Monday, November 28, 2016

Apartment 4C

“Can you believe it?” Janice said as she let Amanda into the apartment. Amanda remembers hurrying over after she called.
“So it’s true?” Amanda asked, “You’re moving out, just like that?”

“The job pays for the move,” Janice explained, as she struggled to get a partially full box onto a chair in a nearly empty kitchen. “The movers will be here in half an hour. It’s happening so fast.” She grabs a few remaining items out of one of the cabinets. “Steve put in his resume just last week, and now we have to be there by tomorrow."

Steve and Janice Dowler were a friendly married couple and seemingly the only couple, in the apartment complex, who weren't at each other's throats.

He worked as a manager of a bank, and she stayed home with their four kids. When the economy collapsed, the bank closed and he lost his job as well as his pension. They had their savings, but some of it was used to pay off the rest of their house loan when they sold it at a loss.

Then they moved into 4C where they both found part-time work to make ends meet. Amanda would babysit for them after school hours when neither of them could get home on time.
Now, the apartment was a madhouse, as the kids fed off the energy of the excitement. Two of them were running around the now emptied living room, dodging boxes and their parents, as they played a game of Aliens and Astronauts. The youngest, not yet two was running excitedly back and forth with his blanket, squealing every time the two boys passed him. He seemed to think that he was in on the game. The oldest, the only girl, was yelling at her brothers to quiet down, then yelling on her phone, pausing only occasionally to send a text.

Usually, the parents would admonish the kids for such behavior, but it seemed that Janice and Steve were too caught up in the move to address the situation.

“Did she always have that phone?” Amanda asked as she handed Janice another box to empty the drawers in.

“Oh, no,” Janice said, “The company gave Steve an advance. We paid off our the rest of our debt and then got the kids a little something.” She motioned towards the boys. “I told Steve to wait until we had a yard again, but he didn't listen. Oh well, I guess if it weren't for the Nerf guns, they would be undoing all of our boxes. Those kids are wired today."

Amanda turned and picked up a smaller box and handed it to Janice just as Steve walked in from the bedrooms, carrying what appeared to be a rather heavy box.

“I just have to bring that last box to the living room,” he said and then saw Amanda. “Would you mind grabbing the vacuum and go over the bedroom floors?”

THUD! “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” CRASH! Amanda snapped back to the present with the weekly brawl that went on next door.

“Is it Saturday already?” Amanda wondered as she grabbed her laptop bag and slid her index cards into the front pocket. She packed her bag with her laptop, phone, and wallet the night before.

The first Saturday she moved in, she heard the fight and thought that she would try to help. A rather large burly woman answered the door. She saw a red mark near her eye. Amanda was incensed at first until she saw the large burly man show up behind her. He had a bloodied lip and a gash on his cheek. This fight wasn't one-sided. Amanda recalled how much they looked alike, except she had hair and he didn't.

The both seemed amused at this 5'3" woman making an attempt to stop a fight. They rebuffed her attempts to help, but it appeared to have worked. After they had closed the door, it got quiet, and the only sound you can hear was the toddler in 4C.

When the cops showed up, they seemed surprised that the fight was over already. After Amanda had explained what happened, one of the cops told her that this was a weekly occurrence and it was better if she just stayed out of it. It would be safer if she would just call them.

"Just call directly to the station, rather than use 911," the officer said, "This is a common occurrence, and we can keep 911 dispatch free to handle real emergencies."

After seeing how burly the couple was and knowing how small she was in comparison, she figured the cop was right. If they decided to turn on her, it could cost her an arm or a leg, literately. Either one appears to be capable of ripping her limbs out.

So now, when the fight starts, she grabs her laptop and heads out to the local coffee shop, calling the non-emergency number on her way out. The other neighbors don't usually bother to call the police unless it ends up in the hall or it's too loud for too long.  Amanda is usually the first and only person to call, and the dispatch knows her by name. If it were slow a slow day, they would sometimes get into a conversation on the local news and politics.

This time, Amanda didn't slow down and kept the conversation short. She had a better reason to be at the coffee shop then just to get away from the noise. Todd was meeting her there.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Original Meeting

Amanda couldn’t concentrate. She was trying to gather notes for her book, but her mind was preoccupied with the prospect of meeting Todd the upcoming Saturday.

