The Device (a short story)

the chairHe looked around. Where did she go? She was just standing next to him and now she was no longer there. Panic started to take over! How could he have lost her! How could she have disappeared so quickly? And how would he be able to find her again here and now?

They had not prepared for this!  In his wildest imagination he never really thought they were onto something. It was true that Sheila was smarter than he was, it was also true that sometimes he felt emasculated by her. He was the follower in the relationship and his family had lost respect for him because of it. But she loved him and he loved her and, besides, he owed her.

After all, if it wasn’t for him she’d still be first in their class at MIT. So, yeah, he had indulged her for the last two years with her crazy notions that she knew how to make it work. That she had figured out what all the others had not. Of course he hadn’t believed it for a moment, but he wanted her to be happy and in the two years since they’d been kicked out of MIT these nightly sojourns is what has kept her happy, it was the glue holding them together.

But she was right, or at least partially right. One moment she was there, her feet buckled in, about to sit down and strap in her torso when all of a sudden — ZAP!!  she was gone!

Multiple dimensions. Time Travel. People had been talking about these things for centuries. In fact, some of the greatest minds the world has ever known have not been able to actually put either theory into practice. Wow, they had done it! They had actually done it!  He and Sheila, just two MIT dropouts, living in the unfinished basement of his parents home, scraping together the money for rent by delivering pizzas and selling cosmetics at the local Sears Roebuck by day, and using the hours they should have been sleeping instead twisting wires, chiselling leather and smouldering iron plates together while scribbling insane calculations on their chalkboard wall. It had taken two years to get The Device built and without any fanfare she had just disappeared in a nanosecond before she was even securely buckled in.

What had happened?  They weren’t even to the point of flipping switches or setting geographical and/or chronological data into The Device’s system… that’s what they called it, The Device. They didn’t need a name for it because it was still in its infancy, it was changing every day, it wasn’t ready for a name and so that’s what they referred to it as, The Device.  It hadn’t worked before now. Heck, it wasn’t supposed to work now! But it had happened. She was, somewhere-sometime else! They had flipped a coin to see who would sit in the chair this time, as they did each time. They’d never made plans on how to come back from wherever-whenever. Obviously Sheila had no idea of the progress they had made. They weren’t prepared for this! Not in the least. They didn’t even have a cover story prepared in case something went wrong. And now it had!

Oh, if only his younger brother hadn’t been peeking through the keyhole when she disappeared. If only Matthew hadn’t freaked out and called the police before he could stop him, calm him, try to explain. And more importantly, figure out how to explain to his parents, her parents, their friends, the police. How would he ever talk himself out of this mess!

“Damn it, Sheila!”

She wasn’t supposed to go anywhere-anytime. They were only trying to test the fittings. They hadn’t even tried to send the stuffed gorilla, Einstein, he’d won for her at the county fair anywhere-anytime yet. And now, now, just like that she was gone when-where she wasn’t supposed to be!

“Excuse me, sir, what was that you said?”

Oh shit, I said that out loud. Focus, Jimmy, Focus dammit!
“Huh, what?”

“I asked you to repeat what you just said.”

Oh gosh, what to say? What to say? Um —
“Oh, I didn’t actually say anything at all. I’ve just got a little cold, you see, and I was sniffling is all, cleared my throat, then sniffled.”

Surely the police must think he’s done something to her. How would he ever explain that they had been students of quantum physics and just got lucky, made the greatest discovery of all time? No one would believe him, especially not the police, even if they had still been at MIT and the success hadn’t have happened spontaneously and without their anticipation or expectation.

Something had gone wrong. He didn’t know what and because he didn’t know what had happened and what hadn’t happened or even what made whatever happen, happen he would definitely not be able to give a reassuring demonstration of proof, let alone get her back; which was probably the only demonstration that could save him now!

And that excuse! A little cold, a sniffle, how lame was that! As he said the words he knew it even sounded like a lie. But it really hadn’t mattered what he said, he could see in their eyes that they’d heard him mutter the words, “Dammit, Sheila.” Why had he said that? Why did he lie when they clearly knew he was lying and he knew they knew he was lying? This was no good. This was —

Snap out of it Jimmy, they’re talking to you! You have to be able to answer their questions!

“No, officer, I swear she’s fine.”
(Of course she’s fine. She’s got to be fine!)

He heard his father’s voice echoing in the recesses of his brain: “Focus, Jimmyboy, you can do it!

” No, I can’t tell you where she is.”
(I can’t even tell you when she is!)

“What? Oh, the last time I saw her?”
Damn this AADD!

“Um, well, she was standing in there.”

He pointed at what police would and could only think of as some sort of sadomasochistic torture device. It was only going to get worse from here.

Damn Sheila and damn that snooping, nosy brother of mine!

