A Gruesome Discovery

Roland Smith steered the pickup down the gravel road and slowed to a stop at the bottom of the hill.

Roland took the twelve gauge shotgun down from the gun rack that was mounted on the back window of the cab.  He fished a shell out of the glove box and quickly placed the end of it against the loading flap.  He used his thumb to push the shell and heard the click as it passed the magazine catch.  The driver’s side door squealed and squeaked as he pushed it open.  He climbed down out of the cab with the gun and walked toward the old barn.

The dead cow was laying flat on its side next to the barn.  A turkey vulture was perched upon the neck of the cow, feeding upon the eyes and the brain.  As Roland approached the vulture paused and swiveled it head around to stare at him with the wild, fearless eyes of a scavenger.

a gruesome discovery-

Roland Smith flipped the safety off, pumped the slide on the shotgun and then fired it out toward the field behind the barn.  The sound of the gun was deafening as it boomed out across the quiet summer morning.  The turkey vulture took to the sky immediately and passed over the collapsing roof of the barn, disappearing from view.

Roland walked the remaining distance to where the cow was laying.  It was the missing cow, just as he had suspected.  The animal had simply vanished from the yard three weeks ago.  It was branded and he recognized the markings on its back.  But he knew right away that this wasn’t just a normal case of a cow escaping through the fence.

Half of the animal’s face had been removed down to the skull–  No skin, no muscle and no blood to be seen anywhere.  The outer edge of the wound was a smooth line, as if the tissue had been removed with surgical precision.  This was not the work of a vulture.  He had seen this before.  He moved a few feet to glance and the hindquarters of the cow and discovered that all of its private parts were gone, cored out.  No blood to be found on the ground.

Roland cursed and shook his head.  He walked back to the pickup with the shotgun and grabbed his cell.

“Hello?”

“Jimmy.”

“Yeah.”

“Roland.”

“Hey, Roland.  How are things?”

“Not so good, Jimmy.  Just found a cow that’s been missing awhile.  Looks like it’s starting up again.”

“No…”

Five years had passed since the last round of cattle mutilations.  Twelve different animals in the county that they were aware of.  Many different theories had circulated within the small community.  Some thought it was the work of extraterrestrials, others believed it was the military testing out a new weapon, and a few said that it was the handiwork of a satanic cult.  A government investigation concluded that it was the result of natural predation, but admitted that there were anomalies that could not be explained.  No one was able to say with absolute certainty who or what was responsible.

Roland sighed.  “Same as last time, Jimmy.  Half of the face gone down to the skull, backside cored out, no blood or tracks on the ground.”

Jimmy cursed.

“Look, I was just calling to see if you could come over with that digital camera of yours.  I’d like to get some pictures of this before we report it.”

“Where are you at?”

“Over on the back side of the feed yard.  Next to the old barn.”

“I’ll have to get one of the hired hands over here.  Give me an hour or so.”  Jimmy said.

“Sounds good.  Thanks.”  Roland closed the phone.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *

[Original writing / photography / art by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

Preservation

Jack Altomare discovered a handwritten note next to his laptop computer.  He picked up the note and scanned over the words.

Jack,

You looked so tired

that I decided to let you sleep.

It’s going to be a long day-  

I’ll be home for dinner.

Love you,

Charlotte.

Jack glanced over at the clock and realized that it was almost noon.

I really did sleep in.  He thought.

He debated on breakfast, then decided that he wasn’t very hungry.  He considered working on a painting in the studio, then realized that he wasn’t feeling very inspired.  Out of instinct he turned his computer on to check the news, then became aware that it was essentially just the same every time.

Ten minutes were spent stretching to alleviate the soreness in his muscles from making love the night before.  He changed into a clean pair of jeans and a shirt, laced up his boots and slipped into a black hooded sweatshirt.  He grabbed his wallet, keys and watch before walking out through the front door of the condominium.

The condo was located on the west edge of town.  Jack only had to travel three short blocks to meet up with a paved walking trail that steered him even further away from the noise and chaos of the city.

After ten more minutes of walking at a steady pace the trail turned into gravel and entered the wilderness.  It was here that he encountered a fork in the trail.  He picked the right path and continued on.

Dark clouds were gathering near the horizon and it looked like a storm was inevitable.  It was probably impossible, but he thought that he could already smell the rain.

Sudden movement off to the side of the trail.  Jack turned in time to spot a snake slithering out of the tall grass.  He stopped walking and observed the snake as it slipped past his feet and disappeared into the underbrush on the other side.

preservation 1-

There was a brief flash of lightning from one of the dark clouds in the distance, followed by the low rumbling of thunder.  Jack continued on down the trail and allowed his imagination to run wild.

preservation 2-

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

Inside the [Big] Box

inside the big box

“Oh God, I promised myself that I would never shop here again!”  Charlotte Altomare said.  She steered the Subaru Legacy into an available parking space in front of the big box store.

“I know, baby.  I can’t stand this place either.  But who else is open at midnight?”  Jack, her husband, said.  He clicked his seat belt off and opened the front passenger door of the car.

“Well, I told you that wasn’t going to be enough packaging tape to box up everything in the kitchen.”  She grabbed the keys and her purse before opening her door and stepping out of the car.

“You were right, you were right.”  Jack said.  He climbed out of the vehicle.  Charlotte was standing next to the rear bumper, waiting for him.  She pushed the lock button on the key ring and the car beeped once.

“Just for starters-  What a horrible name for a store!”  Charlotte said.  She gestured with her hand at the giant glowing block letters that were fastened onto the outer wall of the massive building.

Jack chuckled.  “I know, why would you name it Ball’s Mart?  The original founder was named Roger Ball, but Ball’s Mart?  Really?  Wouldn’t Roger’s Mart have been better?”

Charlotte laughed and then dodged out of the way as a morbidly obese man pushed a cart overflowing with food past them and nearly ran into her.

“Jeez, did you see that?”  Charlotte said.

“Yeah.  And that’s just enough food to get him through tomorrow!”  Jack said.

“Aw, be nice!”  She tapped him lightly on the shoulder with a closed fist.  “Is there anything else that we need while we’re here, or did I drive all this way for packaging tape?”

“I don’t know…   Didn’t you say that you needed some gloves to wear while cleaning the oven?”  He said.

“Yes!  Thanks for reminding me.”

“Do you think they have enough security cameras out here?”  Jack said.  He jabbed a finger at the store as they finished crossing the parking lot and the numerous rows and clusters of cameras were coming into view.

The automatic front doors opened for them with a soft whoosh and the couple stepped into Ball’s Mart.  An elderly woman wearing the store’s standard red vest uniform and name tag was standing on the other side of the door next to a row of banged up shopping carts.  She silently glared at Jack and Charlotte as they passed by without taking a cart.

“I thought she was supposed to be a greeter!  She did not say a word to us!”  Jack said.

Charlotte shrugged.  “Let’s grab what we need and get the hell out of here.”

Just inside of the store a pale young man with three large sores on his forehead was seated on a bench and talking to himself.  A paper bag from the Ball’s Mart pharmacy was clutched in his left hand.  His eyes were wild and his hair looked dirty and unkempt.  As Jack and Charlotte walked in front of the bench he made a few loud coughing noises at them without covering his mouth.

“Did that guy bark at me?”  Jack said.

“Just keep walking.”  Charlotte said under her breath.

The couple worked their way through the maze of aisles in the general direction of the office supplies and the packaging tape. On the way they observed a young man wearing a bright purple spandex suit doing jumping jacks in the middle of the cosmetics aisle, an old woman with a goatee picking her nose while staring at an endcap display of heating pads and a guy with a thick unibrow digging frantically through the five dollar movie bin.

“Ah, here we go…”  Charlotte said.  She turned down the office supply aisle with Jack trailing a few feet behind her.

“Did you see that guy?  Was he hitting that child?”  Jack said.

“I don’t know, it kind of–  Wait–  You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“What?”

“They’re out of packaging tape!”

“No…”

“Yep, all out.  Unbelievable!”  Charlotte said.

“There’s duct tape, that will work.  You know what they say, ‘If you can’t duck it–‘”

“Okay, grab some.”  She said.  She rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips.  “This place never has what I need.”

Jack picked up two rolls of duct tape.  “Cleaning supplies are just a few aisles over that way, we can grab those rubber gloves for the oven.”  He said.

“Alright.  You know, I have a difficult time shopping here ever since we watched that documentary.”  Charlotte said.

“I know.  I will never forget that one guy they interviewed who toured some of the hellhole factories where they manufacture most of this junk for pennies.  He was a grown man crying in front of the camera while attempting to explain what those poor people went through everyday.  How many of these customers even know about that?”

“How many of them care?”  Charlotte said.

“Good point.  ‘And the love of many will grow cold.'”  Jack said.  He turned down the aisle with cleaning supplies.  “These are only a buck.”  He picked up a cheap pair of disposable rubber gloves and showed them to her.

“That works.  Anything else?”

“Oh, wait.  I wanted to get some rope to tie down the big furniture in the moving van.”  He walked out of the aisle and scanned the various signs that identified the different sections of the store.

A young woman walked by wearing nothing but flip-flops and a pink bathing suit.  She was carrying a large teddy bear and sucking her thumb.

“Where do you think we’ll find rope?”

Hmmm…  Home and garden?”  Charlotte said.

“Worth a shot.”  Jack said.  He started walking in that direction and then paused to look at an endcap full of whiskey bottles.  “Wow, twenty dollars for that brand?  That’s actually a good deal.”

“Grab one if you want.”  She said.

“I think I will.”  He tucked a handle of whiskey under his arm.

An employee in a red vest was stocking an endcap with aspirin nearby and Jack approached him.

“Hey man, sorry to bother you…”  Jack said.

The employee turned and looked at Jack.  He appeared to be in his late thirties and had dark circles under his eyes.

“Yes, can I help you with something?”

“Where would I find some rope?”  Jack said.

“Aisle twenty-seven, just after the home and garden section.”  The employee said.  “You aren’t planning to make a noose, are you?”

Jack recoiled back a step, shocked.  “No,”  He said.  “Are you?”

The employee shrugged and continued stocking the shelf.

Charlotte tugged on Jack’s elbow and they continued walking.

“Poor guy.”  Jack muttered.

“Yeah, I’ll never forget when they opened one of these places in my home town.  Caused all of the small businesses there to close because they couldn’t compete with the prices and the cutthroat tactics.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, most of the people who owned and operated those places had to turn around and accept jobs at Ball’s Mart.”

Jack nodded.  “Here we go, he was right.”  He stooped down and picked up a small bundle of rope.  “That will work.”

“Can we go home now?”  Charlotte said.

“Yes, I think that’s everything.”  Jack said.

As the couple journeyed back toward the front of the store to purchase their items they observed a man wearing a shirt with a Confederate Flag on it pushing a cart full of ammunition, a family of five arguing over which kind of bread to buy and man in a suit carrying five microwave dinners.

“Look, there’s only one guy in that line over there!”  Charlotte said.

“Right on!”  Jack said.

They moved to the third cash register and placed their items down onto the grimy black conveyor belt.  The young man in front of them in line was using a credit card to pay for a new video game.

“Enter your pin number.”  The woman operating the register snapped at the young man.

A display rack of condoms was located just to the left of the conveyor belt-  Between the candy and the tabloid magazines.  Jack picked up a box and placed it with the other items.

“Do we need those?”  Charlotte muttered.

“I think we’re out.”  He said.

The guy walked off with his game and the cashier turned to face them.

“Did you find everything you were looking for?”  She said.  There was a deep scar running up her left cheek and a large bald spot on the top of her head.

“Yes.”  Jack said.

The conveyor belt churned forward and, as the cashier began to scan the first few items she froze.  She looked up at Jack with a horrified expression on her face and her hands started trembling.  It suddenly dawned on him how bizarre their items looked together– Duct tape, rubber gloves, rope, whiskey and condoms.

“It’s going to be a crazy night!”  Jack said.  He winked at the cashier.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

Dream Journal #3- The Fourteenth of June

At first there is only darkness and the sound of someone sobbing.

I open my eyes and have a difficult time focusing.  Everything is blurry and distorted. There is a flickering blue light just in front of me that seems extremely bright at first.  I try to rub my eyes and quickly discover that I am sitting on a chair of some sort and I can’t move any of my limbs.

My eyes adjust and the scene before me comes into focus.

I am inside of a small cave.  Low ceiling and rough, rocky walls on all sides.

I glance down and discover [To my horror] that I am sitting on a chair that is made out of bones–  My wrists and ankles are strapped down with thick strands of what appears to be leather.

The flickering light is coming from a small blue fire burning in a round pit near the center of the cave, about fifteen feet from where I am sitting.  It is unlike any fire I have ever seen-  Only blue flames are licking up, no smoke, and no warmth coming from it.

The next thing I notice is the source of the sobbing.  An old woman with white hair is sitting in a rocking-chair across the fire from me.  She has a tattered old American flag draped across her legs.  Her eyes are closed and she is sobbing quietly while tears pour down her cheeks and the chair rocks slowly, back and forth.

Next to where she is rocking there is an enormous mirror propped up against the cave wall.  At a glance I estimate the dimensions of the mirror to be somewhere around ten feet tall and at least six feet wide.

“Hello?”

She does not respond, just continues rocking and crying.

“Where are we?”  I call out.

The old woman’s eyes open slowly and she peers across the fire at me.

“Who are you?”  She croaks out, her voice raspy.

“Doesn’t matter.  Do you know where we are?”

“They tricked my husband.  They tricked us all.”  She says.  Another round of sobbing as she hunches over in the chair and grips onto the flag with gnarled, arthritic hands.

“Who?  What do you mean?”

Her head snaps up and she looks at me with sheer terror in her eyes.

“They’ll be back soon.  You’ll see.”  She says.

As if on cue the blue flames grow taller and more intense between us.  I notice that the surface of the mirror is now shimmering and moving.  It reminds me of ripples spreading out across a lake.  Then  I see the reflection of a tall, dark figure growing larger within the ripples.

The figure steps out of the mirror and into the cave.  But it isn’t exactly human-  From the neck down it appears to be a tall, muscular man wearing a toga, but the head is that of a goat and the neck is impossibly long.  It walks up to the fire and the goat head swivels to the side to stare at me.

dream journal 3 photo 1-

I am unable to make direct eye contact with the creature.  It is just standing there staring at me when I notice more movement coming from the mirror.  Another figure steps out and into the cave.  This time it is a naked woman wearing only a necklace festooned with many jewels around her neck and a metal crown upon her head.  The crown resembles the one on the statue of liberty, but it’s different.  She walks over toward the fire and stands next to the man with the goat head.   As they stand side by side staring down at me I realize that the woman’s eyes are glowing red.

“You shouldn’t have come here.”   She says.  Her voice reminds me of a hissing snake and the words don’t quite match up with her mouth.  It is like watching an old dubbed Kung Fu movie that has been dubbed.

“I don’t even know where I am!”

The goat-man leans toward her ear and whispers something.  I’m too far away and cannot make out what is said.

The naked woman walks over to where I am trapped.  She leans down to look directly into my eyes and, in the process, one of the spikes of her crown brushes against my forehead.

“We have so many mysteries to show you.”  She says.  Some would say that she was beautiful, but in her eyes I saw only hatred and violence.  Her breath smelled like death.

“I have no interest in your mysteries!  Away from me, vile creature!”  I look her directly in the face.

She backs up and rejoins the goat-man next to the fire.  It leans toward her and whispers something in her ear again.  The two of them turn and walk back toward the mirror.  The goat-man steps through first, walking directly into the mirror as if it was an open doorway.  The naked woman steps through next, but she pauses just as she’s passing through to turn back and look at me.  From my viewpoint the angle is just right to where for a moment it looks like there are two of her, joined at the wrist.

dream journal 3 photo 2-

And then she’s gone.  The cave is quiet.  The old woman has stopped crying.  She is just sitting there in the rocking chair and staring at the ground with a vague expression.

“You shouldn’t have said that.  They’ll torture you the next time they come back.”  She says.

“Hey, can you come over here and untie me from this chair?”

She shakes her head.  “No, I’m sorry.  I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“She told me that my legs don’t work anymore.”

“What’s wrong with your legs?”

“I–  I don’t know…”  Her brow furrows with confusion.  “I’ve been in this chair for so long…  And…”

“Well, I’m telling you that your legs do work.  Now quit your sobbing, rise up out of that chair and free me from my bondage!”

