Archive for March 13th, 2012

13th March
written by amber

Cheshire Syndrome

At the start of the week, I have another attack. I’m getting used to them now, so it’s not as upsetting as it used to be when that tingly feeling starts and my mouth becomes dry and first my arms and legs, followed by my torso and finally my head become invisible. I didn’t know that my head went last until someone told me they’d seen my face hanging in the middle of the room like a weird balloon. And then I saw it myself when I was able to bring myself to watch the entire process in a mirror.

The bad news is that there’s no explanation for what’s been happening to me. The good news is that I’m not the only victim. Well, that isn’t really good news, but it makes me feel better for some perverse reason.

I guess it’s also good news that the transformation isn’t permanent.

I’ve been having invisibility attacks for just three months, but others have been suffering from it for far longer. It was rare at first, and someone with power decided not to tell the ‘general public’ so that we wouldn’t panic. Naturally, the result was that small pockets of panic occurred over and over again as new victims came down with it to their own alarm and that of everyone near and dear to them.

There’s a rumour that the Prime Minister is a sufferer of Cheshire Syndrome.

It’s so common now that no one’s trying to keep it a secret anymore, but discovering solid facts about it is difficult. I spend a lot of time surfing the net but I don’t know much more than what my doctor told me. No one knows how it spreads, no one knows what triggers an attack, no one knows why an attack ends.

They don’t think it’s caused by a virus or bacteria, or chemicals, or radiation, or xrays, or even aliens.

I have a theory. I can’t speak for any of the other victims, because I’ve never met any of them prior to their acquiring the condition, but I admit that for years I’ve felt invisible. My wife and I have grown apart and our son is an adult now, very busy with his own life, somewhat scornful of my petty concerns and endeavours. At work, I’ve been sidelined for quite some time, too senior to be easily fired, but out-of-step with the direction the company’s going now. I sit in my office and keep myself busy. I had several attacks at work, and no one noticed.

Walking down the city streets, where I once had a spring in my step and a smile for everyone I met, I had gradually become a plodder, bumped into again and again by people with urgent, exciting plans, or high energy music pumped into their ears by those ubiquitous players. Clerks in stores didn’t notice me, waiters ignored me.

I have actually received more attention since I started going invisible.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This tale was inspired by the first line of a story in Asimov’s March 2011 issue. The story is by Nick Wolven.

13th March
written by amber

The Good Job

I’ve got a good job now and no reason to feel glum. Oh, lots of people might not think it’s such a good job, but it suits me fine. I have no skills whatsoever, so to be hired as a companion to a cranky old lady at a very generous salary was a real surprise. When the agency representative called me and described the job, I knew there had to be a catch.

But a divorced woman of a certain age has very little choice. I went to the interview, perceived that Mrs. Sharpton would be a real handful, and actually was near to turning the job down when Mrs. Sharpton’s secretary asked if I had a passport because I’d be required to accompany the woman on cruises.

Cruises! My husband was too cheap to take me anywhere. I hadn’t been on a holiday since our honeymoon – which consisted of one night in a mediocre hotel in a city 100 miles away from our town. How could a woman put up with a man like that for 35 years? But right after the divorce, I got a passport. I certainly intended to travel. I just couldn’t afford to.

I immediately agreed to take the job.

Mrs. Sharpton stays in her room, curtains drawn, all day, every day. It was over a month before we took our first cruise. By then, I’d settled into the daily routine – serving the woman her breakfast, which she never ate, helping her into the bathroom as required, helping her don a dress around 11 a.m., putting make-up on her face to disguise the sepulchral pallour of her skin, helping her eat her luncheon (without deviation, vegetable stock with a few noodles, crackers with liver paste, followed by fresh pear slices and cheese), reading to her until she fell asleep for her afternoon nap, serving the dinner that she never ate, helping her into her nightgown prior to my leaving for my bare apartment. The cleaning girls generally lasted about a week, but I stayed on.

The cruise was amazing. Mrs. Sharpton’s schedule didn’t change, but mine did. Before my shift and after, I prowled the deck, amazed at the changeable nature of the sea, amazed at the freshness of the air and the kind, including nature of my fellow passengers. They treated me as if I was one of them, instead of the servant to a woman whose wealth was no doubt undeserved.

When staff members of the cruise ship began to disappear, one by one, I didn’t think much of it. I heard the rumours only when I went to the dining room to eat my hasty meals.

But then the captain questioned me, as many of the disappeared had visited our cabin prior to being reported missing. I had no way to answer them.

And then they discovered that I am not divorced, as I claimed, but a woman whose husband disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

It doesn’t matter what I tell them about Mrs. Sharpton’s amazing transformations from death’s door to robust shrewishness. They are blaming me.

I am being held in a locked room next to the radio room. I hear that Mrs. Sharpton has hired the female piano player from the band. I wonder what her guilty secret might be.

But I’m not glum. A certain Mr. Kingston has declared his intention to see me proved innocent.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This story was inspired by the first line from one of the short stories in Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual.