Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Story

The Right Stuff

Bob looked at the scrawny lump of nerves sitting on the couch in much the same way he would a piece of dog’s business on the sole of his shoe. That his daughter, Jane, had her arm tightly around this one’s did not help matters.

“So!” He asked, “You are the man..” you could taste the sarcasm in that last word, “I have heard so much about?”

The Wretch mumbled something in assent  and nervously answered more of the questions that Bob threw at him. 

“Where are you from?” 

“Berkleyville”

“Hmmm. We can’t all be from the nicer parts of the city now can we? What do your parents do?”

“My mom raised me on her own. She’s a cleaner.”

” And you made it this far despite that! Well done! What is your major?”

“I’m thinking either literature or philosophy.”

“You can’t decide? With either one you’ll end up in the same coffee shop…. So no stress there then. Sooo how long have you been sleeping with my daughter?”

At that, Jane, who had been squeezing the poor guy’s hand harder and harder at each question, shot up out of her chair, shouted “Oh God! I can’t take any more of this!” and ran from the room. Before Bob could get up, the boyfriend was out the door after her. “What did I say?” He asked himself. And set off after them.

Bob checked the kitchen, the hallway and Jane’s old room. All were empty. It was only when he went back down the stairs did he hear the retching from the back garden.

Jane, bless her soul, had a weak stomach and any amount of stress was liable to lead her vomiting up whatever she had eaten in the previous hour or two. Bob tried to figure out what could have set her off this time and realised that for all his attention on the boyfriend he hadn’t paid any attention to how Jane had taken any of his “brisk” questioning. He was going to get hell for that when the missus finds out. But first things first, his daughter needed him.

Bob shuffled through the house and came out the back door only to stop as if he had intruded on something private. There was Jane, bent over the flower beds, shivering as she had so many times and with his hands around her, carefully holding back her hair, was the new boy, in the exact same pose as he had so many times, for exam jitters and sports final stress. He was saying something softly to her, something comforting. Bob couldn’t hear, but he sure could guess.

Bob went back to the sitting room, thought for a second and made a detour to the den to grab two beers from his stash. He placed the beers carefully behind his chair and sat down in wait. When Jane and the boyfriend, Russel he thought his name was, were done outside, Jane would come in to shout at bit at him as to how he was a jerk if she had the strength and then go up to bed for a rest. That would mean Bob and the boyfriend would be alone for a while.

The twenty minute grilling hopefully would not have left any permanent scars, maybe they could work around them, back to an understanding. Bob knew he had to, for Jane’s​ sake. After all, this new one had proven himself, as far as Bob was concerned, as having the right stuff.

Six word stories 061216

They need one guy, everyone declined.

Donated blood. It saved my life.

Ghosts in Attic. Best room-mates ever.

Had cockroach problem. Before spider problem.

Rat in bathroom. Eaten by spider.

“Just one bite” Vampires very persuasive.

 

Temptation

I am tempter. I offer little corruptions that make life more… fun.

The thing is. People often find the dark without me.

It’s natural for them.

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Written for the Grammarghoul Press shapeshifting 13 challenge number 82.

The Night without Memory

It was the night without memory. Across the town people celebrated this gift from God and did everything they wanted to and more. They let their basest desires control their actions. It was an orgy of self-indulgence.

In a small cafe, tucked away from those excesses, a man and a woman met.

She was well dressed; he wore grubby work clothes.

Her skin was pale and smooth; his grizzled and bronzed by the sun.

She had a wedding ring, his fingers were bare.

He smiled at her, she grinned like a girl.

He took her hand, she squeezed his gently.

She pulled him forward and he wrapped his arms around her.

He kissed her, she kissed him back.

They talked about their memories, about how their lives had changed, and especially about what could have been.

As the night went on they stayed close to each other, dancing slowly to their old songs. It was as if the years had disappeared and they both felt young again.

They held each other closer and made plans, swore that they could leave the lives they had and run away together. He said they would have no money but they would be richer than ever because they had each other.

Then the bells started to ring, the warning that the night would soon be over. In seconds the noise from the party outside was noticeably lighter.

They kissed a final time, made each other promise to meet again. But as they walked away from each other, down the emptying streets, the feelings and the memories of the night were already starting to fade. By Sunrise, it would be gone.

