Most recently published stories in Humans.
1 Your ears would pop on the way down and I have a feeling that the reason my eyebrows would twitch all the time had something to do with the walls - which I suspected were insulated with asbestos. I was assigned to the lower ground basement. There were none of the usual introductions - No one told me what I'd be doing - They managed to show me to my desk but that was about it. No tasks were handed out. There was no paperwork to attend to - just a curiously placed desk that was curiously desk-like given the surrounding chaos. Where there had once been a door there was now a strip curtain - the kind you’d expect to see in a meat factory. And there was another one on the other side of the room which masked what I presumed was the storage room. A fortress - bolted shut. No one ever went in. And I’d deduced, no one ever came out. We all smoked - Not because we enjoyed it but because we had to. In such a confined space, we were encouraged by the sweltering temperatures to delay the fungal growth that had by now become a centrepiece in what felt like a very deliberately orchestrated cacophony of devastation. We’d smoke to fumigate - to save ourselves from inhaling debris emitted by toxic mould – Though, I did notice that they kept the desk fan on at night, perhaps in some fanciful hope it would stop the place going nuclear. I found another curious object - a small black notebook which I described to myself as an oddbook that had been placed in the top draw of my desk. It would be a week before I thought to make use of it by scribbling down this and, I expect, other notes that may (or may not) become useful to me at a future point in time.
Natalia did not believe in blind luck. One had to work hard, just to survive one month to the next. Life had taught her that; namely, her parents. Russian immigrants, they had settled in New York in the 1970s; her mother already pregnant with Natalia. Her father was a baker, and soon had moved his wife from the poorly maintained building they were staying in, to a small, but clean, two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, New York, due to him having procured a reliable job as head baker in a popular nearby bakery. Fondly, Natalia recalled her younger life, waking every morning to the aromatic, warm smells of cinnamon, or the yeasty tang of bread dough proofing, as her father prepped in their tiny kitchen. Every day, he would rise from bed at 4:00 A.M, doing his best to move around the apartment quietly, as to not disturb his sleeping family, while he worked. Often, five-year-old Natalia would wake though, and creep as close to the kitchen as possible, so she could watch her papa, as he expertly mixed, kneaded, rolled, and layered everything from bread doughs to a spongy Russian honey cake, called medovik. Those took the longest to make, so in her mind, that meant they must be the best – her taste buds certainly thought so. Sometimes, papa would notice her sleep tousled head peering around the wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the living space, and he would act surprised, every time she was “caught”. He would call her over to him, pick her up, and set her on the counter right beside where he was working. She loved to watch him create delicious things from simple ingredients. He would add flour and some other mysterious powders together. To another bowl, he would blend butter, sugar, and eggs until they looked very different from when they had first entered the bowl. “Now,” he said, mixing everything together slowly, “see how all of these different things, which are not so delicious on their own, come together, and create something new, which is delicious.” He placed a dollop of the finished cookie dough (for that was what he had been making – butter cookies) on the tip of her tongue, and laughed when she exclaimed, “that is yummy papa!” Natalia had many memories similar to that one; she had always cherished those early mornings with her papa, while he patiently explained each step of his baking process. It was never boring for her to listen to him talk about something he was so passionate about; even at five, she could respect that. Most mornings would end with one of his flour- covered fingers bopping lightly on the tip of her nose, making both of them, laugh. Once she had asked him, “Papa, why do you get up so early every day, just to bake pastries that are going to be eaten up by other people so that you have to do it all over again? Seems like a bunch of hard work to me.” He had laughed heartily at her, not unkindly, but with great humor. Placing large, but gentle, hands on both her shoulders, he replied, “Malyshka, anything in this world that is worth something to you, is worth working hard to keep. When you love something, you do not mind working hard, to keep it yours. You understand?” Natalia sagely had nodded her head, grasping what her dear papa was telling her. He gave her a big smile and hugged her to his chest, where she rested her head, breathing him in, those warm cinnamon, and yeasty bread smells, permanently imprinting him into her memory. She thought of him now as she was sitting in the attic of his home, surrounded by boxes filled with pieces of their family’s life. Her father’s propensity for hard work, coupled with his passion and talent for baking, eventually had paid off, and when Natalia was ten, he had surprised his wife and daughter with the news that he had bought them all a “real” house – complete with a garage and back yard. Those years that had followed, were, the best of Natalia’s life. Her parents were working at a bakery which her father owned, she herself was making new friends at a better school, though still in Brooklyn, and she finally had a bedroom that wasn’t next to the only other room in the house. But then. Natalia figured fate had noticed her family’s contentment, and stepped in, uprooting it. The summer Natalia turned 16, her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She would die before Natalia’s 17th birthday, leaving papa to raise an obstinate, moody teenager, alone. He did alright, Natalia supposed, musing to herself. They had been alright, once they found a routine that worked for both of them. Dad baked and she ran the bakery when she wasn’t at school. Needless to say, she hadn’t had the greatest social life. She had moved out when she was 20 but still worked for her father. The pay was great and it afforded her the ability to get her own little studio apartment, a short walk from the bakery. Things had been flowing just fine until fate took notice of them once again. The proverbial “rug” had been pulled out from under her just one week ago, when she got a phone call from the hospital, informing her that her dad had suffered a heart attack. She went to see him and was grateful she at least was able to say goodbye. It had been 2 days since the funeral and until this morning, she had not been able to cry. She had come here to her dad’s house last night to sleep, knowing she would be going through his things today. When she woke up this morning, it was the first time in her life, at this house, that she had not smelled the reassuring scents of cinnamon and yeast wafting from the kitchen. The reality of her papa’s death penetrated her heart, and she wept. Great, wracking sobs of grief, both for the loss of her father, and grief for herself – knowing she was now alone.
