Restraint

“How are you today, Charles?”

Mr. Kozloski asked in a voice reserved for addressing 8 year olds. He always spoke in a measured rhythm and took a very long time to say nothing. He knew I was shitting in my pants for the simple fact that I’d been called into his office.

“I’m fine, sir. Thank you for asking.”

He nodded his head accepting my humble response as appropriate. “Do you happen to know why you’re here?”

That patronizing tone of voice was maddening. I’d rather listen to someone grind their teeth together than hear him make another speech. He is working up to firing me but instead of just saying that he will probably take an hour to describe his reasoning behind the decision. My boss loved the sound of his own voice.

“I guess it’s getting close to the time for my annual review, sir. So I thought you might want to talk about that.” I knew he didn’t want to talk about that.

He paused, leaned back in his chair and pondered my response. Again, he took his time answering. I was almost ready to walk out and quit. Being a lowly security guard with my twenty-five years experience as a Detective for Chatham County was insulting enough already, I didn’t need this drama.

“You’re right in a way, Charles. I do want to talk about your performance but it will be a short conversation I’m afraid. No breaking out the rubric this time.”

I couldn’t say anything. I was equal parts rage and fear. I wanted to reach across the desk wrap my hands around this skinny punks neck and squeeze until his windpipe cracked just so he could never say the word “rubric” again! I was eleven years his senior and I had work experience that was relevant. Mr. Kozloski had no work experience prior to the the Gender Flu riots.  If half the country hadn’t died from the virus and the other half gone to complete shit, this man would have been lucky to find employment as a coffee shop barista.

“So no annual increase then?” Of course I already knew the answer.

Kozloski had the hubris to laugh. “Actually Charles I’m afraid I have to inform you that today is your last day of employment with S.A.F.E. There have been two many violations of company policy and I can no longer overlook them.”

“Do you mean because I was late a couple of times?”

Kozloski gave me a look. “It was more than a couple of times, Charles.” He opened a folder that contained printed photos of me entering the building. They were time stamped. “I have the photos to prove you were late 3 times in the last six months alone. I’m afraid we can’t over look this any longer.”

My palms began to sweat. “Mr. Kozloski, it’s just that I ran out of fuel credits a few times toward the end of the month and I had to walk from 52nd street to the compound. It’s quite a hike.”

“Did you try calling a cab any of those times?”

“No, sir, I simply can’t afford a luxury like that.”

“I see, so you want us to violate procedure by not having appropriate coverage at the compound and risk the safety of our females because you can’t manage your finances properly?”

I wanted to punch him until his face caved in. I imagined the satisfying sound of his pointy little beak crumpling under the weight of my fist. I was fifty-five but I kept in shape. I held my anger in check because I would never work again if S.A.F.E decided to give me a bad reference.

I stood and thanked Mr. Kozloski for giving the opportunity to worth with him. I nearly gagged on the words but I said them because they had to be said. He wished me look and shook my wet palm. He made a face when the moisture from my sweaty palm soaked into his precious callous free hand. The man had likely never held a gun in his life but held the title of “Head of Security.”

“Before I go Mr. Kozloski I’d like to ask if you’ll be able to give me a favorable recommendation if a future employer calls?”

The skin on his hairless cheeks gathered into a smile.

I doubt he even needs to shave, the twat!

“Of course I’ll give you a good reference, Charles,” he said in a sarcastic voice that let me know in perfectly clear terms that he had no intention of doing that.

“Thank you, Sir,” I said and managed to leave without punching a hole through Mr. Kozloski or his office door on my way out.

Critical Thinking

Dr. Aikens is a big fan of Actualism but he isn’t allowed to teach on it. Haley sits in the front row of his class and absorbs everything he says like a sponge. Today’s discussion is on Descartes not on Bejamin Wong, the founder of Actualism, but it is clear that Dr. Aikens is trying to make the connection.

“How do you know that you’re real?” he asks

Haley raises her hand to answer. “I can see my reflection in the window. I can feel my pulse in my wrist and I’m breathing in air every second.”

