I'm more of a novelist myself, but occassionally I like to write a shorter story. It's good practice. So this is where I will keep some of those short stories that I come up with.
How do I come up with them?
My greatest ideas come from three things:
- Long Drives in the Car
- Mowing the Lawn
- Hot Showers
Those are always when I have the best ideas. Or not-so-best-ideas.
Either way I like to write and I want you all to read. Just don't read when you're doing one of those three things, because I don't think it would be safe for any of them.
Here are quick synopsis of the short stories within;
Cookie Jar - A nameless third shift janitor has something that s/he wants to get off his/her chest. It's a confession. S/He did something they aren't proud of and s/he wants to let the world know what exactly happened to her/him.
I have a confession to make. About how I got my hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar. But first let me give you a little bit of back story on myself.
I won’t be using my name at all. I feel like the following events that I have recorded are a little on the scathing side. I will keep myself anonymous for entirety of this telling, but I will give you some insight to my personal life, that for some, may give me away.
I am a third shift janitor.
Most people know about first and second shifts, which are normally known as daytime and nighttime shifts respectively. Third shift has another name, many of you have heard its name before; the graveyard shift.
Personally, I think the term ‘graveyard shift’ is a little too macabre. I actually looked up how that term came to be and was a little creeped out by it.
Apparently the term came around in the 19th century or earlier, no one seems to be able to pinpoint an exact century, but I digress. During this time for some reason people were accidentally being buried alive.
How did they find this out?
Well, during this time cemetery land was sparse so when it filled up they would dig up coffins to remove them and their remains from the burial plot. This was in order to make room for the fresh corpses they plopped in there. They would take the bones of the first tenants and put them into an ossuary.
Sorry, sometimes I like to throw big words out there when I actually understand their meaning. An ossuary is a place they keep bones, think of it as a bone-house.
Now I feel I’ve gotten off track again, I apologize.
The gravekeepers remove the bodies from graves so new bodies could replace them. They took the bones and placed them in the word of the day, which is ossuary, and then they noticed on some of the coffins that something was odd. There were deep gouges in the wooden casket. It was almost as if people were scratching at them from the inside!
Apparently it wasn’t even just one coffin. It was some strange amount like one in every twenty coffins. It was then discovered that some people were being buried alive. So to make a long story short, just so I don’t keep you here for very long, graveyards thought of a way to get around the problematic issue of burying non-dead people.
The solution was to tie bells in the coffin.
If a person was ever buried while they still drew breath they could ring the bell and the person who worked at the graveyard, doing a ‘graveyard shift’, would hear it and come to their rescue.
Hence my disdain for the term ‘graveyard shift’.
You now know my profession.
As to where I work, I can answer that as well. I am an employee of the massive Apparatus Abbas Industries, where I work in their Homestead branch, which as many of you know is their main base of operations.
Here I am trained in the art of floor wax wielding, broom and dust pan dancing, garbage eliminating, and classic rock singing. The first three are my job, the latter is what I do whilst I work.
On a normal day I get a section of the facility to clean, which generally is a few bathrooms, a dining area and then lots of floor scrubbering. I believe that is the technical term they teach at janitor school, which I have never attended.
Here are the steps to prepping a floor scrubber. You splash some chemicals into the scrubber. Then fill-er-up with a load of warm to medium hot water. Turn on the scrubber. And you take off down the nearest hallway making it squeaky clean.
Scrubbering (or should I call it scrubbing for the layman) is a relaxing way to spend the late night for a bachelor like me. Actually scratch that, for all you know I may be a bachelorette. Either way it isn’t important to the story. Just know that I am a working janitor at the world’s largest corporation of well… everything.
Now, I shall talk about the night, which in time, will lead to my confession.
I came into work at the normal hour, where families are sleeping, but it’s still early for college students and young couples on dates. It was a Friday night, so more people were probably awake then I give credit to, but I was stuck at my third shift janitor job. I got into my jumpsuit, which I wear so I don’t get sloshed with bleachy solutions, and snagged my broom and dust pan. I left everything else in the supply closet, including my walkie-talkie, which I never used before anyways.
Before scrubberi – I mean scrubbing the floor it is always best to get rid of the garbage and dust bunnies that may be lurking in tight corners, because the scrubber will just make a mess of objects such as these.
I put one of my headphones directly into my ear and turned on my music player, which was selected on the track list I was listening to the night before. It started off by playing Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, which I immediately started to belt out, without a care in the world.
I did my normal rounds. While I swept, I checked garbages that needed to be emptied and made a mental note of how many garbage bags I would need later in the night.
That was when I noticed a door was open.
Doors being open are things that are never an oddity, but what was odd was the fact that a light was on. It was on in the far side of a vast room.
I was in a different wing than I normally cleaned, so I was not entirely sure what was done here.
I entered the room and it was dark enough where I was that I could not see much. I was too focused on the light on the far side, it was a wavering purple. Actually, purple doesn’t seem right. It was changing colors from magenta to byzantium to indigo cyan to aquamarine and all the colors close and in-between. It seemed to be sticking around the cooler end of color theory however.
I continued walking through the room trying to find out exactly where these psychedelic looking colors were originating from when suddenly something slammed me in the face and knocked me backwards, I dropped my broom and dustpan in the process. The earbud that was in my ear flew out as well, just as Freddie Mercury finished his song.
I reached up and grabbed my nose. It hurt, but I wanted to make sure there was no blood spouting from it. The last thing I needed was to bring out the biohazard cleaning equipment. My schnoz seemed to be unbroken and not leaking any fluids.
I pushed myself off of the floor and searched for my broom and dustpan, but it was too dark, even with the colors fluidly transitioning from one to another. I slowly shuffled around the room with my hands out, only smacking one knee on a table, until I found the lights for the room. I could faintly hear ‘Magic Man’ by Heart start up.
As soon as they turned on the colors disappeared and the room was illuminated by the florescent bulbs overhead. They ticked and hummed as they turned on and I looked around the room, first for my broom and dustpan and then for the missing lights that I saw.
I was in some sort of room filled with computers and terminals that lined a dark wall, but when I got closer I realized that it was tinted glass. I went up to the glass, where my broom was against the wall and picked up my broom. The dustpan was underneath a table that held two large computer towers that were whirring away.
Before I grabbed my dustpan, I saw something through the tinted glass. It was the colors that drew my in here in the first place.
Now it is time for me to fully confess. I confess to having a curiosity that not only killed the cat, but the whole family that owned the feline and everyone else on the cul-de-sac that they lived on. I apologize for anything that will happen due to my curiosity to both myself, Apparatus Abbas and to the world in the present, past and future.
I searched for a door to get on the other side of the glass. With broom in hand I found a handle for a large white door. When I turned the handle the locks clicked and the door hissed as it opened under my influence. It was heavy and when it started to open it felt like the air in the computer room all rushed into the other.
I peeked inside.
I gasped at what I saw.
In the middle of the room was what looked like a small shard about the size of a deck of cards floating shy of five feet in the air.
I couldn’t control myself. I felt like a mosquito drawn to a bug lamp as I entered the room and let the door close behind. The lights in this room were automated and they snapped on as soon as they detected me in their sensors. The room was all white, except for a large metal disc on the floor that was close to fifteen feet wide in diameter. There was another duplicate disc on the ceiling thirty feet above. In the middle of the room, centered above the disc on the floor was the shard.
I call it a shard, because it looked reminiscent of a shard of glass. It was glowing the colors that I saw from the hallway. Different hues of violets, moss greens, and cerulean all came from that shard floating in midair. It looked like it was containing a miniature aurora borealis.
The edges of it looked like it was freezing and unfreezing. I allowed myself to get a closer look at the shard in the air. It looked like the shard was absorbing water in the air and freezing them only to melt them a moment later.
I began to circle it, but noticed something strange. The shard that was visible from one angle was suddenly gone from another. It was two-dimensional, like looking at the edge of a piece of paper. It was difficult to see, unless you knew exactly to look, but the colorful light still eminated. I walked a little more to my left and it reappeared.
I barely even registered that ‘Magic Man’ was coming to an end on my buds, but Ann Wilson’s amazing voice was trying its best to snap me out of my trance.
