Tag Archives: mystery

The Stone – Finale, maybe

And she didn’t. And now here she was, deep below a jewelry store in Miami, standing in a cavernous space where the walls seemed to be made of effulgent crystals of all the different colors of the rainbow, staring at creatures she knew didn’t exist outside of Hollywood, watching as these imaginary beings, with their big bug eyes and their swollen grey heads moved about attending to whatever it was they were attending to. Stacey Florence lost consciousness as Mrs. Sykes began to speak to her about the significance of the stone she received in New Orleans from a man she met on a smelly subway platform in New York last summer.

When she opened her eyes, Stacey gazed into the smiling faces of her mother and father. She watched their eyes light up and knew they were happy to see her awake. But she didn’t understand why. When she tried to ask them what the hell was happening, she found she was too exhausted to speak, even though she had a vague idea that she had just been sleeping for a very long time.

There was a great commotion in the room as voices rejoiced and hugs blossomed in a joyful celebration. But Stacey was in a fog and felt separated from the activities. She didn’t feel bad, per se, just tired and eerily detached. Something was missing. Something wasn’t right, but she had no idea what.

Then it dawned on her. It was her memory that was missing. She didn’t know where the hell she was or how the hell she ended up in this bed. She found she couldn’t remember anything from her past. She struggled and found she could recall her childhood with only a little difficulty. That was good. She walked through the halls of her memory while her family celebrated around her. ‘She must have been out a long time,’ she thought, back to her old habit of referring to herself in the third person. ‘They seem really grateful and excited. Wonder what happened.’

She got through high school and into her early twenties alright. Early boyfriends and part time jobs flashed by as she tried to bring herself current with herself. Remembered her apartment – hey, I wanna go home – and her full time job midtown – they can keep that. Some vacation memories bubbled up. Vacation!

She started to sit up and frightened everyone in the room. A nurse eased her into a half recline and settled her and everyone else down. She found her voice. “I have to catch my flight. Don’t let me miss my flight!”

“Sweetheart,” her mother’s voice was gentle, almost breaking.

“I’ve got to catch my flight. I’m going to San Diego, remember?”

“Sweetheart, that was a long time ago. You don’t remember anything, do you? Do you know you’ve been in a coma? For a while now?”

“Coma? I was in a coma?”

“Yes sweetheart, for a long time. You had an accident. Do you remember? Like you used to have as a child?”

“Accident? I wasn’t in an accident.” Her voice trailed off as she struggled to hold on to sanity.

“You don’t remember passing out on that hot subway platform?”

She shook her head. “No.” Something cried out from the back of her mind, but like a short yelp from a dark alley at night, she did her best to pretend she didn’t hear anything.

“The police said you fainted from the heat. But you hit your head on the way down, dear. You’ve been in a coma for a while now.” Then, to the attending relatives, “but we’re all so glad you’re back, aren’t we?”

There was general merriment amongst the clan. It was fortunate she woke on a Saturday and everyone was present. Had it been a weekday, at best only one relative would have been present. Stacey did her best to not be a downer at her own party of sorts, but she craved a chance to tear open her mind and rescue whatever memory she knew was trapped in there.

“Oh, and these are for you.” With a hopeful smile, her mother handed her a bouquet of flowers. They were pretty enough. Stacey sniffed them and they smelled nice enough.

“They seem fresh. How did you know I would be waking up today?” She laughed at the absurdity of her question, a little nervous at the seriousness of her question.

“Oh, they’re not from us. The note doesn’t say who they’re from. We just assumed they were from some boyfriend of yours.” She smiled a little, then continued: “as for the timing, well, I guess it’s a lucky coincidence!”

“Or maybe the flowers woke you up!” Stacey’s father suggested with a wink.

Stacey took a look at the note. The message was generic and familiar, but something about the flowery font on the card struck a nerve with Stacey and she began to recess a little into her mind. She could almost swear she recently sent a card with the same flowery font to someone… But who? And, apparently, she has been lying in this bed for God knows how long and not sending cards with flowery writing to anyone.

A wrought iron balcony above a gift shop. A selection of trinkets and collectibles. Images floated around in her head like motes of dust in the sunlight. The aroma of seafood triggered a cascade of emotion but Stacey only grew agitated and confused. Why did she send herself flowers and a card?

The nurses ran as fast as they safely could into the room at the sound of her scream. Stacey’s family was ushered out and a doctor appeared with a needle. There was darkness and the calm stillness.

Her mysterious friend appeared as a light in the darkness. All was calm and peaceful here. The two of them were surrounded by a white light which twinkled in all the colors of the rainbow, not unlike the room she remembered – she remembered! She didn’t pass out on any subway platform. She met a man who gave her a stone in New Orleans which she took to be appraised in Miami, where she ended up in an underground cavern filled with aliens… Aliens!

The other spoke to her now telepathically. “Thank you, Stacey, for doing what I asked you to do.

“But what did I do? That part I can’t remember.”

Before her eyes appeared the likeness of a small child. Stacey cried. She knew the child was hers.

“I want you to bear us a child.” That is what he had said. That is what he had asked her to do for him. And she didn’t feel it would be the least bit inconvenient for her to oblige the kind gentleman. Her mind was not her own, and had not been for some time! She began to panic before he spoke again and calmed her with his deep, soothing vibrations, if not with his words.

“We’ve met many times over the years since we selected you for our program. We’ve erased your memory each time and even brought you to what you would consider your past at times to allow you to recoup some of the lost time.”

She remembered now how she had gone to the building he had directed her to go to after they parted company after brunch. It was a gift shop that sold flowers as well as other assorted items. The shop had an elaborate wrought iron balcony over the ground floor and there were flowering plants up there which shed some red petals down to the street in front of the doorway. Stacey stepped inside and handed the clerk the note her friend had provided for her to give to the staff and, when prompted by the clerk, she selected a floral arrangement and a suitable card – he said it was for his sister who was recovering in hospital – and then Stacey was on her way to the next stop on the list her friend had given her. Here her memory did not return to her.

“Would you like to meet her?” Stacey shook in the very core of her being. How can anyone simultaneously want and not want something so strongly? She experienced a fear stronger than any she had ever known was possible. And a yearning for a world bigger and stranger than she ever imagined. But she was afraid to jump off the diving board.

“There will be plenty of time later. You should return to your family now. We’d like to include you as a partner from now on. Would you like that?” Stacey didn’t have a clue what the hell that entailed and he sensed as much.

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to decide now. We will partition your mind so you don’t have to worry about these things for now. We’ll visit you again soon and we can discuss things at greater length then, okay?” Stacey didn’t respond.

She opened her eyes and saw her mother and father in the chairs beside her hospital bed. “I’m hungry. Do they have clams here?” Her mother burst into tears and laughter. Her father rushed to call the staff about getting some food for her. In his haste he knocked the card that came with the flowers from its place on the small table in the corner. He picked it up and placed in on the bed near Stacey’s hand. She reached for it and brought it up to her face to read it again. It said “Get well soon. Can’t wait to see you again.”

Stacey smiled warmly in her heart, although she wasn’t sure why. “How about some clams already!? I’m starving!”

The Stone Part II

Her mind raced trying to find the answers. The man who gave her the stone had said it would lead her into trouble if she wasn’t careful, but when he continued to insist it wasn’t stolen she had brushed aside his warnings. Now she wished she had paid more attention to all that he had told her. She racked her mind trying to remember the details. ‘Did I miss something important?’ she asked herself, panicked to the point of referring to herself in the first person. ‘He said it would be okay to have it appraised but that I should only get it appraised from some jeweler he knew… Damn! He said it wasn’t stolen, so why should it matter where I get it appraised from? Damn! I should have listened, but who knew?!’

She recalled with vivid clarity the moment she met him. She had been in New York waiting for the downtown A train at Columbus Circle. The platform was smelly and hot as usual for that time of year – summer of course – and it was crowded, but only typically so. Someone somewhere was playing a guitar – a pleasant tune that almost made the wait for the train bearable. A homeless woman shuffled slowly by, nearly killing her with the stench of blended shits, young and old. She turned to flee to another part of the platform when she collided with him. Not a football tackle collide, nor an everyone lands on their ass collide, just a gentle bump and ‘excuse me’ collide. But she took note of him immediately all the same. He was dressed slightly… off. Different. And his cologne was unique to her nose. It didn’t completely mask the shit-pourri, but rather distracted from it confusingly. When he said her name she was barely surprised. Something about his presence shifted her consciousness by some non-trivial degree, and she was nearly hypnotized. She wasn’t sexually attracted to him. In fact, the closest she ever felt to this same sensation was at a particularly touching Easter service her then boyfriend had dragged her to some years prior. Not being particularly religious, she had been surprised at her reaction to the service then, and that she was feeling that same sort of warm, fuzzy calm now forced her to full, deep awareness. She remembered in her new found lucidity her name was on her bronze tag – she had never taken if off when she finished work for the day.

She remembered in this strange place laughing at herself on that hot platform all those months ago. She remembered him chatting her up, then offering to buy her a coffee. Trying to avoid the awkwardness, she mentioned that she was heading for the train station and was, in fact, on her way out of town. She remembered her embarrassment when he told her he was heading to Penn Station himself and would like to buy her that coffee if time allowed. Deciding he was harmless enough, she stopped trying to shake him, figuring she may as well drink the coffee, then lose him when she boarded her train. The A train was barreling into the station by now, and when it came to a stop and the doors opened, they boarded the train together. She remembered his oddness, but wondered now at how normal he seemed. If she knew then where she would end up… hell, she wished she knew now where she was.

He handed her the stone over and over again in her mind’s eye. Each time, she accepted it gladly. Never once did she even consider rejecting his offer. The proposition was simple: he would give her the stone, she could keep it or sell it as she willed, and all he asked in return was a simple favor.

The fact that they were booked not only on the same train out of Penn Station, but also the same flight out of Newark Airport that fateful summer afternoon sealed in her mind the inevitability of their crossing and the futility of resisting his harmless offers of chatty companionship and casual chivalry. Besides, she was growing fascinated with his tales of travel and adventure. The way he told them was refreshing, too. He didn’t brag about his adventures, nor did he try the underhanded approach of understating his worldliness in the common style of the name-dropper. He seemed, in some modest way, impressed with himself that he had been to the places he visited, and his eagerness to share his experiences was contagious. He wasn’t American, but she wasn’t sure just where she imagined he hailed from. For some reason she failed to ask him. Every time she thought about it, he seemed almost to sense it, for he would immediately begin anew with some fresh story and distract her from her inquisitive thoughts.

The morning he gave her the stone, over jazz brunch at Antoines in the French Quarter, she had been feeling quite out of herself, she recalled. He had called her a few days earlier, after practically disappearing for a month – not that they were a couple, mind you, and he was certainly under no obligation to keep in constant touch with her – and offered to treat her to New Orleans for the weekend. He offered to arrange the flight for her and take care of the nitty gritty and all she would have to do is catch the flight and meet him in the French Quarter. She had accepted his offer, of course, and met him at Cafe Du Monde, as they had arranged. After the requisite beignet and cafe au lait, they traveled to a small bed and breakfast nearby where he had booked their stay – separate rooms. She remembered feeling very fortunate with her life.

It was late the following morning when she found herself at Antoines, listing to the smooth strumming of the bass and enjoying the lingering essence of soft shell crab Florentine on her tongue. She remembered as if it was yesterday how her eye caught the glimmer of the stone as her friend produced it from a bag he had brought with him to brunch.

“Do you think it pretty?”

“Oh my… yes. It’s gorgeous.” It was huge! Nearly half the size of her palm. Something in her stomach reacted at the time – how she wished she had listened to it. Instead, she had reacted to her gut feeling with suspicion and dismissal. Surely the thing was junk. Plastic even. But it was pretty plastic, for sure. It glimmered like nothing she had ever seen. “What’s it made of?”

“It’s a stone, a rare gem in fact, although I doubt you would be familiar with the name if I told you.”

“Try me.”

He ignored her inquiry and immediately began telling her what he needed from her. It certainly hadn’t seemed like much at the time, although it was a strange request. She agreed and he handed her the stone. She remembered the first time the stone touched the flesh of her hand. A tingling sensation traveled up her arm and into her scalp. It was subtle, but not imaginary, and she loved it. His words interrupted her sensations.

“I’ve got to go now. Don’t forget what I’ve told you, and please don’t hesitate to do what I’ve asked you to do.”

“I won’t…” was all she had time to get out before he was gone.

The Bat

The bat touched my hair. I freaked out and swatted my hair and the space above my head feverishly in the dark. I felt something light and crispy brush the back of my hand briefly. My stomach clenched and twisted. My heart rose up into my throat and choked me. My eyes strained in vain to make out any detail whatsoever in the pitch black cavernous space. The sound of flapping wings receded for a moment, bringing forth my eternal gratitude. In this space eternity is forever and for only a micro-moment simultaneously, for I was forced to revoke my gratitude seconds later when I heard the approaching sound of wings flapping in the darkness. My heart-rate tripled. My breath got caught in my bronchials and I began to suffocate.

I suddenly recalled a recent appointment with my accountant. He was a miserable man, and cheap too, but he provided the service for me I could not provide for myself and I had little choice but to continue to subject myself to his presence once or twice a year. As he pecked away at his calculator (he was too cheap to consider purchasing modern hardware, much less software) I remember allowing my mind at the time to wander towards thoughts of his personal life. Did he have a wife? Children? I thought it unlikely as a wife and children cost money – as unromantic and practical-minded as that may sound, it is the truth – and I couldn’t see him taking on the burdensome expense. But maybe he had – I didn’t know and didn’t bother to ask, but I remember wondering because on his desk I glanced upon an item which struck me as being uncharacteristically warm and charming, and I couldn’t imagine that this cheap, miserly soul had ever purchased anything so, well, human. I couldn’t really imagine it being a gift, either, as he didn’t seem the sort to partake in any such silly rituals as gift giving or receiving.

Lying on the cold, dank floor now, curled up into as tight a ball as I could wrap myself, praying the bat would go away and leave me unmolested, I thought that maybe my accountant must indeed have had a wife once, for there was no other explanation I could think of to explain the object I witnessed on his desk that rainy afternoon in April.