Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 38) Having all the Facts

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: Write a story involving madness in whatever form appeals to you.
Genre: Open
Word Count: 1200 words.

 The VA councilor leaned back in his cheap government issue office chair and sighed deeply while looking up at the ceiling of his small office. “Josh buddy,” he said from behind his equally cheap desk, “I’ve told you time and time again, hyper-vigilance is just a symptom of your PTSD. You and your unit spent months in that Iraqi village waiting for mortars, RPG’s, and God knows what to fall down on your heads. How many times was your unit attacked in your six months you all were inside the walls of that compound?”

“At least twice a day,” I replied, doing my best to prevent the memories from overwhelming me. My councilor was a decent guy, but he just did not understand. He had spent twenty-one years in the peacetime army where the toughest thing he had to endure was an extended field training exercise to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. The desert to him was mock Soviet tanks and other armored vehicles played war games while ambitious brigade commanders kissed ass and pushed their units for that golden after action report. “But this isn’t hyper-vigilance Raymond,” I said, “things at work seem wrong. I feel like people are talking behind my back and keeping something from me. Its paranoia I tell you and it makes me feel very uncomfortable.”

“Explain to me what you think is happening.” He said giving me an irritating paternal smile.

Even though I had witnessed what I thought were several instances of strange behavior I found myself thinking hard to give Raymond a good example. “About a week ago I was headed to the break room to buy a soda and was stopped just outside by someone wanting information about a report. I could see about ten people inside mindlessly staring at one of the big corporate guys who was saying something. I couldn’t hear him but his gestures and facial expressions were odd. When I finally stepped inside it all suddenly stopped with everyone looking at me as if the zipper on my pants was open. More than that, I felt exactly the same every time my squad was on patrol in some Iraqi town, like the locals could at any minute swallow us whole then spit us out in bloody pieces.”

Raymond chuckled and began looking off into space, he was ignoring me now and I hated that. Feeling as if I needed to respond I looked away from him and began reading all the certificates, diplomas, and pictures that adored his “I Love Me” wall signifying a military career totally free of some asshole trying to kill him. “Listen Josh, when did you get your degree in psychology? God knows I’ve seen this in hundreds of other veterans that have left the service. You’re just transferring your post-traumatic stress to the civilian world. Tell you what, I’ll up your anti-anxiety medication for a few weeks. I have some sample bottles in another office and if they relieve the symptoms, I’ll write out a full prescription.

With that, he was up and through the door in less time than it would take a starving man to devour a Thanksgiving turkey. As I waited, the thought began running around in my head that Raymond could be on to something, except for another veteran like me I working around a bunch of sorry ass civilians. At worst all I had to worry about was them stealing my iPod or not inviting me to some asinine social function. So, when Raymond returned I took the collection of small bottles he offered and walked out.

The next morning as I walked into the building on the way to my cubicle I did somehow feel freer than the day before. While it was no weekend beer buzz at the beach, I took the sensation the new medication was giving me at face value. Making a conscious effort to integrate myself back into the banal normality of the civilian world, I made a concerted effort to look my coworkers in the eyes and greet each one like a normal person.

Unlike many civilians, I viewed my tiny office cubicle as a cozy, safe sanctuary. The enclosed space was diametrically opposite from the huge expanse of Mesopotamian desert that I looked out upon from my counter-sniper position overlooking the Iraqi town my unit was charged to protect and secure. The dull florescent lights were an easy load to bear as compared to the unforgiving sun. But the best aspect of my job was the building air conditioning, it was steady and so cold I often found myself chilled.

My job was simple enough, I worked for a big pharmaceutical company and I coordinated reports from several regions at the effectiveness of various drugs, namely anti-depression medication for adults and attention-deficit disorder pills for children. Truthfully, the job was incredibly dull but I was lucky to have it, with the economy in the ditch a lot of my fellow vets were out of work or in worse shape, sleeping under highway overpasses. While my councilor was a dick sometimes, Raymond was the one who pulled the right strings for me to land the position. It was too bad my morning good feeling just didn’t last.

The building was maze-like with halls that twisted and turned seemly at random. Unmarked doors that were always locked lined each side of the corridors. When noon hit I found myself lost trying to navigate my way through the labyrinth to the employee park outside that served as an informal gathering place. Taking Raymond’s advice, I was going to become part of the group, Hell there was a gorgeous blonde-haired woman named Sharon in accounting I knew hung out with the others outside and I was going to do my best to get to know her.

I was about to give up when after turning a corner the exit outside finally came in sight, it was then that one of the nondescript doors ahead of me opened with two guys coming out. Immediately, the hairs on the back of neck raised up as I watched them slowly shuffle trance-like out of the building. The door the two came out of did not fully close and while my paranoia was building to orbital heights my curiosity was even stronger. More to the point, I felt the need to confront the irrational fear that was not so slowly gnawing my insides to paste.

What I saw at first was just another hallway but this time huge plate-glass windows on the walls showed what was inside attached rooms. Bizarre surgical tables were lined up beside each other with surreal looking instruments from the darkest nightmare hanging down from the ceiling. Further back in those rooms were aquarium-like tanks each occupied with a creature that looked like a cross between a huge shrimp and a scorpion.

Being so caught up in looking at what was inside the rooms I totally did not hear the important corporate executive I previous saw in the break room days before giving strange lectures walk up beside me and grab my arm.

“Mr. Hamilton,” he said smiling manically, “it’s so nice to see you. You’re not scheduled for the treatment for several more weeks but since you are here we will go ahead and get started.

I tried to pull away but his grip was like steal, as if things could not get even weirder, the nameless executive’s neck started to swell far beyond what was humanly possible. That’s when his jaw extended like a python’s and something started to emerge from his mouth. Running on pure instinct with my free arm, I reared back and punched his neck with every ounce of strength of possessed. As I stepped back free of his grip the executive fell to the floor but struggled back up on his hands and knees. Again, on instinct I kicked him in the neck, which forced the thing in his neck to explode outward. This time both fell to the floor dead. Somehow I wasn't surprised to see that the creature that came out the executive’s body was the same type as those floating in the nearby aquariums.

For about a second I was lost as to what to do, but I quickly recovered and with a pocketknife I always carry, I stabbed the strange creature close to what I thought was the braincase. Then after wrapping it up in my sports coat, I ran back into the main corridor and as fast as possible left the building. A television station was my destination but as I passed the employee park with my now former coworkers all quietly sitting on the benches like powered-down drones I realized someone once said, “Sometimes paranoia’s just having all the facts.”


Mike Williams said...

Dude, Bruce Campbell, Whoa, snakes and shit, major heebie jeebies all over.

Glen said...

It isn't paranoia - they really are out to get me. Great stuff

Cloudia said...

free floating anxiety much?


Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral


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Windsmoke. said...

Sometimes councilors have no idea what you've been through because they've had no hands on experience only theory and prescribe bottles of medication which are worse in somes cases than the mental disease you are suffering from :-).

Mike Williams said...

Windsmoke you are right, but not all counselors can be painted with the same brush. Many have gone into counseling because they have had to deal with these issues on their own and saw that there was a need and stepped up. I applaud them.

Pixel Peeper said...

I did not see that ending coming!

Red Nomad OZ said...

Cool! I think paranoia is seriously underrated ...

Have a great day - if they don't get you first!!

Beach Bum said...

Mike: In a bit of a dry spell, wanted to write something more "profound" but this is the best I could do. As for Bruce, I'm a huge fan.

Glen: The basic premise for this story have been done countless times so I added a great deal of detail about the main character's background.

Cloudia: Thanks!

Windsmoke: Yeah, I did that on purpose. A couple of buddies of mine got caught up in duty over in Iraq and Afghanistan after I retired and when I finally caught up with them they were distraught at the lack of information the rest of us were ignorant of back here in America. They mentioned everyone including councilors who only served in peacetime being completely unaware of what they went through.

Mike: No offense was meant, most of them are great, this was just something that hit me concerning what my army buddies mentioned.

Pixel: That could be good or bad. I hope this writer's block lifts soon.

Red: Thanks! Its yard work for me today. If I don't mutiny first.

Akelamalu said...

Somewhere out there! Next episode please.

Dusty,Hells most vocal Bitch said...

Damn, you are so good at this writin' stuff BB! I can writeup a damn good bitchfest..but that's about it. ;-)

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Sometimes it IS paranoia AND they're out to get you, too. Julian Assange kinda comes to mind here.

Randal Graves said...

Glad to see the good stuff has found its way down south. Keep tripping!

Doc said...

You really do know how to spin a fine tale. I always look forward to reading your stuff.


Mike Williams said...

BB no offense taken. Individuals act like individuals and a character in a story should never be taken for an example of the species. Did I say I really enjoyed this one. Took me by surprise in big way.

Mike Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Pluck said...

Wow, I really like where that went. Great work, man.

Ranch Chimp said...

Actually I read this the other day Bum ... just didnt comment, but wanted to say, that anything these dayz out of the mainstreamm thinking is called paranoia, extremeism, hate, etc, etc many in mqas can also be such a plasticized herd. Experience's in life has an effect later on folk's, that I'll just leave there. I had seen alot of formation change's in object's/ structure's, people around me when using acid/ lsd many time's, and have done a few wild experiment's. However ... a good read Bum and Thanx

Jenny said...

This was very good, I liked the ending, he turned out to be sane all along! Loved it (:

goatman said...

Why is maxing out the word count such a goal?
Seems like smaller could be better?

Mike Williams said...

@goatman -Sure it could, the way I see it these are writing exercises. Tell your story as close to the word count as possible helps to learn how to edit and how to expand an idea.

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

WOW!!! Okay... give me a minute here... I need to catch my breath!

What an awesome story! I love the ending... I totally did not see that coming...

Very well crafted tale! A joy to read!


Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: Going to alter this one some but its not on my list for a sequel.

Dusty: Thanks, this is my refuge from the the insanity of the world we live and daily life.

Will: I still believe Julian will eventually have an accident. You don't tug on Superman's cape and spit into the wind like he did and not have some shit come your way.

Randal: Its the Twilight Zone dude, damn I wish they would bring it back with decent writing.

Doc: Thanks!

Mike: No problem, glad you enjoyed it.

Thomas: Thank you my friend.

Ranch: Glad you enjoyed it.

Jenny: Thank you very much!

Goatman: Its just ain't me though.

Mike: My problem is that I like to run my mouth, if the word count was 20,000 I would more than likely find the need to go at least 20,500.

Veronica: Thank you, I definitely went on the lighter side. Though I did try to add more depth to my main character Josh.

R.L.W. said...

Awesome job. Did not expect it to end the way it did.

Marja said...

They are coming to take you away, away. Your stories draws you completely into it and the detail wich with you descrive everything makes you feel you walk alongside the man through the corridoors. Didn't expect that ending though Great imagination

Flannery Alden said...

Spooky! I liked the line where his insides were chewed to paste by anxiety, very apt description. Well done!

Sue H said...

Great stuff, BB!

I love the turn at the end - wonder if 'they' let him make it as far as the TV station..?!