She layed on her stomach, her forehead beating with sweat. However, it was from the heat, not nervousness, Proxy was too confident in her job, and wasn't nervous in these sorts of situations.
She watched like a hawk, her gun rested under her chest.
She had already shot all the cameras, so they couldn't see her. Not like they could see her anyway, her face hidden behind a mask, fashioned like a dog muzzle, and the rest of it a hardened plastic, goggled eyepieces to protect her eyes. Her clothing was simple, black, and nothing noticeable that they could trace down to.
All she had to do was wait.
She watched a man walk out of the building in front of the one she perched on.
Senator Perch. She knew that the gun would have to wait, so she pulled a tranquilizer from her pocket, and shot it perfectly into his neck. He twitched violently and fell on the floor. She tucked it away and continued waiting, unstrapping her gloves so she could wipe her hands on her pants.
Then, crowding around the ticket to the prize, her prize, she thought murderously, the rest of the guards came out and immediately began circling the building. Fools.
She scowled. Change of plans.
She put her gun, gloves, mask, and emergency daggers in a bag, hidden under clothing.
She walked down the ladder and emerged from the room into a busy shopping mall. She made a beeline to the bathroom, but a man stopped her, his breath reeking of whiskey. She saw the bar right next to the bathroom.
She narrowed her eyes as he touched her backpack. She kicked his legs out from under him, and he played on the floor, stunned. She kicked his chest, aiming for the lungs, hopefully killing him in thirty minutes. What was she supposed to do? She was an assassin, it's what was in her blood.
Or her victims', she thought, looking at her shoes from her last job.
She walked briskly to the bathroom and changed into a white buttoned-up shirt, black jeans, and a black-tie. The most inconspicuous outfit she could possibly think of.
She tied her hair in a bun, and walked out again, adding fake glasses for good measure. She looked like a student or an accountant.
She walked out, stopping to steal a soda from a guy, and walked out, sipping it in distaste. What idiot drank diet?
She walked into the building, showing her ID, a fake one her little sister made, she thought proudly, and was able to sneak away, the pandemonium of the now-dead senator. Oops, she thought lazily, must have been the killer darts. She sprinted up the stairs and barreled straight into a security guard. She was stopped.
" I'm sorry Ma'am, but no one's allowed up here due to-" her dagger whistled out of her pocket to his neck, stopping all attempts to scream for help. She wiped the dagger on her pants and continued up the stairs.
Now that the senator was gone, she thought with a smirk, she was back, and she was getting what she wanted.
But when will they come back?!
we play, scuttle around joyfully.
the cat’s absence odd,
better make the most of this.
we outnumber the joys we once had.
too many wild nights,
too many squaky crooning.
the stocks we ransacked,
the pantry running low.
the cat is gone, we know.
we hunger: for food, for room.
the life, being like this is terrible.
some violent ones prey on the weak,
some young are left uncared-for.
this is anguish. the order of our lives,
the watchfulness kept us together,
the freedom tears us apart.
we are mice, I say.
yet we lost our heart.
were did our persecutor gone?
what shall we do now?
is there no better way?
those whiskers, those claws,
those teeth, our scurge, our curse.
but we can’t wait,
until this party’s over.
else, we turn to rats,
and suffer the rat-king!
The Cat is Away
The cat is away.
He is not a cat
he stalks around like one
sleeps all day
comes to me
to be petted, fed, clean his litter box
the urine he sprays on the wall
marking his territory
he comes when he wants to
demands these things
scowls hisses and bites
while rubbing up against strangers
who call him pretty kitty.
I am small
but not helpless
I can move quickly to avoid his anger
I eat my way through boxes of his favorite cereal and poop there
I have my ways.
The cat is away
I will not play
I can relax for those moments
safe from fear.
It Was Freedom Enough - A COVID Graduation Story
As far as High School Graduations go, this one was pretty poor. The three girls, Mina, Sara and Emily, sat around the clean table of a dim kitchen, all gathered to drink a bottle of own-brand whiskey procured from the cupboard of Mina’s mother. They had snuck to Mina’s house this evening simply because her father could only visit once a week (and only then if he proved he was teetotal) while her mother was working another lateshift at the hospital. A few hours of freedom lay ahead.
This endless lockdown was the first time they had missed a celebration since they had entered High School. Prom was cancelled and graduation was nonexistent. But if they could not graduate with a party, at least they might at least share their first drink.
