Emerald Aisle

Long ago, I had a poll asking my readers to choose my next writing prompt. After the winner was selected, “Be not afraid of the dark and a song on the radio will reveal a deception,” I quickly started writing the story. However, I did not quickly finish writing the story. I do make good on my promises though, and the story is now finished (minus a little editing work)! I took a little liberty with the original prompt, but that’s just where the story ended up going; I had no control.

The full story will be published in my upcoming collection this spring, but for now, here is a little sneak peak!

Keep busy, thought Morgan. From her cubicle, she had the best view of her torturer. Slowly his hands ticked, leaving a fresh scar on Morgan’s mind as they carried out their punishment. Only two hours to go until the vacation of a lifetime and he chose now to move the slowest he ever had. These two hours would drag on forever if Morgan couldn’t find something to keep her occupied.

In her excitement, she had been the most productive at work that she had ever been. In addition to finishing all her reports, she had also cleaned her desk and organized all the files anyone might need access to in her two-week absence. It wasn’t often she took a vacation. In fact, the last time she was able to get away was just for a weekend three years ago. Her college roommate had a Vegas wedding and while she was happy to leave the windy city for a while, the booze-filled weekend could hardly be called a vacation.

This would be different for Morgan. Not only was it going to give her a chance to relax, it would also allow her to cross something off her bucket list. Since she was a little girl, she had dreamed of traveling to Ireland. She longed to witness for herself the Emerald Isle and now, nothing would stop her from achieving her dream.

She knew she had to look busy, otherwise her boss would find some project that would take her far longer than two hours to complete. She never used her work time to browse the internet, but at least it would look like she was doing something and she could do a little more reconnaissance on where she would be by that time tomorrow.

If she were at home, Ashford Castle would already be bookmarked on her browser, along with at least another dozen places she hoped to visit while she was in Ireland. Bookmarked or not though, it appeared her plan to waste time looking at pictures would have to wait. Instead of her home page, she was met with a “this page can’t be displayed” notification. She typed in a few URLs and was met with the same response.

She stood up to check with Rose who had the cubicle next to hers. Rose spent most of her day on Pinterest trying to find crafty ideas for things she would never create. If the internet were down for everyone, she would be the first to put in a call to IT.

Rose wasn’t in her cubicle though. In fact, when Morgan looked around the office, none of her co-workers seemed to be there. She’d been so preoccupied that she hardly noticed the lack of usual noise. Even more unsettling, there was rarely a time when the phones weren’t ringing throughout the room and now with no one to answer them, not even one made a sound.

She picked up the receiver from Rose’s desk and was met with silence. That had to be why Rose was gone. If she couldn’t call IT, she would go down to the basement to get someone to fix the problem. Where was everyone else though? Morgan did need a distraction until she could clock out of work. Maybe if she took the stairs, it would eat up a little more of her time.

The heavy door echoed through the stairwell as it slammed shut. The sound alone would have been enough to startle Morgan, but when the lights went out at the same time, the effect was terrifying. Morgan was not one to let her emotions get the better of her, but in that moment, she could have been mistaken for the lead in a B horror film.

She reached in her pocket for her cell phone to light the way but realized that she left it on her desk. She turned around to go back, but when she pulled on the door, it didn’t budge. She was locked in a stairwell, in the dark, all alone, with less than two hours until she was supposed to go on the trip of a lifetime. Her only hope was she would be able to open a door on one of the other floors.

She shuffled to the wall and made her way to the top of the stairs. She grabbed the railing tightly and took a cautious step down, feeling for the step. It might take a while, but this wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. Just as she was getting the hang of it, she misjudged the distance between steps and before she knew it, she was tumbling down the stairs. She thought the stairs were bottomless and that she would never stop. Then, her head hit the wall.

© Autumn Siders 2019

 

#tbt

Melody: A Pleasing Arrangement of Sounds

I was at PutPut Town on Main Street. It was my usual hang out spot in the summer. I had been going there since I was 10 and I was now 23. My first time there I went with my brother and was amazed at the small course of 18 holes that wrapped around the small piece of land between a Starbucks and a bar. Nothing says family fun like mini golf, coffee, and alcohol. Unfortunately for my brother, I had never mini golfed before and I thought the method used to drive a ball was the method used to mini golf. One bump on the head later we became friends with Melody, the beautiful girl who worked there, and I returned every day in the summer.