The two officers turned and stared, wide-eyed at the chambered chair with all the hoses, buckles and wires attached to it, glowing, flickering lights of red, green and blue, the extra large bolts clamping it hard to the floor inside a windowed chamber of black light. The buckles at the base buckled tight as though holding something, while the buckles upon the arm rests and the two sets of belts protruding from the seatback remained securely stationed in their own seats, unbuckled and unused.

“Well, that’s quite a, uh, well, that’s something I’ve never seen before.  Tell us, sir, what was she doing in there?”

“Nothing, officer, she was, um, she was just standing there and then she wasn’t standing there.”

“But she was in there? in the chamber? the chamber with the chair?”

“Yes.”

“And then she wasn’t?”

“Correct.”

“Were you in there with her, Jim?  Can I call you Jim?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?

“Yes, you can call me Jim and yes I was in there with her.”

“Yeah, we thought so.  We see this sort of thing all the time.”

The junior officer speaks for the first time since they arrived in the basement, “Wait, we do?”

“Yes, we do.” The senior officer replies authoritatively.

“You do?” Jim says, sounding relieved.

“Yep.  What you got there is a death chamber.  And it is the last thing you will ever see.”  The officer pulls out his gun, pointing it at Jimmy.

“Now, down on your belly, hands over your head!”  Jimmy starts to move forward, preparing to lie his belly on the floor.

“No sudden moves or I’ll….”

Suddenly Jimmy sits straight up in bed, sweat running down his body, tears down his cheeks. He turns and looks to his left where he sees Sheila lying there so silently, looking so peaceful, so beautiful, her arm curled around the gorilla. She was here with him right now! He takes a deep breath in and gives a big sigh of relief. He had found her.

Sheila’s eyes flutter open and she asks, “Are you okay, sweetheart?”

“Yes, darling, just getting up to check the pilot light.  I think it’s out again. Go back to sleep.  We have a big day tomorrow. You’re going to appeal the expulsion and I’m going to get a real job so we can get the hell out of this basement!”

☀ ☀ ☀ ☀ ☀

The above short story was inspired by Author S B Mazing’s blog event Finish It, which began as a Blogging201 assignment meant to further expand our blogging experiences as well as our strength of community. Join her event to experiment with a story prompt and give your fingers a shot at short storytelling… every Wednesday she’ll provide a new prompt!

I am having a lot of fun participating in her storytelling prompts. It is challenging and I am growing as a writer so quickly, as a result. If you enjoy writing challenges and blogging events you might consider challenging yourself further with poetry writing. I host a poetry party once a month. For more information visit my page: Memee’s Poetry Parties

© MemeesMusings/B.L. Memee, 2015-2017. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “The Device (a short story)

    1. I struggled with what to come up with. My first instinct was a lost child or kidnapping in a department store or mall. Then I realized I cannot use that because I am reading Gone Girl… I needed something of my germation. I struggled nearly all week trying to figure out what I was going to do. Yesterday afternoon I nearly deleted the prompt thinking I wouldn’t come up with anything and then I decided. No, I’m going to do it no matter what! And, slowly it came and progressed. I just needed to FOCUS, MEMEE, FOCUS! LOL

      I am growing so much because of your challenges. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Reblogged this on Author S B Mazing and commented:
    What an amazing story! I love what came out of my intro here! So much fun to see what you write about if given only a short sentence or paragraph. I am looking forward to read more from all of you. Tomorrow the new ‘Finish It!’ will be up. Looking forward to new amazing stories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love reading everyone’s story. My blog is, as it says, a journey of my meandering mind and so I find it fascinating to see where everyone else’s mind meanders off to with the identical inspiration! Such an awesome, awesome event you created!

      I think you may have created a monster however! I can totally see this taking over your blog, all of our writings being published and your own stuff getting pushed aside to meet the demands of what we do. I think you’ve got yourself an entirely second blog here because imagine when you have a hundred or more people participating… OMGoodness!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you should save this. This is a very interesting idea,sic-fi, mystery. I think you have a novel here. I know writing these fast, we don’t do the best re-writing, but one thing I’d watch is falling into passive voice. I think you have to much here for a short story and it is more of synopsis, but it is good to be aware when you slip into passive voice and to practice writing drafts in active voice. It is a habit.

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    1. Thanks so much. I definitely saw my writing ability grow as I explored this story… going first from the narrator thinking and doing things to adding more and more characters. Writing is new to me. But I am definately having fun. Thank you for the amazing encouragement.

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      1. In that case this is excellent! Could I use some paragraphs from your story in a post about active voice vs. passive voice or show it, don’t tell it? I find this is an issue for a lot of writers.

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      2. Yes, you may use 1 paragraph of each for that express purpose. Be sure and send me a link or email so I can understand what it is you are talking about! Thank you for asking first. Memee

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