The last time they met in person, they were both in the hospital. She was still recovering from the head injury, and he had a broken arm.

“I was doing 50-50 grind on my skateboard, and a park bench jumped in the way,” he had told her.

Amanda gave him a look that indicated that she knew he was lying.  She still had a hard time speaking, so she got used to using exaggerated facial expressions to get her point across.
He held up his good hand. “Okay, okay,” he said. “I’m just clumsy, and I tripped over my own two feet.” He then shrugged, "I don't even own a skateboard."

Amanda laughed. He still seemed to be hiding something, but she decided to let it slide.  Back in the present, Amanda reached into her bag and pulled out a tattered business card.
She remembered explaining to him what happened to her partially through slurred speech and partially through gestures. It became a game of charades that had them both laughing.

"You know, you could write about your experience," Todd suggested.

Amanda chuckled. "A book with many blank pages."

"I bet you'll get some of your memory back," Todd said, "Even then, keep a note for the next few months, then write about it."
Amanda shrugged.

"Seriously, " Todd leaned over and gave her a card, "I, personally, know a CEO of a publishing company. I can get it published for you."

Amanda took the card while looking at Todd suspiciously.
He only stayed for one night. After all, his arm was already in a cast, and there were no other problems.

Amanda had to stay there a few more days while the state child services made arrangements.

The doctors had placed her age at 16, and Child Protective Services had to get involved. They put her in a group home until they had all of her paperwork in order. During this time, she lost contact with Todd, but she kept the business card close.
Amanda opted to get her GED and passed with a high score.
Her social worker gave her a refurbished laptop when Amanda settled in her permanent foster home. She found that she had an interest in programming and designed a flash game that seemed to be popular at first. She even made a few hundred dollars with a donation button, but her foster mother suggested that she stop wasting her time on the computer and get a “real” job. She then forbade her from using the laptop in the house, because "those who have real jobs are allowed to use the internet."

Amanda didn't have a choice but to let the website die.
When she found out that the library was offering free Wi-Fi, she would take her laptop with her. The library was in walking distance so that she would go there frequently.

Amanda didn't like being deceptive, but she told them she was studying or finding a good book to read. All the while using the free online software to write a book on how she learned to program. It included humorous stick figure comics she drew herself.

When she was researching on how to self-publish, she thought of Todd. There was something about him that she liked and she found herself thinking about him - a lot.

So what if he was lying about knowing some CEO. She reached in her beat-up laptop bag that she had bought from a local thrift shop and pulled out the business card.

It turns out that he wasn't lying, and he got her book published.
Her foster parents did finally find out about her scheme after her foster mother accidentally opened Amanda’s first royalty check. However, they weren’t as angry as Amanda thought they would be. Writing books, after all, could be a valid profession.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Building Management

“So, your boyfriend is moving in soon?”

Joey Rudnick, the building manager, managed to sneak up behind Amanda. He didn't seem to understand personal space.
Amanda turned around and stepped back. “The end of next week,” she responded with some annoyance. "He's just a friend."

"Hmph," Joey snorted. "Well, I've been working especially hard trying to get that apartment ready. You know how much I make?"

"Well, you've told me before…"

"Fifty thousand a year. I've had my eye on a car for a while.  Probably going to get it soon. You know the type of car I was looking at requires insurance that's expensive."

Amanda sighed. Joey was never cruel, but his friendliness seemed contrived.

Joey continued with how hard he works and that he should get a raise. Then he went into all the details of his last doctor's appointment.

Amanda kept inching back towards her apartment door, trying to hint that she had to be somewhere, but he kept talking as if he didn't even notice.

At this point, she felt the telltale sign of a migraine: the tightening on the back of her neck.

She instinctively rubbed it.

Joey stopped. “Are you okay?” he asked. He sounded annoyed.

Amanda was about to respond when she suddenly saw herself hanging up against the wall with his hands around her throat.

“Uh,” she stammered, “m-m-migraine.” To emphasize the point, she put her hand on her forehead. “I better go lie down.”