The sky was cloudy and in the distance extremely dark. Being situated on a lake, the town was prone to summer thunderstorms and one was definitely waiting to strike this day. The thunder rolled in the distance and I knew that soon PutPut would be closing up the doors for a short break while the storm passed through.

“Business is bad this year, it’s been raining too much. Who wants to play mini golf in the rain?” Melody asked while hanging her head out the service window. “Not to mention you are still jobless, so I get no money from my best customer.”

“Well, if I had money, I’d play in the rain, it’s the damn lightning that’s scaring people away.” I said stepping out from under the awning to see if the rain had started falling. The sun had gone away and there was no way the rain would miss us now.

“Hey, you know if you stopped spending money in that bar over there you would have money to golf.” She said in her sarcastic tone that urged me to change my ways. “You wanna’ help me close up the putters and windows? I have a feeling no one is gonna’ come right now anyway.” I reached up to grab the flap and a swarm of bees flew down darting at my head. I ran away like a little girl and narrowly escaped the wrath of what seemed like a thousand yellow and black hell hounds. When I finally felt it was safe I took my hands away from my head and heard Melody laughing and gasping for air. She was bent over and could not control herself. She looked up at me and her tanned knees were red from where she had been holding them. Not only did I lose my manhood with that act, but it only hurt more that she was a volunteer firefighter who faced danger frequently.

So much for my attempt to ask Mel out today. Not that I would have really asked her out since I hadn’t asked her in the thirteen years I had been going there. My brother had asked her out once, or so he said. He said she was too busy; I think she said no.

Mel was finally settling down, but tears had formed in her eyes from laughing so hard.

“Hey now,” I said, “It wasn’t that funny. Besides, bees are scary.”

“Yeah, Joel, are you allergic?”

“No, but that doesn’t mean anything. They still hurt if they sting you.” Mel walked towards me and pinched my arm. “Ow!”

“Just as I thought, you are a wuss. Haha.” She turned to finish closing up and I went to chase after her but I was interrupted by a blood curdling scream. I had never heard anything like that in my entire life.

“What the hell was that?” I asked and then we bolted around the building to get a view of Main Street.

“Oh my God, Joel, look!” The thunder rumbled and then all was silent as a car rolled down the hill with the passenger side door open and a woman being dragged along beside it. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. All I could think of was my life. It was as if I was the one being dragged beside the car and my life was flashing before my eyes.

I was 7. My brother, Nathan and I had a neighbor who liked to capture squirrels and kill them. His whole backyard was full of the cages he captured them in and the tool shed had all sorts of blades and poisons depending on his choice of murder for the day. Nathan and I thought we had the perfect plan though. We waited and watched for weeks. Or maybe Nathan waited and watched.  Regardless the time came when all the cages were full and we knew that he was going to kill them that afternoon. After some convincing Nathan got me to skip school with him and we went to the fence. I hoisted him up over and he quickly opened all the cages letting our furry friends loose on the asshole’s garden. I shouted in excitement and Nathan quickly motioned for me to be quiet. After he made sure the squirrels got away he came back over to the fence. The one flaw in our plan was that we forgot how to get my brother back over the fence.

“Joel,” Nathan whispered, “you have to go get the ladder from the garage and put it over the fence.”

“I can’t. I can’t reach it.”

“You have to try. I can’t get back over.”

“Nathan, I can’t you have to find another way.”

“Just go try. Try!” His voice was more frantic now. All of a sudden I heard a door open on the other side of the fence. “Joel, he’s here, help me.” With that Nathan ran away from the fence and I ran to school. I didn’t want to get in trouble.

He had hid in the tree until the neighbor went back in his house. His plan worked until he tried to get down from the tree on our side of the fence and broke his leg. Dad still doesn’t know that I was there too.

I was 23. A car was screeching down the hill and the sound returned. People were yelling and the rain was starting to come down. A man from the top of the hill was running behind the car but he would never catch up to it at this point. The woman being dragged by the car didn’t make a sound and other than the bumps of the road that caused her to bounce she didn’t move. Her car wasn’t slowing down at all and wouldn’t on this hill without some kind of intervention.

Every inch of me wanted to turn and run, to pretend like I had never seen any of this. If I didn’t see it maybe it didn’t really happen. But just as I turned I saw Melody. She was throwing off her flip flops so that she could run after the car. I was frozen until I saw her. She shouted,

“Call 911, Joel!” As she ran by me, I caught her arm.

