Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred One

Mrs. Bird flapped up from her desk the instant Wil entered the office. “Oh, Wil!” she said, in a tone Wil had never heard from the woman before. “Oh, Wil!”

This, more than the sight of their rumpled neighbor, Mrs. Crandall, stopped Wil mid-step. Mrs. Crandall rose more slowly than Mrs. Bird, having never moved quickly for anything inedible in her life.

Both women, Wil realized, appeared concerned. No -sad. Wil sat. Fortune saw that a chair caught her, a coincidence that rarely occurred in her life. “W-what?” she croaked. “What’s wrong?”

Mrs. Bird came around the tall wall of her desk. Mrs. Crandall came around herself. The two filled the narrow office before Wil, though not in equal measure.

“Wil,” Mrs. Bird said. Wil looked up in rising panic. Not only had the stingy secretary never addressed her by her first name, Wil could not remember seeing Mrs. Bird without her desk besides the time they’d needed first aid last week. Not only had the stingy secretary never been so close, Wil could not remember Mrs. Bird’s tone and manner expressing anything besides irritation.

“Wil,” Mrs. Crandall echoed.

“We -” Mrs. Bird stopped, straightened. Wil watched her collect herself. “Mrs. Crandall just checked you out for the day.” In a brisk manner, the secretary turned to the woman beside her. Her usual disdain returned in a scowl of brow and purse of lips. Mrs. Crandall took no notice; she seemed preoccupied with the task of thinking. Mrs. Bird gave up. “She’s taking you to the hospital to see your mother.”

Wil started out of her reverie. What little color her face held left as she met the businesslike stare of the office administrator. Her mouth opened, but no words came.

The cold, blue, heavily painted eyes softened. The rest of Mrs. Bird’s face followed suit. “I’m sorry, Wil.” An arm twitched in a phantom impulse to provide comfort. “You’d -” she cleared her throat and tried again, “You’d better go.”

As neither girl nor dumpy woman moved, Mrs. Bird raised her voice. “I said, ‘You’re excused to go.'” She resisted the urge to push at them.

Mrs. Crandall shook her head somewhat. “Oh; right. Let’s go, Whale -erm, Wil.” She ambled over to the slight girl and helped Wil stand. Together, they left the office and headed down the stairs and common area to the outside door.

Mrs. Bird watched their progress out the office and school windows. After the old, idling minivan pulled away from the red-painted curb, she returned to the paperwork before her. A single, wet tear slid down a single, dry cheek and dropped to the page.

 

Continued from One Hundred.
Keep reading to One Hundred Two.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Five

It hadn’t been such a boring class after all, Wil reminisced. She crossed one foot back over the other and tried not to share that idea with the other members of her Chemistry group. They probably weren’t in the mood. She snuck a glance to her right and left, taking in their various poses of irritation and boredom.

She wished for something to do besides wait for her turn with only a motivational poster and her classmates to stare at. She should have grabbed the note from Hope, maybe, during their hasty escape to the office. None of them had thought to do much besides run, given the damage. If only Carl weren’t such a clumsy jerk, she thought.

Almost simultaneously, she and the others glared at the door to the nurse’s office. It was a closet, really, since they lacked an official nurse or sick room. Only in today’s case of potential chemical burning had their secretary, Mrs. Bird, demonstrated concern or permission to use some of the school’s precious medical supplies. Wil hoped the first aid kit was still in date, considered who was at fault, and rescinded that hope -at least for the bandages used on Carl.

She sighed. The girl who had gotten their experiment supplies rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah. What a jackass.”

Bobby and Wil snorted, and Wil saw a slight smile on the boy’s face whose name she did not know. He’d been right next to Carl when Carl had spilled their supplies, and was therefore third in line to be seen.

“Shouldn’t we get an ambulance or something?” Bobby asked. He eyed the supplies girl, who was awkwardly cradling her arm in the office’s usual method of first aid: a wet towel.

The girl shrugged.

“I’ve never been burned at school,” Wil offered. She thought. “Did anyone bring a phone?” She knew it wasn’t likely, since anyone who owned one had to keep it in his locker or risk its removal.

The boy who’d been near Carl turned to the right and left, then down the short hall to the closed supplies door. They could still hear Carl yelping and complaining. Phrases like, “I’ve got conditioning to get to, you know…” drifted down the hall, followed by Mrs. Bird’s impatient, “If you’d hold still, this bandage would stay…”

“I’ve got one,” he affirmed. “Can you take it?” he asked the girl seated to his right.

“Ha!” she answered, screwing up her face. “Even if I wanted to, lover boy, my hands are as damaged as yours.” She held up her towel-draped hands to demonstrate; he responded in kind.

“I’ll do it,” Wil grumbled. Laughing as he angled to accentuate the appropriate side pocket, she slipped it free.

