No Reason to Whisper turned 4 today!
I had that dream again, the one where I’m being ripped apart. I feel as the claws sink into my chest, rupturing my lung. A decent chunk of my liver is sliced through like warm butter. My stomach burst, spilling warm gastric acid into the my abdomen. There’s a warm feeling in the center of my chest as blood pools where my lung should be. It’s not until I feel the muscles in my arm being torn apart at an awkward angle that I wake up.
My body almost instinctively sits me up right. The contents of my stomach travel up my esophagus, out of my mouth, and into my sheets. There really isn’t much to do but let it all come out. It’s not much, mostly stomach acid, an apple and part of a granola bar. I find it hard to keep anything down, even years after that night.
I try to think of something else. Charlie’s dog, my first kiss, or that time I passed out in the park. Anything to get away from the memory. Anything, just not that night.
Nothing sticks, so I end up getting up to change the sheets. Trying to go back to sleep would be futile, so I stay up going over patients’ files, reviewing previous sessions, looking for anyway to better help them.
When my eyes begin to sting, I know it’s time to officially start my day. I have to see thirty patients before lunch, and another seventy before the end of the day. Seeing at least one hundred patients a day is the only way I feel like I’m actually pulling my weight.
It’s only after my very light lunch that I remember my appointment with the mechanic. As soon as I remember, I regret having lunch. I’d had the usual handful of grapes and a class of apple juice, but Robert had insisted I have his pudding cup. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed anything more in my entire life. It was, for lack of a better word, a mouthgasm. The experience as a whole would have been less embarrassing if Robert hadn’t stared at me the whole time I ate. The very last spoonful of pudding made my inner porn star moan accidentally slip. Everyone at the very full table laughed, but Robbert just looked away, face flushed.
Despite the small amount of food in my stomach, I felt like it was surely to come back up as walked into Billy’s office. I had to shake the embarrassment, but there was no doubt world of the incident had already reached Billy. As a man that didn’t hold anything back, he walked in to the little cramped office, laughing.
Balancing a tool box, a stack of papers, and the biggest mug I have ever seen, Billy walked into his office. “You sure know how to bust moral around this place, doc.” Like a magician, he managed to set everything down on his already cluttered desk, without dropping anything.
"I try." I shifted in my seat, embarrassed. Billy was a tall, slander man, with a bushy handlebar mustache. He reminded me of my great uncle Kevin, who was boxer. Billy wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone trow punches for a living.
I rolled up my left sleeve, carefully. It’d been five years, but seeing the metallic sheen of my arm still took me off guard sometimes. It still amazed me how far prosthetics had come in just a few years. My prosthetic left arm started about six centimeters from my elbow. It was a perfect mirror image of my right arm.
Billy reached out and I placed out my hand on his. As he examined it, I was glad I couldn’t actually feel with the prosthetic. When I had gotten fitted for it, I was asked if I wanted mock flesh as the cover, but I declined. Even when top of the line, mock flesh looked and felt off. And beside, it would have to come off for routine check ups.
Handing my hand back, Billy reached for his tool box. I knew what was coming next and it made me stomach turn. On one hand, Bill held a small box with a cord coming off the top. At end of the cord was a long, smooth needle. It looked more like headphone jack than a needle.
"You want anything for this part, love?" He also knew what was coming next. "Pills, a hard drink, something to bit down on?"
"Just so it." I opened the panel on the prosthetic and tried to relax my hand. I took a deep breath and held it as Bill pushed the needle in.
A wave of pain shot through my arm and up my shoulder. Bill turned the needle 90 degrees and pushed a button on the little box. Sharp, hot pain seemed to pool where the prosthetic met my flesh. A quick pop later and my prosthetic was off.
Instinctively, I leaned forward and just let my lunch come up. My theory on vomit is that anything good going down tastes equally bad coming up. I was use to the awful aftertaste, I just wished I had missed my shoes.
All Billy could do was laugh as he handed me a towel. I had no doubt this incident would be all over the camp by dinner time.
"Don’t worry, doc, I won’t tell anyone about this." He put on his glasses and sat down to inspect my prosthetic. "I wouldn’t dream of hurting your chances with Robert."
The aching in my knee woke me, the all too familiar pain leaking into my dream. It was more of a nightmare, the same one I’d had for months. There was only one thing I was afraid of now, and my unconscious mind wouldn’t let me forget it. Every time I closed my eyes, all I would see was her cold, dead eyes staring at me.
It was late autumn, a light frost covered the grass, and there was an increasing chill in the wind. The sky was a shade darker with each passing day, like black mold growing in the sky. Already, the cold was noticeable during the day, and we had to bundle up during the night. I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if we got snow again. The last time the little white puffs came down here was a couple years go, but you just never knew anymore. The cold, wet precipitation would slows us down.
Maxine turn over, her eyes barely opening. “Your knee again?” Not waiting for an answer, she rolled over on her stomach and reached for the icepack on the dashboard.
I silently cursed myself for waking her, but she seemed to always knew when my knee was acting up. She had a sixth sense about it, she called it her superpower. More of a curse, if you ask me, it was a burden on her.
The pack touched my skin, the cold bit into my knee, sending a fresh wave of pain up my leg. The first couple second where the hardest, but Maxine knew how to comfort me. She let me squeeze her hand as hard as I could. I worried about hurting her but she assured me it didn’t bother her.
The burden of taking care of me and dragging us both to the coast was great. She
might as well be carrying a ring to drop into an active volcano. Well, at least we didn’t have hordes of creates on our tails trying to stop us at every turn.
When the ice pack ran warm, she place it on the dashboard again, it would refreeze soon enough. After Maxine had cut me off the pain killers, the ice pack was the only thing that made the aching go away. I’m glad she cut me off, I was starting to feel depended on those pills. They took away more than the ache in my knee.
Maxine didn’t lay down for a while, she just sat up on the makeshift bed, hugging her knees. I wanted to ask her what was on her mind, but it went to dark places at night. There was something about the dark that made her face contort, like she was in physical pain. The pain wasn’t physical, I off all people knew what she was mulling over in her head and it was not something we could talk about so easily. I placed a hand on her cold, boney shoulder and tried to get her to lay down again.
“It will be winter soon. What if your knee gets worse with the constant cold?.” A tear rolled down her pale cheek. Knowing she worried as much as did about me made me feel guilty. She’d been taking care of me for months now. I should have been the one taking care of her, specially now. But we were both broken, in more ways then one. Physical, emotional, we both knew we wouldn’t last much longer with the stress.
I sat up too, ignoring the discomfort it brought my knee. “We’re close, we’ll be there before winter hits. I promise.” I was in no position to promise anything, but I wanted to be the one doing the comforting for once. The thought of salvation once we hit the coast was the only thing keeping us going. We had to trust her brother would be there.
Jasper, Maxine’s brother, had promised to be off the coast of Plymouth on the 17th of December. He was our way out of the country and into the safety of the U.S. Navy. Well, a mutinous U.S. Navy ship. Jasper, the captain of USS Nimitz, and a hand picked skeleton crew had committed mutiny. The USS Nimitz was sailing the word to pick up its loved ones.
It had been Jasper who warned Maxine’s father about the upcoming events that changed the world. Her dad had built a military grade bunker under their home in Bristol in response to Jasper’s warning. We would be dead if Maxine’s dad hadn’t bee the over protective father he was. I just wish he had made it in time to be sharing the trip with us.
There was a lot of things I wished for. I wished my mom hadn’t been called into work that afternoon. I wish I had’t gotten into a fight with those jerk in that shop. I wish this whole thing wasn’t happening. But it was, and no amount of wishing would take it back.
Maxine turned towards me, hugging me. It was out of character for her. She’d always been the though girl growing up and I knew how hard it was for her to admit vulnerability. I guess that was one of the many reasons why I loved her so much, she just refused to admit defeat.
Hugging her back, tightly as I could, I kissed the top of her head. I feel asleep imagining what our life would have been if North Korea hadn’t grown a pair and nuked the United States, causing World War 3.
I don’t often find myself alone with a woman. Definitely not on the tube at one in the morning.
She was already there when I got on and didn’t bother to look up from her book. A thick leather bound beauty with deep purple lettering rested on her hands, she seemed to be cradling it. She couldn’t be over twenty-five, but the care she took to turn the pages reminded me of my nan. A librarian for over forty years, my nan loved books and the people that wrote them. I tried to picture what my nan would have looked like at twenty-five but all I could see was the woman setting on the tube.
I took a seat, far enough away so as to not come off as a creep. Reminding myself not to be rude and stare, I tried to think about anything else. The weather, the crap coffee in the office, my current assignment. No mater how hard I tried to concentrate on something else, my mind kept wondering back to the young woman. Reluctantly, I took a peek at her.
Anyone just taking a casual glance might think her plain. She had short, black hair pushed to her right. It looked messy, like she’d just gotten up. It had a shine to it, her hair, but a healthy one.Her cloths were simple, feminine, with a touch of class. A black skirt paired with a royal blue blouse and a dark gray blazer. She didn’t wear a coat, as if refusing to acknowledge that it was mid November in London.
Shifting in her seat and crossing her legs, the end of her stocking peaking from under her skirt. Nude nylons with a black band at the top, they were held in place by a thin garter belt. The ends of which were covered with off white lace. She didn’t seem to notice and just kept reading, but I assume she must have felt a chill from the newly uncovered patch of skin.
The focus in her eyes made me wonder what she reading. I couldn’t make out what the purple letters in the spine spelled so I figured it was in a foreign language. That added to her overall appeal. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was what she did. Rode the tube at strange hours, hoping to attract a man’s interest only to drug him and take a few organs from him.
My job had made me paranoid, that had become apparent. The one thing that had really stuck with me from training were the words of a fellow colleague. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” He was right. In the business of spying for a major world power, no one could be trusted, but that didn’t stop me from sleeping with her.
I got her letter in the middle of a meeting. It wasn’t signed but I knew the handwriting well. Only when she wrote privet letters to me did she dot her i’s with checkmarks, she was clever that way. The wording also tipped me off, short and to the point with just the right amount of coldness. We were having a lover’s spat, or at least that how I sugar coated the situation.
“Center of bush labyrinth, excuse yourself when most convenient.”
We might not be talking, but she knew were I would be. My father had been dragging me to royal meeting since we got back from the front to get me use to my future duties but I didn’t need to be there. I didn’t think I needed to be there, my place was with my wife, but my father insisted on getting me ready. One might think he was dying some time soon.
Waiting for an opening in the dull conversation about changes in the uniform color, I got up. “If you’ll excuse me, my wife needs me right away.” As soon as the words had left my mouth, I knew I would never live them down. It didn’t matter really, my reputation was sound and I was sure the likes of them would understand. They all had families and talked highly of them after all.
I hear thing in the likes of whip sound and laughter, but I didn’t care. Even my father put forth a comment about how I let my wife wear the trousers in our marriage. He’s one to talk, he prohibited women from wearing trousers five years before I was born. And the sad bit was that no one really opposed him, it was already a well common practice in our society. I didn’t think much of it either, women looked wonderful in skirts and dresses. My opinions had changed since my marriage, and I was determined to change things once I came into power, but in quite some time from now.
The labyrinth was conveniently place on the other side of the estate. It was immense and seemingly endless. That was yet another thing I didn’t give much thought into before, but she loved the damn labyrinth. I would get lost chasing after her in the walls carved out of bush, but once I caught her, my reward was sweet. I guess I must have stopped thinking about the way and just let memory guide me to her because I suddenly found myself walking into the center of the bloody labyrinth.
All I heard before a seemingly huge fist came knocking into my face was someone call my name. I lost my footing from surprise and landed on my hands and knees. I was a little disoriented and couldn’t quite place the face I’d seen before the punch.
“Get up.” The voice was almost a whisper this time, cold and hard. I didn’t want to obey, but I knew I had to get up and face my attacker. I took my time getting up. Still being a little out of it, I hoped my delay would show defiance, but I mostly just needed time to put myself together.
As soon as I got up to face my assailant, another fist came crashing into my jaw, knocking me down again. I’d gotten a good look at the individual throwing the punches and couldn’t stop myself from laughing. With each hardy laugh, a wave of pain shrouded my face. I could feel my left eye begging to swell, it would most likely be all sorts of colours in the morning. Hell, it would probably swell shut for all my luck.
“Let that serve you as a warning, Ezra, to never lie to your wife again.” Her breathing was quick and shallow, her cheeks flushed, and her knuckles bone white. I’d always known my wife would be a great queen some day, and she knew just how to prove it to me.
There, behind the opened fridge door, she stood, ready to start her day. She was wearing her favorite dress, a purple, short thing with white pock-a-dots. The color and texture complimented her pale complexion without making her look sickly. I once thought that was her whole appeal, the paleness of her skin made her mismatched eyes pop, like an old mustard stain on a white dress shirt.
That was the other thing about her. Her left eye was green while her right was blue. She’s been born like that, but everywhere she went, people would ask if she wore contacts or had an operation. She didn’t mind her eyes, she minded the people that told her about the, like she wasn’t already aware. “Your eyes are two different colors!” she would mock the people that would walk by and shout the obvious statement at her.
I honestly thought that was all to her; her eyes, her pale skin, and her short temper. I thought this for far too long. I know it’s stupid, to think so little of someone you spend the majority of your life with. That just the type of person I was, ignorant and self-centered. I take comfort in knowing almost all teens are just that, and that it was normal of not to really notice my sister.
Closing the door to the fridge, Isis held a small yogurt container and sat at the kitchen table. When she noticed me, me gave me one of the trademark crooked smiles. “Are you going to see me off at the station, or are you finally going to start packing?”
Isis was heading back to Oxford. I wouldn’t see her again until summer holiday, and who knows if she would bring a bloke back to meet her family. I knew she wasn’t that type of girl. She was focused on her studies, but I of all people knew all too well that men are manipulative pigs. Dean wouldn’t be happy about it either, but he wouldn’t be upset in the same way I would be. Yes, he was Isis’s big brother too, he loved and cared for her, but I felt something more.
Just so we’re clear on things, Dean and I are twins and Isis is our adopted sister. No real incest is taking place in this story, even if that’s what it looks like from the outside in. Isis and I are not blood related, but we did grow up together, so there’s that. I guess that’s not as bad as actual incest, but it still felt wrong.
It didn’t feel wrong for long, thought. “Run away with me, Isis.”
Sitting at the edge of his bed, she slowly pulled up her stockings, thinking about what she was doing with her life. Final semester at community college, a shit job at ToysRUs, and still living with her parents, sometimes life overwhelmed her so much she thought about just leaving. All she really wanted was to pass her damn finals and get that scholarship. Maybe then she wouldn’t have to worry about tuition when she transferred, but David made that a bit difficult. He meant not harm, but she completely forgot about reality when he was around.
He walked into his room, a pack of Ho Hos on his left hand, wearing the pair of TARDIS blue boxers she’d given him for his birthday. David’s hair was a tangled mess, far longer than he had kept it in high school. Sitting on the bed next to her while opening the plastic package, he have her a hard look.
“Leaving so soon?” he failed to hide the hurt in his voice. He bit into the pastry, but didn’t chew it. It just sat in his mouth.
Olive guessed there was an upside to dating a stoner; he always had good food in his house. She took the Ho Ho that was still in the plastic and bit into it, savoring the outer chocolate shell, trying to remember the last time she had one of those little pastries. She honestly couldn’t remember, but perhaps it was before her brother moved away.
“I have to study for finals.” Olive finished the little roll of cake, trying not to feel guilty about leaving. She really did have to study, specially for her damn Statistics class.
“Statistics is a bitch.” David still had a mouth full of Ho Ho and his words come out a little slurred. The chocolate had melted and all that was left on his mouth was soggy cake. He swallowed and the Ho Ho was like water going down his throat, but it felt heavy in his stomach.
“Stop reading my mind, David, it creeps me out.” Olive turned to look at him, giving him the most sincere smile she’d given anyone in her life. It was truly remarkable how much he knew her.
Olive’s smile seemed to cheer David up. He’d always loved her smile, even back when they were just bodies in high school.
“Can I drive you home?” he shoved the rest of the Ho Ho in his mouth and swallowed without chewing.
Olive got up, putting on her sweater, “You’re going to choke some day if you keep doing that.”
“Will you cry at my funeral, Olive, if I choke on a Ho Ho?” David got up and started looking for his pants. Their whereabouts seemed to elude him.
Olive looked at him in amusement as he looked for his pants. They were on the bed, where he’d taken them off, but for some reason she thought might have to do with his gender, David could not find them.
Sitting on the bed again, she graved his pants and waved them in front of his face. “ I will cry at your funeral if you choke on a Ho Ho, David, for that is to actually care.”