Tales of the Storage Space, Part 50

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.

Mommy was no fun. Mommy didn’t like it when Daddy brought home pretty ladies, who gave Suzy candy and laughed a lot. So Suzy didn’t like Mommy.

Daddy was fun, even when he stumbled around, and his mouth smelled like the red stuff in funny glasses that Mommy wouldn’t let her drink.

“Suzy Q! Where are you, Suzy Q?”

Suzy giggled. That was Mommy. Mommy couldn’t find her in this funny, big ole building. Mommy had told her to stay close, but Daddy never stayed close to Mommy, so why should Suzy have to stay close to Mommy? Besides, she had found a great hiding place. Even if there were two grown-ups in it already. One was a man, and the other was a lady, who had fewer clothes on than the pretty ladies Daddy brought home. But they were both asleep.

“Suzy Q! Where are you?”

Uh oh! Mommy was getting closer! Suzy snuggled in closer to the sleeping man and lady. One of them moved, so she put her finger to her lips, just like Daddy did when he was hiding from Mommy.

“Suzy Q, don’t you dare hide from me!”

Suzy giggled again, just like Daddy giggled when Mommy said that to Daddy.

“Susan Witherspoon, I’m going to leave you in this fucking storage space if you don’t come out this minute!”

Suzy giggled and giggled, snuggling up closer to the sleeping lady. Except…the lady wasn’t sleeping anymore. Instead she was staring at the man. Suzy could see the lady’s eyes getting bigger and bigger. Then she looked at Suzy. At first Suzy thought she looked like a real nice lady, like one of the ladies Daddy brought home. But then she started to look real scary mean and started whispering about how Suzy better get out of there or she’d do all kinds of really mean things to Suzy.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 49

“Ready for my anything?”

Karen struggled to regain consciousness, only vaguely remembering that she’d passed out while Irwin, who’d just spoken, finished cleaning up her cubicle.  But where was she now?  And what did he mean by his “anything”?  She felt she should know but didn’t remember, then felt herself drifting again…something about a summer’s day.


Irwin’s voice, followed by his laughter, jerked her awake again.  Startled, her hands jerked about, trying to get her bearings.  A scent wafted up whenever she hit the floor:  disinfectant.  Her hand hit the wall, then something sharp wedged between the wall and the floor.  Her eyes fluttered open but she couldn’t see anything wedged between the wall and floor, just a slight shine and fresh blood on her hand.

“Oh there’ll be a lot more where that came from.”

Karen, whose eyes had closed again, felt his hand wipe the blood off the hand of hers that she’d jerked away from the wall.  Then she heard a slurping sound, a swallow, and a long, satisfied sigh.  But she didn’t care.  Oddly, she was sure it was Frank, not Irwin, that was now on top of her.  And Frank’s whisper in her ear:  “Tell him to wait.  Tell him you have a surprise for him that’ll make it even better.  In one of your boxes.”

“What’d you say, bitch?  A surprise?”

She must have said something aloud.  Her boxes, what was in her boxes?  She felt some weight shift off her.

“Sexy lingerie for me to tear off?  Go ahead.  Get it.”

Shoved, her head hit something hard, but not as hard as the wall.  A box.  She opened her eyes and gathered her strength.  Her hands fluttered over the box, trying to open it.  Frank whispered, “Not this box.  Friends Forever.  Box underneath.  This box doesn’t have anything.”


Suddenly Karen was fully conscious, remembering what Irwin had done to her before.  Wide open, her eyes took in every detail of her storage unit.

If only a building…

Where did that come from?  No longer was she taking in every detail of her storage unit, but she was taking in every detail of what must have been the riggings above an ancient stage.  Where she’d just cut her hand on something apparently sizable but transparent, that had wedged a fist-sized gap between her storage unit’s floor and wall, she was instead seeing some kind of heavy lever hooked onto something else that must have controlled either a curtain or backdrop.

“Your best friend Marie, my…biggest mistake,” Frank whispered urgently.  “The box underneath!”

Karen’s storage unit reappeared.  She felt herself shoved from behind.

“Hurry up!”  Irwin snapped.

It took everything she had; she thought it would kill her outright, but Karen pushed the top box aside with a great sweep of her arm.  It clattered on the metal floor, spilling its contents:  The small metal horse on wheels with almost all its paint chipped off that had been her grandfather’s.  Her parents’ high-school yearbook that Karen had dog-eared since her parents’ fatal car accident on the way to their high school reunion.

“Box underneath?” Irwin snarled.  “Why didn’t you just tell me?”

Her grandfather.  Her parents.  Would they be there, waiting for her, wherever there was?

“No!” Frank seemed to yell in her ear.

“Where’s the fucking sexy lingerie?” Irwin asked, rifling through the box underneath.  “Fuck!”  He snatched a hand out, bleeding like Karen’s had been.  Then he pulled out a huge piece of the broken “friends forever” plaque with which she had hoped to preserve the memory of what had been the greatest friendship of her life, with Marie.  It was now a most efficient weapon, smooth on one side so he could hold it easily and wickedly jagged on the other.

Karen, seated in the cramped space, whimpered and scrambled backwards till she cut her hand again on the glass that had gotten wedged between the floor and the wall.

Irwin, on hands and knees, seemed to slither over the tiny space separating them, like a rat closing on its prey.  Beady eyes glittering in the gloom, he oozed over her grandfather’s metal horse, over her parents’ yearbook.  Then he reared back and smiled down at her.  “You didn’t play your cards quite right.”  He raised the broken glass as high as he could over her, touching the ceiling.

Karen squirmed, banging her back against the wall, cutting her hand yet again on the glass wedged there till her whole arm slid through the fist-sized gap it had made and she howled in pain.

Irwin laughed, taunting her by jerking the jagged glass he held over her this way and that such that she kept wiggling about in different directions to avoid the attack he delayed, apparently savoring the suspense.

Karen heard Frank’s unremitting scream.  Even Irwin seemed to jump at it.  But Karen was starting to pass out again, no matter how hard she fought it.  Grandpa, she called silently.  DaddyMommy.

She knew she was losing consciousness and, with it, the last chance to save her life, when she hallucinated a green hurricane swirling around Irwin’s head, seeming to obscure his vision as he tried to bat it away.  Her hand that had slipped between the wall and the floor flopped about a bit, like a dying fish, and came to rest on a broken fragment of what her caressing fingers could tell was a once-grand wooden carving, loose in the ancient abandoned spaces between the current floors.  If only she could escape there.  She willed her soul, soon to be released from her body she was sure, to escape there and asked her imaginary playmate, the once-grand old building, if it would remember her.

Its answer seemed to be another vision of the riggings above an ancient stage.

“Wake up, bitch!”

Irwin’s voice seemed so far away now, but she felt the slap.  Her eyes fluttered open, but she knew she was still hallucinating things when she saw that he’d only temporarily swatted the green hurricane aside which now returned with a vengeance.

Her hand flopped away from the wooden carving and she found her fingers closing around something heavy.

Another slap.

No, Karen thought.  Just that one word.

A third slap.

Karen’s eyes opened wide as she yanked her arm out of the gap, pulling what she now saw was some kind of heavy lever with her.  She heard a horrible concussion.  Then she felt her own head slip back against the wall, and there was blackness.  She saw and heard no more.


Tales of the Storage Space, Part 48

Martin staggered out of the cab that was no longer green but swirling shades of magenta. Overhead huge dragons, flying through the sky, roared.

“Is this JFK?” he asked the cab driver.

The cab driver clapped a hand to his forehead and sped away without a word.

Martin staggered backwards. There was a swooshing hiss, twice, and glass suddenly separated him from the outside world. Inside, everyone was dragging rectangularly shaped animals back and forth.

Red, white, and blue. He squinted hard and could make out the letters: American Airlines. He approached the counter, alternately squinting and widening his eyes in an attempt to see past the hallucinations.

The woman at the counter was…he was proud of himself for picking up such details…flirting with a man dressed in blue. Martin couldn’t quite figure out what the man in blue was wearing, some kind of uniform with something gold-colored pinned to it, but he saved his efforts for the woman at the counter, who was the important one. A hard squint even gave him the letters on her name badge: Carol. The man gave him a long look, probably feeling threatened by such a good-looking chap, and seemed to sulk away.

Didn’t matter; bloke was gone. Martin dug deep and came up with a prize-winning smile. He also tried hard to purge himself of any American drawl that might have infiltrated a British accent he knew women loved. “Hi, Carol, wondering if you could help me out. Need the best possible price you can give me on a one-way ticket back home to London. For today. Family emergency and all that. Don’t mind standing by.”


“Of course,” Martin crooned, digging into his pocket. Bollocks! He only came up with those funny religious papers the cops gave him. Passport must be in the other pocket. But all he could find in the other pocket was his ATM card and a whole lot of cash. Hadn’t he checked for his passport? Or had he decided against it since he didn’t want to travel using his real name?

“A moment, please,” he crooned, trying to keep up appearances. “Left in a bit of a hurry.” Better to escape as far as London under his real name, where he knew many more ways to disappear and would be harder to get to? Or travel within the States with a phony name, if that was even possible? He couldn’t even make up his mind. Flustered, he started emptying the contents of his pockets onto the counter between them as he continued to search for the passport he just must have brought with him. He started with those funny religious papers the cops gave him.

“Here, let me see if I can assist you, sir,” Carol said, looking through the papers, then frowning. “You’re not with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are you? I mean I love their new blue uniforms…always been a sucker for a blue uniform…but really!”

“What? No.” Martin was hardly paying attention as he dragged every last bill out of his other pocket, and topped the pile with his ATM card, still lost in furious debate over domestic vs. foreign travel. But his pockets were now empty. No passport. It would have to be domestic, if he could even get away with that without ID. He looked up and squinted hard.

Carol’s eyes were widening as she looked at the money.

“Change of plans,” said Martin, looking around quickly. No one seemed to be near. He shoved all the money over the counter where it would presumably land at her feet. “One-way ticket to…Los Angeles.”

Carol darted a quick look at her feet, took a very long pause during which she contemplated the ATM card left on the counter, then tightened her jaw. She seemed to be kicking the bills under the counter while pounding away at her keyboard. “It’ll have to be San Francisco. Flight’s leaving now. I’ve given you special pre-clearance. Got the passenger name…”

“Randolph Barclay,” he interrupted her, pocketing his ATM card.

Carol gave him a sharp look as she leaned on the backspace key, typed, printed, and handed him his boarding pass. “Enjoy your travel, Mr. Barclay.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 47

Jennifer was seeing red, a long skinny triangle of it warbling in front of her, slightly obstructed by…were those her own fingers? Yes! It was so hard for her to see, especially with a headache that pounded through her like a gong, but she knew those were her own fingers when some of the red splattered in her eye and the obstruction flew to her face to wipe it away.

An arm tightened around her, its hand covering the mouth she’d opened to scream. Another hand, not her own this time, now obstructed the skinny red triangle, fluttering about it like a bird.

For a moment her vision returned; she was staring into the most beautiful green eyes she’d ever seen. They widened; he put a finger to his lips. Then that hand, shaking, returned to the skinny red triangle Jennifer now realized was the heel of her shoe. It was embedded in his neck.

Just before she again lost consciousness, her senses picked up the sound of the homeless woman pleading and that strange thing she’d smelled before, though a bit fainter this time, as if more distant. Her eyes fluttered open one last time, leaving her with the impression that she and the man with the green eyes and gorgeous blonde hair were lying on some junky old oriental rug.

Then she was safely back in her bedroom as a child. Mommy and Daddy had bought her a new toy! No. It was alive. Warm and fuzzy and sweet smelling. A kitten! Jennifer remembered what Mommy had said and was very, very gentle. She pet the kitten. The kitten arched its back and purred, looking up at Jennifer with big green eyes. Jennifer heard the door to her bedroom open and called out happily, “See, Mommy? I remembered what you said! My kitty likes me!”

But there was no answer, just footsteps, approaching softly. Jennifer looked up, expecting Mommy, since she knew Daddy was at work. But what she saw was impossible, since she knew she was an only child. Still, she was staring at herself, an almost exact duplicate, a twin. She even found herself mouthing a name: Judy.

Judy was looking at Jennifer’s kitten, literally licking her lips.

“Mommy!” cried Jennifer.

“Out shopping,” said Judy.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 46

The Storage Space would have been quite violently ill if only a building could… No! Those dreadful little filthy vermin people could be quite violently ill! It was the very least they deserved, an appallingly inadequate punishment, really! But why would a dignified old building who’d never ruined an exquisite carpet with boots encrusted with horse manure, let alone killed anyone or anything…like a charmingly dainty, old tea room…aspire to doing anything at all that people could do? The Storage Space determined it would never think like that again. Really it felt quite strongly… Was absolutely adamant…

“I wouldn’t blame you!”

Oh… Well… It was that Karen, who’d actually spoken aloud to the poor, long-suffering Storage Unit. A bit…different…all right, maybe…that one, after all.

“Wouldn’t blame me for what?”

Le Grand Rat! Thought she was talking to him, the fool. But to be fair he was at present helping Karen clean up the nauseatingly disgusting mess that her storage unit had become.

“For anything…”

Karen had startled when he first spoke, but her response was almost loving, flirty. The Storage Space doubted Irwin would notice the slight shudder still in her voice.


He put his hand on her derriere, the coarse beast, not seeing the look of terror that prompted and apparently mistaking the little jerk she couldn’t suppress for pleasure.

“When we’re done with all this and have…a more suitable place for your…anything.”

Even Le Grand Rat looked a tad disbelieving in response to that one. Still, he shoved the remaining filth into a garbage bag with his bare hand before using that same hand to grab a handful of the French fries he’d brought for Karen and stuff them in his mouth. Then he poured a bucketful of disinfectant all over the floor, all without noticing that Karen had all but passed out behind him and wasn’t helping at all.


But he did notice when she managed to stir herself enough to grab the empty bucket and stash it with what had been salvaged of her possessions.

“In case I can’t make it to the ladies room.”

She passed out.

“Or my ‘anything’ means I’ll have to get that saw out and clean up another mess.”

She forced her eyes open and smiled at him, all innocent little kid. “Say, did you get some food and drink for little ole me?”

He grabbed the takeout and moved closer.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 45

Frank felt himself freeze, then chided himself for his word choice. How much colder, after all, could a fucking ghost get? But what had stopped him in his tracks, though green mists didn’t leave fucking tracks, was the sight of a woman…one Frank thought he recognized…stabbing a man in the neck with the broken-off stiletto heel of a shoe. Jugular? Frank knew exactly what that felt like, as he watched the man’s green eyes go wide. Vaguely he remembered some other man put something over the woman’s nose that closed her eyes, but apparently not fast enough to stop what must have been a reflexive defense mechanism that got the wrong man. But Frank hadn’t been paying attention then, and he was still struggling to get used to this 360-degree vision that seemed to see both everything and nothing.

Fucking A!

Now that he concentrated he could see that the man who’d knocked the woman out…with chloroform most likely, knowing his ways…was none other than his crazy partner Alex!

But Frank didn’t care really, didn’t really give a flying fuck at all anymore, and…what?…flowed?…oozed?…certainly didn’t walk on. Alex, after all, wasn’t the one in danger.

All Frank knew or cared about was that for one, brief moment he’d been startled out of thinking about Karen. But now he paid for that heavily as it all came crashing back down on him like an avalanche of pain. Martin. She’d eaten, admittedly by mistake, Frank’s life’s blood and all she could think about was Martin.

Frank had sworn to himself that he would never again flow/ooze/whatever-the-fuck back to Karen in that storage unit. He had sworn to himself that he no longer cared if that Shakespearean nobody lured her into death. Fantasies of her ghost…scared, unable to adjust to 360-degree sight…seeking him out only to have him pretend he didn’t know she was there felt so very, very good. At least that’s what he kept fucking telling himself, while the stomach he no longer had clutched.

Where was he? Maybe he could distract himself by finding a mugging, or a drug deal, or something.

The Storage Space. He could still make it out in the distance. All this time. All this fucking time. He could go anywhere: Europe, Asia, the moon. But, no. He’d just been going around and around in circles, orbiting the fucking Storage Space.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 44

Karen was just saying, “Oh, no!” Yet again. To her imaginary playmate, the building, as it continued to recite all the terrible things her kind, people, had done to it. But all this was distracting her from the bright light she was headed toward and that exquisite voice reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets.

She felt so strange. Rather like a light herself, flickering on and off due to faulty wiring.

Off. So much more comfortable. All the pain was gone. The light wasn’t warm, but it was peaceful. There was something strange about the Shakespeare, as if she wasn’t really hearing it but was only thinking it. But it was beautiful. It felt like she would never, ever have to worry about anything again.

On. Shooting pains from everywhere. Horrible sounds that she was not only really hearing but could feel reverberating through her many wounds. A truck rattled over a pothole. Someone clattered up the stairs. She thought that last might be important but couldn’t remember why.

“That’s it, my dear, dear Karen! You’re no longer green! Stay with me…”

A building talking to her? She may as well go back to the Shakespeare. The light.

“No, Karen, no! Le Grand Rat. He’ll put you out back in bags for refuse. Like he did with Frank.”

Frank? The name sent a pain reverberating through her that was far more powerful than a truck bouncing over a pothole the size of the Grand Canyon. Frank? A slip. Of her own subconscious. Her imaginary playmate must have meant poor Martin.

“That’s it, dear Karen, stay with me. Yours is such a pure heart that I know you won’t desert me if I recount again the horror of having my tea room crushed.”

“Oh, no!” Karen could feel her own words crashing out of her body, re-splitting her already split lip.

“‘Oh, no,’ what?” That voice was also real, not her imaginary playmate. Karen’s eyes fluttered open. One was almost swollen shut now, but through the other she could see Irwin leaning over her, and smell some French fries. Just as she’d felt herself flickering between off and on, she could see Irwin’s face flickering between the monster who’d so brutally raped and beaten her and the innocent little kid who’d run off to get her French fries. “What are you doing here in the hall? Trying to get away?”

Suddenly Karen was completely on, all her flickering gone. Horribly, Martin was dead. Frank was gone. Her own wounds were screaming with pain. But she didn’t care. She wanted to live. She wanted…someday, some way, somehow…to find beauty again somewhere. Though it re-split her split lip even more, she smiled. “Get away? From you? No!” She tried her right arm, but it wasn’t working so well so she used her left to reach out and put a friendly hand on his shoulder. “I just…”

“Just what, girlie?” He was still flickering between psychopath and wounded boy scout.

“Just…my storage unit; it’s a mess in more ways than one. I was hoping I could find a bathroom.”

He didn’t look too sure.

“And then maybe a mop. To help you out some!” Karen added in her best girl-scout voice.

Irwin still didn’t look too sure.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 43

Martin stumbled through his own back yard, trying to get away as fast as he could from anywhere where the cops could find him.

A sleeping T-rex opened an eye when he stumbled over its tail.

Martin jumped back and saw he’d stepped into a smoldering pit of lava that, oddly, didn’t hurt.

How could he run, how could he do anything right, with all these bloody hallucinations? First the dreams, now this. He had no idea chronic worry and sleep deprivation could do all this. Could it do all this?

He checked for his passport as he climbed over the T-rex, ignoring its sinking its teeth into his thigh.

Bollocks! He only came up with those funny religious papers the cops gave him. Passport must be in the other pocket.

Siren. Real or imagined? Martin threw his backpack over one shoulder and struggled over a fence in the opposite direction, just to be sure.

Quid, no dollars. Checked his other pocket. Plenty. Plus an ATM card he should use as soon as possible and certainly long before arriving at JFK. But then…he’d couldn’t bloody well buy a ticket for international travel without using his real name could he? Would he have to stay in the States? Hell, he couldn’t even sneak into Canada or Mexico any more.

“Yo, what choo doin’ in my yard, chump!”

Real or imagined? Martin looked over his shoulder. Guy running after him looked like he weighed the better part of 200 kg. Even his footfalls resonated in the ground under Martin’s feet, as if the T-rex was after him. Martin’s vault over the fence in front of him was the stuff of the Olympics.

Safe on the sidewalk. So what if it was bright pink and wobbly. Martin just hoped the ATM he spotted at the corner deli was real.

It felt real, unlike the T-rex’s teeth. Martin stumbled through the necessary and tried to empty out his account. Sadly the message telling him he could only take out a max of $800 turned out to be equally real.

He managed to hail a cab, after he remembered that, yes, the ones in Brooklyn were now green.


Altering America

Had enough, at least for now, of “writerly” writing that self-consciously struggles to be glib/cute/witty?  Oh…and by the way…feeling the first little nips of winter tugging at your getting-a-bit-cold-now toes?

