Archive for: June, 2014

The Fortune Cookie by Catherine Carlson

Jun 22 2014 Published by under The WiFiles

Frank Bowen had been waiting ever since he went to  lunch at the Laughing Dragon and he was plenty scared.  The guys at Stephens and Wayne, the ad company he worked for went every week to the Dragon for its buffet. The food was great and Frank had his usual sweet and sour chicken with veggies, an egg roll and peach cobbler for dessert.

At the end of the meal, the waiter brought the check and laid down four individually wrapped fortune cookies. Steve, Jim, Keith and Lonnie all cracked their cookie in half, pulled out the little white paper and read their fortunes out loud, laughing and slapping each other on the back as they kidded each other about their ridiculously silly fortunes. Jim’s fortune told him not to spend money he didn’t have. Everyone laughed at this because Jim had inherited his parents’ wealth and many properties when they died ten years ago. Steve‘s fortune said Be content with what you have. If he had been content he would have never climbed the ladder to the top of the agency.

The four friends urged Frank to open his cookie. Snapping it in half, he pulled the paper out and it was blank. Not a word was written on it.

“Guess they forgot yours,” Jim said. “Just make up your own.”

Some of the other guys laughed. “Leave it to Frank to get the blank paper,” Steve piped up.

But Frank didn’t laugh it off because the whole situation made him feel uncomfortable and not just the kidding around. After finishing their drinks, Jim, always the conscientious one, said they’d better get back to the office.

Leaving a generous tip, the five friends walked to the front of the restaurant to pay their bill. Each one paid his own bill and when it was Frank’s turn, his hands shook uncontrollably and instead of taking two twenties out, he almost handed the woman behind the register a hundred dollar bill, He caught himself in time and pretended to laugh it off.

“See you back at the office, Steve called out as he slid into his new Ford Sports Track. He had a sweet souped up Corvette, but today he had taken his wife’s vehicle because he needed to stop by the hardware store and pick up a few things that would never fit in his car.

The rest of the group called out their farewells as each one slid into his respective vehicles and headed back to the office after a long and leisurely lunch.

Frank’s mind wandered as he walked into the middle of the street headed for his Jeep Cherokee on the other side. An old white pickup traveling at least five miles above the speed limit screeched on its brakes as Frank fell to the pavement. The driver didn’t stop, and a crowd formed around him, but Frank opened his eyes, felt his face, arms and hands for injuries. Nothing hurt and everything seemed to be intact, so he got to his feet, brushing off his jacket and tucking his shirt back inside his pants.

“I’m fine, he told the open mouthed spectators, just a little scared, but nothing seems to be broken. You can all go back to whatever you were doing now.”

The audience remained silent for a second, as if not quite knowing what to do, and then one by one, they pulled away from the group. Pulling himself together, Frank walked over to his Jeep and was happy to see that he had no pain anywhere. His fortune cookie should have said, Today’s your lucky day, because he couldn’t have gotten much luckier to have been knocked to the ground by a hit and run driver with not even a scratch on him.

Slamming the door and sliding in behind the wheel, Frank checked his face in the rear view mirror. He had a small smudge on his forehead, or was that a bruise? It didn’t matter whatever it was didn’t hurt. His face, slightly pale as his reflection stared back at him told of his narrow escape. He started up the car vowing to put the unfortunate experience behind him.

As he neared home, Frank found himself regretting his lifestyle. He’d always loved the free and easy life, no wife, no kids, no one to worry about except himself. Thinking of the empty house that awaited him put Frank in a reflective pensive mood as he drove into his driveway, parked his car and got out. Harry Gerken, his next door neighbor stood in his yard watering his flowers. “Hi, Harry. How’re you doing today?”

Harry never even turned to look at him. Either he was so absorbed in his work that he didn’t hear him, or he just didn’t fee l like answering. Harry had always been a good friend, so Frank chalked it up to old age and immersion in his task.

Frank climbed the porch steps, unlocked the door and let himself in. His house wasn’t very large, but had big open rooms. Sunlight streamed in the living room windows where the curtains parted.

He went upstairs to his bedroom, took off his work clothes and donned a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. While dressing, Frank had a strange feeling. He’d felt it as soon as he entered his house. The feeling, like a dark heavy burden hovered over him and weighted him down. It made it difficult for him to move from one place to another in his house. Frank was tethered like a ball on a pole to his home and he didn’t like the sensation, didn’t like it at all.

His thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Frank picked up the receiver but it continued to ring and even though he said “Hello, who is this,” it continued to ring.

Determined to call the phone company to report the malfunction, he replaced the hand set. Tomorrow would be soon enough to report it. He just wanted to relax for the rest of the day,  Pulling back the living room curtains he looked out at the sun drenched street and yards of his neighbors. Maybe he’d go out and sit on the porch for a few minutes, relax and enjoy the quiet spring day. The more he thought about it, the better the idea sounded.

Grabbing a glass of iced tea from the refrigerator, he headed out to the small cement stoop that served as his porch. Its black iron railings wrapped around inside itself. Frank had always liked that iron railing. The black color and curling of the iron gave the house a homier look than it had before he had put it there five years ago.

Sitting there lost in his thoughts, he heard a loud screeching sound and was surprised to see a black cat standing in front of him, its fur raised inches off its back.

He’d always liked animals although he didn’t have any pets. His work schedule demanded he be away from home a lot and he didn’t think he could put the time and effort and love into taking care of an animal.

Frank wished he had a pet now. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so alone. Maybe he should have gone back to the office instead of coming straight home, but after the accident, he thought maybe he’d better take it easy and make sure he didn’t have any injuries that might land him in a doctor’s office.

The cat still stood there, growling as he rose from the stoop and inched his way over to the animal to assure him that he wasn’t going to hurt him. Standing in front of the cat Frank slowly extended his hand. Just then, the cat let out another inhuman scream and ran away.

Frank stood up and looked after the animal. What had gotten into that cat? He’d never had that affect on animals before.

He looked at his watch and realized it was later than he had thought. Where had the afternoon gone? Soon the newspaper boy would ride up on his bike and throw the paper onto the porch. Frank wondered if there would be anything about his accident in there. Probably not, the driver had left and he hadn’t gotten hurt or required an ambulance. He had gotten up and left before they could answer the man’s 911 call. If the ambulance came at all, it was after he’d been long gone.

Sitting down on his porch again, Frank waited for the paper boy and didn’t have long to wait.  John Wilson, his paperboy rode up, and threw the paper into the yard. Frank waved at the boy but he didn’t wave back even though he looked right at Frank. John rode on after barely pausing to throw the paper.