She slowly lifts the old flag up off of her lap and, leaning forward, drapes it over her shoulder.  She places both hands on either armrest of the chair and rises slowly, shakily to her feet.

“See, you can still stand on your own two feet!”

“It-  It feels really good.”  A hint of a smile on her face.

“Did you make that flag?”

“Yes, I did.  But that was so very long ago.”

“Doesn’t matter.  We have to get out of this cave.”

Suddenly the blue fire winks out and everything returns to darkness.

A moment later I open my eyes and I’m laying in bed.  My wife is still sleeping next to me and I can hear birds chirping outside.

*               *               *               *               *               *               *

Original writing / photography / artwork by J. E. Lattimer

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

The Ghost Photo

“So, you and Naomi are really breaking up?”  Charlotte Altomare said.

“Yeah.  It’s all over between us.”  Ben Peterson said.  He took another drink from the bottle of beer held loosely in his hand and sighed.

“That really sucks, man”  Jack Altomare said.

The three of them were gathered in Jack and Charlotte’s living room drinking beer.  Jack was sitting on the couch next to his wife and Ben was directly across from them in one of the plush armchairs.

“No chance that the two of you can work things out?”  Charlotte said.

Ben frowned.  “No, I don’t think so.  We’re totally different people now.  Money, material possessions, getting a bigger house, a better car–  That’s all that Naomi cares about.  I’m more concerned with getting right with–”  Ben stopped the sentence short and used his index finger to point up toward the ceiling, the sky.

Jack smiled.  “Don’t let it get to you.  At least you’re intelligent enough to know what really matters.”

“Can I get you another beer?”  Charlotte asked.

“Sure.”  He drained the last swallow from the bottle he was holding and placed it on the nearby coffee table.

“Jack?”  She said.

“No, I’m good.”

Charlotte left the room and returned a few moments later with two more bottles.  She handed one over to Ben and kept the other.

“New Mexico.”  Jack said.

“Yep.”  Ben said.

“Why New Mexico?”

Ben shrugged.   “Can’t stand living in this city anymore.  Ever since the separation I’ve been living on people’s couches.  My job sucks, I don’t have any real friends here other than you guys, and my family treats me like garbage because I’m not as successful as my brother.  I have an old friend from school who live in New Mexico.  Thinks he can put me on at his company building cabinets.  It’s time for a change, time to start over.”

“Well, we both hope everything works out and we’re glad you stopped by before you left.”  Charlotte said.

“Of course!  I couldn’t possibly thank you guys enough for all that you’ve done to help me out these last few months.”

“Don’t worry about it.”  Jack said.

“You know, I spent a summer there once, when I was still a teenager.”  Jack said.

“Where’s that?”  Ben said.

“New Mexico.  Spent a summer in Santa Fe.  I know you’re going to be in Albuquerque, but you should go over and check Santa Fe out on a weekend or something, cool place.”

“Okay, I will”

“Oh, and I went down to explore the Anasazi ruins and captured a ghost on film while I was there.  Did I ever show you that photo?”  Jack said.

“No, I’ve heard you talk about it, but I don’t think I’ve actually seen it.”  Ben said.

Charlotte rolled her eyes.  “Here we go again.”  She said under her breath.

Jack left the room and quickly returned with two large photo albums.  “It’ll take me a minute to find it.”  He said.  He placed the albums down on the coffee table and started flipping through the pages.  “This is way before people had digital cameras.  It’s a real picture with a negative.  Had a friend of mine who’s really into photography examine it and even he couldn’t explain what showed up!”

“I’ve seen him do this at least a hundred times.”  Charlotte said.

“It’s okay, I’d like to check it out.”  Ben said.

“Do you know about the Anasazi ruins?”  Jack said as he glanced up at Ben.

“Kind of.  I’ve heard about them…”

“The word ‘Anasazi’ is Navajo for ‘Ancient Ones,’ if my memory serves me.”  Jack said.  He had finished flipping through the first photo album and was moving on to the second one.  “The ruins that I saw were near the Four Corners area, Mesa Verde.  They lived in these cliff dwellings under the edge of the mesa so they could pull up their ladders and be protected from any attacks.”

“That’s interesting.”  Ben said.

