Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form. This piece is billed as Science Fiction but about relationships.
Behold the Donut. Hold it up and look at it closely. If you see the hole as a hole, that you lost something for that hole to be there, then you are a zero-sum-mentality. If you see the hole as a clever way to cook evenly the dough, the work it took to make it so, the creativity, the inventiveness, and the possibilities for more creativity, then you are a more-than-the-sum-mentality.
I get a lift from an acquaintance to settle up at the motel, having moved the remainder into the “new apartment” earlier in the day. I then spend 3 hours looking for jobs. Saving on a taxi, I walk back to my apartment from downtown. I sling my work-out duffel over my shoulder and walk up the hill to Campus. My plan is to “short cut” through the University campus, through the athletic complex, then down the hill to the cluster of older apartments where I had rented. As I am a semester early, my plan is to get a job, and save up and have funds for the expenses of my first Frosh semester. I am happy, ecstatic.
Mom and I wept, but kept a good front, as I got into my “ride”, 4 girls and one guy sharing a compact Toyota and hotel expenses. Mom and I had been close, probably too close since Dad, my older sis, and younger brother died in an accident when I was 8. Mom went back to work, I became the “good girl.” Never, well not too often, being a problem to her. I concentrated on good grades, and being the best student I could be. Mom always reminded me that if I was to get ahead, I had to be “serious” about my “job”, namely graduating from High School with honors to get the scholarships that would allow me to get an education. In my Senior Year, I had great grades, a few points behind the salutatorian. My serious, bookish demeanor plus natural shyness resulted in only one date, the Junior Homecoming. I was chaffing under this self-image, with the “inner-Sarah” demanding her metamorphosis.
I talked my mother in letting me move to the college town, Pullman, 3 months early, lock the rent for the year in when the rents would be cheap, and make money. No car, no serious expenses except for rent, I expected to make a major dent in the college book and course fees, and take out a small or maybe even no loan. My only concession to my inner Sarah was a quick whirlwind shopping spree of all the sales in Omaha, judicious use of my employee discount at the Department store where I worked, and some careful purchases at Goodwill. I had a very non-bookish wardrobe. Yes, as I walked, I can not stop smiling and periodically giggling.
It was an hour after dark when I finally leave campus, and start downhill into the residential part of town where the cheap apartments were. I am tired. Apparently the short cut over the hill was not a great idea. I note that going around the hill will be my route if I could not work out the bus routes to and from work. That was when I make my worst mistake ever. I leave the lighted street, and cut down an alley to get home quicker. A couple minutes later, an intense green light baths me. Behind the light I could barely make out a Captain Hook wanna-be, sans costume, with greasy hair, and a stereotypical comic book villain leer on his face.
“Hey!” I feel strangely cold … and empty …
Am I beat! I hate this job. I am retail clerk in a venerable, but failing national chain. Built in the thirties, with hand painted murals on cracking plaster, it was depressing. My fellow workers are beat down drones, the management reminiscent of the first “Miracle on 34th street.” No wonder I am beat. This is not the way I saw things working.
I hope the new showerhead works with the low pressure in the apartment. Strange, this is the first time I am on my own, and my first purchase is a showerhead. But, as a prepubescent kid, reading how James Bond came in from a rousing time of wrenching and saving England for…well what exactly was the type of world that would be created by a semi-misogynist, closet-anarchist, stone cold killer, chain-smoking, inebriated, wisecracker? No matter, what stayed with me was that he came home to an invigorating shower of needle sharp spray. It was my first purchase after my best friend dumped me to be with my best buddy.
The apartment is an efficiency. From the front door, it takes me seven steps to get to the bathroom. I was going to have a two-bedroom apartment, with a real living room, a kitchenette, and a full sized bathroom with a large shower. Unfortunately, my high school bro, Quentin, who transferred from State this semester, backed out when I introduced him to my best buddy here in college, Katie. They hit it off, and I heard from neither for four days until I see Katie helping Quentin move out of our apartment. He was a good sport about the security deposit, not asking any back, but I was stuck with an apartment I could not afford. A quick trip to the Super and I moved to the efficiency. This is not a “Mary Richards” efficiency, but a cramped “Rhoda Morgenstern” efficiency. Even the mice were hunchbacked. Still, I am independent.” And alone.
Closing the hall door, I leave a trail of sweaty clothes from the door, past the hideaway into the cramped bathroom. I can almost touch the walls with my arms out, and I am only 5’ 11”. The old-fashioned hexagonal mini-tile is cracked and heaved in places making you correct your stance as you walked. The vanity is warped from lack a water sealing around the small sink bowl. The walls are pink and medium grey tile. The shower has the same tile, up to six feet. Above that, the paint is peeling from the walls and ceiling. However, I have that James Bond showerhead.
Refreshed, I step out of the shower and towel dry. I remember that I had bought some cologne, and it is still in the satchel. I will then get into my best suit and get on with it.
I look for my satchel. It was just outside of the bathroom, where I tossed it when I opened the apartment door. I reach in and find something cold, not exactly slimy but smooth and shifting. I jump back, trip and fall on my but on the tile floor. My ring finger has something beige on it extending back to the satchel. I try to shake it off, but with a slurping sound, more comes out of the bag. In a couple of seconds, my elbow is enclosed. Jumping to my feet, I shout.
“NO!” “Stop it!” It moves down my chest to my legs. I am numb and warm at the same time.
“How do I stop it?” Past my abdomen, down both legs, across my chest and down my other arm. Less than ten seconds, I feel it work its way up my neck, tickle inside my ears, and the creeping numbness make my short hair stand on end as it came over the top. The last thing I see in the mirror is my mouth and eyes being covered.