That was the gift and the curse. The night would be erased.

It was the night without memory. There would be no new tomorrow.

Farewell

“Come closer” I asked and he inched towards the edge, moistened in the spray from the storm surge below.

“Is it safe?” He asked.

I imagined a stiff push, how his arms would flail as if to the grab empty air, I imagined myself waving farewell.

“Of course” I said “Come on”

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 Challenge number 80.

A New Age

In the seventh reign of the Age of Blood, Marqoc the Defiler roamed freely about the Earth. He was a demon, the greatness of his power matched only by the depths of his cruelty. He destroyed, he enslaved, he consumed and no Earthly force could hope to stop him. He was master of the world, and boasted that all of mankind would stay under his iron grip for eternity. They were dark times and death and misery stalked the land. But no matter how deep the darkness, hope, the tiniest flickers of hope found its way into the hearts of men. Wise men, brave souls who risked greater torments than Earthly pain, sought the hidden secrets that sympathetic gods had left across the globe for their creation’s darkest hour. They learned the ways of unnatural forces, of the powers that bind the cosmos and that dwell within the hearts of all men, they learned the many arts that men commonly call magic and they learned it well. In time; Marqoc was beset by powerful attacks by men wielding these new powers, he was assailed by fire from archmages, struck at by magic swords forged in volcanic forges, and trapped by magic spells cast by warlocks. He was weakened by the sheer strength of the onslaught, reduced to a non-corporeal state, and so he fled, as fast as he could to the edges of the world, to the redoubt that he built high in the endless mountains but even there he was not safe. His assailants massed around them, preparing their reserves of power, readying themselves for the final blow.

But Marqoc did not give them the opportunity to strike. Summoning all his remaining strength, he wrapped himself in a shell of time, freezing himself, isolated from the rest of the world. For Marqoc, it only was the slightest instant, but for the rest of the world a thousand generations passed by. When Marqoc opened the shields of his redoubt, there was no wizards, no warlocks, no pursuers of any kind. He was safe and free to take on the world again.

Marqoc travelled the length and breadth of the world. A lot had changed; it was truly a different age from the time he had once ruled. This world was filled with wonders made by the hands of man. Great cities, rivers’ courses changed, great boxes of metal moving on their own through streets of black pitch, flying through the air and even above the air amongst the stars. But for all those wonders, Marqoc could not feel the tell-tale sign of the powers beyond nature, there was no magic in this world. For all their knowledge, the teeming masses of mankind in this new age had no defence against the demonic powers of Marqoc. He could stomp upon this world even more thoroughly than before. No one would have a chance of stopping him. He swooped down on the world and chose his first victim.

Marqoc always had a taste for the innocent and when he saw a young mother struggling with a wailing child the vile wastes of his soul lit up with the thought of impending satiation. He approached the woman, unheard, unseen, unfelt, except for a slight feeling of unease that she may have noticed had she not been so occupied. Marqoc, came up right behind the woman and with a shift through the magical dimensions entered into her mind.

Though, in his mind, it had only been mere weeks since he had last taken over the body of an innocent, he could feel the ages in real time since he last had the pleasure. He could feel the movement of her body, her breath, the sun on her skin, the hint of the carnal in the way her clothes touched her body. It was a feeling that he well remembered.

But he did not invade this woman’s body to relive old times. He was there with a purpose. He made her shake the child and look it in the eye. It stopped crying, young children have a sense for the other worldly, and just stared at her, as if probing. As they stared at each other Marqoc made the woman lift the child and with a surprising burst of strength for someone so tired, throw him out into the traffic, right into the path of an oncoming truck. He noticed with satisfaction that the child was lying on the asphalt of the road just long enough for a wave of terror to fill his mind before it was crushed into oblivion. He exited the woman, who promptly broke down screaming at the realisation of what she had done. Then; from his vantage point beneath reality, Marqoc sat back and waited.

Within a minute there was already a sizable crowd around the scene. Several of the onlookers had already seized the woman, whose cries of grief had weakened to wretched sobs and were waiting for the police to come and deal with her. There was a lot of murmuring, questions about “why?” and “what could have made her do that?” There were some tears and gasps of shock, all of which Marqoc approved of. The feeling of loss and sadness penetrated the aether, as well as a strong sense of anger. Marqoc could feel it swimming around him, could feed off the emotions. But something was missing, something odd. There was no fear.

