The Agoraphobic Psychic and Other Tales
By Sybil Lyons
Copyright 2015 Sybil Lyons
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Agoraphobic Psychic
Chapter 2 The Home Invader
Chapter 3 Eden
THE AGORAPHOBIC PSYCHIC
The sun burned down on the mass of humanity on the boardwalk. Skaters, couples holding hands, a husky pulling its master ahead of it, all streamed onward and onward to the horizon which extended out from either side of the pavement. Amongst the small shops of vendors, a neon sign in a window, next to a purple door read: Madam Tiffany, Romanian Psychic.
Peering out over the top of the sign, Tiffany sighed. She had considered renaming herself something more exotic, like Luna or Rose… but… that would make her seem fraudulent wouldn’t it? She had inherited the gift from her grandmother, this gift of “sight”. It didn’t pay so well, but it did allow her to eke out a living of sorts; and allowed her to remain in the repose and safety of her small apartment along the boardwalk, which supplied her with a reasonable number of visitors each day. The perfect life for an agoraphobic, which was the other thing she had inherited from her grandmother.
Tiffany lowered the blinds above the sign and began preparing for her ten o’clock client. She scanned the small, modern living room for signs of chaos which was often left in the wake of her four playful cats. No potted plants were overturned, embarrassing lingerie drug forth from the bedroom, or tissue boxes shredded. It appeared perfect as usual. Being agoraphobic had its advantages she supposed. She adjusted her large crystal ball on its brass stand to the center of the antique mahogany card table, readjusting the black velvet cloth around it, smoothing the tattered gold tassels at the corners.
At precisely nine fifty five AM, the doorbell rang, its music echoing gently down the small hall. Tiffany placed one last swipe of mascara to her already long lashes before taking a cautious spin in front of a floor length mirror; breathed deeply, and went to the front door. The visitor was male. His wavy black hair reflected white in the bright sun. Glasses were pushed back on his head revealing nervous, darting eyes to match his tentative posture. Although over six feet tall, his head seemed misshapen, elongated somehow and broad… Tiffany welcomed him graciously; explaining the fee.
“As we discussed on the phone, cash only, forty five dollars. Please put your money into the bible on the bookshelf.”
This was her system, as taught to her by her grandmother, and it never failed her. The money was always there, and sometimes, in hard times past when she needed money she didn’t have; she had opened the bible, thumbing its pages, only to have unexpected bills fall out. The visitor complied and Tiffany motioned him to join her at the table across the room.
Nodding expectantly, while peeling off dusty white sneakers to reveal clean white feet, the visitor padded across the room to join her. “Have you ever had a reading before?” Tiffany quizzed.
“No,” the man smiled at her. “But I always wanted to.”
Tiffany explained the procedure. “I have to hold your hands. Touch is important. While I do that, I will stare into the crystal ball and receive images of your life, the past, present and future. You can ask questions if you want and I will look for clarification; and I might ask you questions, to confirm what I am seeing if it doesn’t make sense to me. Your answers will help guide me through. Is there anything in particular you want to say before we start?”
The man shook his head, reaching for Tiffany’s hands across the table. A barrage of images, like a tidal wave, bombarded Tiffany at once. Newspaper headlines flashed: 1939. Lou Gehrig. Iron Horse. Poland Invaded. 1773. No More Tax through Tyranny. Then a t-rex roared, jumping toward her…hunting in a …pack? Tiffany caught her breath, hating the influx, but so intense was the input of information she was frozen… mesmerized. 1963. Hippie girls with flowers in hair embraced. 2025. Silver balloons in blue skies…
Finally, she managed to jerk her hand back from the stranger, only to find she pulled lose from air. Tiffany sought to ground her senses, digging feet into the beige shag, steadying her chest and hands into the table. “Damn! Damn!” she cursed softly, managing to rise up and stagger, one hand trailing the white wall, knocking several small paintings down in the process. At the book shelf, she grasped the brown bible in which the payment for service had been so politely placed.
Gone. “I KNEW it!” she shouted to no one at all. Stupid time travelers… always wanting a freebie movie trailer of events to come with clips of previous experiences. It must be such a rush for them. But “Damn it!” Did they always have to take the cash back when they left and skipped backwards in time… leaving her to reel with unshakable impressions of images, scenes, smells and sensations from times and places she really had no desire to know? With her own anxiety issues, she rarely left her own home, so this influx of places was just too much! Then to be ripped off in the process… Hyperventilating, Tiffany let her body fall sideways and curled into fetal position, knees drawn into her chest till they were under her chin…and Tiffany came up with a plan.
The next morning found the vendors and shops alive and intact along the boardwalk. Amongst the shops, a neon sign in a window next to a purple door read: Madam Tiffany, Romanian Psychic, and a cardboard sign on the door itself said, in colorfully painted letters: “Time Travelers Welcome with Advance Notice Only. Double the price. Payment in advance. No take backs or refunds.”
THE HOME INVADER
Alex was careful. Huffing, he slid the ancient wardrobe in front of the front door. Its wooden back scraped against the deadbolt and security chain, assuring a fortress protected. The front room behind him had ground level windows, where wrought iron burglar bars, being draped in green wisteria vines, were a less imposing but still formidable barrier to intruders.
There was not much furniture in the small house; instead, empty cardboard boxes strew walking spaces. Pile of parts, metal and plastic, along with wires and various cuts of wood and glass balanced along walls, on which were scribbled mathematical formulas and complex scientific equations, like random and undecipherable hieroglyphics.
His “baby” was in the back room. Not quite developed enough to be called a teleporter, a box stood with its solid metal door slid out to one side, leaving the box open and hungry looking. A second identical box stood across the room, separated by approximately six feet. Both pieces had installed on one side, quality lead glass, so the processes occurring in either could be observed.
Alex considered it more a “quantum disarranger of molecules”. Each box was lines with metal, creating an effective faraday cage. Within the boxes, each being about the same dimensions as a mid twentieth century phone booth, a process of loosening molecular fibers could occur. By well designed quirk, the process did not effect nonliving material, but that which was classified as living: plants, molds, and in a rather unfortunate experiment, his beloved tabby cat (he truly regretted that). In all those cases, a shifting visibly occurred. The separation of molecular matter on an atomic level was perceptible as giving the life form inside an ethereal, ghostly type of presence, before, unfortunately, the vacuum created between the electrons caused a collapse of matter once the machine was turned down to lower vibrations and then off. So far, the actual teleport process into the second box had not occurred. The result, which so far stayed confined to the first box, was rather messy and gelatinous and did not clean up easily.
Alex studied the rows of brown shriveled potted plants randomly situated along the baseboard. He was far too compassionate to test his baby on living animals, knowing the usual results, but he had to move forward. What he truly needed was a living subject, because although, though on a cellular and molecular level, all living substances were remarkably similar; the differences between plant and animal DNA and proteins were, in his opinion, substantial.
Adjusting the pencil protector in his left shirt pocket, Alex eyed himself in the bathroom vanity. The green checkered shirt, starched to perfection and ironed into pleats at the shoulders, clashed not a bit with the coke bottle lenses of the glasses…alternatively shouting “Geek” and screaming for the fashion police with the next breath. Naturally pale and thin with a seven dollar haircut, Alex knew any attention he attracted today would not be good. Closing his eyes he counted backwards slowly from twenty, to steel his nerves.
Slipping out the back, Alex let the rickety screen door slam and bounce shut behind him as he brushed past the overgrown shrubs obscuring the steps and walkway that descended below. He was thinking, “If I maintain the electromagnetic pull at a low density frequency…” and did not notice the grass seed popping off stalks as he walked down the weedy path, or how they attached themselves to his exposed socks.
The superstore was dangerous. It was a hunting ground for sexual predators, traffickers of human flesh and carjackers, who wouldn’t know a quark if it bit ‘em in the butt, Alex thought maliciously. It was not the place to let ones guard down. Alex could feel eyes upon him as he exited the leased and very conspicuous red mustang. The silver spokes of the mag wheels glinted as blindingly as the windshield glass in the August heat wave. Vapors of heat rose from the black asphalt and not a piece of its litter or trash stirred in the afternoon. Alex shielded his eyes with one hand, cell phone pressed against his ear with the other hand, not that there was anyone on the other end, it was just part of his image…preoccupied geek kid with too much money… just waiting to be unloaded. Lingering in the electronics section, long enough to purchase several x-boxes and other valuable pieces of equipment from the locked glass cases; he struggled to focus his eyes, not around the store, but only three inches in front of his face, while he let his peripheral vision wander without fixating.
The mag wheels crunched the gravel in the driveway as he pulled back up to the house. A faded black BMW lingered at the end of the drive behind him, before pulling away. Alex watched it in the rear view holding his breath as he stumbled out of the car and lowered the garage door, bolting it into the ground. Back in the house, Alex shook with nervousness, ripping off the useless coke bottle glasses and wiping oily sweat off the bridge of his nose and cheeks where they had rested. Going out seemed like maybe a bad plan in retrospect he thought, as he shook his arms out of the itchy plaid shirt…and waited.
Alex watched the front door from his vantage place by the back door, hoping there would not be a knock. Sure enough, instead, the back door reverberated with a shattering kick. There was a shout of anger as the intruder slammed through the screen into the quantum disarranger, but it was quickly muffled as the door slammed into place. A snapping noise followed by squeals of pain, was only slightly audible till the intruder pulled their now broken fingers back into the box.
Alex already had the lever midway down and was adjusting dials before stopping to sit back, consider his options and theories, make a sandwich, and begin scribbling a new formula onto a clean patch of wall space.
Have you ever had that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that everything was wrong? Like being in a dream you want to scream, to make everything stop and everyone be still… maybe if everyone was still then maybe everyone could think, and maybe if everyone thought someone would figure out what was wrong here.
The crowd scurried, preoccupied with finding the right line, the right time, the rest of their group. A man dropped his briefcase, papers flying everywhere. No one stopped to help; they just widened the berth around him and hustled on. A plump woman next to me, hair pulled into a sharp bun, readjusted food items in a collapsible cooler hung from her wrist as a flock of four children dove in with grubby hands, seeking some small, obscure item to eat while in line.
I’m high strung I know. I generally avoid crowds anyway and the claustrophobic sensation was exacerbated by the thick grey concrete beneath our feet and the white painted cinder block walls encasing us at this “portal”. “Portal” is what “they” called it. It was really a sort of subway / bus station thing setup in an obscure building in the middle of the Nevada desert.
I really didn’t want to be here. “Mike. Mike”. The repletion of my name brought my attention back to my wife. Although this was her idea she was anxious. Olivia was usually pretty level headed and thought things out more than this, but the presentation she was given had set off alarms in her head. I adjusted my backpack and tried to flash her a confident grin, readjusting my grip on our son Zachs’ hand. Olivia nodded at me, stepping away to speak to a dark haired man a few feet ahead.
The presentation had occurred the previous night. Olivia had gone with one other man from her work, and together they had herded their immediate families here…to this obscure and claustrophobic terminal in nowheresville Nevada. The offer to attend the “presentation” was extended covertly to just a few. I never figured out who was at the top or making the decision to extend the invite or any other normally necessary details, but allowed Olivia to bums rush me and our son Zach out the door the following morning.
Zach is a cool kid. He’s only four so all this was exciting to him. Mom waking him up in dark of the morning, ducking cameras, a couple of quick withdrawals from ATM machines along the way, the cab ride to the private runway, jetting along the strip and later landing in still predark hours to this god forsaken place. Very covert. Very “Spy Kids”.
There were rows of transporter doors, looking much like elevator doors, along one wall; shiny cold metal doors we randomly lined up in front of. The door ahead of me opened and the elevator filled. Zach burst in ahead of me, crowding in with a group of about eight. Anxiety rising, I realized I might not fit in with him so I shoved ahead to pull him back, the cute little boy with his roll on suitcase.
The group in the elevator graciously stepped aside, making room for me as well. I realized Olivia was at the set of doors over, about to step in, caught up in the bustle… waving my arms overhead, I caught her eyes and she scurried over. Miraculously, there appeared even more room in the elevator. Against every instinct in my body I stepped in.
It was all Olivia’s money that paid for us to be here. It was her money that bought the house we lived in and paid off my truck. Not that I was a slacker, I worked construction, but no way my income could compare with hers, but she never made a thing of it. She loved me and we both loved Zach. I just still felt this was wrong. But this was a way to protect our money she had assured me. The house and our lives would be here when we returned, but this trip would be a safety net; an investment in our future. Earths’ population was already maxing out natural resources, there were wars and rumors of wars, so forth and so on. Crime was up, it was time to expand, to check out interdimensional planets whose atmosphere was like that of earth, where the terrain was green and lush and clean rivers ran through. It was like the great land grab of the 1800s.
A select few were invited to view the resources. If we found a spot we like we could stake out our acreage and notify the bank. The rates were good and land was plentiful. A few places had already been designated and were developing cities and condo like homes. If we liked we could make initial investments and have a spot in one of those. We could even, if we wanted to part with the cash, come in as investors in what would prove to be a booming business and economy later on. Still…
The elevator crowd generated warmth that smelled slightly like gym socks but were … to me… unnaturally calm. I tried to breathe, clutching onto Zach’s hand still. I smiled down at his beaming face before looking up. The light seemed to be generated from florescent tubes beyond a metal grate, but the thing that struck me was the giant white shower heads extending from long metal necks. I felt sick. I fought the urge to peel the elevator doors open and run screaming like a girl. This was all too holocaust. Why are there shower heads? I wasn’t prepared to get wet…. I squinted my eyes to get a better view of them, noticing tiny vaporous particles starting to emerge like a fog.
Next thing I remember I was uncurling my body from Zach’s and crawling out from a tangle of still unconscious bodies. I grabbed the back of Olivia’s trench coat and began pulling her behind me, out of the pile of bodies, Zach tucked under my other arm.
I looked up at the sky of this new Eden, seeking the bright three sun sky Olivia recounted to me, that had been described in her presentation. I franticly turned around and around looking for the lush green plains of grass. Florescent lights still burned above, though farther away, above brown paper walls that surrounded us. It took awhile to sink in… and I’m not sure it has yet…but we were all in a brown cardboard box in what appeared to be a room made of white cinder blocks. Some clown had made dollhouse furniture out of egg crates and cardboard and propped around little chairs and tables.
I stared at the heap of people still on the ground, starting to wake up. I kept thinking…surely we were smarter than that…. Some one time clandestine meeting off the grid, promises of some sort of Eden, leaving…papers hastily signed, we left without telling a soul, avoiding cameras, making withdrawals from various ATMs, turning thousands over in cash just to come to a new and wondrous world. I thought of our home, the antiques we had collected together, the hardwood floors I inlaid painstakingly by hand, gone…the vehicles, the cash in the house…they had free access to all these things now…and how could we stop them? Even if we got out of the box…saying they didn’t leave us to starve and cannibalize each other in here…how would people two inches high travel across the searing heat and dryness of the Nevada desert to get help … or retribution…? I guess these things were going through Olivia’s mind too, as she began to scream…
Three short fictional tales by Sybil Lyons. A tribute to the short stories of R.L. Stein & Isaac Asmoiv.