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Day #192: Texting Terror

The Story:

“You’re out of your mind, Ashley. I’m sure it’s just a wrong number or something, chill out,” Robin said and shrugged her shoulders, hoping her best friend would believe she was as nonplussed as she appeared. Truth was Robin was freaked out. What had started as something benignly bizarre had deescalated to flat out alarming over the course of a few short hours.

Ashley tore her eyes away from the backlit screen of her Iphone and pierced Robin with a haunted expression. “Robbi, come on. Something is very wrong here. Someone is doing this on purpose,” Ashley replied in a hushed tone, her eyes darting sporadically around the darkened interior of Izzy’s Bar where the girls had been holed up for the last four hours.

“Let me look at them again, maybe it’s just Trevor messing with you or something,” Robin said as she reached out her hand for Ashley’s phone. Scrolling through to the last five photos sent via text, Robin prayed it was just Ashley’s waste of space ex-boyfriend and some ridiculous prank that somehow got out of hand… the alternative was too disturbing to consider.

Finding the first picture, Robin maximized the image and tried to find anything that might clue her in to its sender’s intention. All she could see was a set of old-fashioned hair curlers sitting on an old bedspread. Bizarre? Yes. But bizarre could be laughed off between the friends as the next round was ordered. Robin could handle bizarre. In the next picture, things started to get weird. Placed on a black backdrop, were five locks of pale blonde hair- the exact shade of Ashley’s, bound with sections of barbed wire. The third photo began the descent into the truly disturbing and Robin shuddered as she reexamined the pair of barber shears, the sharpened edges caked in clotted blood and viscera. It only got worse- the fourth picture was what appeared to be a newborn bird, not more than a few hours old, beheaded and positioned like a miniature thanksgiving turkey atop a set of playing cards, it’s head discarded nearby. As she stared into the poor thing’s pixelated blind eyes, Robin wondered again if the tiny bird was a robin and she couldn’t help but feel this macabre display was a personal attack. The final photo was the most unsettling. Sitting outside of the apartment Robin shared with Ashley, the apartment number clearly visible in the upper right corner of the photo, were two disrobed mannequins- one blonde, one raven-haired, and in their laps sat the remains of some slaughtered animal- its recently spilled blood cascading down the legs of its two silent spectators.

Robin tucked a strand of her bluish-black hair behind her ear nervously. Her façade of calm control was quickly unraveling as she forced herself to breathe normally. Turning the phone off, Robin turned to her terrified friend and decided it was time to stop acting so brave- and start being smart. “Come on, we’re going to the police,” Robin said and tossing back one last gulp of her hard cider, she helped Ashley out of the booth and they walked arm-in-arm to Ashley’s car.

An hour later, a very kind Officer Tate had offered them terrible coffee and made several copies of the disturbing images. Having received a brief synopsis of the events of their night, the officer looked at Ashley and asked, “Ms. Douglas, this may seem silly but bear with me. Did you ever contact the number to see who it might be or to ask what the pictures meant?”

The two girls stared unblinking at the officer before turning to each other wide-eyed, why hadn’t they thought of that?!? Admitting that they had not thought to reply to the morbid texts, the officer asked if he could have permission to text the sender from Ashley’s phone. Ashley nodded her agreement and after she unlocked her phone and opened the log of texts Officer Tate began to type a message. “I asked who this was and what the pictures were supposed to mean,” Tate said as he hit SEND. The three of them waited in anxious anticipation for what seemed like hours before Ashley’s phone chirped- indicating a new text message.

Looking at the girls, Officer Tate slowly reached for the phone and read the message and without looking up. “Do either of you know a Donald Russo?”

“Oh my God,” Ashley said as if the wind had just been knocked out of her. “That’s one of my co-workers’ husband,” she explained, now looking a little embarrassed, her cheeks beginning to flush. “He works for that TV show American Slashers, you know, the one about that family that’s haunted by a serial killers ghost?” Seeing that neither Robin or Officer Tate had heard of the show, Ashley continued, “Well anyway, he is the props guy for the show, I got to go on set once it was pretty cool… he’s responsible for creating all the crazy stuff for the show- I bet those are just props for an upcoming episode or something!”