That was not how things used to be. When Marqoc made people do the unspeakable, others knew that what had just happened had been his work. They knew that he was about and they also knew that any one of them could be next. But this world had no knowledge of Marqoc, they did not recognise his work when they saw it. Instead, as he watched, they began to rationalise what had happened, they blamed mental illness, stress, confusion caused by the noise of the traffic. Some even blamed the driver, who was still recovering from the shock of what had happened, even though he would have had no chance of reacting in time.

No one even hinted at the occult, or demons. When the police arrived, they had already made up their minds that the woman had been driven mad by something, a position that had been reinforced by her ravings that she had had no control over her actions. She was carted away and the news media who arrived not long after reported it as a tragic accident based solely in reality.

This was not what Marqoc wanted, he wanted people to think of him, and he wanted people to believe that he was there to make their lives a misery. Above all; he wanted people to fear him. This would not do.

Marqoc decided to double his efforts, but wherever he went the same problem followed him. He went to New York and made a train driver derail a subway carriage, killing dozens. The citizenry blamed excessive workload and demanded a shorter working week for drivers.

He went to India and made a infantry colonel order shelling of a Pakistani position, the resulting minor conflagration killed hundreds. In the aftermath, the governments of both countries blamed hawkish politicians and signed a peace treaty.

He entered the mind of a teenager in a Midwestern town and made him enter his school with his father’s shotgun. It was barely mentioned before something new came along to talk about.

He even infected a father of three in France and made him butcher his children in a demonic sacrifice. The French authorities reported it as the act of a deranged man and banned all heavy metal music on the radio for a year “just to be safe”.

He infected mind and mind all over the world and made them do unspeakable things but they barely made an impact in a world already filled with evil acts and hideous suffering. While he could make an impact on the local level, to individuals, there was never enough to enter the popular consciousness. It took him a while to figure it out but in the end Marqoc realised that in this age, because no one believed in magic, no one believed in him, so no one feared him. Fear, was where he got his real power. Without the fear of the people he could never regain corporeal form. He had no chance, despite the powers he had, of truly dominating the world.

He mulled on that for the better part of a week. In the end he was so upset that he made a pair of newlyweds strangle each other, which made him feel a little better until that act, like all the others he did, faded into obscurity.

With no hope of influencing an age without even the ability to appreciate the evil he could bring upon it; Marqoc decided that there was only one thing he could do. He went around the world, seeking the right kind of person, the kind of person who could change the world, if given time. In their minds he placed, not a command, not a list of instruction, but simply an idea, an idea that in the fertile soil of their thoughts could hopefully bear fruit, magic is real. They were slow to burn. Maybe an article here, a book there, the occasional modern day hermit playing with the occult in his basement, but it is such small seeds that grow into the mightiest trees.

With those seeds planted, he returned to his redoubt high in the hidden mountains, he cast his spell and again time stopped for Marqoc.

And so there he waits, frozen in an instant, waiting for magic to once again to fill the beliefs of Mankind, and when it does, Marqoc will return, to bring fear and despair. A new age where he can truly rule.

Day Release

Mark waited in the foyer, security guard keeping an eye on him. The clock had passed ten in the morning and he could feel a pang of nerves starting to bubble under the surface. He took a deep breath and surpressed it. Things were going to go well, he just knew it.

There was a screech of brakes as a car came to a sudden stop outside followed by the slam of a car door. Then David, Mark’s brother bustled in. He shot across the tiled floor, grabbed Mark in a hug, and said “Great to see you out again brother!” Mark was too overwhelmed to say anything, but he did return the hug, the contact helped the nerves go away.

The car down the steps was the same one that David had owned before. One of the doors had a dent that he didn’t remember but it was nice to see something familar. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there waiting for you Mark.” David said as he got into the driver’s seat “But Cathy is after bringing her new baby over from London” Mark said that he didn’t know his niece had  been pregnant. Cathy had been sixteen when he last saw her. By the time they allowed vistors she had moved to England for Uni, details after that had been fragmented. “Well you’ll get to see her at the house and your new grandnephew. Oh! I tell ya! It is going to be a veritable family reunion this afternoon what with all the phone calls Marian’s been making. Everyone will be there.” then he paused for a second “Well.. Maybe not everyone. But you’ll still have a great time.”

