Author Archive: A. Marie Silver

A. Marie Silver is a mother to a four-year-old who growls for no particular reason and a two-year-old-old who chews on the furniture. When she’s not trying to convince her children they are, in fact, human, she is also a wife, an editor for Pilcrow & Dagger and a writer working on her first novel.

Chapter 1: Miss Sensitivity

Yesterday we wrapped up our theme for the February/March issue – Fairies, Elves, & Dragons. Today, we kick off our theme for the April issue – Titanic. LeeAnn and I have no idea where this story is going to take us but we know one thing: it’s gonna be huge!

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And in case you weren’t aware, Pilcrow & Dagger is currently accepting submissions for the April issue. The theme is Titanic. But don’t worry, we’re not limiting this theme to sad love stories or sinking ships. We’re looking for anything that’s big, huge, or enormous. You can learn more about the requirements for this theme here. And with that, I bring you the first chapter of this round robin episode: Miss Sensitivity.

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“Please stop crying.” I am not the go-to-girl for sob festivals. I had no idea why Betsy even called me. She knows this. I’m the girl who will hold your hair back when you’re drunk-vomiting at a party. I’m the girl who will perform classy acts of vengeance against ex-boyfriends – like gluing condoms all over his brand new sports car. That’s the girl I am. But this. I am not the girl who passes tissues to her friends who have snot running down their faces. I am not Miss Sensitivity. 

“I can’t believe he left me.” Betsy took a tissue from me and blew her nose. “It was the greatest love of my life and now it’s over.” She flopped down onto the bed, crying even harder than before.

I patted her on the back. Anything that was touchy feely was outside of my comfort zone. 

“Betsy, let’s be real about this. David wasn’t the love of your life. He wasn’t even the great love of your life. He was some guy you hooked up with one time, three weeks ago.”

Betsy sat up on the bed, wiping her nose with her sleeve. “Oh my, God, Trish! How can you say that? What we had was so much more than a one night stand.”

“No it wasn’t.” I shook my head. “It was a classic one night stand. He said he’d call you but he never did because it was a one. Night. Stand.

“Well maybe he just lost my number.”

“Or maybe he threw it away while doing the walk-of-shame out of your apartment the next morning.”

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“Or maybe it was something else. Maybe that girl he met at the restaurant last night was a sister or cousin.” Betsy got off the bed and walked over to her closet.

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“Didn’t you say they were making out?” I sat there, watching her search for the perfect outfit and wondered why I always had to be the voice of reason with her. 

“Maybe it wasn’t what I thought. Maybe she had something stuck in her teeth?”

“Or, maybe you were a one night stand who has spent the last three weeks stalking some loser.” I walked over to Betsy and turned her around. “I say this with as much love and compassion as I have to give.” I cleared my throat. “It’s the same thing with every guy you meet. He’s the one. The love of your life. Your happy ending. Sometimes, it works out and you’re in a relationship. Most of the time, you make a total fool of yourself by following these poor guys around town, sending them singing telegrams. Betsy, please! I beg you; get a hobby.”

Betsy pulled away from me. “How can you be so mean?”

“It’s easier than enabling someone.”

“You just don’t understand, Trish. You’ve never been in love. But one day. One day you will know what it’s like and how much it hurts when it’s over.” Betsy grabbed an outfit from her closet and walked inside her bathroom. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to work.” She slammed the door in my face.

She had a point. I haven’t been in a relationship. But there was a reason for that. I had a secret. A big secret. No one knew. 

To be continued

Chapter 11: Confessions

“Maybe we should start by telling our secrets.” Dionne looked at Elvis and Frankie. “You know. Tell each other something about ourselves that we haven’t told anyone else.” 

“Yeah. Alright.” Elvis scratched his head and walked in between Elvis and Frankie. “I’ll go first.” He cleared his throat. “For the longest time, I’ve been telling people that my dream is to be a comedian or a performer of some kind. But that’s not true.”

“It’s not?” Dionne asked.

“Thank goodness.” Frankie snorted. “There might be hope for you yet.”

“Very funny.” Elvis rolled his eyes. “The truth is I really want to be a mentor for elvin kids who need a little extra attention and someone to help them realize their dreams. I think I could make a real difference.”

“That’s so sweet.” Dionne sniffled and wipe a tear away from her eyes. “And all this time I thought you were this obnoxious elf with a tacky sense of humor.”

