spilling onto the deck. The worst part of this whole mess? I started it. I’m the one who punched a hole below deck. I’m the one who broke the wood and let the water in.

This morning had started out beautiful. The sun was shining through my window and warming my face as I woke. He had been laying next to me. It had been peaceful. Sweet. Perfect. I had made the mistake of getting out of bed. Maybe if I had stayed in bed none of this would have happened.

As I walked into the kitchen to feed the cat, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and stretched. I heard the bathroom door close and a few seconds later open. I heard the thump of his body on the bed. I heard the ding of my phone. That’s when it started.

“What the fuck?” His voice carried down the hallway followed by his pounding footsteps. “What the fuck is this?” He said shoving the phone in my face. I jerked my head back to see the screen better.

“I’ve been telling him no.” I said defensively as he pulled the screen away from me. That was the punch in the wood. That little lie.

“Obviously not! ‘I can’t wait to see you again‘. Again? Obviously you said yes at least once.”

“I met up with him once to try and get him to back off.” He shook his head and I saw his thumb moving across the screen.

“You lying bitch.” He said. I knew he had reached the other texts. The ones encouraging his best friend. The ones telling his childhood buddy that I found him sexy. It hadn’t been planned. I hadn’t planned to cheat. It had just happened.

Before I knew what was happening he was on the phone with his friend yelling and pacing up and down the hallway. I was shocked into paralysis. I stood in the kitchen with my hands on my head. After he had it out with his friend there were sounds from the bedroom and soon he walked out with a duffle bag in hand.

“No. Please.” I stood in front of him.

“Get out of my way.” Tears welled in my eyes.

“Please. I swear it’s over. I made a mistake. Please give me another chance.” He took a deep breath.

“I was raised to not hit a woman, but I’m not sure that rule applies to cheaters. Get out of my way.” I had no choice but to let him go. That was it. The boat was going down and taking me with it.

Now I sit in my living room wondering how I let it get so out of control.

A Loosed Spirit

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Matchup! 

Write a story featuring  a Ouija board, a search engine,  and a self-help  book.

Summer time is the worst for me. I like the cold of winter. I like sitting on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me and a warm cup of hot chocolate in my hands. I love the smell of snow. I love the way it covers the world and makes it feel like a completely different place. I love the way it feels when the soft flakes land and melt on my face. I like to hear the crunch of hard packed snow under my feet.

So as I sat on the sofa with the windows open and multiple fans strategically placed throughout the house blowing as hard as their hardware would allow, I tried to think of that beautiful time of year. A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. I stood and put on shorts and a tank top before answering.

“Look what I have!” My over-zealous friend Katie said, displaying the wooden board dramatically in front of her. I turned and sat back down on the sofa. She shut the door behind her and sat on the floor in front of me.

“Come on. It’ll be fun! I found it at a yard sale. They only wanted a quarter for it! Can you believe that? It’s in such good condition. It’s practically brand new!” I slowly rolled off the couch and onto the floor across from her. I had never used an Ouija board before and honestly didn’t know much about them except that they were used to speak to spirits.

“Why are you so excited about this?” I asked.

“Because my mom would never let me have one as a kid. She called them ‘the devil’s tool” and wouldn’t allow one in her house.” 

“And if I say the same thing?”

“I’ll call bullshit because I know you don’t care.” I shrugged. Fair enough. The truth was the truth.

“Why are you acting so blah?” She asked with slumped shoulders. She really was the yin to my yang; always bubbly, never a care in the world, excited about everything.

“I’m hot. I hate summer.” She rolled her eyes.

“But summer is when you get to go swimming and tan up and wear short skirts and less in general.” I stared at her.

“Are we simming right now? Where’s your tan?” She scowled at me.

“Summer just started, I haven’t had a chance to lay out yet. Now are we going to do this or what?” I shrugged again.

“Sure.” She clapped with excitement and set the board down with its planchette on top. She put her fingers on top on used her head to motion for me to do the same. I complied.

“What should we ask?” She looked up in thought.

“Why don’t we start with the basics? Is there a spirit in this room?” We sat quietly; our fingers resting gently on the heart shaped piece of wood.

“Please, if there is anyone here, let us know.” Katie was looking up into the air, waiting expectantly. The planchette did not move. “Your apartment is old. There has to be something living here.”

“Yeah. Me.” I replied wanting to laugh at her assumption that ghosts existed in every single old building.

