The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
There wasn’t a day when Alice didn’t get up before her alarm clock went off. Alice was what people call a morning person. Mornings were magical to Alice for many reasons, the most important of which she was shy, and guarded about revealing to most people, even her closest friends. It was that shyness and guarded optimism that was about change, despite Alice herself.
Alice had been brought up in a loving home. Her parents (mama and papa, as she always called them in the privacy of their home, and Mom and Dad, whenever they had company over or when she had to refer to them to others to indicate that she was related to them as family) had had the foresight to provide Alice with a nurturing environment, a first rate education, and had always gone out of their way to ensure that she would develop strong self esteem. Self confidence, Alice’s father had always thought, was the bedrock of the individual. Self confidence was the foundation of a persons character, he’d always told Alice, from the time when she was barely able to understand that character more than a cartoon in one of the morning shows she like to watch on television, to the time when she had given the Valedictorian address after graduating from College with honors, and proceeding to become one of the top, if not THE top prospect of her graduating class, for a spot in the most respected Law firms in the nation.
It was the strong character, which her father and mother had nurtured in her, which had become more that a personality trait, an asset, the one reason she had gotten so far, so fast, in an environment that seemed to maul and destroyed the faint of heart ( her friends and classmates had always voted her as ‘most likely to do anything”) It was also her strong character, and self confidence, that got in the way of having a nurturing, loving relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Alice had noticed this way, way, early in her life: In grade school, in high school, and particularly in College, when she had reached the age were most of her friends had started dating. She never had a date.
Not dating was laughed away during high school. There was never time. There was always the exam, the essay, the community service issues that Alice felt took precedence. she was not free to waste away her hours in frivolous relationships with stupid boys, who didn’t seem to have the emotional or mental capacity to keep up with her. Her friends had noticed this fact about her: She kept a barrier around herself. An invisible, impenetrable barrier that kept them, and particularly members of the opposite sex out. Closeness was out of bounds when it come to Alice’s relationships. Even her best friend, Margaret, was not able to pierce the shield that seemed to have become Alice’s emotional armor. Alice was a fortress that nobody could penetrate.
Alice, the morning person, was sweet, caring, smart, and always on guard. Protecting herself, and protecting all the weak and helpless. Alice’s mother had noticed this trait early in her upbringing. She had noticed how she had wept and wept the day when her dog Misty had run away from home ( just momentarily, she had found her way back by dinner time and was only covered in dirt when she had scratched on the porch screen, to get back in the house) and Alice had spent her every minute making posters, and posting them around the neighborhood, and knocking on doors, looking with conviction and drive. She was five years old, when this had happened. From that time on, Alice’s mother had known that her daughter was special, that she will persevere in any situation, and that she will take on the world, and maybe even save it from itself.
Alice’s father was very proud of what his daughter had become: She had risen to partner in the law firm that had recruited her straight from College. She had made some key investments in technology which had made her portfolio grow exponentially with the success of the market. Alice, her father thought, had done everything right. He was proud. She was the rock that he and his wife had nurtured into becoming. All those days and nights he and his wife had spent planning, arranging, nurturing, had paid off, and the proof, he thought, was in the success of their off spring, Alice. He was a proud father. Alice was the perfect child. He was most proud the day when Alice’s mother had succumbed to cancer, and had passed away, quickly, leaving him with little time to grieve, or to make sense of the situation. Alice had been there for him. She had become his provider, his nurturer, his reason to continue on with life.
It was an early morning, when Alice had beat the alarm clock and had been up with the morning dew. Outside her window she could still see the moon above the horizon, slowly vanishing, losing its brilliance, cleverly out shined by the radiance of that other heavenly body that was impishly peering over the opposite horizon, and forcing the moon to give up he place in the morning sky. The Sun, with its golden splendor was taking over the world. Alice had not expected her morning to be any different that any other morning. She followed her normal routine: brew coffee, slip into her comfy bathrobe, and sit in front of the gigantic window to watch the light in the sky morph from a deep purple, to a soft lavender, to a red-orange, to a bright yellowish hue. The comfort of the morning stillness charged Alice’s soul with a palpable energy that gave her confidence and hope. Nature in all its glory seemed to lay itself out at her feet, every single morning.
