Solitary Confinement

Oh, the way my mind works! Sometimes I find things so humorous and other times I veer to the dark and morbid. This post is definitely the latter. It was somewhat inspired by the play my theater students wrote a few years back, as well as the RagTag prompt (trace) and the Online Writer’s Guild prompt (the silence woke her). Feel free to let me know if it weirds you out as much as it does me.

The silence woke her. Silence was not a sound she was accustomed to, not anymore, not since she’d been committed. It unnerved her. Why on earth was it so quiet? She lay completely still, waiting . . . for a moan or a scream, for the pounding or shuffling of feet, for some flurry of activity. Nothing—there was nothing! Should she move? Go investigate? She was afraid to, afraid of what might be happening beyond the door to her room.

Her mind worked through an array of possible explanations. Perhaps everyone, doctors and nurses included, had been drugged. Maybe they were all bound and gagged or they had been killed by some mysterious intruder—or, more likely, by someone who knew the inner workings of this place. But if they knew about this place, they would know about her, and nothing had been done to her. . . Good Lord!—that prompted an even worse thought. What if she had done something to the others and just didn’t remember? She’d had lapses in her memory before. That was part of the reason she was here. The other part was that she suffered frequent, yet unexpected bouts of aggression often precipitated by loud noises and chaos. Had she snapped once again and harmed the others just so she could sleep? She couldn’t be sure . . . but she had to find out.

Her palms were tingling and slick with perspiration as she placed them on the doorknob. With her heart pounding in her chest, she slowly turned the knob and peered through the crack. Other than the flickering fluorescent lights over the nurses’ station, everything was still.

She stepped into the hall, looking left then right. The corridors were empty. Moving cautiously toward the nurses’ station, she glanced over the counter. No one—no one was there. She moved behind it, venturing into the supervisor’s office which was dark except for a handful of monitors displaying the common rooms and the rooms of the more violent patients. All the images were alike in one way—the rooms depicted were devoid of their usual inhabitants.

She suddenly bolted down the hall, throwing one door open after the other, finding each room empty. They had all disappeared without a trace. She was utterly alone.

Finally stopping at the main entrance to the building, she sank to the floor in desperation. She stared through the glass façade into the vacant parking lot and trembled convulsively. She couldn’t go out there. Looking over her shoulder, she felt just as intimidated by the vast emptiness within. It reminded her of something the therapist once said: that it was clear she was just as afraid of herself as she was of others, and that sooner or later, she would need to decide which fear posed the greater threat.

It seemed that time had come.

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Vanishing Act

I’ve been a stranger to my own blog lately, and I’ve missed it. Every day I wake with the intention of writing, but I have been so busy editing that I never seem to find the time. Looking at my site, I see people have still been visiting occasionally, probably wondering where in the world I went. That, coupled with the Daily Post Prompt (disappear) inspired this weird, slightly disconcerting post. Have no fear though. I am still alive and well, just busy. I hope to get a better balance soon. I am a work in progress—as is this freelance gig.

Vanishing Act
She felt herself slipping, drifting away. Not all at once. No, it was a gradual process. At first, she was just busy. There was always something that needed to be done, someplace she had to be, someone depending on her. And she wanted to get it all done, she wanted to be there, she wanted to provide for those who needed her.

It was too much though. She couldn’t pull it off in the long run. She was exhausted, and day by day, she lost her will, her drive, her spark. Her energy was quickly being depleted. She was shriveling up—into a ball, a deflated balloon, a shell of her once vibrant self.

She locked herself away. She tried to sleep, but she couldn’t. She was too tired. The room spun. She tried to plan a comeback, a revival, a rebirth… but she simply couldn’t think straight. Her mind was in a fog. She tried to remember what she had done before, where she had gone, those she loved…but her mind was a blank. She didn’t know any of that.

The only thing she knew now was that she knew nothing. She didn’t know who she was anymore. She had simply disappeared—from the world, from those she loved, and even from herself.

Daily Post Prompt: Disappear

Frisson of Doubt (short story)

As I have been struggling for what seems to be forever with writer’s block, I decided to use the Daily Post prompts from this week (above, restart, dim, premonition, imagination, and congregate) to consider my novel from an alternate perspective. Hopefully, this will re-engage me and I will be able to finish my manuscript in the relative near future. 

