One Day at a Time. Short Story.

Jeremy took another sip of tea, his hands weren’t shaking anymore, which was a plus, but that didn’t mean the desire had faded away. He just needed to keep himself busy. That was all, do something distracting. He looked around the already spotless room, the rest of the apartment was equally clean. He had spent days cleaning and reorganising everything. He considered rearranging the furniture before dismissing the idea. He couldn’t go out with friends, as that would actually require friends to go out with. He had always been a bit of a loner, never really by choice but he accepted it, being alone was nice most of the time. This was not one of those times. He could feel a steady heat building in his hands, he clenched them then opened and closed them a few times, the heat lessened but not by much. He was in control here, not the power, not the desire, just him. He took another sip of tea, the cup felt cool to the touch though the tea was almost too hot to drink.

He couldn’t take it anymore. He concentrated, he’d only do it a little, that was all. It would be fine. The watched as a ball of fire formed in his hand, feeling the relief of the heat draining from his fingers. He felt a complete relaxation and waves of pleasure started to wash over him, the ball of flames started to get bigger, he found it drawing his eyes in, he could feel himself slipping away. He extinguished it with some difficulty and sat there, panting, his skin pale and sweaty. He looked down at his hands, they were shaking. Damn.

It had been three weeks since he had last used his power, they had told him that the first week was the hardest but that was a lie. Sure it was hard, but every day was hard. Every day was a struggle against the desire to use his powers. He took a deep, calming breath. The support group he had gone to had told him to ring if he was tempted, he hadn’t even considered it. He shook his head, he had been alone too long. His hands started to itch, a deep, maddening itch that couldn’t be scratched. It felt as though ants were swarming inside his skin. He clenched his hands tightly, focusing on his breathing.

When the itch finally died down it was replaced by that goddamned heat. He went into the kitchen and grabbed out a handful of ice from the freezer, he put it into a bowl with some water and rested his hands in it. It helped a little, but he knew it was only a temporarily release.

After a few minutes the water was steaming gently and Jeremy emptied the bowl, filling it again. The longer he could keep the heat at bay the easier it would be to refrain from using his powers. He didn’t want to end up like some of those other power junkies, strung out and living in their own world, or worse, going crazy with power and trying to take over the world. The injection was quick, painless, but getting powers brought on the most intense high he had ever experienced, and he had experienced many. For most people it was fine, they’d deal with it and move on, but for others it was more difficult. Every time he used his powers he felt a little of that pleasure, encouraging him to use them more, make himself more powerful, the more powerful he was the better he would feel. He knew all about it now, the news outlets had exploded with the story a few days after he had the shot. It had been kept all hush hush, though it helped explain the whole super villain/superhero dynamic that seemed to grow with the powers. Before everyone thought it was just the almost constant exposure to comics and movies when people were kids. He didn’t want to end up like that, killing people without regard, he had seen videos, they all had, of those who had gone all the way. It hadn’t been pretty. He had seen himself in them, the madness in their eyes, he could feel it in him too, bubbling just underneath the surface, waiting for him to slip up.

Jeremy paced back and forth in his small apartment, he had made the phone call he had been dreading, that he had had an accident. They had assured him they wouldn’t bring him in, but they were sending someone to keep him under observation. His skin crawled at the thought, they just wanted to spy on him, keep him under their thumb, make him weak. There was nothing wrong with him they were just afraid of his power, power that they couldn’t control for once. He stopped pacing and started taking deep breaths. “This isn’t you. These aren’t you real thoughts. It’s the powers talking. No ones out to get you.” He repeated it to himself a few times, eventually the thoughts faded but he could still feel that paranoia there. He kept checking out the window, though he told himself he just wanted to see the sunny day. The people down there made him nervous, there weren’t many, most people were in work, those who were stable and had lives. But the fear was there, what if they knew? What he was, what he could do? Would they run him out of the building? It was happening more and more, those who had taken the shots had started living in their own communities, away from the regulars. He had seen the pamphlets, but there was no way he would ever go there. They could keep track of everyone too easily, basically have them already round up for when they decided that those with powers were too dangerous to be allowed to live freely.

A knock at the door startled him from his thoughts. He paused with his hand on the doorknob, “Hello?”
“Jeremy Smith?”