He likes that answer. “So you’re basing your assumption that you’re real on information you can gather with your senses, correct? What you can see, touch, hear and smell?”

She nods.

But what if I told you that you can’t trust your senses to always be correct? Senses can be fooled. For instance think about a person taking, what’s that new hallucinogenic out there that the kids all like? The green stuff?”

“Bug juice,” a lethargic voice answers from the back.

Dr. Aikens whirls on a haired boy with red rimmed eyes. To the average person it might look like the boy is under the influence of something, but Haley lives next door to him and has first hand knowledge of the fact that he gets abused at home. He wasn’t a druggie, his distant attitude and lack of concern for school comes from his problems with his father.

“Excellent Mr. Dresden. I knew you would have the answer.”

“So someone taking Bug Juice would experience auditory and visual hallucinations. Therefore the visual data they are able to gather wouldn’t be factual and they wouldn’t be able to believe with that saw, ‘with their own eyes.'”

“So what is the answer then? What can you believe? How do you know you’re real?”

“I’m glad you’re so enthusiastic, Haley. The answer according to Descartes could be summed up in one sentence.” Dr. Aikens turned to the white board and wrote a phrase in red marker, I think therefore I am.

“But what does it mean?” A curly haired girl asked.

“It means that Descartes believed the proof of his existence was based on his ability to think. That the act of thinking itself was the proof.” Here Dr. Aikens paused for effect to see if he’d blown everyones mind. It was clear that he enjoyed his job.

**

After class Haley found herself in Dr. Aikens office. He had a recent test of hers with a score of 98 and a written message on the front of the paper. He handed it to her proudly, “Do you know you were the only one in the class who managed to write a proper answer to the essay question on the proof of God?”

Haley couldn’t help but smile at this. She didn’t agree with Dr. Aikens on some things but she did enjoy his praise. “I’m glad to hear you liked my answer.”

He sat down at the desk and steepled his fingers.”I did enjoy reading your response, it seems you’ve some deep rooted beliefs that have no basis in logic, but nevertheless are fascinating.”

“Are you talking about my faith?”

“Yes, indeed. Faith is an interesting concept.”

“Don’t you think it’s better than believing in nothing?” I hadn’t come here to debate the man on religion, but I was the daughter of a paster after all.

He stood and turned to the bookshelf behind him. “I wouldn’t say I believe in nothing.” He chose a hardback book with a dark purple cover and a strange golden symbol on the front. If I had to guess I would have said it looked Egyptian. He handed the book to me. I half expected it to be full of satanic rituals and spells. Instead the cover read Benjamin Wong and within it’s pages contained the principles that a nation would later use a road map for life after their faith had failed them.

“I think you might find this interesting, he said.

 

The Beginning of the End

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“Doogie” Kayla points at a Golden Retriever playing frisbee with it’s owner in the distance. She is at the stage in life where everything is fascinating and she wants to touch it all. As the dog leaps into the air to catch his prize Kayla sways on her unsure toddler legs and attempts to trot off in it’s direction.

“My turn?” Dorian asks his wife.

“Go for it,” she says. Her smile is warm and full of pride in her little girls accomplishments, even though they are small. Amelia has big plans for the miniature version of herself.

Kayla doesn’t get two steps beyond their picnic blanket before her daddy scoops up his chubby daughter and swings her around in a circle. Delighted giggles fill the air as he carries Kayla upside down back to her mothers waiting arms.

Kayla very much likes going upside down. Her pale blonde hair continues to stand straight up even after Dorian puts her down. She is smiling and flashing a mouth full of gums except for the two front teeth on the bottom that were the only to come in so far.

We he looks at her, Dorian imagines future summer days in Forsyth Park pushing her in the swings. He pictures himself and Amelia cheering in the stands as Kayla plays in her first softball game. He plans to arrive early to get a good view of the stage for her first school play. There are so many things he’s looking forward to in the years to come and reaches out to Amelia and squeezes her hand in silent thanks. She has given him this beautiful give.

Amelia’s contented smile transforms as a coughing fit overtakes her. She has been doing that a lot lately.