“I am.” Elvis replied. “But I’d rather be a mentor.”

Frankie hopped up on an old picnic table, crossed her legs and pulled out a nail file.

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“Well that’s great for you. But revealing your secret has done nothing to stop the erasers.” 

“Hey! You two dames still have to reveal your secrets.” Elvis puffed out his chest and hiked up his pants.

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“I can’t fix this all by myself. And believe me, I’d love nothing more than to take credit for saving the day. The elvin kids would love hearing a story like this.”

“All right.” Dionne took a step forward. “I’ll go next.” Dionne’s tail swished back and forth. “Last week, I became the fire department’s newest recruit.”

Frankie stopped filing her nails. “Um….you do realize that the purpose of a firefighter is to put out fires and not start them, right?”

“Yes. I’m tired of always destroying things. I want to help people. And being a firefighter is going to be perfect for me.”

“How so?” Elvis folded his arms across his chest. 

“I’m not afraid of fires. Flying into a burning building wouldn’t scare me.”

Elvis nodded and then glanced down at the book. “Look. It’s changing.”

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Words began filling the pages of the book. One by one, each chapter developed a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

“Is it your cousin, Mabel?” Dionne asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“Guys.” Frankie jumped down. “Maybe we should stop all this confessing stuff. What if instead of freeing ourselves we actually make things worse?”

“Don’t you remember?” Dionne asked. “Mabel said that by confessing our innermost secrets we would destroy the Erasers.”

“Come on, Frankie.” Elvis pushed his way in between the fairy and the dragon. “It’s your turn. One more confession and then we can escape this book and get back to our own stories.”

“Yeah, Frankie.” Dionne coughed back a fireball. “Tell us your secret.”

“Secret. Ha! You couldn’t handle it.”

“Try us,” Elvis said.

“Fine. It’s no secret that I’m not for this stupid game because of its consequences.”

Elvis and Dionne exchanged confused looks.

“What consequences?” Dionne asked.

Frankie’s face morphed from an aggravated look to malicious. “You and your stupid ambitions about being a firefighter.” She jabbed Dionne in the chest. “Who ever heard of a dragon working as a firefighter? That makes about as much sense as Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor. He’s never going to get rich if he keeps giving all of his loot away. You want to know what my secret is. Get ready.”

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“I am an eraser.” Frankie declared. In one swift motion, she ripped off her yoga outfit, revealing a black suit underneath. “And there will be no stopping me.”

Elvis and Dionne gasped.

“What are you going to do?” Dionne looked around nervously.

“I’m going to take fiction books everywhere, erase their stories and write new ones. And I’m going to start with this one.” She cackled.

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Dionne ran over to Elvis, trying to hide her large, dragon body behind his tiny, elvin frame.

“Yeah, well.” Elvis cracked his knuckles. “You’re forgetting a few things.”

“Like what?” Frankie stared Elvis down.

“Like this!”

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Elvis punched Frankie, sending her flying through the air.

“My mother always told me never to hit a lady.” He shook out his hand. “It’s a good thing you’re not a real one.” He took off his cloak and tossed it on top of Frankie. “Dionne. Get over here. It’s time to make a wish.”

(To Be Continued)

Chapter 9: The Three Ingredients

Frankie, Elvis and Dionne wandered aimlessly through Martians on the Playground. They hadn’t seen an alien since Marshall left the book. The world they were in was quiet. Too quiet. No birds chirping. No insects buzzing. Not even the empty swings, blowing in the wind, creaked or groaned.

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“I don’t like this.” Dionne walked around, holding her cell phone out in all different directions.

“What are you doing?” Elvis asked.

“I’m trying to find a signal so I can call my therapist.”

“Something tells me she’ll be working a lot overtime after we get out of here.” Elvis snorted and then tripped over something, falling into Frankie.

“Watch it!”

“Sorry.” Elvis pulled himself off the ground, brushing dirt off his clothes. He looked down at the ground. “What the heck is this?” Elvis picked up an old book.

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Frankie took the book from Elvis and read the cover. “The Fictional Character’s Guide to Survival, written by Mabel.” Frankie flipped the book open to the very first page. “Dedicated to mi amor, Carlos.”

“Do you think this book could help us?” Dionne put her phone down, focusing on their discovery.

