Black Petals Issue #105, Autumn, 2023

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BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary-Chris Friend
Cards Fiction by Gene Lass
Barfly: Fiction by Gene Lass
Case Study: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
Delivery: Fiction by David Kloepfer
Joy (noun): a source of delight: Fiction by Noah Levin
Master of Dream: Fiction by Ash Ibrahim
Nightshade: Fiction by Adam Vine
Red Popsicles: Fiction by Caitlyn Pace
Temporally Closed: Fiction by J. Elliott
The Mansion Dwellers: Fiction by Robb White
Time for a Change: Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
Bernie's Friends: Flash Fiction by Phil Temples
Death Visits the Sapling Trust: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Monster: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
Sleep: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Welcome, Ghouls: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Ode to Chateau Marmont: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Cadaver Dogs: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Phases of the Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Darkest Octave: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Green Man Standing: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Day That Mary Went Away: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Northern Migration of Souls: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Gone West: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
If I Scream: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Witchery: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Carry On: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
The Song of the Dead: Poem by Ben Huber

J. Elliott: Temporally Closed

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Art by J. Elliott 2023

Temporally Closed

by J. Elliott

 

Morty Sapp wiped sweat from his receding hairline and swore at the sign taped to the elevator door, Elevator Temporally Closed Please Use Stairs. A once-bright orange-now-filthy brown traffic cone lay in front of the door looking exhausted from the stress of alerting people to danger. Morty stared at the address on his phone again then at the building directory. Eighteenth floor? You gotta be kidding! I’m getting too old for this. He adjusted the messenger bag strap that dug into his shoulder. Temporally. Not even spelled correctly.

He glanced at the door marked STAIRS and back to the elevator willing it to work. His knees ached at the thought of eighteen floors up and eighteen floors down. And six more parcels to deliver after that. Not good. Not good at all. This could be the dreaded day that began on a bicycle and ended in an EMT truck.

How did the building not have a front desk? No delivery drop boxes? Insane! Resigned to the inevitable, his feet turned sideways towards the shabby side door while the rest of his body delayed, still confronting the gleaming elevator.   

As if in answer to his wish, the tape securing the top right corner of the elevator sign let go and curled forward in slow motion. The left followed with a whispered thhwwwick. The sign tipped forward like a roof jumper, tugging the bottom free. Thhhwickk! Thhwickk! The paper floated to the floor like a white flag of surrender landing at his feet—feet that had turned back frontways.

I could try pushing the button and see what happens…if nothing happens, I take the stairs. But what if the door closes and won’t open again? What if I get stuck? That can’t happen. If it does, I call for help. I have a cell phone. His eyes shifted from the shiny door to the shabby one.  

He punched the up arrow. We’ll just see what happens. Maybe the door won’t even open. He shifted his weight and adjusted the backpack.

But the door did open with a gentle schloop. Lights on. A pleasant ding!

He glanced to the door for the stairs and back to the elevator. Maybe they just forgot to remove the sign.

Worth a shot,” he proclaimed to no one as he stepped in cautiously. He took a deep breath and punched 18. The door shut with a smooth schloop. Motor whirred. Accelerating. The overhead lights flickered pastel colors.

Fancy, he thought, looking up to the bank of lights.

The numbers on the panel counted upward. All seemed normal. Six. Seven. Eight…Ten.. Eleven…“Thank God!” Morty said, exhaling. He’d been holding his breath. Almost there. His shoulders relaxed a fraction under the messenger bag’s weight. “One small blessing in this horrible day,” he said, mentally adding week, actually.

Sheila had walked out on Sunday, leaving him hollow, but relieved. She was right, of course, but why’d she have to nag him to death in that screechy voice like a psychotic parrot? “Your life is going nowhere. We are going nowhere. You never want to do anything! You come home wanting muscle ointment massages and beer. When you aren’t snoring, you kick and groan and toss about. I need sleep, Morty. I want a life. Travel. FUN. Remember FUN?” She had jiggled her breasts at him. “I can’t do this anymore, Morty. I’m looking out for my needs. Find another sympathetic beer server.”

She’d slammed the door before he’d had the chance to mention the job interview he’d lined up. He’d thought she’d be pleased with his choice. Desk job. No more weather worries. Great benefits. Travel perks. Would he get stir crazy stuck at a desk all day? Could he handle irate customers in his face? There had to be happy travelers too, right? People with stories and dreams? How hard could it be? Worth a try. One thing was sure: if he didn’t shift gears quickly (wry humor), the painkillers wouldn’t keep the pain at bay; he’d need surgery.

He was too beaten down to go after her.