He got up and walked to the middle of the yard and picked up the paper. Taking it back to the house, Frank picked up his empty iced tea glass and entered his house, closing the screen door carefully behind him.

Walking slowly into the kitchen, Frank rinsed his glass out and put it rim side down in the dish drainer.  He’d read the paper later. It was time for supper, but he didn’t feel hungry. Maybe he’d skip tonight and just watch TV until bed time.  Bed time? When was the last time he worried about that?

At the end of the day Frank usually stopped at O’Malley’s on his way home for a drink or two. More often than not he didn’t come back alone. That’s probably the reason he felt so lonely today coming into an empty house. He hadn’t remembered feeling that way before, just today.

That’s alright; things would straighten out tomorrow once he got back to work. He should have gone in after the accident. He was alright, not a broken bone on him and no aches and pains. He felt pretty good for being knocked down by a truck racing the clock.

He watched a drama on TV and then the tail end of the news, something about an accident, but he didn’t catch the whole thing, just something about a hit and run driver. Maybe that was the driver who hit him. Frank wondered if they caught him/her yet. It didn’t matter. It turned out alright, but he certainly didn’t want that guy doing that again to someone else, they might not be so lucky.

As the night wore on, Frank discovered he wasn’t a bit tired so he decided to stay up and have a few beers. Maybe that would make him sleepy, but after three drinks, he still was no more tired than he had been earlier.

He lay down on the couch and tried to rest while watching a scary movie on TV. The cable stations were on all night so he kept it on hoping the droning voices would tire him even more.

Frank turned off the TV and went into the kitchen to make coffee. The sun was just peeking out of the clouds and after a quick shower, he felt more refreshed.

After two cups of coffee he debated whether to eat breakfast or not. He still wasn’t hungry and hadn’t eaten since the lunch yesterday, but there was no sense in eating if he didn’t have an appetite. By lunch time he’d probably be famished.

Checking the kitchen wall clock, he saw he’d better get going. He didn’t want to be late, especially since there might be some repercussions from his hooky-playing yesterday afternoon.

Grabbing his briefcase and leaving the house, Frank felt a strange pulling sensation but tried to ignore it as he walked to his Jeep, opened the door and slid behind the wheel.

Minutes later, he noticed cars pulled over to the side of the road and a crowd gathered in a circle as if hiding something. An ambulance, fire engine and two police cars also were on the scene, the policemen directing traffic around the accident.

Frank recognized this place as where the hit and run driver got him. Maybe the driver came back and hit someone else. He hoped that they got him this time.

Climbing out of his car, he slowly walked over to where the crowd gathered. As he got closer he felt the pull even stronger, like a magnet drawing him closer.

It wasn’t hard for him to squeeze in between the thinning crowd. The paramedics hovered over the body listening for a breath and taking vital signs until one of the men said.

“He’s gone. We’ve done what we can.”

Frank felt the force pull him down and inside the body of the man lying in the middle of the street. His expensive suit was torn and dirty In his right hand, he held a fortune cookie with a blank paper  flapping in the gentle breeze.
















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Shem Dating Service by David Macpherson

Jun 15 2014 Published by under The WiFiles

“I did the speed dating nightmare,” Sharon said. “The last one was in the basement of the synagogue. The rabbi was acting like he was a combination of yenta and football ref. He was encouraging us to talk truly and then he blew his whistle when the time was up. Have you done it?”

Mish laughed, “Yeah. The thing with speed dating is that it does exactly what it promises, you learn the true nature of a lot of men in a brief moment. The problem is that what I learned is that most guys are shallow, useless monsters who can only remember how much cleavage you had showing when the time was up.”

“Or they talk so much you realize that they have nothing to say. On the other hand, the greasy guys who will stop and go, but enough about me, tell me about you. I am sure all they are thinking is…”

Mish jumped in and said, “Cleavage. That’s all. You know, I gave up all that. I gave it up like bad luggage. I joined another service.and its not going to get you a nice husband, it ain’t even going to get you a nice soul mate to look forward. They promise company. It works for me.”

Sharon put down her glass, “That sounds a little escorty to me Mish. I don’t think I’m going to be looking for Richard Gere in American Gigolo. Though if I ever did, he’s the guy I’d order from the menu.”

Mish smiled. “It’s not like that. Blondie is singing Call Me on the soundtrack. It’s a company I heard about from a speed dating night. This woman told me about it. It’s Shem Dating Service.”

“Shem. The names of God? They are not a modest service, are they?” Sharon pushed her glasses back on the ridge of her nose. which was the thing she did when she found herself uncomfortable and interested all at once, though not sure why she was feeling that..

“Is that what shem means? I wish I knew things. Oh well, they are a nice little group. They set you up with, hold on, I can say it. They set you up with simulacrums.”

“Okay, Mish, you got me. I know what shem means, but you go big latin words, I’m out.”

“Simple word then. Golems. They make golems. It’s clay, but they look good. They set you up with a good Jewish golem and they are everything you need them to be. I think I got their card.”


Linda El was dressed in a good charcoal suit and spread out the brochures in front of Sharon. “First, you must forget about all you saw in the old movies or maybe in the stories you bubbe might have told. The giant slab of clay wrecking Poland. That’s not what we do with Shem. We use special glazes and these golems are handsome, lifelike companions. They talk, tell tales, listen and are pleasant to be with. This is not a torrid service. We believe that we free the modern woman from struggling with dating, and always having to worry about the man they are seeing. We create good men.”

Sharon shook her head slowly. “So they aren’t hulking walking ceramic bowls with hebrew letters written on their foreheads.”

“Not anymore.We put the written shem, the name of god that brings life, in a slit in the back of their neck. The shem actually transforms the glazed surface into something like skin. They are supplied with good teeth and hair. These are not husbands, they are someone who can have dinner. watch television with, be warm and companionable. Think of our gentle golems as the best of dating and solitude combined. Just a reminder. They become inactive on the sabbath, so Friday night and Saturday day, they do not move or interact, But think of that as a time to expand yourself, do things for you. See friends, read a book.”

Sharon stacked the brochures into a pile and then pushed her glasses up her nose. “This is crazy. I can’t believe what you are saying. And I also can’t believe that I am going to ask you how much the subscription is.”

“Before we talk the membership fees to access all our services, let me give you a free sample. You can have a complimentary date of up to eight hours with one of our standard golem models.”


He was to be called Joseph. He was tall and slender and spoke in a quiet lilt. It was an accent that Sharon could not place. She thought, this is how clay and dirt speaks, soft and grounded. They had dinner at a Thai place, though Joseph seemed to push the food around instead of eating. They strolled down to the movie and saw something she picked. He laughed at the right places, he seemed sad at the deathbed scene.