She sat on a bench overlooking the rows of headstones, trying to gain some perspective. Off to her right, mourners were congregating around a freshly dug grave. As she watched them, slightly intrigued, she wondered what those who might have observed Stanley’s service had thought about her and others in attendance. What revelations might they have gleaned? More importantly, what had the trained observer, Detective Freeman, been able to ascertain?

Though a slight breeze touched her skin, it couldn’t dim the stifling and smothering sensation she felt. The only question was whether it was the heat and humidity or her dark and depressing thoughts that left her struggling to breathe; more likely, it was a combination of both. Was it her imagination or was Detective Freeman specifically and intently focusing on her? Sure, he seemed to be pursuing leads in multiple directions, yet she could almost feel him breathing down her neck. In response to that notion, she automatically glanced over first one shoulder, then the other, but there was no one behind her.

She tilted her head to look at the canopy of tree limbs above her and took a deep, steadying breath. She inhaled and exhaled, slowly and deliberately, in an attempt to calm her nerves. There was no need to be concerned, no room for doubt. It was merely the unusual circumstances that had her unnerved.

Stanley had apparently had his share of secrets and if not enemies per se then certainly disgruntled or annoyed acquaintances. Still, he appeared overtly well-liked. His death, now known to be murder, was a shock to all. So what was to account for this tingling shivering that was trailing up her spine, the pervading premonition that she was caught in an intricate web, about to take the fall?

She once again scanned the crowd at the nearby funeral. She scrutinized them one by one, observing stance, body language, and expressions of grief. Were they all genuinely saddened or were some just putting on a show? She wondered at the decedent’s cause of death. Had it been from natural causes? If not, if he or she had been murdered, which of the mourners would she suspect? Whose actions appeared to reek of guilt?

As she watched them, she pondered her own behavior. From watching them, what could she learn about her own actions and the impression they gave? How should she behave in order to deflect Detective Freeman’s attention? She knew without a doubt that he would be back to question her again. He was thorough and dogged in his pursuit of the truth. She had been as truthful as she dared. Thinking back, she wondered if her responses might have been misconstrued. Had the truthfulness of her answers made her appear cold, calculated, or perhaps guilty? Just contemplating that made her breath quicken and caused the pounding in her temple restart.

She was no better off now than she’d been when she arrived at the cemetery today. So much for gaining a clearer perspective. With one last look toward the aggrieved, she peered toward Stanley’s grave. Then she rose from the bench and proceeded slowly down the path toward her car.

Daily Post Prompt: Above

 

Suspicious (A Valentine’s Short Story)

She was suspicious of his motives. Really, men just didn’t approach her. She wasn’t the type of girl who normally attracted the attention of the popular guys, the extraordinarily good-looking guys, or the athletic guys. On occasion, she would get asked out by the sweet yet awkward nerdy guys, but usually even if they noticed her, they were too shy to ask her out. It wasn’t that she was fat, ugly, or unintelligent. She wasn’t any of those things. Though she definitely wasn’t glamorous, she was pretty in a natural, earthy way. Fussing over makeup or designer clothes just wasn’t her thing; rather, she was more the fresh-scrubbed, girl-next-door type who was most comfortable in jeans, a t-shirt, and a ponytail. She never saw the need to draw attention to herself, yet socially inept didn’t quite describe her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t make small talk and interact in group settings; she just never really saw the point. Happiness to her was sitting on the sidelines observing others or spending time alone reading a good book, exploring nature, or experimenting in the kitchen. Those were solitary activities; maybe they didn’t have to be, but for her, they were. Solitude made her happy. She liked her own company and her own hobbies.

Now here was this smart, handsome, and out-going guy intruding on her solitude. What was she supposed to make of that? Sure, they had known each other for a while, but they were acquaintances, nothing more. There had never been any indication that they would ever be more than that; except, according to him, he had been interested in her from the start. He said he found her intriguing and elusive. The more she tried to blend into the scenery and avoid detection, the more he thought of her as a mystery, a puzzle he felt compelled to solve.

The most confusing and suspicious part of the whole thing was that he didn’t ask her out on an ordinary, run of the mill date. . . No, he asked her out for Valentine’s Day. Who does that? She was having trouble figuring out why he had asked her out at all, and he asks her out for Valentine’s Day. More than that, he refused to take no for an answer. He told her he had it all planned and wanted to alleviate her concerns. She didn’t have to dress up or make herself up into something she wasn’t. He wanted to go out with her, the girl he said he knew. All she had to do was say yes and be ready when he picked her up. He promised that she would have fun. He all but begged her to give him a chance. What was she supposed to do?