Wanting to make sure that was all this was, Officer Tate called the number, and sure enough Donald answered and by the end of the conversation was profusely apologetic for the mix up, explaining the pictures were intended for his director. Sighing in relief, the girls thanked Officer Tate for his time and made their way out of the station. Hopping in the car, the girls were drained from the emotional toll of the night and were each secretly thankful the other didn’t feel like talking. With the exception of the radio quietly humming, the drive home was peacefully silent.

Just as they turned down the darkened street of their apartment complex, Robin broke the silence, “You know… there’s just one thing that still kinda bothers me about those pictures. Nah… never mind, I’m sure it’s nothing…”.

Ashley glanced at her friend, “What? What is it?” her voice betraying her exhaustion.

Hesitantly, Robin went on, a tremor working its way into her voice, “It’s just that… well, those manequinns… in the last picture, they were sitting in front of our apartment. I saw our unit number in the picture and I swore I could almost make out the potted mums your mom gave you last week sitting by the door. So, if those were just for props and Donald was just sending pictures to the director for approval, then why were those dummies sitting in front of our house?”

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Man, that took a spooky turn, eh? So this whole thing was inspired by two mystery texts I received today. Around 5:15pm I receive two back-to-back pictures from an unknown number. When I opened the texts, this is what I saw:

Weird right? I didn’t know what to make of them, so in true Sam style, I made up a bunch of stories of what they might mean. Eventually, I did text the sender back, asking who they were and what the pics were all about. Ends up it was just a wrong number- oh well.

TWO:    Another spooky tidbit- before texting the unfamiliar number for an explanation I had already started writing the first two sentences of this story and had decided on the name Ashley for one of the girls’. Turns out my mystery texter just so happens to be called, you guessed it, Ashley. Crazy.

THREE:  I don’t know if it’s thanks to the season (only a few more days till Halloween!) or the fact that Andy has been working on back to back slasher/horror movies, but the genre has really worked its way into my repertoire. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit more cheery.

Love & Squirrels.

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Day #181: Oddity, I Think…

The Story:

It was a day full of mystery, and not the good kind. Just one oddity after another, making Rachel wonder if her reality was somehow a fraction out of sync with the rest of the worlds’. It began in the first few hours of the morning, when typing away at her desk she noticed a dark smudge on her upper arm. Upon further inspection Rachel discovered a bruise, about the size of a large thumbprint, was ripening into a purple knot. “Ouch,” she muttered to herself as she rubbed her arm absently, “where did that come from?” she wondered.

The second mystery, should you wish to call it that, occurred less than two hours later. Needing a bit of a ‘pick-me-up’, Rachel plucked a dollar from her purse and made her way to the office break room. Scanning the soda selection, she decided on a Coke Zero and inserted her dollar. Pressing the button she waited for the can to drop, and waited, and waited. “What the deuce?” Giving the machine an obligatory kick with the side of her foot, Rachel frowned and punched the dispenser button for each kind of soft drink without any results. Feeling robbed, Rachel tried the ‘change returned’ button a few times before giving up in a huff. A dollar down and a caffeine headache on the horizon, Rachel was not a happy camper.

Resigning herself to a cup of tap water from the break room sink, Rachel tried to choke down a gulp before gagging on the notoriously sulfur-infused Florida water. “I’d rather die of thirst”, she thought to herself as she dumped her cup out in the sink and headed back to her office. The rest of her day was one interruption after another until finally, she found some time to grab a bit to eat and cloister herself in her office for much needed lunch break.

Closing her office door, Rachel sat back behind her desk and took a bite of her sandwich with one hand as she flipped to her place in a dog-eared book with the other. A few minutes in and Rachel was suddenly started by a movement and noise at her door. Looking up, she was surprised to see her door opened and an unfamiliar woman walk in. “Uh, can I help you?” Rachel wanted to ask; peeved that someone would be so rude as to just walk into her office uninvited. Wanted to ask but unable to as the strange women began pelting her with orders upon entering, “I need to get into that room across the hall. You need to show me into that room, I need to check the supplies in there”. After showing the rude woman to the room she requested, Rachel shook her head and wondered for the third time that day if something was just a bit ‘off’. A mystery bruise, a thieving vending machine and a woman who ignored the universal understanding that a closed door meant ‘unavailable’, these events weren’t all that significant but they definitely made Rachel feel as if there was something very wrong with her day.

 

Arriving home, Rachel was greeted by her mother in the kitchen. “How was your day, honey?” her mother asked as she stirred something on the stove.