They kissed near midnight at the town gazebo and she was almost disappointed that it didn’t taste of clay or dirt. It tasted more of moonlight and antique words from an old language. He did not ask to be let upstairs or worried about her number or her email. He just smiled contentedly like a cherub statue and walked her home in the peaceful knowledge there was no inherent need or insistence, only a nice night out with someone pleasant.


She called up Linda El and had her send over the papers to sign up for the deluxe membership. She was going to have a pick of available golems. All golems in all forms for her disposal, though she was not quite sure..


The golem Noah was in her bed, sleeping soundly. He snored like gentle rocks, she thought. She had been his pick for the past several weeks. He felt warm and solid next to her. She was never afraid. He slept like he was formed in the bed, part of the landscape. Sharon asked him to tell her a story earlier and he did. It was about the trickster Joha and his family. He laughed at the punchline, but Sharon just smiled. There were lessons in old stories that she had a hard time finding.

The moonlight hit his back and he looked like he was from a black and white movie. He continued his tectonic breathing, she felt safe. Sharon got up, found her glasses, and went behind the sleeping form of Noah. She ran her finger up and down the back of his neck and then found it. She found a seam about an inch long at the bottom of his neck. She pushed two fingers in and felt the piece of paper. She pinched it between her fingers and removed it from the golem in her bed. There was a slight twitch from Noah and then he broke down into dust. It was all that remained, dust.

It took her two hours to clean up the mess that he left behind. When all the dust was cleaned up, she examined the sheets. They were not worth saving, so Sharon tossed them into the trash. She put on a clean set of sheets and slept well and comfortably.


Linda El, from the dating service, was not happy. “Of course the package you purchased allows from the golem to be destroyed. But you removed the shem, you did this on purpose. Why did you do that? Noah couldn’t have done anything untoward or incorrect?”

Sharon said, “No, not at all, he was perfect. It couldn’t get any more perfect, which is why I did it. I wanted to finish the feeling, the moment I was having.”

Linda El paused, began to speak and stopped. After another span of time she said, “The reason you do such things is, of course, your choice, whether it makes sense or not. I will not be sending any additional golems to you, though you will still have to fulfill your contractual obligation of seven more monthly payments.”

“I was going to cancel anyway. I feel satisfied.”

Linda El said again, “You do have seven more monthly payments on your contract.”

Sharon smiled at a distant thought, “That’s fine.”


Sharon and Nic met at the grocers. It was too cute to even admit to. They were awkward for the entire first date. She tripped while walking to the restaurant. He spilled a water pitcher over the entire table. It was that kind of date. His hands were clammy, he stuttered when he was nervous.

Sharon pushed her glasses up and said, “Sold.”

But almost every evening, before she would kiss him goodnight, Sharon ran her finger around the back of his neck. Only when feeling nothing like a seam or scar or obvious flaw, she would surrender and close her eyes and touch his lips with hers.

David Macpherson lives in Central Massachusetts. He has published short work in Every Day Fiction, Linguistic Erosion, Haggard and Halloo, 365 Tommorrows, among other publications.

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GOD’S CLAY by Jake Walters

Jun 08 2014 Published by under The WiFiles

              Joe was looking for a white house, small, at the edge of a village called Hamilton somewhere in Pennsylvania, not that he knew where Hamilton was, or Pennsylvania, for that matter; this land was all just trees and dusty roads and streams and fallen leaves to trudge through.  When he was thirsty he crouched at the brook and cradled his hands in the water and raised them to his cracked lips in the same way he had done since he could drink by himself.  He had never used a cup.

The people that lived in the white house would help him.  They were named Mr. and Mrs. Dodge.  They had helped others like him to hide, to get something good to eat, to rest, and then they had pointed them in the right direction further north.

At night Joe walked along roads, directed by a vague sense inside him of where he was going and by the moon and stars and the direction of the wind—what mattered, he supposed, was not that he got to the white house, because he knew there were other houses like it, but that he put distance between himself and the place he was coming from.  He was alone, which worked against him, he figured, but he could not risk coming with others.  They would make noise.  They would ask questions.  They would die.

There, in that place that he was coming from, sometimes they were brought back, they who had gone far indeed and then had been caught, lucky to escape the rope or a fate even worse, and hauled to their masters, where they were forced to hold onto a pole and were whipped for hours, their screams searing the night.  Joe spent a few nights fully alert, curled up on the hard wooden floor, listening.  Each strap was a crack as clear as a bucket of water splashed in the face.  The screams came later, but they always screamed, eventually.  And then, after a few days, they were out with the rest of them, digging, picking, planting, carrying, their faces cast down, their steps careful, as if by merely breathing wrong they would be brought back to the shed to receive the treatment again.  And, maybe they would.

But after some time, they started to talk; about how they had gotten away, about what the world was like outside of there.  And, once, one of them said, “I never made it that far, but you get up to Hamilton, Pennsylvania, you look for a white house.  Man there named Dodge.  He help you.”  That was the first time Joe even thought about escape, in a serious kind of way.  Oh, he had dreamed, as had all of them, about how it would be to sprout wings one fine day and take off into the air, and look down on their hell and then to flit off wherever his heart felt.  But his business was not so clean.  No wings.  Only tattered shoes and mud, and swimming across rivers by instinct because he had never properly learned how, and running crouched over so that he could not be easily seen.

After two days, he could sense them on his trail.  Dogs, men on horses, the law.  He knew that if the dogs got to him first, they would rip at his legs and genitals like ravenous monsters.  The men were not necessarily better.  And he knew that all he could do then would be to curl up into a tight little ball and hope for death, sure that it would mercifully come, but by what means, and when, a mystery.  But he never saw his pursuers.  He did not know how it was supposed to work.  If they would wait for him in the next village, or if they would overtake him in the forest and string him up to a tree.  He always assumed the latter, but now, in fleeing, he supposed some of the game was in the waiting to see.

When the sun broke over the horizon in the morning he walked a little deeper into the woods and found a hollow place to sleep for a few hours, covering himself with brush and branches and mud.  When he cocooned himself inside he allowed himself to pray a few words, his eyes still searching through the branches for intruders, his ears still alert for the sound of footsteps and heavy canine breathing.  When he did drift off, he did not know if it could be technically called sleep, but rather some kind of slow-state, where there were no colors or smells, no future, no past.  He liked that time the most.  It was when he felt most free.