We asked the same question in different ways for nearly 30 minutes before I called it quits. I stood and sat back on the sofa where I could feel the wind from the fans better.
“It’s just not going to happen I guess.” I said sinking into the cushions. Katie’s shoulders dropped.

“I was sure there would be a spirit here.” She stood and sat next to me.

“Not so close. It’s too hot for that.” I said pushing her a little.

“Maybe we didnt do it right. Maybe we need to wait until dark and light some candles or something.”

“I think if a spirit were around, it wouldn’t care what time of day it is or what lights are on.” She shrugged. It was like all the energy had been sapped from her. I reached over the arm of the couch and into a book caddy. I handed her a book.

“I think my mom should have given that to you instead of me.”

“How to enjoy the here and now: a guide to self-love and acceptance of the present.” She looked over at me incredulously after reading the title aloud. 

“You know, because you’re searching for what’s in the past.” I laughed when she threw the book back at me.

“I thoroughly enjoy the present!” She grabbed the remote from the side table. “Although I may change my mind if I keep hanging out with you.” She turned the TV on and found a show for us to watch. While the people talked and the “studio audience” laughed at just the right moments (and Katie along with them), I grabbed my phone and did some research on this Ouija board.

“We didn’t say goodbye.” I spit out casually. Katie turned so violently she nearly slapped me in the face.

“So we left it open?” I shrugged.

“I guess. People are saying you need to say goodbye.” She jumped off the couch.

“What was this on when we stopped?” She asked pointing to the planchette.

“I don’t remember. I wasn’t paying that much attention. What’s it on right now?”

“The 1.” I’m not a superstitious person, but in that moment my chest tightened.

Pop the Trunk

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Breaking Down 

A tire blows out as you’re in the car with someone on the verge of his/her own breakdown. Stuck in a small  town, you’re about to do something  you haven’t done in years.

“Just calm down.” I was saying. “It’ll work itself out.”

“No it won’t.” Tears were streaming down Luciana’s face. “I was just fired for being late too often. My boyfriend is the reason I was late and now he’s left me, rent is due in two weeks, I have barely enough money for food, let alone gas to drive around trying to find a job.” I felt bad for her, but she had honestly put herself in this situation.

“I still don’t understand how it was your boyfriend’s fault that you were always late.”

“I told you!” She said blowing her nose. “He wouldn’t let me get into the bathroom while he was getting ready so I’d have to wait until he got done and by then I’d be running behind.” She could have just woken up earlier, but I didn’t think saying that would help matters right now. 

I was about to console her again when the car jerked to the side and a thumping noise sounded from toward the back. Lucy slowed the car down and pulled off to the side.

“Great now I have a flat.” She dropped her head against the steering wheel as her shoulders slumped forward. She was making it seem like this was the end of the world.

“Do you have a spare?” Her ponytail bobbed as she shrugged, then nodded. I got out of the car and looked around. There were cornfields on both sides of the road for as far as I could see. This actually was a bad time to get a flat tire. We hadn’t seen a car in a solid 20 minutes and I still saw none in sight. 

I checked my cell and found next to no service. I tried to call my insurance company to see if they could send someone, but the signal was so bad that the agent couldn’t verify who I was or what I needed. I hung up after trying to explain it a fourth time. I looked up and down the road again, still no sign of a car.

I knocked on Lucy’s window. She rolled it down and stared at me with pink eyes.

“Do you have the same cell provider as me?”

“Mine fell in the toilet when I went into the bathroom to cry after they fired me and doesn’t work anymore. I haven’t had a chance to buy a new one.” She sighed. “Or the money.”

“You didn’t think it might be important to tell me that before the 17 hour trip back home?” Now I was pissed. Not only was she acting like a dramatic 15 year old instead of the 39 year old that she was, but she was now leaving out vital information. “Why in the hell wouldn’t you mention you don’t have a phone? I could have bought one of those pay as you go phones to make sure we have a backup.” She scowled at me.

“I’m sorry, I’ve just been a bit preoccupied with things I thought were more important than my cell phone.” She rolled the window back up and turned her head. She wasn’t even going to attempt to help me. I walked a bit back the way we had come hoping to get better signal. It got worse, dropping out completely. I walked back toward the car, passed it, and continued walking, hoping I would have better luck in that direction. None. I got back to the car and looked to see if enough time had gone by that another car would be coming. Again, no such luck.

