Getting ahead of you…
Makes me think of Willy Wonka.
You stole fizzy lifting drink. You bumped into the ceiling- which now has to be sterilized. You callously moved from one case of child abuse to another without a whiff of conscience! You get nothing! Good day sir!
A Four Legged Stranger –
“We’ve lost Zone 4.” said Manager Dixon.
“That can’t be.” said Manager Fran.
The group huddled around an ancient conference table. Most were present in body and those who weren’t would be listening. Manager Tom was both.
“When did it happen?”
“Within the last hour. The controllers both agree, the Zone is gone.”
“What’s to be done?”
Manager Tom knew the answer before it’d been asked. Nothing.
“But the bridge has collapsed.” said Manager Loren.
“New ones are opening. They’re opening everywhere.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
Manager Tom held back a smile. It wouldn’t due to betray even the slightest emotion. The one thing he knew for certain was, he couldn’t be the only one working an angle. One or more, if not all, of his illustrious colleagues were up to something.
“Can we reboot?” asked Manager Fran.
“Not without losing the others.”
“It’s pointless to dwell on it, the Zone’s gone. Now what?”
The hesitance to reboot from Manager Wallace. The slight edge in Loren’s voice when he said the word ‘pointless’. The unwillingness of Fran to look anyone in the eye. Layers upon layers. Secret ambitions, secret alliances.
“Perhaps we renew the search for Carol’s cat?” said Manager Tom.
“Carol’s cat? At a time like this, you’re thinking about Carol’s cat?”
“We did send the interrupters after the animal. Hank felt it was important.”
Manager Dixon snorted.
“Hank. I’m beginning to believe we’ve all put entirely too much stock in Hank.”
“… said nothing about Zone 4 collapsing or about Les being lost for that matter.”
“Still. We had the cat and then we lost the cat. That doesn’t seem odd to any of you?”
Manager Tom watched as they processed, but more importantly… he listened.
– – –
Greg bounced along the narrow path. A midday flurry had dusted the road with a layer of white snow. The grey sky promised more of the same.
“Tina. Is the township supervisor in his office?” asked Greg.
“I’ll give you three guesses and two don’t count.”
“Is there anyone there but you?”
Tina snorted into the phone.
“Sheriff there ain’t been anyone here, but me, all day. Most times I’m not sure why I’m even here, ain’t never no one stopping in.”
Greg pumped the brakes and put the squadcar in reverse as he drove past the driveway. He always managed to miss the driveway, no matter how many times he’d come by.
“I need you to tell anyone comes looking for me, I’m at the old Patterson place.”
“Kyle in trouble again?” asked Tina.
“Nothing like that, but if anyone comes looking… that’s where I am.”
“Sure thing Sheriff.”
Tina set the phone down, but it didn’t sit proper in the craddle. She was constantly doing that and sometimes the line would be tied up all day by the sounds of Tina singing or eating or watching her stories.
“Tina, the phones off the hook.” said Greg.
But it was no use. She wasn’t hearing him.
Greg found the end of the Patterson’s driveway and turned on the sirens. It wasn’t wise to drive up this particular drive unannouced. Kyle meet him on the porch. The smell of cat urine permiated the man, his clothes, the house itself.
“Problem Sheriff?” asked Kyle.
“You bring anything for her?”
“A box of donuts.”
“That should do.”
Greg held his breath and followed the man into the mess. Seven cats, minimum, rubbed up on him before he’d even crossed the living room. She was sitting in the kitchen smoking.
“Come give you’re old Grandma a kiss.”
“Dan is fully primed.” said the caller.
“Nicholas?” asked Manager Tom.
“Not awake yet, but the bridge is in place.”
The walls of his office were made of a special material, something simple but effective. They kept intruders out and his conversations in.
“Hank is working our girl over. He’s falling apart. I don’t think he knows how to not know everything.”
“We’ll have others soon enough.” said the caller.
“Still, I fell bad. She was a particularly useful minion.”