“Hurry,” Bobby urged.

Wil activated the screen. “What’s your passkey?”

“Twenty-three, thirty-two.”

“Nice,” Bobby commented.

Wil didn’t understand what was “nice” about a bunch of numbers, but put them in and pulled up a search. After only a half-minute’s read, she said, “Eurgh!”

“What?” the two hand burn victims asked. Bobby leaned over her left shoulder to see.

Just then, the supplies door opened. Wil stashed the phone in her pocket and looked up to see a mummy-like Carl Hurn exiting. He wore a glare as well, but it was not as impressive as the scowl worn by the woman just behind him.

“Mrs. Bird?” Wil ventured. “I think Carl needs to go to the hospital.”

Mrs. Bird stood all 5’2″ of her frame a little straighter. She peered around Carl. “Oh?” she sniffed. “And why do you think that, Ms. Winters?”

“Well,” Wil gulped, “I …remembered a story I …um.. that Dr. L -Dr. Lombard told us recently about a guy with chemical burns..” She tried not to look at her classmates as she blushed. They knew she was lying about her source, of course, but even Mrs. Bird wanted to hear the story.

The secretary’s expression became impatient in her morbid curiosity. “Well?”

Wil shifted. “Um, well …I re- I mean, Dr. Lombard said- that the guy’s -erm- well, that the guy had chemicals spilled in his lap like Carl did; and that, because the guy didn’t change and rinse off and go to a hospital right away, that he didn’t have any …private parts when they finally did cut off his pants…”

To which Wil and three of her classmates witnessed the fastest de-pantsing a person with bandaged hands has ever completed.

 

Continued from Eighty-Four.
Keep reading to Eighty-Six.

Hallowe’en Serial: Final Night

Continued from #6.

*Bhrmmmm* *Bhrmmmm* buzzed the phone. Carol kept glancing at its screen to see if Miss Ziegenbusch had picked up yet.

She even knew where the woman lived, as Carol also did the job of Payroll Clerk and Human Resources Department. She did everything except attend pointless meetings, glad-hand clients, and look pretty at the front desk.

Hiring the current secretary, the woman she was now trying to reach, had not actually been Carol’s decision. Nor had retaining her.

“Hello?” said the phone. Carol’s car wobbled in its lane as she fumbled to answer.

“Hello?” –What was her name again?– “Um, Shelly?”

“It’s Cindy. Who’s this?”

“Cindy.” Right. “This is Carol Carter. Um, from work.”

…. “Oh.” …. “Uh, this isn’t the best time right now, Carol-”

For some reason, Carol felt she needed to be completely honest. “I’m being chased by something!”

She heard a gasp, then, “You are? Wait -is it that werewolf thing?”

Carol took a turn gasping. “How did you know?”

“Out of curiosity,” Cindy asked, “Has your radio also been playing songs based on what’s happening?”

Carol felt she was seeing herself from far away. Someone else was driving her car at dangerous speeds down the highway. Someone else was holding a cell phone with a grip like a vise. Someone else, surely, was doing all of these things at …she checked the clock on the dash…

At midnight. It was now Halloween.

“Carol?” Cindy’s voice called from the phone.

“I- I’m here,” Carol answered, pressing her phone closer to her ear.

Cindy sighed. “I thought so. Hey, I’m sorry for any bad feelings between us; but I really need to tell you something -something big.”

Carol wasn’t sure what Cindy could define as ‘big’ after her other revelations. “O…kay?”

“Um,” Cindy began. “You know that werewolf thing?”

As if on cue, Carol heard the tell-tale, Owooooooooo! She realized it had come through the phone, from Cindy’s end. “Cindy?!” she asked, in a panic.

“Oh shit.” Cindy said. “Um, sorry for swearing. I gotta go. …Basement…”

“Cindy?!”

“Yeah…?” Her breathing was more rapid. Carol could hear a door slam and hard steps on echoing stairs.

“What was the ‘big’ thing about the werewolf?”

Cindy paused. A cupboard from her end creaked, then Carol heard the unmistakable sound of a large gun being cocked. “Carol,” Cindy said, “That werewolf is Carl C. Carter. Your husband. I gotta go.”

And Carol was left alone, with the dead sound of a disconnected phone.

Hallowe’en Serial: 2nd Night

Continued from yesterday:

“Ah, Carol!” a familiar voice said at her elbow.

She jerked; breathed a quick, short, loud intake; and clutched at her heart.

