Dry Erase Board Notes

You come into work one morning and the dry erase board on your desk has a note on it that you didn’t write. You assume it’s a coworker friend so, just to amuse yourself, you respond to the note on the board with your own note. The next morning you come in and there’s another response, only this time, the response isn’t so friendly. What happens next?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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90 thoughts on “Dry Erase Board Notes

  1. Carabosse

    Am I too late for this?

    “Handsome!” it was there in curly blue letters on my dry-erase board that Tuesday morning when I got to my cubicle. I looked around the office. Only a few people were in at that hour. I pride myself on arriving early most days. Who could have written this – there was Mike over in accounts, slurping the first of many coffees. Jeanette the receptionist clacking away at her keyboard with those crazy nails of hers – were they orange this week? With silver starbursts? She’d need to sort out that if she wanted to move up in the business world, that’s for sure.
    Then there were Ron and Dave, the two sales guys. Both were hunched over Blackberries as though waiting for the world’s most important call, the faint tang of their expensive aftershave wafting through the quiet, air-conditioned office. Sales meeting with a new client. It had to be.
    I stared at my whiteboard for a while, then, in a moment of inspired lunacy, picked up the red pen and scribbled. “is as handsome does!”
    I didn’t think much about it, got pulled into many meetings that day. Poor old Jill really wasn’t coping with her workload. Then Mike needed all the month’s invoices. Honestly, don’t know what they’d do without me here.
    Next morning, I got in a little later. My mother had a doctor’s appointment so I’d had to drop her off and I got caught in traffic. This is the very reason I usually come in early. The traffic around here can really stress you out. I’m generally above that. Well, I’ve got a handle on it nowadays.
    “Cute!”
    Same blue swirly writing. I looked at the ledge below the dry-erase board with its selection of pens and snatched up the green this time.
    “as a button!” I scrawled. Was someone flirting with me?
    Then I got a sharp pain in my chest. Wow, maybe I needed to cut down on those extra buttery croissants as a morning snack? I rubbed at the sore spot. Damn! Croissant grease had left a translucent streak on my shirt. I got up, and the world swam a little in front of my eyes. Really must cut back on the booze as well – I polished off that whole six-pack of beers last night in an effort to knock myself out. Damn insomnia.
    I hurried to the bathroom, worrying whether I’d be able to remove the stain with paper towels and soap or it would just make it worse. Jeanette hailed me.
    “Kelvin?” Did you get my message?
    “What was that?”
    “About Handsome Health Snacks, yesterday – the order should have arrived midmorning? Today the management team will be eating lunch catered by That Cute Restaurant. So can you be sure and bring the food up from the loading bay as soon as it arrives?”
    “Right Jeanette. I’ll get straight on it once I’m back in the mailroom.”

  2. JRBWriting

    “Good Morning”
    I’ve been thinking all morning about those words, neatly written in cursive on my seldom used whiteboard that sits behind my desk. It’s not that it is unusual for someone to write on another’s whiteboard, but it is odd for someone to negotiate the maze of overfilled document boxes and broken medical equipment to write such a seemingly inconsequential message on mine. In fact, I can’t recall a single instance in the two years since I was hired at the EMS agency of anyone, including myself, using this whiteboard for anything other than crude drawings to earn a quick laugh. In the few instances that the whiteboard was used it was always in my presence, a few of us crammed into the small corner office telling jokes about how terrible our 48 hour shifts are going to be, or regaling each other with exaggerated tales of lives saved at the end of the shift.
    Two dull notes loudly play through the PA system, indicating an alarm and dispatch information will be soon to follow. After the screeching alarm ceases the dispatcher’s calm voice pipes through the speakers “72 year old diabetic female, found unresponsive by daughter, Cottonwood Assisted Living, Apartment five.”
    After a quick glance at the writing on the whiteboard I hastily erase it, and jog to the ambulance bay. My partner Paul is already in the driver’s seat and is reporting us “enroute” to dispatch as our rig pulls past the massive door.
    “Paul, have you been in my office this morning?”
    “What? No, why?” Paul asks.
    “Just curious of who left me a little message on my whiteboard”
    “What did it say?”
    “Good Morning” I answer, feeling a little embarrassed.
    “Good morning? You are all concerned about who wrote good morning on your whiteboard?” Paul sounds annoyed.
    “I didn’t say it was a big deal, just curious is all” Although I feel for some reason that it is indeed a big deal.
    “Wish I was making supervisor pay so that I had time to worry about little love notes.” Paul says with no real malice, just busting my balls as we are apt to do with each other. Still I can’t help but think “love note” is far from the intention of the author.
    ***
    The call was an easy one, some oral glucose on the gums and a peanut butter sandwich after she became more alert and grandma was back to her old self, and the daughter was singing our praises. Normally an easy call like this one would have me in a better mood, but all I can think of as I back the ambulance through the bay door is my whiteboard. Will there be more writing on that smudge stained board, or will there just be the streaks left over from my frantic erasure.
    The lights are off in my office, odd since I never turn them off when I am on my shift. The whiteboard comes into view as the fluorescent lights buzz to a dull yellow glow.
    “Goodbye”
    Is all that is written in that same cursive style. The hair is not even fully raised on the back of my neck when the plastic bag is slipped over my head. Every attempt at inhalation just tightens the plastic to my mouth and nose. A lazy darkness surrounds me.

  3. writer_sk

    “I’m back.”

    When Charmayne entered the narrow but organized office where her desk was a clean, spacious oasis next to the other paralegal’s desk which wore a mis-matched outfit of clashing post-it notes and a tall stack of unattended to business, she sensed it’s presence. Then, placing the hot coffee she held on the sill, she leaned forward just enough to read the board and shut the blinds. The cryptic message written in an unnatural scrawl and the dry-erase marker was left cap-less, a neon warning sign against the stark backdrop of the tidy desk and everything assaulted her senses.

    Knowing this would happen and forcing her body to catch up with her rapid-fire mind, she went into fight mode and discarded her business attire. Charmayne slammed opened the tiny closet beside the office door. Pulling on the jeans that were in the duffel she felt the gun’s barrel and left it in the bag. She took the larger rifle from the floorboard and put it on then zipped a large sweatshirt over that. She took out her passport and the small tubes from the side pocket.

    Charmayne yanked on the already-tied Nikes and bolted to her car. She grabbed the screwdriver from her glove box and pried off her license plates. She headed for the woods.

    At the clearing, the ship was inadequately covered by leaves and one large tree limb. She let it stay there while she waited. Evan took longer than she was comfortable with and she bit her nails.

    “On my way,” the text read.

    Char panicked. The alien could sense cell phone communication. Evan may not have known that. It was only a matter of time before it knew what they were planning.

    Evan arrived and Charmayne could see the short spiked hair approaching. Hailey was with him. They were both armed.

    “How could you bring her?” Charmayne asked.

    “It’s OK, Mom.” Hailey said, “I wanted to come, I’m not afraid.”

    Charmayne was gripped with a visceral memory of she and Hailey then, laughing uncontrollably on a roller coaster at the amusement park years ago, before parts of their planet, parts of their lives and parts of their personalities had been invaded by the alien beings.

    They were ready this time, though, and the aliens didn’t know that any of the humans knew their weakness.

    It had been late into the December evening and the fire in the fireplace had long since burnt out. Evan didn’t realize Char was still half awake when he covered her with the blanket and stepped onto the patio for some air. It had happened so fast. Their daughter had been abducted by the aliens, as had many others, weeks earlier, but upon her return, the alien had shown himself and openly turned on the garden hose to rinse something off.

    After a lot of calming down and months of professional help, Evan and Char determined, through questioning Hailey, it was tree sap that made the creature weak. Charmayne touched her bag and felt the comfort of over 50 samples of different kinds of sap indigenous to the area.

    The figure appeared. The family could see his sharp features, cold eyes and spindly legs. They knew he could move quickly and see people from far away. No sooner had he shown himself then he was right on top of Evan attacking him and sinking his teeth into his flesh. Char and Hailey popped the tops off all the test tubes and raced to dump the substance on the alien. It struggled then became weaker, the life slowly draining. It hissed at them, dragging its weak body to it’s craft.

    The wind in the forest picked up and Charmayne put her hood up. She felt Evan’s strong arms around herself and her daughter. The alien left, this time, with no intentions of returning. A cool rain hit their faces and they watched the ship retreat. Charmayne clutched a few stray full test tubes then and when her head hit the pillow that night she took comfort in the 300 more she had in her safe.

  4. MDB

    I put my backpack on my desk, pulled out my laptop, opened it up, and prepared for another day of building a web site for one of those TLA (“Three Letter Acronym”) Federal agencies. I looked up at my white board for some notes I had written the day before when I noticed something strange: neat handwriting. (My writing has ALWAYS been awful, even if I just print like a first grader.) It said, “CALL YOUR MOTHER.”
    I was puzzled. I didn’t think Mom had my work phone number. She’s got my cell number, and she wouldn’t even call that so early except for an emergency. But I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and clicked “Mom” under favorites.
    “Hello?”
    “Hi Mom.”
    “What’s wrong?” She always assumes if I call her outside of my normal Wednesday night call something must be wrong.
    “Nothing’s wrong. Did you call me?”
    “No, why?”
    “Just thought I heard the phone.” She doesn’t always “get” the idea that my phone shows everyone who called. “I’ve got work, I’ll talk to you soon. I love you, Mom.”
    “I love you too, son. Bye!
    “Bye!”
    So I started my day of work. But that message on my board, it irked me. If it was a practical joke, it was a really stupid one. We’re a bunch of wise-asses at work, but we like techie practical jokes, changing someone’s email alert to fart sounds or something. A weird message on someone’s white board… that’s not only stupid, it’s weird. I was starting to get a little pissed off. Maybe I should have talked to my management, maybe human resources, even security, but I decided to push back a little. On my way out for the day, I grabbed a bright red marker and wrote, in huge letters, “You sick vulture! My mother is DEAD!”
    I got to work the next morning and looked for a response.
    There was one.
    In small, neat letters, in black, “As you wish.”
    I didn’t even have time to get sinking feeling in my stomach before my cell phone rang. It was Dad. All he said was, “Son” before he started sobbing.

  5. Sona Lily

    Martha drew her eye’s to the clock. Her work in New York was long and not very interesting. Unless you do like packing paper’s all day. She decided to take it off early today. Any way it’s not like Hans or Becka needed help. But something caught her eye, her white board! “Ohhh so that’s where it went” she mumbled. She picked it up to find 5 words: YOU UST CM RGT W. Or maybe not words.. letters all jumbled up together.
    Except for the first one, but that didn’t bother Martha. In fact she was quite amused at the thought of Hans or Becka doing one of their little pranks again. So she wrote back: WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NOW?
    She slid through traffic, to arrive at the house she shared with Rudy, Lisa, Tyler, and Moth.
    All of them were college students, which means most of the time they were studying. Or at least they seemed like it.
    She opened the door to find Lisa in her room staring at her table. Martha didn’t want to interrupt her so she headed up to her room with Tyler for a well deserved rest.
    Tyler was still on his bed under a blanket with his head barely visible. He’s tired, Martha thought. Something did seem to throw her off though.. maybe it was the posture.
    She shrugged and stayed on her phone until 9:00 p.m. She then fell asleep.
    In the morning Tyler was gone, Martha frowned Tyler didn’t usually wake up this early..
    She called Moth for breakfast, no answer. “Lisa!” she called.
    Lisa came bounding down the stairs with a cheerful smile. Martha was startled Lisa usually would complain about waking up early.
    “Mornin'” Lisa said. Staring up at Martha with a broad smile. This sent a shiver down her spine.
    “Well..” Martha began. “Uh. If you need me just call home, okay?” Lisa nodded.
    Soon Martha started down the road, she found a white board on the side walk as she stepped out Ki l ISA o ele se’l kl l u. She paused and looked at it until she realized her handwriting was above this note, she stood there frozen, people turned and stared. The silence seemed to last forever. Until there was a phone call. Hans. She slowly tapped accept and immediately regretted it. Screams and shrill cries filled her ears, she slammed the end call button, then she typed in 911 as fast as she could. “West Avenue 652 East Geningtons”

  6. Bushkill

    “Have you seen me yet today?”

    What the heck? I think to myself. Whose been snooping around my desk and writing things on my white board? Normally I keep that thing clean as a whistle so that when the boss calls and asks me to get milk on the way home. I stare at it all day as a reminder.

    It even mostly works.

    So someone else is playing games with me. Or I am inside my own head. That’s certainly possible. I argued quite vociferously with myself yesterday while working on the data and statistics report due at months end. I like to egg myself on that way. I’m surprised I haven’t been taken to HR. I can be downright insulting to myself. Of course, if I bring a claim against myself, HR will call IA and then things will get all confused.

    The morning produces no obvious candidates and the afternoon is even less fruitful. I’m in a near raging storm with myself over the department’s budget items and am quite candid in my descriptions. The people in the cubicles around me are plugged in to their machines with headphones inserted and music playing. I am my own audience.

    I think it’s weird that you come to work in an office and the first thing you do is plug in a set of headphones that immediately separates you from the rest of the room.

    Anyway, I didn’t get any movement or vibe about the perpetrator from any of my colleagues. No one owned up to it or said they saw anyone in my cubicle other than me. My day moved normally up to about exit time when I took delivery of a data file stick drive from the inner office mail courier. I tried to pry more information from him, but all he did is shrug and pop his gum before moving on.

    I loaded the file and tried to watch the video. It was dark. Too dark to see much. Just a circle in the middle of the screen. No characters, people, or sound. I searched the rest of the stick drive but got nothing for my efforts. Before leaving for the night I scribbled on the white board, hoping my ghostwriter would read it. “Did you send me the file? When can we meet?”

    The drive home was uneventful and so was an evening of crashing through my favorite video game leaving carnage in my wake. I had nearly forgotten the entire thing until I arrived at work the next day and read the response.

    “I did.” And underneath that. “I’ll be back for you in seven days”

    I thought I saw a reflection in my monitor’s screen, a short girl with long, dark hair. When I turned around, though there was no one there. An icy chill rolled down by spine as fear raced through my adrenaline surge and my heart froze. I repeated the written response aloud.

    “Seven days.”

  7. Rene Paul

    Sorry I’m sooo late with this… it was a struggle. Any suggestions on sticky sentences will be greatly appreciated.

    I’m 46-years old and I’m tired. My simple, yet predictable life, has wasted away from childhood to adulthood living in the same house in Falls Church, VA.

    Recently, that lifestyle caught up and steamrolled straight over me and I want out.

