The Ashamed Fern

“Almond milk, please?” she gives her coffee order. 
“Name?” the young barista askes without glancing up. “Freya. F-R-E-Y-A.” 
The barista scrawls a few letters as Freya thinks, that won’t be my name. The barista confirms the price, and Freya waves her phone over the machine.
Freya waits by the collection point. When the cup appears in front of her, she looks at her name with a sigh: F-E-R-N. Well, at least they got the ‘F’ right. 

She walks quickly, balancing her coffee, bag, and umbrella. She pauses in the doorway of her office building’s lobby, perches her coffee on the side while she closes her umbrella. Fishing out her pass, she picks up her coffee and hurries in. She catches a lift as the doors were closing.

“Hey!” said the man in the lift as she steps in. “Fern.”
Freya looked down at the cup in her hand and scowls. 
He laughs. “Happens to us all.”
“Yeah? How do they mess up Sean?”
“One said ‘shame’ once. I dwelled on it for the whole day. I swear I lost a deal because of it.”
Freya smiles. She glances at the floor numbers counting by. 
7
“How’s your deal going?” Sean asks.
“Good, I think. Should hear today.”
10
“Ah, that’s great.”
11
“Hey, do you-,” Sean starts.
PING
“Never mind. Good luck!”
“Thanks! See you.”
They walk off in different directions. 

After the meeting, Freya walks her clients to the lift. 
“Great job, Ms Ward. I look forward to our partnership.”
“Thank you, Mr Lewis. Take care!”

She goes back to her desk and finds a folded note. 

Well done, Fern! 
Dinner tonight? 
From your unashamed admirer

She looks over at his desk — empty. She quickly grabs a piece of paper. 

Dinner — yes!
But first, let’s grab a coffee and get you a better nickname. 
Yours,
Fern

Halloween Nightmare

I know it isn’t Halloween yet, but I wanted to share this short piece. It’s the other story that has been nagging at me, that I was talking about in my last post. 

Every year on halloween, Rachel had a vision. She had been having them since she was a child, but only ever on that one night of the year. It had taken some research but she had figured out that it was because of the lowered veil to the other side. 

It always involved someone Rachel was around. Occasionally it was about someone’s future but often it was about their past: intimate details about their childhood they didn’t want anyone to know; shameful secrets they had buried away; or even trivial events that no longer seemed relevant.

This year, Rachel decided she would try something different. She wouldn’t dress up in a costume and go to a party as she had done in previous years in the hope of drowning out the visions, nor would she stay home and attend to visiting trick or treaters, praying that the minimal contact would prevent the vision.

This year, she was going to turn off all the lights and draw the curtains shut, and take refuge in her lounge with the tv for company.

And so it was that she found herself bundled in a blanket with a hot cup of chocolate watching a lighthearted chick flick. 

Rachel could hear the kids laughing outside going house to house begging for sweets. Thankfully the darkness of her house seemed to have warded them off. 

With half an hour to go before midnight, Rachel was feeling very pleased with herself. She had managed to avoid the terrible experience that were here her visions. She got up and started getting ready for bed.

She was in the bathroom when she made the ultimate mistake: she looked at herself in the mirror. As she looked at herself in the eyes, she felt the wooziness that came just before a vision.

The bathroom faded from view and she was transported to another place.

It was worse than anything she had ever experienced before. 

Rachel found herself actually living the vision, not the casual bystander she usually was.

Her hands were bound behind her back and she was on a ledge of some kind. There was a group of people all around her who were all wearing matching expressions: anger. They were wearing old fashioned clothing: the women wore long skirts which was the telltale sigh. Rachel was no expert but she guessed it was probably around the eighteen hundreds. 

Still looking at the crowd, she noticed their anger turn to triumph as a man carrying a flaming torch approached. They all started jeering and pointing at Rachel. 

With a sinking feeling she noticed the man was coming towards her. She started to panic a pull at the rope binding her. It was no use however, it was too tightly fastened.

Rachel was screaming as the man lowered the torch onto the platform underneath her. It was all made of dry branches and caught alight instantly. Within minutes there was smoke billowing up into the sky. Rachel started coughing as she breathed in the acrid air. She was chocking and there was nothing she could do about it.

Gasping for air she woke up lying on the cold hard tiles of her twenty first century bathroom. She threw the window open and gulped in the cold crisp clean air.

Dystopic Story

Quinn looked around the breakfast table with a content smile. Her husband, Nick, was helping their four children to eat their breakfast. She was happy right now, and so was he, but it was rare to have moments like this. Usually their lives were tinged with an edge of worry because they both knew it wouldn’t last; the government would make sure of that. 

They had been paired up when they were teenagers, and got married a few years later. They had a perfect family, in a perfect little house, and led the perfect lives.

Quinn always hoped that somehow there would be a clerical mistake and they would overlook her.  But she lived in fear of the day they’d come. They always did. From an early age, girls knew that this day would come for them. They all spent their lives living in fear and hoping for a miracle.

Her thoughts were pierced by the phone ringing. Quinn got up and went to answer it. 

“It’s happening,” came a male voice before the sound of the dialling tone.

Quinn threw down the receiver and sprinted back to the kitchen. She whispered to her husband, “It’s time.”

She raced around the kitchen and kissed and hugged all her children, then with Nick following her, she flew into the entrance hall and pulled the closet door open. Quinn grabbed a fully packed backpack and slammed the door shut as she put it on her shoulders.

Quinn turned to Nick and hugged him fiercely. “I love you so much!” She kissed him before turning away and walking to the back door.

She had a window of half an hour before the authorities descended. She had been lucky when she’d been paired with Nick because he had chosen such a powerful job that he could get inside information about who was being taken in next.

She had known for a while that they would be coming for her. Nick had gotten word that she was on the list. Of course, as the husband, he should never have been able to find out. But he’d spent years making friends in all the right places in preparation for this. Everyone thought it was just so that he could prepare himself emotionally for the burden of taking care of a family by himself. But it wasn’t. It was so that he could prepare his wife for an escape. The plan had taken a while, but once Quinn had found out about the safe house, everything else had fallen into place: clothes, food, other basic supplies, and a hair razor had been stashed away ready for this moment. 

Quinn had made a plan to get to a safe house known only to women. She only had to make it there and then she could figure out what to do next. She had to make it there before the agents showed up and took her away… like they’d taken her mother… like they took every mother in the country.