JasonKorolenko
Writer, raconteur, and general malcontent. Author of RELENTLESS - 30 YEARS OF SEPULTURA, and THE DAY I LEFT, a novel. www.jasonkorolenko.com
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DISPATCH - "Pilot"

DISPATCH is a monthly literary sitcom--a litcom, if you will--launching January 1, 2017 at patreon.com/jasonkorolenko. Read on for a sample "episode"...

While Sarah, in a far corner, speaks hypnotically into her headset microphone using smooth, dulcet tones to calm the caller on the other end of the line, Roy lords over a cluster of four nearby dispatchers and says, “I shit my pants in a bathtub once.”

The room is small, compact, with no windows to distract the dispatchers from their duties. Brightly burning LED bulbs in the ceiling keep the facility lit twenty-four-seven, but the long shifts and lack of natural light suspend the room in a moment out of time. It could be any hour of any day. This day, it just happens to be 2:30 am. A Wednesday morning not unlike any other Wednesday on the floor.

“Who hasn’t shit in a bathtub once or twice?” Rachel Windsor says, the few other third-shifters chuckling and stealing glances at the supervisor sitting on a raised partition at the north end of the room. The Soop is oblivious, her head buried in a Kindle. One of those 50 Shades books, most probably, the ones that make her cheeks go pink and forehead all shiny with sweat. As if no one notices.

Outside, amongst the normals, Rachel wears the mask of a respectful and caring single mother of two. She drives four miles over the speed limit, not a single digit more, always uses her turn signals. Never forgets a please or a thank you at the supermarket or the Domino’s Pizza where she’s become a regular. Holds the laundromat door open with a patient smile, a basket full of clothes digging painfully into her hip as she lets the other mothers pass through, nudging her out of the way, whiskey and cigarette stink on their breath.

Always kind, Rachel is. Always respectful.

Inside, she is someone else. But aren’t they all? The question is, during the infant hours of a Wednesday morning, which one is real? The caring and kind Rachel who lends a soft voice to broken old ladies who’ve fallen down and can’t get up, or the snarky, unfiltered Rachel who jokes about defecating in bathtubs?

“Come on,” Roy says. “I’m serious.”

“So was I,” Rachel says.

A camera man chuckles, and Rachel throws him a wink.

The crew has been filming on site for three weeks now, shadowing dispatchers and supervisors alike, after a series of mishandled calls leaked out into the public through a Facebook page titled 9-1-1 Is A Joke In Your Town. The calls were nothing serious, nothing life-threatening. Simple errors made by exhausted dispatchers at the tail-end of a ten hour shift. A few less-than-perfect responses buried in the hundreds of calls they handled flawlessly every day.

But fearing a backlash from the ultra-sensitive online social justice mobs, the Department of Safety developed a PR task force designed to change the public perception of 9-1-1 operators (or “Emergency Telecommunication Professionals” as they preferred to be called). The brilliant idea? A heavily edited documentary, a sort of 9-1-1 reality show, to show the viewing public that dispatchers are just ordinary people performing in extraordinary situations.

At first, the call takers on the floor behaved like angels under the watchful documentary crew’s eye, toning down their language when not on a call, sprinkling a little extra sweetness into their voices when they were.

It didn’t last long.

“So I’m on the phone with this girl,” Roy says, “and I’d drunk a few beers that morning so I already had to pee when she called. But I really liked her. I was desperate to talk to her.”

“You were desperate alright,” Rachel says. “Haven’t changed much, have you?”

“And I didn’t want to hang up,” Roy continues. “I thought maybe I could quietly walk to the bathroom, climb into the tub, and pee while talking to her. And she wouldn’t even know.”

Rachel laughs. “The tub? You have a problem urinating in a toilet like an evolved human creature?”

“She’d hear his piss splashing into the toilet,” Dean Williamson says. “The bathtub is quieter.” Dean spends much of his shift slumped in a chair with a hood draped over his head. Though the others would never say it aloud, Dean is the one they worry about the most. The dark and quiet one who hides away in the corner where no one can hear him on his calls. The one who acts as if the job doesn’t affect him at all, when it likely affects him deeply and more profoundly than the rest. The one who might snap and remove himself—or others—from existence at any given moment.