Fortunately, she inched close enough to her door that she was able to take a large step into her apartment and closed the door.
As Amanda leaned up against her door, she realized at that moment, she wasn’t really in pain after all, but she felt as if a fog lifted and her head was clear. It was like a breath of fresh air after a terrible storm.

The feeling didn't last. A migraine set in and Amanda grabbed a bottle from the freezer. "Good, wasn’t completely frozen yet." she thought to herself, and grabbed some painkillers and went into her bedroom.

She wondered about the image she saw. Maybe the injury was causing more problems than just migraines, and she was going crazy.

She thought of calling the doctor when the pain subsided but decided against it.

Perhaps it was just her anxiety bringing on an overactive imagination.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Virtual Date

"Just in time!"

Amanda had set her bowl of noodle stir fry down next to her laptop. Todd's face was on the screen, lit by the light of his laptop and a small lamp.

He was sitting at his desk, dressed rather warmly.

Amanda noticed the thick sweater right away. She immediately grabbed a magazine that was nearby and began to fan herself.
"Oh, gee, it's just terribly hot here," she said, feigning dismay, "Perhaps it might get so hot tomorrow that I would have to go swimming." Then in her obviously bad acting act, “Whatever... should I... do?”

Todd chuckled, "I could go swimming here, too. I just have to find the local chapter of the Polar Bear club and then I would be good to go."

They chatted a little more about the weather. In the Northeast, it had been unseasonably cold, and they had an early snowstorm that left almost a foot of snow. In California, on the other hand, was warm and sunny.

At least for Amanda. She found it rather amusing that while she was still wearing t-shirts, everyone else was wearing heavy jackets and knitted hats with shorts and flip-flops.

Then Todd told Amanda of how he helped the other tenants shovel the parking space near the building, only to have the snow plow bury half of it again as it passed by the lot. Like a lot of New England apartments, it was a converted 1800s house with a flattened space for parking. When they widened the road, there was little room left between the shoulder and the parking space.
The discussion finally moved on to Amanda's memories.
"I still have that one reoccurring dream, and it's always the same, except this time I see my necklace."

Amanda had been fiddling with it up until this point. When she mentioned it, she stopped fiddling with it and grasped it firmly, as if clutching it would bring back the memories she lost.
"Do you feel any connection, " Todd asked. "Does it seem like a memory?"

"No," Amanda responded with a sigh. "It's just like any other dream. If no one had told me how I was found, I would not have thought anything of it."

Todd nodded, seemingly in deep thought. Amanda took the opportunity to take a few bites of food. It was finally cool enough to eat.

Todd snapped out of his trance and leaned forward towards the camera.

“You know I've said was going to move closer,” Todd said finally.
Amanda Nodded. “It'd be good to have a more familiar face here,” she said thoughtfully. “The neighbors are decent enough, but some are a bit, odd.” Amanda resisted telling him about the apartment manager, who hadn't left her alone since she moved in.

“Well I did find an apartment nearby, and I'll be moving in next month.” Todd was hesitant to tell her, but he didn't want to appear on her doorstep suddenly.

"Really?" Amanda said, "where?"

"4C."

“4.. C..” Amanda said slowly, not sure what that meant. She recognized the number. “Wait, 4C? The apartment down the hall?”

Todd nodded.

“The one where t-that," Amanda stammered, "that family lived, the only family that didn't seem to want to kill each other?”

To keep rent costs down, Amanda moved to a part of town that was a bit run down. Most kept their head down and kept to themselves. The rest were usually at each other throats. It wasn't uncommon to hear yelling and objects smashed against the wall. Fortunately, there have been no gunshots or deaths since she moved in three months ago.

Todd nodded again.

"I thought you meant like in the same town or even down the street, but I wasn't expecting…" Amanda trailed off, not knowing what to say.

"Well if you don't think…" Todd started.

"Oh no, that's great!" Amanda interrupted, but she had mixed feelings. She knew that the relationship between her and Todd would become something more than just friends, but she wasn't sure if she was ready for something serious just yet.

Todd looked relieved. "I hope you don't mind, I've made arrangements with the publisher to telecommute. I'm not tied to any one location, anymore."

