Overheard

Alison had always had a sneaking suspicion that that she was missing something. The people around her had always been able to connect on a level she couldn’t, and until today, she had never been able to figure out why. It was like she existed inside a glass bubble. She could see life happening around her, and she could interact with everything. Yet, somehow, that easy connection that everyone else seemed to have, she was missing it.

Today she figured out why.

“I have to tell you something,” Jodie, her roommate said, quietly. Her eyes were downcast suddenly the carpet. “Normal people can—oh I mean, it’s not that you aren’t normal, but well, everyone else I should say, see, they can hear each other’s thoughts.”

Alison burst out laughing. “Oh sure they can.” She gave Jodie a playful punch on the arm.

But Jodie didn’t laugh. “No seriously, nor—most people are telepathic, but there are some, like you, who are, well, handicap. That is, you can’t.” Her hands were waving animatedly in front of her as she spoke.

“So you’ve been able to hear what I’m thinking?” Alison arched her eyebrow at her.

“See, that’s the thing. Before last week, no. Most people who aren’t telepathic are also unable to project their thoughts. Which is kind of great, because it would suck if everyone could hear you thoughts, but you couldn’t hear them.” Her hands were still moving rapidly in front of her.

“Ah, I see,” Alison said. “So you can’t hear my thoughts, so none of this is provable. How convenient.” She rolled her eyes as she stood up.

“But that’s the thing, until last week, I couldn’t hear you. But today, I can.” Her voice grew quieter and quieter as she spoke.

Alison sighed as she walked to front door. “I have to get to work.” We’re not in grade school anymore. How gullible do you think I am?

“I don’t think your gullible at all. That’s why I knew this was going to be difficult.”

Alison, turned and narrowed her eyes at Jodie. Lucky guess. Obviously that’s what I’d be thinking.

“It wasn’t a lucky guess. I can hear you,” Jodie said.

Alright, why tell me know?

“Like I said, now I can hear your thoughts. I think that means so can everyone else. I had to tell you! I’m your friend. I couldn’t let you go out there without knowing the truth. I should have told you soon, but I just wasn’t sure until now.”

“Jodie, I’m sorry, but I really don’t have time for this. I have to go.” Alison huffed as she grabbed her purse and keys from the back door.

I always knew Jodie was a bit different, but now she’s going bat-shit crazy.

“I heard that!” she called from the kitchen.

Alison rolled her eyes, still not believing her. “Of course you did,” she mumbled as she closed the door behind her. “But then, you didn’t actually say what it was that you heard, now did you?”

Out on the street, she began to walk to work, when someone called out from behind: “Alison! Hi, how are you?”

She spun around and saw Edgar striding towards her looking amazing as per usual. He grinned as he approached her

You are just gorgeous. Too bad you have a girlfriend.

His easy grin flickered and he paused misstep for half a second. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Of course, why do you ask?” How bad did she look to warrant that question?

“No it’s just, um, never mind.” He grinned again.

Marry me and have my children.

His eyes widened and he started to mumble incoherently.

Suddenly, Jodie’s warning from earlier came back to her and a deep blush slowly crept up her neck.

But that’s crazy. He can’t—

“I have to go. Nice seeing you.” He tripped over his feet and nearly ran into a pole in his rush to get away from her.

Huh.

She wandered into a nearby coffee shop to grab a tea, deep in thought as she went. Jodie had certainly done a number on her brain this morning. Maybe she was gullible after all.

When she got the register, the woman at the till gave her a sympathetic smile. “My niece can’t hear either.” She patted Alison’s arm sympathetically. “I know how hard it must be.”

“I can hear just fine,” Alison said, confused.

“No, I meant, oh never mind.” She busied herself grabbing Alison’s tea.

That was weird.

She stared at the woman’s back as she poured hot water into her cup. The woman was wearing a hideous stripped shirt that clashed loudly with her purple stretch pants. It was not a flattering look in Alison’s opinion.

The woman whirled around and slammed the cup on the counter. “Well, no one asked you.” She turned to the next customer as Alison quickly grabbed some nearby napkins to wipe up the slosh from the cup.

I’m so sorry!

She fled feeling embarrassed and shameful.

What was happening?

* * *

I wrote this story based on a weird fear I sometimes have when I’m talking to people. I’ll be chatting when suddenly the thought will pop into my head of, “oh no, what if they can hear my thoughts? What if everyone is telepathic, but somehow I wasn’t born with that gene and they’ve all just agreed not to tell me.”

To be fair, I said it was weird. I didn’t say it was rational 😉

Imaginary Friends

Emma ran down the sidewalk towards her best friend Cora’s house. Her and Emma had been best friends for as long as she could remember, probably their entire lives. 12 years is a long time!

As Cora came around the corner she saw Emma standing at the end of her driveway with a couple of girls Cora didn’t recognize. The each had their bikes with them and they were huddled in a tight cluster. Cora stopped running when she saw the girls with Emma. She felt a pang of jealousy as she slowly walked towards them. Emma was her friend, but suddenly she felt like the outsider.

“Hi Emma,” she said, trying to grab her attention away from the girls.

“We should grab slushies,” one of the girls said. She had her long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail and she had both glasses and freckles. Instantly, Cora hated her. Both her and Emma had always wanted glasses and freckles. It was so unfair. “I got my allowance this morning,” she said, “And I’m dying to spend it.”

“Sure,” the other girl said. She was tall and towered above the other two.

Emma looked sad. “No thanks. You guys go ahead.” She start to pull away from the group. Finally, she would have Emma to herself.

“No way! What’s wrong?” the girl with freckles asked, pulling her back by the elbow.

Emma scuffed her toe against the pavement. “It’s just, I don’t have money.” She said.

The girls laughed. “That’s okay,” the girl freckles said. “I’ll pay for yours and you can pay me back when you get your allowance.”

Emma shrunk further away. “I don’t get an allowance,” she whispered.

Neither did Cora. They didn’t need an allowance. They had always had fun for free.

“That’s okay,” said the tall girl. “I’ll just pay for it. You have to come!”

Emma perked up. “Really?” she asked breaking into a huge grin.

“Wait,” Cora said, as the girls hopped on their bikes. “Can I come?”

They acted like they couldn’t hear her and hopped on their bikes and speed away.

Cora’s eyes welled up with tears. She let her bike drop to the pavement on the driveway and sank down into the grass. It wasn’t fair. She was so busy feeling sorry for herself that she didn’t notice old Mrs. Decker walking down the sidewalk towards her with another lady.

Cora quickly wiped her tears with the back of her hand so they wouldn’t know she’d been crying. She didn’t need to worry, however; they didn’t seem to know she was there.

“It is so nice to see Emma with some friends for a change,” Mrs. Decker said.

Cora glared at her. What was she talking about? Her and Emma had been inseparable for years.

“Oh, I know! When I think back on when her mother died. The poor dear didn’t talk to anyone for an entire year. I thought she was going to be a mute!”

“But even when she did start talking again, all she ever talked about was Cora, Cora, Cora.”

Well, of course she did. They were best friends after all.

“Who’s Cora?” the second lady asked.

“Her imaginary friend. I’d invite her over for dessert every now and then, and wouldn’t you know I always had to set out two pieces of cake. Of course, Emma would eat them both.”

Imaginary? What a load of crap! And Emma was doing her a favour! Cora didn’t like those nasty cakes so Emma would eat it for her so they wouldn’t her Mrs. Decker’s feelings. But, now Cora didn’t care a bit about her feelings. How dare she call her imaginary!

* * *

The above story I wrote from a prompt I found on the instagram page: _writing.prompts.re

“You’ve been with your best friend for as long as you can remember Earlier in her life, she used to be a very lonely kid, but recently she’s slowly begun to  become popular. Others would talk to her, but often ignore you. One day, to your shock, you finally realize that you’re actually just her imaginary friend”

I’ve always enjoyed stories where things aren’t what they seemed at first. 

