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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 6: Rubber Gloves

We paced for hours in my living room trying to come up with some ideas but each time we’d get a little shock – their letting us know they knew.

“Maybe we could cut the damn things off. Ouch!”

“Maybe we can break them with a hammer. Ouch!”

It was no use. We were stuck and I hated to admit it to Casey but she was right – it was a cult.

“The worst part about this is the damn buddy thing,” Casey said. “I can’t deal with whats-her-name for a full day again. I have to work and if she thinks she’s going to shadow me at work I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

“God. Lucille.” I shook my head and covered my face with my hands. It was dark and comforting and I contemplated climbing under the covers for the next few days.

“Well,” Casey sighed, “I have to go home. I need some sleep.” She turned with her hand on the door knob, “Look, I don’t blame you for this Lizzy. I’ll try to do some investigating on what to do about our situation but it’s probably best if we don’t talk for a couple of days.”

When she left I rummaged through the kitchen finally realizing I’d have to leave my apartment to find something to eat. Donning my jacket, I took off. I headed in no particular direction at first but I found myself in the general vicinity of where the poor girl was found. I stared at the yellow crime scene tape which still cordoned off the area. Who would cut off her hand? Did she do it herself out of desperation? The dispatcher almost admitted to Casey that the clinic did it. But did they kill her too? And just who was this group? They weren’t the weight clinic of old if they have control of the police dispatch. I had a plan.

On the way home I picked up rubber gloves and a pizza. The trip home was shocking. My plan wasn’t high-tech but my plan just might work. I’ve always been stubborn and my plan was to out stubborn these people. first task was to stuff the rubber gloves under the Right Byte band to reduce the effects of the shocks. Then? Just get used to the shocks and frustrate them into releasing me. Believe me, I could keep this up for a long time. It was an infallible plan. AND I get pizza.

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 4: Shocking

Lucille and her beehive hair-do stayed with me all day. She made me exercise. She made me clean out my pantry and refrigerator. While I was in the shower she searched my secret stashes of snacks and disposed of them. All of them. Then it was time to exercise and shower again. The “meals” were tasteless and I complained.

“The idea is that food should be seen as unpleasant,” Lucille said with a smile.

“What? Why?”

“It’s Pavlovian. If every time you eat you enjoy it then you’ll want to eat a lot. If, on the other hand, you don’t like food, then you will eventually stop putting it your mouth.” Lucille smiled at me with an evil smirk.

“So, you want to starve us to death. Ouch! You shocked me! What the hell!”

“It’s part of the attitude adjustment,” she smiled. “You must stop thinking that not eating is equivalent to starving.”

At the end of the day, I was tired, sore, hungry, and really pissed off at getting shocked. It was 9 pm when Lucille and her smile left me. Except for the the next day’s breakfast there was nothing to eat in the house. I closed my eyes and imagined a juicy cheeseburger dripping with cheese and grease and ketchup. Just as I was beginning to feel relaxed a shock jolted me out of my revelry. “Bitch!”

The phone’s ringing only irritated me more. “What.”

“Cult.” It was Casey and she sounded as irritated as I was. “My ‘buddy’ is a real piece of work. She effin shocked me. All day. I didn’t exercise hard enough. I didn’t have the right food. I smoke.”

“I’m sorry, Casey. It wasn’t like this last year. I have no idea what happened. Let’s go to the place tomorrow and quit and get our money back.”

“And then we’ll go get an ice cream or something.”

“Ouch!” we cried in unison.

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 2: Buddies and Steps

Over the next 30 minutes Linda, who was thin and perky to the point of annoying, showed us The Plan. It was a three-legged plan to include diet, exercise, and a buddy system.

Linda paced the stage and made eye contact with each and every single one of us, nodding to her won words, and hypnotizing us with her energy and optimism. “Ladies let’s talk about diet. We aaalll know that food can be a comfort. Food can be a habit. Food can be healthy. And food can be unhealthy. But for most of us, food is a problem! No longer! We have designed a special meal program!” She smiled and nodded her head and we were compelled to applaud. “You will be given prepared meals. No more work! All you have to do is heat and eat!” More applause. “Each meal is 500 calories. You get three per day. No over-eating!” More applause.