“I’m Alex, I was sent over here?”
He opened the door, surprised to see it was a woman on the other side, her voice was quite deep, she smiled at him, “Can I come in?”
Jeremy stepped aside.
“First things first, I want to make some things clear,”
Jeremy shut the door behind her, “I too have powers and I have been specially selected to deal with you and those with your kind of powers as I will be safe from them. I am not here to report on you or spy on you, however if you become a danger to yourself or others I am obligated to report it. I am stronger than I look, so if you do feel like attacking me be aware that I wont hold back. Ok, now that we’ve that all sorted, do you have any coffee?”
“Uh, yeah, in the kitchen. I’ll make you a cup.”
Alex nodded and looked around the apartment, “Nice place. Normally they shove people into the cheapest shitholes they can find.”
Jeremy nodded, “Yeah, my parents are paying for the place until I get things sorted.”
“Wow, not a lot of families will do that.”
“Yeah.” Jeremy didn’t say anything else, he didn’t like talking about his family. Alex nodded, more to herself than anything.
“So, I hear you had a bit of a set back, why don’t we have a chat about it?”

When Alex left Jeremy was feeling better, the heat from his hands was almost entirely gone and the itch was only an annoyance rather than maddening. His hands still shook, but that would subside soon enough. On the kitchen counter was a piece of paper with contact numbers carefully written on it. He took the paper and taped it beside the phone. Alex was right, he could do this, he controlled the powers, they didn’t control him. He took a look around his apartment again, the itch seemed to be getting deeper, more intense, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reorganise a little.

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Truce. Short Story.

Shelly yawned, somewhere inside the house there was a loud scream, Shelly rolled her eyes and turned up the TV a little more. A second scream came, even louder. “I’m trying to watch TV.” A third scream, almost in defiance, then silence.
“Thank you.” She shook her head and tried to get back into the movie she had been watching. As it was it was barely holding her attention. She picked up her drink and as it reached her mouth the sharp scent of iron hit her nose, she looked down to see her glass was filled with blood. “Oh for fuck sake. What have I told you before? Stop fucking with my food or drinks. If it happens again I’m getting someone in. I mean it.” She looked back to see her drink was back to what it was before, a glass of coke. She took a sip and put the glass down, she looked down at the bowl of popcorn before grabbing a handful, she half expected it to be full of eyeballs again. What ever, or who ever, also lived in this house was not impressed that she was staying. Shelly knew they’d get used to it eventually, the area was good, the house was huge and the rent was cheap, far far cheaper than it would have been if that thing hadn’t taken up residence. Sure it was a bit of a trade off but the savings were worth it.

The rest of the movie went by without any other interruptions. Shelly and the thing seemed to be reaching some kind of common ground. A few threats here and there seemed to work, as well as being underwhelmed by all the trickery. Shelly had seen worse when she was growing up, and the knowledge that it wasn’t real, even if it felt, tasted and smelt real, was reassuring. Leaving the TV running Shelly went into the kitchen, carrying the bowl. The popcorn was good, but she was feeling a little hungry still. As she opened the fridge a gust of freezing wind blew at her, making it hard to breath, it stopped after a second. One thing she wouldn’t get used to was that blast of cold air, but it was helpful for waking her up in the mornings. She grabbed out a few things and put them on the counter, behind her something tapped on the window, softly and repeatedly. Shelly ignored it. The last time she had investigated some grotesque thing had been standing outside, smiling at her. As she made her food the tapping continued, growing more and more insistent. Finally she turned towards the window, there was nothing there. Shelly finished making the sandwich and brought it back into the sitting room.

Shelly flicked around on the TV until she found a horror movie, she smiled, then looked around the house, “If you want you can watch this with me, might give you some ideas. I mean I’m not going to live here forever, but might help you scare off who ever is next.” There was no response, Shelly shrugged and started watching the movie.

The entirety of the movie passed in silence, no moans or yells, no blood filled glasses. “I liked it, thought it was a little cheesy though.” Somewhere there was a high pitched cackle, the same on that had played in the movie, “Yeah, that mostly. I mean who really laughs like that? And that hanging corpse looked a bit too fake.” There was the sound of creaking rope behind her, Shelly turned slightly, a young woman was hanging from the ceiling, her body was bloated, her skin pale and splotchy. “Yeah, now that’s scary. Ooh, wait till someone opens the closet or something, maybe add a blast of smell or some maggots. That’d freak them out I think. Most people wouldn’t stay after seeing something like that.”
Shelly reached out and gently touched it, “Feels real enough too.” A second later it vanished. Maybe this would be the start of an entirely new friendship, bonding over horror movies, it could work. Shelly stood and stretched, “I’m getting sleepy, if you want I can leave the TV on, on the horror channel if you’d like. I dunno, can you change the channel on the TV yourself?” The channel changed to the news. “Cool, feel free to watch whatever. Just keep the volume somewhat reasonable.” Shelly left the sitting room as the TV switched back to the horror channel. What ever it was could gorge itself on shitty made for TV horror movies while she got a good nights sleep.