"I don't mind at all!" Amanda smiled. "It will be great to see you in person, again."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Migraine

Amanda rubbed her temple. She was in the middle of unpacking the rest of her things when she felt a migraine coming on. The only way to describe it was a "tightening" that started at the base of her neck and ended up in the back of her right eye. A few minutes later, the migraine would set in, and she would be out of commission for the day. After multiple visits, scans, and blood tests, the doctor finally concluded that it was probably nerve damage from the concussion she had suffered.

"You may have trouble for the rest of your life," the doctor said to her. “Or it’s possible that it will go away on its own. I've seen it happen.”

Amanda turned down the prescription narcotics that the doctor offered and decided to stick with over-the-counter painkillers. They seem to work with caffeine, as long as she took them soon enough.

A few times, she was in the middle of writing and ignored the warning signs of an impending migraine. She paid dearly for it and the pain put her out for several hours. This time, she put her books back into the box she was unpacking and went over to the kitchen.

She grabbed her iced coffee, her water, and the painkillers. After washing down the painkillers with her coffee, she drank about half of her water bottle. She then leaned up against the counter and waited to see if it works. Closing her eyes, she started to go through the rest of her to-do list for the day.

Just then, a breeze came through the open balcony door, ringing her wind chimes she had set up moments before. Amanda had a feeling that someone was there, standing next to her, watching. It was a strange feeling, but it wasn't the first time it's happened.

When she told her neighbors that used to live down the hall, they were almost in a panic, insisting that she should never talk to the "Demon of the Complex." It was an unusual reaction as the couple was both usually very friendly and calm. They finally settled down when Amanda assured them that she didn't talk to any "demon" nor did she ever plan to.

Amanda opened her eyes looked around. The feeling was only there for only a brief moment. She chuckled uneasily to herself and couldn't stop thinking about her neighbors' reaction.
Maybe she should lay off the internet paranormal videos.

A migraine never materialized, so the painkillers seem to have worked. Amanda put the rest of her water back into the fridge, and as she bent down to put it on the bottom shelf, her pendant worked its way out of her shirt and dangled in front of her.
It tangled in the chain just a moment, as if it were trying to look at her, then dangled straight down.

She stood up and held it closer to study. She forgot something. What was it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Skype

"So, is it ready?" A voice came from Amanda’s laptop on a makeshift table made from wooden crates after a yard sale was over. The owners gave them to her for free. The board that was on top came from her neighbors down the hall before they moved. The tablecloth was the only thing new she bought at a clearance sale at a big box retailer. It was big enough to cover everything.

Amanda was on Skype with Todd, who she met in the hospital while she was recovering. She remembered how he went on and on about how his father knew some guy at a publisher who knew the owner, and now he has a job as an editor.

She thought at first he was trying to impress her with embellishments. However, when she had her draft ready for her first book, she decided to try to give him a call. As it turned out, not only was he not lying (or even exaggerating), he was able to help her get her book published. She has been living off the royalties since.

"Yeah, I'm sending you the final now," Amanda said while starting the upload.

This book was the second part of her book called, "A complete and total Moron's Guide to HTML with PH - what?!". It was a parody of the dummies books, including humorous antidotes and jokes about people trying and failing at web design. The first one published three months ago, and it was a success.

"Oh, spell it 'Moran'. That would be funny!" Todd said with a wink, referring to a recent meme that went viral on the internet.
"No, 'Moran' would be better suited for a book on political satire," Amanda responded after a moment, "Or maybe a book on internet Memes. Better yet, a book on the rise and fall of internet memes."

"Great! You have an idea for a new book!"

"Actually, I think I'll just work on a space science fiction novel this time," Amanda said, "I've had this story percolating in my head for about a year and a half."

"Oh, really?" Todd seemed interested. He shifted forward, hoping that Amanda would tell him a summary.

"Well," She responded quickly, she mistook his sudden interest as mocking, "I hadn't gotten all of the details ironed out yet. I may have the first chapter done in a few weeks. Then you can tell me what you think."

Todd nodded, this time seemingly more serious. "You know," he said finally after a brief moment of silence, "A science fiction novel might be a good idea, are you sure you are up to it?
Amanda nodded, "Of course! I've had some inspiration from some dreams that I've had."