Agent Penny and the Dusty Discovery
The clock ticks by as a random video drones on at the front of the classroom. I wonder why we're forced to watch anything educational since school is technically done for the day. I'm so bored I'm afraid I may die. Looking around the ancient room I feel as though I've travelled through time. There have been so many changes in my life lately I may not notice if I did. New town, new school, new post-pandemic life.
The Good Book
Abe, they chose ABE. They didn’t appreciate any of his sacrifices, first one in and the last to leave and vacation, what was that! Adam contemplated his abysmal work life when he spotted Eden, his favorite bistro, and stopped for some amazing lemonade. A warm smile greeted him as the waitress asked what he’d like to start with. All the anger and frustration melted away and peace washed over him the moment he walked in. He ordered peach lemonade and a half gallon to take home to his wife. Eden was their favorite restaurant before he began working at Sin Rostro. Sipping his lemonade he felt better so he ordered meals to take home and surprise Eve. While waiting for the food he noticed Dominating in Industry: Successful Habits and Strategy of the Successful. “What have I got to lose at this point?” he thought. He began reading … “In the beginning ….” strange beginning but he stuck with it. The book gripped him so that he didn’t even notice the waitress return with his order.
Marco walked in the shadow of twisted shapes of steel. He paid no attention to them or the ruins right at his side. Instead, he only counted his footsteps. He grew lean after the end. He was once a fat financial tycoon who counted in thousands and millions. Now he counted one step at a time. And then events to which he payed no attention became a global catastrophe. In what seemed like a matter of hours he was cast from a life of luxury into one of impoverished solitude. Now he struggled to live.
it was JUST a story
Bi Maria Bio Maria I i MONDAY 5:20 PM “This place stinks.” Brenda, wrinkling her nose as she flipped her hair for the 14th time in the last hour, said, while pinching the fabric of her wet shirt and pulling it away from her skin, “Why, again, do you put yourself through this?’
All she wanted was to move past the past. (Sigh) Here we go again, I just need one peaceful night’s sleep, she said to herself. Ever since the therapist gave me this assignment, I cannot rest. I keep thinking of the million ways to begin this journey but am I ready. “Thank”, “You”, “Thank”, “You”, she said aloud on her way to the bathroom. She looks in the mirror “Hmph! Rode hard and put away wet … or so the saying goes”. She takes her time being gentle with herself as she showered. In some ways it was as if she was trying to rinse it all away. Her entire past, up until this point, and start all over. She closed her eyes and held her mouth open, standing under the perfectly tempered water letting it roll over her head to toe; blowing out deep long breaths; releasing chaos, confusion, hurt, pain and fear. Thinking about the day to come. She would have to eventually face the assignment from her therapist, “I have an assignment for you this week, I need you to write a letter; from your younger self to you…” ‘Yeah that’s a piece of cake’, she laughed to herself.
Within These Pages
The yellow cab screeched to a stop along the curb. Manny lumbered into the back seat and told the cabbies watchful eyes reflected in the rearview mirror, “Broadway and West 114th please”. The cabbie nodded imperceptibly and lurched the taxi back into late morning traffic. It must have known, Manny thought to himself, that’s the only way that a leak above the hotel nightstand could have incapacitated my phone...and the pen I hadn’t realized I left in my pocket could’ve stained my pants...and the elevator went out. Manny glanced at the tv screen mounted in the rear of the cabbie’s headrest which displayed a shockingly beautiful local news anchor talking about a severe thunderstorm rolling into the New York City area later today. None of that simple beauty you see on local news back in Cheyenne, he thought, gotta be Miss America to anchor morning news in the Big Apple. Manny found himself wondering what the woman’s true credentials were and if it had been easier for her to...focus! Manny snapped back to the moment as his gaze danced down to the clock on the screen, 10 am. Much later than he wanted to be handling this but there won’t be time afterwards.
Friends are the best. And, from our first young social interactions we make them, we love them, and we try to keep them close by but this is not always what life has in store.
The Morning Visitor
The morning was cool. A brisk breeze raised the hairs on his arms from the wrists to the shoulders, like a wave of wheat in an open field. His breath escaped slowly and formed a misty entity that floated briefly before him before dissipating in the wind. Mornings were Marvin’s favorite time of day. They contained a sense of freshness and newness that only beginnings encompass. It was at this time that Marvin would stand at the entrance to the park in solitude. His shoulders rose and fell, breathing in the new air of the day, air that had never before circulated in this place.
Don't Believe Everything You Hear
Small town Hennesy was supposed to be a slice of suburbia cut away from big city life—that is, until the day Shirley Monroe moved into town.
This shouldn't be comical. A week ago she wouldn't have found anything about this situation amusing. But so many things can happen in a week.