I finally realized I was going to have to do something I hadn’t done since I was 16. It struck me like a smack in the face. That was over 20 years ago. I leaned against the back of the car and tried one more time to get with my insurance company’s roadside assistance. Again I had to hang up because we just couldn’t hear each other clear enough. I put my phone in my pocket, said a little prayer of thanks for sunshine and a cool breeze, then yelled for Lucy to pop the trunk.

Enjoy The View

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Dollar Message 

You’re  at  your favorite  department  store  buying a  birthday present  for a  friend. As the  cashier gives you change, you notice  a message with specific  instructions scribbled on one of the bills. What do the instructions say? Do you carry them out and, if so, how?

I stood outside the door reading the instructions carefully one more time. They were obviously from someone in this area, but why put these instructions on a dollar bill? I had just finished shopping and was getting ready to head home, but when the cashier handed me my change, this caught my eye and I was now rethinking my afternoon. The instructions were written in tiny scroll and covered almost the entire bill, front and back.

  1. Drive to the Gibson River Park.
  2. Find the “Leaves of Gibson” parking lot.
  3. Park.
  4. Get out of your car and start down the path opposite the parking lot entrance.
  5. Walk approximately 300 yards and you will see a large boulder on the left.
  6. Turn right and begin walking off-path.
  7. At the bottom of the hill turn left.
  8. Walk for another 300 yards.
  9. Enter the cave opening on your left.
  10. There will be two paths, choose the right one.
  11. Follow the path until you reach another fork.
  12. Choose the right one again and again. Always choose the right one.
  13. Enter the large cavern. 
  14. Enjoy the view.
  15. Speak of this to no one.
  16. Put this bill back into local circulation.

I walked to my car and put my items in the back. I sat in the driver’s seat and stared at the bill. I could go and see what this view was about. Or I could go and get myself murdered. I felt my bodyguard .380 pressing against my side and decided to take a chance. I didn’t have anything better to do anyway.

I parked where I was supposed to park. The lot was empty besides my car. This was not in a well known area of the park. I felt a tingle of doubt creep down my spine. I suspected it received few visitors. Every other parking lot I had passed was full. It was 75° and sunny out on a Saturday, for this area it was heaven. This particular lot was about a mile from the main part of the park and even the driveway getting to the lot was longer than the others.

I flipped the safety off on my conceal carry weapon and started down the path. It was almost exactly 300 yards to the boulder. I carefully made my way down the hill, slipping a few times, but ultimately making it safely down. There was no path at bottom. It was level ground, but not an actual path. I could hear that the river was close, maybe only 100 feet through the trees in front of me.

I started walking in the direction the bill advised. I could hear so many beautiful sounds. There were bird calls I had never heard. Even the sounds the bugs made seemed to add a little sweetness to the chorus. There was a mild breeze that rustled the leaves as fallen branches cracked under my feet. I could see the cave coming up through the mist of water. The rock above jutted out and a stream poured over the edges. I stood in front of the mist for a moment deciding if I should walk through. I had come this far, why not?

I jumped through quickly, managing to stay mostly dry. Now came the really hard decision; walk into what was surely a trap to rape and kill me or turn back and save myself. Step #14 kept coming to the front of my mind. Enjoy the view. I was in a park, maybe these caves led to a look out point. I took the cave on the right. I continued through the tunnel of rock and earth. Sometimes it felt like I was walking down, other times up, I wasn’t really sure where I stood in terms of “feet above sea level”.

After about 10 minutes of walking, the path began to tighten. My claustrophobia began to kick in as the walls narrowed and I had to turn to walk sideways. Thankfully that only lasted a few minutes before I came out on the other side and into the cavern. I stumbled out of the opening and took a deep breath. When I looked up that breath caught in my throat. 

On the far side of the cavern was a trickling waterfall that flowed into a pool on the cavern floor. The water was clear and blue. The size of the cavern and the pretty water were not the things that took my breath away. What took my breath away were the intricate paintings that covered the cavern walls in their entirety. It appeared that not an inch of rock had been left unpainted. The scenes depicted, while varied, were each detailed and precise. It could be seen that whoever created them had taken care with each brush stroke.

I put the bill back into circulation that day. I wanted so badly to tell my friends, to take them there. I also wanted to respect the artist’s simple wishes though. They wanted people to search for the unknown and find something beautiful and wondrous. I’ve been going there at least once a month. I pack a bag of food and sit in the cavern and think or read or write or brainstorm for work. It’s a haven in a crazy world. In the 5 years that I’ve been going, I’ve only ran into two people, neither of which claimed to be the artist.

