Alarm [Repost]

Prompt: Observe

 

diamond cross 2

“You have to know I would never harm you,” Marcus said.

“Setting fire to the house with me in it kind of belies that statement,” said Envy.

Twice he had tried to reach across the table to take her hand, and twice had been rebuffed, once by the guard, and once by Envy herself.

He didn’t look like a prisoner waiting for a trial date. He looked like he had just turned up from a round of golf: a little tanned, a little tired, wondering what was for lunch. In fact, an outsider who observed just the two of them, seated at a small, pine-veneered table, would have pegged Envy for the convict; her hair was tangled, she was pale and nervous, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She was still a little battered from the fall from the balcony. Never a famous beauty to begin with, Envy was not at her best.

“The smoke alarms should have warned you,” said Marcus. “Why didn’t they?”

“That will remain a mystery for the ages,” said Envy, “since they were destroyed in the conflagration.” She wore a white gold chain with a diamond-encrusted cross pendant. She was thinking of returning to the church.

“You saw how upset I was,” said Marcus.

“That I survived,” Envy said.

For the third time, Marcus tried to take her hand. This time she slapped it. She was surprised to see his face contort in something that looked like pain. Existential or physical? she wondered.

“When did you stop loving me?” Envy said at last.

Marcus fiddled with the little sign in its plastic casing, propped up on the table. No touching. it said. No item exchange. No food. No shouting. Visitors and/or residents can and will be removed at any time at the guards’ discretion. No smoking.

Marcus looked out the window to an empty field, then back to Envy. “I never stopped loving you,” he said. “That’s why I asked you to come. I need your help.”

“Carmen got the police to describe you only as a ‘person of interest’,” Envy said.

“Carmen?”

“Your lawyer.”

“Ah.”

“That is the help I am giving you,” said Envy. “Take her advice. Tell the truth for once in your fucking life.” She stood up and leaned on her crutches. “And I’ll pray for you.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Marcus.

“Exactly,” said Envy.


  • Original Prompt: Burn, July 2, 2016

smoke-detector-monitoring-system

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Digitally Inclined

Prompt: Ten

clock-in-pub

Charlie Parsons slept in until ten, so didn’t hear the knock on the door. The post office had neatly place a doorknob notice outside Charlie’s house, with only a few blank spaces scribbled in by the delivery person: Parsons, 1010 Worth (meaning Charlie’s address, 1010 Worthington), Parcel, and Pick up After 4.

He had no idea who the package was from or how big it was, not to mention what it was. He hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon, Cheffy Chef, or Sears, not recently, and it wasn’t his birthday for another four months.

But a visit to Gill at the post office was always a most pleasant diversion. She was pretty, though her looks were startling to Charlie— he had not previously been a big freckle fan— and she always looked one in the eye, in a warm and welcoming way.

Gill had a nasty cold; the freckles on her nose were an alarming shade of purple, and her welcoming eyes seeped moisture, but Charlie refrained from scolding her about spreading germs. It was too late for that. She fetched his package with a smile. It was small and Charlie’s name and address were printed out on a label, with no return address visible. When she set it in front of her on the counter, she hesitated. “What’s that?” she said, her voice hoarse.

“What?”

“Ticking, Charlie!”

So that’s how the post office was emptied and the RCMP turned up. Charlie wouldn’t leave, and his friend, Constable Horowitz, couldn’t bring himself to force him to leave, so Charlie observed from a short distance behind a helmet with a protective screen.

“Seriously, Glen?” Charlie said, as the officers poked at the package, took pictures of it, and managed crowd control, as about half a dozen people had gathered outside. The constable ignored him. Charlie could hear the ticking sound. Surely modern terrorists were digitally inclined? But, Glen said wisely, you never know.

They’d asked Lionel, the post office delivery man, if he had noticed anything suspicious about the package or noticed the ticking. He said he had noticed, and concluded the contents of the package contained a clock, which, since Charlie hadn’t answered the door that morning, he thought was pretty appropriate.

A form resembling a man, covered head to foot in padding, boots, moon gloves, and a thick helmet, used a tool resembling a scalpel, which slid silkily through the craft paper and tape, revealing a white box.