Pet Dragons

Three 10 year old boys sat on the grass beneath a “No Parking” sign, taking in the last days of summer, before school started up again.

“Do you think dragons are real?” Devon asked, a tinge of hope in voice.

“Yes,” Matthew said, immediately, sitting up on his knees in excitement.

“O course not,” Tyler said, at the same time. He pushed his hair out of his eyes and looked out his friends incredulously. “They’re imaginary. Like vampires.”

“Maybe they’re more like aliens,” Devon said, “And they could be real we just haven’t seen any yet, so we have to make up what they look like.”

“No way,” Tyler said.

Matthew wrinkled his nose. “Nu-hu. There’re real. Kevin said he saw one.”

“Your brother’s an idiot,” Tyler said. “Didn’t he flunk math last year?”

“Okay, but people have seen them before,” Matthew said.

They glared at each other.

“If they are real, would you want one as a pet?” Devon asked.

“Yes,” Matthew said.

“Definitely,” Tyler agreed.

They grinned in agreement.

Then She’ll be Back

After my mom died, l quickly learned everyone grieves differently. There are those like Grandma Gene, who busy themselves, afraid to stop moving for even a moment for fear that their emotions may catch up and tackle them to the floor. She basically took over planning the funeral, brought over the most disgusting casseroles every day that neither me nor my dad ate. I dug a hole in the backyard and dumped the contents into it each day, so we wouldn’t hurt her feelings.

There are those who feel their emotions are like a blanket to wrap themselves in and dissolve into a puddle on the floor in anguished cries, outbursts of anger, and even laughter. This was like my mom’s sister, Aunt Tracey. On the day of the funeral, she would find me every hour, burst into dramatic tears, and drape herself over my shoulders while I awkwardly patted her shoulder. At sixteen, I didn’t feel qualified to offer counselling sessions.

Some box up, sell, and give away everything that even remotely reminds them of their loved one while others insist that everything remain as a shrine to the deceased and act like their loved one had only gone out for a moment and is expected back at any time.

This last type was my father or so I thought. Two years after she died, everything still looked exactly how my mom had left things. She had gone out for groceries and never came back home. We buried her the following week. After the funeral Grandma Betty, (my Mom’s mom) had come over to help pack up her clothes.

“Don’t touch those!” Dad shouted as he grabbed the box from Grandma Betty’s hands. Startled, she started fluttering her hands in front of her, stuttering incomplete sentences, and batting her eyelashes like a surprised frog.

“You are not to touch anything. These were Denise’s. Leave them be.” He grabbed an armload of empty, deflated boxes that slide sideways out of his grasp. He crashed through the doorway dropping one of them in his anger. He stumbled over it and left it crushed on the floor before crashing down the hallway.

“Alright, dear, I say we call it a day,” she said to me, blinking away the tears that had filled her eyes.

After she left, she refused to come to the house anymore. Instead, she invited me over to dinner once a week insisting that a growing boy needed a good home-cooked meal. Thankfully, her food was eons better than Grandma Gene and I happily accepted.

But like I said, it’s been two years and my mom’s clothes are still hanging on her side of the closet. Her make-up bag is still sitting on the bathroom counter. I used to sneak into the bag when dad was asleep and practice.

Today, I had finally had enough. It was time to accept that mom was gone. I picked up boxes from the grocery store and snuck into the house. As per usual, Dad didn’t even look away from the TV.

I had filled two boxes when my dad came up the stairs. “What are you doing?” he glared at me.

“It’s time.” I said. “We need to move on.”

He tried to grab the box I was working on, but pulled I it back ripping it from his fingers. “This is ridiculous. She’s gone. This isn’t healthy.”

Rather than get angry, he gave a great sigh and sat down on the edge of the bed “You don’t understand. Leave it. She’s coming back.”

“What?” I asked, staring at him incredulously. “No she’s not. She’s dead.” Harsh, but the truth. Things were worse than I thought.

“You don’t understand,” he said again. “We faked her death so she could get away. But, the danger will be gone soon, and then she’ll be back.”

A Dangerous Gift

“Well this is new,” Charlie said, more to herself than anyone else.