“Where the hell is it?”  Jack muttered under his breath.  He continued turning pages and scanning over the photos attached to each page.  “Anyway, I was just taking pictures of the ruins, the buildings and–  Oh, there it is!”  He stopped talking and removed the photograph from the page.  He walked over and handed it to Ben.

ghost photo

“Oh man, that is weird.”  Ben said as he examined the photograph.

“Yeah,”  Jack said.  ‘You can see the building that I was taking the picture of, and that’s actually the edge of the mesa there at the top of the photo.”

“Uh-huh.”

“This, however,” He paused to point at the strange image.  “Was not there when I took the picture.  Didn’t show up until much later when I had the film developed.  The park ranger who gave us the tour had said that many people reported strange stuff showing up on pictures and film.  I remember kind of laughing at her, not thinking much of it.”

“I definitely think you captured something here.”  Ben said.  “This over here looks like a trail of ectoplasm, or something.”

“Yes, and then there are multiple faces in this area.  I think this one looks like a screaming skull–  Here are the eye sockets, where the nose was, here’s the mouth.”

“It almost looks like there are teeth-”

“Exactly.  There’s another face over here, a side profile of sorts…”  Jack used his finger to point out the image.

“I’m going to step outside and have a cigarette.”  Charlotte said.

Impressions [Part Three: Friday Night]

 

impressions 3 1

“Honey, are you home?”  Brian Ennis said.  He had entered the three bedroom home that he shared with his wife, Sophia, through the side door attached to the garage.  The house was unusually quiet.  He was walking down the main hallway and glancing into empty rooms as he passed by each doorway.

“I’m in here!”   Sophia said.

Brian followed the sound of her voice and found her in the third bedroom at the end of the hall.  They had turned the room into an art studio of sorts for her paintings.  As Brian entered the room, he saw that she was standing in front of a large canvas propped up on an easel.  She had her hair pulled pack and was applying a thin layer of blue paint across the top third of the canvas.

“What are you working on?”  He said.

“Not sure yet.”  Sofia said.  “It’s going to be another nature painting, like the last one.  Just going to kind of let it happen on it’s own.”  She shrugged.  “We will see how it turns out.”

“Cool.”  Brian said.  He remained standing in the doorway, unsure of how to proceed.  He nervously glanced over at the flat screen television in the corner, then noticed that her cell phone was sitting on one of the nearby drawing tables.

“How was work?”  Sophia said.

“Um, it was good.”  Brain said.  “Glad it’s Friday, though.  Ready for the weekend.”

“Yeah, it will be nice to spend a couple of days with my baby.”  She said.  She smiled and then turned back to the canvas.

Brian walked up to where she was sitting and stood next to her.  He reached into an inner pocket of his suit jacket and removed a small notebook that he kept there.  He flipped through it until he found the page that he was looking for. then quietly handed the notebook over to Sophia.

A confused expression flickered across her countenance as she saw his outstretched hand in front of her with the notebook.  She took it from his hand and read the note that he had scrawled on the page.

This is going to seem strange, but I need you to leave your purse, your cell phone and your driver’s license here and follow me to the car.  There are a few things that I need to tell you about and we can’t talk here-  Or inside of the car, for that matter.  I will explain more when we’re in a safe place to talk.

“What the hell is–”  She said.

Brian interrupted her by reaching out and placing his index finger over her lips.  Hush.  He took the notebook from her, closed it, then put it back into the pocket.  

“So, I thought we’d go out and grab some takeout for dinner.  How does Chinese sound?”  Brian said.  He kept his back turned to the television screen and pointed toward the door so that she could see him but the camera in the screen could not.

Sophia sat in stunned silence for at least twenty seconds.  Her usually smooth brow was furrowed as she peered at him with wondering eyes.

“Okay.  Sounds good.”  She said.  “Should I change out of these old clothes?”

“Nah.  I’ll just call it in on the way.  I’m starving.”  Brian said.  He turned and walked out the room.  On his way back to the garage he left his cell and his wallet laying on the kitchen counter.  He walked to the car that they shared,  A 2010 Audi A7, and climbed in behind the wheel.  A couple of minutes passed until Sophia walked into the garage and joined him.

