Chapter 12 (WIP) – Castles in Disguise

When Jessica got back to her room, she tried to think of what she should do next. She was wide awake, for the first time in months. Jessica sat thoughtfully looking at the business card that the nurse had given to her. The card had only a phone number. There was no name, no company. Jessica debated between running away from the hospital now to make sure that there were no further bills, or staying there, since at the moment she had nothing better to be doing, and was already in so far over her head it could hardly get worse. She set the card on the side table. Television did not sound particularly entertaining, but since she had no books, she figured that would be the best thing for her to do.

For several minutes Jessica flipped through the channels. Once she had been through everything three times, she settled on a show about interior design. The ‘experts’ that they interviewed on the show were the overly artsy stereotypical Designers. The things that they were saying were pretty out there, even for a college educated designer. The designers were talking about a historical building that was remodeled in such a way to keep the historical charm. The final product showed nothing of the 1920’s, when the building was made, but had a very modern minimalist 1970’s office theme with all modern stainless steel appliances. Jessica started zoning out when the designers were talking about ‘elevating’ the space, and how having some barely noticeable little accents of history gave the feeling that the space had some history.

Jessica began wondering why, if they wanted a historic feel, they would tear out original solid oak cabinets and replace them with brand new, very expensive, designer plastic ones. When the owner of the space come on screen they kept talking about how much they loved the 1920’s design aesthetic. Jessica wondered if they had seen their house yet. Soon it became clear that despite talk of wanting to live in a historic space preserved like a museum, the owners were thrilled with the new design of their minimalist home. They even tore out walls to create a modern open floor plan.

It occurred to Jessica the damage that could befall a medieval castle if the group on television got a hold of it. Rather than ending as a museum exhibit, the castle would have the stone covered over with an enamel resin and a ‘pop’ of color on an accent wall on each room. There would be some tacky reminder of a stereotypical castle outline echoed in a geometric shape on the new crown molding.

Through her mind Jessica ran images of old castles in picturesque locations around the world. Soon she realized that the only place she could remember many of them from was the classroom in her dream. Jessica had to wonder if any of them were real. She knew that experts say that anyone you see in your dreams you have seen before. While Jessica had a difficult time believing that, she pondered whether that would also apply to places in dreams.

She ran through the dream for a few minutes before determining unequivocally that she had never been in the classroom in her dream before, and therefore the images were likely made up as well. She turned her mind to the people of the strange town, and tried to run through the unending list of people she met at the hotel. It was not even a minute before she gave up. Her mind lingered though on Rodney. He seemed to be such a key figure in the dream, maybe he was based on someone more significant in her life. She turned to the glass separating her room from the hall outside. At that moment her doctor walked by.

Ah-ha! The doctor’s name was Rodney as well! That must be it. But wait- the doctor looked nothing like Rodney from the dream. And Jessica had the dream about the diner before she even met Kenzie.

Jessica tried to figure out what she would do for the Medieval Period class project that would not give away the fact that she did not have any memory of the rest of the course. It was a very engrossing puzzle, since she did not know the parameters of the assignment.

After struggling with this conundrum for several minutes, Jessica laughed out loud. It was a dream. She did not need to do the project. There was no-one to be embarrassed in front of. The whole place and all of the people in it were figments of her own imagination. It was perfectly likely that she would never dream of them again.

Jessica drew her attention again to the television and began flipping through the channels. It was not until she heard the words “Identity Theft” that she remembered she should probably have already cancelled her credit cards. And while she was at it, should see if she still had a job.

 

Chapter 13 – Something’s Missing

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Chapter 11 (WIP) – Down to Earth

Jessica opened her eyes. She was still in the hospital bed. She had been hoping that everything that had happened at the hotel was just a dream. She took a deep breath and climbed out of bed. She knew that since she had not been hurt she really should get out of the hospital as soon as possible to avoid drowning under hospital bills. She also knew that it was too late, money was tight enough as it was. As she stretched out from spending so much time in bed, she considered making a run for it and finding a way to live off the grid.

She walked out of her room and found a nurses station. She asked if she was able to leave. The nurse told her that the doctor would have to give the go ahead, and she paged him. A few minutes later the doctor arrived. He led Jessica back to her room, asking how she was feeling along the way.

Jessica said that she was feeling well, but really needed to get home and get back to work.

Jessica sat on the edge of the bed where a nurse took her blood pressure and temperature. Meanwhile the doctor continued questioning Jessica.

“Do you know what your name is?

“Jessica Marie Owens.”

“Do you know what the date is?”

Jessica stopped short, “Well the robbery was on, let’s see…I have not had a day off in quite some time so the days are running together. It was a Saturday when Mom called. That night I trained Kenzie, —-Kenzie! How is she? Is she alright? Can I see her?”

The doctor sighed “She is doing just fine. She is well enough to receive visitors. You seem to remember pretty well, but let’s make sure.”

“Of course, the robbery would have been Sunday. I know that I was told that I had been here 24 hours last time I spoke to you, Dr…”

“Rodney. That is accurate. It has been about eight hours since then.”

“So it would be the twenty….third today?” Jessica inquired.

“Correct,” said the doctor. “That is good. What we are concerned about with you is that although you do not seem to have suffered any injuries, you slept for more than thirty hours, nearly solid since you arrived. We did CT scans and X-rays, but we could find no signs of injury. We have no explanation.”

Jessica heard the bills going up in her head as she heard this. “I work graveyard. It is very hard to get any sleep. I suppose my body just decided to catch up.”

“That would be highly unusual, but the human body is an amazing thing. I want to do some research while I keep you under observation for a few more hours.”

Jessica started to tense up “I am sorry, I have no insurance. I can’t pay for everything you have already done. I need to go home.”

“Have you been under much stress lately?”

Jessica was a bit confused by the abruptness of the question. “Well yeah, like I said, I have not had a day off in over a month. I work graveyard, I can’t afford insurance, and bills are starting to pile up. Isn’t everyone stressed out right now?”

“It is possible that the stress combined with the lack of sleep might be enough to account for how long you slept. I just want to make sure that there is nothing else. I also suggest that you take a few weeks to recoup before going back to work.” Rodney turned to address the nurse. “You can take her to her see her friend.”

The nurse offered to help Jessica up, but was refused. Jessica was hardly paying attention as she was trying to figure out how to get out of this insurmountable debt she knew she was accruing. “Ms. Owens? I know that things look hopeless, but allow me to make a suggestion.” She handed Jessica a business card. “They may be able to help you.” She stopped Jessica, and lifted her face to see her better. “Now, you are going to see someone who has been through a lot too. I think she would like to see you smile.” Jessica let a weak smile out, “That’s better, now here we are.” The nurse led Jessica into a nearby room, where Jessica was greeted by Kenzie, who sat calmly watching television until she saw Jessica. Kenzie smiled and turned off the TV.

“Hey Jess!” Kenzie greeted her as if they had been best friends for years.

Jessica smiled, “Hey Kenzie, how are you feeling?”

“I’m good. They got the bullet out and patched me up good as new.” Kenzie was so cheerful, Jessica felt guilty for being so depressed. She tried to cheer up for Kenzie’s sake.

“That is a relief. It is good to see you.”

Kenzie noticed the hospital bracelet that Jessica wore. “Were you admitted to? Are you alright?”

Jessica felt a little embarrassed, compared to Kenzie, she had no business being hospitalized at all, let alone taking longer to recover, but she tried to stay positive, “Yeah I am fine! I just had a good long sleep since I got here.”

“What?! You have been asleep this whole time?”

“Yeah. I guess that is what work has done to me. I should probably call Ms. Thomas and see how things are going over there.”

Kenzie tried to brush off her concern, but kept a close eye on Jessica as they talked like old friends. Jessica found it odd that Kenzie, who had been so quiet at work, was so vivacious and cheerful now that she had been shot and sat in a hospital bed.

Finally Jessica decided to broach what she thought would be a sensitive subject. “What were you trying to do when the robber was there? You risked your life.”

“I was trying to save him from ruining his life. I know he was desperate, but there is more hope for him before he does something crazy.”

Jessica sat quietly for a few minutes, running over the scenario in her head. She had not really thought of the robber as anything other than a threat, but Kenzie’s explanation seemed to fit what happened. Suddenly Jessica realized something she had forgotten. “How did you open the safe, and why would you do that?”

“I learned how to crack safes from my father. I just decided not to follow in his line of work. I know the gunman probably did not even know it was there, but I thought that it would be a bigger temptation, and that I could convince him that it was not worth it. I suppose it was pretty dumb.”

“No, not dumb. It is amazing. You are really an enigma.”