“Wait, I have shoes,” I started towards my bike and yelled back at her as I took off, “and you will never catch it on foot. You call 911!”

I felt empowered and pedaled as fast as I could to try and catch up with the car. I didn’t have a plan for how I would actually stop it when I caught up to it, but I was determined to do something this time.

I was right behind the car and the rain was coming down in sheets at this point. I could barely see the woman so I couldn’t tell if she was alright. The car seemed to be slowing so I pulled to the side to try and free the woman. I reached out and could feel the fabric of her shirt. I reached a little further and then my bike stopped. I was flying through the air and then everything was black.

I felt sick. I tried to open my eyes but they seemed like they were glued together. My mouth was dry and everything hurt. I cracked my eyes and saw my dad and my brother. Melody was in the corner and had a bandage around her forearm. I was in a white room. I didn’t recognize it and I didn’t remember what happened. I opened my mouth to talk but nothing came out.

“Don’t try to talk, Joel.” I recognized my dad’s voice. “You hit a car while you were on your bike. You are pretty banged up but you will be fine.” So much for saving a life and I am sure I looked very stupid in the process. Melody stepped closer to the bed and said,

“If it makes you feel any better the woman in the car is alright. I know you didn’t save her, but you made a valiant effort.”

“Yeah, right up until he slammed into a bright yellow car,” my lovely brother interjected. “Your arm?’ I managed to push out.

“Oh, it’s fine, don’t worry” Mel replied.

“It’s not fine,” Nathan said. “She burned it saving that woman’s life and then had to pull your sorry ass out from underneath your bike and then pull you out of the road. My brother would get saved by a girl.”

“Enough.” My dad said in a stern voice.

“And you wondered why I said no, Nathan.” Mel looked at him with disdain.

“Nathan,” my dad said, “let’s leave them alone. Joel needs to get rest anyway.” Nathan looked at Mel and a look of realization washed over his face. He probably realized what he lost when she said no.

“Don’t pay attention to Nathan.” Mel said as the door closed.

“I don’t anymore.” My voice was returning. “I am sorry about your arm.”

“Don’t be, just a little burn. Besides it’s not your fault. You know what, I am proud of you. You know what else?”

“What?”

“I didn’t just say ‘no’ because Nathan is an ass. I was waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“You.” I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. I smiled because for once in my life things were looking up. She looked at me with her beautiful blue eyes and winked. She walked to the door and turned before she left, “Don’t keep me waiting.”

© Autumn Siders 2010

The Rat

I could feel his beady eyes watching my every move. Here he was, some piece of vermin thinking he could outwit me. I was not only the biggest cat in town, but the most dangerous and if there was one thing I absolutely did not tolerate, it was a rat.

I should have known not to trust this guy from day one. Thing is, around here, we look out for our own kind. It was surprising enough I suppose that he was willing to give up his family that easily, but times were rough for everyone and he kept food on the table for us, or rather under the table.

That night though, I was on the prowl.

“Al? I know you are in here.” My voice wailed through the abandoned shed. It may have seemed like I was the only one in here, but I knew all of Al’s hiding places. There was no hole in the wall in this town that he could hide in which I wouldn’t be able to find him. He must have known this when he decided to betray me. Without me, he never would have made any cheese. He would have been living a life of constant fear in absolute squalor. Well he might have enjoyed that last part.

Clink, Clink!

I turned quickly and got really low with my weapons drawn. I would have given anything to sink my claws into him at that moment. Then, I saw him as he scurried behind some boxes. I quietly positioned myself so there was no chance for him to escape. I had him cornered now. This felt like old times.

It was not long ago when we first met and were in the same position. I was about to go in for the kill when I heard this little pip-squeak.

“Wait, I can help you,” he sobbed. I stopped myself just in time.

“Carry on then, how can you help me?” I replied.

“I can tell you where everyone you are looking for is hiding. Where they live. When they will be there. Everything. Please, just spare my life.”

And so began the unlikely partnership that would now end just as it had started. Here we were again and this time I would not be so understanding.

“Any last words, Rat?”

“Please, just kill me. I am tired of this maze.” I raised my paw to strike and just then a bright light flickered on making my eyes adjust. Just as I saw my target tailing it out of there, I heard what no cat wants to hear,

“Come on Emilita, it’s time for bed. What are you doing out here anyway? If we go now, I can comb you before bed!”

And in one fell swoop, my life of crime had landed me right back in the slammer.

 

© Emilita and Autumn Siders 2015