But Mark wasn’t really paying attention to David. They had reached the gate between the towering walls and he felt a momentary fear as he saw the traffic pass by on the street. What if someone saw that he was coming out and copped what he was, even what he had done? But none of the anonymous drivers even made to look at him as they passed. Quickly; they were away from the high walls and out in suburban Dublin.

Mark’s brother had always been a talker. A conversation with him usually involved a lot of listening. Mostly it was about Cathy’s new baby “The first time he ever saw me, he smiled at me. She said he hardly ever smiles at anyone new.” and being a grandparent “It’s a great feeling being a granddad but I have to say, Marian’s a granny now too, that feels a little weird.”, and then to “So I told him, right. I told him to his face ‘These doctors, they have more brains in their little finger than you’ll ever have in your fat head and if they say it’s going  to be grand then it’ll be grand.’ so then I just walked out and I haven’t had a drink there since.”

“Will Gloria be there today?” the question came out of Mark’s lips unconsciously. David stayed quiet for a minute, as if uncertain what to say. Then “You know how it is Mark, it’s been hard for her and Sally, what with what happened. We see them every now and then, not as often as we’d like, they’re doing great. But you know; they’re still nervous. Maybe the next time. Provided.. you know.” Mark knew what was being said by that pause. Provided you don’t do something. “But don’t dwell on that!” David regained his cheerfulness “You’re only out for a day. It took longer than that to build Rome.”

It took them twenty minutes to reach David’s house, there was a banner,  Welcome back Mark, and bunting on the walls. There was no one outside to greet him but when David opened the door there was a chorus of welcome. Nearly everyone was there. There was Marian, David’s wife, his son, Robbie and his new fiancee, Cathy, the daughter, with her husband and their new son John, named after Mark and David’s departed father, Mark’s widowed mother , a smattering of aunts, uncles and cousins as well as a couple of friends from the neighbourhood his former workplace.

It was good to see them all again. Many had visited him over the years but this was different, happier. Everyone wanted to talk to him, the conversations ranged from from the supportive “Glad to see you’re out Mark. We knew you’d pull through.”, to the wildly inappropriate “So. What’s it like in there? Can you tell me?”, to the mildly indignant “What do you mean you can’t have a drink? Not even a shandy?” He had been arguing with that particular questioner, one of his oldest drinking buddies when the rest of the room went suddenly silent. A voice from behind, a voice he had not heard in a long time “Mark”.

He turned slowly and there she was, Gloria, a woman he had pledged to love and protect but whom he had failed miserably. She looked exactly as he remembered, save for the scar on her cheek, very faint now, it had healed up well.

Mark made a move towards her but she shrank back, fear filling her face, the kind of fear you saw a lot of inside. He stopped himself, instead saying “It’s good to see you.”

Gloria wavered for a second, as if conflicted between moving to him or running away. Marian, by then close to her side placed a hand on her shoulder, this seemed to calm Gloria and silently placed her hand over it in thanks. Her eyes were starting to glisten with tears as she said ” I’m not going to stay here long Mark. I just came to say… To say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not coming to see you.” She sniffed, her voice breaking, but there was a smile on her lips “They tell me you’re getting better, that, maybe, you’ll be able to come home. That’s good. It’s hard for us. You have to know that. But I wanted to tell you that if you’re back. If you’re really back then we’ll try.. For you.”

By then the tears were flowing uncontrollably and Marian had wrapped a hand around her to lead her out of the room. David at the same instant had his arm around Mark, who was also starting to cry and took him out a doorway into the back garden. When they were away from from everyone David stopped and turned Mark to look into his eyes “Did you hear that Brother? Did you hear that? You have a chance, a second chance to get it back. All you have to do is get well again. Do you think you can do that?”

Mark didn’t know. He had been a long time before he even admitted that he was sick and even then it was a long road to get just this far. “I don’t know.” He said “But I’ll try… For them.”