The nurse came in and told the girls that it was time for Kenzie to get some rest. Jessica was escorted back to her room with a whole array of new thoughts running through her head. On one hand, she could see the robber as a person now, maybe even see his face a little clearer in her memory. She wanted Kenzie to be right, that the boy could be saved, but at the same time she saw Kenzie in a different light as well, and felt the need to protect her from the cruelty of the world. She felt that the robber should pay more for hurting someone so pure than she had even thought before.

 

Chapter 12 – Castles in Disguise

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 10 (WIP) – SETTLING IN

Once Jessica got outside, she asked Rodney to let her sit down for a moment. They found a bench and he helped her down. After she slid her arm off of Rodney’s shoulders and sat down, Jessica took a deep breath and looked into the clear blue sky. For a few moments she just enjoyed watching the clouds as they changed from one animal to another while she watched. Jessica tried to put together in her mind how this world could seem so real, and yet she knew that it was just a dream.

Rodney gave her the time she needed to get her bearings. He knew that she had not been in town long, having only seen her twice.

After thinking for a few moments he decided that she was well enough to hold a conversation. “So how are you liking the Medieval Period class so far?”

Jessica took a moment to realize that he was speaking. When she did she came out of her meditation slowly. “The what?” she asked before she remembered where they had just come from. “Oh right, the uh, class. It’s okay I guess.” Jessica could not figure out how, or if, she should tell him that she had never set foot in that class before today.

“Are you sure that you are alright? You seem disoriented.”

“I’m fine. Just low blood sugar.” It was the first excuse she could think of for her behavior.

“Well I guess we should get you something to eat before we go to the park.”

Jessica realized that if she refused her excuse would be exposed. She also knew that she had no money and did not want to make Rodney spend anything on her. She stood up and followed Rodney as she tried to find a solution.

They walked down the grand sidewalk entrance to the school building. Before they could see the road Jessica noticed that it was strangely quiet for such a large school. There were people walking around the campus, but no vehicles. This town must be larger that she had thought to have a school this large, but how they got there she could not tell.

“Is the road up ahead closed to traffic or something?” She asked.

Rodney was a little confused by her question. “No the walk is open. Why would you think it isn’t?”

Jessica figured that she must have assumed wrong and the road was elsewhere. She decided not to push her luck by asking any more questions. “Oh I don’t know. It just seemed quiet to me.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes. As they approached, Jessica began to see the wide avenue. It was like a road, but it was for pedestrians. It was more like a city park than a road. There were footpaths that, like the sidewalk were paved in a soft material like a running track. The paths meandered down the way as it encountered trees of various sizes and types. The grass was lush and green. Jessica thought of just telling Rodney that this was where she wanted to get her bearings, but she knew that food was a higher priority.

They turned down the avenue and Rodney thought that he would try one more question. “You are new to town, right?”

“You could say that.” Responded Jessica distractedly as she looked around the city.

“How do you like Dallas so far?”

Jessica was caught off guard. She had never been to Texas, but thought of it as a big, dry, flat plain with guys riding horses herding cattle. This could not be the same place. It must be a smaller town in a different place with the same name. “It is much nicer than I expected.” She finally said. This was the most honest way to say it without admitting that she had no idea where she actually was.

Rodney chuckled, “Well, what did you expect?”

Jessica was at a loss, she didn’t plan to come here, so she didn’t really expect anything from wherever she was. She couldn’t tell him her stereotypical vision of Texas, especially without knowing if that was actually where she was. “More vehicles.” She finally decided on.

“Do you walk everywhere?” asked Rodney, a little confused.

“No…” responded Jessica quizzically. “Why would you think that?”

“No reason I guess, I was just wondering why you think there are no vehicles.”

“Well where are they?” Jessica asked before remembering she did not want to sound too alien.

“How about we get some food first, and then I will show you. We can go to a bigger park further away.”

“Um…” She paused to think, “Sure, that sounds nice.” This was a larger park than any in her little town, and aside from Central Park, bigger than most in New York too.

“Well the next question is, ‘What do you want to eat?’” Rodney smiled at Jessica, “Why does that question sound so familiar?”

Jessica smiled back weakly. She was not completely at ease with Rodney yet, but she was not sure if that was him, her New Yorker paranoia, or this place that she was not comfortable with. “I don’t need much, something cheap will be fine, like a candy bar. Lots of sugar.”