When evening crept back in he brushed himself off and continued on his chosen route, trying to keep the road in his peripheral vision, but finding it nearly impossible because there was no traffic, not at night.  Sometimes a falling branch sounded like a command: “Stop!”  And his heart would freeze for that moment, terrified, and a primal wound opened in him and he would decide, without really deciding, whether to obey or not.  Before discovering whether or not he would run, it would dawn on him in a wash of relief that there was nobody in these woods except for him, that nature was playing tricks on him, and his veins would slowly cool again until he could breathe normally.

Joe lost track of his days and nights until they were all just a period of moving slowly and hiding, foraging for berries and grass and water from the stream, which sometimes wound deep into the woods and after a half-day of walking would reappear like a recaptured slave.  Its water was clear and cold.

He had memorized the way it was written: Hamilton.  After some long age of wandering, he saw it from a distance scrawled on a sign at a bar, and despite not being able to read, he recognized the H and its brethren letters immediately, and he knew that this was his village.  Hamilton, Pennsylvania.  He emerged from the woods in the morning, just enough light to see and to give himself away by.  Men were gathered around horses, chewing tobacco and smoking.  They watched him as he neared them, and he knew that they knew who he was.  He was a black man, sneaking out of the dark forest.

“Hey,” one of them called to Joe.  “You.”

“Yes sir,” Joe responded automatically.

“What are you doing?”

These were the first people he had spoken with since his flight—except for God, not that He was a person.  “I’m going home,” he said without thinking.

The men nodded slowly.  “And where is home?” one of them asked.  “You look lost to me.”

“I ain’t lost,” Joe responded.  “But I got to talk to Mr. Dodge.”

“I figured it,” the man said.  “You’d be better off turning tail and heading back.”

The thought was an excruciating one, like sticking his bare hand into a fire.  That was a sensation he knew from experience.  To imagine going back of his own free will, his legs functioning, his eyes able to move in their sockets and look upon whatever they saw with joy, his lungs able to suck air in their own time and at their rhythm, not rushed nor labored; to leave these things behind was an impossibility.  “No,” Joe said, unaccustomed to telling any white man no.  “I need to see Mr. Dodge.”

“All right then,” the man said.  A smile stretched across his lips and his face looked decimated, a skull smiling.  “Head on down the main road.  Last house on the right.  Clear out of town.”

“Thank you, sir,” Joe said, setting off.  He put the men behind him as quickly as possible, the muscles in his shoulders and back tensed, waiting for stones to strike him, already listening for the cruel laughter that would accompany this.  But when he screwed up the courage to glance back at them, they were already gone.  “Good,” he muttered.  Maybe they were not bad men.  But they all were, in one way or another, it was just that with some it took more digging to find out how.

The village consisted of a few small shops, some houses, a post office and a couple more bars.  He recognized his word, Hamilton, several times as he walked.  He saw in the faces of men and women and children an odd curiosity as he passed their gardens and lawns.  He felt something like a mule being shown and somehow this treatment was just as bad as where he had fled from.  Sometimes he thought he heard whispers as he passed, but when he dared look at whomever had spoken, no lips were moving—just that cold stare, curious but anxious for him to pass.

He put the village behind him and the house, small, stood like a jewel at the base of a gentle hill.  The grass was long and in the full and green garden there was a bare-backed man crouched at his crop.  Joe stood for a moment at the road, staring—he had never seen a white man do this kind of work before, and the way the muscles and tendons in his back stretched across his shoulders was just like a black man, except that the skin was pink and obviously sweaty.  The man raised his head to the air, as if sniffing, and then turned and saw Joe watching him.

“Can I help you?” the man called out, standing without difficulty.

Joe did not know what to say.  I hope so.  Please.  He took a tentative step toward the man, aware now of the sun, the slight breeze, the fact that despite his clothes he was naked.  “My name is Joe,” he called, his voice cracked.  “Are you Mr. Dodge?”

The man’s face broke into a bright grin.  “Call me Steve,” he said, striding toward him.  “I bet I know why you’re here.  Right?”

“I reckon so,” Joe said.

“I’ve helped a bunch of you before,” he said, now standing only a few feet in front of Joe.  He was a tall man and despite being white his face was dark.  Joe had the impulse to take his own shirt off and offer it to him, but he beat it down within himself—it was a stupid notion, that a white man would accept it, that it was reasonable to offer it.  “Why don’t you come in?”

Joe took one last look about him: the road, stretching off deeper into Pennsylvania, the blue sky, the clouds skittering above him.  He was not sure he could give it up.  But he felt something crumble inside himself, a kind of wall, and then there were hot tears pooling in his eyes, and he realized that this was what he wanted, what he needed.  To give it up, to let someone take him and take care of him.  He stepped onto Steve’s lawn.

“You hungry?” Steve asked.

“Oh boy, am I,” Joe responded.

“Well, follow me.”  Steve wiped his hands on his trousers as he led Joe into the small white house.  It was cool and dark inside, cramped but not in an unpleasant way.  His master had had a much nicer home, a mansion really, and Joe had only been inside a few times, mostly to move some of the larger furniture from one sun-soaked corner of the sitting room to another.  But he liked this house much better.  “Why don’t you sit at the table?” Steve said, indicating a stool pulled up to a wooden table.  “I’ll have my wife fix something up.”

“Steve?” Joe heard.  It was a woman’s voice.  “We got company?”

“Yes, we do.”  He winked at Joe, and Joe felt instantly embarrassed.  A trim young woman entered the kitchen hurriedly, crimping her hair.  “His name is Joe.  He needs our help.”

“I’m Hannah,” she said, curtseying ever so slightly.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

As a force of habit, he looked down and away from her feet as he spoke to her.  “The pleasure is all mine, ma’am.”

“Why don’t you fix some stew for Joe?” Steve said.  “I have to go finish up in the garden.”  For a terrifying moment, Joe thought that Steve would wink at him again as his wife turned to the stove.  But he was already out the door and in the sunshine.

“How long have you been running?” she asked, rattling pans.

“I don’t know.  Seemed like forever.”

She nodded.  Her hair slid against her back.  “We got one come all the way up from Georgia before.  I can’t even imagine it.”

“It wasn’t so bad,” Joe said.  “First time I was ever on my own like that.”

She turned to look at him for a moment before returning her attention to her work.  “A lot of them say that.  They been cramped up with everyone else all their lives, they didn’t even know what it was like to be alone for a minute.  To have only your thoughts to keep you company.”

“And God,” Joe said.

“Yes, of course.  Sometimes I think He brings you here.  Because He knows.”