“Ugh it was awful. You ever have one of those days where everything feels a bit, off?” Rachel replied as she plopped down at the kitchen table. Her mother stopped what she was doing and turned to face Rachel, a worried expression on her face.

Seeing her mother’s concern, Rachel quickly continued, “It wasn’t anything major, just a few things that had me questioning my sanity a bit,” she attempted a chuckle. “Little stuff like finding this bruise on my arm and having no clue where it came from,” she said as she inspected the bruise again before showing her mother. “Not only that, but the vending machine ate my dollar, it acted like I never even put it in. And then, ugh, there was this obnoxious woman who just barged right into my office while I was trying to eat, she just opened the door and waltzed right in,” she finished in a huff.

Rachel’s mother had been nervously biting her lower lip throughout Rachel’s recount of her day and now looked to be on the verge of tears. Wondering why her mom was so affected by her story Rachel said, “Mom, don’t cry, I told you it wasn’t anything that was a huge deal, definitely nothing to get upset about”.

Reigning in her emotions, her mother nodded and then, in a very detached voice that sounded a bit strange to Rachel’s ears asked, “Rachel, what day is it today?”

Wondering what her mother could possibly be up to, asking such a bizarre question, Rachel almost laughed before noticing the sobering look her mother was giving her. Deciding it was just best to answer she said, “It’s Monday, May 23, 2001”. Seeing her mother’s face fall, Rachel knew something was wrong. “What? What is it?” she asked, a bit panicky.

‘It’s ok sweetie. Don’t get upset. I just… I just need to call the doctor,” her mother replied breathlessly before moving towards the phone mounted in the opposite wall of the kitchen.

“Call the doctor? I don’t understand, call what doctor? Mom? Mom, answer me!” Rachel was beginning to feel like she was falling down a rabbit hole.

“Calm down, Rachel. It’s just a little relapse; the doctor said this might happen. Just sit down and drink your glass of water,” Rachel’s mother said as she dialed.

“What are you talking about?!? Relapse, from what? I don’t understand,” Rachel almost screamed, her heart racing.

“Just drink your water, Rachel. I have to talk to the doctor now,” her mother replied in clipped phrases before turning her back and whispering into the phone.

“Water? What are you talking about? What water?” Rachel thought she was going to lose it and then she saw it- a half-empty glass of water in front her on the table. Where did that come from?  Rachel wondered frantically, she didn’t remember it being there a moment before. Seeing the toffee colored lip smear of her favorite lip gloss on the rim of the glass, Rachel’s eyes widened and something clicked inside her mind. It was then she knew, she hadn’t been at work today. There had been no rude woman or stubborn soda machine. Looking down at her arm, Rachel gasped- the dark purple bruise had disappeared.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Oh Monday… that pretty much sums up my day. It wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t great, it was just… sigh, Monday. Besides being the most loathed day of the week, this particular Monday was an odd one for ol’ Sammy. It was just a weird day, first came the discovery a mystery bruise, a pretty purple doosie on my arm- no idea where that came from and didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out at work (I really need to invest in a full-length mirror). Then there was the money-eating Coke machine. It sucked up my dollar bill like an al dente noodle and then sat there smugly, refusing to hold up its end of the bargain. Stupid machine. Then, there was little Miss “I-don’t-knock-I just-come-in”. Maybe I was just a bit grumpy because I was kept from eating until 3pm today, but to me, a closed door can mean several things, none of which include, “Invite yourself in without so much as a courtesy knock”. And then, to be basically given orders? Homey don’t play that. Some people… There were a few other weird occurrences, nothing really worth mentioning, all things combined though, I just felt like my whole day was off. Only one way to fix that- go to sleep and wake up to a new day tomorrow.

Love & Squirrels.

Day #162: It Was Eye Popping

The Story:

Peering closer to the monitor, Stella rested her chin in the crooked palm of her left hand as she scrolled through the finer details of the newest policy update. God, how she deplored the jargon of administrators- as if they had nothing better to do then push around their hollow words and concoct new crackpot ‘vision statements’ to further remind the plebeians they lorded over that they ‘cared’.