It wasn’t working, but thinking back, I should have let her sultry vocals lead me out of that room.
I moved so I could see the shard from straight on. I suddenly had the urge to touch it. Almost like when you see a jellyfish on the beach for the first time.
All you want to do is pick up a stick and poke at it.
This is what I did at that moment.
I even had the ‘stick’.
I used the handle of the broom and slowly edged it towards the shard. When the plastic handle of the broom should have touched the shard it continued. It kept going through the shard, but I could see the broom handle continuing into the shard.
I bent my neck to look at the shard from the other side and to my amazement I could not see the broom handle going through the shard. I proceeded to glace at it from the side, where it became nearly invisible. The handle just stopped where I could see it.
A word suddenly flared up in my mind as Rush’s ‘Limelight’ started to play next on the list.
This was some sort of portal, I thought. I had seen enough movies and television to know exactly what this was, but what was it a portal to, I wondered.
I pulled the broomstick out and saw that the portion of it that had gone inside came out smoking. Either from heat or cold I had no idea, because at that moment the lights snapped off.
I must have been standing more still than I thought and the motion sensors no longer sensed me in the room. It scared me and I dropped the broom.
I reached down to grab it, but not before taking a step forward, which clumsily began to trip me up. My feet and broom tangled beneath me and I snapped the broom in two, feeling immediate bruises flare up on a shin and calf muscle. The lights in the room turned back on as I started to fall towards floor. I was more worried about trying to stop my fall than looking at the portal and I put my hand out to stop myself.
I felt intense cold and heat at the same time on my hand and halfway up my forearm and suddenly I had stopped falling, but all of my weight was now on my forearm. Sharp pain shook through the nerves of my arm and up and down my spine.
I looked up and saw that my hand and part of my arm had gone through the portal and stopped me from falling. I sighed a relief, realizing that the portal had somehow stopped my fall. I laughed a little and flexed my fingers just to make sure my arm wasn’t broken. It hurt when I did, but I ventured a guess that my arm was going to be fine.
I pulled my arm out of
I pulled my arm
My arm… it was stuck inside the portal. I laughed to myself nervously as I realized that my arm was stuck and I tried to work it out of the floating hole, which was no longer emitting colors from this entry way as my arm was blocking everything from coming out. The other entry way opposite of me was still cascading colors however. The edges of the portal felt both freezing and hot at the same time, which ultimately made my arm feel like it was being burned slowly. It was becoming uncomfortable.
I tried to position myself to see the other side of the portal, hoping that I could see my hand coming out from the other side. It was not there.
I did not nor do I currently understand physics. Or is this considered quantum physics? For all I know this isn’t either of those and is something completely different and new. All I knew and know is that I was stuck and I was stuck fast.
I tried to twist my hand out, but nothing happened. I tried pushing it further into the portal, but no go. I even tried to claw at the portal to tear it open more, but it was a failed attempt.
I was stuck.
I tried to sit down, but I was at such a strange angle and the height of the portal allowed me to do nothing other than squat. I squatted and tried to think of a way out of this. I tried shouting out for help, but knew that was going to be a long shot. Each person on the third shift usually kept to their own section or floor. That was unless they needed help, then they would call for help on the walkie.
I reached for my own and my free hand came up empty. I had left it in the supply closet like I usually did. That was a foolish and costly mistake, I thought to myself, berating myself for being too confident in my abilities and then more so for being stupid enough to have gotten myself into this position.
I felt rage and embarrassment and fear all rise up in my throat in one giant ball, which I tried to swallow, but it felt like the consistency of peanut butter and moved down slowly. I breathed trying to calm myself. There had to be a way out of this situation.
It was almost like a portion of my was buried alive. I suddenly had an idea about those people being buried alive in the 19th century or so. It was just a bummer that the thing that could have been my bell in the coffin, was actually an electronic-short-range-talking-device that was stored in a dusty, chemically rank storage closet.
I looked around the room. There had to be a way to turn this portal off. If it could be turned off, I thought. I wondered if it was in the other room and thought, of course it is you dingus, why would there been an emergency switch in here?