All around her everyone had slowed to an almost near stop. A balding man to her left had raised his fork to eat a bite of salad, but now his hand hovered in midair, slowly inching towards his mouth which hung wide open in anticipation.

A couple of tables over a woman with short, puffy hair and angular cheekbones had been talking animatedly with her hands. Now, her face slowly morphed from one exaggerated expression to another.

In front of her, her boyfriend Sam stared at the ground as though he had dropped something and appeared to be sliding off his chair. It was difficult to tell what he was doing when his movement was so slow.

No one, not even Sam, knew what was happening. She hadn’t told him about her gift. To everyone else, they were still moving at regular speed.

This only happened when she was in danger. The new part was just how slow everything had become. Not to mention, usually when this happened she was in a situation that made being in danger rather obvious. Right now, however, she was eating lunch with Sam on a restaurant patio.

Her eyes moved rapidly around her as she took in her surrounding. She’d been eating waffles and he’d just finished a BLT. Was it poisoned? Above them birds hovered in the air, barely moving. Strangers stopped mid-stride as they walked by the nearby stores. Each moving no more than a few inches in the last 30 seconds.

She rose from her chair and stepped out of the patio to get a better look. She was used to people trying to kill her, but no one had been successful so far because they simply couldn’t get a jump on her, not with her gift. But what if that’s what was happening now?

Worried that she might be putting Sam in danger, she grabbed a pen and paper from her purse, scrawled a quick note, and raced through the parking lot to make her escape. Whatever danger she was in, hopefully it followed her.

To her horror, as she ran towards the street and away from Sam, everything around her began to speed up again. She whirled around and started going back to the table. The closer she got, the more everything slowed again.

What was her body sensing was dangerous? Adrenaline raced through her. Her eyes rapidly shifted around the area. A couple sat on bench sipping coffees while a young girl danced in front of them, her long skirt swirled out around her as she stood in a frozen spin. Two older men argued in front of a shop door, their arms spread wide and faces glaring. Multiple tableaux spread out before her, none any more dangerous than the previous one.

A man knelt by an empty table, a ring in hand and a surprised expression on his face. Wait, that was her man. Why was he on one knee? He was purposing? To no one? Of course, it was to her, but in her haste, she had left and now he was staring at an empty chair wondering how she had disappeared right before his eyes.

But she couldn’t get engaged. Not in her line of work. She was always in danger. She couldn’t do that to him. But at the same time, how could she not. But what if he found out?

Now understanding what her brain had perceived the danger was, she slide back into her chair wishing there was an actual crisis happening. Those, she was a master at defeating.

As his face registered that she was back in front of him she saw the look of surprise slowly shift to confusion.

Then suddenly she knew what she wanted to do. Just like that everything snapped back and began moving at a regular speed.

“-arry me,”he finished saying. He blinked at her a few times obviously curious if she was actually there or if she might disappear again.

She smiled. “Yes,” she said.

The Void

Bernice had just made the gravest mistake of her life and at age 83, that was saying something.

“Donald?” she whispered, nervously picking a toothpick up off the recliner her husband had just been sitting in. She glanced around the den, looking for him. It was a simple room with not many places to hide. There were two faded, brown recliners, one was his, the other hers. They sat side by side against the wall and faced the flat screen TV on the other side.

She had known her aim was off the last few years, but she had never made a mistake like this before. Bernice had the uncanny ability to make things disappear.

When she was a child she learned she could make small things disappear like Brussel spouts, cod liver oil, or the spiders her younger brother Frankie used to hide in her bed.

Then, when she grew older, married Donald, and had kids, making poop and puke instantly disappear had been an amazing gift. Stains could be instantly removed from clothes or furniture, dirt and grime would vanish without scrubbing, and, on one occasion when her daughter Tori tried sneaking out of the house, she had made the gas in the car disappear leaving her stranded in the driveway.

“Donnie? Are you there?” She swiped her hand over the recliner hoping that maybe he was just invisible as opposed to gone completely, but her hand easily moved through the air.

