it’s Stitched Saturday! 01/12/19

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Vicky didn’t recognize the song playing on the scratchy speakers, she never did. The music was hidden under the static of shorted wires and dry-rotted speakers, but it was always there, an ambient sound. It sounded old, like the chamber she inhabited. The constant sick-sweet stench of rot permeating the air, the filth on the floor, the sepia tones and dingy ceramic tiles under yellow lights. The girl hummed along with the upbeat tempo and major chords, passing the time away. Vicky liked to dance, and she would have danced, if she could. Instead, circumstances required she tap her foot to the four-four beat.

Tap on one, tap on two, tap on three, tap on four. And one and two and three and four. And again…

Vicky fondly recalled when she could dance, before her curiosity had gotten the best of her and she’d gone outside. She knew she should have listened, but why was it wrong to go outside and see the sun and clouds, to breath fresh air? Like any teenager, she naturally questioned authority. Disobeying curfew, sneaking an extra snack from the cupboard – these were common infractions. And though the aforementioned may result in discipline, this, the simple act of stepping outside, was forbidden the most. The penalty for any infraction was severe. Oh, yes, she’d heard the stories. Going to the surface would surely kill you. The air wasn’t as fresh as we’d like to believe, they said, and the sky, it was a death sentence if exposed to it for too long. Plus there was the danger of bringing something back with you, something dangerous. She now knew all of this to be true, but rules are made to be broken, no?

And one and two and three and four. And one and two and three and four.

Breaking this rule is why Vicky now sat in the anteroom, confined to a wheelchair and fitted with crutches. The memory of those actions was invaluable, and like most experiences, it was priceless. Knowing she wouldn’t see the surface or the sun and clouds in the sky again made it even more precious. Achieving the feat was simple enough, she recalled. All she did was scurry up the exit shaft, turn the solenoid and open the hatch. What happened next was simple enough. Light erupted onto Vicky’s being, enveloping her in its warmth. Before her loomed the sky, the glorious sky in all its firmament. It was red, blue and yellow, with white stripes of clouds listing in the hazy twilight. Fresh air filled her lungs. She felt invigorated, born anew.

And one and two and three and four.

A grip of steel clamped onto her ankle and pulled Vicky back down the shaft. She banged her head against the hatch, yet despite the jarring pain of the blow, the girl’s focus was on something else. Panic accelerated her breathing. Something ate at her from the inside. She felt it on all of her extremities, burrowing into her being. She watched as her skin crusted before her eyes. Her lungs were on fire, burning as toxic air entered and…

And again…

She woke in the chamber, sitting in the wheel chair, wearing a protective mask. It was snug and humid within its confines, and underneath Vicky could breath without fear of inhaling more poison. She knew better than to ever go outside, again. Around her, the crackling song faded, and a new melody grew out of it. Vicky listened for a moment, found the beat, another four-four variant, and hummed along. It seemed louder in the mask.

Tap on one, tap on two, tap on three, tap on four. And again…

An alarm honked, followed by red light bathing the chamber in crimson, the tandem broke her from the music. Vicky propelled her wheelchair forward with crutches, her arms inserted into their metal frame. Her legs were elevated in the chair, off the floor. She noticed the tapping of the crutches clicked out of time with the song’s beat. She stopped, waited for the right moment, and corrected her approach, now matching her movement with the song. It was an awkward dance, each movement she made looked as painful as it was.

And one… and two… and three… and four…

Vicky’s crutches lurched forward in a crab-like motion, as she rolled across the floor. Her shoulders and elbows bent at dangerous angles as she lifted and dropped the appendages. Under her mask, Vicky gritted her teeth in agony with each movement. The mask filled with the sound of her straining, blocking out the music. She urged the wheelchair ahead, before coming to stop between a wash basin and dirty sink. Her breathing slowed and the music overcame the resonance in the mask. Vicky tapped her foot to the beat of the long forgotten song. A pair of hydraulic doors separated and hissed open, a cloud of steam billowing out between them.

And again…

The fog dissipated as a man stepped from behind the doors. Dressed in a biohazard suit, and much cleaner than she, he stopped at the edge of the threshold and beckoned her to come to him with cautious hand motions. She was hesitant at first, then after more coaxing of a gloved hand, she forced her body out of the wheelchair, into a perpendicular state with the floor. She stood, her weight held up by her forearms and wrists, her left foot on the floor and her bandaged right leg, bent back. Vicky slowly moved, one crutch at a time to the doors.

“Now do you understand why we don’t go to the surface? The radiation from the war, it burned you, no? You tasted the air, it’s poison.” The man said, his voice tinny through the suit’s respirator. Vicky nodded, the protective mask’s filters bobbling and bouncing off her chest as her head moved. “I’m sorry we had to take your right foot. It was contaminated.” Vicky nodded in affirmation, again, “We’ll clean you up in the infirmary, fit you with a cybernetic prosthetic. You’ll be dancing again in no time. The seventy-two hour quarantine is up. I know you don’t feel it, but you’re clean. I hope it was worth it.”

On one and two and three and four…

Vicky pushed forward on the crutches, and joined the man. A shiny, white and chrome, self automated wheel chair idled in place behind him. Vicky fell into the seat, dropping the crutches. The man threw them back into the decon-chamber. The door closed behind them as a blast of steam and air filled the tunnel. Ivory, sanitary walls reflected the glow of fluorescent light bulbs lining the ceiling. The music was much more clear, easier to keep time with. She wanted to dance, and in due time she would, but right now Vicky’s phantom foot tapped to the beat.

And one and two and three and four…


When Memories Break

by Mike L. Lane



The girl opened her eyes to fogged goggles and the stale scent of vomit. The shallow breaths of uneasy rest increased rapidly as her mind advanced through stages. Dazed confusion stumbled into gradual realization. Realization drenched her in overwhelming fear and fear drowned her in paralyzed panic. The simple thoughts came first.

Where am I? Why am I here? What has happened to me? What is going on outside these walls? Who am I?

Her brain circled the situation like a downed fighter pilot, struggling to pull the plummeting plane from a dizzying tailspin destined for a hard landing. There were more problems than she could count and too many variables blocking her train of thought. The only certainty was her inevitable death if she didn’t get hold of her senses. Her brain plucked the most urgent problem as sparks clouded her vision and intense pressure pounded in her lungs. She couldn’t breathe.


She flinched beneath the thundering crashes of gunfire outside. Bits of plaster pelted the fogged over gasmask, followed by a dusting of fine white powder. Through the haze, she watched black lightening run a jagged line across the ceiling like a frozen pond thawing at the end of winter. She imagined walking barefoot across such a pond and falling into the frigid water, the numbing cold snatching her breath away . . .


The strangely familiar voice snapped her head upright and rang between her ears with furious urgency. She instinctively reached for the mask. Weak fingertips groped the edges cupping her cheeks, but before she pulled it off another scream cried out in her mind. She was wearing a gasmask for a reason. She couldn’t remember who or exactly why, but someone had cautioned her never to remove the mask in an attack. Visions of mutilated corpses flashed before her as she vaguely recalled the effects of tabun, sarin and soman gases. Blisters bubbled from harrowed faces. Skin peeled away from skulls and sloughed from bones. Blood streamed from nostrils and eyes. With vomit clogging the airflow, she faced a horrible decision. She could suffocate within the safety of the mask or remove it and take her chances. The bonfire spreading in her chest chose for her; the mask hitting the floor before any more mental images could change her mind.


Her stomach lurched and bile spewed from her mouth as she desperately gasped. She sucked in gales of air and choked as wildfire crackled up her ribcage and into her windpipe. As the immediate danger of suffocation subsided, the tailspin of her mind resumed.

Where am I? What has happened? Am I breathing in gas? Would I even know if I am breathing in gas? Who am I?

The girl scanned her surroundings with darting eyes incapable of landing on any one thing, anxiously waiting for the gas to take its toll. Her heart pounded in her chest like a caged savage and her nerves tiptoed on razor wire. Every passing second was a season in hell as she anticipated blistered skin and streaming eyes. She could smell the poison in the air, gliding down her throat and into her lungs. She felt it seething beneath her skin. It traveled through her extremities, radiating from the pit of her stomach and pooling in the soles of her feet like molten lava. Her eyes burned white hot, tears streaming down her cheeks and onto the shoulders of her sweat stained gown.

Your hospital gown, the voice whispered in her ear.

Fragments of memories danced just beyond full recognition, taunting her with knowledge before scurrying away into the far corners of her mind. She was in a hospital washroom. This was certain and she felt confident the voice was right. The smell of stagnant defecation had overtaken the disinfected scent she remembered, but the scenery was nearly the same. The tub to her left and the wash basin at her back were familiar, save the dirt and grime accumulated over time. Her brain plucked another memory from the fog and she recalled staring at these same white tiles as strange hands scrubbed her bare skin raw. She felt shame without reason. A sense of beaten humiliation mounted deep within her. This faceless stranger hummed a happy tune she could almost remember the words to. It waltzed around her, just beyond grasp. It hid behind the pain growing beneath her; a pulsating agony beating with the intensity of tribal drums.


More plaster dusted her face from overhead and the crack in the ceiling widened into a black toothless grin. Her eyes shifted from its menacing smile and traced the source of her pain. The filthy gown lay damp across her knees. Her bare legs were bruised and swollen, adopting various purple hues across her shins. Her eyes blurred and she wiped away unexpected tears. Something was wrapped tightly around her feet, binding them together. The pulsating pains throbbed beneath the binding. Shards of glass ripped beneath the flesh and lightning bolts surged all the way up to her knees. She could feel the heat rolling beneath the binding in waves and fought the urge to vomit again. She dared not remove the strips of bedlinens wound tight around her feet.

Not feet, the voice purred. Stubs.