Then I noticed against the wall, where the tinted glass window was located, there was a large red button. Labeled underneath it was the word ‘Disarm’. I wondered if that button would turn off the portal and spit my arm out.
Suddenly the hairs on my arm stood on end. I felt a cool gust of wind blow across my hand and the part of my arm that was stuck. I wondered where my arm was located. Was it outside and I was feeling the breeze? Was I on another planet? What if something or someone saw a hand floating in midair? I hoped that someone could hear me.
Well, someone and not… something, at the very least.
I started to shout again, but heard nothing in response. The wind had stopped by then and I wondered if I had only imagined it on my trapped body parts. I looked down at where my arm entered the portal and could smell burning hair. The cold and heat burning sensation still hurt, but I was starting to get used to it. The skin on my arm where it entered the portal was red and it looked like it may have started to blister.
I had to get out of this before it caused some massive damage I thought. I called for help while I looked back at the red button labeled ‘Disarm’. I looked down and saw the broken broom. I estimated that I would be nearly five feet too short from reaching the button with my arm length and broom. If I were to hit that button I would have to throw something at it.
I took the broken handle of the broom and took a deep breath.
I took the rest of the broom, including the bristles and chucked it at the button, but it bounced off of it, clearly with not enough weight on it to press the mechanism. I looked down and saw nothing else on me, but my clothes. Then I got an idea.
I took off my shoes and untied the laces. I then tied the laces tightly together and then one end to one shoe, I kept the other shoe next to me. I underhanded the shoe towards the button and it seemed like it would be long enough to hit the button, it was just a matter of aiming it correctly.
I spent the next ten minutes trying and failing. I was double, triple and quadruple checking the knots in the laces. If I lost the laces and shoe I had, I would not have any other chances to hit the button, I thought. I continued to toss the shoe towards the button coming close more than once.
During this I wondered if the people who were buried alive ever had a chance like this to escape their confines. I decided that they did not and I no longer had a reason to compare myself to their misfortune.
At one time I thought I hit the button, but I must have only hit the side of it. I was becoming aggravated and so was the skin of my arm in the entrance of the portal, it actually looked like it was starting to turn black, but thinking about my skin being burned to black scared me, so I settled to thinking it looked purple.. I flexed my fingers and tried to get the feeling back in them, but the angle at which I had to lean to toss the shoe was cutting off the circulation to my portaled hand.
Then as I threw the shoe something cold touched the palm of my hand. I yelped in fear and let go of the lace I was holding. The shoe smacked into the tinted glass and barely missed the button. I swore and screamed and reflexively tried to pull my hand away from what had poked it.
I curled my fingers into a ball and tried to recoil as much as the portal would let me. I imagined a beast on the other side of the portal had just licked my hand, trying to determine if I tasted as good as I smelled. I imagined the sharp incisors of something digging deep into my flesh and consuming my fingers, palm, and part of my arm.
Even though I was terrified, I laughed wondering if that was the only way out of this predicament, to have some sort of monster chew on me until I could wriggle out of this trap.
I sat waiting for the teeth as the current song on my track list played, which was Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’. I listened to the long held word, burn, as it was belted out by David Coverdale. The teeth never came. I kept my hand curled up in a ball and looked down at the shoe that I had left next to my side.
I had one more throw for the button, I thought.
This was the last throw. To make sure I double checked my person. All I had on was my jumpsuit and the clothes I was wearing underneath.
It hit me that I may have more than one more chance. I started to undress myself. I had a belt on underneath my jumpsuit. I took it off and then ripped one of the sleeves off of the jumpsuit. I turned the shred of cloth into something close to a strip and tied the belt, through the metal buckle and then tied it to the tongue of my shoe. It wasn’t as tight as I wanted so I ripped another sleeve and made another strip and tied again.
Two strips are better than one, I thought to myself.
I tested out the shoe and belt combination. It was a little shorter, but should still reach. I began to toss my shoe towards the button as a new song came onto my playlist, which seemed appropriate at the time. It actually raised my spirits a bit. ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ by Bachman Turner Overdrive.