Watering the Plants

Sometimes you look at the world and find that things just don’t seem to fit, that things do not work. Some people who see that want to complain to the gods but in truth it is not really their fault, when they made the world, it was their first day.
One of the biggest mistakes they made was forgetting that the plants they created to cover the ground were not made of the same stuff that they were, not immortal and everlasting, but frail, mortal and needing care. It was only after a few days that the Gods noticed that their brand new plants starting to wilt and even then they were hours figuring out what needed to be done.
What those plants needed, it turned out, was water, something that there was very little of at the beginning of the world, the Gods much preferring rock work over water features. So it turned out that someone had to bring water to all of the plants in the world. All the Gods baulked at that, because they to a divine entity, allergic to manual labour. So they drew lots, overseen by Bob, the king of the Gods, and Trevor, a God without portfolio, was chosen. So he got himself a little watering can, filled it up at the tap and went around the world watering all of creation. The plants all took to the watering and thrived and that was good but as the world got bigger and bigger and it was difficult for Trevor to keep up with the demand all of the plants were making. So he went to Bill, the God of plumbing, and came up with a system of pipes and sprinklers to take some of the load off Trevor and that worked well for a while too.
But after a couple of eons of this, there was another bit of a problem. All of the water that was being sprinkled on the plants had to go somewhere so it started to gather in the low points of the world. Building up first into ponds, then lakes and finally, seas. Poor Trevor wasn’t quite sure. He knew that the plant life in the world needed water to live but if he kept adding it the world would would eventually be flooded. He consulted with Bill about adding a drain down the Marianas trench but in the end circumstances beyond his control began to play out.
It turns out that Phil, the God of the Sun had been making a hames of what was supposed to be a simple job. The Sun was moving around in the sky not in the perfect circle that everyone had agreed with but instead in a parabolic motion that meant the Sun got closer at some times and further away at others. When the Sun was close these new bodies of water started to change into gas, billowing up into the sky, individual pieces of water gathering first as mists, then as great big clouds. This was a boon for the Gods and Mavis, the Goddess of Madness set it up so that people could see things in the clouds, everything from animals to erotic shapes, the thought of which would, as Mavis intended, drive you to distraction.
When the Sun got further away, the world got cooler, the clouds got darker and heavier and then finally it started to rain. It rained down on the whole world, soaking every plant in creation. Trevor was astounded, he had been watering with a can and that sprinkler set up for years and now here was the Sun, doing it for free. And that was when Trevor had his epiphany. The systems of the world, the sun, the wind, the rain, could act together, with appropriate tweaking, to sustain all the plants, all the life of the world, indefinitely. And that is what Trevor, as God of weather, has done, keeping the plants watered, up to this very day.

Picture it and Write: Real

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is by paleotic, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Real

Robert Fields was in a bad mood. Today was turning out to be one of those kinds of days at the DinoZoo, America’s primary prehistoric park.

The Pachycephlasaurs were pummeling each other.

A Triceratops had toppled a tree on a Troodon.

The Mammoths were moulting.

And the T-Rex had a toothache.

Each one of these on their own would be a great enough problem to lead to Robert pulling his hair off. But then, to top it all off, he had just gotten a call from the raptors.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t about the raptors, it was from the raptors. They had turned out to be a lot less aggressive but considerably more intelligent than originally envisaged. They were so smart, in fact, that the park was forced to consider them employees rather than exhibits. Pretty good wages, their own on-site apartments, lunch breaks, full health insurance, and paid leave, though few places actually would let them visit (a team of lawyers were working on that).   

Knowing better than to let his prize attractions wait Robert rushed to the Raptor exhibit. As expected; they were not on display, it being lunch time, so he went on back to the employee lounge. There they were, all five of the raptors and maybe another eight human park rangers, sitting around a table, chatting away. There appeared to be a heated discussion going on and Robert caught Billy, the head greens keeper end with a “You’re right! It is a disgrace. We should give those guys back in the office a piece of our mind.” There were shouts and hisses of agreement from around the table. But that all stopped when someone spotted Robert at the door.

Every eye turned at once on Robert, human and raptor both equally cagey. Then Doris, the raptors’ pack leader, and union rep for the whole zoo (raptors were very good negotiators, even without the threat of disemboweling) got up and walked over to him. She had some papers in her talons, this was never a good sign.

She practically tossed the papers at Robert. “What isssss the meaning of thisssss?” she asked in accented but perfectly passable English. He read through the first few. It was a selection of articles harvested from the internet. He knew quickly enough what this was going to be about.  Oh crap, he thought.

More feathered dinosaurs discovered in Mongolia, one headline said.

Tyrannosaurus; Scaly or Fluffy? said another.

And most damning of all, All Real Dinos had feathers; how DinoZoo got it wrong.

“Thisssss isssss Outrageousssss.” Doris said. There were ‘yessssses’ and ‘damn rights’ from back at the table. “You make usssss. But you do not do it right. Exssplain yourssself.”

Robert let out a sigh of anguish. He had tried everything in his power to prevent the raptors finding that out, no modern text books, censored internet access, everything but it was only a matter of time. He still wasn’t  sure how it was going to explain it. The lab boys had their share of the blame, using lizard and crocodile DNA in the mix. So had marketing, convincing everyone that ‘scaly is scarier’. But he had a feeling that most was going to fall on him, like it always did.

He checked the organiser on his phone. “Dave from Head Office will be over for the next Board meeting on Monday. I can add your concerns to the agenda an discuss them then. Is that alright?”

“For now.” She nodded in assent “We exsspect an apology for this abysssmal treatment.” She turned her back on him, that meant their conversation was over, you didn’t argue with a raptor.

Robert left the room and headed straight for the office, his mind already thinking of the thousand other problems that demanded his attention. Still; ways to diffuse this latest raptor problem occasionally surfaced in his head. What if he got an artist to draw Doris as she would with feathers? Went all out ridiculous, maybe she would find it so silly she wouldn’t speak of it again. Or what if he changed the rosters for the petting zoo so that Doris got out of it? The others would get jealous at that and maybe he could break-up their united front. He shook is head, Doris would see through that in a second, he’d have a strike on his hands quicker than he could say “Clever Girl”. Nobody wanted that.

Robert mulled it a bit more as he walked past the rest of the exhibits and thronging visitors. He laughed at himself. If anyone told him back in business school that he would he negotiating with a dinosaur…much less how good she’d be at it.

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Picture it and Write: Wife

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and Write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, it is by Lily Little at flicker, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Wife

“So this is what married life is like?” Carl spoke softly to himself.

Denise was still in bed, the covers wrapped around her naked body. She must have been exhausted after all of the hullabaloo of the day before.

Funny; he thought, things felt different. He had noticed it the night before. Whenever he referred to his new scenario

“Would you like to meet my wife?”

“My wife will be along shortly?”

“I am just going to go and get my wife.”

Every time he said that word he could feel a tingle, it reinforced a feeling that had kept him walking on air for the whole of the day.

But strangely, as far as he could see nothing had changed. She looked the same, he glanced at the mirror, and he looked the same too. Denise still did that thing with her hips when they made love, she still snored and drooled when sleeping, and she still mumbled unconscionable swearwords in her sleep. Everything he loved about her was still the same, but something had changed.

“Carl! Are you just going to stand there gawking or are you going to say something?” Denise must have been faking it.

“Hi honey! I was just down in the local shop, I’ve got your magazine.” He placed the glossy down on the bed. She reached from beneath the sheets to grab them and then lay down on her stomach, letting the morning sun play on the pages she was perusing. Carl said some more, “I also checked with the front desk, if you want I can bring you up some breakfast from the restaurant. They have french toast, your favourite.”

“Yeah!” She said in that mischievous way that made him smile and got back to her reading. Carl turned to go.

“Oh Husband!” She called just as he was opening the door. Carl looked back, Denise had paused for a second, the same grin on her face that he had saying wife, “Could you bring up some bacon with that, and sausages and beans? I was three months starving myself to fit into that thing.” She gestured at the wedding dress rumpled on the chair “I want to make up for lost time.”

“OK Wife!” Carl said and grinned. Denise grinned back and then returned to her reading.

As he walked down the hallway towards the lift, Carl thought again about the change.

Everything was the same as far as he could tell, but they seemed different, as if the word wife made it all new.

It was better, he thought. Yeah, much better.

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