Click here:  Altered America; Steampunk Stories by Cat Rambo

Then either prop those tootsies up in front of the fire or at least cuddle them up under a snugly warm throw.  Relax.  Let Nebula and World Fantasy Award nominee Cat Rambo draw you gently into a melodically shifting kaleidoscope of steampunked faerie tales with teeny, miniature gears.

A delightfully imaginative retelling of “Sleeping Beauty.”  Different worlds told of with convincingly different voices.  A dilapidated house, one side of which “drooped like the face of a stroke victim.”  Wisteria “in frothy purple drifts.”  A land of “folds and wrinkles.”

Contraptions abound, “each more cunning than the last.”  But perhaps, however hard to choose, the first story, “Clockwork Faeries,” has stayed with me the longest.  As a writer myself, I was quite impressed with a story in which the sole viewpoint character…utterly oblivious to his own chauvinism and yet (very real life, these apparently illogical inconsistencies) perfectly comfortable with racial diversity…so effectively communicates the errors of his ways (that he himself doesn’t see) to the reader.

Stories in which things that should always have been accepted as perfectly natural are presented as perfectly natural are wonderful and necessary.  For instance, new-SFWA-member Eneasz Brodski’s masterful “Of All Possible Worlds” stands up to Voltaire with a completely convincing character whose homosexuality is presented, as it should be, as being a perfectly natural thing that no one questions.  On the other hand, if all stories that deal with recently taboo situations treat it this way, is it possible that it becomes a bit like preaching to the choir?  Are some opportunities to alter America lost since those who might benefit most by having their horizons expanded won’t read beyond the first page?  Perhaps something can be accomplished by telling stories that explore characters with opposing points of view.

And no, I didn’t make a mistake when I entitled this post “altering” instead of “altered” America.  Because “altering” is just what I think a book like Cat Rambo’s can do.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 42

Jennifer knew she was finally becoming reasonable again when she saw her threats about calling the cops had worked on that disgusting “homeless” man. He had leaned forward to open his door wide enough to let her into his home.

Jennifer marched in, the “homeless” man darting glances sideways as he backed farther into his home. At last Jennifer would get her phone back from the homeless woman she’d just heard scream! And stop thinking about that stupid other man who’d given her the “homeless” man’s address. Even though he had the most gorgeous blonde hair, green eyes…

Oh no! She must be imagining things! She thought she caught a flash of that gorgeous blonde hair in her peripheral vision.

“How could I have?” It was the “homeless” man. What was he talking about? He was looking at the place, now behind Jennifer as she stomped farther into the house, where she thought she’d seen the other man with the green eyes. But of course there was no one there.

“Jennifer!” It was the homeless woman. Holding a dead cat that was covered with, and even dripping, blood. Apparently crying over it. “Jennifer,” she cried out rather shrilly, though her voice was still beautiful. “Leave this place! It’s not safe for anyone here! Run!” Of course she wanted Jennifer to leave…so she could keep Jennifer’s phone. People were so unreasonable.

Jennifer pushed even farther into the house and marched over to the homeless woman. But the homeless woman suddenly looked behind Jennifer.

Something Jennifer didn’t understand…but that somehow set the hairs on the back of her neck on end…happened behind Jennifer. She tried to make sense of it…a huge displacement of air, maybe?…as she turned around. Oddly, she found her hand wrapping around the broken stiletto heel in her pocket. But before she could turn all the way around, a hand caught her mouth, and she smelled something very strange.

Suddenly she found herself in a dream. Or was it a memory? No, this had never really happened, had it? She had a sister, and that was impossible because she’d always been an only child. And if the homeless woman had the most beautiful voice Jennifer had ever heard, this non-existent sister had the ugliest voice Jennifer had ever heard. She’d just come storming into Jennifer’s bedroom, yelling at the top of her lungs about how she would never, ever allow Jennifer to have anything…and no one else would either. Then she grabbed Jennifer’s very best baby doll right out of her hands and started ripping it to shreds. Jennifer heard herself pleading, “Please, Judy! Not her hair. Not her eyes!” Judy laughed as she gouged an eye out…and ate it.

Jennifer screamed and screamed and screamed until she was sure she couldn’t possibly scream any more. And then she screamed some more.