    Death isn’t what I seek, no, that would be too easy. A ‘do-over’ is more representative. Let me explain…
    It started Monday morning three weeks ago, an atypical day compared to the usual monotony I endure.  On this day, I arrived at work thirty minutes early and planned to finish a week’s work in two days. I’m an overachiever with nothing to show for it.
    My 3rd-floor office overlooks the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and as soon as I entered I saw the message scribbled on my dry erase board; Your father did it!  Signed: Foggy Bottom Boys.

    Interesting reference, I thought: Foggy Bottom. My analytical mind went to work. I understood its historical reference to the original location of the CIA building, which was on E Street in… Foggy Bottom. I wondered, is that what notes referring to?

    Today the building sits atop a 3000-acre site on a piece of land purchased from the Thomas Lee estate in Langley, Virginia. How do I know this? Because I’ve worked at the CIA since my military service ended and I graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvard.

    Also, it’s a point of pride for my family because my father cast the deciding vote that selected the Langley location for the new CIA building in the 1950s. 

    At that time, my father was an alternate committee member. But, after the sudden death of James Tilden, my father took his place. Tilden was a strong advocate for keeping the original location in Foggy Bottom. My father wasn’t. Some say Tilden’s divergent position caused a political conflict and may have led to his untimely death.  Tilden died under suspicious conditions. However, the coroner ruled his death to be from natural causes.
     
    So, what’s this got to do with me and what did they mean by ‘My father did it?’

    I scribble a response below the note. ‘Prove it, Boys.’ Then I called home and spoke with my mother, asking if she had any idea what the statement referred to; she said she’ll give it some thought.
     
    Two weeks passed without further communication. The board stayed the same. Then the faithful day arrived, the day that fed my impulse for a do-over.

    I walked into my office and there on my desk sat a metal box, a box I’ve seen many times tucked under folded sweaters in my mother’s closet. I opened it and pulled out the only piece of paper it contained, yellowed from age, and written by my father’s own hand. It read:
                I’m ashamed of an act I committed and now must confess. This is an admittance of guilt to a chapter in my life I wish time reversed, an act that’s plagued me and haunted me my entire adult life. Something I can neither run from nor ease the pain and suffering it caused.
                 I did it for the lowest of reasons, money. Blood money for my son’s college and for my wife to enjoy the finer things in life.
                I was under the influence of powerful men, no excuse. I didn’t listen to my conscience. Instead, James Tilden, an innocent man, died. I might not have injected the chemical that ended his life but I kept my mouth shut, thus sanctioning it. For this I am sorry.
     
    After reading the note, I cried. My father was my hero. How could a hero be part of a conspiracy to commit murder? Didn’t he understand the ramifications of such an action? Was my mother aware of his transgressions?  I had so many questions.

    Then I thought, who are these Foggy Bottom Boys and how did they find out, what do they want and how can I stop them from publishing this information? I’ll find them and shut them up, somehow.
     
    The phone rang on my desk, it brought me back to my senses. I answered it, “Steve Hess.”
                “Mr. Hess, my name is Nancy Tilden, your father was a friend of my husband. We need to talk.”
     

    1. writer_sk

      I liked it. The details about the CIA sounded very realistic. The backstory was well done. If I have a constructive criticism it would be: where your main character asked himself a series of questions. I felt that was problematic and could be expressed another way. Just my opinion but I’d leave that out to tighten it up. Great story, wanted more.

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks for reading my story and the insightful comment. The main reason I post here is to learn how to improve my writing; suggestions are very much welcome. Thanks

  8. qwert

    “WORRY NOT. THE REVOLUTION HAS STARTED.”

    The elegantly written words provided a good liveliness to the tarnished brown of the frame and the dull ash-grey of over use. Maybe from these very ashes the flame had risen.

    In Billabong high, starting a revolution was what we taught our students. Whether it be in literature, art, science, or humanities we taught our students that any change is good provided it gets yourself a decent chunk in the future history textbooks. For our principal, it was to get the name of our school in the textbook and maybe his name as well. But our aims gelled into one another quite well so the school’s system seemed perfectly un-flawed.

    Anyway, when I saw this message on the small slate I keep on my desk, I was rather curious about who this child was that actually listened to his teachers. “An odd human being indeed.”

    I scribbled a message back for the fun of it and because it is a teacher’s job to encourage their students. “I’ll be waiting.”

    I went home that day, giddy in spirits and the next day took an entire hour of class talking about revolutions, our school, and the future generation. Quirked eyebrows, half-closed eyelids, and stolid expressions filled the room when I spoke and I came out knowing that they were logical, pondering, and determined children and a revolution would take no time to start.

    While I was correcting papers that afternoon, I noticed another message had been written—hastily by the looks of it for there was still the shadow of the message I had written the day before.

    This time it said:
    “Many rivers have I crossed
    Over a high hurdle, impeding loss,
    Little tricks have I been taught
    To face problems, come out well fought
    Even if I can’t win.”

    I adjusted my glasses to read the last few lines which had almost entirely obscured the gray beneath. It went on:
    “But now have I found the key
    And soon you shall see
    Victorious I will be.”

    I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Poetry skills could be refined a bit but still, the thought that this student had put was great. I mentally applauded the child.

    A child came into my office that day. Faded jeans torn at the knee and thighs, which I was still at a loss to know how torn clothes became a fashion, and sleeves rolled up to her elbow. Denise. The girl who looks out the window during every class and still get 100 in all her test, who had a immense store of vocab and the only student in my class whose life I knew nothing about.

    “Come in dear.” I say and she does, also taking her seat without my acknowledgement. Not that I really cared.

    “I just wanted to know”, she says, “Does it matter what happens in the process of giving justice?”

    The question is so absurd that I laugh and say. “Only if it involves killing.”

    My light-hearted spirit does not detect the darkness that has came and gone from her face.

    “What about truth? Truth’s fine, right?”

    I shrug. “Sure. It’s the greatest weapon anyone can have. You know what they say: “Truth hurts.”

    There’s a gentleness in Denise’s tone that awakens me when she says, “And sometimes it can kill. Not directly obviously, but…”

    She nods her head in my direction as a sign of thanks and as she heads out, a whisper breathes its way to me. “I was hoping to use that to my advantage.”

    And though I have no idea what is going on, I dearly hope that I heard wrong.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      The little ways you describe Denise.leaves me with the idea she is part good and part evil. What I do know, she’s toying with the teacher and I don’t think he’s anywhere near strong enough to resist her. I feel she will ruin him just for the fun of it
      Do I have her peged correctly? By the way your writing is super.

  9. MCKEVIN

    Recently, my coworker Donald ran for school principal and won. I was horrified that he even considered the job. He is not a people person, lacks administrative skills and if you are not a part of his inner circle he really doesn’t acknowledge you.
    I posted my lesson for Black History Month. I have a diverse group of fourth graders so I wanted to teach my students that there are many noteworthy Black people. The first person I picked was Frederick Douglass the first Black person nominated for vice president of the United States.
    Donald was busy making his rounds when he noticed I had Frederick Douglass name on my dry erase board..
    “Interesting fellow that Douglass guy isn’t he?”
    “Yes but-“
    “Have you ever heard of a fellow named Martin Luther-?”
    “King? Yes Don-“
    “More people should be like him. The world would be a better place.”
    “More like who Don-“
    “Martin Luther King. What other Black did you think I was talking about?”
    “Well, the whole point of putting Frederick Douglass on the board was to teach everyone there is more than one notable Black-“
    “I’m sure that Douglass guy will go on and do many great things with his life.”
    “He already-“
    “I know-.”
    “You know what Don-?“
    “I know Martin has his own holiday right?”
    “Yes, but do you know why-“
    “He convinced another Black, his sister Rose, to get off that bus right?”
    “No!”
    “Well I know his brother who is another Black, can work bigly things with a peanut can’t he?”
    “George Washington Carver was not his bro-!”
    “Well his mother Harriet who is another Black and a woman, is a nice lady isn’t she?”
    “His what?”
    “If you read more you’d know Harriet helped her family who are all Black travel from one place to another.”
    “She helped slaves escape to freedom Donald!
    My students appeared and distracted Donald. They spoke and shook his hands. He exchanged pleasantries and I started my lesson by including Donald in it.
    “Donald, tell the class what do you see in their future.”
    Donald smiled his big television smile.
    “As long as you’re in the country legally you have a bright future here.”
    Both my students and I were puzzled.
    “Were the slaves here legally? Jennifer asked Donald.
    “Well they were workers so-“
    “If Rosa Parks had a bright future why didn’t she just get off the bus?” James inquired.
    “Well she-“
    “Didn’t Martin Luther King deserve a bright future?” Another student asked.
    Donald was speechless.
    “Why didn’t women have the same right to vote like men?”
    “See-“
    “I have two mommies. How many do you have?”
    “I- You-“
    “Are the KKK your friends?”
    “Well some-“
    Afraid of what would come out of Donald’s mouth next I interrupted the questions.
    “Okay, I need everyone to write down the name that’s on the board.”
    Donald looked relieved and was glad to go. The only thing I thought to myself was…
    “God help us if Donald ever becomes president of the United States.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Thumbs up McKevin, you caught me with the last sentence. One thing that is great about our country is students can burn down their own school library and have their Momies wipe their r ear end and pay for it. Now what would have happened iin Russia? This is comedic piece of writing pointing most of our social problems
      Meanwhile Fox News is making a fortune and NBC is changing to conservative news also to make a trillion or two. I have to go now and wipe some noses on the west coast.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      MCKEVIN, great use of this prompt to create a thought-provoking, and brave, commentary. My husband and I find ourselves watching a certain kind of movie or TV character and saying, wow, that’s just like…well, you know. Good job.

      1. MCKEVIN

        Why thank RTO if I may call you that. Lol! It’s always fun for me to give these prompts current social commentary. Who knows, maybe someone might see themselves and change the error of their ways. Lol! Don’t hold your breath waiting though.

  10. ReathaThomasOakley

    Message on the Board
    (An Annie era story featuring her favorite teacher)

    Tina slowly opened her classroom door in the early morning gloom and felt for the light-switch.

    “Oh, Lord,” she whispered as she walked to the blackboard after leaving her purse and lesson book on her desk, “let this be the end.” Her hand shook as she grasped the bottom of the roll-up United States map resting in the chalk tray. She reminded herself to be careful as she pulled the wooden strip down before releasing it, some of the creases had started tearing in the last two weeks, in the two weeks since the first message.

    Tina opened her eyes when sound of the retracting map stopped. Only one word, the shortest message yet, but she shivered as she quickly erased the four letters.

    “Soon?” She asked the empty room as she wearily dragged her chair from the desk. “No time, no explanation, just soon?”

    Without thinking she pulled the silver chain from under her blouse and fingered the jagged pendant, her half of the blessing, her half of the Mizpah promise.

    “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” How many times, she mused, had she said these words and remembered how he’d slipped this necklace over her head, then his half over his own. Now she was here, waiting, and Eugene was on the USS Coral Sea, far away from Florida. She tucked the chain away and remembered the day of the first message.

    Tina could have sworn, if she did such a thing, that the maps had all been rolled up when she’d left the night before, but now the United States one was down. As she reached she wondered again where the cartographers would squeeze in Alaska if it did become a state, the forty-eight fit the space so nicely.

    “Huh? What’s this? Some joke?” Then she’d laughed as she erased the words. “Must be that Wilfred. Well, young man, I have no idea what you think you know.”

    Later that day, after the fourth graders were gone, Tina chalked, ‘No, you do not’, pulled the map back down, and left. That night, in the small room she rented from the principal’s aunt, she mentioned the cryptic words in her daily letter to Gene.

    Now, two weeks later, she sat and wished she’d never replied to the first message, never engaged in the strange, dusty yellow dialogue that began with two words.

    “I know”

    “No, you do not”

    “Shouldn’t try to hide it”

    “I’m not hiding anything”

    “Yes, you are”

    “Who are you?”

    “Maybe a friend”

    “Why are you doing this, writing these things”

    And, so it went until day before yesterday when the message stated, “Others know”, and Tina panicked.

    “Please,” she hurriedly wrote, “stop doing this. Help me.” She hadn’t used the map that day.

    The next morning, yesterday, Tina read, “Can I meet you?” Last night she’d written, “When?” Now she whispered, “How soon?”

    She was sitting, eyes closed, when the classroom door slowly opened.

    “Miss Cowart, you alright?”

    “Oh, Dessie,” Tina said, “sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

    “No, mam, I be right quiet, when I’m awantin’ to be.” The school maid came into the room.

    “Did you need something? I was about to…” Tina opened her lesson book.

    “You was awaitin’ for me, I do believe.” Dessie moved to the desk. “I’m here.”

    “You, Dessie, you’ve been leaving the messages?” Tina choked back a sob. “Why, what were you–”

    “Oh, mam, I didn’t mean no harm. I was tryin’ to tell you, to warn you.” Dessie pulled the extra chair up to the desk. “Folks, the other teachers, cafeteria ladies, everbody just kinda forgets I’m around while I clean the bathroom after some chile’s done throwed up, or when I goes ’round for the trash cans. I’m like this here desk, I’m just furniture.”

    “Oh, no, Dessie,” Tina started.

    “Oh, no mam, you be diff’rent. You always got a smile for me, for even them orneriest boys. I notice.” Dessie sighed. “Yes, mam, I notice lots.”

    Without thinking Tina felt for the pendant.

    “I notice how you been right pale lotta mornings, how your blouses been fillin’ out, how you hold on to yore belly. I notice, and I know.” Dessie shook her head. “Ain’t no use, mam, I know, and mam, them others, they been noticin’, too.”

    “Dessie, please don’t say anything else,” Tina felt tears forming. “I was hoping and praying–”

    “Prayin’ is good,” Dessie laughed, “but, Miss Cowart, they gonna fire you, and it don’t look good a single lady teacher gettin’ fired.”

    “Oh, Dessie,” Tina was sobbing, “we should have waited, but we didn’t, and he got shipped out. I’ve been trying to hide it. Took the bus to Jacksonville, bought the tightest girdle Sears makes,” she tried to laugh, “last two days I could hardly breathe.”

    “Now, mam, that ain’t good for you, nor the baby.” Dessie started to reach for Tina’s hand, but pulled back. “You listen to me, I been ’round lots longer than you. You ain’t the first nice girl what got caught, but you cain’t wait for them to fire you, and you gotta stop wearin’ that girdle.” Tina found a tissue in her desk drawer, and dried her eyes.

    Christmas ’bout here.” Dessie went on. “You go in to Miss Palethorpe’s office, tell her you gotta resign, yore granny needs you. Then you go over to Mr. Eugene’s mama’s house. I knows her, she be a good woman. You tell her everthing. They got kin up Georgia way. Then, when the Navy brings Mr. Eugene home, you get yourself married.”

    Later, as Tina watched the hands of the clock creep toward eight, she thought over Dessie’s plan, the one she was going to put into action as soon as school was out that day.

    What a wise woman Dessie is, she thought. Furniture, indeed!

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A warm-hearted story for a cold Saturday morning. Again your voice is perfect as usual, the story is so real, I wonder… Anyway. What a treat to go back and revisit your world
      I hope you know how much I look forward to reading the magic times you write about

      .

      .

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Kerry. In another story Annie laments the departure of her “real” teacher, Miss Cowart, at Christmas. Thought I’d see what happened. When I write about how I remember the mid to late 50s I wonder if I should include footnotes for some references such as the Mizpah necklace. I recall older girls wearing them. Thanks again for your always kind comments.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Lex Noel, thank you so very much. Your comments are much appreciated. As I write, some characters become so very real to me that I can hear their voices. Hmmm, I need to remember not to mention hearing voices to my sons.

    2. MCKEVIN

      Thank you for creating female characters who are human and have high self esteem. Thank you for showiwng how women of different classses discover that they have more in common than they do have differences. Your treatment of Dessie’s dialogue was on point. I would love to see you expand this. So many storylines goes through my head. Good one!

  11. jhowe

    Daktoni eased his way to the edge of the bluff and surveyed the valley of death. The lush rain forest yielded its tentacles of foliage to the menacing red rock gorge. As a young warrior, he had descended part way into the forbidden crag and managed to live despite the dire wisdom that had been passed down from bygone generations. Even when he was strong and virile, he’d quaked as he stepped on loose rocks and jagged outcrops. He’d turned back after several hundred paces as the sky darkened and distant thunder sounded. Today, he feared he would venture once again into the unknown, though every fiber of his being said, no, he would not.

    Daktoni drew his bow and kindling from his shoulder bag and readied it. He gathered dry sticks and wet mahogany leaves and piled them by the makeshift fire pit. He stood, one foot on a downed log and waited. After some time the smoke appeared, like it had the day before and the day before that.

    The rhetoric was unmistakable. The meaning in the smoke patterns could be formulated by no one else. Suku had left the forest years ago with the red bearded man. She had told Daktoni she was sorry, but that she wanted to experience the life the pale faced devil promised. In the end, Daktoni had turned his back as she walked away.

    He quickly started his own fire and threw a handful of leaves on the flames. With a large palm frond, he fanned the smoke, captured it in the folds of the greenery and then released it in bursts of determinate spacing. Daktoni then cleared the fire of smoldering leaves and added dry sticks. The smoke quickly thinned to mere wisps.

    When more smoke appeared across the valley, Daktoni’s heart leapt. It was Suku. He had no doubt. She formed arrangements of smoke, inviting tendrils with engaging meanings. She wanted him back. He tossed more leaves in the fire and formed one large circle of smoke and released it. Yes. The answer was yes! He thought little of her reason for meeting in the forbidden valley,

    From a hidden alcove, Bacarmi watched as Daktoni negotiated the descent. The old man slipped many times but managed to stay upright. Bacarmi hoped he would not have to intervene further. He’d put out the fire and buried the ashes and telltale smoke making vegetation. The old man would not find Suku. No one would. Nor would they find the red bearded man. They both rested at the bottom of the gorge, beneath a pile of rocks the size of three men. Even the buzzards would have to look elsewhere for a meal.

    Soon, Bacarmi heard a scream and saw Daktoni tumbling, head over feet to his fate below. The younger man scampered down a less treacherous path and assured himself the great chief was undeniably dead. He scoffed at the fears that made his limbs tremble, fears of the stories that were told around the evening fire. He looked once more into the agony filled face of his former leader and bounded up the bluff toward the village. It was up to him to deliver the news; the news that a new chief would have to be chosen. It was he, Bacarmi who was next in line.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I really don’t. Know what to say to you
      This story is so far up the mountain of writing. You have surpassed anything you have ever written
      I mean this sincerely. I have my spirit renewed just reading it The color of your words magnificant.

  12. cl91

    Finally Friday! I turn on the lights to my office and put my backpack down to turn on the computer. I like being the first person in the office. It gives me the alone time I need to start my day.
    As the computer screen comes on the little board I have on my desk catches my eye….’Good morning I hope you have a nice weekend because Monday there will be a surprise.’
    I do a double take at the board….’now who would write that and what does it mean?’ I chuckle and erase it and scribble ‘can’t wait’ on the board. I go about my business.
    The day goes by like a normal Friday and the weekend comes and goes but I can’t get the message on the dry erase board out of my mind and I can’t wait for Monday to see what it means.
    Monday morning and I flip the lights in my office on and look around…everything appears normal. I smile at myself for putting too much stock in a silly message.
    As I turn on the computer the board catches my eye….’have a good day sorting out the bodies.’
    That’s creepy. The office is dark, as usual, and I look around to see if there’s any evidence of anyone lurking. Nobody.
    I turn on my computer and stare at the screen wondering what on earth the message means and why am I the one getting it. I’m not the boss. I’m not even anyone of importance in the company. I’m just a lowly secretary who does her job.
    Eight a.m. rolls around and people start coming in the building. The office building I work in is in the downtown district and my office is on the third of five floors. There’s a parking garage next to it and I can see it out of my window.
    Suddenly, I hear gunshots. I freeze…I look out the window because the shots sound like they are coming form that direction.
    J.P. Windham, the CEO of the company I work for has just parked his Beamer in its regular spot and like a movie unfolding before my eyes he falls to the ground. Gasping, I see Mr. Windham’s partner, Louie Dubose starting to cross the street. He stops to see what the commotion is and BOOM…he goes down.
    My heart is racing in my chest. I can’t breathe, then I see someone…a slight figure in a gray hoodie walking quickly from the parking garage. People are rushing to the two gunned-down men and this person in the hoodie stops and looks up, directly at me. I can’t see a face, but it looks like a female mostly because of the slight build. The person gives me a nod and walks quickly away.
    I grab my phone and dial 911…
    “911, what’s your emergency.”
    “There’s been a shooting downtown at the Windham building. Mr. Windham and his partner have been shot.” I try to be calm. I have no idea who the person was or why she wanted me to see her. I slink down in my chair….time to sort out the bodies, I think to myself.

  13. Smileyface256

    HEY THERE, IT’S BEEN AWHILE.

    I frown at the white board in my office, wondering whose handwriting that could be. It’s clumsy with large letters like a 3rd grader’s…or like someone was trying to conceal their handwriting. I shake my head. It’s been decades since I quit the mob, faked my death and became a teacher. It’s probably Frank, the guy who teaches biology and just got back from vacation yesterday. Yeah, that’s it. I chuckle as I write, “How was your vacation?” and head to the classroom.

    I unlock my office the next day and freeze.

    YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE LEFT ME BEHIND IN BATON ROUGE.

    My keys fall to the floor. I squeeze my eyes shut as scared blue eyes and dirty blond hair flash through my memory. I thought Joe was dead. I saw him get shot. I had to leave him behind, or else the Feds would have shot me, too. I snap my eyes open at the click of a pistol. It’s Joe, with that deadly smile on his face and a .45 aimed between my eyes.

    “Close the door.”

    I slowly pull it shut, careful to not make any sudden moves.

    Joe kicks back in my office chair. “So, Jimmy. How does it feel the be back from the dead?”

    Cliffhanger! Muahahahaha!

  14. igonzales81

    “Are you happy?”

    I thumped my briefcase down on my desk, planted my hands on my hips, and let out a sigh. The words were written on the whiteboard, in that French dialect known as Occitan. My translation wasn’t perfect, but I knew enough to get the gist. When you spend every day trying to hammer a language into forty teenagers, you do actually learn something.

    I glanced over my shoulder at the door behind me. I was sure I’d locked the classroom behind me the night before. Maybe I forgot.

    It couldn’t be one of my students; they had enough trouble with basic conversation in Parisian. No, it was probably a coworker, somebody who found one of my books and thought a little prank would be fun. Well, I could play that game, too.

    “Of course. Are you?” I’d keep it simple, see how far they wanted to go.

    The next morning, a new message awaited me.

    “No. And neither are you.”

    That gave me pause. Okay, so maybe I hadn’t been completely honest. Maybe I wasn’t “Julie Andrews twirling on a hilltop like an escaped mental patient happy,” but life has its ups and downs. This was just a rough patch. Anyway, I didn’t feel like playing this game anymore. I wiped the board clean, and got ready for another day in the trenches.

    The next morning, another note had been scrawled. “I know you are not happy.”

    This was getting annoying. Jaw clenched, I wiped away the message. I’d have a talk with the night watchman, and make sure the door was locked when I left.

    It didn’t do any good.

    “She is the reason you are not happy.”

    I stood staring at the board, shaking my head. The watchman had assured me that no one entered the room. The door was locked the entire night. The windows all have alarms.

    So who was leaving these messages?

    I didn’t have time or energy to sort this out right now. I wiped the board clean, turned to my desk and started grading papers.

    Ten minutes later, I turned back to make a note on the board, and nearly dropped my marker.

    “You know it is the truth.”

    I felt a strange sensation, like something was crawling up my spine. No one had entered the room. I was alone. Yet the words were right there in front of me.

    I reached out with a shaking hand, wiped the board clean.

    Then, right in front of my eyes, another sentence appeared.

    “I can help you. I can make you happy.”

    My legs gave out, and I collapsed into my chair.

    The words vanished on their own, and a new sentence appeared.

    “I know what has to be done.”

    Was this a hallucination? The result of too much stress? Or maybe even a brain tumor?

    “I can do it for you.”

    I finally forced my brain to make sense of what was being said. A fresh chill surged through me.

    “No,” I murmured.

    “I can. You simply have to ask.”

    “No,” I said again, louder. “I don’t want that.”

    For a long moment, the words stayed there. Then they slowly faded, and I drew a hesitant breath.

    Then more words formed, like scum floating to the surface of a pond.

    “I do not believe you.”

    Something seemed to pass through the air in front of me, a…presence that I couldn’t see, but could feel. An instant later, the door swung open, then closed.

    My mouth went dry. “Oh, no.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        “Inner Sanctum” for sure. First I thought your MC was doing the writing in some sort of trance but then I realized it was a spirit, probably a bad spirit. Gosh, I wish you would continue with it. It reads ike a script from ‘Inner Sanctum’ a premier Drama-Mystery show from the 1940’s. I used to listen to it as a child and it scared the livin’ boohoozers out of me. Continue it or else!
        You’ll be dealing with me.

    1. Bushkill

      Chills. That’s what you’ve done to me. Chills all over and now I’m staring at the 4’x4′ white board I have on the wall next to me in my office with a daft and fear filled gaze.

      Not Cool.
      (good story)

  15. Mark

    Wow! This guy had gone from lovable loser, to king of the dicks, within the span of a day. And while a prick himself from time to time, he’d never take it this far.

    “Morning,” Finlay mumbled, as he more or less sleepwalked past Jasper’s cubicle.

    “Finlay!” Jasper shouted, storming after his coworker like a Tasmanian devil with anger management issues and an axe to grind. “Are you trying to get me fired?” Jasper barked, as he roughly pinned Finlay down against the wall of another coworker’s cubicle. “Answer me!”

    “W-what? What are you talking about?” A bewildered Finlay asked, genuinely clueless on what he’d supposedly done to anger his colleague. “Could you let me go? Please? You’re hurting me.”

    “The notes! The ones you left on my dry erase board?” Jasper yelled, although less convinced than before. “That was you, right?”

    “Boys, how about we break this up?” Everly cut in, having emerged from the cubicle Jasper had Finlay pinned against. “And, Jasper, an answer to the question on why the two of you are making this much ruckus would be appreciated.”

    Still fuming, Jasper released Finlay and gestured the two of them to follow him. “I’ve yet to erase it, so come see for yourself.” And while still wary of Finlay, who stayed a little bit too calm for Jasper’s taste, it was feeling less and less likely that he’d been the one who’d left him the notes. Which left Jasper in somewhat of a predicament, as his list of suspects had jumped up with a dozen or so names.

    “The first note. Drinks? That one is mine,” Finlay confessed. “Steve asked me to round everyone up. He wanted to celebrate his long overdue promotion with a drink.”

    “I don’t think that’s the problem, Finlay.” Everly replied, blinking in rapid succession, as if that would change what she saw on the polaroid Jasper had handed her. “Is that?”

    “Our boss’ daughter?” Finlay finished for her. “Didn’t see her there, though. Nor you, for that matter”

    “No, she’s not. And no, you didn’t.” Jasper said testily, pointing to his note on the dry erase board, agreeing to go for drinks. “We met yesterday. Just not at the bar you lot went to. Since you didn’t state a place or date, I assumed we’d meet at our regular spot.” Jasper tossed his hands up in surrender. “Nothing happened! She was already more or less wasted when I got there, and, after another drink or two, she started to get handsy with me. At which point I left. The photo you see on the polaroid was taken during that brief moment.”

    “Yeah, That’s going to be a tough one to explain.” She said, handing Jasper the polaroid back. “I’d shred that, if I were you. The last note is nothing but a bunch of curse words when not seen together with the polaroid.”

    “My thoughts exactly,” Jasper agreed, as he proceeded to do just that. “It’s a seriously sick joke, though. And this better be the end of it.” Taking a deep breath, Jasper turned to Finlay. “About earlier, I…” He started, but stopped when his phone started to buzz like never before. A quick glance at his notifications told him why. “I’m dead!” Jasper exclaimed, as he saw the photo of himself and the lookalike of his boss’ daughter plastered all over social media.

  16. Lex Noël

    (495 Words)

    I hurry out of the busy elevator and into the Sea. That’s what the employees have always called the vast room of cubicles. It’s endless, chaotic and overwhelming. Thank God I escaped that prison. I stride down the walkway and into my corner office, “Thomas Rain” on a fresh plaque across the oak door. I wonder what she’s left me today.

    I flop my briefcase and coat onto the bench my dad gave me and slide into my desk chair.

    My stomach turns as a laugh bubbles up my throat, hysteria. “Even Rain returns to the Sea,” is scribbled across the dry erase board in sloppy thick red ink. No, not ink, blood.

    .office. I shove the board inside and tie it closed.

    I open my briefcase and cram the garbage bag inside. I need to get to the police office downstairs before she sees me. I can’t risk her seeing them coming to my office.

    It’s 8:30. She’s probably at her desk by now, and the only way to the elevator is right by her cubicle. I should have listened to Tom. He said she was bad news.

    I step out into the Sea and make a beeline for the elevator. Her cubicle is empty, thank God. I push the elevator button as my foot nervously taps the floor.

    Finally the bell dings and the doors swoosh open.

    “Where you off to in such a hurry?” Sarah’s ethereal voice sends chills down my spine, catching me by surprise as she steps out from behind an enormous salesman.

    “I’m meeting Roy downstairs,” I lie. “He’s got some paperwork from the Midview office that I’ll need in the meeting this morning,”

    “He can’t fax? Or Email?” She asks, a rueful smile pulling at the corner of her mouth.

    “He didn’t remember until this morning, and he is dropping off Linda anyways,” I step into the elevator and click the button to go down.

    “Well I’ll go with you!” Sarah cheers stepping back into the elevator. I swallow a lump of panic as she tucks her arm next to mine. The elevator starts to close when an arm thrusts through the doors.

    “Sarah you’re late for the brief!” A bald man I recognize from the accounting department sneers. “Hamilton is already spitting daggers and it’s your rundown today!”

    ONE MONTH EARLIER:

    “I won’t always work in the Sea,” I confide to her as she nestles her head onto my chest.

    “You can’t leave me alone in there. I’d go crazy working in that cubicle prison with no one for company besides Pizza-Face Patty,” Sarah jokes.

    “I’ve been working with Roy. He thinks my ideas could work, and even get me a management position,” I tell her.

    “You can’t leave me in there,” Sarah pleas. “I just might have to kill one sad cubicle worker a week until you agreed to come back.” Her rueful smile spreads across her dangerously beautiful face. “Even rain returns to the sea.”

  17. Kerry Charlton

    TERESA

    On an ice cold dreary Monday, David Burnhorse entered the building of his employer, glanced down at the eraser board sitting on his desk. Scrawled across the face in barely recognizable letters he struggled to read the message,

    ‘I have a thing going on about you as if you even cared. T’

    ‘Who the hell is T?’ he thought. There’s six hundred people that work in this building. What kind of clue is that?’ Never the less his curiosity struggled with it all day. As he finished his work, he decided to leave his own message,

    “Be sure and leave a worn set of panties on my desk, maybe my nose will recognize you T.”

    The next morning he rushed to his office, his mind filled with curiosity as he hurried to his desk. Another note was left,

    “You think you’re a stud? I have something hot and burning for you. It happens to be loaded into my 357 Magnum. T“.

    Chills shook David’s body as the note raced through his mind,

    ‘I don’t know anyone here with a first name that starts with T. It reads like a fool wrote it maybe, but then. She might be insane and jealous. Who is this?

    He left another message that afternoon,

    “A 357 isn’t going to deter me from meeting you. Across from summit hill, there’s a small abandoned kiddy amusement park. I’ll be where the old merry-go-round used to be ay seven tomorrow night.”

    David carried his own heat as he approached the site bathed in final light. He waited ten minutes, then heard a voice,

    “Well David, how many years has it been? Twenty or so?”

    He cried out, “Teresa, is it you?”

    “I could drop you if I wanted to.”

    “I’d be the last one to blame you sister.”

    She stepped from the light, more beautiful than she was at fifteen. She hadn’t lied about the gun as she leveled it at Brian’s chest.

    “You took me when I was fifteen, you fool. I loved you and you took me. You could have stopped us, you were twenty and wiser.

    “I never forgave myself Teresa and I know you won’t, so go ahead if it eases your pain.“

    “You think even if I wasted twenty years of my life, I don’t have the courage, don’t you?.”

    “No because from your voice I know you still care.”

    An explosion occurred, a bullet ripped through David’s left lung. He fell to his knees, a quizzical look rode his face. He couldn’t speak to her but his eyes carried the message,

    ‘I still love you.’

    David fell backwards on the dirt as Teresa crawled to him on all fours, her tears flowing, She placed her head on his stilled chest, wiped a tear and touched his face, then squeezed the trigger once again.

    .

      1. DMelde

        Wow, it appears I can reply to stories but I can’t post a story. I’ve tried three times now and no luck. It looks like I’m banned. I’m sorry everyone. I guess I’m out of here.

        1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

          Usually it’s not you, it’s the story. If the story has content in it that is flagged, I.E. bad language, you can’t post it. Mine wouldn’t post weeks ago because it had a few bad words in it. Once I took them out, it posted perfectly fine.

          1. DMelde

            okay, thanks Doc, I’ll try it. my bad word rhymes with ham so i’ll change it. darn, I was kind of hoping for a ban. (never been banned before….:)

          2. DMelde

            Nope, I took all of the bad words out. It still won’t post. I could try and post it as a comment but there are about six of them out there in the e-void now and I just can’t risk losing another one of them. Probably for the best. It was a silly story anyway. Thanks for trying to help!

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thanks Pete, I kinda got inspired by “Duel In The Sun.’ Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Couldn’t add this to your comment, Kerry, but Duel in the Sun is my least favorite classic movie because of the grit of the locale, plot, and acting. And, you captured all that. Very well-done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha, it is a difficult movie to watch and the only movie I think Gregory Peck was ever in as scoundrel
        I set the tone of David’,s personality and character using the note he wrote
        He wasn’t any better and I wanted the reader.to like Teresa. I guess i managed it

  18. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    Yesterday Alan found a note scrawled on the whiteboard in his office. It was innocent. Just a couple of hearts and his name. He replied with his own hearts and asked for the name of his shy secret admirer.

    Today, he found a knife sticking through the white board alongside a new note.

    You will die today.

    That’s when he saw the man in the black cowboy hat standing at the door. He was blocking the only exit. Having dealt with bullies all his life, Alan wasn’t going to wait for something to happen.

    He lunged at the man, plowing into him with his shoulder. They both fell to the ground with a hard grunt, and he scrambled up. The man clawed at Alan’s legs, but he was able to get free.

    He ran through the office dodging his coworkers as best he could. The man pursuing him weaved with the same diligence, slowly closing the gap.

    It was a mistake, he thought. It had to be.

    Reaching the elevators, he punched the button. They would take too long. He turned, pushed his way through the emergency exit, and barred down the stairs two or three steps at a time.

    He couldn’t get the words out of his head.

    You will die today.

    Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he made the mistake of taking time to glance up. The man was just one flight above him. He was quick in those grey, snake-skin boots.

    Alan threw himself into the emergency exit, and fell into the alley. He climbed out of a filthy pile of trash, gasping for air. Looking up, he saw the mouth of the alley leading to the busy street, and for a moment he felt free. Then someone grabbed his back and tore that freedom from him.

    Now up against the wall, the man planted his knee in Alan’s ribs. Alan coughed hard, trying to ask the man what he wanted, but he could only muster soft whimpers.

    “You son of a bitch,” the man screamed. Spittle flecked Alan’s face. “You slept with my wife!”

    The exact number was thirty-seven, but Alan didn’t realize he was being stabbed until number twelve. With all the excitement, he didn’t really know what was happening. A few minutes later, he was dead. The killer fled.

    The man was finally arrested a few days later in a different state. They charged him with murder, and informed him that he had killed an innocent man. Alan used to work at the man’s wife, and she had named Alan as the man she had cheated on her husband with instead of naming the actual man in her office.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m glad it’s daylight Doc, all the stories are turning dark here. I think it’s a great prompt for a change and you certainly kept the tension boiling in the pot. The little details you throw in really enrich your stories. How much blood do you figure can pump out from 37 knife wounds?

  19. hcgernhardtiii

    To the Moderators: Please delete my prior comment. I forgot about the response to the note. This is the corrected version.

    The Maze was a bit noisier than usual this morning. The air was more ionized, the light a bit higher on the Kelvin scale.

    /We must be releasing soon,/ I thought.

    I made my way to my cube, engaging in the minimal formula that kept my fellow denizens socially pacified while allowing me to quickly tend to my job. It had taken quite some time for me to work out that formula. Taking my seat I glanced at the whiteboard to grok my state from the previous workday.

    Orange stood out where it shouldn’t have been.

    I tilted my head, resetting from grok to parse. The orange coalesced to intelligibility.

    “Pure genius!” read the scrawl.

    No signature.

    I blinked, gestalting the board for later processing. I wiped the message from the board, grokked state, cleared the board, logged into my terminal.

    * * *

    The workday came to a close and I drew my state on the board. I blinked twice as I looked at it, clearing state. I brought up my exit social formula. A non-trivial probability suggested a response to this morning’s note. I left my own text in black: “Thanks for the vote of confidence”. I started my way out of The Maze.

    “Hey, Tom!” came a call from a cube to my left, interrupting my formula. I turned my head. Jared was looking at me, his eyes reflecting an excited smile.

    I quickly processed the interrupt. “Hey, Jay,” I replied, returning his smile. “Planning the release party?”

    His smile turned conspiratorial. “You know it,” he said. “This up-push from The Lighthouse really changes things, y’know?”

    “Yah,” I said, raising my eyebrows deliberately. “Bonus time.”

    Jared laughed. “Bellikin’s at six if you want to help.”

    “Thanks,” I said, adjusting my body to reflect personal disappointment. “But I’ve other things calling tonight.”

    “Cool,” said Jared, catching the signal. ”Offer’s open if things change.”

    * * *

    The Maze was even more abuzz this morning. The social formula took an extra three minutes to execute, as there were several data points concerning the release party I had to process. I entered my cube.

    Orange again.

    But this time with a few swaths of violet.

    “Try this” the orange read. The violet was…

    I grokked the violet.

    A pathway fired. A surge of epinephrine flowed. A wash of cold ran down my body, my hairs rising in their follicles.

    The violet provided a solution, yes, but it also had more ominous undertones.

    It was in /my/ format.

    The format I grokked.

    The format that looked, to the casual observer, like the musings of an amateur artist developing their form.

    /Crap,/ I thought. /I’m exposed./

    I grokked state, integrating the violet. The solution for my assignment became instantly clear. Another surge of epinephrine bathed my synapses.

    I started my workday as normally as I could under the circumstances. In a background process, however, I began work on a plan.

    I would be trapped /very/ soon if I didn’t formulate an escape matrix quickly.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      What an interesting universe you’ve created here. For whatever reason, I loved the line: …adjusting my body to reflect personal disappointment.

  20. mayboy

    “What a message!” I shouted when I sat at my desk in the office. Apparently, my coworker laid his eyes on me. Tall, handsome, he might fit in my choice. On the note, the fisherman was holding a fish hook. Presumably, I was the target, and it made my day. Although he was from work that day, I was anxiously waiting for another morning to see him.

    The following day, I found another message and couldn’t believe my eyes. On the black note, a fish without the head was stuck on the plate, and above was written in red, with main characters, cut from magazines:
    “HOOKER.” Drops of blood were falling on the plate.

    It was surreal, and that cold feeling in my spine became my constant companion. I was in shock and couldn’t control my body and mind anymore. Then strange things happened while I was sitting vis-a-vis the computer. In the reflection of the screen, I noticed that my iris began to narrow and the infinitive numbers were passing in the plain sight. The implant in my eyes was correlating the transmission and had access to the hidden fields of the knowledge, unknown to the human mind. The transfer was taking place far back from Mesozoic, through the bones of Jurassic to the real Powerbrains and Masterstorms of nowadays, and to the swings of Futuremasterbrains.

    “Blip, blip, blip,” was echoing in my ears, the sound only I could hear. Privileged and frightened at the same time, eager to absorb unimaginably, my soul lifted to the endless skies of future, on the wings of massive galaxies. The adventure seemed to be endless when the sudden noise of the hook interrupted the transmission, and I landed in the same place at my desk before someone opened the door, without knocking. The numbers have gone, the implant has disappeared, the message has changed, in a second, the reflection of my eyes wide opened remained only. And the weird feeling that I wasn’t alone, even more, at the bottom of the sheet, on the last page, I had a privilege to spot that fish for a moment, swimming in the clear water.

    The Monday was waiting.

    1. MCKEVIN

      Interesting story. If this is Sci Fi I feel like I walked into the middle of the story and can’t catch up. But the descriptions makes me want to hang in there. Blip Blip blip!

  21. Pete

    I arrive early and flip the lights on. The darkness evaporates and I see my day before me. The round table, a basket full of bouncy balls and colorful pens. The marigold orange walls. Studies show that productivity thrives on vibrant colors.

    There’s a message on the dry-erase board. Dark, pressed in letters. RAISE THE MAN YOU WANT YOUR SON TO BE.

    A whisper slips into my sigh. “What the hell, Marla?”

    It’s been this way ever since our kids started dating—no, before then. And besides, our kids aren’t dating, as I said to her, they went to the movies with friends, twice that I know about. And regardless, I have a feeling that whatever micro-flash of attention Eli gave Marla’s daughter is gone, because he’s fifteen and can’t even listen to an entire song without getting bored. Which is good, because it would be weird. Already is.

    A few days ago we were in the middle of a working lunch. I’d used the account card and brought in Panera Bread for the troops. We huddled around our laptops, going over the numbers when Marla came in late, lugging her gear in on wheels like she was slicing through O’Hare. She settled in and plugged into the screen. A picture pops up of her daughter Ashlee, and Eli, leaning against her car, obviously annoyed with picture taker. Studies have shown that Marla can be a pain in the ass.

    Afterward the meeting I pulled Marla aside and expressed my concerns. I took it easy because she’s unpredictable. Two years ago, we went on one date—a single date—and it was a nightmare. She’s still weird about it. I told her the picture was inappropriate. She laughed me off, called me a prude. At least our kids hit it off, she said, walking away.

    A few days later Eli got bored and went after the blonde. Now this message.
    I erase it. And against my better judgement, write, BOYS WILL BE BOYS

    I turn the light off and get to work. That evening I ask Eli about Ashlee. He gives shrugs and says that she’s weird. I know where she gets it.

    The next morning, ten minutes before our nine o’clock, I receive a message from Eli’s school asking me to come in immediately. My stomach sinks. I step into the meeting room, and let the troops know what’s going on. When I don’t see Marla, my chest tightens. The collective stares seem to pull my eyes to the dry-erase board.

    LIKE FATHER LIKE SON.

    I’m gone, in the car, flying through traffic, arriving at the school Police cars at the curb. I tell myself that’s normal but my heartbeat is slamming my chest. What did she do? I park and run.

    In the lobby and the school is stirring. Girls huddled, whispering. My palms are like butter as I step into the office and find Eli and three other football players all hunched and slumped. Through the frosted glass I see the figures. Hear Marla crying. I rush over to Eli who looks up, pale and terrified. Visibly shaking.

    “Dad, we didn’t do this.”

    1. DMelde

      Nice set-up Pete. There are some nice lines in here like “A whisper slips into my sigh” and the manic line “I’m gone, in the car, flying through traffic, arriving at the school Police cars at the curb.” Well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Gad, what a position to be put in. Nice run with the story, enough background to let the reader finish it in his own mind and it looks like trouble for Eli, whether he was involved or not.

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