I wish we would have more of that beauty in the world. More beauty and less crazy.

Charlie Kelly

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Obit for Your Favorite Character 

Write an obituary  for your favorite  fictional  character  (literary,  television,  etc.),  including how the death occurred.

PHILADELPHIA – Charlie Kelly, 42, passed away Saturday after huffing what doctors are calling “an impossible amount of glue” and eating more than 10 pounds of spaghetti mixed with cat food. Born on February 9, 1976 to Bonnie Kelly and Frank Reynolds (alleged father), Charlie lived a fast-paced and sometimes wreckless lifestyle which he loved. 

Charlie was passionate about his screenplay “The Nightman Cometh” which he wrote and directed despite illiteracy. He was inventive in his cooking style and enjoyed many types of cheeses. He was unashamed of his persistent attempts to date The Waitress even after multiple restraining orders were issued. Although he sold his shares to the other partners, he continued to care for Paddy’s Pub which is expected to close in the next month as their health inspection is nearing. A music prodigy, Charlie could play piano, harmonica, saxophone and bugle. He was also the inventor of Kitten Mittens which we all love and use regularly.

He is survived by his presumed half brother, Dennis Reynolds of Philadelphia, his presumed half sister, Dee Reynolds of Philadelphia, his uncle, Jack Kelly of Philadelphia, as well as his close friend, Ronald “Mac” McDonald. The viewing will be held at Paddy’s Pub, Tuesday at 6pm, where his associate, Matthew Mara, will perform the funeral service.

Not A Family Home

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Full  Disclosure 

They toured the house with the real estate  agent. “We  love it,” he said. “Is there  anything  we should know about the house’s past?” The agent looked down.

They toured the house with the real estate agent. “We love it,” he said. “Is there anything  we should know about the house’s past?” The agent looked down. It was a colonial so the young couple had guessed that there would be something wrong with it.

“Well…” The agent hesitated as he looked at the couple who waited expectantly. “Just some mold that was cleaned out. A few of the floors needed redone, that’s all.” He said in a rushed voice and ended with a smile. The couple looked at each other, then back at the agent.

“We haven’t seen the basement yet.” The wife said with a smile of her own. The agent’s face paled and he nodded.

“Right. That’s where the damage was the most extensive, but also where the least amount of cleanup was done.” The husband shrugged.

“OK, well let’s go look at the damage.” The agent slowly led them toward the basement door. He reiterated all the good qualities of the home as they made their way through the house. The couple was moving across the country and were trying to find a place to raise their soon-to-be family. 

This home seemed perfect with the three bedrooms upstairs as well as a master bedroom with its own master bath. The ground floor had an open floor plan that made the house feel bigger than it was. It also had a surprising number of large windows that let in the summer sun.

“He’s hiding something.” The wife whispered in her husband’s ear.

“I think something else happened. Maybe someone died in one of the rooms upstairs?” The wife nodded.

“I mean you just can’t beat natural, original, wood floors in this condition.” The agent was saying as he stopped in front of a door. The couple smiled and nodded. The husband reached for the door handle and the agent put out his hand.

“Please remember that this is an old house and, like I said, the mold damage was extensive in the basement. They had to gut most of it and what’s left isn’t very pretty.” 

“Yes, we’ll keep it in mind.” The husband said as he grasped the door handle. When he opened the door, a musky smell floated up from the dark steps. The husband flipped on the light and began to descend the stairs. The wife followed. The agent did not. The wife turned around when she realized he wasn’t coming.

“What’s wrong? Aren’t you coming with us?” The agent clasped his hands in front of him.

“The ceilings are quite low in there and I’m very claustrophobic. I’ll wait here for you.” The wife eyed him suspiciously, but continued on. 

The musty smell grew the further down they went. The floors were a mixture of dirt and concrete. The ceilings were so low the couple had to bend forward to walk through. Steel weight-bearing rods stood in strategic places around the open basement. The concrete bricks that had once made up the walls were gone and it was only dirt that could cave in at any minute. The basement looked like it continued past the edge of the house.

“See that dark spot over there?” The husband asked pointing to the elongated area.

“Yeah, it looks like someone dug through the wall.” The husband pulled out his phone to use as a flashlight and began walking toward it. The wife pulled out her phone as well, but to Google the house instead.

“There’s a hole over here.” The husband said from across the room. “It’s at least eight feet deep. What could they have possibly been doing?”

