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 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

Chapter 7: Phase 3

Linda stood at the front of the room. “Ladies!” She called out to the room, clapping her hands to get everyone’s attention.

The room was full of Clinic employees, each chattering away.

“Ladies! Please!” She clapped again. Everyone grabbed a seat and soon the only sounds were muffled coughs and chairs creaking as people sat down. “Thank you for your attention,” she began. “I know we all have lives and buddies we need to get back to, so I’ll try to make this brief. First, our initial numbers show that in the last two weeks we’ve seen an estimated 150 pound weight loss among our buddies.”

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The audience applauded. Linda raised her hand, quickly silencing them.

“Second, as some of you are aware, we have seen some resistance to the Right Byte fitness band and the electrical shocks that are generated when our buddies do not stay on plan. We knew this would happen and rest assured, the corporate office has sent us some materials to help each of you out with this predicament. Lydia, if you please.”

Lydia walked around the room passing around blue, three-ring binders.

“You’ll see, when you open the binder, that there are four phases the corporate office has mapped out for us.

Phase 1: Motivate. We must all motivate our buddies. Give them all the positive reinforcement and encouragement you can. Make them feel good about their successes – no matter how small they might be at first.

Phase 2: Discipline. Your buddies must understand that cheating or going off plan for any reason is not acceptable and that there will be consequences. Receiving the electrical shocks will be the most common form of discipline. Physical labor – such as yard work, is another form you can utilize. 

Phase 3: Dependency. Should your buddies show continued defiance, remind them of just how dependent they are on you. Take away their support system one beam at a time and they will fall in line. But, if that doesn’t work, then the only thing left to do is phase four.

Phase 4: Termination. You must – without hesitation – terminate your buddies from the program. And, I think you all know what that means. Does anyone have any questions?”

Hands popped up all over the audience, each waving at Linda.

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“Yes?” Linda said, pointing to Lucille.

Lucille rose from her seat, tugging at her blouse to straighten it. “What is the appropriate form of discipline when our buddies tamper with their Right Byte wrist band? My buddy has tried everything from shoving rubber gloves underneath her wrist band to placing clay around it.”

“Excellent question, Lucille. It sounds to me like you’re ready to move onto phase three.

“Dependency?” Lucille asked.

“Yes,” Linda replied. “It’s time to take away one of her support beams. But when that happens, you must be ready to step in and become her replacement beam.”

To be continued

Chapter 5: The Fine Print

“What do you mean we can’t quit?” Casey’s nostrils were flaring like a dragon getting ready to unleash a fiery wrath. “This is America. You break the contract, pay a fee and move on with your life.”

“I’m sorry.” The lady behind the desk – Lydia – wore a stone-cold face. “But the terms of your contract are very clear.”

She pulled out a piece of paper, placing it on the desk in front of us. “It says right here,” she said, pointing at a line in the middle of the page. “The signing parties must fulfill the one-year agreement. No cancellations. No exceptions.”

Casey shoved her arm in the woman’s face. “Take this off. Right now!”

“No.” Lydia was unphased by Casey’s anger. She pushed Casey’s wrist away. “Rules are rules. Follow the program. Experience the benefits. Change your life.”

Casey and I exchanged dumbfounded looks. In what world can someone not break a contract? It was like we were being held hostage by the Weight Loss Clinic.

“Oh and ladies,” Lydia said, pointing toward the door. “Have a nice day!” Her smile made all of the hair on my arms stand straight up.

Back at my apartment, Casey and I took turns pacing back and forth across my living room. The only perk to this was that our Right Byte bands gave us credits for exercising – which meant we weren’t receiving electrical shocks.

“I’m calling the police!” Casey pulled her phone out of her pocket.

“And you’re going to tell them what? That a weight loss program has taken us hostage?” I asked. “They won’t believe us.”

“They don’t have to believe us.” Casey dialed 9-1-1 and pressed Send. “They just have to get this stupid watch off our wrists.”

She had a point but still, something felt very creepy about all of this. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were trapped. On my next lap back into the living room, I grabbed the remote and without stopping turned on the television. 

“911. What’s your emergency?” I heard a dispatcher’s voice on the other end.

“Yes,” Casey began. “My friend and I have an interesting situation we need some help with.”

A breaking news report caught my attention.

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I sat down on the couch to watch.

“My friend and I have this gadget that we can’t get off of our wrists,” Casey continued. “No. It’s not handcuffs,” she said, sighing. 

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I concentrated on the television. There was a report about a homicide – nothing unusual for the news. Every time I turned the news on someone was killed.

I turned the volume up so I could hear the report.

“….The victim, a white female believed to be in her 30s or 40s was found in an alley three miles from her apartment. While police are keeping the details of the crime quiet, we have learned from an unnamed source that the victim’s left hand was cut off at the wrist….”

“I’m sorry,” Casey said, sitting down next to me. “Could you please repeat that?” She turned on the speaker phone.

“I said,” the dispatcher began, “the police can’t help you. No one can.”

My heart raced as I heard these words. Casey’s hands were trembling so hard, her cell phone looked like a blurry blob.

“Lizzy? Casey? Are you there?” The dispatcher asked.

“How does she know our names?” I thought.

“Yes,” Casey replied.

“It’s a beautiful day outside. Grab a rice cake and go for a walk.”

Fear filled both of our eyes.

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“Oh, and ladies,” the dispatcher continued. “A nondisclosure agreement was part of the contract you signed. Don’t call for help again. We’d hate to see either of you turn into a tragic story on the news.”

The call disconnected.

“I told you this was a cult!” Casey yelled.

To be continued

 

 

Chapter 3: Lucille

I was sound asleep, dreaming about Jim Carey – my secret crush. I’m not sure why I keep my attraction to Jim Carey a secret. Maybe it’s because of all of the goofy movies he’s been in.

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Nonetheless, Jim was feeding me spoonfuls of cheesecake drizzled in a chocolate sauce and I was enjoying every minute of it -until someone knocked at the door. Jim turned toward the knocking, pulling the spoon away from me. I rooted for it like a newborn, reaching for it with my lips. I pulled so far forward, I fell out of my chair, landing on the wood floor beneath me.

“Ouch!” I rubbed my knees as I looked around. Jim was gone. The cheesecake was gone.  My bedroom was in its usual state of disarray with clothes scattered all over the floor and empty cartons of ice cream piled up inside of a small trash can in the corner next to my bed.

The knocking was real. I looked at my alarm clock, barely able to see past the cheeseburger wrapper that was bunched up in front of it. It was 7:30 a.m.

“Who in the Hell is at my door?” I pulled myself off the floor, hunched over like a 90 year old. With one hand planted on my back, I ambled out of my bedroom to answer the door.

I opened the door, and peeked through the crack. A short woman stood outside, smiling at me.

“Hi there! My name’s Lucille.”

Good for her,” I thought.

Lucille looked like she jumped right out of a 1960s home and garden magazine. She wore her hair in a beehive and was dressed in a white blouse and dark blue Capri pants.

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“I’m your buddy!”

“Excuse me?” I asked. 

“Your buddy,” she repeated. “From the program.”

“The program?” I thought. My eyes fell to the floor as I struggled to remember what she was talking about. Memories of the day before and this strange watch-thingy on my wrist came back full force.


“Oh! The program.” I blurted out. “Right. Yes. Of course.” I opened the door all the way and let Lucille inside.

She looked around at my apartment – an environment not suitable for rodents let alone humans. Every surface of my couch was torn up from an ex-boyfriend’s crazed cat.

There were stains all over the carpeting in the living room and from the stench that filled the air, I was certain something died in my kitchen last night but I was too afraid to go in there to check it out.

“Well,” Lucille began. “This is charming.” She turned and faced me, looking me up and down. “Turn around.” She spoke with a soft, almost inaudible tone.

“Pardon?” I asked.

“Turn around,” she said, this time with a more forceful tone.

I did as I was told.

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“My, my, my,” Lucille said. “Clearly we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

I finished my slow, clumsy spin and faced her.

“You’re a mess,” she said with a cheerful tone. “But that’s okay.”

I folded my arms across my chest and looked down at the floor in shame.

“Hold out your wrist, please.”

“Why?” I asked.

Lucille pulled a tiny, copper hook out of her pocket, stuck it into a hole inside of my Right Byte wristband and twisted it until it made a soft clicking sound. 

“It’s time to get this party started!” she sang, clapping her hands. “Now, anytime you cheat, I’ll know.”

“How?” 

“This wristband has been tracking your eating patterns for the last 24 hours. You see,” she continued, “when you eat something you enjoy, you have a happy blood pressure. When you eat something you don’t enjoy, you have a Ho-Hum blood pressure. And now that it has been tracking your eating habits for a full day, I’ve activated it. Whenever you cheat, it’ll shock you and send me a notification. Every time you cheat, the shock will grow a little stronger.”

She held up her wrist, revealing a similar device.

“I’m sorry,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Did you just say shock? As in electrical?”

“Uh huh,” she said, nodding her head enthusiastically.

“I don’t think so.”

To be continued…

Chapter 1: Let’s Get Physical!

Submissions for the January 2018 issue are now open! The theme for this issue is “Let’s Get Physical.” In honor of this theme we’re kicking off another round robin writing event. Today’s blog is just the beginning!

Chapter 1: Resolutions

New Year’s Day – 2018

Resolution #1 – Lose 40 pounds overnight!

Resolution #2 – Get my head examined by someone other than Dr. Internet!

Resolution #3 – Stop making unrealistic resolutions like I do every year!

Resolution #4 – Stop making resolutions! Period!

Resolution #5 – Stop abusing the exclamation point because every time you abuse a punctuation mark, it kills a high school English teacher!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Miss! You’re next.”

Startled, I dropped my phone. I was so lost in my own thoughts, I didn’t realize the desk attendant was trying to get my attention. I picked up my phone and scrambled forward.

The woman behind the desk had dark circles under her eyes. She smiled at me, revealing red lipstick on her upper tooth. I handed her all of the paperwork and my credit card. She processed my payment.

“Whenever you’re ready, you can step onto the scale.”

I nodded. This wasn’t the first time I signed up for this weight loss program. I was a repeat offender. I’d lose twenty pounds. Gain back 30 pounds. Decide that the program didn’t work and quit. But this year was going to be different. This year I was going to change my life, starting with the excess weight wrapped around my body.

First, I removed my shoes. Then my watch, earrings, and ring. The line grew behind me and I heard impatient coughs and grumbles. But that didn’t deter me. I was on a mission to weigh as little as possible when I stepped on this scale. I emptied my pockets, taking out my wallet, cell phone, grocery list and two candy bars I probably shouldn’t have brought with me to the Weight Clinic. What can I say? I’m a work in progress.

I stepped on the scale and waited.

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The woman at the desk scribbled my weight down into the official Weight Clinic Tracker and slid it across the desk toward me. I took the book and collected my belongings, dropping a few things here and there as I made my way to a seat in the back of the room.

The room filled up quickly and I felt lucky to have grabbed my seat when I did. The people in attendance ranged in size from toothpicks to people like me – too short for our weight.

Our speaker’s name was Linda. Two large poster pictures of her stood at the front of the room. One was a “before,” picture and the other was “after.” I eyed the pictures with much skepticism, wondering if the women in the photos were actually the same person.

“Excuse me. Sorry. Excuse me.”

I looked up and saw my friend Casey, stumbling over feet and rogue handbags, trying to get to me. As she approached me, I picked my purse up off the seat next to me.

Apparently Casey had an exciting New Year’s Eve. Her hair was a mess, her eye makeup was smudged and her breath stunk like stale cigarettes.

“Rough night, dear?” I smirked.

“Don’t start with me, Lizzy,” she said, setting her bag down on the floor. “I’m only here because you begged me to come.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

Casey is somewhere between a toothpick and cover girl. She doesn’t need to lose any weight. But her eating habits are atrocious and these meetings are pretty good at teaching people how to read labels.

Linda walked into the room, standing in the center of the front row. All the voices quickly silenced.

With all eyes on her, Linda began.

“Good morning, everyone,” she said. “For those of you who have been here before, welcome back. To everyone new, welcome! In honor of the new year, we’re starting a whole new plan and this is really gonna knock your socks off. So get ready. The next thirty minutes are going to rock your world!”

“What the hell does that mean?” Casey asked, leaning into me.

“I don’t know.”

To be continued

 

Chapter 13: The Surprise Guest

“Have you all lost your minds?” This was not happening. I was not standing my grandmother’s living room watching a purple fire burning.

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“There’s no time to explain,” Grandma said. “Just take a spot around the pentagram. We have to work quickly before the other freaks and geeks your aunts have been associating with show up.”

“How do you know about Decabra?” Mart and Myrt asked in unison.

“Because I’m your mother!” Grandma released a disgusted gasp. “How many times in your life will I have to tell you there isn’t a gosh-darned thing you two can do in this house without me finding out?” Grandma walked over to Mart and extended out her hand, waiting for Mart to place something in it.

Mart stared at Grandma’s hand with a bewildered look on her face.

“Ahem,” Grandma said, snapping her fingers.

‘What?” Mart asked.

“Don’t what me!” Grandma said. “Hand it over!”

Mart reached into her pocket, removing the box.

Grandma yanked the box out of her hand and took a spot by the pentagram.

“Mom,” Myrt began, “This isn’t going to work. There are only four of us. We need five for Decabra.”

The screeching sound of a car in the driveway redirected our attention to the front of the house. A car door slammed shut and footsteps pounded up to the door. The door bell rang.

“It’s them!” Mart screamed. “Louisa! I beg you! Run!”

“Knock it off, Martha.” Grandma walked toward the door. “You’re going to give the poor girl a heart attack. It’s just Stuart.”

“Stuart?” I asked.  Oh God, I thought. Please don’t tell me Grandma called that Stuart.

I peered around the corner and watched in sheer horror as Stuart walked into the entryway. 

“Thanks so much for calling me,” he said to Grandma. “It’s not often I get invited for breakfast.”

Grandma took his coat from him and hung it up on the antique coat rack. “It was my pleasure. And my Louisa just goes on and on about you. I couldn’t wait to meet you.”

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 She didn’t, I thought. I gasped for air, horrified at this exchange of pleasantries. On what planet have I been talking about Stuart? Aside from one uncomfortable conversation with the aunts, his name has never come up. Stuart was a nice man, but I didn’t want to date him.

Stuart saw me standing down the hall. “Morning, Louisa.” He smiled.

“Morning, Stuart,” I said. Please don’t let this poor guy get his hopes up, I prayed.

Mart and Myrt beamed when they saw him walk into the room.

“Who is this tall drink of water?” Mart asked.

“Stuart, these are my aunts, Martha and Myrtle,” I pointed toward the aunts. “This is Stuart. He works for one of the local funeral homes.”

Mart and Myrt both shook his hands.

“What funeral home do you work for?” Mart asked.

“Langston’s,” he replied.

“Langston’s?” Mart turned toward Myrt. “Weren’t we just there last month?”

“Yes.” Myrt nodded. “They handled Gerry Simon’s funeral.”

“You all did such a beautiful job,” Mart said. “Especially with his makeup. Gerry never looked better a day in his life.”

The bonfire cracked, pulling Stuart’s attention from the aunts. His happy, eager face morphed into total confusion.

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“What’s going on here?” he asked.

“Are you familiar with Wicca?” Mart asked.

“Yes.”

“That’s not what this is,” Myrt said.

“Ladies, please.” Grandma clapped her hands. “We have a lot to get done and the window of opportunity is closing,” Grandma said, hinting at the impending arrival of unwanted guests. She handed the box to Myrt.

I pulled Grandma aside. “Are you friends with him? How did you get his number?”

“From your cell phone,” Grandma said. “He calls and texts you so much I assumed he was a secret lover.”

My mouth dropped open.

“Louisa, please,” Grandma began. “We really don’t have time for this.” She pushed me into the living room.

With five people now in attendance, Grandma had us each stand at a point on the pentagram. She took Stuart’s arm, leading him to his point. “I know this has to be a bit odd,” Grandma said. “But we need a little help casting out some rodents and when we’re done, I’ll fix biscuits and gravy. You like biscuits and gravy, don’t you, Stuart?”

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“Sure.” Stuart looked uneasy as he continue to stare at the purple bonfire. “You guys aren’t going to sacrifice me or turn me into a toad or something, are you?”

“Don’t be silly.” Grandma chuckled. “We’d never do something like that before breakfast.”

Stuart look panicked.

“I’m just kidding,” Grandma said, trying to reassure him. “It’s like the girls told you, we’re not witches and nothing bad is going to happen to anyone. All you have to do is stand right here, hold our hands and say what we say.”

I reached for Stuart’s hand, and then clasped hands with Myrt. Once everyone was holding hands around the bonfire, Myrt began chanting. Whatever she was saying wasn’t in any language I understood, but with as much insight as Stuart, I repeated her words, nodding toward Stuart so he would know to follow along.

Nothing happened at first, but then the flames in the fire grew, reaching the ceiling. A roaring sound filled the room and I felt my entire body freeze in place. A gust of wind shot out from the fire, blowing my hair straight back.

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 Everyone raised their voices. 

I glanced over at the aunts. Myrt and Mart were looking at each other. Myrt nodded toward Mart. I looked down. Myrt and Mart had their hands clasped around the box. Myrt nodded toward Mart and then cast the box into the fire.

There was a blast.

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A shockwave sent us all flying. 

Everything went black.

To be continued….

 

Chapter 11: The Ritual of Decabra (Flashback)

“Howie.”

Howard was sitting at his desk, immersed in one of his books. The Occult. Metaphysical research. Teleportation.

All of these subjects fascinated him and these books cluttered his desk. Myrtle brought her book over and sat down on his lap, breaking his concentration.

“It says here,” she continued.

Howard wrapped his arms around her waist.

“That the connection can be broken.”

“Oh.” Howard took his glasses off and pinched his nose. “How’s that.”

“By destroying the box.”

“That’s it?” Howard asked. “It’s kind of scary that something so simple could destroy the connection.”

“Not exactly.” Myrtle shook her head. She brought the book up closer to read the text. “It says here that Jānna’s connection can be broken and forever destroyed within the Faction by destruction of the box during a specific ritual.”

“What’s the ritual?”

“It’s called the Ritual of Decabra. No less than five people must be in attendance.” Myrtle squinted as she tried to read the text which was written in Latin. Translating Latin wasn’t one of her strengths but most of the time she managed. Tonight, however, was the end of a very long day and her brain wasn’t cooperating. “There’s something about forming a pentagram and a…”

Her voice trailed off as she struggled to translate. “Something about a purple fire.”

“A purple fire?” Howard asked. “How in the hell does someone make a purple fire?”

“It doesn’t say.” Myrtle sighed. “But according to this once the fire is lit, there’s a prayer of some kind that all five people have to chant. Once the prayer has been said, the box is cast into the fire.”

“And then?”

“And then,” Myrtle began, setting the book down. She wrapped her arms around Howard’s neck and took a deep breath. “The Faction’s connection is broken.”

“So what happens then?”

“I’m not sure.” Myrtle sighed. “There was something about all members suffering from a temporary fatigue and possible memory loss. But that depended on how often Jānna was used. The more often it was used, the more likely memory loss would be a result.”

“Why would anyone want to break the Faction’s connection?”

“Abuse of power, maybe.” Myrtle shrugged.

To be continued…

Chapter 9: The Aunts (Flashback)

Howard’s death wasn’t exactly a shock. For the the last two weeks of his life, the entire faction felt his energy rapidly decline. No one in the faction felt his impending demise more than Myrtle. Even though their relationship ended over a decade earlier, their official status was always best described as “It’s Complicated.”

Howard & Myrtle

It was just after 3:00 a.m. when Myrtle startled awake, believing she heard Howard whisper, “Goodbye, my darling Myrt.”

Myrtle grabbed her chest, pulling at her nightgown, trying to give herself more air.

Martha burst into the room, flipping the light switch on. “Myrt! What is it? What’s happened?” She knelt down beside her sister’s bed.

The Beach

“Howard,” Myrtle croaked. A single tear drop clung to her eyelash. “He’s gone. It was all for nothing,” she cried. “The kernels. Janna. The faction. It was all for nothing.”

Martha sat down on the bed next to her sister, holding her in her arms. “Don’t say that,” she pleaded with her twin. “It wasn’t for nothing. Look what we’ve done. Look at all the lives we’ve saved.”

Myrtle knew her sister was right but the grief she felt was too much. She was angry at Howard for dying. She was angry at the faction for not being able to save him.

Lost to her pain, Myrtle didn’t notice the change in the air at first. It was always the same right before someone from the Faction ingested a kernel. The air became stale and bitter and the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.

Martha took Myrtle’s hands into hers.  “Myrt, do you feel it? Someone’s trying call us.”

“Tell ’em they have the wrong number.” Myrtle groaned, knowing this was the kind of phone call you could not ignore. She relented, pressing her palms into her sister’s.

They closed their eyes and chanted in unison. “Namaskar, maro sathi. Namaskar, maro sathi.”

With Jānna, the voices weren’t heard so much as they were felt.

“It’s Joanie.” Myrtle’s lips trembled as she said the name of Howard’s girlfriend out loud. “Louisa’s been there. She took the baksa.”

“Oh crap,” Martha said. “That’s all we need is that little busybody interfering with this.”

The air in the room returned to normal and the temperature rose, leaving condensation on the furniture as evidence of its change.

“Where’s our baksa?” Martha asked.

“In the attic.”

While it was still dark, the sisters ascended into the attic. The room was dark but the moonlight entering in through the window in the far back provided just enough light for their safe travel through the labyrinth of their mother’s junk.

Myrtle picked up the box and held it close to her chest. It held something very different than the kernels that were once inside. Something precious to Myrtle.

“I still remember the first time Howard and I discovered Janna and all of its glory.” She lowered her head, fighting back the tears. Wiping her eyes, she looked up at her sister. “What should we do with this?”

Martha shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. But we can’t leave it here. And Louisa cannot know any of this. It wouldn’t be safe for her if the others found out she knew.”

To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

How to Turn Off Auto Image-Cropping on Your WordPress Website

Picking the right WordPress theme/template for your website can be overwhelming. In order to command any kind of following, the website has to accommodate your business needs as well as be user friendly and visually appealing. 

Lately, I’ve been using a lot of memes for my featured images on my personal website. The problem was that the WordPress theme was auto-cropping my featured images so that when you saw their thumbnails on my landing page, the captions were cut off.

If you look at the example above you’ll see that the text on all three images is cut off.  This does not look pretty or professional and quite frankly, it was driving me nuts.

After much Internet searching, I figured out how to go into the theme and stop it from cropping the featured image. Fair warning! This will only work for self-hosted WordPress websites. It will NOT work for the free version of WordPress.

Here is what you do:

From your WordPress dashboard, select “Appearance.”

Then select “Editor.”

Once inside of the Editor, look for Theme functions (functions.php) on the right side of the screen and select it.

Once you’re in the next screen you’re going to scroll through and look for a line that reads just like the highlighted one below.

When you find it, delete “true” and replace it with “false,” just like the example below.

Then click “Update File,” located at the bottom of the screen.  After completing these steps the thumbnail featured images that were once cut off will now look like this:

If you have any questions about this, please let me know in the comments.  Join us on Friday as we begin Chapter 9 of our fiction event. So far in our story we have a death investigator, two meddling aunts, the dark web, and something known as Jānna.

Pilcrow & Dagger is now accepting submissions for its Nov/Dec issue. The theme for this issue is “The Box.” What’s in your box? Secret love letters? Dirty pictures? A severed head? Get your short stories, essays, poems, and recipes in by October 15, 2017. 

 

Chapter 7: Hushed Voices

Was it really the same box or was my sleep-deprived mind playing tricks on me? And if it was the same box, how could my grandmother be connected to all of this dark web stuff? These thoughts plagued me the rest of my shift and while I was driving home.

It was just after 6 a.m. when I entered Grandma’s house through the mudroom door, escaping the bitter morning air. Sleep beckoned me, but I fought off the urge to crawl into bed. I had to find that box. I had to know for sure it was the same one.  The question remained: What would I do if it was the same box?

I took my boots off and crept through the house, careful not to make any noise. The last thing I wanted was to alert the aunts I was home. If they heard me, I’d be subjected to another inquisition.

“Any celebrities die on your shift, Louisa?”

“Why do toxicology results take so long, Louisa? On television they only take ten minutes.”

“Are you married yet, Louisa?”

I made my way inside the attic, shutting the door behind me. The maze of boxes that sat in front of me was overwhelming.

“Where was it?” I sighed, trying to remember which column of boxes was hiding the small, antique table that held Grandma’s mysterious telephone-shaped pill box.

A soft glow in the back of the attic was all it took for me to remember. The table was in the back of the attic, near a small window. I wove in and out through all the stacks of boxes until I reached the back of the attic. One small step lead up to a raised platform.

 

Vintage clothes hung across the platform on an old clothes line. A plastic tree sat underneath the line and next to it was the small, antique table I was looking for. Even from a distance, I knew something was wrong.

“What the?” When I reached the table, I saw a small, rectangular-shaped void in the middle of a thick layer of dust.

 

The box was gone. Somebody else, besides me, was in this attic in the last 24 hours. But who? Grandma’s back and knees weren’t in the best shape. I couldn’t imagine her climbing up the attic ladder.

I snuck out of the attic and back down the hall. As I passed Mart’s room, I heard hushed voices coming from inside. I stood outside the door, trying to hear what was being said.

“…..Louisa……more careful…….” Mart’s voice trailed off. I couldn’t make out the rest of what she said.

“….Mart…..” It was hard to tell but I was certain Myrt was the other voice. “….the box…..She doesn’t know anything…….Jānna….”

Jānna? Did she just say Jānna? I pressed my ear against the door with more determination than ever.

“It works better if you use a glass.”

I jumped away from the door. Grandma was standing right behind me with her arms folded across her chest.

 

(To Be Continued)

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