I got into it, which made me forget about keeping my hand clasped. I must have opened it while throwing the shoe towards the button, when suddenly something grabbed it. It felt like a hand, but at the time I was too startled to care what it was. I let go of the belt. I watched in horror as the shoe again hit the glass.
But this time it fell directly onto the button labeled ‘Disarm’.
It clicked and suddenly I no longer felt something grabbing my hand. Without turning towards where the portal was, which I knew it had closed because the swirling colors from the other side were missing, I thrust my arms in the air in triumph.
I cheered at my own ingenuity and reached down to massage my blistered skin.
The skin was no longer blistered, but was charred black, but that was not the worrying part.
My hand and arm that was inside the portal were missing.
It looked as if the portal had cut my arm partway up my forearm and even cauterized it. There was no blood and the pain was not there. I stared at my missing hand and started to laugh.
I was in shock I know, but I was free from the portal. I laughed until my sides hurt and then even more until I almost passed out.
At some point I must have grabbed the broken broom and found the dustpan and made my way to my closet. I must have also grabbed my walkie-talkie, because it was going off like crazy talking about how someone had found a floating hand in a large white room, which was now no longer floating, but laying on the floor.
The hand had been short of five feet from the ground centered above a metal plate. Another janitor, like me had seen the same lights and went inside to turn them off, but found a hand sticking out of the portal from one angle. He had poked it first and got scared that it reacted and went to find help. When he came back with the supervisor they had tried to pull it free, when the portal closed and made it fall to the floor.
I had felt them touching my own hand.
It’s crazy to think about it now, especially since I’ve had some time to think about it in the hospital. Everyone here is super nice. The doctors tried to reattach it once, but I told them to forget about it. It seemed to have some severe damage that they could not repair. Something about being such a clean cut that it even cut through cells.
I guess that’s what happens when you’re a little too curious and get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, so to speak.
I did however make sure that they cremated my removed body part. I didn’t want to hear about them burying it. The thought of being buried gives me the heebie jeebies.
Even if it is just for my hand.
I stepped back from the table. It dripped in unison with my foot falls. Men in white coveralls, hoods over their faces, came in and removed what was on the table.
It made a sickening sound as it plopped on the cart and they wheeled it out of the room. One wheel was slightly wobbly and squeaked rhythmically.
Tears flowed hot down my cheeks. I tried to sniff them back, but it seemed to make them leak more. My nose started to run so I dragged my hand across my nostrils. Snot mixed with what was on my forearm.
“I can’t keep this up!” I screamed at the one-way mirror.
They could see me, but I couldn’t see them.
A voice crackled on a small intercom, it was muffled and almost incoherent, but I could understand what they said.
“The next one is on its way.”
I threw the tools they gave me on the ground in defiance. They splashed in the puddle at my feet.
The intercom stayed silent, but the dark glass glared back at me, threatening me to continue.
I have a choice, but I have to do it.
They had my family. They showed me the pictures of them gaged and with long knives across their throats. They knew that I would do anything for them… but was this too much?
The metronomic squeak of the cart’s wheel alerted me it was coming back.
What I was going to have to do came rushing back to me. I closed my eyes, hard enough to give myself a migraine and salty tears squeezed out.
I could hear the door to the room open. I could not escape. There was no door handle for me to even try. They would let me leave when they said I could leave.
I could hear the men, in their white coveralls, shuffle into the room and heave something onto the steel table in front of me. I shuddered knowing what it was.
I could hear it whine on the table in front of me.
The voice startled me as it spoke through the intercom.
“Finish it and we can continue to save your family.”
“I can’t…. I can’t… I can’t…” I said breathing like I had run a marathon.
“If you don’t, your family will be finished instead.”
I fell to my knees. I could feel the warm liquid seeping through the clothes they gave me. I opened my eyes and searched for the tools they had given me.
One sat shimmering in a puddle of mixed liquids. I reached out and took it, the red dripped off and splashed into the puddle.
I slowly began to stand and heard the whimper from the table. I looked down and cried as I edged the surgical knife toward the old dog on the table.
The voice spoke from the intercom again as I made the first cut, “Finish it and we can continue to save your family.”