Joe wanted to tell her how alone he was, even on the plantation.  He had many friends, and of course everyone knew him.  Many of the older ones had sat around in the evening laughing at him running around naked as a baby.  But he was alone, regardless.  When he was picking, or digging, the only things that existed for him were his sore hands, or the shovel, scraping some insignificant hole into the earth.  Even the master disappeared.  That was how he survived, really.  Any other way, and he would have jumped up at his snide remarks and his whip, wrapped it around his sunburned neck, and squeezed with all his strength until his face turned purple or his head popped off like an apple being plucked from a tree.  “Well, I’m glad I found the place,” Joe said.

“So am I,” Hannah said, already stirring something wonderful in a giant pot.

Steve came in after a few more minutes and their conversation took a quiet turn.  Of course, Joe would never have even spoken to a white woman before, and his sense of danger, now a thing finely tuned inside him, would have been screeching even at being alone in a room with one.  But he was in Pennsylvania now, and so their conversation had a different texture.  It was as though Hannah did not want to let on to her husband that they had been speaking about anything more important than the soup.  It was a kind of secret she and Joe shared, and it made him nervous and excited him at the same time.

They ate.  Joe, ravenously.  He felt sick afterward, unable to properly move, but it was a good pain, a kind he had never known, picking scraps off the salty strips of meat the master sometimes threw them around Christmas.  They drank coffee afterward, and it was the first time Joe had ever had any.  He did not understand why men loved it so—it was bitter and hot and did not mix well with his insides.  But he was energized, and it encouraged him to broach the most important subject.  “So,” he said, “where do I go from here?”

Hannah and Steve looked at each other.  “What is the hurry?” Steve asked him.

“Well,” Joe said, contemplating his answer carefully.  “I want to get settled somewhere as soon as I can.  I got a life to get living.”

Steve laughed, which Joe took as a good sign.  Hannah said, “Of course, but surely you want to rest a few days?  You can’t have it in mind to leave too soon.”

“I would hate to get in the way,” Joe said.

“We’ve had runaways stay for a long time,” Hannah said.  “How long did the one stay, Steve?”

Steve nodded his head slowly, and for some inexplicable reason Joe felt an unpleasant tingle rush down his spine.  “A real long time,” Steve finally answered softly.  Now he was staring at Joe, and Joe shifted on his stool.

“Maybe I’ll take a little nap, if that’s all right,” Joe said, imagining himself crawling out a window and running away, but knowing that he would not, because beyond Hamilton, he knew nothing.  He still needed their help.  The problem was that he was starting to feel trapped, and he wondered if there was any place on earth where he would no longer feel that way.

“You can sleep in our bed,” Steve said brightly.  This was a thing Joe could not even fathom.  A white man and woman, giving their bed to a runaway slave?  Joe was about to object as a natural reaction but Steve ordered his wife, “Show him where.”

She nodded once and stood from the table, and Joe followed her.  It was a small house indeed, and their room was the first that Joe and Hannah came upon.  Joe saw a curious room with a narrow door in the back of the house, and he was about to ask what it was for, but Hannah interrupted by saying, “You just sleep for as long as you need to.  You need your rest.”

“This is awful kind of you,” Joe said.  “I didn’t think I would ever sleep in a bed.”

She left him alone and he slid under the sheet fully clothed.  He had often tried to imagine what it would be like to lay in such comfort.  After a few minutes, he crept out of the bed, laid on the floor, and fell asleep.


In the early morning, he roused himself awake and listened to the intense silence of the house.  This was when he would be waking into his public morning ritual, along with the rest of the slaves; all of them yawning, stretching, peeing and shitting just outside, trying to find enough light within themselves to stumble to the fields, or the house where they would cook and clean, for another day, given away for nothing, no returns on their time, no love, no purpose.  The saddest part was always the biggest perspective; Joe could handle the work easily, but working with no opportunity for love was like planting gardens in the desert sand, and it was the thing that finally made him run away—not the love he hoped he might find in a woman, or in making a child with her, but any human love that he could freely express.  It was a dream he knew existed, somewhere.  Back on the plantation, that was what Hamilton meant to him.

He sat up and stretched, and then stood and started toward the door.  Quietly—he did not want to wake his hosts.  He would step outside and breathe some free air and wait for them.

Just outside the bedroom he glanced toward the strange room that had caught his eye the day before.  The door was cracked open, a slit of sharp morning light stabbing into the darkness beyond.  Going somewhere in a white man’s house without his permission was akin to stealing a horse, and he could be hanged for it, probably even in Pennsylvania, but still, something drew him there, step by silent step, until he was just outside.  He listened carefully for the sounds of breathing, because he did not want to enter the room if Steve and Hannah were sleeping there.  Such a thing was unthinkable.  But there were no sounds, and so he slowly pushed the door open.

There was enough gray morning light to barely see by.  The room was empty but for a sturdy table in the middle.  Joe could discern shapes, lumps, and his mind scratched for some solid hold as to what they might be, even as he knew.  But still he needed to go closer, to see, to feel, to know.  And he did go closer, his knees weak, his lips trembling, bladder about to open.

The biggest lumps were two naked legs, one presumably male, the other female; an entire ribcage, laying like the frame of a burned-out ship; arms, but with separated hands, all from different donors; and a face created from too many people—eyes, lips, cheeks, teeth, a fat, bloody nose, all of them laying slightly askew so that it looked like God had created a man while under the influence of some powerful drug.  Joe was drawn toward the eyes.  He never knew eyes were that big in a person.

A noise from behind him.  Joe spun around.  Hannah stood in the doorway, her hands grasping the frame, her legs wide, blocking his exit.  “Steve,” she screeched, her voice high and thin like an attacking alley cat.  “He found it.”

Then the sound of someone rolling out of sleep, and the quick shuffling of feet.  “What?” Steve cried as he appeared behind his wife.  “What are you doing here?” he demanded of Joe, pushing past his wife but not entering the room.

Joe began to stutter.  He could think of nothing to say—indeed, what was he doing here?  “What is this?” he finally managed to ask, trying to creep away from the table and its gruesome setting at his back, but afraid to move closer to Steve and Hannah.

“It’s our slave,” Hannah said, her voice coming from behind Steve’s broad shoulders.

“Quiet,” Steve snapped.  “It’s nothing.”

But now Hannah moved past her husband.  “We might as well tell him,” she said.  “It’s kind of like building a man from clay,” she said evenly, “except it’s God’s clay we are using.”  She moved close, and he felt like a ghost was brushing near him when she put her fingers on the tabletop and let them skim over it like leaves on a pond.  “We take a part from each runaway that comes through.  And when he’s finished, he’ll be ours.”  She paused for a long moment and Joe had the horrifying thought that she would start to recount from whom they had stolen each limb: Remember that nigger we took the left hand from?  How he screamed!