Over the years, she had tried to keep her talent under the radar, but she had always wondered whether Donald might suspect something. On many occasions she had used her gift to win an argument. Like today for example. She had asked him numerous times throughout their marriage to please stop picking at his teeth in the living room. After all, what were bathrooms for if not to hide the disgusting things we all must to from our family. And picking at your teeth, in Bernice’s humble opinion, was definitely something that belonged in the bathroom. So when he pulled one of his dreaded toothpicks out she’d simply had enough and meant to make the stupid thing disappear. She assumed he would just think he’d fumbled and dropped it. No big deal.

But it was a big deal! She’d missed her target and now the toothpick was still here, but Donald was gone!

She sat back down in her recliner in an attempt to think. She had never made anything reappear. It had all been a one-way street. She squeezed her eyes shut and attempted to reverse the process, but nothing happened.

Suddenly, the sound of an accordion began to play in the distance growing louder and louder by the second followed by the sound of rushing wind. Then, immediate silence.

Standing in front of her was the man from her dreams. He had visited once when she was five years old. She thought he was just a figment of her childhood imagination that her memory refused to forget, but here he was again, no older than before. In fact, he seemed much younger. She remembered him being this ancient old man in a bright red suit. But here he was, just a kid, barely fifty years old if he was day.

“Bernice, what was the one rule I have you?”

She stared sheepishly at the carpet. Oh right. The rule. “It was an accident,” she said.

“What was the rule?” he said again.

She pursed her lips causing even more wrinkles to appear in the ripples of her face. She gave a deep sigh, “Do not send humans to the void.”

“What was that?” He asked, exaggeratedly cupping his hand behind his ear.

She glared at him. “Do not send humans to the void.”

“That’s right. No humans, but look what I have.” There was another rush of wind and soon Donald was hanging precariously in the air, feet dangling helplessly below him.

“Set me down,” Donald said, looking quite put out. He often got angry when he was scared. It was rare that he was ever actually angry.

“Do you mind explaining to me how this man ended up in my void?” he ask, his voice far too dramatic.

Bernice did not have much patience for over-dramatics and felt her temper rising. “It was an accident. I was aiming for the toothpick.”

“Do you know this man?” Donald asked, suddenly focusing on her from his place by the ceiling.

“An accident?” The man asked leaning in closer to her. He narrowed his eyes as he looked her up and down. “You’ve gotten old.”

“I beg your pardon,” she said, huffily.

“You’re license is hereby revoked.”

“Wh-what?” she spluttered.

The sound of an accordion playing rang through the room mixed with rushing wind again and then he was gone. Donald slowly descended from the air until he was once again sitting in his recliner.

He looked over at Bernice. “I don’t suppose there’s anything you’d like to share with me?”

She looked around the room careful not to meet his eyes. “Umm, no, not particularly.”

“Ah, I see.” He shifted his position a bit so that he could dig into his pocket and pulled out a harmonica. “You’ll never believe what I came across while I was, er, wherever I was.” He blew a loud note into the instrument.

“Oh?” she said, inquiringly, cringing at the sound.

He began to play “Oh My Darling,” on his harmonica. It was the only song he knew and the reason she had made it disappear in the first place. She listened to 3 renditions before she broke and tried to make it disappear. It didn’t work. Apparently, she really had lost her license to make things disappear.

Finally he stopped playing. He gave her a sidelong look. “I also found my chess set.” His eyes twinkled.

She opened her eyes innocently. “Oh?” she said again.

“It would appear someone wanted that gone as well.”

“How odd,” she said, smoothing her afghan down over her legs.

“You always were a sore loser.”

She wrinkled her nose, but gave no reply as he began playing his harmonica again. This would not do at all.

* * *

The following story was written based on a prompt I found on the Instagram page: writing.prompts.re 

“You were born with the ability to make things disappear. As you grew older, you were able to make even larger objects vanish. Today, while watching Netflix, there’s a knock on your door. An angry old man in an orange suit stands at your doorstep and asks you to please stop throwing things into his void.”