Casey leaned toward me and talked out of the side of her mouth, “Is this a cult?”

“Shhhh!” I said.

“Now, we all know that if we eat, we have to exercise,” Linda nodded. “We have to use those calories to be active. Am I right?” She nodded and glided across the stage. She cupped her hand around her ear and said, “I can’t hear you!” And thundering applause and whoots arose from the crowd. “Our new exercise program is easy and quick. Only 20 minutes of exercise done in your own home. Three times a day! You will all be given our special exercise mat and easy travel stretchy bands.”

“How much does the food and exercise stuff cost?” Casey asked.

“Shhh!”

“The third part of our plan is a buddy system.” Linda placed her hands on her heart and lowered her volume. “We all need encouragement. We all need to be built up. We all need to be heard and valued.”

Casey and I looked at each other and smiled. We had our buddy. I could count on Casey and she could count on me. We’d seen each other through a lot in our years of friendship.

“You will all be paired up with a buddy from our very own professional team! Our Buddies are certified and available to you 24 hours a day. The best part is that you don’t have to call them. They will reach out to you every day.” Linda spoke with a quiver of sincerity in her voice. Out of her pocket she pulled out a watch-looking device and held it up and spoke with enthusiasm, “You will all be given this Right Byte wristband!” The nodding and enthusiasm returned. “Your buddy can track your progress and reach out to you to give you support! Isn’t that great?” Applause again.

“And what does that cost?” Casey asked pointing at Linda.

“Shhhhh,” I answered. The reality was that I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with The Plan. Something just didn’t feel right.

“Our meetings will be every week in order to provide you with the most support possible. We will weigh in every week. Your buddies will be here to help you account for your week. And we will work through our steps. Together!”

Casey looked at me with wide eyes, “Are you sure this isn’t a cult? Someone is going to ‘account for me’ and I have ‘steps’?”

“This is different from what I remember. But hey, what can it hurt? I need to lose weight and even though you’re thin, your diet and life-style is a disaster.” I tried to paint a chipper picture of what I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with.

“Let’s all stand and start our first of twelve steps,” Linda did the let’s rise move with her arms. The scraping of chairs and shuffling of feet settled and she began. “Repeat after me. We admit we are powerless over food – that our lives have become unmanageable.”

Casey rolled her eyes at me and mouthed, “AA.”

After a few more minutes we reached the front of the line heading out. There were several thin perky women signing us out and handing us a small box with three meal boxes inside.

“Where’s the rest of the food?” I asked.

“Your buddy will bring it to you tomorrow. Hold out your left arm please.” I did and Perky Girl placed my Right Byte on my wrist securing it with a rivet and a smile.

“How do I get this off?”

“You don’t. Next?”

Casey approached me outside holding out her left arm. “Cult,” she said.

 

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 14: The End?

I don’t think we were knocked out for very long and we all stirred around the same time. I took an inventory and determined that nothing was broken. Martha and Myrtle sat up and looked at each other as if looking in a mirror. Grandma was a little slower to sit up but she otherwise seemed okay.

“What the hell was that?!” Stuart said. His eyes were wide and he was looking around horrified.

“Oh my goodness!” said  Grandma, getting to her feet. “Whew, I haven’t been that knocked out since my last orgasm. Your father knew just what to do to…”

“Mom!” the twin aunties cried.

“Oh pish. Don’t act like prudes. I’m sure Louisa and Stuart aren’t embarrassed.”

“Ummm….”Stuart stammered.

“Grandma, are you okay?” I asked. I looked around at the blast zone that used to be Grandma’s living room. Everything was thrown back and over and covered in a fine purple dust. The ceiling had a scorch mark above the cauldron where only a small flame still flickered.

Grandma looked in the mirror. “Oh my. My hair’s a mess and I need to wash my face.” Turning toward the group of us she added, “And I promised to make biscuits and gravy for Stuart.” With that she bounced off, humming.