He doesn’t speak often. But when he does, he makes it count.

Sarah hangs up and walks over, pulling her headset cord taut to hear the rest of Roy’s story. No one else is on a call. He has the floor’s attention now.

“But you know how it is when you’ve had a few,” Roy says. “The pee comes on quick. So I dropped my pants and pinched it off with one hand while holding the phone in the other—”

“Oh my god.” Wilson laughs, dropping his forehead into his hands.

“—and I’m dancing now, hopping from foot to foot like Peter Pan or a fucking hobbit or something,” Roy says.

His computer screen lights up in flashing green. He has a call.

“Perfect timing,” Sarah says. “I’m not sure I want to hear what happened next.”

Roy sits, rolls over to his computer, and clicks to answer. “9-1-1, what is your emergency?” he asks.

They can all hear the screaming through his headset. Incoherent words lost in distorted panic. An address appears on Roy’s computer screen. The caller’s location. He winces, turns down the volume in his ears and snaps his fingers at Wilson, beside him, warning him to be ready.

“Stay on the—” Roy says, then begins again, louder, and more forcefully. “Ma’am, stay on the line while I contact the police.”

Roy mouses over to the phone number on his screen, clicks it. As the system dials, he wraps his hand over the headset microphone, muting it, and asks Wilson to call an ambulance.

“What for?” Wilson says, dialing.

“I’ll tell you when I know.”

The documentary director motions for his cameraman to zoom in close. Roy is squinting at the computer, a tiny bead of sweat slipping from him temple down the side of his face. But he is calm, if a bit pale. No tremors in his voice or hands. A couple of the other dispatchers turn back to their desks, their People magazines, their Nintendo DS games.

“This is agent four-five-two,” Roy says into his mic. “I’m requesting an officer to three-seven-seven Pine Lane for a suspected shooting. I have a caller on the line saying she found her husband dead in the kitchen from what appears to be a gunshot wound to the head. I have my partner contacting EMS. Ma’am, speak with the police, please.”

The Soop has come down from her perch—the bridge, they call it—Kindle tucked under her arm. She holds a pen and notepad. Leaning over Roy’s shoulder, she copies down the name, address, and phone number of the caller listed on the screen.

Roy covers his mic again, asks her, “Should I stay on?”

“Wilson contacted EMS for you?”

“They’re on the way,” Wilson says.

“Then let it go.”

Roy disconnects the call. He slumps back into his chair. It’s the nature of the job. Zero to ten and then back to zero in a matter of seconds. It can’t be good for the heart.

The room has gone silent. The Soop climbs the few stairs back up to the bridge, sits, and begins typing up a report of the call. She looks longingly at her Kindle. Sighs.

The camera crew pulls back on Roy as the color returns to his face. He slowly stands, exhales heavily. Rotating the headset microphone up and away from his mouth, he pauses for a beat.

And says, “So I’m duck-running to the bathroom with my wiener pinched off in my hand . . .”

Individual Subject Interview Segment

Roy: You’re not going to air that, are you?

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Written by JasonKorolenko
DISPATCH - "Pilot"
DISPATCH is a monthly literary sitcom--a litcom, if you will--launching January 1, 2017 at patreon.com/jasonkorolenko. Read on for a sample "episode"...

While Sarah, in a far corner, speaks hypnotically into her headset microphone using smooth, dulcet tones to calm the caller on the other end of the line, Roy lords over a cluster of four nearby dispatchers and says, “I shit my pants in a bathtub once.”

The room is small, compact, with no windows to distract the dispatchers from their duties. Brightly burning LED bulbs in the ceiling keep the facility lit twenty-four-seven, but the long shifts and lack of natural light suspend the room in a moment out of time. It could be any hour of any day. This day, it just happens to be 2:30 am. A Wednesday morning not unlike any other Wednesday on the floor.

“Who hasn’t shit in a bathtub once or twice?” Rachel Windsor says, the few other third-shifters chuckling and stealing glances at the supervisor sitting on a raised partition at the north end of the room. The Soop is oblivious, her head buried in a Kindle. One of those 50 Shades books, most probably, the ones that make her cheeks go pink and forehead all shiny with sweat. As if no one notices.