“Why?” Joe croaked, aware that Steve was inching closer now.

“We don’t condone slavery in Hamilton,” Hannah said, putting her hand on Joe’s shoulder.  He had never been touched by a white woman and now he shivered.  “But it isn’t slavery if we create him.”

Now Steve was at his side, and he too put his hand on Joe’s shoulder.  Joe looked down once again at the morbid collection on the table.  “Only one part remains, and then he will be alive,” Steve said.  “He needs a heart.”

Joe felt his own heart burn with fear as he swung his massive right fist out at Steve, connecting with his temple.  Steve crumpled to the ground like a bag of ashes, and Hannah screamed: “No!”  Joe wanted to run out of the house, north, south, it did not matter to him; but he kicked Steve in the throat, and then in the face, over and over, his foot sinking into the softer parts and cracking against the harder parts, each stomp a blessing, a spit in the face of any master, anywhere.  Steve’s wife was still screaming, and when he was satisfied that Steve was dead, he turned to her.

“Don’t,” she said, cocking her head and backing up, her eyes gleaming.  “Please don’t.”

He did.


Henry had heard in the week before his slipping off the plantation grounds that he should look for a small, white house in Hamilton, Pennsylvania, should his path take him there.  There were other suggestions, too, from those that had been around and shipped back: places in New York, even risky houses in Kentucky, places where at least he could eat something and lay his head down for a few hours before resuming his flight north.  Not that he wanted to run, because there was a kind of safety where he was, despite the roaches and the snakes, the sun bearing down on them, the whip.  But he had to run.

He kept to the woods, moving at night; he imagined that other, successful runaways, had done the same, and that he was following some kind of sacred trail in their footsteps.  He hid under fallen trees to sleep during the day, and once he climbed into the branches of a tall tree and dreamt there.  He never moved when he slept, probably because he had always laid between two other sweaty slaves at night, and if he rolled into one of them he was bound to get smacked upside the head.

It appeared from nowhere, like a mirage, a forest clearing—Henry could not read, but he recognized the word he had scratched once in the dirt with his grimy, sore index finger: HAMILTON.  He remembered how he had wiped it away immediately after writing it, afraid some white man would see it and thrash him, how he had spread dirt over it after it was erased, as if the evidence could never be fully cleared away.

He saw no one as he walked through the village, which seemed strange to him.  The stores, the bars, the post office, all empty, as if they had been fled from at the feet of Armageddon.  A couple of horses, walking freely down the main street, whinnied as he walked past them.  “Hey fellas,” he crooned to them.  “Where is everybody?”  He thought he saw something like terror in their gigantic, otherwise calm eyes.

The village was behind him in minutes, and there, set back just a stone’s throw from the main road, was a small white house.  He knew it was the house, but something told him to keep walking.  He squinted and saw movement in the garden, but whomever was working there was crouched low, his face in the soil.

“Hey!” Henry heard.  He looked toward the house and saw a black man coming toward him, grinning.  “You need some help?”

“I was looking for a Mr. Dodge,” Henry said.  He saw the black man glance toward the garden at the name, Mr. Dodge.  “Who are you?” Henry asked.

“My name is Joe.”

Now the man in the garden seemed to finally be aware that there was company.  Slowly he rose, like a weed growing, and shambled over toward where the men were speaking.  His clothes were in tatters, so much so that he was practically naked, and his arms and legs were pink and black and raw, like he had been hideously burned.  The man’s eyes darted independently of one another and his curly hair was streaked with mud.  With dawning horror, Henry saw that this monster’s face hadn’t just been in the dirt.  It had been eating it.

“Don’t mind him,” Joe said, whacking the beast with his palm.  A bit of skin sloughed off.  “He’s just my slave.”  Joe watched after it as it lurched back toward the garden, finally collapsing there onto its knees, its face low to the ground like an anteater’s.  “Say, you look hungry,” he said, smiling.  “How’s about I get my woman to fix something up for you?”

Henry watched the thing for a moment as it sniffed in the garden, and he imagined what Joe’s wife might look like, who she must be.  And he said, “Can you just tell me which way north is?”  Joe shrugged, and pointed, and Henry hurried away.  By the time he had walked a few miles, he knew two things: he was sure that none of Hamilton had been real, and he was sure that he had finally escaped.


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Parking By Margaret Karmazin