Before Alice had taken in all the energy from the morning glory, the silence and stillness in her mind was drastically interrupted by the piercing sound of her cellular phone. The traditional ringing-bell ring tone she had programmed in her phone shattered the air, and nearly bruised her delicate soul with its relentless noise. Alice was rudely brought back to the reality of the world by the ringing cell phone. She nearly tripped over trying to get to it to silence it. When she reached it, she did not recognize the blinking number on its display. She was about to mute it and throw it into the junk-drawer, when something inside her, like an intuition, a premonition, made her press the “talk” button and begin to talk: “Hello?” Alice spoke into the receiver, with her eyes closed, and waited for the person at the other end to reply. A few awkward moments passed, and Alice waited in the self imposed darkness of her mind, but there was no sound. She frowned. Took the phone from her ear and looked at it inquisitively. “Hello?” “Hello?” No answer.
Alice stared at the screen momentarily, and when the glow of the screen faded to darkness, she let the phone sit in her hand for a few minutes, and stared at it, searching her mind for an explanation. Before she dropped the phone on the counter, she pressed the re-dial button, and waited. She held her phone with one had while she tapped on the marble counter with the other, staring blankly at the shifting light outside her window, and let the ringing go on, and on and on. No answer, and no answering service where she could hear the greeting of the owner of the originating call. She was puzzled momentarily, then relieved. She put the phone down and whispered to herself “wrong number.”
The next item in her morning routine, which had been rudely interrupted by the erratic phone episode, was to shower, dress, and breakfast. Alice proceeded with her routine, but she was no longer at ease. A nagging sensation pricked her mind and gut. The phone shouldn’t have rang at five-thirty in the morning. She thought about as showered, she thought about it as she dressed, and she continued to think about it as she poured low-fat milk in her cereal bowl. Alice was the type of person who did not let little things, like the ringing of her cell phone at five-thirty in the morning without her expecting a call, left unresolved. She was too entrenched in her routines to let something like that go.
She felt it was necessary to find a solution. She had to solve this tiny mystery, even if she had to upend her entire daily routine.
The sun had been creeping into Alice’s bedroom and covering everything with its lights, creating shadowy shapes, and glittering sparks as its light was refracted by the floor-to-ceiling glass of the bedroom windows. The whispering sound of the wind, and the random tweets of a few morning birds, filtered through the glass, and echoed on the walls of the master bedroom, where Alice, with her head in a towel, sat pondering her next move. The ancient magic of the Sun and the moon shifting in the sky was now forgotten. Alice’s mind was in a different, less manageable plane. She was unaccustomed to disruptions. Now, she was determined to solve this puzzle, which, for most people, would have been done and forgotten the moment the phone had stopped ringing.
Alice turned on her lap-top computer. Water from her wet hair was slowly dripping down her neck and face despite the turban-like towel wrapped on her head. She lifted the cell phone and looked up the originating number on the display. She typed every digit into the reverse-phone-look up on her computer, and stared at the screen for results. Nothing! No matches. The screen on her computer merely showed a map of the entire Nation, without a single location that matched the number she had been called from.
She was annoyed, now. This was now a challenge, a crusade. Dipping into all her clever knowledge of cyberspace, knowledge she had carefully picked up during one of her cases at the law firm, when she had to pin down a witness that would exonerate a client falsely accused of inside trading, she began sleuthing.
Alice had began the search on her lap-top. The relentless blinking cursor on blank screen annoyed her. Nothing! She was getting nowhere. Blink, blink, blink, the cursor on her screen seemed to mock her efforts. It had become very personal now. The covers on her bed were now damp from the water that had been dripping from her wet body. She had spent nearly an hour trying to come up with a lead. It was nearly time to head off to the law firm. She was not ready to go. She sat mesmerized by the blank screen on her computer, the stillness of the morning was fading with the sounds and noises of the outside world invading her privacy. She thought for a moment about calling in sick, so she could devote the rest of her day to bring order into her life again. Alice felt uneasy. Her daily routine was her armor, it was her safety net, it was her refuge from the chaos of daily living. She had to restore it. Alice felt her body had lost the harmony that she depended on to live her daily life. She fed from the energy of routine, of stillness, or predictability. Her mind was not wired to deal with uncertainty. All had to be measured, and known, so that it could be put to work to her advantage.
Alice was at a disadvantage when she felt out-of-control. In her mind she replayed the day when she learned that her father, her champion had died. She felt remorse, and guilt. She was not there when he had had THE heart attack that had finally taken him. She never forgave herself for not having had the foresight to be with him those precious last days of his life. She played and replayed the voice in her head that reproached her for not being the caring daughter, the caregiver, the partner, the comfort that her father had needed during those time when he was most vulnerable. Her father had molded her to be persistent, responsible, a rock of Gibraltar, so when the time had come to be there for him, to support him, she was not there. She played this in her mind, as she sat on her bedroom wrapped in a towel, feeling vulnerable, afraid, and helpless; everything opposite of what her upbringing had taught her.
Alice felt alone. For the first time in her life, she was afraid. It was as if suddenly a veil had been lifted from her eyes and she saw the world in sharp detail. She did not like it. She did not like the feeling of vulnerability. She looked at her ghostly reflection on the blank screen in front of her. She didn’t recognize the stranger staring back. With a quick move of her hand she swiftly closed the computer shut, and thew it onto the side of the bed. She lifted the her hands and cradled her face on the palms of her hands and began to cry uncontrollably. Mama, papa, she cried out, between sobs, mama, papa, I miss you so much! Alice lifted her head and watched her reflection on the large mirror in front of her, her face red, her eyes squinting, her mouth trembling. She watched herself crying. She continued to cry and to stare at the face crying. She could not stop staring at the person on the mirror. Consciously, as she were a different person, she stared as if looking into a window and watching a stranger break down. She couldn’t take her eyes away. It was not her in the mirror. It wasn’t Alice crying. She did not cry. Alice did not break down and cry for no reason. Who was that, she thought. Who is that vulnerable person? She thought this as she continued to sob and cry.
She took a deep breath and filled her lungs with air. She held it inside her chest until the pressure, and the self preservation instinct compelled her release it. She felt dizzy. She lowered her head and stared at her hands, the slowly moved them together, along the axis of her chest, until they were under her opposite arms as she wrapped herself in them as if hugging herself for protection. The light from the morning sun reflected in the mirror in front of her and bathed her entire face and body with its warm light. It was as if the the heavenly body had recognized her agony and had taken pity on her, and embraced her with all its warmth. She felt the sun’s rays glowing on her face. She felt the comfort being absorbed by her skin. It slowly flowed from her epidermis deep into her thermal receptors. Her ears felt warm. Her eyelids now glowed with a potent red-orange that illuminated the darkness inside her mind. Her lips, that had trembled and puckered felt loose, they began a barely perceptible motion that began on each end of her mouth, to stretch, slowly, to a smile. She lifted her head slowly and opened her eye. The reflection in front of her stared back at her lovingly, she recognized it, it was herself, Alice. She felt comforted. The words of her mother and father echoed inside her head. “You are Alice, you are our daughter, we love you very, very much. Always remember that. You are Alice, you are our only one, always think of yourself as you are, don’t ever forget. We love you very, very much. You are Alice, you are, who you are, remember, You are Alice, you are a wonderful human being.”
The alarm clock on the night table next to Alice’s bed had been going off, when the service providers had arrived and found Alice frozen on her bed. They had received a code red on their monitors, and tried to make a connection with A-LI-C 454, via the network, to no avail, so they had dispatched a crew to her home. A-LI-C 454 had suffered from a curious malfunction of the neuron receptors of the hypothalamus and frontal lobe, which had caused her programming to go into static remission. There was no other option. A-LI-C 454 had to be reprogrammed, recycled, or scrapped.
© Oswaldo Jimenez April 2014
• Oswaldo Jimenez
One bite. That’s all she thought she needed to satisfy her hunger. One bite