"Dreams?"

“Well, you know. Some of my dreams seem to have a plot. So I took some inspiration from them and ran with it. Sort of.” Amanda trailed off. She realized that it sounded much better in her head.

Todd chuckled. A moment passed as Todd A timer beeped in Amanda's Kitchen.

Amanda pointed in the general direction of the kitchen, "That's Lunch."

"Right. Look, I have to go anyway, I'll take a look at your first draft and text you tonight," Todd said, "or maybe a virtual date?" He had made that last sentence into a last minute question. Amanda had been hesitant about dating outright but agreed to 'virtual date' via Skype.

Amanda smiled. "Of course! I'll just have to have dinner four hours early… which would be in an hour?" Living on opposite sides of the country did have some setbacks.

"No, I'll just have dinner four hours later. I don't mind. I'm a night owl anyway." Todd said. "How does 5, your time sound?"
"5 o'clock, Got it."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Dream

The lights were blinding and confusing. Amanda nearly fell over when the lights swerved to her right. The squealing of the tires was deafening. Four women got out of the vehicle almost at the same time. Three of them were frantically talking to each other and her, but none of them made any sense. The fourth had a cellphone to her ear, practically screaming into it. It seemed that everything happened in snapshots.

Amanda looked towards the vehicle, not making out what it was. She saw a shadow pass in front of the lights. Soon afterward, Amanda felt a blanket draped over her shoulders.

She remembered how soft it felt on her skin. She put her hand to her head and felt tired. Falling to her knees, she looked at her hand. It was full of blood. Then she noticed her necklace and clutched the pendant as everything started to fade.

***

The alarm woke her up with a start. It was the same dream she frequently had since that fateful evening. According to the detective, it was similar to the stories that were given by the four witnesses. The four women that she saw in her dream.

Amanda sat up in bed and grabbed the pendant that hung at the end of the necklace. It was in the form of a woman, in a flowing dress. Her hair was permanently blowing in the wind, and she held out her right hand as if beckoning.

No one could figure out exactly who it was. One of the nurses thought it was the Virgin Mary. It was not surprising as that nurse was also a nun. Someone who shared a room with her for one night thought it was a Wiccan goddess or maybe an angel.

The detective, assigned to her case,  had the neckless evaluated and saw that it was a custom piece giving some hope to solving the case. In the end, it proved futile. No one came forward to claim the piece as their work of art, and every custom jeweler shop within a hundred of miles didn’t turn up any information.

Years later, she sat in her therapist's office.

"It the first time I saw the necklace in the dream," she said after she told her therapist the dream.

"It's something," he responded, “but after three years, I’m not sure if you will remember much more than that." He stood up and looked at her file. "You don't have to come here unless you think need to talk to someone. You are perfectly stable."

Amanda sighed. It had been three years since she was found naked, in the middle of the road, cold and confused with a major concussion. She was beginning to give up hope to have any of her memories.

"Are there other dreams you want to talk about?"

"Other than flying around in space and shooting aliens?" Amy responded with a chuckle, "Or perhaps I can tell you about the dream I had with the ability to move objects with my mind."

“Do you know that you are dreaming?” The therapist asked after chuckling.

Amanda sighed again. “Most of the time, not until I’ve reached the end. I seem to be falling in a ball of fire. My dreams always seem to end in a ball of fire.”

The therapist shifted in his chair. It was unusual for someone to have the same dream over and over again like that, but it has been known to happen from time to time.

"Perhaps I should turn my dreams into a book," Amanda said thoughtfully. "If I put them in the right order, it may make a good story."

“You know,” the therapist said, “That may be a good idea. Writing is known to be therapeutic. Let me know when it is finished, and I'll buy a copy. I'm into sci-fi."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Reboot

Somewhere along the way, I could not motivate myself to work on this story. Partly because of writer's block but mostly because I realized that I hadn't developed my characters or the story line as much as I should have.

So I'm rebooting this story. The plot is the same - just each post will have more details that will allow the story to move forward.

Sorry for the delays.

The first post will be up November 23rd.