‘Drink up pretty little Mina, you know we deserve this,’ Sara said, her newly-purpled hair splashing over her old jacket, its garish red and yellow patches peeking out at Mina. ‘Your mum won’t be back in a few hours.’
‘I know,’ Mina responded. ‘Let’s just talk a bit more. It’s been ages since we’ve seen each other.’
She sat neatly in her mother’s usual chair, her hands playing with her now-favourite pink bottle of hand-sanitiser.
‘Do we remember our first sleepover? Wasn’t that great?’ Mina looked expectantly at Emily. Emily smiled in reply.
‘Your mum won’t be away forever,’ Sara interrupted. ‘Come on, this year’s been ruined already. Let’s make this the best party we’ve ever had. Drink!’
Emily, slightly older than Sara and Mina by a few months, learned back, arching her arm over the kitchen chair that only guests used. She gazed at Sara, her deep blue eyes glowing almost grey in this light. She seemed to pause for a moment, acknowledging Mina’s stiffness.
‘Sara’s right,’ Emily said. ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Her dry voice spoke every word with mock-earnest precision. ‘You don’t have to listen to my brothers’ daily fart competition.’
Their tension exploded with laugher. Mina reached forward to slap Emily’s arm playfully before she rested her hands down on the table.
Yet she did not move to drink. Over Sara’s shoulder, behind her mother’s usual seat, Mina sensed her mother’s invisible presence, typically harassed from work, no doubt wearing an unseen look of wearied distraction on her face. She would probably be writing her timesheet at the table by hand since work didn’t pay her for that, Mina had been told many times before. Life was tough as a single mum, she knew.
The girls paused and looked at Mina, their chuckles coming less from the belly and more from the lips.
Sara looked at Mina’s distant smile, and sighed with her eyes. She slid her hands to the bottle, poured a glass and drank it in one determined motion.
‘What’s it like? How do you feel? It is good?’ Mina asked, sensing the vision of her mother pressing an unseen pen onto invisible paper.
Sara smiled through her watery eyes, ‘Yeah, good. It’s great! Now it’s your turn.’
‘I don’t want to drink it just yet,’ Mina said, waiting for a kind of permission from her absent mother. ‘Maybe we will take too much?’
‘Too much? Is that what you’re worried about?’
‘Yes, totally, that’s it. If only we had more than one bottle then we could take a bit from each. Because that way my mum wouldn’t know we’ve taken anything. That would work.’
‘Or I can just tip a bit of water in the bottle,’ Sara replied, flashing a knowing smile.
Mina was trapped. Sara had already stood up to fetch a glass of water, the spirit of her mother ushering herself out the way.
‘It’s time for you to drink Mina.’
‘Yes, Ok. This is it.’
Mina looked at the bottle, waiting for her mother to somehow step in and stop this like she always did.
Emily bared her teeth, able to bear this no longer. ‘Mina, I’ve got another drink for you.’ She opened her brown fabric rucksack. From within she fetched a large and shiny can of beer.
‘I took this from my Dad. He has hundreds in his garage so he won’t miss one. Here.’
Mina eagerly took the beer from Emily’s hand. Sara’s eyes danced as she took her place again at the table with a watery whiskey. Mina took the gift of the beer and drank.
Her voice immediately slurred. ‘This tastes like… feet!’ The girls screeched together like birds in the sky, and began to laugh and drink in earnest, leaving the ghost of Mina’s mother to glide away to the living room. After twenty minutes, Sara and Emily had taken another sip of whiskey and Mina had drunk most of the can.
‘I love you guys! This is better than any graduation that stupid school could do. This is life!’ Her mouth felt sluggish but her head swam with warm thoughts of true friendship.
Later that night, once Sara and Emily had left and Mina was sleeping deep in bed, Mina’s mother entered the kitchen. Throwing the remains of a two-day-old sandwich into the bin, she saw the glisten of the beer can half-hidden under food wrappers, the defiant evidence of a secret event.
Picking it up she read the brand: ‘Coors Non-Alcoholic Beer’. She grimaced. Her husband had been dry for these past fourteen years, at great cost. The stress of breaking lockdown each week to check on Mina must have woken up old habits. She knew better than to challenge him right now - that would drive him to drink for sure.
Yet sitting at her usual place to complete her timesheet, her hospital perspective of life-and-death soothed any nags about the can. She wouldn't say anything. One alcohol-free beer was freedom enough.