Friday, March 17, 2023

Crow's Feet

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

exercise ~ laughter ~ embarrassing ~ whoops

They were submitted by:


In the beginning, warning people was an exercise in futility. I would tell people that folks at my job were going missing, that we were being harvested to reverse aging, and it would be met with laughter. Like a "whoops I think she's lost her mind" sort of uncomfortable laugh but also the kind that felt like I'd die from the embarrassing reality of being seen as such a clown and the pain of knowing so many more of us were going to die...that it would be too late before anyone noticed.

I was working at an anti-aging spa resort when I found out what was happening. I actually had no idea how I even got the job at first considering how poor I was. And I mean, I looked it. Cheap polyester blazers, decent skin, a terrible haircut, and the trend knowledge of a flea were what I brought to the table, but I was hired on anyway. I rationalized that they'd seen some potential in me or that my imposter syndrome was tripping me up, and i was being too hard on myself. It was such a great opportunity, and the pay was better than I'd ever been offered.

Everything was great at first.

It was. I know what I know now but that doesn't erase those first weeks when I felt like a new person. Everyone--the other new hires and my supervisors and the masseuses and the estheticians--were very kind and understanding and patient. I learned so much. I was actually really pumped about the whole industry. I was seeing people with real results, and they seemed so happy. I wanted to be able to do that for people--which, looking back, is hilarious in the darkest way possible--and I started to think I'd found my niche. My career. My thinking started to shift. I was looking into programs and thinking about the future.

And then Mindy disappeared. They said she quit with no notice, but that didn't sound like her. We'd become fast friends, and I knew her pretty well even though it had only been a couple months. I don't know. She'd just been such a good listener and funny and witty and I was starting to think I might be like... gay for her to be honest. When I went by her place there were tons of packages on the porch. Her car was there, but she didn't answer the door or my calls and that was pretty much never the case. We talked every day even if we worked the same shift. There were nights we'd been up until 3 am video chatting and watching the same movies and that's if I wasnt already at her place. I actually hadn't seen her posting online either which was very unlike her. She had quite a catalog of memes she constantly posted. If the girl wasn't at work she was usually at home posting the most absurd shit should could find which is what drew us together. We weren't go out to the bars after work kind of people, so when the rest went we usually got tacos and hung out at her place quietly. She hadnt mentioned anything to me about quitting. She loved the job as much as I did. It was pretty easy work and it could be a good stepping stone into an actual field and not just out here flailing and working dead ends. She wanted the job. And there's a part of me that thought there was no way she'd leave it while I was there even if it was awful.

And it occured to me that management didn't know how close we actually were. We were kind of scared they'd have a problem with it. I knew in my heart the crush went both ways. I know now for sure. Either way, I think both of us figured dating coworkers would be a big no no, and neither of us were out exactly either, so people knew we hung out sometimes but not the extent of it. I thought maybe something sinister was going on and they'd just lied to keep from stirring us up over it, and that was right...but also very wrong. I thought maybe she got in trouble for her social media and was embarrassed to talk to me or maybe she was sick and they couldn't divulge her personal status. But why wouldn't she answer me? And I couldn't call family. She didn't really talk to hers. That was another thing that drew us together. Similar trauma.

Then Shonda quit without notice. And erin. and Nova. Then Sam. Esther. Janice.

Uh. That's what you might call a pattern, you know? And like I didn't know them quite as well but none of them talked about hating their jobs either. Nova and Sam were both nonbinary and happy as hell to have jobs where they felt safe and accepted.

Why didn't it click that every single one of the people who went missing didn't come from great families? Every single one of them had talked about it in the break room. On one of the few nights Mindy and I went out to have a drink with everyone else just to show.our faces and not alienate ourselves, we'd all talked about it and how funny it was that we were all from the same backgrounds really. I thought it said a lot about the family structure and society and not like...strategic.

I tried messaging other friends on their Facebook pages but got no responses. I called the police department about Mindy but they told me I wasn't family and that adults can disappear if they want to without coworkers trying to track them down for whatever story I wanted to hear about why she quit her job so I quit looking.

I should have quit the job then, right? I should have. I know I should have. Why the fuck didn't I? I guess I didn't want to leave everyone hanging and disappoint them. The rest of my coworkers were stressed out because we were either short staffed or training people, and my boss's boss had come through and let the rest of us know that if we left without notice like the others there would be no way we could get jobs at other spas in town. She'd make sure of it. And, well, I'm also a bit of a people pleaser which didn't help matters.

If I get out of this--i'm probably not getting out of this--im really going to get some therapy to work on that... Right after all there therapy I'm gonna need for PTSD.

Anyway, I got nosy. I mean, I might be a people pleaser but I'm also basically a cat otherwise, and my curiosity got the better of me. And honestly with how things were going, someone was going to get the better of me either way. Why not let it be myself? I stole the office manager's extra keys after sending her a very annoyingly off key singing telegram to distract her and went back after business hours one night. I really just meant to find their files and see if any of them had emergency contacts listed or if anything was mentioned about why they left.

I didn't make it that far though. I heard screaming coming from the back rooms and instead of running out the front and calling the cops I ran to help. Of course my dumbass did. And that's when I saw the whole setup. All the others were there. They were... They were being cut on. Cut apart. Mindy was being sewn up and a fresh kidney was sitting on ice beside her. I wasn't exactly being quiet in the first place but I was screaming before I even realized. Mindy was still aware enough to yell my name and tell me to run so I did. I don't even know how I made it out of the building. I don't. I can't even run! I never run. But I guess my fear overrode my aversion to exercise and really went for it. I got to my car and peeled out, but pretty much immediately filled with regret that I didn't try to save her. I don't know. I don't. Im not a coward. I swear to fucking god I'm not. But what I saw... The absolute terror in her voice... I just acted on instinct or at least some part of me that moved my feet for me without time for the wannabe hero parts of my brain to step in and slow me down. 

Then, I saw someone with their brights on speeding up behind me.

To be continued...


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado


The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

On the Border

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