Jun 01 2014 Published by under The WiFiles

“How long we been working this dull ass job, Stony?” asks Briggs.
“’29?” says Stony. He is cracking open a container of mock Irish stew, which automatically heats the moment he scratches the grid on its side.“I’m so bored I could burn a hole in my arm just to see if it’s still living,” says Briggs.
“Well, nobody ever said parking is an exciting profession, but it pays the rent.”
“I’m just saying, there’s got to be more to life than this.”
Stony sits up. His screens brighten, signaling a parker coming in. The south end hatch opens to admit a green Subaru Raven, which gears down and hovers, waiting for directions.
“Will ya look at that?” Stony says, as he waves a hand over one screen to order a placement search. “I didn’t know they still made those.” A slot on level three is located and as soon as he hits directives, the Subaru whooshes to one of the upshafts.
“My neighbor has one,” says Briggs. “She’s a hundred and four and refuses to give it up. Says that year was the best model.”
“Well, I don’t know, they don’t climb too well.”
“How often do you need climbing?” says Briggs. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone off greenroads in my life, but then my life, as I said, is so dull it, it’d bore a Buddhist monk to death.”
“What about that woman you’re seeing?”
“Lily? She left Tuesday; got all huffed up over the fact I wouldn’t let her bring home one of those short-legged cats. I hate those weird little things. A cat is supposed to have cat legs, period the end.”
“Well, sorry, man. I’m not too sure I liked her anyway, not that it’s any of my business.”
“What didn’t you like about her?” Briggs looks a little like someone smacked him.
“I donno, she seemed insanely in love with herself, particularly her hair. I got that impression.”
Briggs’ screen flashes to life. “Firefly, south end.” He checks for placement, waves over the screen and says, “Let’s put ‘em on nine.” Another car appears at the same hatch. “Check that out, a Mokin! It’s signaling to pair with Firefly.” He sends them both to the same upshaft.
Briggs is suddenly silent.
“Yo,” says Stony.
“Something about that Mokin. Black, shaded windows…looks…you know, organized crime, government agent, whatever.”
“You’ve been watching too many kickass holos. It’s probably just two partners going to work at the same time.”
Briggs manages to maneuver two vehicles leaving before focusing back on the Mokin and Firefly. He magnifies the screen.
“We’re not supposed to do that,” Stony reminds him.
“Okay if checking for contraband.”
“Uh, that would be if the cops were here and asked you to do it,” Stony states firmly.
“Are you going to report me? And bullshit, how would the cops know to come here to check on contraband unless we saw something suspicious and called them?”
“Well, I don’t know,” says Stony, “I just know what the guide says.”
Briggs waves a disdainful hand as he observes the two vehicles. The Mokin door opens and a stunning woman steps out. She is tall with a cloud of black hair and wearing a maroon suit. The Firefly hatch opens and a short male gets out. It is hard to tell his ethnic background, possibly Indian or Mediterranean. He stands stiffly until the woman hands him a small envelope, which, after glancing about, he slips into a pocket.
“I highly doubt they are partners,” Briggs says as he ups the sound.
“You’re really not allowed to do that,” says Stony. Briggs ignores him.
“Destroy it ASAP,” says the woman. “Unless….” She doesn’t finish.
The man nods, gets back into the Firefly and signals for directions out. The woman stands there a moment, then climbs back into her Mokin and also signals.
“You see?” says Briggs as he transmits the information, sending both vehicles whizzing in different directions. “Something smells.”
Stony shakes his head. “Hell, if we watched or listened to every encounter in here, we’d go nuts. How about that weirdo comes in with the revved up saucer? Did you see the time he had on the alien head?”
Briggs shrugs. “He’s just a regular nut case doing regular nut case stuff. This is different.”
“Yeah? How regular was it the time he accosted those two women of advanced years?”
“Did you see them get upset? One of them kicked him in the balls. Have you seen him back since?”
Stony waves his hand. “Whatever,” he says, turning back to his screens.
The rest of the day is exceptionally busy, especially with a convention going on, meat growers from Alaska.
Next morning, Briggs face looks swollen. Stony gives him a stare.
“Spit it out,” says Briggs, somewhat nastily.
“Well, you look like you were bawling your eyes out.”
Briggs shrugs before he holds his face to a small panel on the wall for an iris read and his puter wall flashes on. He doesn’t answer Stony’s question, not for a couple of hours. There is more coming and going than they’ve seen since the robo-gear convention in March.
After things simmer down late morning, Briggs says, “She was back yesterday to pick up her stuff. Had some guy with her, I think he was only half bio the way he walked and the weird expression on his stiff face, but they seemed pretty cozy. He was letting her boss him around like she used to do with me.”
“What all did she take? Did she stick to just her stuff?
“Hell no, she tried to get the holovis, but I assure as hell vetoed that! Does she expect me to stare at the walls all night?”
Stony face changed. “Briggs! You’re gonna love this.” He points to one of his screens.
The Mokin is back, this time followed by a Hondel Falcon. Briggs forgets his pain and takes over. “Hope you don’t mind,” he says.
“Be my guest,” says Stony.
Just as Briggs expected, the Mokin signals that it wants to park with the Falcon. Briggs sends the cars to 4 M7 in neighboring slots. A woman emerges from the Falcon and this time a man from the Mokin. The man looks like he could be a twin of the woman who stepped out last time, same black hair only this time pulled sleekly into a pony tail. The woman is small and very thin. The Mokin’s passenger passes the other a small box, which she slips into a side pocket. Then the two get back into their vehicles and the Falcon signals to leave.
Just then, another Mokin, this one smaller and shiny brown, appears at the East entrance. Stony reluctantly leaves Briggs screen to communicate with the newcomer. At the same time, the black Mokin signals that it wants to be with the brown one.
“What the hell?” says Briggs as he makes the arrangements. “I’m putting them both in SW C9. Better cameras there.”
Stony shakes his head.
Once the two vehicles are in position, Briggs glances around as if the Feds are descending, then turns up the magnifiers. He waves on another camera feature that cuts through shaded windows and into a car’s interior. No objections out of Stony; Briggs figures it’s because he feels sorry about the Lily business.
Briggs face is centimeters from the screen, though there is no need with the excellent magnification. He is waving his fingers about, madly making adjustments.
“Hey, I can’t see,” says Stony.
Briggs backs away. “Check it out.”
The Mokin’s front seat has slid back, giving the driver more room. Right before their eyes, the driver morphs into the woman they saw the first time. “She” pulls off the ponytail band and shakes out her mane, then scrambles to change clothing. They see a flash of a breast, apparently real, and soon she is zipping up her shirt. She leans into what is evidently a mirror, then looks at the vehicle parked next to her, which has been waiting with no movement of its driver.
“What the-” they both gasp.
Briggs closes in with interior sound. “This isn’t perfected yet,” he says, but they hear the “woman” grunt.
“Classy,” Stony says.
“Stony, she just changed sex!”
The Mokin signals the Falcon and both vehicles’ passenger doors slide open. Out of the Falcon steps a tall, silver haired man. The two meet between the cars and perform what has now become the expected exchange. This time the “woman” lays a hand on the man’s arm in what appears to be a friendly, slightly sexual gesture, but the man stiffly backs away.
“What are they saying?” whispers Stony.
“Not permitted, not desired,” says the man firmly, his voice quite high for the size of him.
“My apologies,” says the “woman.” “I misread the intent in your eyes.”
The man does not address this. “You are being watched,” he says.
Briggs and Stony automatically back away from the screen.
She says, “They are always watching, it is nothing. We let them believe that they see things, it keeps them occupied.”
“I wouldn’t be too confident on this matter,” says the man. “We intercepted a report going to Klate-nine-to. They are aware of your participation.”