Zipping through traffic, pushing himself to go faster, faster, used to be a daily thrill. Five years straight he won the awards for best employee. Need that package across town in an hour? Morty’s your man! Awful weather? Gridlock? Doesn’t matter to Morty! He’s a superhero! That was before the stabbing pain in his hip socket. Muscle cramps that took longer to work out. His body was throwing in the towel.

The lights blinked out, back on, alternating green, peach, pink, then steady on pale blue. The elevator slowed to a feathered stop. Ping! Schloop. The door slid open.

Lost in his thoughts and eager to complete this delivery, Morty was in motion before his mind fully registered that the glowing number on the panel was sixteen. Body on autopilot, anticipating a hallway, he stepped out of the elevator. His feet met not carpet or tile but churned soil. Cold air assailed him as did battlefield clamor. Acrid smoke. Sound of bagpipes. Two hundred feet away, exhausted, emaciated men loading a trebuchet. Flocks of arrows shot through the air in opposing directions. 

Schloop. The elevator door closed behind him.

“What the—?” Morty blinked. Instinctively recoiling, he stepped back to where the elevator car had just been but was no more. No solid floor. No panel of buttons. No protection. He whirled around. A bloody body lay sprawled where seconds before had been shiny back wall. Shheeoowoop! Shhheeoowoop! Arrows dangerously close to his head.

Morty’s mouth fell open in a terrified howl as package and phone slid from his hands. The mind-shattering carnage before him paralyzed his body and crippled his brain for a brief moment.

His eyes fell on the dead man’s bloody shield. He dove for it, fumbled, got his arm through the leather straps at the back just in time to raise it up to protect his face. The force of an arrow striking the shield shoved it into his cheek, pushing him backwards. He yelled in terror as he realized how close he’d been to an arrow in the face. He felt warm blood on his cheek. His panicky breath came in jagged rasps. The dead guy was the only bit of cover. He scrabbled closer for any hint of protection while his eyes panned wildly for better cover. There. A stone wall about fifty yards away.

Got to get to cover. Get. To. Wall.

His knees and hips warned him they would not respond quickly as he stumbled to his feet, ducking, shield arm up to protect his head.

He pumped his legs with a twisted memory of high school football—a day when he’d run a touchdown to wild cheers. He jumped over a man soaked in blood and moaning in agony.

Forty yards. Come on, got to get there.

A horrifying whooshing sound passed overhead. His mind recalled the trebuchet. Something had been catapulted.

Thirty yards.

His view was blocked by galloping horsemen. Pounding hooves all around. His face was peppered with dirt clots. What? Where? He spun around. No, no, no, his mind screamed, I’m not your enemy! He locked eyes with a stocky, helmeted man on a midnight black horse. “No, please! You don’t understand!” he yelled. A flash of teeth in the helmet. The man’s face was breaking into a satisfied, wicked grin.

“I don’t even know where I am!” Morty screamed.

And then a force like a monster seemed to pick Morty up from the back of his head. His body lifted up as his vision blurred and went black. He died almost instantly compliments of a second helmeted warrior who had roared up behind him on horseback and clobbered him with a spiked mace. The two men grinned at each other as Morty’s body fell to the ground. The warrior twisted his wrist to yank and unstick the mace from Morty’s skull. They might have thought they were playing a diabolical game of polo using heads rather than polo balls.

#

At 11:05 a.m. on the following Tuesday, the uniformed brunette called “Mr. Sapp?” for the second time. She struck a line through the name on her list and called on the next applicant. “Mr. Lee?” Mr. Lee stood up and greeted the attractive airline employee.

The intended recipients of the remaining packages filed complaints with the messenger company. Harold, Morty’s boss, bristled about the complaints knowing these high-profile clients would generate negative reviews. So unlike Morty to be a slacker. He was disappointed that Morty had disappeared without a word, but the new hire, Franco, was quite promising. If he kept it up, he’d be star employee in no time.

Sheila had her nails done in Sizzling Summer Pink. She eased her breakup regrets with retail therapy involving several pairs of shoes and a slinky dancing dress. For a few days, she was miffed that Morty hadn’t called. She’d expected him to grovel. Oh well. How delicious the freedom to barhop with friends, stay out late, kick up her new heels. Paul, the investment consultant was not only hunky, but a terrific dancer who liked skiing. She could learn to ski.

Morty the award-winning, dependable messenger was never seen again.




J. Elliott is an artist and author living in North Central Florida. She is working on the fourth book in a funny, cozy mystery series set in Florida; her main character is a Buddhist with a midlife crisis who opens a meditation retreat. This doesn’t make finding inner peace any easier. She also loves classic ghost stories and has written three collections of spooky offerings. She’s currently finishing up Jiko Bukken, a ghost story novel set in Kyoto, Japan in the winter of ’92-’93. Episodes are posting on Kindle Vella.  



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