So, did you find the break from #5MinuteFiction charged your frantic-writing abilities or did it make you rusty? I think a little of both for me.
Congrats all! Their entries are below along with a poll for you to vote in and decide this week’s WINNER! Be back tomorrow morning at 9:00 Eastern to find out who wins!
“Are you sure this is going to work?”
“Mr. Smith, I promise you, I have done this countless times.” The woman in the white doctor’s coat smiled benignly, looking like a loving mother instead of a doctor.
“And I won’t feel a thing.”
“I promise. Once the drops go in, you’ll feel a tingle and in less than fifteen minutes, it will all be over.”
“Just a tingle? Is that a medical term?”
“Yes, it’s right between ‘just a little’ and ‘just a vasectomy’ in the MD handbook.”
Mr. Smith cringed slightly at the ‘V’ word.
“Let’s not go into other elective surgeries while talking about my eyes, okay?” Mr. Smith muttered through gritted teeth.
A few seconds later, the nurse returned and gently patted the nervous Mr. Smith on the hand. She glanced up at his blood pressure reading and tilted her head.
“Did you take the Valium we prescribed?”
“Ready?” she inquired sweetly.
“As I’ll ever be,” he sighed, taking off the coke-bottle bottom thick glasses he had worn for decades if he had had any hope of seeing with any sort of clarity. Thin lens technology could only go so far.
“Then just tilt your head back and relax.”
In an effort to gain clarity on ths situation, I went to the roof. Atop the 104th floor, above the layers of exhaust fumes and smog, the city seemed almost pristine.
From this distance, you couldn’t tell that a murder was just committed and a body had just been discovered. From these heights there was no sense that the entire police force was on the hunt, following the single clue that was left by their serial killer who had just made her first mistake. From here it was hard to tell how close they were to finding me.
Clarity. I knew I rushed this last one. But he wouldn’t stop screaming for Christ’s sake. I had no choice but to end it quick. Of course straying from my plan meant things got sloppy.
I’d left my calling card, a dried black widow spider placed delicately on his cheek. In spite of my mess, I couldn’t very well walk away and not claim him as my own. Not I needed to think.
Clarity. Clarity. If I willed myself to think it would come.
I couldn’t keep that voice in my head quiet this time. I knew I’d left something behind. Something telling. Something solid for the police.
What could it be?
Walking back to the roof access door, I realized with a cool chill my mistake. My keys were missing.
She looked into the mirror. She knew it was there. She knew nobody else could really see it was there at the same time as she knew it was hideous and made her face all out of proportion and was the first thing anyone saw when they looked at her.
She was being crazy, and she knew it. She was not being crazy, and she knew that, too. Ever since her mother had taken her to the doctors and put her on the meds, they’d said the thoughts would go away. That she would see herself with clarity. That she would see herself as others saw her.
Now she saw the blotch. The big, pink blotch that was absolutely obvious and huge and veiny and peeling in the dead center of her left cheek, and she knew it was stupid, but it was still there. And she was bloated from drinking so much because her mouth was always dry now. And she kept having dizzy spells. And one of her eyes didn’t this weird blinky thing when she was tired. But they said she had to stay on the meds and finish high school and she looked fine and to just wear a scarf. To put mittens on her hands.
So she stared at herself in the mirror at 6:45 in the morning in April with a muffler around her face and mittens AND tape around her fingers, and she breathed. In and out. In and out. She told herself that she would not lose her mind and be publicly ridiculed if she didn’t fix that flap of skin. She told herself it was the other way around, in fact. She knew that. She did, she knew it.
And she unwrapped the muffler, just to see. Just to check. Not to do anything. No, just to make sure the meds were working and really really really hoping that she would look at her face and it would just look normal. Like Sue or Jessica or Patty’s face. But it didn’t. The blotch was there and it was hideous.
She wasn’t going to go out of control this time. She’d just even it out a bit. With just one hand. She took off one of the mittens — the right one — and untaped just her thumb and index finger. And she just peeled that little bit that was sticking out. And that left an uneven space that she had to fix. So she worked on that. And then the right side of her face didn’t match, and there was a WORSE spot there, so she took off the other mitten, too, without even really realizing it, and tried to even it out. With some concealer, it would be OK.
It was 7:30 and her mom was calling from the kitchen that she had to eat, she’d be late, come on already.
“Just a minute!” She yelled, really panicking now because of how hideous she looked — how blotchy and red and spots of blood, but also, it was STILL not even. It was still all wrong. And her mother would kill her, absolutely kill her. And she’d have to go to the doctor again, who treated her like she was eight. And she knew that if she could just fix that spot on her chin and then use a LOT of concealer and foundation, it would only take a minute.
And it was 8:20 and her Mom was shrieking, “Why are you doing this to me? Why are you punishing me? Why do you have to act so crazy? What did I do to deserve this?”
And she was crying, because she was a terrible daughter, she knew it, and she also was angry and so confused because how could her mom not see it was not about her? It was about her face being WRONG. And the crying, oh god, the crying. They’d make her go to school, and the crying had made her face puffy and pink and worse.
She looked into the mirror again. She could just fix it. Just fix it before her mother dragged her to school.
Candice took a deep breath as she glanced around the restaurant. Sitting in the lobby, she once more looked outside the window.
No sign of him.
Looking back down at her cell phone, she still hadn’t received an answer to her previous text. All she knew was that Andrew wanted to meet her there. While she was on time, he wasn’t…as usual.
Someone settled next to her.
Candice looked over and smiled at one of the waiters who had been walking through the sitting area. He smiled and pushed some of his raven hair behind his ear. “You’ve been here a while, huh?”
Candice nodded. “Yeah. Just meeting for dinner with a friend.”
The waiter tilted his head slightly to the side. “Just a friend?”
She shrugged and looked back down to her cell phone. “So, he’s more than a friend. Doesn’t matter. He said he was coming.”
After a pause, the waiter replied, “It’s been over an hour. You sure he’s coming?”
Slightly annoyed, Candice answered, “If he says he’s coming, he’s coming.”
Raising his hands in defeat, the waiter smiled, “Hey, take it easy. Just saying. In my experience, an hour is usually a good sign you’ve been stood up.”
“No, Andrew wouldn’t do that to me. He’s probably giving some excuse to…”
She stopped speaking abruptly, realizing her mistake. This simple waiter didn’t need to know all her business. Hopefully he didn’t catch on.
Unfortunately, Candice saw the moment of clarity flash in his deep green eyes. “Married. You’re waiting for a married man.”
Shrugging again, Candice replied, “What’s it to you? He says he’s going to leave her. It doesn’t matter.”
The waiter leaned forward, as if he needed to drill the information into her head. “He’s married. That and the fact that he’s late aught to tell you something.”
“You’re meeting him on his terms.”
Placing a hand on her shoulder, the waiter asked, “Aren’t you sick of meeting someone on their terms? Wouldn’t you rather have a man be on yours?”
Realizing her moment of clarity, the waiter stood and went back into the dining room.
Rado stared at the four dimensional matrix of space-time, for the hundredth try in as many days. It made absolutely no sense. That wasn’t surprising. It made no sense to anyone, really.
Still, Huang’s seminal paper had postulated that there was a way to find a shortcut through this shifting morass. Her equations had proven, mathematically at least, that the universe had to be riddled with such holes, or passages, or froth, or however you wanted to call it. It’s just that no one had ever figured out how to do it.
Rado adjusted a half dozen meters, changing time-spectra, and blueshifting the field. Nature was supposed to be simple, he’d always been taught, even when it appeared fearsomely complex.
And this was a natural system. So, what did it look like?
A mikshake in a blender, he though, sourly.
He made another adjustment. Filtering out the visible wavelengths of light humans are so prejudiced to use, and even the near IR and UV.
What was that?
In a moment of clarity, something like a micrograph capillary system in appearance. Blood circulation as an analog. A way through the maelstrom.
It might take years to get right, to find the way in and out, but that was it. Rado had it.