Given the cold in the interrogation room, I’d have gladly traded the little black dress for a big wool blanket. I resorted to rubbing my arms, a poor remedy for shivering that did nothing for shaking.
My Not-So-Happy New Year. Walking home after midnight. These two, ah, men? appearing. Tossed into a black van. Dumped into a detective noir scene right out of Hollywood. Did these rooms really look like this? Stark, dark, and another –ark word I couldn’t summon. Hard to think when stressed.
They were rude, but at least they hadn’t roughed me up. Roughed up? Never thought I’d use that expression in reference to myself. I wasn’t in handcuffs, but the table was bolted to a floor sporting dust bunnies in the corners. The decor suffered from a lack of everything. Well, there was the mirror only an idiot would believe was a mirror.
On a side note, I looked terrible. Why does eye makeup flee south under stress?
Between shakes and tears my writer brain did summon a few troubling questions. What would someone want with an introverted cat lady who wasn’t published? Okay, there was the poetry collection, but, I mean, hardly anyone buys poetry? Why didn’t I have any memory of entering wherever-it-was-I-found-myself? Oh, and why did these guys have the annoying habit of phasing in and out of reality?
That last question also had me questioning that last drink…
The tall, skinny one with the skinny tie so loose it was pointless stood at the door. He shimmered, faded, shimmered again, and reappeared, his arms folded. Good gosh, I was seriously messed up.
The jowly, stubbly one who’d been sleeping on his couch since 1992 sat across me and slapped a sheet of paper on the table and turned it to face me. You had to appreciate the drama. I would have if I wasn’t still shaking, crying, and losing control of my lower lip.
“Recognize this?” He was a smoker, too, and it wasn’t doing kind things to his voice. I wanted to sift out the gravel. That train of thought disappeared when he slammed his fist on the table and I squealed. “Are you listening to me?”
“Ah, yes, yes of course, I mean, ah,” I leaned forward, “it’s a copy of the blog post I wrote a year ago.”
“Where’s the one for 2017?”
“Do I look like I’m tooting puppies and kittens out my butt?” Was that an appropriate metaphorical response? Seemed off. Maybe he just liked to slip that particular one in each time? “Damn it, you become distracted easily. Answer the question.”
“I haven’t written one.”
I shrugged. It didn’t warm me up. “Because everyone does?”
“You don’t know?”
“Right about now I’m not even sure you’re real.”
He pointed at the copy. “You said last year you’d market short stories.”
Another shrug. Still not helping. “Life happens?”
“Do you always answer questions with questions?”
He did the shimmer thing, face palmed, and reappeared. A hallucination or drugs, it didn’t matter, it was disturbing to watch. “What happened? And don’t answer that with a question.”
“My focus ended up going elsewhere. I was still trying to master Deep 3rd and I also wrote a slew of new short stories. Money in the bank?” I cringed. “Sorry. They’re like money in the bank. I guess. Kinda?”
“You also said you’d write a sequel to your novel. What happened to that?”
I straightened my back and clasped my hands on the table. Okay, I’m always the good little student. A habit left over from first grade. “I actually did better than that. I ended up writing a far better novel and then writing it’s sequel.” I smiled wide. Let him shimmer and toot that! “And who are you guys? These aren’t questions the police would ask.”
“We’re time police.”
“Seriously?” I laughed. Whoops. I gestured at them each in turn. “What’s with the fading thing?”
“That stops after we have the new year on track.”
“Oh, I get it, you aren’t fulfilled until certain New Year’s obligations are completed. Do you always look like this? I mean, kindly patriarch types are more reassuring and the whole hard-boiled cop thing is a bit cliché.”
He shimmered several times. It was starting to come across as hostile. “What are you doing this year?”
“You mean my goals?” He scowled. Whoops. I guess I did like questions. “Editing the two novels written last year and drafting the third. I think it’ll be easier to brainstorm the third once I’ve made an editing pass through the second.”
I wiped beneath my dry eyes. These guys weren’t so intimidating anymore, not with all the fading and shimmering. Or was it more like shimmying? That brought a grin I couldn’t suppress. No tooting remark followed.
“Well, at this stage in my career—and I use that term loosely—what I need most is feedback to my fantasy steampunk. There’s some sci-fi, too. I have 27 short stories in various stages of completion and I’m sure I’ll write more. Gaining exposure somewhere like Wattpad would be nice. Maybe other places. I may send some out, but, well, there are other factors involved there.” He shimmied. Would hula follow? I pointed at him. “Maybe I’ll write a story about you guys.”
He slammed a blank sheet of paper and a pencil down in front of me. “Write all that.” A guy with no people skills was in charge of getting the year off to a good start?
I pushed it back. “Nope. Not yet. I’ll write it, but I’ll write it at home.” I grinned. “And I’ll write it my way.”