“I was just going to –what in the world d’ya do to your desk?” Ever slow on the obvious, Carl C. Carter stood next to his wife at the doorway and surveyed the disarray inside with confusion. Then he noticed Carol. “Oh, hey -did I give you a fright? Sorry. —

“I was just going to head over to that business meeting I told you about. If anyone calls you’ll be sure to tell them I’m up to my eyeballs in work, won’t you?” He touched Carol’s shoulder, smiled a quick, grandfatherly smile, straightened his striped dress shirt, and turned to whistle down the hall.

Carol hadn’t moved; her left hand still on her chest, her right on the door handle. She breathed out. She tested her feelings like a mentalist dipping a toe into physic waters but only felt annoyance. Carl and his design team held meetings according to his whim, and left her to reschedule the pieces.

“That’s what Miss Dollar Store is supposed to be for,” she mumbled, as she bent to begin cleanup. “But, she’s always ‘taking notes’ in your ‘meetings.'”

———-

Hours and phone calls and legal contracts later, Carol walked back out to the lobby. All was dark and silent; she was the last to leave. Her shadow from the outside lights ran over the hideous ceramics perched on the secretary’s desk as she walked past. From her peripheral vision, she thought she saw movement and turned. Were they always staring right at her -no, that was silly- right at the door? Carol could have sworn Miss Bad Taste had arranged them facing each other.

If she hadn’t been the only person in the office, she’d have examined them more closely. She swallowed, and backed toward the outside door. The little, scowling cats and their neighboring scarecrow and crows remained stationary.

Carol exited and locked the door, glanced at the blinds to be certain they were closed, and walked to her car. *Clack* *Clat* *Clunk* echoed from her cheap shoes as they trod across the vacant lot. Her mind wholly on the ride home and the work that awaited her there, she did not think to look back.

She started the car, and shifted into reverse. The radio was playing garbage again; she set it to scan. Her headlights swept a glare across the windowed office front as she pulled out of the narrow parking space.

The swirling numbers of the radio dial settled on the station she’d found that morning, just as the blinds closed back together in the dark office window, and just as Carol pulled out onto the street.

Continued at #3.

Hallowe’en Serial, 2018

Halloween!!! It’s a-coming, whether I’ve actually finished kids’ costumes or not. For the next seven days, at just before midnight, I will post a segment of a SCARY serial story. Enjoy!

———–

Loud static greeted Carol on every radio station -that, or, “So what do you think about terrible bosses, Jean?” from raucous, annoying morning show hosts.

“Isn’t there a single station playing music?” Carol asked her dash. She pushed the Scan button and returned her attention to the stop-and-go traffic around her.

*Bzzzhrrrfffftttzzz*

“And…” Ha, ha, ha, “then he asked me to turn in yet another-”

“Your next stop for tires. You know, when you need tires, you need-”

*Pzzzzschhheeewwww*

“I thought I’d get a break, finally, but that was when he extended my hours to-”

“I’m driving; here, I sit.” ♫ “Cursing my government-“

A pickup truck cut into the too-small space in front of Carol’s sedan; she braked, hard. The radio, unchecked, continued on to, “We’ve got Josh on the line now to tell us about his worst day at the office. Josh?”

Hurriedly, Carol pushed the back arrow. She’d heard music; she knew she had. The display jiggled through a few numbers and rested on yet another set of commercials. She glanced up and only saw the large rear bumper and even larger tailpipe of the pickup truck. Traffic hadn’t moved.

Carefully, she edged the tuning dial up a tick. Static. Up another tick. Static. Vehicles edged forward as she moved her wrist just one more turn to the right. ♫ “When she turns 50 / I might be dead / But acting happy again / For singing his songs about rush-hour traffic jams…”

Paydirt. She smiled, certainly happy despite being in her own traffic jam. And being 50.

The song ended, and another began. This was more mainstream, and she sang along. The station played song after song all the way to work; the last ending just as she pulled into a space on the office building’s left side.

Carol found herself humming as she walked in through the front doors. A verse or two escaped her lips from recent memory. ♪ “There’s a problem at the office,” Hmmm hm hmmm ♫ The front desk secretary glanced up, her expression one of surprise. Carol continued past her and her cheesy Halloween decorations. Carol had hated the secretary since she’d arrived with her short skirts, fake makeup face, and too-high heels. A penchant for black cats and smiling ghosts from the dollar store only made Carol avoid the front desk more.

She walked on to her office, just down the hall from her husband’s. “Carl Carter, head of C & C Contractors,” she said aloud. Pushing open the door, Carol stopped. Her normally tidy desk was overturned, its contents strewn across the floor. Bits of papers fluttered in the air she’d disturbed at her opening, folders flopped and shielded their former contents, and her flat-shod feet crunched on a discarded pencil.

The mess wasn’t the only reason for her hesitation, however. Her entry had created a stir in the papers; a noticeable one, a visible one. Carol could not shake the feeling, however, that she had also interrupted something else; something not so visible.

Continued at #2.