In the bathroom she brushed her teeth without incident, no blood gushing from the faucet, no creepy ghost people standing behind her in the mirror. Not even the whole hair falling out while running a brush through it thing, it had been fond of that one. She got into bed and yawned again, quickly she drifted off to sleep.

She woke in the morning and there was silence. No screaming, no groaning, no clanking chains or creaking floorboards. Good. This was good. She got out of bed, half expecting her slippers to squelch when she put her feet in them but there was nothing.

Shelly made herself breakfast in the kitchen, as she ate her cereal she looked around the room, “So, I feel like I should make a peace offering, after all I am the one in your space here. If you want I can rent some movies for you? I don’t really know what to get for a spirit. Well, assuming you are one. Is that rude? I’m not sure of the etiquette here.” Silence. “Well, have a think of what you’d like and I’ll try my best. Within reason of course, no victims or anything like that.” She stood from the kitchen table and rinsed out her bowl. “I’m going to leave out a pen and paper. I’ve to go to work but same deal as last night, feel free to watch the TV or whatever.” Shelly grabbed her bag and left the kitchen, smiling as she went, she knew she’d find a way for everything to work out.

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New Neighbours. Flash Fiction.

There was nothing overtly wrong in the house, but there was an underlying smell, beneath the scent of citrus and potpourri, something sour and earthy with a hint of rot. The other smells did a good job of covering it, Jason was only getting the occasional whiff of it and it could have easily be passed off as coming from the garden if the windows had been open. Angela entered the room carrying a tray, she shuffled rather than walked, it seemed as though she could drop the tray at any moment. “Are you sure you don’t need a hand?”
“No, not at all, the day I can’t make tea for a guest is the day I might as well just lay down and die.”
Jason smiled awkwardly, not sure how to respond. She set the tray down on the table, cups and saucers rattling and clinking lightly. She poured the tea into the cups, it was dark, darker than he would have expected, she looked up at him, “Milk and sugar?”
“Yes, please.” She nodded then added them, she gave it a stir with a small spoon then passed the cup to Jason. Jason took a small sip to be polite, surprised at how delicious the tea actually was. He took another, longer sip. “Thank you, it’s lovely.”
She smiled, “I’ve always been told I make a good cup of tea.” She finished making her own and sat down across from him.

“So, you’re the one in the house across the road, must say I’ve never really known the neighbours from there. Quiet people, kept to themselves. Are you moving in by yourself?”
“No, myself and my girlfriend, I just wanted to come over to say hello, figured I’d introduce myself to the neighbours.”
She nodded, “Yes, of course. It’s a bit of a strange neighbourhood, mostly quiet though, people seem to keep to themselves. I’m home most of the day so if you need someone to keep an eye on the house if you go away or to sign for a package, feel free to let me know.”
Jason smiled, “thanks.” He took another sip of tea. The woman was odd, but she didn’t seem dangerous, he would be polite, drink the tea then wave to her whenever he saw her outside.

Angela picked up the tray and carried it back to the kitchen, the boy seemed nice enough but she didn’t really recall his name. Not much point, most people moved out of that house after a few months. The longest was two years and well, they all knew how that turned out. Nasty business, all over the news too. Angela knew there was little point in warning the boy or his girlfriend, no one ever listened anyway. People thought she was going mad, or was just senile, but she wasn’t. She was as sharp as she’d ever been. But she did watch, looking out the window at the people passing by, keeping track of the neighbourhood. It helped fill the days really. She used to gossip with Miriam, who lived a few streets over, until Miriam got sick. Now she just kept all her juicy titbits to herself. There were other things though, things she saw in the night. Things she told no one about. Who would believe her after all? Creatures skulking in the shadows, the man next door carrying a heavy, body shaped lump to his car and driving away, that poor drunk girl who had been attacked a few weeks back. Things happened on this street, but no one talked about it, everyone just went about their lives, able to fill it with distractions like work. Angela didn’t have that luxury.