The simple substance had a secondary purpose. The patterns on the walls were constantly shifting, a reminder to the Manager to keep alert. To never settle too comfortably in place.
“She knew as much as she needed. She can’t give them anything.” said the caller.
“I’m worried. We’re on a razors edge here… any wrong move.”
Manager Tom sipped at his tea. The walls shifted from breaching wales to something brown and geometric.
“Sit.” said Grandma.
“I can’t stay.”
Greg sat. A cat lept onto his lap.
“You ain’t been round much.” said Grandma.
“I’ve been busy.”
“Kyle, come pour some coffee for the Sheriff.”
“I can’t stay.”
“You’ll have a cup.”
Greg waited while Kyle poured him some coffee. A second cat lept onto his lap, hissed at the first.
“You girls behave.” said Grandma.
“I was wondering if I could ask you something?” said Greg.
“Cream?” asked Kyle.
“Black is fine.”
Kyle shoed away a cat and set the coffee on the table. He wandered off into the deeper recesses of the house. Greg pushed the cats off his lap. A third cat lept up to replace them.
“Something strange has been going on.” said Greg.
“Yep. I’ve felt it.” said Grandma.
“Last night, then early this morning.”
“When’s the last time you slept Sheriff?”
Greg tried to think. He’d been up in the night, with the call about Herald, then the stop at the bridge, the trip back to the township building, the trip back to the bridge, the trip up here… into the hills.
“Some time the other night.”
“You should sleep.” said Grandma.
“I can’t stay. I just need to ask if… if you know anything? Anything about what’s going on?”
Kyle wandered back into the room.
“Thought you didn’t give no credence to Grandma’s special knowledge.”
“Hush boy.” said Grandma.
A forth cat joined the third on Greg’s lap. The first two rubbed back-and-forth against his shines.
“I just wanted to cover all my bases.” said Greg.
“You bring me anything?” asked Grandma.
“A box of donuts.”
“Not that s**t from the Dandy?”
Grandma spit on the floor. A cat dropped from the armware next to the table, landed on an old magazine and sent it skidding. Greg’s coffee spilt. The cats decended on the liquid in mass.
“They’re from Nancy’s place.”
“Oh, those are the good ones.” said Grandma.
“You get any bearclaws?” asked Kyle.
“There should be two in there.”
Kyle opened the box, Grandma smacked his wrist.
“I get first pick, then Greg… cause he’s the one that brought ‘em.”
“I don’t have time for a donut. I just…”
“You’ll have a donut.” said Grandma.
“Try one of the jelly filled.” added Kyle.
Les stood next to the young woman. The bubbles had thinned out and there were now only a couple other hims and other hers.
“Do you think it ever gets dark here?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
There was a lot he didn’t know, but she kept asking and he kept trying his hardest to answer. To please her. To comfort her.
“They keep heading off, but you can’t see where.” she said.
“But if they can leave, we can leave. We just gotta figure out how.”
“You’ll figure it out. I’m sure you will.”
Les stood a little closer to the young woman. She moved a little closer to him.
Greg needed to get back to the office, but Grandma worked at her own speed. No use trying to rush.
“You see the new channel they’re showing now?” she asked.
“The Sci-Fi one?” replied Greg, hopeful.
“No, the new shopping one.”
“There’s some good stuff on that channel.” added Kyle.
Greg’s phone rang, which startled the cat sleeping in his lap.
“Take the call Sheriff. I can wait.” said Grandma.
“It’s alright, they’ll call back.”
“Take the call darling.”
Greg stood, displacing the cat, and stepped into the living room. The number was unknown.
“Sheriff.” said the caller.
“Sheriff, you need to get back here quick.”
Tina didn’t sound right. Sounded as if she’d been crying.
“Sheriff half the buildings gone.”
“Half the buildings gone.”
“Tina you’re not making any sense.”
Greg walked back into the kitchen. Grandma was staring at him, smiling. An orange and white cat purring in her lap, it’s stub tail swaying side-to-side.
– The End
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