“Hiding dead bodies.” The wife said. The husband turned to her.

“Well that’s the obvious guess.” He chuckled. “Maybe there was a sump pump that went bad. Or maybe their septic tank was here before the new regulations would have forced them to put a new one in outside.”

“No. They hid dead bodies.” The wife said again. “Police responded to a call on the 100-block of Havana Avenue today. The complaint was that there was a fowl smell coming from the home of Monica Fuller, 27. It has since been discovered that the house contains a hidden mass burial site behind the concrete walls of the basement. The smell of rotting bodies began to surface in the heat of summer. The number of bodies and any details related have yet to be released.” The husband began walking toward the wife.

“Today police have released more information on the Monica Fuller burial home. Fifteen child and four adult bodies have been uncovered so far as they continue to break down the walls of the home’s basement. The names of the victims have not been released, but Monica Fuller is in police custody.”

“Let’s get the fuck out of here.” The husband said when she had finished reading the articles.

Listen to Andre

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Back From the Future 

A knock at  the  door catches you off guard. Upon answering it, you’re  greeted by a man who says he’s from the future—and he can prove it. More important, he says he has information that  will  save your life.

Disclaimer: This may not be one of my best. I’ll be honest that I’m not a real fan of this prompt and to add to it, I’m very tired. I’ve had an emotionally trying day and am not feeling very creative tonight. Here’s to hoping it turns out better than I expect!
I lurched upright and shook my head, trying to clear the fog of sleep. The knock came again, confirming I wasn’t dreaming. I flipped the cover back and wiped my eyes as a yawn slipped out. I grabbed the shorts next to my bed and pulled them on as another knock pounded in my door.

“I’m coming. I’m coming.” I said through another yawn. I snatched the robe from the hook on the door and wrapped it around me. I was two feet from the door when the knock came again. I looked through the peephole.

“Who is it?” I didn’t recognize the man. He was tall and soaked in rain water, but had no other defining features. His face was regular, the kind you would see in a supermarket and swear you knew, but that was just because it was covered in common features.

“My name is Andre Robert.” He had a thick French accent.

“I don’t know an Andre.” I responded now annoyed because he probably just had the wrong apartment. 

“Not yet, but you will. I’m from the future and have some information you may find useful.” And now I thought of him as a drunk or maybe he was one of the stoners from down the hall.

“You have the wrong apartment.” I said and started to walk away from the door.

“Isabelle Hill.” I stopped and turned around. “You grew up in this town. Your mom died two years ago and your father lives eight blocks over, but will move to a neighboring town because he can’t stand living in the house your mom loved. You are dating Josh Macklyn and are thinking about moving in with him, but haven’t told him that yet because you have to decide if that’s the right move for you.” I leaned my head against the door.

“How do you know all that? How do you know about Josh?” I had been very careful not to mention moving in with him to anyone. I still wasn’t sure I wanted to.

“You told me about it.” I looked back through the peephole.

“I don’t know you.”

“But you will.”

“Why should I believe you?” I watched him go into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. I watched him carefully open it and pull out a photo. He held it in front of the peephole and I studied it as best I could through the fisheye lens. It was Josh and me, but we looked older. My hair was cut in a way I had never cut it before, it was also a different color, but the face was definitely mine.

“What is that?” I asked through the safety of the door.

“You gave it to me. You asked me to do this should things go wrong. You seemed to know something was coming. You knew the work I was doing and asked me to stop you.”

“Stop me from what?”

“Moving in with Josh.” I stood silent for a few seconds, thinking about what he was saying. I looked at the picture again, but his arm must have been tired because he dropped it and moved closer to the door.

“Look, can I just come in and talk?” I stayed quiet thinking. “You said that if you didn’t believe me to say ‘Remember to never give up hope”. I don’t know what it means, but you said it would change your mind.” It did change my mind. I swung the door open.

“I’ve never said those words to another person in my life. They were the last words my mom said to me and I haven’t even told my dad about them.”

“I told you I’m from the future. You told me all this seven years from now.”

“If you are from the future, and that’s a big if, why are you now coming to tell me this stuff?” He asked if we could sit down. I shrugged and motioned to the couch.

“You’re dead.” He said it in such a matter-of-fact tone that I laughed out loud.

“I feel pretty alive and well.”

“I meant in the future. This was a contingency plan.”

“Contingency plan for what?”

“If you died. Josh gets involved in some shady business with some dangerous people. You get pulled into it. You try to leave several times, but he always guilts you into coming back.” He reached back into the envelope and pulled out a few more photos.

The woman’s body was twisted and bloody. She had stab wounds on her chest and the side of her neck. She was in what looked like night clothes. Her hands were covered in cuts as if she was trying to defend herself. Her eye was bruised and bulging.

“Who is that?” I asked even though I knew the answer.

“You.” He let that hang in the air. I shook my head.

“No. I don’t believe you. You need to leave.” I stood and pointed at the door. “You need to leave now.” He nodded and got up without any further argument. As I was closing the door he stopped me.

“Just…” He dropped his head and rubbed his forehead. “Just please don’t move in with Josh. That’s all I’m asking. Don’t move in.” 

“Thanks for the advice.” I said and pushed the door shut on him. I watched through the peephole as he went down the steps and disappeared.

Seven years later…

I’m screaming and and trying to run to the kitchen. He grabs my hair and pulls my head back before shoving it into the nearest wall. I feel a hard impact in between my shoulders blades and think he’s punched me, but then I feel something warm sliding down my back. I make it to the kitchen and just as I’m reaching for the knife block I feel another blow against my back. He grabs my arm and twists me around. It’s not until I see the glint of steel moving through the air that I realize he’s been stabbing me. I throw my hands in front of me and feel the steel slice through my skin. I keep trying to grab the knife, but he’s too quick. I feel the pressure against my chest and the pain starts to take my breath away. I start feeling weak as he stabs my chest repeatedly. I feel the pressure in my neck and my world fades to black.

Screaming Lambs

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

American Graffiti 

You’re downtown, and see graffiti in an unlikely place—graffiti like you’ve never seen before, concerning  someone you know.

“Well Vicki, have the lambs stopped screaming?” I knew those words from somewhere, but where? The graffiti was the most vulgar thing I’d ever seen. It covered the side of an orphanage. It was the side that looked out over the small, fenced-in yard next to the building. The building itself was a white block with few windows. There was one door that led into the play yard and one that led into the street. The other two sides were butted against other buildings and even the yard was surrounded by buildings on three sides. How had no one seen the artist and caught him? Downtown was busy enough during the day, surely there were people walking at night as well.

Painted against the white wall was a black and red monstrosity of a woman sprawled out on a bed. Her red underwear were twisted around her ankles. There was blood trailing down her legs from the thick black fuzz of her groin. Her arms were spread to each side and blood flowed from her wrists onto the bed. Her breasts had red slash marks ripping flesh away from itself. There was a thick red gash from one side of her neck to the other with the red flowing down her shoulders and chest. Her head lulled to the side in an unnatural way, neck pulling away from neck at the gash. Her eyes were rolled so far you almost couldn’t see the iris. They cried tears of red. Her hair lay sloppily above her head with flecks of red spattered throughout. The words were written across the top in rough, jagged letters. 

What was worse then the imagery was that I knew this woman. Vicki worked in the cube next to me. We talked every day and even went to lunch together from time to time. Whoever painted this new her well enough to get every detail right, down to the birthmark on her thigh that she hated. I picked up my phone and dialed her number. It rang. And rang. And rang. Until finally her voice came on asking for a message.

“Vicki, it’s Anita. I’m looking at a really fucked up painting. Call me as soon as you get this.” I hung up and tapped the phone against my leg while looking at the painting. I paused for a moment and then turned to look at each building. I couldn’t see anything that resembled a security camera on a single one of them. I tried Vicki again. Still no answer. That didn’t mean she was dead, it just meant that she was busy. It was still early in the morning, maybe she was sleeping.

I couldn’t stand around and do nothing. I knocked on the door of the orphanage. After a few more aggressive knocks a woman in her 60’s answered.

“How can I help you?” She asked pleasantly.

“Have you seen the side of your building?” I asked incredulously. Her lips tightened.

“Yes, we’ve contacted the authorities. They’ll be here soon. I’m sorry you had to see it.”

“I know her.” I said, not being able to help myself. Her mouth opened, then closed, then opened again.

“Well when the police arrive you can tell them.” Before I could say anything else she shut the door on me. I tried calling Vicki again and I got her voicemail, again. Where did I know that line from? I went back to stare at the graffiti. I stared hard at the words. It wasn’t until I saw the butterfly as the dot of the question mark that I knew what it was from. It was the only thing of a different color. It was dark yellow with negative space for the white skull-like design on its back. I shuttered as I realized what movie the line came from and then tried Vicki again.