“Well okay, if you are sure.” Rodney seemed a bit confused for a moment before he stopped walking. Jessica stopped and turned back. Rodney’s face echoed his question, “Cheap?” Jessica was afraid that she had offended him, and immediately started to apologize, but before she could, Rodney continued, “What is cheap?”

It was Jessica’s turn to be confused. “Um…not a lot of money.” She said as blankly as she could manage.

Rodney continued walking, “Money, I have heard of that. Some video games use it as an unlock system.”

Jessica walked just behind Rodney, wondering what type of world this place was. “Yeah, that’s right.”

 

Chapter 11 – Down to Earth

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CHAPTER 9 (WIP) – ANCHORS

Jessica found herself sitting in a classroom. Surrounding her were people cheerfully discussing their class project. It did not take her long to notice that there were young kids in the class with adults, seniors mentoring teens, while the teens helped the grownups with the technology.

Suddenly Jessica heard a voice from behind. “Haven’t seen you around lately.” Jessica peered around to find the source of the voice. “How have you been doing?”

Jessica finally noticed a gentleman sitting nearby her looking at her in anticipation. She suddenly felt uneasy. “I am doing alright, I guess.”

“What are you doing for your project?”

Jessica forgot where she was for a moment. “Project? Oh, uh, right the, uh….project…” She trailed off.

“You seem a bit lost, are you sure you are alright?”

Jessica looked around to get her bearings. She knew she recognized the man but could not place him, she tried to figure out what she was supposed to be doing, or have done already. For a few moments it felt like Jessica lost herself. She had trouble focusing on any one thing as she tried to remember where she was and what brought her here.

Faces flashed in front of her and a voice – “Are you alright?”

She saw the classroom again and realized that the room was geared towards teaching history.

Again the faces flashed before her – “Do you know your name?”

Jessica tried desperately to hold on to the classroom, since it was the only thing that made any sense at that moment as she found her bearings enough to mutter “Jessica.” The name came out of her mouth as a reflex, but it did not feel like it belonged to her.

But the classroom was slipping away and Jessica slowly realized that she was in the hospital and all the terrible memories came flooding back.

“Hi there Jessica. Do you know where you are?”

“Hospital, -Who?” She managed to get out through her confusion.

“I am so sorry, my name is Rodney.” For the first time Jessica had a specific person to focus on and things began to clear up. “Do you remember anything?”

“There was a robber, he had a gun…” Jessica trailed off for a moment as the rest sunk in. “How is Kenzie?”

“She is doing well, but you need to focus on you right now though. You have been through a lot, and I am afraid that these guys won’t help, but they are insistent.” Rodney waved to the nurses. Soon two men in cheap suits entered the room.

“Hi there, I hope you are feeling all right, I am Detective Haskell and this is my partner Barnes. We just had a few questions about the other night.”

“How long has it been?”

“You have been out for about 24 hours now.”

“Shit.” Muttered Jessica as she slid deeper into the bed.

Barnes turned to the doctor, “Can we have the room please?”

Rodney looked at Jessica and said, “Please try not to upset her.” before he reluctantly followed the nurse out of the room.

Jessica felt that her anchor had been taken away, and tried not to panic. She sat up a bit and tried to re-arrange the pillows.

Haskell continued, “I know you have had a traumatic experience, but anything you can tell us will help to put this guy away.”

“Can’t you just look at the footage from the desk?” asked Jessica, who just wanted to hide.

“We would, but cameras have not been working for a few months according to the owner.”

“Well I lost a dollar for nothing.” muttered Jessica.

Barnes looked at Haskell and shrugged.

“The drawer is always off. One day I added a dollar from my purse. The next day the drawer was over by a dollar. I knew that no-one would pay any attention to me adding a dollar, but taking one would be frowned upon. So I left it. Turns out I could have taken it back anyway.”

Haskell glossed over this statement, and seeing that Jessica was finally talking he got down to business. “So what did this robber look like?”

Shocked by the abruptness of his question, Jessica took a minute in answering, which clearly irritated the detectives. “Um, he was young, probably younger than me. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.”

“Hard to see ‘em going bad so young” muttered Haskell as he wrote in his notebook. “So was he black, Hispanic, Muslim…?” Haskell trailed off.

Jessica shook her head, “I don’t really remember, white I think.”

“How about that, a white kid…Who knew?” Haskell muttered to his notebook. “Do you think that you could describe him to a sketch artist?”

“I am really bad with faces. I wouldn’t be able to describe either of you even if I were looking right at you.”

“Oh well. Guess we gotta hope the other one comes out of it.” He muttered before asking Jessica, “So what can you tell me about what happened?”

“I dunno-it all happened so fast. I hit the floor as soon as I saw the gun. He wanted all the money we had. I tried to get Kenzie to safety, but she wouldn’t…She just kept talking to him. She got the money from the safe,” Jessica stopped. “–somehow… But she wasn’t giving it to him,” She started trailing off a bit, “That’s how the fight started.”

Haskell looked up from his notebook, “Fight?”

“Yeah, he grabbed for the cash that was in her hand and fell over the counter. In the scuffle the gun went off… While he grabbed the money, I dragged Kenzie to the back to take care of her. That’s when I called 911.”

“Thank you miss, if you can think of anything else, here is our card.” Barnes slid the card over on the tray next to the bed.

As soon as they left Jessica heaved a big sigh and closed her eyes.

She was back in the classroom, this time it was the students’ faces staring back at her as they stood around her as she laid on the floor. The same gentleman from before helped her to get up. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, thank you. I am fine, um—” She looked at the man questioningly.

“You don’t remember me? I am hurt. Rodney, we met at the diner.”

“Oh, right, thank you.” Then she directed a quick, “Thanks I’m good.” to the group that had gathered around her. They hesitated far a little more reassurance, but when Rodney nodded to them they backed away and filtered back to the tables. Rodney helped Jessica to sit down.

“You know if you aren’t feeling well you didn’t have to come to class today.” Rodney sat on the table next to Jessica. Jessica felt better having him nearby, like an older brother.

“But isn’t there a project due today?”

“Yeah it’s the last day, but you can just join the next week’s class to finish it out. It is much more important that you are healthy.”

“I feel much better now. But I don’t have a project to turn in.”

“I will tell you what. Let me take you home so that you can get some rest.”

“No, no, that’s not necessary.” Jessica stumbled over herself as she tried to explain all the reasons that he shouldn’t. “I couldn’t impose, –your project,– I’m fine, I don’t need help.”

“Just listen to yourself, you need to take some time for you. I can turn my project in next week too.”

Jessica got up to go alone, but Rodney got down off the desk to give her a hand. “So where do you live?” The question stopped Jessica short. She didn’t really know this guy. She didn’t want to go to his place, but she didn’t want him to know where she lived either.

“Can we just go to a park or something?”

“I think that sounds like a fantastic idea.”

 

Chapter 10 – Settling In

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 8 (WIP) – COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Jessica stood up just in time to see a young man come nervously to the door. Kenzie went over and pressed the button to let him in. Jessica was just about to stop her and explain the intercom system, when the man drew a gun. Jessica ducked behind the desk in an instant.

The man stuttered across the words “Empty the t-t-till, give me your p-p-purses!” Jessica was already in the back room before the plural ‘purses’ reminded her that Kenzie was there too. Keeping her head as low to the ground as possible, Jessica peeked out to see the desk. Kenzie was still standing, slowly moving towards Jessica.

“Sir, I understand that things may not be great right now, but I can tell you do not want to do this.” Jessica debated between running to hide in the laundry room and locking every door in between, or waiting for Kenzie, maybe even physically dragging her to the back.

The gunman squeaked out “You don’t–” He stopped to clear his throat and started speaking in a lower more even tone. “You don’t know anything about me, just give me the money.”

Kenzie stepped past the door where Jessica was waiting and kept moving to where the safe was kept. Jessica knew she could not open the safe, what was Kenzie thinking? Jessica fought the urge to run away, as the gunman pressed Kenzie harder, the gun nearly in her face. Kenzie never lost her composure as she knelt down to the safe and opened it by touch.

“I have been where you are, and this money is not worth the damage you are doing to yourself.” Kenzie prepared to scatter the money everywhere to make her point. The gunman jumped up and caught the money in her hand. As he snatched the money from her he seemed to forget that he had the gun in his hand and reached with both hands to grab the stack of bills. As his hand wrapped around the treasure, his finger squeezed the trigger.

Jessica screamed. As he landed behind the desk the gunman regained his composure enough to shoot the spot that Jessica narrowly vacated as she reached for Kenzie to drag her to the back. Jessica got far enough in the room to close and lock the door as the young man made it to his feet. He took only a few seconds to find and empty the drawer that contained the till and snatch the girl’s purses from under the counter before he dashed out the door breaking the glass in the process and was back on the street.

Jessica frantically tried to stop the bleeding from Kenzie’s shoulder as she reached for a phone and a towel at the same time. Jessica knocked the phone onto Kenzie’s chest as she switched hands to use the towel to put pressure on the wound. Jessica’s hand shook as she tried to dial 911 into the phone slippery with blood.

When the operator answered Jessica could get out just a few words between her labored breaths. “robber–shot–shoulder” The operator helped to calm her down enough to get the address and a general description of the gunman. Jessica did not have much since she hid so quickly, and Kenzie was in and out of consciousness as Jessica tried to keep her attention while she answered questions. Jessica knew that she was making the pain in Kenzie’s shoulder worse, but that if she stopped she would bleed out before help arrived. The operator dispatched an ambulance and police, but stayed on the line to help.

Once help arrived Jessica shut down from shock. The paramedics put Kenzie in the ambulance, and helped Jessica step in before she really knew what was going on. Everything was a blur. When they reached the hospital she realized that she was supposed to be working and tried to leave to get back. She was told that the lobby was a crime scene, and the manager had been notified. Jessica fought for a minute before giving up and laying back in the wheelchair they brought for her. As she passed under florescent lights and through door after door the thought occurred to her that she had been putting off getting insurance and could not afford to be admitted to the hospital. This thought did not last long as she passed out rushing through white halls and past drawn curtains.

 

Chapter 9 – Anchors

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 7 (WIP) – SELL SELL SELL

Jessica meandered through the mall, looking for nothing in particular. Everywhere sale signs beat down on her as she realized that ‘sale’ means nothing when you are broke. No matter how much off, if you have no money, it is still prohibitively expensive. About this point Jessica realized how dumb it was to come to the mall when she had no money. This was a place where everything had a cost, and without money even walking was not fun.

Jessica walked into a small deli and grocery. The smells of food that was not ramen tempted her taste buds. She paced up and down the aisles as the signs that said “Sale!”, “Buy 2 get one Free!”, “40% off!” seemed to push her down. She was hearing them in her own head. “Sell!” “Discount!” “Value!” It all made Jessica feel ill.

The deli connected to a hospital wing, where Jessica went to the desk and told them she was not feeling well. The lady at the desk asked for and ID and insurance card. When Jessica provided these, the lady did not even look at them before proclaiming that this hospital was too good for that insurance, and told Jessica that if she could not pay for care herself she would be escorted off the grounds, ill or not. Jessica turned to the door and decided to go to a park to clear her head. When she got outside, Jessica found the park very relaxing. At least for a little while she could escape the money grubbing and the constant marketing.

As soon as this thought occurred to her, Jessica realized the sounds still echoed in her head, “Online Reputation.” “Social Media Marketing.” “Page Rankings”. As she shook her head to get rid of the voices she noticed that the grass was made of paper money and all of it with a picture of Franklin. She jumped to her feet and plucked as much as she could get her hands on. Soon she was surrounded by others doing the same thing.

Jessica filled her arms with the bills and headed for the exit before people stole them from her. At the edge of the park a man in a suit directed her to deposit her armload into a chute. When she shook her head he told her that she would be taken to prison for theft if she did not let go of her spoils. As she did, the man in the suit put on a visor and punched a few numbers into a calculator. He handed her a small slip of paper as he said “15 minutes plus commission, your pay for this morning is $5. Thank you. This field in worthless now, tomorrow we hope to see you at Downtown Park for the next reaping.”

Jessica left the park confused and dazed. She felt the check slip from her hand and dropped down to retrieve it. Suddenly mud splashed into her face. At first she thought she must have done it when she landed, but after wiping her eyes she saw black dress shoes with mud on the toes. As she looked up she saw a man in a black suit and black sunglasses holding her check. He looked at it, reached to his right and handed her three dollar bills. “Uncle Sam needs to keep you safe” was all he said before walking away, leaving Jessica in the mud with nothing but $3.

As she looked across the now desolate field, she saw people putting up tents while the suits talked about selling mineral rights while people still saw value in it and how to convince workers understood that collecting as much as possible as quickly as possible was in the worker’s own self-interest.

Jessica thought that no matter how rich she was she would never treat people like slaves. A voice behind her began to speak. “You have to spend money to make money.” Jessica spun around to find that no-one was there. “Money fuels the American Dream.” Jessica frantically looked for the source of the words.  “Putting down your own money shows commitment.”

Jessica called out, “But how do I show commitment when I am broke?”

Jessica ran toward the voice, “We will tell you how much is enough commitment.” responded the voice of the bank. Jessica stopped running. If she emptied all of her accounts and committed to survival based on the investment, wouldn’t that show more commitment than the richest man alive buying it outright?

Jessica found herself alone in a sea of black. She had only her three dollars to keep her company as she suffocated from the lack of air in this space. How would she ever escape this well of poverty when in order to grow she needed wealth?

Jessica found herself gasping for air as she awoke to hear Kenzie’s training videos, “Sell, Sell, Sell!” “Motivate!” “Upsell!”

 

Chapter 8 – Collateral Damage

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 6 (WIP) – BUSINESS MINDSET

The next night Jessica dragged herself out of bed. The sky was black as she went to take a shower. This is not when human beings should be waking up. She hadn’t even fallen asleep until the sun went down, despite lying in bed for several hours utterly exhausted. Jessica had no interest in going to work, but the responsible adult still conscious somewhere in her mind knew that she must.

Jessica felt as if she was rushing, but every time she looked at a clock, she was falling further and further behind. She would be late. From experience, she knew that if she left late at all, the crowd leaving the gym at closing time would slow her down. It sounds silly, but that is small town living. When the gym is the town hangout, not even a bar to go afterward that’s where the crowds are.

By the time that Jessica arrived at work she was nearly 15 minutes late. She ran in the door apologizing to Suzie, who rushed to the door so fast she nearly forgot to clock out. For every time she was later than normal, she knew she was pushing her luck with the daycare.

Once Kenzie arrived, Jessica supervised as Kenzie ran the shift. Kenzie did everything by the book, direct from her notes, like a robot. She did not stop doing everything on her list, even when it was time to wait before starting the next thing. Jessica did not stop her from doing the paperwork early. Kenzie would find out why it was advantageous to wait eventually. People do come to check in at three in the morning, and how you tell the computer about them gets far more complicated once the nightly paperwork has been done. Jessica did stop Kenzie from setting up breakfast so that it would be steaming hot at 2am.

So instead of having fifteen minutes here, and thirty minutes there to keep the girls occupied all night, they had more than four hours straight of dead time. Kenzie stood by one of the computers for awhile before turning slowly to Jessica and asking, “Well, what do we do now?”

“That is part of why I break up the work on this shift. But to answer your question, stay near the desk and do what you want. You can turn on the TV, use your laptop, or the work computers if you feel like standing. You can read a book, do homework, or hell, you can paint a masterpiece.” Kenzie turned back to the computer and stared at it some more.

Jessica was standing at the other computer looking for inspiration how to get her life on track. She searched the country for jobs in her field, only to find that they required a related minor or even a masters degree.

About this time Kenzie spun around on her heel in a hurry and went to the back room. She came rushing back with her phone and hunched over the computer to get to work. Jessica leaned over to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out Ms. Thomas had assigned Kenzie some online training videos she had nearly forgotten about.

Jessica turned back to her own workstation as she decided to switch from looking for engineering jobs to design, but, as she expected, had even worse luck, since it was only her minor.

From Kenzie’s computer poured the party line about upselling, customer relations, and how making money for the company keeps you employed.

Jessica huffed before she decided to start her own business where she could sell her own work, “Elegant Engineering” she would call it. Then she asked the world wide web about business startup loans. After filtering through several websites she realized that either she would have to fork over money upfront to get more money, which would still require convincing people who do not believe in Jacks-of-all-Trades to put faith in her. So it seemed she would have to build something like this from the ground up by herself. With her own money. And her own time. Both of those requirements were positively laughable at this point. She could not find time nor energy to hang out with friends, when would she be able to work, and where? She couldn’t even pay her bills, how on earth would she afford materials to work with, unless she took the ‘reclaimed treasures’ route, which did not sit quite right with the ‘engineered for comfort’ bit.

Jessica decided to contemplate material to re-use that would work well and be easy and cheap to find. In the meantime she took a break for lunch, or dinner, or midnight snack. Whatever you call eating in the middle of your day when that happens to be in the middle of the night. As she ate, she listened to Kenzie’s computer spewing out this years buzzwords, “Motivation!”, “Upsell!”, “Goaldigger”, “It factor”, “Growth”, “Market”, “Passionate”, “Driven”.

 

Chapter 7 – Sell Sell Sell

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