She watched as the new couple unloaded the moving truck, it had come late, he had told her about it, missing items or some such. She hadn’t been paying attention at that point, it was clear the boy wouldn’t last too long. The girl on the other hand, she seemed strong, and there was something about the way she carried herself, determined, confident. Maybe she’d stick around a bit longer than he would. You never really knew how things would play out on the street, anything could happen.

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The Change. Short Story.

Jeff could feel it in his very blood, calling out to him, telling him to just relax and let it take over. He slapped himself across the face, hard. The sharp pain helped ground him. He couldn’t give in, wouldn’t. He took a deep breath, the feeling of itching deep in his bones subsided a little. He longed for a drink, something strong that would burn its way down to his stomach but he couldn’t. Not now. The drink would make it that much harder for him to resist. The others were out in the fields, feeling the air on their face, feeling truly alive while he was stuck inside, inside this stuffy room where the walls seemed to press in on him. He walked to the window, his hands already moving to open it before he stopped himself. No, it was a trick. If he went outside he would lose himself completely. Feeling the grass beneath his feet, the moonlight on his skin, the fresh air carrying the scent of prey. No it was his job to remain in his full senses.

He gasped, it felt like his blood was bubbling in his veins. He longed to itch and scratch and tear at his skin. Outside someone called out, he could smell it, the hot coppery smell of blood, he knew it well. But it wasn’t coming from outside, it was from somewhere in the house. He opened the door before he could stop himself, already caught up in the hunt. He ran through the halls, excitement building, he rounded the corner and slammed into someone, Lucy, his younger sister, too young still for the changes. She looked up at him, eyes wide and full of fear. His breathing was heavy, harsh, “Go back to your room.” The words were spat out, full of hunger and rage. Lucy scrambled to her feet and ran. He could feel the tug, the desire to chase after her, to run her down, but the smell of blood was still in the air, stronger here. He started moving again, this time cautiously. His mouth started salivating, he remembered the story of the maid. The poor maid who cut herself on a night like this. Nothing would have saved her. Perhaps some juicy morsel had made a similar mistake.

He opened the door and stopped. Blood was splattered across the room, the floor, the walls, even the ceiling. Towards the middle of the room was a pile of meat, that was the only thing he could think of it as. Whatever it had been before was almost impossible to tell, it had been torn to pieces. He stepped into the room, his nostrils twitching at the intoxicating aroma of blood. He didn’t notice the saliva drooling from his lips and down his chin. Something had happened here, he needed to focus, to be aware. Whatever it had been was human, that much he knew. Outside he heard another cry, but this time it was closer to the house. Those outside were fully in the grips of the madness, they wouldn’t be rational, thinking people. Even he was having difficulty staying in control. If they got into the house everyone inside would be doomed. He stalked from the room, longing to return, but he had to check.

The doors and windows were all locked, but he could see them, outside running around the garden, ducking into shadows. Whatever had happened in the house had happened after everyone was outside. Lucy. She had been inside. Had she had blood on her? He hadn’t noticed. The smell of it had been thick in the air at that point. He turned and went towards her room.

He knocked on the door gently, something inside slammed against the door. Jeff’s heart beat harder in his chest, either Lucy had made the change or she was dead. He would find out in the morning, for now whatever it was was trapped and it was safer for everyone that way. When the young ones changed for the first few times they were dangerous. Savage and new they delighted in torment and pain. There was no control in it, there never could be, but as they aged the change wasn’t as severe, they didn’t feel the same gnawing need and hunger deep inside.

When the morning came Jeff felt the dawn wash over him. He sighed in relief, finally that maddening itch inside was gone, as was the need to run, to eat, to kill. He was tired, more exhausted than if he had allowed the change to take. Everyone outside would be there for a few hours yet. It was summer and they would sleep in the morning light until they woke.

He opened the door to Lucy’s room, it was destroyed. the mattress had been ripped to shreds, great gouges in the walls and floors, and in the centre of it all was Lucy, sleeping on the tattered remains of her duvet. Sighing Jeff moved in and lay down beside her, feeling sleep take him. The change was terrifying the first time. She would wake up scared and disorientated, he would need to be there for her.