Brian pulled out the notebook again.  He found a pen in the glove box and scrawled a quick note.

Sophia leaned down to see what he was writing.

Did you leave everything in the house like I asked?

She rolled her eyes and then nodded.

Brian pushed the button to open the garage door and then backed the car out of the garage.  He steered the car out of the neighborhood and took the on-ramp to the interstate after travelling a couple of miles.

Sophia noticed that he seemed very tense and nervous.  He kept glancing into the rear view mirror and even turned around to look back at a white van behind them a couple of times.

“Hold on.”  Brian said.  He changed lanes and pushed his foot down on the pedal.

“You’re speeding.”  Sophia said.

He nodded as he weaved in and out of traffic and then abruptly swerved across two lanes and took the car onto the nearest exit.  He slowed down as they traveled down the twisting exit ramp so that he could look back over his shoulder and watch for the white van.  The vehicle had remained on the interstate.  He sighed and relaxed in his seat a bit.

“What the hell is going on?”

Brian didn’t respond.  He pulled the car over onto the shoulder of the road and parked next to an open field.  There were no homes or businesses within sight and no traffic on the road.

“This will work.”  Brian said.  He took the key and climbed from the car.  He walked out into the field and Sophia followed him.  After they had traveled about a hundred feet from the car Brian turned to her and ended the silence.

“Look, sorry to put you through all of this, but we are under surveillance.  I didn’t know how else to tell you.”  He said.

“What?  Who is doing this?”

“My job.”  He sighed and placed his hands on his hips.  “They have been recording all of our calls, our text messages, stuff like that.  I was called into a meeting with my boss before lunch today, some of the stuff he knew…”  He trailed off momentarily.  “They have to be listening to what we do at home.  There is no other way he would know about some of that stuff.  They might even be watching us on cameras, I don’t know.”

Sophia’s eyes had grown wide with fear and dismay and goosebumps had broken out across her body.  “Are you freaking serious, Brian?  Why would they do this?”  She said.

He shook his head.  “It gets worse.  They’re doing the same thing to many of our friends and family members, too.  I was chastised for a conversation I had with my brother about freedom and the constitution.  I had no idea what I was getting into here.  They approached me with the job and all I saw were the dollar signs, but now-”

Sophia staggered slightly where she was standing and placed the palm of her hand upon her forehead.

“Are you okay, sweetie?”  He reached out to touch her shoulder.

“I feel like I’m going to faint.  I can’t believe this is happening!”  She took a few deep breaths and steadied herself.

“I went out for lunch today and they sent some psycho named Peter to basically threaten me.  He was laughing while he told me a story about how they were torturing some poor lady who owned a health store and-”  He stopped abruptly after noticing movement off in the distance.  He turned back and looked at the car just in time to witness a black van with tinted windows stopping just behind the Audi.

You have to be kidding me.”  Brian said under his breath.  “Wait here, Sophia.  I’ll take care of this.”

He walked over to where the van was parked.  The front passenger window rolled down when he was within two feet of it.  Two nondescript men wearing sunglasses and black suits were sitting in the front of the van.

“Good afternoon, Brian.”  The man in the passenger seat said.  He was totally bald with a well trimmed goatee.  The other one, sporting a short black crew cut, remained facing straight ahead behind the wheel.

“Do I know you?”  Brian said to the man.

The man smiled.  “No.  We’ve never met.”

“What do you want?”

The man acted as if he had not heard the question.  “This is a strange place to bring your wife on a Friday night.”  He said.

“How did you find me?”  He said.

“Listen, I’m just here to give you a warning.  Your final warning.  Keep your mouth shut.  Do you understand?”

Brian nodded and felt his stomach churning with both fear and hunger.

“Oh, and to answer your question…”  The man pointed up at the sky.  Brian looked up where he was pointing.  At first he thought the guy was messing with him.  Then he spotted it-  A small black dot hovering in the air.  It was one of the unmanned surveillance vehicles he had been trained on the previous week.  The small drones were able to fly about and hover in place for twenty hours at a time.  Each unit had multiple cameras and microphones attached to the bottom.

“You have a great weekend, Brian.”  The man said.  He rolled the window up as the van pulled off of the shoulder and drove off down the lonely road.

impressions 3 2-

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved