Tales of the Storage Space, Part 71

The Storage Space was appalled, simply appalled.

Karen looked equally appalled, staring in surprise at the scalpel before dropping it.

The Storage Space was furious, something about one witness still there.

Karen looked equally furious, scrambling to retrieve the scalpel, still unsteady on her feet.

Amelia got it first.  “Please, you must stay seated!”  Then she turned toward that dreadfully beat-up woman who’d screamed after asking for the key to Unit 3.  “Don’t be frightened; she was just trying to retrieve it for me.”

But the screamer was now too busy texting to notice.

The Storage Space was completely confused.  Among other things, what precisely and exactly was “texting”?

Karen sat with her eyes half-closed.

Amelia was looking at the woman across the counter.  “What is it with this neighborhood?  Has every woman here been beaten?  Except for the woman who just exited with that little girl?

Karen’s eyes widened at “little girl.”  Suddenly the poor, long-suffering thing looked terrified.

The middle-aged woman at last looked up from her phone to repeat her whispered request for the key to Unit 3, shyly but insistently pushing some money across the counter.

The Storage Space, still completely confused, concentrated on the play of emotions sculpting Amelia’s exquisitely wrought features as she looked deep into the eyes of the woman across the counter.  Some other thoughts, about Amelia’s jugular veins, slithered through its consciousness but fled like cockroaches from light when the Storage Space sensed them.

Finally Amelia caressed the money before resolutely pushing it back across the counter.  Then she reached under the counter and pulled out a key to Unit 3.  “Why do you need this?”

“To save someone’s life.”

Amelia paused, still looking deep into the middle-aged woman’s eyes, then pushed the key across the counter.

The woman clutched the key to her heart, then quickly texted something, before meeting Amelia’s eyes again.  “One last favor…”

“Which is?”

“Please, whatever you do, don’t let anyone know you gave me this.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 70

Suzy didn’t want to do what Mommy said.  Daddy didn’t do what Mommy said.  So Suzy didn’t have to do what Mommy said either.

“Susan Witherspoon, you fucking wait up for me!  Right now!  Or else!”

But Mommy was a whole big block away, so Suzy ran really fast into that funny, big ole building right behind a lady with funny marks all over her face.  Suzy got so close to the funny lady with marks all over her face that she could smell her perfume, just like Mommy’s perfume.  But the lady was so busy texting she didn’t see Suzy.

The lady with the same perfume as Mommy went over to the counter and asked if there was an extra key to Unit 3.  She was whispering and held up some money.  Suzy thought it would be fun to hide behind her, then jump out and say “boo” to the real-old lady behind the counter.  But just then Suzy saw someone else jump up behind the real-old lady at the counter.  Then Suzy was glad she’d hidden behind the lady with the funny marks all over her face.

It was the real-scary mean lady!  From the little room with the man in it that didn’t move!  And she looked even meaner now and was even holding a funny little knife!

The lady with the funny marks all over her face screamed.  Loud.  It hurt Suzy’s ears bad, but not as bad as Mommy snatching her up from behind and running out of that funny building.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 69

Karen knew she’d passed out again.  After all, she’d done it so much of late that it was almost as familiar a transition as waking up.  But there was something she didn’t know…couldn’t hold on to…didn’t remember.  It had to do with something she was griping tightly in her hand and something important she had to do.

Then her first dreamy memory of Frank led her away from anything hateful.  She knew her eyes were really closed, but she was seeing the Pacific Ocean ablaze with the sunset.  San Francisco glittered pink and orange, as if on fire.  Frank wrapped his jacket around her shoulders against the fog they both knew was about to descend on the Marin hills, then whispered in her ear.

“I’m dead.”

Karen jerked away to stare back at him.  “What?!?!?”

He was magnificent…standing atop the hills above his apartment in Sausalito in all his virile glory…his hair whipped around smartly by the breeze.  And this wasn’t how this memory went.  He was supposed to whisper sweet words of love in her ear.

“I’m the one who died.  Not Martin…who…oddly…right now…is the only one of us who’s really in the hills above Sausalito.”

Karen felt her heart stop beating as she watched the fog descend between them…making him appear to be the ghost he claimed to be.  At first she felt no pain at all, not even mild discomfort.  She was going to die, too; she was going to join him.

“No!!!!!!”

Two voices had shouted that word.  Frank’s and…

“No!!!”

This time it was only one voice, the most beautiful voice she’d ever heard.  Karen gulped in air as if she hadn’t been breathing and felt a hard thud in her chest as her eyes opened.

“I heard you stand behind me when I gave that key to the pregnant teenager.  You must have passed out and knocked my scalpel off the table.  Thanks for retrieving it, but let’s get you back on the chair and let me check you out.”

The elderly homeless woman in the bathrobe with all the medical supplies.  Behind her, a middle-aged woman was just coming in the door of the Storage Space.  Another witness, Karen thought excitedly…though she didn’t quite understand where that thought came from.  But then she remembered what the scalpel was for.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 68

Martin was still wondering why this girl had brought up a bloody Clint Eastwood movie…Million Dollar Baby, he thought she’d said, though he’d never seen it…when he was feeling all soft and trusting and about to tell her his whole story.  Bloody Clint Eastwood, “make my day,” ultimate American tough guy thumbing his nose at any old-world male vulnerability?

But they were all snuggled up against the fog about to descend on the Marin hills, where they were watching the sun set over San Francisco from so high up they imagined they could see the Farallons.  And she’d given him what she said was an extra iPhone, so he could cross “watching the sun set over San Francisco Bay” off his new, trusty to-do list.  Plus there was the latest vanilla latte she’d bought him in the other hand.

She sighed heavily.  That he could feel with her snuggled up against him, a blanket she’d brought wrapped around them both.  What he still couldn’t do, however, was remember her name.  Because that annoyed him, he defensively blurted out, “You said it again in your sleep last night!”

She turned and looked up at him with dreamy but conflicted eyes.  “Said what?”

“Ma cushla, or whatever that is.”

“Mo chuisle?”  She reddened.  “No, you must have been dreaming again.”

Probably meant dumb, prissy, effeminate, vulnerable Brit that could never hold up to the likes of Clint Eastwood, even if Clint Eastwood was now ancient.

She ran her fingers over his shoulder, probably without realizing she was doing it as she looked up him, thoroughly gobsmacked.  “Where are you from?”

Couldn’t hurt to tell her that.  “Originally?  Canterbury, Kent.”

Soft fingers traced delicate patterns around the back of his neck.  “What was it like there?”

Again, what harm if he told her?  He looked beyond her, to where the sun would soon drop into an ocean afire with pink and orange.  For some reason he couldn’t remember, the first thing he thought of was his father’s garden hose when he watered the flowers.  Insanely, this tranquil memory made him shudder.  The pink and orange Pacific Ocean undulated.  Had he really stopped hallucinating?

FREE ebooks & audiobooks as of May 16, 2018

What would happen if advances in longevity kept Baby Boomers alive long enough to be used as guinea pigs to test interstellar travel?

The latest addition to my rapidly growing, promotional collection of free ebooks and audiobooks is my Hugo-nominated sci fi novella:

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE EBOOK AND HERE FOR THE FREE AUDIOBOOK

I had great fun writing this fast-paced romp into a darkly imagined future!  Baby Boomers have been kept alive long enough to be elder-abused in brand-new ways, including…but not limited to…the rigors of interstellar travel.  Here are some reviews:

From “verified purchases” on Amazon:

“This is both a fun and thoughtful piece of writing. Being a Baby Boomer myself, I was curious about how the topic would be handled in Science Fiction and whether it would just be another superfluous old people story. Instead, I found it witty, insightful, suspenseful, and thought-provoking. She writes very well, too. I like her style. Oh, yes, and I laughed a lot!”

“This intriguing novella tells an adventure-filled story with twists and turns that will captivate every reader – young and old.”

“All the fast-paced fun of pulp fiction without any of the creaky, inept, embarrassing bits that might lead you to question reading sci-fi. What a great read!”

From Claudia Deutsch, journalist:

“Sue Hollister Barr deftly walks that fine line between science fiction and horrifying reality. Let’s face it, the aging of the Baby Boomers would be causing massive societal problems, even if climate change didn’t threaten famine and mass dislocations. Barr’s vision of how unscrupulous folk can take advantage of the situation is unfortunately quite realistic. But her vision of how a few courageous folk can successfully fight back leaves her reader with hope. Brava!”

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE EBOOK AND HERE FOR THE FREE AUDIOBOOK

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 67

Imogene had all but given up on RL, like forever, when Homeless Hag finally turned her back on that cray cray, def-not-woke bitch who’d like actually thought Imogene was pregnant. Homeless Hag looked like all annoyed and impatient, but she seemed to spot something under the reception desk, now that she was turned away from Cray Cray Bitch, snatched it, fumbled it, and then like sent it clattering across the reception desk toward Imogene.

It was a key to Unit 38.

WTFwasImogeneCoca: Like OMG Homeless Hag def not woke re $ I owe & gave me key!!!

^URSunPC&proud: Zayum! Suh w/Cray Cray Bitch?

WTFwasImogeneCoca: < ::poof:: so don’t no…already on stairs tho just heard loud thud behind me.

^URSunPC&proud: Unit #?

WTFwasImogeneCoca: 3

^URSunPC&proud: Just 3?

WTFwasImogeneCoca: Like why u like need 2 no?

^URSunPC&proud: < never saw u RL but no u better than RL here. So need to no all.

WTFwasImogeneCoca: ?

^URSunPC&proud: Hahaha but u gotta go RL & get ur stuff.

WTFwasImogeneCoca: Sec.

^URSunPC&proud: K.

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Lit! I’m in!

^URSunPC&proud: Ur unit? Everything still there? R u sure everything still there?

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Why u so thirsty? U the 1 told me 2 put my dad’s stupid carvings in here!

^URSunPC&proud: < not the 1 told u to tell him u took his stupid carvings! Why u goin all salty on me?

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Like no reason. Like I don’t like care if he beats me even more than usual. Tooth still loose…

^URSunPC&proud: < didnt think u’d tell him…

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Like why did u like tell me 2 take his stupid carvings? U there? Hmmm?

^URSunPC&proud: < had an idea. Thought it might help.

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Help how? U there? Hummm?

^URSunPC&proud: Thought it wud frighten him.

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Why wud stupid carvings missing frighten him? He doesn’t frighten.

^URSunPC&proud: < wrong. So, so, so very sorry!!!

WFTwasImogeneCoca: < can’t get all this shit out in 1 trip.

^URSunPC&proud: Dont take all. Leave the elephant. Say it broke.

WFtwasImogeneCoca: Like he’d really like RL like kill me.

^URSunPC&proud: Tell him when it broke u saw something inside, but just left it all in ur unit & will get it tomorrow.

WFTwasImogeneCoca: Huh? And what elephant? Dont even remember an el…oh here it is.

^URSunPC&proud: Dont really break it!!!

WFTwasImogeneCoca: How’d u no re the elephant I never even noticed?

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 66

The Storage Space couldn’t stop shuddering.  And it didn’t even think a building could shudder.  Yet whatever had prompted those simply awful shudders seemed to have disappeared, but in an odd way…as if instead of going away it had slithered so close that the poor, long-suffering Storage Space could no longer see it.

No matter.  Something slithered through the Storage Space’s mind that told it it had far more important things to think about:  Karen, that frigid fucking bitch!

The Storage Space was appalled, simply appalled.  Where did that thought come from?  Such language!

Was it recompense, or more of the same, that directed all of the Storage Space’s attention to dear, most beloved Karen?

Poor, long-suffering Karen!  How truly extraordinary that she had survived without medical care through so very, very much and for so very, very long.  But now, seated half-unconscious behind the reception-desk counter, she was being cared for by an absolute angel.  For not only was it equally miraculous that this angel, almost equally in need of medical care herself, was the one administering treatment rather than the one receiving it, but it was very clear that this angel knew what she was doing.

The lovely Karen moaned, clinching her lovely teeth, eyes still half-closed.

“I deeply regret causing you pain,” said the old woman with the exquisite voice, mostly to herself, “but it’s medically necessary and…though the supplies I stole from that mad man include almost everything, even this suture tray with scissors and scalpel…they didn’t include as much as a single aspirin, let alone anything substantive for pain like Dilaudid.”

Karen screamed.

Both the Storage Space and the old woman shuddered.

Karen’s eyes snapped open, not seeing for a moment before focusing on the old woman.  “Who are you?  What are you doing to me?”

“My name’s Amelia.  I’m trying to provide you with medical assistance I don’t think you can wait for a moment longer.”  Amelia wadded up some bandaging and shoved it between Karen’s teeth.  “All I can offer for the pain is to ask you to bite on this, and forgive the following pathetic attempt to distract you.”

With that Amelia started to sing, “Sleep my child and peace attend thee.  All through the night,” as she resumed her work.  Not surprisingly Amelia’s singing voice was as beautiful as her speaking voice.  What still remained of the grand old stage, though relegated to a mean space under a hideous metal staircase, settled and creaked happily.  The once-exquisite carving of Romeo’s Juliet came to life again under Unit 38’s tacky 20th century carvings.

Karen screamed again.

Amelia stopped singing.

“Sing!” Karen sobbed.

Amelia went on with, “Angels watching, e’er around thee.  All through the night.”

“Like, what is this, a fucking ER with lullabies?  Like, I really need my things!”

Karen swooned.  Amelia looked up at the pregnant teenager that neither of them had noticed walking in.

“Like, carvings…”  the teenager trailed off as she narrowed her eyes, studying first the unconscious Karen, then Amelia.  “Unit 38.  I…um…like…forgot my key.”

Karen stirred, starting to come around again.  Amelia hurried to finish treating her.

Karen let out a heart-wrenching sob.

Frigid fucking bitch!  Again the Storage Space didn’t know where that alien thought came from, but then that same slithering, illusive alien presence seemed to be prompting the poor, long-suffering Storage Space to communicate with what was, after all, the poor, long-suffering Karen, to console her.  That the Storage Space could most heartily approve.  Though it heard some other words, “witness this time,” that made no sense.

Karen screeched.

The teenager yelled, “Like, my key, please!  Unit 38!”

Amelia sang, “While the moon her watch is keeping.  All through the night,” and put the scalpel down, almost done.

Karen whimpered pathetically.

And the Storage Space then did all it could possibly do to reach her, in her mind with every soothing image possible, every beautiful thing the Storage Space had ever seen or heard.  But something else came slithering through the Storage Space’s connection with Karen, something about “self defense” and jugular veins.

Karen grabbed the scalpel.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 65

Edward had not thought it possible.  Neither all his long, weary years upon the stage, nor his far longer and wearier years being dead, could have rendered such an event an even remotely believable plot development.  Yet here he was shifting his thoroughly fixated, lover’s gaze from the lovely maiden Karen…she who had so consistently reminded him of a long-lost summer’s day…to the face of a woman in her 70s!

Edward scoffed.  He persisted with undoubtedly protesting far too much.  He imagined strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage, until this escape proved futile, since whatever remained of his venerable old stage was most thoroughly, one might even say most noisily, enraptured by this old hag…whose admittedly beautiful voice Edward had done all possible to ignore.

Finally Edward felt most decidedly forced to look this woman in her 70s full in the face.

It was fortunate, profoundly providential, that, being dead, Edward no longer needed lungs that could still breathe or a heart that wasn’t stunned to a sudden full stop.  “But thy eternal summer shall not fade!”  Unlike Edward, what stood before him was no ghost but the living, breathing, one true love of both his life and death.  For all his Shakespearean elegance and incessant verbosity, he was…for the very first time in either life or death…silenced.

Still, after a very long time of pure childlike wonder and thoroughly unbridled joy, some tiny little voice within him did the math at about the same time another little voice noted that those were not his true love’s lips, after all, but rather, miraculously and unmistakably, his own.

Switzerland!  Where he’d sought in vain to find his love so very long ago, but also where women in the theatre often went when…

All those uncharacteristic complaints before she left for Switzerland about the costume department making her gowns too tight…

She hadn’t abandoned him for another lover, she’d…

But suddenly something yanked Edward back to the present, and even the revelation that this present included what must be his own…granddaughter?…wasn’t enough to keep him from shuddering along with the rest of the building.  Both the lovely maiden Karen and his elderly granddaughter looked up startled and struggled to maintain their footing.  A line from The Tempest, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here,” rang through Edward’s mind over and over again.  For the thing that had yanked Edward back to the present seemed myriad, so insidiously evil that even Shakespeare couldn’t sufficiently capture it, and…like Edward himself…was no longer alive.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 64

Karen stared in abject horror at the homeless woman who’d brought up the police investigation into Martin’s murder. When one of Karen’s hands hit the counter that separated them so hard she couldn’t help a yelp of pain, she realized how much both hands were shaking and hid them under the counter, hoping against hope that the homeless woman wouldn’t see how terrified she was.

The homeless woman reached across the counter to hold her up by the elbows. “I’m so very sorry to have upset you so by bringing it up!”

That voice, the most beautiful Karen had ever heard, now deep with emotion… It was such a powerful voice that Karen’s whole body reverberated with the sound of it and, even more remarkable, Karen was momentarily stunned out of her agonized conviction that, no matter what, she had to protect Frank from being discovered as Martin’s murderer. “You,” Karen stuttered, “you must be…must have been…an actress?”

“No, not I…” The homeless woman replied, then stopped suddenly, apparently puzzled.

Karen was struck by an odd hush akin to an abrupt change in air pressure.

Now the homeless woman was looking around at the interior of the storage space, as if seeing it for the first time.

Karen imagined a whisper, something about holding its breath, if only a building could hold its breath.

“But…” The homeless woman’s face contorted oddly, as if thinking of something for the very first time, “Perhaps…” Now she looked caught between wonder and embarrassment over her own foolishness. “My grandmother.” The wonder and a tentative tone of conviction won, as she continued to look around at the storage space, reminding Karen of an actress scouring her audience for affirmation.

Karen felt something else reverberate through her entire body in reaction to this, along with a torrent of memories that couldn’t possibly be her own since they all involved theatre in the 19th century. The building beneath her seemed to sway under the impact of this revelation. But now Karen shook herself free of all this to concentrate on the one thing that was really important: protecting Frank.

Frank! The next torrents of memories to wash over Karen weren’t those of her imaginary playmate, the building, but her very own. She physically fell back at the onslaught, seeming to remember all at once each and every time he’d made love to her, and would have fallen over backwards if the homeless woman hadn’t steadied her. Frank: his eyes, his smile, every word he ever spoke, and even that horrible scar on his face that she couldn’t help loving as much as all the rest. With all the subtlety of two galaxies colliding, she realized how very much it didn’t matter what he’d done…not to Martin, certainly not with her best friend Marie. A threat to his life was far worse than a threat to her own.

“What I came here about can wait. You need to sit down. Let me use some of the medical supplies I took from the crazy man’s house to treat your wounds.”

It was the homeless woman. A potential threat to Frank. Beautiful voice or not.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 63

Martin felt the sheet peeled back so someone could run their fingers over his naked hip.  “Mo chuisle!” exclaimed a voice that literally throbbed with emotion and was deep enough to be a man’s…though something told Martin it was a woman.

Martin bolted out of bed.  “Ma…cushla?” was the best he could do at repeating words that had obviously been in a foreign language.

But it had only been the girl from the plane with her fingers now frozen midair over where his hip had just been.  Her face flushed a deep red before she turned away and mumbled, “You…must have been dreaming.”

He shuddered violently but looked around, relaxing as he took inventory and checked everything off on his mental list:  Same bed.  Same bay window.  Same blue sky, green grass, and sidewalk that wasn’t pink.  Another airplane, not even remotely resembling a bloody dragon, roared overhead.  He checked around the room:  something strange there, like everything looked too new to be scattered about as if she’d lived there forever…but nothing was undulating.

No, he wasn’t doomed to chronic flashbacks of drug-induced hallucinations.  Mum and dad were both wrong.  As usual.  Brilliant!  He could feel his own smile.  And smell…the coffee?

“Vanilla latte…Randolph?”

Martin all but snatched it out of her hand, only pausing to caress the Starbuck’s logo before upending it.  “Absolutely scrummy!”

“Glad you like it.”  She stretched out naked beside him.  Was it his imagination, or did she intentionally display herself such that the light from the bay window accentuated every curve.  “You…seem to do a lot of dreaming…Randolph.”

Randolph?  Oh, right.  Randolph Barclay.  Now he could feel his face fall.  Getting laid was all well and good and had at least put a roof over his head temporarily.  But for how long?  And what was he supposed to do for money?  Not to mention phony ID.

Soft fingers traced delicate patterns along his thigh.  “Troubling dreams, Randolph?  You might feel better if you talked about it.  Then we can get back to having fun…”

His dick jumped, but then lay still.  Talk about it?  Tell someone else about the whole bloody mess, including killing Frank, and be able to explain how it was really self-defense?  For a moment he felt a very different kind of yearning.

She must have seen it.  She sat up and wrapped her arms around him.  Her voice was velvet.  “Can I tell you a story?”

“Oh, right.  Yeah, sure.”

She snuggled up closer.  “I once knew a guy who found himself in a position where he had to do something really bad.”

Martin had been fiddling with the bed sheets, but he stopped at that and sighed.  “Poor chap.”

She snuggled up even closer.  “Know what his mistake was?  He kept it to himself.”

“If it was really bad…”

“I know what you’re thinking.  And, yes, he could have faced Invol Manslaughter or even Murder 2.  But not everyone would have ratted him out.”

“Better safe than bloody sorry.”

She ran her fingers over his shoulder.  “Except that didn’t account for what doing something like that does to a person’s mind.  Ever read Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Telltale Heart’?”

“But that chap deserved discovery!  And he’d really lost the plot.”

“Justifiable or not, normally sane or not, doing certain things poses a well-documented threat to a person’s sanity.  And what better way to go insane than to keep it to yourself?”

Martin’s head spun.  He remembered his dreams, especially the one where he found himself frying up pieces of Karen to eat.  He remembered pink sidewalks and dinosaurs sleeping in his garden.  He knew with something akin to a thud in his heart that she was right.  This girl…he didn’t even remember her name or if he’d ever been told it…obviously thought he was ace, positively blinding, the bee’s knees.  How much more willing would she be to house him and keep him in vanilla lattes if she knew his story and what he was up against?  Still, he had to be daft, a damp squib of the first water, to trust his life to a bloody one-night stand.  But he couldn’t resist turning toward her, his face undoubtedly an open book to all the turmoil within, and staring deep into her eyes.

At first he thought he saw cold calculation in those eyes, but they seemed to melt as she stared back at him.  Or was that just wishful thinking?  Then there seemed to be a funny look on her face:  could have been affection; could have been contempt.  He thought he caught a hint of a wry smile as her voice deepened and she asked, “Ever see that film with Clint Eastwood about the brutality of boxing?  Million Dollar Baby?”

“No,” he answered slowly.  But he’d seen plenty of violent Clint Eastwood movies and what the hell she was up to bringing up a brutal action-adventure movie when he was so obviously feeling vulnerable?