Jeff yawned and stretched, they had spent the day cleaning. The woman who had been killed, for it was a woman, was one of the newer maids. No one knew why she had stayed behind when the others left. She certainly knew she wasn’t supposed to be in the house after 5 P.M. Jeff suspected she was planning on breaking into the safe during the night and slipping away, but he had no real way of knowing. Others had disposed of the gristly remains outside, with the others. There had been many accidents over the years and the family had to keep its secrets. Lucy had spent the day crying but now she seemed to be doing a little better. She knew it wasn’t really her that did it, no one ever remained themselves when the change took over.

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Day In, Day Out. Short Story.

Jason looked around the dull living room, empty cans of soft drink littered the table tops alongside glasses. An overflowing ashtray was perched precariously at the edge of the table, on the floor underneath were a few scattered cigarette butts and a smattering of ashes. The floor itself was dirty, the carpet covered in stains both new and old and was in need of a good vacuuming. He yawned and stretched, he’d fallen asleep here again. He patted at his pockets before he found his cigarette packet and quickly he pulled one from the pack and lit it with a practised hand. He inhaled deeply, feeling the heat and smoke go into his lungs and a sense of peace and relaxation spread through his body. He exhaled with a sigh, he leaned forward and grabbed a glass from the table, the freshest one, and took a gulp of the cool, flat Coke. He downed the glass and when he was done he took another puff. As he exhaled this time he stood and made his way towards the bathroom.

When he was done there he went back to the sitting room and sat down, sinking into the cushions that had molded themselves to the shape of his body. He flicked on the TV, mostly for background noise, and finished off his cigarette. When he was done he grabbed out another, as he moved it to his lips he started to cough, deep, hacking coughs that burned his chest. When the fit subsided he paused for a second to breathe, then he lit his second cigarette. The morning phlegm had been getting worse in the last week or two, no surprise there as he had upped his smoking habit dramatically. Ever since Rebecca had left. Who could blame him really? It was his one vice, well, that and Coke. If he could drink he knew the Coke cans scattered about the room would have been beer, but he never had the stomach for it, nor did he care for the taste. He scratched at his face, he’d have to go out to get more smokes soon, would he get away without showering? When had he last bathed? He thought back, trying to pinpoint it but found he couldn’t. He sniffed at himself but smelled nothing, he barely noticed the heavy smell of the smoke that filled the room, nor could he smell the stale stink of it that followed him around. After his cigarette he went into the kitchen.

Toast seemed to be the best option, everything else seemed too heavy and his stomach turned at the thought of it. Toast was simple, it was easy, and it only required bread. He grabbed the last slices from the bag and threw them into the toaster. He grabbed out a plate and set it onto the counter, while he waited he found himself reaching for his packet of smokes again, but he stopped himself. He’d have to cut back a little, it wasn’t good for him and besides, smokes were getting more and more expensive as time went on. He wouldn’t be able to afford them as much, not now that Rebecca was gone. She had been bringing in most of the money, though the house was in his name. He got the odd job every now and then, but he hadn’t had a steady one in almost two years. At first he had tried, really tried. C.V’s were sent to every office and building that looked even remotely decent, he’d even started handing them in to shops, though he had little retail experience. He wanted something, anything, to help fill the days. As the weeks turned to months and the replies turned from “Thanks but no thanks” to non-existent he found himself sending out less C.V’s and spending more time watching the television. It was strange, how the days just slipped away in a haze of daytime TV. At about half five or so he’d hear Rebecca’s keys in the lock and scramble to clear the room a little, make it look like he’d done something else, anything else, with his day.

After a year he noticed the growing gap between them, but he didn’t know how to close it. Any attempts he made were just rebuffed by her until eventually they were just roommates that shared a bed. Rebecca had become angrier, always shouting. He tried to fix it, he really had, or at least he thought he had. No one was ever completely innocent in those kind of situations. The worst part of it all was when she left, a suitcase in hand as she announced that she was going to her parents’ house. He hadn’t felt the devastation he would have expected, he just nodded and said “Ok.” Part of him wanted to fight for her, to get her to stay, but another, larger part just didn’t care. They had been growing apart for months, and she’d be better off without him, after all he was just dead weight. He had spent the night chain smoking, waiting for the pain to fully hit him but it never did. It felt like a part of him had gone numb, or missing. Like one day he woke up and his arm was just gone, but where it had been was a perfectly healed stump. No pain, no denial, just acceptance of the new life he would live.
Jason lit up another cigarette, he had lost count, or at least he told himself he had. There were only three left in the packet, he’d have to go out to get more soon. He had caught a look at himself in the mirror and he needed a shower. Scruffy beard, greasy hair that stuck up at crazed angles, skin that looked pale and shiny, with dark circles around his eyes. Soon the need for smokes would drive him to shower, or just go to the shops. It wasn’t like he’d run into anyone he knew, everyone else was out working and it was only a short walk anyway. He stubbed out the last of the cigarette, then cursed as the ashtray fell onto the floor. Grumbling to himself he grabbed a handful of ash and old cigarette butts and dumped them back into the ashtray. He continued until the floor was mostly clean of the cigarette butts, he’d just have to get the hoover to it later, whenever that was.

He washed his hands then splashed some water on his face, it perked him up a little. He dried off his hands and face then lit another smoke. He was doing fine with Rebecca, who needed her anyway? He grabbed his wallet, not even bothering to change out of yesterday’s clothes, and headed out the door. Sure he could be spending the money on better things, but what was the point? He couldn’t afford the house by himself and either it’d be taken or Rebecca would want to sell it. He hadn’t heard from her since she left. It had no doubt been a complete break for her. Hell she was probably already dating someone else. As he walked he smoked his last cigarette, a dull spike of anxiety hit his chest as he pulled the last one from the box, he lit the smoke and took a deep breath. He’d have more soon enough.

He didn’t notice the look the cashier gave him as he stepped up the to counter. The faint wrinkle of the nose, the almost but not quite hidden look of disgust. He ordered his smokes and paid, pocketing the box as soon as it was handed to him. He left the store, the scent of stale smoke drifting after him. He felt better being outside, it was good to get out of the house every now and then, get some fresh air. He let himself back into the house, he grabbed a can of coke from the fridge, noting that he’d have to pick up more soon, and went into the sitting room. He sat onto the couch and turned on the TV, he cracked open the can, stuck another cigarette into his mouth and allowed himself to relax. He had done something to day after all and he deserved the break.

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Storage Facility 12-B. Short Story.

“And remember, don’t look in the mirrors.”
“If we’re not supposed to look in them, why do we have them?”
Tony looked at James, as though he was about to explain something extremely complicated to someone extremely slow. “They’re used in the research.”
“Yeah, I get that but surely they could be placed somewhere else. Where they aren’t a danger to us?”
“Just follow the rules and you’ll be fine. For the most part.”
“For the most part?”
“Well, there’s accidents. Every work place has them but we do our best to ensure that everyone is safe.”
James nodded, already regretting signing the contract. Of course he hadn’t known all this before he started, he had to sign a NDA to even enter the building.

Tony smiled at him, “Besides, nine out of ten employees make it through their first day just fine.”
James looked back, “It’s a joke.”
“Oh. Ha.”

An hour in and James was bored. It really was an easy job, once you followed the rules. So far all he had to do was walk around the building and make sure that everything looked okay. If anything looked strange or suspicious he was to call it in. He would have someone with him tomorrow, Tony had told him the first day was always a bit of baptism by fire. If he had any concerns, all he had to do was radio it in and someone would be with him in a few minutes. He had met a few of the people he was going to be working with, but they were cold to him, grouped together they dismissed him as soon as the introduction was over. They all seemed friendly enough amongst themselves, he hoped it was just because he was new, that once he could prove himself capable they’d warm up to him.

At 2 P.M. exactly an alarm started blaring. James jumped and scrambled to grab out his walkie, he shouted into it over the blare, “What’s happening?” No one responded. The halls were deserted and the alarm just kept going, drilling its way into his brain, pressing in on him. There was no such thing as silence, it was a myth, the only thing that existed was the siren, it always had existed and it always would. And just like that it was gone. He was shaky and pale, his skin felt clammy. He tried the walkie again. “What the hell was that?”
“Oh shit. Didn’t anyone tell you?”
“Tell me what? What’s going on?”
“Sorry. That always happens at two. You should have been given some ear protectors.”
“Well I wasn’t.”
“OK. Tell me where you are and have a sit down, I’ll send someone.”