He gently lifted up the lid of the box.

Inside was an alarm clock, resting in red tissue paper. There were no wires or other devices in the box. Glen told everyone to stand down. Only the eyes of the human being hidden behind the layers of padding could be seen, and those eyes looked vaguely disappointed.

Charlie took off his own helmet and approached Glen, who, with gloved hands, was examining the clock. It was white, with a white face and silver clangers. “Battery operated, alarm set to go at ten pm but not turned on.”

“Where do you even buy one of those things?” asked Charlie.

Glen shrugged. “You know what? This is a serious offence.” He looked up at Charlie. “What’s it mean? What’s the joke?”

“I honestly don’t— hey what else is in the box?”

A piece of paper that looked like it was torn out of a magazine had been tucked in under the clock. It was a coupon for two dollars off a pair of HeatMe! sport socks. Glen held it up and Charlie took a closer look.

According to the print next to the page number, the coupon had been torn out of the February issue of Ice Fishers’ Digest.

 


Alarm

Prompt: Burn

smoke-detector-monitoring-system

“You have to know I would never harm you,” Marcus said.

“Setting fire to the house with me in it kind of belies that statement,” said Envy.

Twice he had tried to reach across the table to take her hand, and twice had been rebuffed, once by the guard, and once by Envy herself.

He didn’t look like a prisoner waiting for a trial date. He looked like he had just turned up from a round of golf: a little tanned, a little tired, wondering what was for lunch. In fact, an outsider who observed just the two of them, seated at a small, pine-veneered table, would have pegged Envy for the convict; her hair was tangled, she was pale and nervous, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She was still a little battered from the fall from the balcony. Never a famous beauty to begin with, Envy was not at her best.

“The smoke alarms should have warned you,” said Marcus. “Why didn’t they?”

“That will remain a mystery for the ages,” said Envy, “since they were destroyed in the conflagration.” She wore a gold chain with a diamond-encrusted cross pendant. She was thinking of returning to the church.

“You saw how upset I was,” said Marcus.

“That I survived,” Envy said.

For the third time, Marcus tried to take her hand. This time she slapped it. She was surprised to see his face contort in something that looked like pain. Existential or physical? she wondered.

“When did you stop loving me?” Envy said at last.

Marcus fiddled with the little sign in its plastic casing, propped up on the table. No touching. it said. No item exchange. No food. No shouting. Visitors and/or residents can and will be removed at any time at the guards’ discretion. No smoking.

Marcus looked out the window to an empty field, then back to Envy. “I never stopped loving you,” he said. “That’s why I asked you to come. I need your help.”

“Carmen got the police to describe you only as a ‘person of interest’,” Envy said.

“Carmen?”

“Your lawyer.”

“Ah.”

“That is the help I am giving you,” said Envy. “Take her advice. Tell the truth for once in your fucking life.” She stood up and leaned on her crutches. “And I’ll pray for you.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Marcus.

“Exactly,” said Envy.

Neutron Bomb

Prompt: Edge

red paper cup

The alarm clock blew up like a neutron bomb. He felt his head to make sure it hadn’t exploded. So far, so good. One of his “brothers” must have set the alarm as a joke. Some of his “brothers” had questionable senses of humour, and questionable everything, really.

Cash wasn’t sure if he wished to remember more of what went on last night, or less. His t-shirt stank of beer. He was wearing nothing from the waist down, not even undies.

He remembered that after the girls left, they initiated a new member. What had they done? Something with ping pong balls, flashlights, and a pogo stick. He didn’t remember an ambulance, so probably no alcohol poisoning this time.

The fallout from the bomb in his head started to spread down his neck and into his shoulders. Cash kept a bottle of aspirin and a pint of water beside his bed. There was the aspirin, but no water. Standing upright was an impossibility. So he swallowed three aspirin, dry.

This was his life now. Constantly living on the edge. No one but his “brothers” to impress or listen to. No curfews. No restraints. No inhibitions. This was his education, on which they had spent so very much money. The best school. The best brothers. The best parties.

The aspirin made his stomach spasm, and he crawled to the bathroom, just in time.