She whipped her head around to face the strange voice and her heart sought refuge in her throat. In the far corner, sitting upright and propped against the side of the toilet, a woman grinned back at her. Her chin rested on her chest, revealing white pearly teeth. Blue pupils glared at the girl, buried beneath filmy clouds. One arm draped awkwardly within the toilet’s murky water. The other lay at her side and a pistol weighed heavy in her lose grip, resting on the dusty floor. A starburst of crimson and flesh painted the wall behind her. Her lips didn’t move, but her voice was loud and clear as she sang the old folksong.

Music box melodies of old cherished memories

Twirls young lassie ’round and ’round

The ballerina’s histories fade into mysteries

As she tumbles fastly to the ground . . .

The corpse slowly came to its feet, its eyes steadfast on the girl. Bones popped in a series of snaps and creaks. Its head lolled and a strand of spittle dripped from crusted lips. The girl shifted in her wheelchair and groaned under the immense pains exploding from phantom feet. She clasped the wheels and spun toward the washroom door in an attempt to flee. The loud metallic clank of iron stopped the chair in its tracks. She was chained to the washbasin.


The crack ran from the ceiling and zigzagged down the wall. Loose tiles popped from their mortar and shattered on the floor. Pipes groaned behind the wall and water gurgled in the drains. The girl didn’t notice. Her mind was spinning out of control as the corpse drew closer.

Where am I? Why is the world collapsing outside? Who is this familiar creature and what does she want with me? How did I end up here? How do I get away with no feet and my chair chained to the wall? What happened to me? Who the hell am I?! If I could just remember! Dear God! Let me remember!!!

 “Get away from me!” the girl screeched. The shuffling corpse halted and raised its head, its eyes peering directly at her and its mouth ajar. The blood drenched wall behind it was visible through its gaping mouth. The girl recoiled with a shudder as it continued to sing.

But the gears are grinding to keep on winding

And nothing heals her endless ache

All the fears minding her slippers’ bindings

Repeat the dance for needless sake

“Who are you?!” she screamed. There were so many more important questions plaguing her, darting and weaving through her thoughts like rats in a maze, but her mind fixated on the horror before her.

No one. Everyone. What does it matter? I’m the soldier who maimed you. I’m the surgeon who removed your feet. I’m the gunner firing cannons overhead and bombarding your safety. I’m the victims cowering in the rubble. I’m the nurse who bathed you and kept your fevers at bay. The one who abandoned you when shit got real, the voice replied. It turned its gaze to the pistol on the ground. As it turned, the girl could see what little remained of the back of her head and stifled a scream. The corpse slowly returned its gaze. Lost in the endless shuffle, I suppose I’m you.

Something clicked deep within her mind. It sounded like a twig snapping into parts, three faint but audible noises, each one louder than the last.

snap. Snap. SNAP.

“Something terrible happened to me,” she whispered, more to herself than the drooling corpse before her. The statement was obvious given her current surroundings, but something about her amputated feet and the war raging beyond the washroom walls rang false. The outside gunfire faded into obscurity. The cannons eased their endless barrage. In her mind’s eye, memories trickled through a crack in the dam holding back the truth. Flashes of instances mingled with sights, sounds, tastes and smells, but nothing pieced together properly. She could taste the explosion. She could hear the smoke. She could feel the flashing images on her skin. She could see the pain. Her mind was a jumbled jigsaw puzzle rearranging pieces from memories she didn’t trust as her own. The hospital spun into view and her brain held fast to the vision. It was this very room, but different in ways she couldn’t explain. She held so tightly to the image, the destruction and grunge around her faded away. She could see herself in the wash tub. The nurse was there, not a walking corpse, but a tender caregiver humming her happy tune. She could feel the sponge on her back. She could feel the warm water rinse her hair. The soothing warmth cleansed her skin and curled her toes. Her feet were whole!

Focus, the voice pleaded. Take hold of this and never let it go!

The girl did as she was told, her mind racing to gather every detail. She gripped the sides of the tub with both hands. She clung to the bright light of the room. All pain slipped away just as the water drained from the tub. She rose to her feet and felt the soft terrycloth towel pat her dry. Her nurse slipped a satin nightgown over her head and onto her nude, whole body, singing her sweet song in the girl’s ear.

Music box melodies of old cherished memories

Twirls young lassie ’round and ’round

The ballerina’s histories fade into mysteries

As she tumbles fastly to the ground

But the gears are grinding to keep on winding

And nothing heals her endless ache

All the fears minding her slippers’ bindings

Repeat the dance for needless sake

Because nothing’s real when memories break

Nothing’s real when memories break . . .

The brilliant, blinding lights washed the room of all its pleasant details and the pain erupted from below, knocking her into merciful unconscious.


The girl opened her eyes to fogged goggles and the stale scent of vomit. The shallow breaths of uneasy rest increased rapidly as her mind advanced through stages. Dazed confusion stumbled into gradual realization. Realization drenched her in overwhelming fear and fear drowned her in paralyzed panic. The simple thoughts came first, repeating the endless cycle of her fractured mind.

Where am I? Why am I here? What has happened to me? What is going on outside these walls? Who am I?

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