Outside, amongst the normals, Rachel wears the mask of a respectful and caring single mother of two. She drives four miles over the speed limit, not a single digit more, always uses her turn signals. Never forgets a please or a thank you at the supermarket or the Domino’s Pizza where she’s become a regular. Holds the laundromat door open with a patient smile, a basket full of clothes digging painfully into her hip as she lets the other mothers pass through, nudging her out of the way, whiskey and cigarette stink on their breath.

Always kind, Rachel is. Always respectful.

Inside, she is someone else. But aren’t they all? The question is, during the infant hours of a Wednesday morning, which one is real? The caring and kind Rachel who lends a soft voice to broken old ladies who’ve fallen down and can’t get up, or the snarky, unfiltered Rachel who jokes about defecating in bathtubs?

“Come on,” Roy says. “I’m serious.”

“So was I,” Rachel says.

A camera man chuckles, and Rachel throws him a wink.

The crew has been filming on site for three weeks now, shadowing dispatchers and supervisors alike, after a series of mishandled calls leaked out into the public through a Facebook page titled 9-1-1 Is A Joke In Your Town. The calls were nothing serious, nothing life-threatening. Simple errors made by exhausted dispatchers at the tail-end of a ten hour shift. A few less-than-perfect responses buried in the hundreds of calls they handled flawlessly every day.

But fearing a backlash from the ultra-sensitive online social justice mobs, the Department of Safety developed a PR task force designed to change the public perception of 9-1-1 operators (or “Emergency Telecommunication Professionals” as they preferred to be called). The brilliant idea? A heavily edited documentary, a sort of 9-1-1 reality show, to show the viewing public that dispatchers are just ordinary people performing in extraordinary situations.

At first, the call takers on the floor behaved like angels under the watchful documentary crew’s eye, toning down their language when not on a call, sprinkling a little extra sweetness into their voices when they were.

It didn’t last long.

“So I’m on the phone with this girl,” Roy says, “and I’d drunk a few beers that morning so I already had to pee when she called. But I really liked her. I was desperate to talk to her.”

“You were desperate alright,” Rachel says. “Haven’t changed much, have you?”

“And I didn’t want to hang up,” Roy continues. “I thought maybe I could quietly walk to the bathroom, climb into the tub, and pee while talking to her. And she wouldn’t even know.”

Rachel laughs. “The tub? You have a problem urinating in a toilet like an evolved human creature?”

“She’d hear his piss splashing into the toilet,” Dean Williamson says. “The bathtub is quieter.” Dean spends much of his shift slumped in a chair with a hood draped over his head. Though the others would never say it aloud, Dean is the one they worry about the most. The dark and quiet one who hides away in the corner where no one can hear him on his calls. The one who acts as if the job doesn’t affect him at all, when it likely affects him deeply and more profoundly than the rest. The one who might snap and remove himself—or others—from existence at any given moment.

He doesn’t speak often. But when he does, he makes it count.

Sarah hangs up and walks over, pulling her headset cord taut to hear the rest of Roy’s story. No one else is on a call. He has the floor’s attention now.

“But you know how it is when you’ve had a few,” Roy says. “The pee comes on quick. So I dropped my pants and pinched it off with one hand while holding the phone in the other—”

“Oh my god.” Wilson laughs, dropping his forehead into his hands.

“—and I’m dancing now, hopping from foot to foot like Peter Pan or a fucking hobbit or something,” Roy says.

His computer screen lights up in flashing green. He has a call.

“Perfect timing,” Sarah says. “I’m not sure I want to hear what happened next.”

Roy sits, rolls over to his computer, and clicks to answer. “9-1-1, what is your emergency?” he asks.

They can all hear the screaming through his headset. Incoherent words lost in distorted panic. An address appears on Roy’s computer screen. The caller’s location. He winces, turns down the volume in his ears and snaps his fingers at Wilson, beside him, warning him to be ready.

“Stay on the—” Roy says, then begins again, louder, and more forcefully. “Ma’am, stay on the line while I contact the police.”

Roy mouses over to the phone number on his screen, clicks it. As the system dials, he wraps his hand over the headset microphone, muting it, and asks Wilson to call an ambulance.

“What for?” Wilson says, dialing.

“I’ll tell you when I know.”

The documentary director motions for his cameraman to zoom in close. Roy is squinting at the computer, a tiny bead of sweat slipping from him temple down the side of his face. But he is calm, if a bit pale. No tremors in his voice or hands. A couple of the other dispatchers turn back to their desks, their People magazines, their Nintendo DS games.

“This is agent four-five-two,” Roy says into his mic. “I’m requesting an officer to three-seven-seven Pine Lane for a suspected shooting. I have a caller on the line saying she found her husband dead in the kitchen from what appears to be a gunshot wound to the head. I have my partner contacting EMS. Ma’am, speak with the police, please.”

The Soop has come down from her perch—the bridge, they call it—Kindle tucked under her arm. She holds a pen and notepad. Leaning over Roy’s shoulder, she copies down the name, address, and phone number of the caller listed on the screen.

Roy covers his mic again, asks her, “Should I stay on?”

“Wilson contacted EMS for you?”

“They’re on the way,” Wilson says.

“Then let it go.”

Roy disconnects the call. He slumps back into his chair. It’s the nature of the job. Zero to ten and then back to zero in a matter of seconds. It can’t be good for the heart.

The room has gone silent. The Soop climbs the few stairs back up to the bridge, sits, and begins typing up a report of the call. She looks longingly at her Kindle. Sighs.

The camera crew pulls back on Roy as the color returns to his face. He slowly stands, exhales heavily. Rotating the headset microphone up and away from his mouth, he pauses for a beat.

And says, “So I’m duck-running to the bathroom with my wiener pinched off in my hand . . .”

Individual Subject Interview Segment
Roy: You’re not going to air that, are you?
#fiction  #comedy  #litcom  #blackhumor  #litfic 
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Monkeyshines

If you train a monkey to fling its poo at others,

Don't be surprised

When it flings poo at you.

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Written by JasonKorolenko
Monkeyshines
If you train a monkey to fling its poo at others,
Don't be surprised
When it flings poo at you.
#deepthoughts  #deepshit 
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Written by JasonKorolenko

Relentless - 30 Years of Sepultura

1996 was a good year for Sepultura.

Or was it?

The popularity of heavy music comes in waves, and when it’s not “cool” to like this visceral, aggressive style of music, it goes largely underground. Many devotees would argue that this is where it belongs. In the early 80s, for example, bands like Metallica and Slayer weren’t even a blip on the mainstream radar. These long haired, pissed off teenagers recruited their fans one by bloody one, inciting violent mosh pits in the smallest, most decrepit venues, and trading tapes with kids all over the world who hungered for something more real than the shit MTV passed off as “metal” at the time.

In the first half of the 90s, the grunge movement invaded the music scene, spawning an army of clones dressed in flannel. By 1996, depression was cool. Doc Marten boots were cool.

Metal was not cool.

But a few bands had broken out and risen into a sort of “mainstream” of metal.

Metallica was, of course, the first, leading the way for the other three of the Big Four; Megadeth, and to a lesser extent, Anthrax and Slayer. Pantera did it too, and without compromising an ounce of brutality in their music.

February of ’96 saw the release of Sepultura’s groundbreaking Roots, an album that heavily integrated the music and rhythms of the band’s native Brazil. Their sound had evolved through black metal and death metal and straight-razor thrash of earlier material into something slower and sludgier, down-tuned, with a groove that made your hips swing as much as your head bang. On Roots they collaborated with such stars as Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, and Mike Patton of Faith No More. Even the Xavante indian tribe from northern Brazil made appearances.

The album debuted at number twenty-seven on the Billboard charts in the US, an incredible feat for such a band in those days, and went on to sell over 2 million copies internationally. It topped “Best of the Year” charts around the world. It received rave reviews from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, two of the influential

newspapers in the United States. The innovative mix of metal and Brazilian rhythms prompted MTV (at a time when the M in the channel’s name still stood for Music) to consider them “perhaps the most important heavy metal band of the 90s.”

Not bad for a group of Brazilian youngsters who—though forming in 1984—hadn’t even played a show outside of their own country until 1989.