Since he swore he was showing up at her door no matter how many times she said no, she figured she had two options: she could let him show up to an empty house or she could give in. She decided to test his word. She was ready when he arrived, dressed in her standard jeans and a sweater. Her hair was in a ponytail, and she did not wear makeup. She dressed like she would for any other event outside of work. To her surprise, he was casually dressed as well. He didn’t take her anywhere fancy either. He said he wanted to prove to her that he had been paying attention and that he really did know the true her. He drove her to the nearby park and pulled a blanket and picnic basket out of the backseat of the car. Knowing that she liked to cook, he had wanted to fix her dinner: homemade pizza, pasta with pancetta and veggies, and a fruit salad. Because he knew she loved nature, he chose to eat in the park rather than intimidate her by inviting her to his home. They ate in a lovely spot overlooking the pond. After they ate, they strolled some of the paths and fed the ducks. Then he told her there was one more part to their date. He took her to the bookstore where they meandered through the shelves discussing their favorite books before sitting down to have coffee and dessert. He had managed to incorporate all of her favorite things, normally solitary things, into their date. He showed her that they had those things in common and that he really did like her for her. They talked more in that one night than all of their previous interactions combined, and she was suspicious no more.

Daily Post Prompt: Suspicious

Two prisoners laughing (a short story)

This story was inspired by my phone’s autocorrect and the Daily Post prompt.  Instead of merely using today’s word, I incorporated all of the prompts for the week into one story.  I used to do similar stories for my students using their vocabulary words, so I thought what the heck.

The two prisoners sat in the holding cell laughing. What else could they do but laugh? For two rather intelligent guys, sometimes they were just plain dumb. You see, not two weeks ago, they were just two ordinary guys. Neither of them had a criminal record, at least not then. They were actually college graduates with fairly high GPAs and the loans to prove it, but neither had found full-time employment in the six months since they had earned their degrees. Neither could make the loan payments and they were starting to get stressed. Their lives appeared to be static, going absolutely nowhere. They needed to find a loophole, some way to make a quick buck so they could buy some time, time to find better jobs and pay their debts in the meantime.

Jimmy was the one to first entertain the idea of a bank robbery. It started as a joke, but Billy took him seriously, and Billy always could egg him on. Every crazy thing he had ever done was a result of Billy either daring him to try it or convincing him that it was a great opportunity. This was no different. Still, Jimmy didn’t hold Billy responsible for the trouble he was now in; he could have said no. If he had truly given adequate thought to what they were doing, he could have anticipated this exact scenario. It wasn’t that they hadn’t come up with a great plan, more that they were the ones putting it into action. To be honest, they just didn’t have the skills needed to pull it off. In retrospect, the fact that they had been caught really wasn’t a shock to either of them.

Yes, they had done their homework. They considered a number of banks before they made their choice. Not only did they study blueprints, they watched the routines of the security guard, determined what time there would be fewer customers, and tested how easy or difficult it was to get in and out of the parking lot. They hacked into the security cameras to turn off the live feed, so that the cops couldn’t use video to hunt them down. They even created disguises. Surely they had thought of everything, everything needed to succeed in this crazy scheme and make a clean getaway. Really, it was a beautiful plan.

That morning, they approached the bank with confidence. A lady with a baby unwittingly aided their endeavor when the baby momentarily distracted the security guard. Jimmy was able to disarm the guard and handcuff him before anyone was the wiser. Billy approached the counter and made his demands to the tellers while Jimmy kept his eyes on the manager and the customers. Everything seemed to be going so smoothly, all according to plan, but that all changed in the blink of an eye. Just as they were turning to leave, adrenaline coursing through their veins, a cop car coincidentally pulled into the parking lot. In disbelief, Billy spun around so fast that he lost his balance causing Jimmy to trip and collide with a table. They fell in a heap on the floor just as the cops came in to make a withdrawal. The tellers immediately screamed, “Robbers!” alerting the officers who were quick to draw their weapons and make the arrests.

Now sitting in their cell, all Jimmy and Billy could do was laugh. They had thought of everything except the obvious. Though extremely intelligent, neither was athletic or quick on his feet. They had always thought that having brains was superior to having athleticism, and yet it turned out that their lack of agility had been their downfall. When they thought of how they must have looked as they went tumbling down, they almost wished there had been video footage. Just imagining such video sent them into hysterics. What a hoot!

Daily Post Prompt: blink