“I don’t know.” Frankie shrugged. “But it’s one heck of a coincidence that this book just happened to be in our path.”

***

“Come on guys,” Mabel thought. “Do I have to read it for you too?” Pressing on with her story, Mabel cleared her throat and spoke into the microphone.

The book appeared out of nowhere….or did it? The fairy, the elf, and the dragon all balked at the book trying to figure out it’s significance. Finally the dragon spoke.

***

“Turn to the table of contents, Frankie. Let’s see if we can get the gist of this book.”

Frankie nodded, flipping to the table of contents.

“What’s fiary dust?” Dionned coughed, releasing a small fireball.

“I think it’s supposed to be fairy dust.” Frankie took off her shoe, shaking a few small pebbles out of it.

“Are you kidding me?” Elvis mocked. “Has this publisher never heard of hiring an editor?”

“Everyone’s a critic.” Frankie rolled her eyes.

“Why aren’t there titles to chapters five, six, and seven?” Dionned coughed again. This time only a puff of smoke escaped.

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“Maybe they haven’t been written yet.” Elvis loosened the cloak around his neck.

“Or maybe the writer got interrupted.” Frankie looked at her traveling companions.

“What are we supposed to do with fairy dust, an elf’s cloak and dragon’s breath?” Dionne asked.

(To Be Continued)

Chapter 7: The Narrator’s End

“The snow flakes glistened in the bright sunlight. Icicles clung to tree branches, making the forest seem more magical than it actually was. The ice that covered the stream nearby was like a glass window. Fish could be seen swimming through it. And the mountains that were normally threatening in size and nature, looked peaceful wearing their white, winter coat. This winter wonderland was truly a sight to see….”

Suzie turned the page for her mother.

“That’s weird.” Suzie’s mother looked down at the two blank pages in front of her. No pictures, no text. Nothing. Surely it was an error made during printing. She turned to the next page and then the next. 

“What happened to the book, mama?”

Suzie’s mother flipped through the remaining pages in search of the remainder of the story. She and Suzie only read the first page of this book, “The Witch and the Wonderland.”  

Where was the rest of it? There was only a few lines of narration. No pictures. No characters.

“I don’t know, baby.”

***

A crack in the air startled Mabel. She looked past the microphone in front of her, staring out through the windows of the isolation booth. The source of the crack hid in the darkest corners of the recording studio. 

“It was probably just static. The Erasers aren’t that bright. They’ll need a longer story before they’ll be able to track me,” she thought, adjusting the headphones. She cleared her throat and continued narrating the story. “This winter wonderland was truly a sight to see. Trees and rocks were transformed into ice sculptures—”

Crack! This time there was no mistaking it. Mabel wasn’t alone in the recording studio. She reached over and locked the door to the isolation booth. With floor-length windows on all four sides, there wasn’t much she could do to protect herself.

A shadow in the distance crept along the wall, taking a familiar shape.

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Mabel squinted, trying to see who the uninvited guest was. She removed the headphones and stepped off the stool.

As the shadow crept closer to the booth, the figure it was attached to became visible. 

“You?” Mabel gasped. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. A trusted friend and confidant. The last person she’d ever suspect of betrayal. “You’re an eraser? How is that possible?”

“In fiction, all things are possible.” 

(To be continued)

Chapter 5: The Twist

Little James flipped through the pages of his favorite martian book, Martians on the Playground. Normally the book was filled with images of Marshall – the main character but today, Little James noticed something different. Marshall wasn’t the only character on page five. Three new characters were present: a fairy, an elf, and a dragon. 

“Look, Mama.” Marshall handed the book to his mother. “Marshall has new friends.”

His mother flipped through the pages of the book, unsure of what Little James was talking about.

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She bought this book for him almost a year earlier and read the book to him an infinite number of times. Little James new this book inside and out and not once did he ever refer to the other aliens in the book as new friends.

“Huh.” She flipped through the book, stopping on page five. Sure enough, there were three new characters she’d never seen before. “We must’ve gotten this book mixed up with one of our library books. Let’s go back to the library and see if we can find your book.”

“Okay, Mama.”

***

(The Meeting)

The glow of a fire burning underneath a cauldron barely lit the room.

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A trio of tiny figures stood around the cauldron, staring at an individual dressed in a dark cloak.

“The time to unite and confront our enemies has come.” The cloaked stranger addressed his small audience. “We’ve been too gracious with out gifts. Too giving. We’ve allowed the other characters in the world to have too much control over their stories. The three of you were selected for one purpose and one purpose only: To rewrite fiction so that it serves our needs above all others.”

One tiny figure, kicked the gravel on the ground and cleared her throat.

“You have something to say, Francesca?”

“More like a question. How will we rewrite all of the fictional books?”

The dark stranger moved toward Francesca. His shadow was a giant crawling along the clay walls. Francesca inched away, uncertain of what to expect.

“There will be three phases to this unfortunate task.” The dark stranger grabbed a stick and began writing in the the gravel floor. “First, cast enchantment spells to bind the books shut so that no characters can escape. Work quickly! The last thing we want is for characters to escape into other books and begin talking to one and other about this. Second, you will each be assigned an eraser. The erasers will sweep in and remove details of the stories, wiping out all those who populate the books.”

“And the third,” Francesca asked.

“The last phase,” the dark stranger began, “begins with a ritual sacrifice.”

To be continued

Chapter 3: The Invasion

“Gah!” The giant alien stood, shaking in total fear. The only thing that stood between him and the invaders was an empty merry-go-round.

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Frankie, Elvis and Dionne stood on the playground, all with dumbfounded looks on their faces.

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The alien had to be at least seven feet tall. His eyes were larger than the three of them combined. And yet, he stood there, trembling.

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“Please don’t hurt me!” The alien stumbled backwards, tripping over his large feet. He fell onto the gravel surface and continued to crawl, backwards.

“Oh for the love of fairies.” Frankie rolled her eyes. “Relax, mister….mister….Eh. What’s your name?”

“M-M-Marshall. M-M-My name is Marshall.”

“Relax, Marshall. Nobody is going to hurt you. We just need to borrow your book for a few hours and then we’ll be on our way.”

Marshall shook is head in disbelief. “No. You’re one of them. You’re here to…to….erase me.” Large tears dropped from his eyes.

“Erase you?” Elvis took an elf-step forward, “What do you mean erase you?”

“Aliens. They come into books at night and make all of the characters disappear.”

“Let me get this straight.” Elvis hiked up his pants and took another step forward. “Aliens are invading books about other aliens?”

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 “Not just alien books. All books. These things are going after whatever book is on the shelf.”

“Is that what happened here?” Dionne asked.

“No.” Marshall shook his head. “Everyone here left. I was on my way out too until I realized I forgot my backup inhaler.”

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“People are leaving their books?” Frankie looked around the playground, wondering if this was connected to her current predicament “Where are they going?”

“Wherever they think they’ll be safe.” Marshall pulled himself off the ground, brushing the dirt off his legs. His tall figure cast a shadow over the invaders. “I’m going to stay with my Uncle Mike. He’s an MMA fighter.

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“No one would ever challenge him.” 

To be continued

Chapter 1: Frankie, Elvis, & Dionne

Submissions for the January issue are now closed and with that closing, we’ve also ended our round robin story: Let’s Get Physical. Have no fear! If you’ve missed any of the chapters and would like to get caught up, just go here.

Last week, we opened submissions for our February/March issue: Fairies, Elves, and Dragons. Today, I’m kicking off a new story based on this issue’s theme.

Chapter 1: Frankie, Elvis & Dionne

Tucker waited for his mother to come and read him a bedtime story. The lamp on his bed side table was small and barely lit his room, inviting shadows to grow in the dark corners.  He stared at the closet, trying to figure out if he actually heard a sound from inside or if his mind was playing tricks on him again. Every night for the last two months, Tucker swore he heard tiny voices coming from inside of his closet. They always appeared right around story time. He told his parents about the voices and they always checked but never found anything – except for a stash of junk food he hid. That didn’t go over well with his mother.

The door to his bedroom creaked as his mother opened it and stepped in.

“Are you read for your story?” She asked.

Tucker nodded, relieved he was no longer alone.

She bent over by the bookshelf, selected a book and showed it to him. “How about this one?”

Tucker nodded again, making room in his bed for his mother to sit.

***

(Frankie)

Frankie peered through the slats of the little boy’s closet door, trying to listen as his mother read to him. “Shush!” She said to her companions – Elvis and Dionne. “She’s about to begin the story.”

“How’s she starting it tonight?” Elvis asked as he pulled a hat off his head, revealing his pointed ears. “I hope it’s not once upon a time.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Dionne asked, wrapping her scaly tail around her body.

“It’s over done,” Elvis whined. “Every freaking story begins with once upon a time. Once upon a time there was a cat who wore a ridiculous hat. Once upon a time there was a princess who broke a nail while she waited for her prince to rescue her. Once upon a time there were three fat bears who ate a little girl for breakfast.”

“Enough, Elvis.” Frankie scolded. “We get it. You hate how fairy tales open. Find something new to complain about.”

“Oh,” Elvis began, sliding down a tall shoe. “Excuse me. I’m sorry I’m boring you.” He looked Frankie up and down. “By the way, what the hell are you wearing?”

“What do you mean?” Frankie looked down at her tank top, yoga pants and white sneakers.

“I thought you were a fairy. Where’s your skanky leotard and racy tights? Where are your wings?”

“I only wear those when I’m working,” Frankie said. “Today’s my day off.”

A  fireball shot across the walk-in-closet, striking the wall next to the door. The flames left a small scorch mark on the wall.

“Watch out!” Frankie and Elvis said.

“Sorry,” Dionne said, belching. “It’s my acid reflux. I can’t control it.”

“Try!” Frankie ordered.

“It’s not so easy,” Dionne said. “Last week I was flying over a mountain range and had to stop because I was getting air sick. The nausea triggered my acid reflux and I vomited fireballs all over the top of the mountain.

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“The poor humans living in the town below ran for the lives because they thought the mountain was an erupting volcano.”

“That was you?” Elvis asked. “I heard about that on the news.”

“Enough, both of you!” Frankie yelled, exasperated by her companions.

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“Dionne.” She sighed. “Do your very best to not set anything in here on fire. And you,” Frankie turned toward Elvis. “Since you’re such an expert on how stories should start, how would you do it?”

“I’ll tell you how I’d do it,” Elvis said, prancing up to Frankie. “I start it with a rap.” Elvis cleared his throat, puffing out his chest. “Yo! Yo! Yo! Listen up, people! Cuz this is how the story goes. An Elf. A Fairy. And a Dragon —”

“STOP!” Frankie ordered. 

“What?” Elvis asked. “I barely started.”

“That was the worst rap I’ve ever heard. Do NOT quit your day job doing…whatever it is elves do.”

Oh come on!” Elvis said. “It wasn’t that bad. Dionne, tell Frankie it wasn’t that bad.”

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Elvis turned toward the dragon. “What are you doing?”

Dionne had her cell phone out. “I’m texting my therapist. I think I’m going to need extra sessions this month.”

“You two are a tough crowd,” Elvis said.

Frankie peered through the closet door. “Shoot.”

“What?” Elvis asked.

“Story time is over,” Frankie said. “We missed the whole thing.” She shrugged her shoulders. “All right, guys. We’d better hop back into our books before anyone notices we’re missing.”

Frankie climbed the wall, leaving a trail of fairy dust on the paint. She pulled herself onto the shelf and walked over to the book. She bent down, and grabbed the edge of her book. She pulled on the cover, but couldn’t get it to open. “Crap. Hey, guys! I can’t get my book to open.”

“Me neither,” Dionne said from down below.

“Who the heck is this freak on the cover of my book?” Elvis asked, alarmed. “I don’t remember him being in this story.”

Frankie peered over the edge of the shelf. “That’s not your book, moron! That’s a package of cookies.” She rolled her eyes. “Your book is over there!” She pointed in the direction of his book.

“I knew that,” Elvis said. “I was just testing you to see if you were paying attention.”

“Uh huh.” Frankie replied.

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Elvis grunted and groaned as he fought with the cover of his book. “What the heck is going on?” He asked. “I can’t get my book to open either.”

“Frankie,” Dionne began, “what are we going to do if we can’t get back into our stories?”

To Be Continued….

Chapter 13: Infected

(Betty Lou)

The rules were simple: Don’t use company cell phones or computers to check personal email accounts or social media sites. And within those rules it was assumed employees of The Clinic also knew not to open any attachments using the above-mentioned devices either. Still, those rules didn’t inspire obedience from people like Betty Lou – a bored secretary who – when she wasn’t answering mundane phone calls – dreamed of opening her own restaurant.

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  A restaurant that would sell meals appropriate for The Clinic and its members.

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When her supervisor wasn’t around, Betty Lou spent her downtime researching recipes for  light lasagnas, low- calorie pastries, and other delicate delights. Getting caught downloading recipes never worried her. There were too many employees to monitor.  Today was just like any other day – except for one thing. Her cousin, Mae, sent her an email for a new recipe to try. Betty Lou hadn’t heard from Mae in four years. Betty Lou’s ambitions weren’t a secret. She posted recipes to her Facebook and Instagram accounts on a frequent basis. While she was surprised by her cousin’s email with an attachment for a spinach crust recipe, it wasn’t entirely out-of-the-ordinary. Betty Lou clicked the link and downloaded the file to her work computer.

***

(Lizzie)

“Ouch!” Tears and beads of sweat trickled down my face. The pain was almost unbearable. One minute I was trying to convince them that I had no knowledge of Casey’s whereabouts and the next minute, everything went black. I woke up tied to one of my kitchen chairs. That’s when the interrogation began. And, for every answer they didn’t like, I received an electrical shock courtesy of my Right Byte.

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Lucille and Lori stood across from me, snickering.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Lucille said, sneering. “If you’d just cooperate we could move on with our scheduled day.”

“I already told you,” I said, out of breath. “Casey was killed. In a car bomb.”

“But that doesn’t explain how you know Robert or why you’re receiving text messages from him.”

“He’s my vet.”

Lucille tapped something on her tablet, sending a jolt straight into my arm.

I cried out, biting down on my bleeding lip.

Lori walked over to me and bent down. “Robert isn’t a vet. He works for Cyber Tech. We know she went there for help and we also know she hasn’t left. Cooperate, Lizzie. Or the next volt Lucille sends will be fatal.”

***

(Casey)

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The computer monitor cast a blue glow on Robert’s face. “And…it’s done!” He sighed, leaning back in his chair. 

“Then what?” I spent the last few minutes pacing the room. Something was wrong. Lizzie didn’t respond to Robert’s last text message. She always responded. Something was wrong. 

“First the virus will copy files off the network and feed them back to this computer,” Robert said. “Once that’s done, it will disable the entire network. When that happens, nothing will work. Their computers, cell phones, tablets, Right Byte bands – all of it will be disabled. And then, we’ll call in the cavalry.

 

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 To be continued

Chapter 11: White Hats and Worms

(Lizzie)

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“We just learned the name of the victim from the car explosion three nights ago, outside of Cyber Tech. The victim has been identified as 35-year-old Casey Moore – a part-time college student attending Tri-C Community College. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the explosion……”

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Feigning tears is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I couldn’t risk Lucille finding out that Casey was actually still alive.

“You poor, poor thing,” Lucille said, rubbing my shoulders. “This must be so hard for you. I know you two were close and I can’t even imagine your pain. But always remember, I’m here for you and I won’t leave your side while you’re grieving.”

“That’s….that’s so great…of you,” I said, sniffing.

“That’s what buddies are for.” She stood up and started walking toward the kitchen. “You just stay where you are. I’ll get some yummy chicken broth for you. And after you finish that, you can have a small square of 100% dark chocolate for dessert.”

“You’re too kind, Lucille.” If I have to eat any more of this crap I’m going to be sick, I thought.

I checked my cell phone, looking for another message from Robert. Our escape plan was in the works. Robert had friends he knew – people who weren’t entirely legit – working on this around the clock. 

In the mean time, Casey – who was actually alive and well – took up residence at Cyber Tech. Everyone felt it was for the best that she stay there. Removing her from the facility would be way too risky. They couldn’t chance someone from The Clinic would see her.

***

(Casey)

Robert looked exhausted. He’d been on the phone, nonstop, with friends – the White Hatters – a group of people who contracted themselves out to test computer networks and make sure they’re secure. I’d been watching him work for three days straight on this plan, trying to help me and Lizzie. All the while he and his team worked, I felt helpless. This was way out of my area of expertise.

“Great! Thanks, man,” Robert said. “I owe you.” Robert hung up the phone and swung around in his chair.

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“We found an entry point,” Robert said. “The Clinic has fallen a tad behind times with their network security.”

“Well, yeah,” I began, “They’ve been a little busy with killing people.”

Robert chuckled. “A few of their employees enjoy checking their personal email while at work and The Clinic’s operating system hasn’t been updated in months.”

“Sorry?” I gave up pretending I understood anything he was saying hours ago.

“It means we can install a virus into their Intranet and take their whole network down.”

“A computer virus? How will you install it?” I asked. My head felt like it was spinning. I was barely a cell phone person. This whole computer thing was way over my head. “Are you going to use one of those jump drive thingies?”

“Wow.” Robert shook his head. “You are behind the times.” He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. “My friends have been profiling some of the emails that a few of The Clinic’s employees have received.”

“Really? How?”

“Don’t ask,” Robert said. “A few of the employees often download attachments to their work computers. Nothing serious. Usually just photos of their kids and pets. We found those same employees social media accounts and copied some of their images off of it. The next step is to clone a few email accounts from people they receive emails from on a regular basis and send those photos as attachments. The worm will be embedded within the attachment.”

“The worm?” We went from computer viruses to slimy bugs. How did that happen?

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“Worm is the type of virus we’re going to install. Once installed, it replicates very quickly. This worm will be encoded to disable The Clinic’s entire network and everything connected to the network – such as that tracker you’re wearing on your wrist. We’ll be able to disable it and take it off.”

“Awesome! How soon?”

To be continued

Chapter 9: Casey’s story (continued)

It turned out that my friend, Robert, worked for a company called Cyber Tech. After hearing a brief synopsis of everything Lizzie and I had been through in the last couple of weeks, he agreed to meet with me at his company.

And here I sat with Robert holding my wrist underneath a high-powered magnifying glass. He spent the last hour having me turn my wrist this way and that, examining as much of it as he could. 

“See that?” He asked, pointing to something on the Right Byte wrist band with a tiny screw driver.”

“No,” I said.

Robert tried to turn my wrist under the light so I could see, but it was useless. I had no idea what he was point at.

“That,” he said, “is a tracking device.”

“A tracking device?” I asked. “As in they’re tracking me?”

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“Yup,” Robert said. “But that’s not all they’re doing.”

“Enlighten me?” 

“This watch is fully loaded. Not only is there a GPS system, but there are also monitors tracking your blood pressure and heart rate. And, there’s also a listening device.”

“A listening device? So, can they hear us?” This cult morphed from creepy to cyber creepy.

Robert released my wrist. “Not in here,” he said, turning toward his computer. “Because of the sensitive nature of my work, I’ve taken precautions to make sure any listening devices are obstructed by using high frequency electromagnetic transmitters.”

“I have no idea what you just said,” I replied, smiling. 

“It means,” Robert continued, “no one can hear what we’re talking about.”

I rubbed my wrist, anxious to get this thing removed. “So can you take it off?” I was ready to be free of this stupid watch and couldn’t wait to tell Lizzy the good news.

“Well.” Robert sighed, scratching his head. “That’s the bad news. There’s a trip wire built within the watch. It has to be deactivated with a specific key before the watch can be removed. If I try to bypass it, the watch could deliver a dangerous dose of electricity to your hand and arm.”

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“So what do I do?” The thought of being stuck with this torture device made me feel nauseated.

“Don’t lose hope. I know some guys at the NSA who might be able to help. I guarantee you there’s a patent with specs on this device somewhere. When we have that information, we can make our own key and get you and your friend out of this mess.”

Robert put his arm around me and walked me out of his office. A cool breeze greeted us as we stepped outside. The air carried the scent of barbecue cooking off in the distance, causing my stomach to rumble.

I turned to Robert and held his hand. “Thank you. It’s been great seeing you again.”

“Don’t be a stranger,” Robert said, smiling. “Anytime you need help with Calculus, give me a call.”

I chuckled. Calculus was the code word Robert and I came up with so that my buddy wouldn’t know what we were actually talking about. The beautiful part about this code word was that I was actually taking a Calculus class.

“Where did you park?” Robert asked.

I turned to the row of cars in front of us. In the evening light, they all looked the same. “I can’t remember,” I mumbled, pulling out my key fob. “Here. Let’s see which car’s lights flash when I unlock it.” I pressed the unlock button on the fob.

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Three rows over, a car blew up, knocking Robert and I to the ground. A second explosion sent debris flying. Robert threw his arm over my head, trying to protect me. Some of the debris came close but fortunately, none of it hit us. After the flying parts settled down, Robert and I stood up and stared at the remaining fire.

“Holy crap!” I said. “That did not just happen.”

To be continued

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