Sepultura toured relentlessly throughout the US, returned to South America for a triumphant series of hometown dates, played massive stadium gigs at festivals all over Europe, even soldiered through a set at Castle Donington in the United Kingdom as a three-piece after vocalist and co-founder Max Cavalera was forced home to Phoenix for the funeral of his stepson.

They were no longer solely a Brazilian phenomenon, but a worldwide phenomenon, having brought a slice of their homeland to almost every corner of the globe.

Yet, while everything seemed fine from the outsider’s point of view, 1996 on the whole was the most miserable year of the band’s storied career. And ten short months after the release of Roots, at the absolute peak of their popularity—and to everyone’s surprise—Max left the band he had founded with his brother twelve years prior.

Suddenly, there was a very real possibility that Sepultura’s career was finished, just as they were on the verge of breaking through to an unbelievable level of success.

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Written by JasonKorolenko
Relentless - 30 Years of Sepultura
1996 was a good year for Sepultura.

Or was it?

The popularity of heavy music comes in waves, and when it’s not “cool” to like this visceral, aggressive style of music, it goes largely underground. Many devotees would argue that this is where it belongs. In the early 80s, for example, bands like Metallica and Slayer weren’t even a blip on the mainstream radar. These long haired, pissed off teenagers recruited their fans one by bloody one, inciting violent mosh pits in the smallest, most decrepit venues, and trading tapes with kids all over the world who hungered for something more real than the shit MTV passed off as “metal” at the time.

In the first half of the 90s, the grunge movement invaded the music scene, spawning an army of clones dressed in flannel. By 1996, depression was cool. Doc Marten boots were cool.

Metal was not cool.

But a few bands had broken out and risen into a sort of “mainstream” of metal.

Metallica was, of course, the first, leading the way for the other three of the Big Four; Megadeth, and to a lesser extent, Anthrax and Slayer. Pantera did it too, and without compromising an ounce of brutality in their music.

February of ’96 saw the release of Sepultura’s groundbreaking Roots, an album that heavily integrated the music and rhythms of the band’s native Brazil. Their sound had evolved through black metal and death metal and straight-razor thrash of earlier material into something slower and sludgier, down-tuned, with a groove that made your hips swing as much as your head bang. On Roots they collaborated with such stars as Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, and Mike Patton of Faith No More. Even the Xavante indian tribe from northern Brazil made appearances.

The album debuted at number twenty-seven on the Billboard charts in the US, an incredible feat for such a band in those days, and went on to sell over 2 million copies internationally. It topped “Best of the Year” charts around the world. It received rave reviews from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, two of the influential
newspapers in the United States. The innovative mix of metal and Brazilian rhythms prompted MTV (at a time when the M in the channel’s name still stood for Music) to consider them “perhaps the most important heavy metal band of the 90s.”

Not bad for a group of Brazilian youngsters who—though forming in 1984—hadn’t even played a show outside of their own country until 1989.

Sepultura toured relentlessly throughout the US, returned to South America for a triumphant series of hometown dates, played massive stadium gigs at festivals all over Europe, even soldiered through a set at Castle Donington in the United Kingdom as a three-piece after vocalist and co-founder Max Cavalera was forced home to Phoenix for the funeral of his stepson.

They were no longer solely a Brazilian phenomenon, but a worldwide phenomenon, having brought a slice of their homeland to almost every corner of the globe.

Yet, while everything seemed fine from the outsider’s point of view, 1996 on the whole was the most miserable year of the band’s storied career. And ten short months after the release of Roots, at the absolute peak of their popularity—and to everyone’s surprise—Max left the band he had founded with his brother twelve years prior.

Suddenly, there was a very real possibility that Sepultura’s career was finished, just as they were on the verge of breaking through to an unbelievable level of success.
#nonfiction  #music  #excerpt  #biography  #sepultura  #heavymetal  #preface  #relentless 
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The Girl with the Compass

She walks a crowded hotel lobby, holding a compass, absently stroking the small orb with her thumb, as if releasing the object will loosen her connection to the world and her place in it.

But she has no place. That’s the sad irony of it all.

