This story is by Lou-Ellen Bissell and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
I grab my coat on my way outside in the cold winter evening. Making shapes with my breath in the frosty air, I smile. I look around and I freeze. The street lamps are flickering; there are no cars, no people. It is dead silent except for THEM, surrounding me, staring at me.
THEY aren’t lightning bugs, but they light up. THEY change colors, first blue then black and back again. THEY aren’t wasps, but they have stingers. THEY aren’t hummingbirds, but their wings are the entire length of their body that flaps so fast you can hardly see them move! THEY have millions of tiny eyes, like spiders. THEY have legs like crickets. They chirp or sing or whatever the hell crickets do, but THESE aren’t crickets! THEY make an eerie noise!
I slowly put my coat on. Did THEY just move? I didn’t see them move. I slowly turn around. THEY DID MOVE CLOSER! Like a loud siren, they dive-bomb me! I put my hands up to protect myself. They are so LOUD! One hit my head, hard it felt like a rock. I SCREAM……
Screaming I swing violently around until I connect with my headboard. Headboard? I stop screaming. Looking around I notice I’m in my bed, in my apartment. I take a deep, shaky breath, jump out of bed and head to the large picture window to look out. Looking out the 5th-floor window I see cars zipping by, street lamps steadily on, and people walking. I breathe easier. It was just a dream. A nightmare really. Turning to look at my Grandfather clock I see it is only 4:30 in the morning. Rubbing my face, I take another steadying breath. I feel a bump on my head. HUH? I need to make me some coffee. I won’t go back to sleep. I have to be up at six anyway.
I go into my galley kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. I may as well look at the files I brought home and never took out of my briefcase. Pouring over them at my kitchen table reminds me of being in school and having homework. Studying seemed so much easier then.
My clock chimes six times, then my bedroom alarm clock goes off.
I get ready for work in my usual way, rushing!
I Shower, dress, and leave the bed unmade. Leaving lights on, coffee mug on the table, I lock the door and head to work.
Getting off the elevator, the receptionist is early, very early. It’s barely seven in the morning.
“Leyla, why are you here so early?” I ask.
“Kahmilla, you need me, I’m here. The files you requested are on your desk. Let me get you a cup of coffee.” She answers.
“What would I ever do without you?”
“You will NEVER have to worry about that! I will ALWAYS be here for you.” she pats my cheek and walks away.
Looking over the files, I don’t find anything out of the ordinary in them. But I could have sworn… Rising I take them, my briefcase and head out the door.
“Leyla, please return these files…” I hand them back to her, “see if you can find me some with paranormal, unusual, unexplained, unsolved or anything out of the ordinary.” She nods.
Walking the halls, I realize how strange this is to me. I never imagined I’d be a Science Professor. I wanted to be a famous scientist, where the paranormal became known by ME! Me, Kahmilla Karen Knotts. (Yes, my parents have a sense of humor, KKK.) Yet here I am, a College professor teaching the paranormal, unexplained, unusual, in a science factual way that no “normal” human would have thought of before. I snort, yeah right!
“Good Morning Class,” I say. A chorus of good morning Ms. Knotts goes around the room. “Take out your books and let’s work on yesterday’s homework chapter six on paranormal. Who wants to start?”
Three classes and seven hours later, I return to the office. Leyla is there with a huge satisfied grin on her face.
“Kahmilla, there you are! I believe I found what you were looking for. They are coming in now.”
Turning I see the elevator open with two men coming towards us with two hand trucks filled to the top with boxes. Four boxes each!
“Where would you like these?” One man asks. Leyla says: “Down the hall to the left please gentlemen.”
“Eight boxes?” I ask.
Smiling she says; “What else have you got to do during winter break?” Then she walks away.
That’s right, this is winter break. Free from college students, responsibilities, and homework! NOT! I have papers to grade, assignments to prepare and now eight boxes to go through. Oh well, I asked for it.
Going through seven boxes in ten days, I was really feeling low, depressed like I was looking for a needle in a haystack. But my dream…
Then finally, in the eighth box; YES! I found it,
I go into my lab, my second bedroom, and I set to work!
Typing the information on my website, I think, I created it! I’m finally going to be the famous scientist I have always wanted to be! Look at it fly!
A noise finally penetrates through my science fogged brain; a banging on my door. I get up and before I reach the door, it bursts open, the bug flies out when the men in black, rush in. They grab me, my laptop, and before I can put up a fight, I’m out cold.
I wake up on a cot, with no light, no windows, three concrete walls and bars for a door. Am I in jail? Before I can go down that road, a man comes in illuminated from the light behind him, he’s in shadow.
“Ms. Knotts, my name is James with the FBI. You are a genius! We have the best scientists and they never came close to this. How did you create them?”
“Create what?” I ask.
“Kahmilla, May I call you Kahmilla?” I shrug. “Kahmilla, don’t play games with me. You and I both know that the creatures you created are one of a kind. Where are they?”
“Why am I here? And where is here?” I ask.
He doesn’t acknowledge me as he is looking over my shoulder. I turn to see where there once was no window, there is now an opening. I back up, shocked, SCARED. The winter air is crisp and so cold. I keep watching as THEY eat through the concrete walls. I only created one! Now there are HUNDREDS! THOUSANDS!
I don’t know what they are, but I created one from my dream!
“Let….me…out!” I say as I move closer to the door, to him. He doesn’t move. He is mesmerized by these creatures.
THEY are coming closer and closer. They start attacking us! I put my hands up to protect my head. I SCREAM……
Screaming I wake up, flailing my arms around trying to shoo them away.
“Mrs. Jones, MRS JONES, you’re ok! You’re ok!”
“Leyla, who is Mrs. Jones? And where am I?” I ask.
Leyla says: “I am your nurse, Makiah. You are in the hospital. Do you remember anything, Jacqueline?”
Jacqueline? “No”, I say as I look around.
‘Makiah’ said she’d be right back and left. She came back with a cup of water for me and a doctor hot on her heels.
The doctor told me I had been in an accident and ended up in a coma for six months and he just called my husband. Wait, husband? I’m not married.
I was explaining my life events to the doctor, even arguing with ‘Makiah’, when my “husband” came in. It was James, the FBI agent.
The doctor is saying how I may have amnesia. How it’s vital… and then James touches my hand, my hair. I cringe away. “I don’t have amnesia, I am Kahmilla Karen Knotts!” I YELL!
They ignore my outburst and tell me I am a homemaker, ‘James’, Jay’s wife, Jacqueline Jones. Not famous, not a scientist–does that mean I didn’t create a bug?
I fought my new name and life until many months of physical, mental and shock therapy, I finally tell them what they want to hear so I can leave. I now play at being Jacqueline Jones. They allow me to go home with my “husband” Jay.
Six months later, we have a regular routine and he trusts me. My life was in CA and we are now in NY. They want me to believe I’m a gardener, the poor plants. With a garden shed in our back yard, I use it for my secret computer, to find my past life.
Working away, I’m startled by a noise. I quickly save my findings and hide my computer as Jay and Makiah run towards me with THEM right behind. THEY FOUND ME!
What a clever story! A dream within a dream . . . The idea of a dream as inspiration. The lead in and the description of the bugs was creative and compelling. You handled the twists and turns of the story beautifully, although I did get a little lost about the “8 files” and Leyla and the boxes.
I loved the suspense of the FBI taking her, kind of a Men in Black type thing, but my favorite part is the end, where she pretends to be Jacqueline, she is aware that she is not aware, and then of course, her dream (or her nightmare, depending on your perspective) becomes a nightmare. Well done.
I thought capitalizing THEY when you were talking about the bugs worked very well; capitalizing other parts, like emphatic thoughts, detracted from the strength of the prose.
Thank you for this.