Pfffht… Stella wished she could just delete the document filling her computer screen but it had recently become her responsibility to read and then inform her department of such ‘updates’ handed down by corporate. At that moment Jack, one of the traveling salesmen who had been temporarily assigned to the office next door peeked in her office doorway. “Are your eyes ok?” he asked to the instant and obvious confusion of Stella to which he quickly continued, “It’s just that every time I walk by I see you staring at that screen. I don’t know how blood isn’t pouring from your sockets!” Jack began to chuckle a little at his attempt at humor. He quickly swallowed that inclination however, as he watched Stella’s face contort from its initial look of confusion to one of unmistakable wide-eyed terror.

Caught off gaurd by Stella’s dramatic reaction, Jack quickly mumbled a parting phrase and shuffled into his office. “Perhaps the imagery was a bit too gory for her…” he wondered to himself. Shrugging it off, he delved into his presentation for the upcoming sales exhibition- Jack was never one to linger on a subject he didn’t immediately understand. It made him feel stupid and Jack had no patience for stupidity, especially his own.

Relaxing a little in her chair now that Jack was safely in his own office, Stella immediately opened the top drawer of the desk and after a few seconds produced her small, pink hand mirror. Jumping up to flick on the fluorescents in her office (she never turned on the lights, preferring the dark to the harsh lighting produced by the buzzing tubes above) and after closing her office door brought the mirror to her face. Staring at her reflection, Stella looked for anything that may alert to something wrong with her appearance. Despite being a bit pale, everything looked as it should and Stella eventually put the hand mirror away after several more minutes’ inspection. Heaving a sigh of relief, Stella thought she had better take the rest of the day off just to be on the safe side. She doubted she could get very much more work done anyway in her current state of mind thanks to Jack’s comment.

Arriving home without further incident, Stella walked to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of Eli’s Root Beer, using the hem of her shirt to twist off the cap. Taking a long pull from the bottle, she let out a satisfied belch, “that’s how you know it’s good” she said to the empty house- a phrase her younger and burping enthusiast brother had always announced after an especially large belch.

Taking her beverage with her to the bathroom, Stella set the bottle down on the sink counter with a delicate ‘clink’ and turned on the water. Waiting for it to heat up a bit, she splashed her face and scrubbed off the day’s makeup with a gentle facial scrub, breathing in its lovely citrus scent. Patting her face dry with a hand towel, Stella fetched her root beer and returned to the kitchen. She also grabbed a large bottle of saline from the hallway closet on her way.

Rummaging in the far cupboard, she pulled out a small Tupperware container and matching red lid. Setting it down on the countertop, Stella reached for the saline and filled the container three fourths of the way full. Then, as casual as you like, placing a bit of pressure just below the socket of her right eye with two fingers Stella popped out her eyeball as if it were a gumball and dropped it into the saline. She repeated the process with her left eyeball. Snapping the lid shut, Stella walked the container to the fridge and placed it on the second shelf, right next to the sour cream and Pillsbury pie crusts. Massaging her empty sockets, Stella sighed contentedly, “Ahh… much better”.

Binoculars, you're doing it wrong.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      I am a slave to the computer. From 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday I can usually be found in my dark office (I abhor fluorescents and am not altogether unconvinced they are not the root of all evil) with my nose about four inches from the glow of my computer screen. Not to mention the 2+ hours I spend pecking away at my laptop each and every night gallantly forging on in my pledge to blog. So, it came as little surprise today when one of the faculty members, as he was walking by my office, made comment on my usual hunched position saying something to the effect of, “how are your eyes not bleeding?!?”. I kinda laughed and made some noncommittal reply like, “oh, I just pluck them out when I get home and give them a good soaking” (honestly, who says stuff like that??? Me… that’s who.). I’m slightly inclinded to believe my bizarre reply has something to do with how the faculty members I work with find it bizarre somehow (and they do) that I am always in front of my computer. Um… guys, it’s not by choice, I assure you… it’s sorta part of the job. Just saying.

TWO:    As a soda addict, unreformed, I was elated when Andy came home from the grocery recently with hands down the best dang root beer I’ve ever tasted (from a bottle anyway). Cap’t Eli’s Root Beer is something to be savored, something to be swooshed slowly around in the mouth before allowing your stomach contents the pleasure of marinating in its deliciousness.

Love & Squirrels.

Day #132: Day’s End

The Story:

Everyone remembers where they were. Everyone remembers what they were doing in the moments before. And everyone remembers what they did the following day- it was a Tuesday.