On her more energetic days she wanders patchy, austere hotel hallways pretending she’s someone important, perhaps an international diplomat for peace or a world weary businesswoman or maybe even a spy, traveling from city to city, country to country, world to world, thinking she is tired and overworked and just wants to be home at her bungalow in Florence or her flat in London or her apartment in Manhattan, but instead she’s here in lifeless central Massachusetts at an upscale hotel on some river she’d never learned the name of, or maybe had at some point and simply misplaced the information in favor of more important concerns like a meal and a place to sleep, wearing second-hand jeans with the left leg a few inches shorter than the right and an orange blouse with taco stains on it and, Oh God, the man at the front desk is staring at her and reaching for the telephone and she knows it’s time to leave because he’s calling security and in places like this, security is always armed.

She looks at the compass, turns down a hallway a quarter past north, and begins to run, her waist length hair knotted and whipping behind her like a flail.

And this is when the spy fantasy floods her spirit. She dodges imaginary bullets, pulls a gravity defying jump up and off of the wall, diving into a shoulder roll and a sprint.

She nearly blindsides a couple coming around the corner; his pants are lined and perfectly creased, tie straight and ironed, her ankle-length dress flaring out in all the right places, exposing just enough heel and red-painted toenails and creamy white calf to make the girl with the compass both furious and achingly jealous. The man throws a protective arm out, flattening his woman against the wall, the words “What the fuck is your problem, you crazy bitch?” shooting from his lips.

The girl with the compass—the spy with the collapsible spyglass—runs on, a door at the far end ahead of her lit with the neon of an EXIT sign. As she approaches, she sees a hand drawn sign taped above it, a message in black marker scrawled on cardboard that reads THIS IS NOT AN.

Someone yells at her to stop as she clamps her palms together—the marble-sized compass squeezed between them.

There’s only one way out, she thinks, the door just ahead of her. And that’s not it.

She points her fingers and twists and fires her pretend gun at the man who is holding his hands in a similar fashion.

But it’s not a marble between his palms.

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Written by JasonKorolenko
The Girl with the Compass
She walks a crowded hotel lobby, holding a compass, absently stroking the small orb with her thumb, as if releasing the object will loosen her connection to the world and her place in it.

But she has no place. That’s the sad irony of it all.

On her more energetic days she wanders patchy, austere hotel hallways pretending she’s someone important, perhaps an international diplomat for peace or a world weary businesswoman or maybe even a spy, traveling from city to city, country to country, world to world, thinking she is tired and overworked and just wants to be home at her bungalow in Florence or her flat in London or her apartment in Manhattan, but instead she’s here in lifeless central Massachusetts at an upscale hotel on some river she’d never learned the name of, or maybe had at some point and simply misplaced the information in favor of more important concerns like a meal and a place to sleep, wearing second-hand jeans with the left leg a few inches shorter than the right and an orange blouse with taco stains on it and, Oh God, the man at the front desk is staring at her and reaching for the telephone and she knows it’s time to leave because he’s calling security and in places like this, security is always armed.

She looks at the compass, turns down a hallway a quarter past north, and begins to run, her waist length hair knotted and whipping behind her like a flail.

And this is when the spy fantasy floods her spirit. She dodges imaginary bullets, pulls a gravity defying jump up and off of the wall, diving into a shoulder roll and a sprint.

She nearly blindsides a couple coming around the corner; his pants are lined and perfectly creased, tie straight and ironed, her ankle-length dress flaring out in all the right places, exposing just enough heel and red-painted toenails and creamy white calf to make the girl with the compass both furious and achingly jealous. The man throws a protective arm out, flattening his woman against the wall, the words “What the fuck is your problem, you crazy bitch?” shooting from his lips.

The girl with the compass—the spy with the collapsible spyglass—runs on, a door at the far end ahead of her lit with the neon of an EXIT sign. As she approaches, she sees a hand drawn sign taped above it, a message in black marker scrawled on cardboard that reads THIS IS NOT AN.

Someone yells at her to stop as she clamps her palms together—the marble-sized compass squeezed between them.

There’s only one way out, she thinks, the door just ahead of her. And that’s not it.

She points her fingers and twists and fires her pretend gun at the man who is holding his hands in a similar fashion.

But it’s not a marble between his palms.
#fiction 
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