In Your Head (#7)

She used to be a doctor. A surgeon, actually. Cutting people open, saving them, the whole package. You could even say that she had played God. Actually, she had not just played God, she had outplayed God, any god. After all, who was responsible for royally fucking up all those people, infecting them with tumors and faulty organs? Not her, no. She had made them right again. Had corrected what God had failed at. Maybe what she did now was not much different. It did involve a lot of parting of flesh, and a fair amount of blood. A little less saving than before, but that probably just depended on how you defined “saving”. 

This was her eighth summer doing it. Probably. In truth, the concept of seasons was more or less inconsequential to her nowadays. It always kind of had been, but now that she didn’t have to dress for the seasons anymore they had become an even more distant thing, virtually non-existent, you could say. But as she starred out the window of the warehouse, or supermarket, or school building, or whatever this had once been, she saw the dark of the night sky beginning to pale. This would be just another summer passing by without her seeing the sun.

With the back of her hand, she wiped off the blood dripping from her chin and starred around herself. An echo of what might have been pain once shot through her silent chest. She had been a surgeon for almost eleven years before… all of this. She counted three legs, two arms, half a torso, and enough intestines to fill three, maybe four adults. More than a decade of putting people back together, and now she couldn’t even remember how many she’d taken apart just a few minutes ago. Not to mention in the past years. After her first, she had just quit remembering somehow.

She closed her eyes and almost smelled the bouquet Lori had surprised her with on their anniversary that night eight years ago. A rainbow of differently colored roses, one for each of the feelings she made her feel, Lori had said. Lori’s presence had always helped getting her back down, especially after a night like that one had been. Some nut-job had attacked half a dozen people, practically ripping them limp from limp. She had spent most of the day and the better part of the night sowing body parts together, applying her exceptional talents to keep the two remaining victims alive. During prep for surgery, one of them had attacked her in a fit of trauma and adrenaline induced frenzy. The wound on her arm had not been all too serious, so she had said nothing about it when she had gotten into the passenger’s seat next to Lori, the rainbow bouquet safely on her lap. About twenty minutes later, on the car ride home, she had turned every single one of those roses red with Lori’s blood.

She opened her eyes again. Not the slightest trace of flowery scent here. Just the seductive smell of blood. The same smell that kept following her around. No matter how far she ran, it called to her, beckoned her, screamed at her until she could hear nothing but the sound it made rushing through their veins. She looked out the window again, the sky already pink with anticipation. Her gaze dropped to the large door underneath the window. Some of the body parts formerly known as people had tried to crawl towards the heavy metal door. A bright green sign was plastered above the door’s frame. She read the sign and stood thinking among the left overs of her most recent meal. The remaining blood was beginning to dry around her lips. She stepped over a leg and a torso and moved determinedly  towards the heavy door. Today she would feel the warmth of the sun on her skin again.

 



Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of at least 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Write a story that starts with “She used to be a doctor”
  • Include the word “summer”
  • Include a bouquet of flowers
  • Begin the last sentence with “She read the sign and stood thinking”

Pet Shop Girl (#6)

All of them were beautiful. All of them had, in their own way, one feature or another that contributed to a general feeling of content and well-being that she felt whenever she entered the shop. Today was Monday, her favorite day of the week. It was by far the best day because the shop was closed on Sundays. This meant that she had to leave late on Saturday nights knowing that they would be alone for an entire day, until she would return early on Monday mornings to open the shop again.

Her favorite out of all of them, if she had to choose one, was the parrot, Captain Yellow Beard. His blue coat and yellow front made her think that he was always ready to fly out on an adventure that somehow involved a crazy-fancy party. He definitely had the vocabulary to go with that, too: Me Lady. Good Sir. The politest parrot she’d ever had at the store. She wasn’t exactly supposed to give the animals at the store names. Giving them names meant that you were getting attached. Getting attached meant that you wanted to keep them around. Wanting to keep them around meant that you were not making an effort to get them sold. And that was “bad for business,” as her manager had reminded her when he had found her talking to the kangaroo rats one rainy Tuesday afternoon. They’d just looked so miserable in their tiny terrarium, starring at the rain drops running down the shop’s display window right in front of them.

So she had told them the story of the brave little kangaroo rat who had tried to cross the Mojave Desert on her own to prove to her fellow kangaroo rats that, despite being the runt of the litter, she could do it. About two thirds into her adventure, after having dodged snakes and spiders, after having withstood full-blown sand storms, surviving all the bitter-cold nights, the little kangaroo rat found herself longing for someone to walk the rest of her journey with her.

On one night that she felt especially low-spirited, concealed by a large formation of rocks, she saw the top of a chapel‘s peak. When the little kangaroo rat went inside, she found that she was not the first to seek refuge in the impossible chapel. Another kangaroo rat, no bigger than her, but with lighter fur, sat in the front row of the chapel, as if in prayer. They began to chat, and it soon transpired that her new friend was attempting to prove, just like her, that no matter the size, any kangaroo rat with enough determination could cross the Mojave Desert on their own. And so it seemed like finally the little kangaroo rat had found a companion for the rest of her journey! Because just as her, this other kangaroo rat had wished for someone to accompany them on their long journey.

Dawn was approaching and the two little kangaroo rats had all but decided to continue their adventure together. When it came to leaving the chapel, though, they found themselves walking into opposite directions. “This is where I need to go,” said the little kangaroo rat, pointing one way. “And this is where I need to go,” said the other kangaroo rat, pointing another way. In all their conversations, it had never occurred to her to mention her destination. She had just assumed that they were headed the same way.

Neither of them could give up now, and turn the other way, not when they were both so close. So they said their good-byes and went their respective ways. The little kangaroo rat had expected to feel the weight of solitude even heavier than before, now that she knew what it was like not to be alone. But with surprising ease she finished the last third of her journey, the knowledge that somewhere, another little kangaroo rat was doing exactly the same thing, a comfort beyond any.

She could have sworn they looked more at ease in their terrarium when she had finished the story of the brave little kangaroo rat. She supposed that was the least she could do for them at the shop… The bell of the door rang and a man and his daughter walked in.

“Good afternoon! How can I help you?”

“Hi! We are looking for a pet bird for my daughter. Do you have any suggestions for us?”

“Well, that depends,” she began as she led them over to the bird section of the shop, “on how much time and space you can afford to invest into your new companion.”

“Daddy! Daddy! I want this one!”

The little girl was pointing at Captain Yellow Beard, a look of glee and admiration on her face. Her heart sank a little. Still, she crouched down, bringing herself level with the little girl, and smiled.

“This is a so called Anodorhynchus, but I call him Captain Yellow Beard because of his beautiful feathers. They are very smart creatures and need a lot of attention and love.”

“Don’t worry,” the dad said from behind them, “our agreement is that we take care of the bird together.”

“All right,” she said and went to collect the appropriate care brochures and supplies, “take good care of him then.”

The door closed behind the dad and his daughter and Captain Yellow Beard, and she went to sit down next to the kangaroo rats again.

 


Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of at least 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Include a parrot in the plot
  • Write a scene that takes place in a chapel
  • Include the word “dawn”
  • Begin the last sentence with “The door closed behind him”

This is who I am (#5)

Who are you?!”

Nothing.

When he tried to answer that question that’s what he came up with: nothing. Even when it was he himself demanding an answer, in front of the mirror of a public restroom. So how the fuck was he supposed to walk into that office a few minutes from now and even pretend to have an adequate response, and in front of all those people? He couldn’t. He couldn’t do it. He had to get out of here. Now! Preferably without anyone at the front desk noticing him sneak out.

Leaning against the row of black marble sinks, facing away from the mirrors he contemplated his options. Every ten minutes or so a freshman had come up to the front desk and asked some kind of question. It was orientation week. He could’ve almost set his clock by it during that dreadful hour that they had made him wait in the lobby. Next time one of the students came with a question, it would be his cue to make a quick exit.

Facing the sinks again, careful this time not to glance at his reflection in the mirror, he gripped the ostentatious marble of the sink in an effort to steady himself for his imminent escape. But his fingers pressed upon something that shouldn’t have been there. Too hard to be chewing gum, it was flat, jagged along one side, and colder than the marble around it. He got down on his knees, bringing his head level with the edge of the marble sink. The legs of his dark blue slacks rode up as he did so,  exposing his bright pink and yellow Sponge Bob socks.

He found a small, golden key stuck to the underside of the sink with what looked like double sided tape, a small, folded piece of paper sticking right next to it. Still level with the sink, he turned around. No feet protruding from underneath any of the stall doors. He turned back to the black marble, half expecting the key to have been a stress-induced hallucination, but there it was, still stuck to the sink. As if waiting.

As he pulled the key off the double sided tape, the paper came of with it, landing on the tiled bathroom floor. The key was still sticky from the tape and clung to his fingers like cobwebs. He let himself fall back onto the floor and sat down cross-legged as he picked up the note and unfolded it.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO YOU REALLY ARE?

That was it. Just that one line. The handwriting was arbitrary, all caps, almost as if it had been printed, except that he could tell by the way not all the letters looked exactly the same that it had been handwritten. Do you want to know who you really are? More than anything. And not at all… What if no one liked who he really was? What if who he was wasn’t important? What if who he was just wasn’t enough? What if who he was was… no one? No one anyone liked, or cared about, or thought about, or found worthy? What if all he was was a lonely, worthless coward?

He got back to his feet. This was getting ridiculous. Whenever this key came from, it didn’t have anything to do with him. What he had to do was find a suitable moment to slip out of the bathroom, leave this place and never come back. He placed the golden key on top of the marble sink and turned towards the paper towel dispenser to dry his still moist and now also sticky hands. But the towel dispenser wasn’t there anymore. In its place was a wooden door let into the wall that had definitely not been there ten minutes ago… Or had it? Maybe all the stress of the past few months was making him hallucinate after all?

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and opened them again. The door was still there. Maybe he just hadn’t seen it coming in? It looked ordinary enough, dark brown wood, nothing fancy. Except for the door’s knob and lock which were made of a polished, bright gold. Just like the key. Do you want to know who you really are?  Screw it! Hallucination or not, he didn’t care. He grabbed the key from the sink, closed the distance between himself and the door in one, quick stride, and let the key slip into the door’s lock. Without a sound, the door swung open and a glowing bright light pooled out from inside the door into the bathroom, engulfing his entire body.

They all began to clap around him. Some of them even got up to shake his hand, clasp him on the back, adding words he couldn’t make out. Eventually his mentor whom he hadn’t immediately noticed among the crowd of other professors, came up to him and grabbed his hand, smiling broadly. “For a moment there I thought you’d be a no-show. I’m glad you did show up, though. Congratulations. You deserve it, Doctor.

Standing a little ways apart from the others now discussing the details of his doctoral thesis, he began to laugh.


Context for this piece: Each day of this new year I will be setting aside about half an hour to write a short text, any kind of text. I will use four random prompts generated by an app called Writing Challenge, with five minutes of writing dedicated to each prompt, bringing it up to a total of 20 minutes of writing for each text.

The prompts are marked in bold letters and a full list can be found here:

  • Start with a dialogue that begins with the words “Who are you?”
  • Include the sentence “he found a key”
  • Include the sentence “they began to clap”
  • End the story with a character who laughs