This has an interesting effect upon the woman. For a moment, she seems to blur, then returns to herself, yet now the color of her hair has changed.
“Do you see that?” barks Stony. “What the hell?”
The man sees it too and backs away. His face, formerly impassive, now registers fear and he makes a beeline for his vehicle, but not before the now brown haired female pulls something from a pocket and shoots him. As he sinks to the pavement, she is back in her car, signaling for departure.
Briggs and Stony look at each other, their eyes wide with panic. If they let her go, what then? If they try to trap her here, what if she does the same to them?
“We gotta stay calm,” says Briggs. “We gotta think.” Meanwhile, her signaling grows agitated.
Stony remembers the Safe Room controls, which they have never actually used, though it is suggested in training that they test frequently. He fumbles at them madly and waves it on. They hear the hiss of seals and clank of bolts. While mouthing the word “police” to his partner, Briggs signals back to the Mokin while Stony hits the alarm.
Briggs transmits, “Problem with doors,” and the Mokin transmits back, “*&^%$#( idiots.” He hears curse words with which he is only slightly familiar and some not at all, but he knows good ones when he hears them. His heart thuds.
Stony meanwhile is on with the cops who tell him that two patrol cars are on their way.
But by the time they signal for entry, the shot man is no longer slumped on the pavement. He has vanished. Did he somehow crawl back into his car?
“What the-” mutters Briggs as he tries to get another camera on. The one on the other side of the brown Mokin seems to be damaged.
The cops signal their arrival. They have their own way of getting in. Soon a patrol car is hovering outside the office/saferoom. Stony sets the door to open.
Two cops are marched in by the “woman.” “Shut the door,” she commands. She has the officers in some kind of stiff-necked trance.
Briggs’ heart leaps to his mouth. “You idiots,” he wants to yell at the cops, but what’s the point? They’re both young and look scared shitless. They are probably all going to die now. Whatever this female is, she can’t be human and she’s already done something nasty to that man out there.
“You boys are going to-” she begins in a velvety voice, and is about to do to Stony whatever it is that she has done to the starry eyed cops, but he moves faster than Briggs ever imagined possible, being that he is normally a slow, lazy type guy. But now Stony whirls around, fiddles his fingers over a spot on one of his screens and the floor under the woman drops. She disappears in a flash before he fiddles some more and the hole in the floor closes up.
Briggs had totally forgotten about the storeroom. The last time he went down there was maybe four years ago. It was only six feet high, empty except for out of date parts and, if he remembers right, damp and full of spiders.
“Wow,” he says to Stony.
The cops appear to be regaining control of their minds and bodies, staggering about in zombi-ish fashion. Finally one says, “What the hell was that?” He taps his wrist and signals headquarters.
“Is she secure down there, wherever she went?” asks the smaller cop.
Briggs shrugs. “Who knows? We don’t know her capabilities.
“Is there another way out down there?
“Unfortunately, yes,” says Stony. “She’d have to find it in the dark, though, and since she has no controls, would need to open it manually.”
They hear banging around down there. Stony points a shaky finger at Briggs’ screen. They see the black Mokin rise into the air and back out of its receptacle. Then it turns and makes a beeline for their office. Simultaneously, more cops show up at the South and North ends and Briggs goes to work clearing their paths. The two cops are frantically transmitting to their associates and all at once, the black Mokin is hit with a white hot blast and clatters to the garage floor, then slides into an innocent little Ford Eagle.
A swat team arrives in three vehicles, which buzz around outside the office like so many dragonflies. They surround the black and brown Mokins in foam that hardens into a rubber-like net. All that is left is what is down there in the storeroom, now dangerously silent. Briggs and Stony receive orders to shut down all public entrances into the garage.
A VIP cop car arrives and hovers. A voice booms from inside. “I am going in to secure the suspect. Everyone stay where you are. Where is the entry?”
Briggs gets on speaker and explains.
VIP car lowers to the pavement, its door slides open and out steps a short, nattily dressed man in his sixties. His face has the plastic look of someone who has had “work done.” He exudes authority.
While the SWAT cars hover, boss man disappears from view. Everyone holds his breath. He reemerges with the woman in tow. She is not cuffed, but nonchalantly walks beside him. The couple disappears into VIP car, which rises into the air without comment from within and zooms off.
Two SWAT cars attach the netted Mokins and tow them out. The remaining SWAT car signals Briggs and Stony that they are coming in. Two soldiers burst into the room and bark, “Show us your related recorded scenes.”
Stony rolls it back to Encounter One where the woman meets with the Firefly and contains it through the most recent encounter. A soldier steps forward, aims something at the wall and poof, the recording is gone.
“Hey!” says Briggs. “We have to account for-”
The other solder moves toward him with subtle threat. “I wouldn’t object if I were you.”
Briggs swallows and shuts up.
The doors whoosh shut behind the soldiers and their vehicle zooms out of the parking lot.
The remaining two cops, looking sheepish, lurk in the doorway. “You can open to the public now,” says one.
Briggs is indignant. “What the hell was all that? What was that…that person? It changed sex back and forth!”
The cops glance at each other and back to Briggs. “It’s probably on a need-to-know basis. Just return to your lives. If the company gives you trouble, tell them to ask for Officer Redfern and I will explain that we had an incident.”
After they leave, Briggs and Stony give each other disgusted looks.
“Something is very smelly here,” says Briggs. “Why did VIP go in that storeroom alone and without fear and why did man/woman come out placidly? Do they know each other? If so, why would Mr. Muck Muck know someone who engages in nefarious activities that smack of spy work and more creepy stuff I don’t even want to think about?”
“There are a lot of weird things going on that the average person can’t even imagine,” says Stony.
“Well, maybe we ought to tell somebody,” says Briggs. “Like the media, for instance?”
Brigg’s input buzzes. When he answers, a rough male voice booms through the room, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. That woman you care about, Lily is her name? And Stony there – your mother and that dog you’re fond of. If you want them all to reach old age, you’ll shut up.”
Briggs is so terrified that he fears he might lose control of his bowels, which haven’t been in too good a shape since all this began. He backs into the monitors. “Uh, okay, yeah, I see your point.” Stony is too shocked to speak at all.
“Enjoy your week,” the voice says, then shuts off.
Briggs and Stony are silent for a few moments, then Briggs says, ‘Not that I care if they get Lily or not. Apparently, they’re not up to date on that situation.” He pauses a moment. “Well, maybe I do. Some.”
“You care,” says Stony.
They sigh heavily before sitting back down. At the south hatch hovers a shiny, red Jaguar Kite and at the north end, a Mazda Condor, this year’s model.
Briggs says, “I liked it better when it was dull as hell around here.”
“Me too,” says Stony.
“I never imagined myself saying that,” says Briggs.


Margaret Karmazin’s stories are published in literary and speculative fiction magazines including Rosebud, Chrysalis Reader, North Atlantic Review, Mobius, Confrontation, Pennsylvania Review, Speculative Edge, Another Realm and WiFiles. Her stories in The MacGuffin, Eureka Literary Magazine and Licking River Review were nominated for Pushcart awards, and her story, “The Manly Thing,” was nominated for the 2010 Million Writers Award. She has stories included in Still Going Strong, Ten Twisted Tales, Pieces of Eight (Autism Acceptance), Zero Gravity, Cover of Darkness, Daughters of Icarus, M-Brane Sci-Fi Quarterlies, and a YA novel, Replacing Fiona and children’s book, Flick-Flick & Dreamer, published by

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