A few details were changed along the way as the story started to take shape.

Broken Routine

Hannah steps outside at 7:03 am just like she does every morning. She loves routine. There is a comfort for her in knowing what her day is going to look like. It is a warm blanket of safety whereas surprises are like cold buckets of water dumped on her head. She was the type of person who enjoyed watching a movie or reading a book the second time around better than the first because she knew exactly what was going to happen and could therefore just settle in and enjoy the story.

As she walks, the sun is just peaking up over the horizon chasing away the night. Only a few short weeks ago, her walks were warm and the sunny, but winter was now well on the way. She quickly locks the front door and pulled on her gloves.

As she walks, she sees a bus pass by with an advertisement for a new caramel latte at Stella’s Coffee. Every time she sees it she thinks she should try it out. It’s only an extra 3 minute walk so she could easily go there instead of her usual bakery. But then, what if it’s terrible? At some places, the whipped cream is so fake it tastes almost plasticy. Or it might be too sweet. No, she liked her routine. If it’s not broken, why fix it?

As she gets close to the entrance, she can smell fresh bread baking, the aroma wafting out into the street. The electronic bell dings as she steps through the door.

“’Morning Hannah,” Becky, the cashier, mumbles as she gives a giant yawn. She is already reaching into the showcase with a pair of tongs. “The usual?” she asks pinching a raspberry white chocolate scone.

“Yes please.” Hannah grabs her credit card from her purse.

Becky begins foaming milk for her vanilla latte.

“Actually, hang on,” Hannah says, staring up at the menu. “Maybe I’ll try something new.”

Becky stops foaming the milk and stares at her with her hands still elevated holding the coffee cup. She takes an exaggerated sigh as she waits for Hannah’s new order.

Hannah scans over the menu a few times, but there isn’t anything resembling the caramel latte she had seen on the bus. That one had chunks of something sweet on the whipped cream. She didn’t see that type of thing here. Better not risk it.

“Um, no actually, I’ll stick with the vanilla latte.”

She pretends not to notice Becky’s exaggerated eyeroll. When the coffee is ready, Becky slides the coffee to her, sloshing the contents over the rim.

“Er, thanks.” Hannah quickly mops the spill with some napkins, grabs her scone and coffee, and heads towards the cramped seating area.,

There are 3 metal tables squashed into a tiny area, one by the window, while the other two are on the other side by the wall. Every morning she sits at the table by the window. But this morning, there is someone already there. She hesitates for a moment in indecision. The man at her table sits sipping his coffee while reading the newspaper which is spread out over the small, round table and drapes over the sides.

She usually watches the people walking along the sidewalk and her table has the best view. She finally sits down at the table in the corner glaring at the man. He’s not even looking out the window. Why sit in a window seat and not look out the window?

She picks at her scone as she slowly eats, bored by her lack of view. It tastes like sawdust and sticks to the roof of her mouth. Did it always taste like this and she hadn’t noticed because she was distracted, or were her taste buds off because her routine had been thrown out of whack?

The rest of her day passes in a blur and before she knows it she’s walking back home. As she gets closer, she notices a column of smoke rising into the sky. Soon the air starts to smell burnt. As she turns onto her street she realizes that not only is the fire coming from her neighbourhood, it’s in her street. And then she sees it.

Smoke is curling out the windows, billowing into the sky. Firefights are scattered about, working equipment so they can start fighting the fire. She stands on the sidewalk in horror as her safety net slowly turns to ash. Where was she supposed to go now? She felt naked and exposed and desperately homesick.

* * *

The next morning she steps out of her hotel room. Her boss had given her the day off to deal with the effects of her house burning down. But she woke up at the same time she did every morning and so she figured she may as well try to stick to her routine as much as possible. She needs to buy new clothes, but the stores don’t open yet so she plans to stop by her bakery. As she walks out of the parking lot, a giant poster in the coffee shop across the street catches her eye. Advertised is the caramel latter. She hesitates for just a a moment before crossing.

“Good morning,” the cashier greets her with a smile as she steps inside. “What can I get for you today?”