A moment later a woman rounded the corner, she looked angry. James was sitting on the ground, back propped up against the wall. He felt so tired, the woman looked down at him, sighed then handed him a can of coke. “You’re lucky you were this far out. Goddamn I’m going to kill Tony. Just breath and take it easy for a few minutes. You should be fine. If you still feel woozy we’ll go get you checked out ok?”
“What was that?”
“Feeding time for one of our…guests. We have the sound the alarm otherwise it’s too much for us. There’s a few seconds grace period in case you forgot the time. Most of the rooms are soundproofed though, so if you get caught out next time duck into one of the rooms. Should help.”

The coke was cold and the sugar rush was already making him feel better. “You doing any better?”
“Yeah. Much, thanks.”
“Thank god, I did not want to go to the infirmary. I hate that place.”
“Why? Creepy doctors?”
“No, I just hate medical stuff. Needles and all that stuff freaks me out and don’t even get me started on the smell. All cleaning fluids and bleach.” She stopped talking for a second, going pale herself. “Even the thought of it makes me feel a bit sick.”

“If you don’t like hospitals so much why are you working here?”
She gave him a look, “This isn’t a hospital.”
“Yeah, but they do medical stuff here too right?”
“They do, but I don’t have to look at it or be around it. I’m Laura by the way.”

“Welcome aboard. How’s the first day going?”
“Ok. Well up until that alarm thing.”
“Yeah, here either nothing is happening or everything is.”
“So what was being fed?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, don’t worry about that. You’re going to by cycled through the building. I’m sure Tony told you?”
“Not really. He said to patrol the hallways and give a call if I saw anything weird.”
“Of course he did. Well don’t worry whoever you have next will probably be more hands on. Once you get a feel for the place you can choose where you want to go.”
James frowned. “How does that work? Wouldn’t everyone just choose to take the easy jobs?”
Laura shrugged, “It evens out. Don’t ask me how. You’ll find a place you like everyone always does.”
James stood up from the floor and drained the last few dregs of coke from the can. “Thanks, for the coke.”
“No worries. We have to look out for each other here. It’s too easy to make a mistake otherwise.”
Laura glanced at her watch, “I should be heading back. If you need anything call, I’ll be nearby too and don’t pull any of that “Oh I don’t want to bother anyone” shit. It’s dangerous ok? Remember that, no matter how long you’ve been here, no matter how familiar everything is, it’s dangerous.”

James sat into his car, he first day was over and as strange as it was he found he was looking forward to going back tomorrow. He could feel it, right in his very being, a strange draw, not to the job, but the building itself. As he drove away he caught one last glimpse of it in his mirror and he knew he never wanted to work anywhere else.

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The Necklace. Flash Fiction.

“It’s an old family heirloom.”
“It’s beautiful, but I can’t accept this, it’s too much.”
“No, it isn’t. We’re getting married soon and then you’ll be a part of my family. Besides, my grandmother told me to give this to the woman I will marry and that’s you.”
Jacob undid the clasp and carefully put the necklace on Sarah. It felt warm against her skin, she looked at herself in the mirror, it really was beautiful, but something that could only really be worn for special occasions for fear of it getting lost or stolen.
“I love it, it’s so gorgeous.”

Jacob smiled and kissed her, “it looks even better on you.” He released a breath he didn’t realise he was holding. Everything was going well so far. Sarah turned to him, she opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. A brief flash of confusion crossed her face and she tried again. Jacob sighed. “I was afraid this would happen again. I’m sorry. I truly thought you were the one.” Sarah started scraping at her throat, trying to rip the necklace away, it felt like a noose across her neck, crushing her windpipe, she couldn’t breathe. The world started to dim, Sarah collapsed, unable to stand any longer. Jacob knelt beside her and took her hand in his, “Shh, it’s ok. I’m here. It’ll be over soon.” He stayed with her as her body jerked, as her breathing stopped, as she finally became cold. The metal clasp on the necklace opened and it slid from her neck. Jacob picked it up and slipped in into his pocket. He took a deep breath, then stood and went to the phone.

Anaphylactic shock. That was the final verdict. It always was. The last girl had died of an apparent bee sting. No one seemed to wonder how she got a bee sting in January. Jacob had carefully put the necklace back in its box. His grandmother had promised him it would help him find the love of his life, though she had neglected to explain how. She was a cold woman, but she always had a soft spot for Jacob. The requirement on his trust was clear, if he ever married, his bride must wear the necklace down the aisle, if she didn’t, or if he moved in with a woman beforehand, all the money would be donated to charity. He took a deep breath and placed the necklace back into the drawer. He would find her eventually, one way or another.

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