“Are you okay?” He asks with real concern. It’s not allergies or a cold and Dorian feels the tiniest ball of dread begin to form in his stomach.

Amelia attempts to say something and waves off his concern. She is unable to form the words because she can’t stop the body racking cough long enough to utter them. The sound is deep and wet with congestion from the bottom of her lungs. She released his hand to retrieve a paper towel and place it over her face to prevent the spreading of germs.  When she brings the towel away from her face there are a few coffee colored drops left behind. She notices him noticing and quickly crumples up the evidence.

“I’m fine!” she says.

 

So Much Blood

“So much blood for such a small cut.”

Seaver stood above her with his knife at the ready. It had been a great disappointment that she didn’t fight back. In fact, it made him want to beat her more. She struggled to stand and had made it to her hands and knees when he delivered a swift kick to her middle.

She grunted as all her air was forced from her chest and her body crumpled. She lay on the floor and didn’t move for a long time.  Only the slow rise and fall of her chest proved she was still alive. He surveyed his handiwork.

“Why do you make me do this, Selena?” He crouched down and grabbed a handful of black hair and yanked her head back so she was forced to look at him. Her eyes opened and rolled back in her head like a terrified animal. So much white.

“Don’t you dare pass out on me!” he growled. “Remember that your only purpose in life is to bear my children and you don’t need the use of all your limbs to do that.”

“I’ll try.” she whispered.

“I’m sorry, what was that, Selena?”

“I can do better.”

“You can do better… what?”

“M-master.”

“Finally.” Seaver entangled his hand from her hair and let her head drop. He wiped the blood on his jeans and cursed at the instant stain. “Look what you made me do!”

He balled his fist intent on knocking a few of her teeth down her throat. She didn’t need all of them.

Selena looked up at him with heavily lidded eyes and raised a hand to try and fend off his blow. Her entire body trembled in anticipation of his pounding and his dick grew rock hard looking into her helpless pleading eyes.

“You like beatin’ on ladies, eh? Is that how you get yer jollies ya bastard!”

Seaver whipped around knife in hand. As expected, Agent Shaunessy was the source of the interruption. He was Selena’s guardian but they both knew he didn’t have the authority to intervene.

“Come on, then,” Seaver taunted him.

The man’s face was red to match his flame colored hair. A prominent vein stood out on his for-head announcing his level of fury. He looked like a vanilla version of the Incredible Hulk.

Seaver knew as a client, he was within his rights to handle Selena any way he liked as long as it didn’t interfere with her ability to get pregnant and Agent Shaunessy knew this as well. Seaver threw the knife overhead and it  whipped past the agents head to imbed itself in the wall behind. Agent Shaunessy didn’t bat an eyelash.

“Alright. You’ve had your go fella, now it’s my turn.”

The man was by far the biggest agent Seaver had ever seen and he moved with astonishing speed. Before he had the opportunity to react, the walking wall of a man rammed his shoulder into Seaver’s gut with his full weight behind it. He wrapped his gorilla arms around Seaver’s waist and he landed flat on his back with 300 plus pounds of muscle on top of him.

His first thought was that it hurt to breathe and that meant he likely had at least one broken rib. His second thought was how hysterical he found this situation. Even as Agent Shaunessy set to work pounding his face into an unrecognizable mass of of purple flesh, Seaver continued to laugh. His laugh became a cough as blood streamed into his mouth from the broken ruin that had once been his nose.

“Think it’s funny do ya?” he said between blows. “You won’t be laughing long.”

Seaver turned his head to spit out a tooth and continue to chuckle in between fits of coughing.

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Gatekeeper

This diary entry was found  lying next to the body of Harold Bazemore who died of a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. How he was able to obtain the handgun is still under investigation.

I stand guard at the entrance way to Tybee Island. I was told it was for their protection but it feels more like the checkpoint serves to keep them inside instead of keeping Rovers out. The girls that pass through my gate get younger every year. It this were fifteen years earlier it would have been considered a crime for a man to touch a girl so young. They pass by me in passenger seats of giant SUV’s driven by their stoic Guardians who seem not to notice the tears that are barely kept at bay within their eyes. These are the lucky ones, the girls that still have a light inside them. They’re alive enough to realize the S.A.F.E system isn’t a way of life.

Our government uses billboards, television advertisements and political speeches to deliver its propaganda. These slogans are meant to keep everyone focused on the goal, “Procreate and Populate.” The repopulation effort is for the benefit of everyone and research or whatever has shown that the S.A.F.E system is the best way to achieve our goal. We’re told it’s for their own good, for the good of the entire nation. In fact this fertility program is necessary for our very survival. Whether or not it’s actually helping remains to be seen.

I know it isn’t helping the girls and the pregnancy rates don’t seem to have improved much. These women – no girls – are taught that everyone must do their “duty,” but they are the only ones suffering this way. Regular citizens have common struggles like not enough fuel credits or fresh produce, but at least our personal lives belong to us. What must it be like to grow up in a world that only sees you for what your body can produce? May God forgive me for saying it but I believe my Olivia was lucky to have been taken by the Gender Flu. As terrible as the wasting sickness was on her it was far better than the slow painful death of the soul that the surviving females now experience.

I shouldn’t be writing down such dangerous ideas but does anyone care what a tired old gatekeeper thinks? I sometimes feel that I have to write down my frustrations or I’ll explode.

Diary of a Gatekeeper

Olivia Bazemore, Age 14

A Warning (Part Two)

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“If you come through that door you won’t get one step further!,” Jeremy promised the intruder. He cocked the shotgun for emphasis so that the person could hear just what kind of firepower they were up against. The house was totally silent with the only noise coming from the howling wind and occasional thunder, so Jeremy’s threat was clearly audible and soon answered.

Two more successive slams against the door proved that the intruder was either crazy or thought himself bullet proof. The last blow splintered the wood in the center. I realized in that moment that if the shotgun missed or somehow misfired I might be standing in a dark room alone with a maniac. My sweaty palm gripped the 9mm and I braced myself for the next blow. When it didn’t come Jeremy backed up and whispered to me, “We’re going through the kitchen and out the garage door entrance. You go first and I’ll follow.”

“Do you have your keys?” I hoped. Jeremy was many things but organized was not one of them.

“Not on me. We just have to make it outside and across the street to a neighbor.” He motioned for me to hurry.

The few steps from the darkened living room the lamp lit kitchen seemed to take forever. I kept waiting to hear the sound of wood cracking and a man bursting through. I couldn’t imagine what kind of person would want to get into our home so badly or why. I got to the kitchen door that opens to the garage and my heart sank. I had let the garage door down that night. We were trapped.

“Goddamn it!” Jeremy swore.

The wind suddenly picked up and I could hear tree branches scraping the sides of house outside as if the atmosphere was reacting to Jeremy’s mood. The unmistakable sound of glass shattering exploded in our ears. A grey and white streak of fur darted by my legs and into the pantry. Davey must have been hiding in the sunroom. Jeremy pointed the shotgun into the air in front of the doorway and inched forward. I used my cell phone light to shine into the room so he could see to aim -although I wasn’t sure what he’d be aiming at. The top half of a tree had fallen against one side and landed on the house bursting several glass windows in the process. A terrible stench like rotting leaves and animal remains came from the direction of the tree. As lighting flashed across the sky I could see muddy rain water streaming in through the new holes in our windows and dirt strew across the floor from where the tree had knocked over several house plants.

Jeremy drew closer to the scene, as if some macabre curiosity forced him forward. I shined the light for him so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything. A pitiful mew came from the direction of the pantry and caught my attention. Davey was blind and terrified by all these unusual sounds and smells. I followed his distress cry. The fact that a defenseless animal depended on me, lessened my fear. I stuffed the gun into the back of my jeans pocket and hoped there was no way it could spontaneously fire.

Jeremy backed up quickly and I could hear the shuffling sound of something following him. “They’re climbing up the tree!”

They are? How many people are trying to break into our house?”

“There aren’t any people.” He said it so quietly I almost didn’t hear before I could ask what he meant he shouted at me.

“There’s no time!” He ran down the hall to the front door. The lock had recently broken and it couldn’t be opened from the inside. “Back up and cover your ears.”

He took aim and fire exploded from the end of the gun. I’d heard it fired before, I’d even shot it, but that was at an outdoor shooting range and I’d been wearing protective headgear. This time there was nothing protecting me. I wasn’t able to plug up my ears while holding the cat and Davey carved bloody grooves into my chest in an attempt to scramble away from me. Hot tears ran down my cheeks. My chest was on fire and my ears rang. Jeremy’s voice was muffled like he was screaming into a pillow but I could tell from his expression that he was yelling at the top of his lungs. He put all his weight into delivering a kick to the front door. I still didn’t know who or what was attacking us but I turned my attention toward the danger. An awful sense of dread filled me as the shadows in the house drew together and formed a shape. The door gave way and opened enough for us to see that something blocked it from opening completely.

“It’s a tree!” Jeremy said. “It’s blocking the fucking door.”

Jeremy cursed and gave up on that plan of escape. He turned to see why I’d gone silent and we faced the nightmare together. The mass of black shadows had the vague outline of a man and it might have been my impaired hearing but it sounded like a growl came from it’s center. I could see Jeremy taking aim from the corner of my eye but he didn’t seem to know where to fire. Something like an arm reached out from the swirling mass and long tendrils flexed in my direction. Davey hissed and took a swipe that passed through the arm but caused it to shrink backward.

“You protect this one?” A thin spidery voice asked. I wasn’t sure if it had been spoken aloud or in my head.

“What?”

When the question was repeated I realized it wasn’t being asked of me at all.

Davey bared his fangs and made the fiercest hiss I’d ever heard before turning around in my arms and burying his furry head against my chest.

“Very well,” the voice said. “We will cause no harm.”

Jeremy relaxed the gun beside me. I held my breath as I watched the shadow man withdraw down the hallway and back out of the destroyed window in the sunroom. When it had fully retreated everything went still.

There was no more monstrous wind causing tree limbs to scrape the sides of the house, and no longer any frustrated rumbling from whatever it was that had been trapped in our basement.

Davey leapt from my arms and ran into the sunroom. We both followed and an instant later the lights flickered back on. The giant maple tree in the back yard had completely blown over and crashed into one side of the house shattering several windows . Glass, and mud covered most of the furniture. The light colored carpet in the room was stained with something black and viscous almost like tar.

“What is that?” Jeremy bent down to inspect the semi gelatinous black blob.

“Don’t touch it!” The evidence left behind still gave no indication of what had climbed the tree into our home.

I stared at my cat, who stared back at me as if he could actually see my face. “What happened here?” I asked as if he had the ability to answer. I wondered what he was thinking about. Somehow I knew there was more going on behind those wide green eyes than I’d ever imagined.

I remembered my phone and retrieved it from my back pocket. “My phone’s working now, I’m going to call the police.”

“And tell them what? We were attacked by a shadow?”

“I want to see something.”

I followed him through the house and into the garage. The door was working now and it lifted with a painful slowness. Most of the streetlights had been knocked down by the insane wind but the light in front of our house blinked slowly as it struggled to hold onto it’s tenuous connection to it’s power source.

The houses around us on all sides were gone. The structures themselves had been flattened as if a tornado had touched down on every single one of our neighbors’ homes. In their place trees had grown in an instant, trees that looked as if they’d stood for a hundred years and would stand for a hundred more.

Jeremy wrapped his thick arms around my waist and pulled me close to him. It was hard for my brain to make sense of what I’d seen. “What happened here?” I whispered into his chest.

“I’m not sure, but I think it was a warning.”

A Warning (Part One)

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“Do you have candles anywhere?” Jeremy asked. We were standing in the kitchen, completely dark except for the light attached to his head and my cell phone flashlight. A fierce thunderstorm with gale force winds had knocked our power out.


           “I don’t have any candles.”

          He made a face at me. “Aren’t girls supposed to have that sort of thing? “

I shrugged. “I’ve been using apple scented Airwicks lately.”


           “I think I might have some in the prep room. Can you go down in the basement and check?” He said that last sentence in a deep spooky voice to tease me.

           “I know you can’t see it, but I’m giving you the finger,” I called to him as I made my way to the stairwell.  Famous last words. Of course I’ll go down into the pitch black basement with the creepy maniac who cut our power lines so he could slaughter us in the dark.

           At least I wasn’t alone. My cat Davey dutifully followed me down the stairs. The thunder rumbled just outside the door and the wind howled like a demonic wizard had summoned it from the depths of hell. I’d never heard wind make so much noise. Davey stopped and turned in the direction of the basement window as a tree branch ominously scraped across. Since he’s blind he’s even more sensitive to noise. “It’s okay, I’m right here,” I reassured him.

           The prep room was a closet with shelves of stacked canned goods, dehydrated meat and bottled water. Jeremy wanted to be ready for the total economic collapse or zombie apocalpyse he knew was coming. We had enough food for the two of us for six months and a 50 gallon water container outside. I shined my cell phone flashlight over the batteries, and various tools stored with our food. I found matches but no candles. There was however, an old oil lamp on the shelf.

           A few minutes later we were sitting at the kitchen table eating hamburger steak with onions by the light of the oil lamp. It was March so the heat hadn’t grown oppressive yet and the scene was almost romantic. A beeping sound followed by a ear shattering siren spoiled the mood. “Is that our security alarm?” I’d clamped my hands over my ears in an attempt to muffle the sound. The alarm had never made more noise than an occasional chirp to let us know it was working.

           “Something must have triggered it..” Jeremy typed a sequence into the panel and it turned off a few seconds later.”

           As he did this outside alarms belonging to our neighbors on both sides of our house started to ring. “What the hell is going on?”

           “Maybe the power outage caused them to malfunction?”

           It was a weak answer but I would have accepted it if it hadn’t been followed up by the banging sound of a door bursting open below us. It had come from the basement where I’d been just moments before.

           Jeremy put a finger to his lips signaling that I should be quiet. “Follow me to the bedroom,” he whispered. “Don’t step on those squeaky floorboards.”

           We tip toed down the hall to the master bedroom where he armed himself with his pump action shotgun. He handed me his 9mm and flipped the switch on the safety. “It’s ready to fire. Just like I taught you at the range, remember?” My hands were shaking so bad when he handed me the gun I nearly dropped it.

           He kissed me on the forehead. “We’ll get through this.” He pulled out his phone to and started to dial 911. “All we have to do is make it until the cops get here.”

           After a few seconds of no one answering I began to worry.

           Jeremy made a face and dialed again. “That’s weird. The call keeps getting dropped.”

           “Let me try mine.” I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and my stomach lurched. No signal. “What are we going to do?”

“First we get out of the house and go to a neighbors to call the police.”

           A loud crash from the basement tore a scream from my throat. Jeremy jumped in front of me and pointed the shotgun down the hallway. “Stay here.” He hissed behind him.

           “Like hell,” I whisper shouted back to him.

           He closed the door to the basement but it didn’t lock from our side. “We need to barricade the door. He put his shotgun down to grab one end of the couch. “Help me with this.”

           We half lifted half slid the couch in front of the door just in time. I could hear heavy footsteps making their way up the carpeted basement stairs. There was a step followed by a dragging thump as if the person walking up the stairs had a lame leg.

           Jeremy stood beside me and pointed his gun at the door. “If anything comes through that door I’ll blow it’s head off. You might want to stand back a little farther because it’s going to be very loud.”

           My entire body shook with nervous anticipation. I head my 9mm in a death grip. I was lucky that I’d started a fire in the fireplace before dinner or we wouldn’t have had any light to see. I might have accidentally hit him instead of the intruder. Although from the sound of it, the man was a plenty big enough target.

           A fist slammed against the door.