No one talks much about it much anymore. Of course there was the initial shock, the desperate cries of outrage and confusion, the demands for explanation and something (or someone) to blame. In those early days, the scientific and academic community manically set its jaws into rooting out the cause and the ‘why’ of it all. I believe they are still scratching their collective heads these twenty-five years later. The religious zealots qiuckly set upon the remnants left by science, gnawing away and proclaiming that it was all God’s will.

Left with the choice of Science’s ‘inconclusive results’ and Religion’s dogmatic certainty, the world collectively shrugged its shoulders and continued to spin. As the days became weeks and the weeks became months, we did what we always do, we moved on. We cut the crusts off of our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We complained about the traffic or how crowded the trains were becoming. We got our hair cut and left the sideburns a little too long. We focused on reestablishing our sense of normalcy,  honed in on the mundane. What else could we do?

Some of the old timers blame it on my generation. They say we grew complacent and complained too much. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t believe we were the reason. If I allow myself to drift down that road of thinking it will only take me to a dead end, a cul-de-sac of guilt, the kind that doesn’t wash off and stinks of the obliviousness of the self-entitled. I’ve traveled that road before, in the beginning (after all, didn’t I wish for what happened like so many others?). No, I can’t believe we were the reason. To be honest, I don’t believe there was a reason.

Things are almost back to normal now, or what my brain has tricked my memory into believing is normal (is there really a difference?). There are a few obvious changes, of course, no one denies that. For starters, everyone suffers from a tinge of vertigo from time to time. Most of us have grown accustomed to this after living with it for so long, the tunnel-vision and swaying are no more strange than blinking or sneezing. I do not envy new parents, however, as they struggle to prepare their bouncing bundles of joy for a world that will randomly pitch them forward or spin them round as it sees fit, but it appears the infants adapt quickly enough.

People don’t seem as concerned with time as they once did. I suspect they feel betrayed by it. I feel that way sometimes when I see an old advert for a wrist watch or alarm clock. I belive it only makes good sense to be wary of something that so carelessly misused the trust we all placedwillingly at its doorstep.

I suppose the most obvious change from the old days is the complete abandonment of the term ‘Monday’. Deleting this term fr0m our collective vocabulary was perhaps the first unanimous decision made by the entire citizenry of the world. If one were to consult a calendar in today’s world (if you could find one) you would read the days of the week as follows:

Sunday     First Tuesday      Second Tuesday       Wednesday     Thursday       Friday                Saturday

The memory of that day is still too potent to speak its name. I believe it will always be that way. We humans are a funny breed, when confronted with a global calamity we first try to understand it and if that fails, we ignore it. It simply didn’t happen.  I’m just pleased as punch to keep it that way too, what’s the point of taking something apart when you know you won’t be able to fit the pieces back together again? Well that’s how I feel about it, anyway.

Of course there are a few out there who are determined to stir the pot. I mostly ignore them, though. I don’t burden my mind with their propaganda. I have no use for it. I stock my pantry, boil my water and continue to try and forget. Forget that on a Monday, 25 years ago we lost more than half a day. Without explanation and without a trace of warning time skipped from 2:02pm EST Monday, August 29, 2011 to Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 8:00am EST on the dot. Time literally fast-forwarded through half a day and picked up a little less than 18 hours later. And we still haven’t recovered.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Ever have one of those days that you wish would just end? Funny how they usually wind up landing on a Monday, eh? That was the kind of day I was having today. Finally, around 3:30 or so, it got to the point where I just had to close my door and pray for 5:00pm to come quickly. Boiling point. I even posted a status to Facebook to the tune of, “Day, isn’t it about time you ended?”. Even when the work day came to a close my ‘bad day’ seemed to follow me home. Note to self: Do not dye your hair on a Monday, or any other day when everything seems to be going against you. Honestly the hair isn’t that bad, it looks like a wasted half-hour and smells like Sally’s Beauty Supply, but whatevs. So as I’m rinsing the dye out of my hair (and wondering if there was any in there in the first place, seriously my hair looks exactly the same) I started to think about what would happen if I got my wish- what if the day just ended when I said so? Other than perhaps making a lot of other people happy (not a good day in Facebook land apparently) having a day come to a screeching halt and then everything just picking back up the following morning would be a major game changer, don’t ya think? What do you think would happen if time just fast-forwarded 18 hours? Would we notice? Mull that over while I go and actually end my day, the traditional way, with some Zzzz’s.

And how.

Love & Squirrels.