“Stuart, are you okay?”

“I think so. What the hell was that?”

Martha said, “That was a breaking of bonds. Thank you for your help. Myrtle, do you feel it? It’s gone.”

Myrtle’s silent tears cut lines through the purple dust on her face making her look rather macabre. “No, I don’t feel it,” she sobbed. “We’re so alone now. Empty.” She wiped her nose with the back of her hand leaving a lavender snot smear across her cheek. Martha helped her up and took her upstairs.

“Sorry about my weird family, Stuart. I didn’t want you to get dragged into this. My grandmother is a little….umm….er….aaa….she’s a little off I guess.”

“You’re purple.”

“Excuse me?”

“Purple. You know,” he indicated the dusty room.

“Oh crap. I probably look like shit. I haven’t even slept since I worked last night.”

“I think you’re beautiful.” Stuart’s cheeks turned pink under the purple dust making his face an odd magenta color.

The smell of breakfast wafted through the air masking the aroma of what smelled like burnt cloves. Stuart smiled and headed off toward the kitchen. The doorbell rang. Without thinking, I answered the door.

“Oh dear God! What happened? I thought I heard an explosion and I was right!” It was the next door neighbor. “Louisa! You’re purple! Everything is purple!” She stepped into the house and looked around in shock.

Grandma emerged from the kitchen. She was clean and coiffed and fresh as a daisy. “I thought I heard you Sheila. I was just making breakfast for the girls and Louisa’s boyfriend. Would you like to join us?”

Sheila stood dumbfounded. “Mavis, there was an explosion in your living room.”

“Nonsense dear. The girls were just unpacking Christmas decorations and it got a little out of hand.” Mart and Myrt came down the stairs bright and shiny and even Stuart had cleaned up. He wasn’t bad looking at that. “Louisa, go clean yourself up and let’s have breakfast.”

I headed up the stairs as the menagerie started for the kitchen. I heard Grandma say, “Stuart, let me tell you what Louisa’s grandfather used to do that made my eyes roll back….”

I think I’ll climb under the covers and stay there for the rest of my life. 

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 12: Christmas Decorations Just Got Weird

I was tired. What the aunts were saying was just too weird. It had to be a farce or I had fallen asleep somewhere and this was all a bizarre dream brought on by working nights, bad pizza, and the shame of having to move in with my grandmother.

“Louisa, seriously, you have to go. You’re not safe,” said Martha.

I rose and stretched my sore back. “I’m going. I’m going to bed. I’m not falling for it.”

“Falling for what?”

“For whatever this is. This is all a little tooo unrealistic to believe. And for whatever reason you two have been trying to get me out of the house since I got here. I’ll figure out why you don’t want me here after I’ve had some sleep.” I tried to escape the room but the aunts blocked my way.

“Louisa, you can’t run from this. You have to leave to be safe.”

“Safe from what? You two make this ‘connection’ thing sound like a world-wide orgy and how it’s a big kum-ba-yah. Now, all of a sudden, it’s ‘dangerous.’ While you get your stories straight, I need to sleep.” I pushed past them and out into the hallway. I hoped I could go the three steps across the hall to my room but I was wrong.

“Ah, there you are Louisa. I’m hoping you and the twins can come downstairs and help me put out the Christmas decorations,” Grandma said. She was standing in the middle of the hallway with her hands on her hips.

“Gah, Grandma. I just need a nap first.” I tried to move past her but she stepped into my path.

“Now Louisa. Go downstairs.” She nodded her head toward the stairs, then called passed me, “Martha, Myrtle! Downstairs! Now!”

I’d never seen Grandma so forceful and I was compelled to comply. The aunts came out of the guest room with their eyes wide. We all went down the stairs – me first, the aunts, and grandma bringing up the rear.

“What the hell?” I stopped short at the bottom of the stairs. There in the middle of the living room floor was a pentagram made from tinsel garland. In the middle of it was a small cauldron with a small fire burning in it. The fire was purple!

“What the hell?” the aunts cried out loud.

“Decabra,” grandma said. 

 

To be continued….

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