The Department - A Crowd-Written Story
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Pet departments always had that same smell, that mixture of dog biscuits, rabbit droppings and fish food; even this one, which didn't even have any live animals. And why was fish food made from fish? She imagined walking through the food department browsing 'Arm Flakes with Extra Fingernails' and 'Human Brain Sticks for a Shinier Coat'.
Naomi looked down at her clean shirt and pressed trousers, wondering if she could get another day's wear out of them. Perhaps she could have stretched the trousers until the end of the week, if she hadn't come into this shop. She felt unclean just walking through the doors.
From her science lessons back in school she remembered that 'All smells are particulate'. This meant that if her clothes smelt of rabbit droppings, it was because they had a microscopic coating of that actual substance on the surface. Home was just around the corner. Perhaps she had time to quickly shower and change before she met her friend for dinner later.
When she walked (naked) into the shower, Naomi saw some spiders 🕷 crawling around in the tray. "Hmmm" she thought to herself, "they will make a nice addition to the casserole we are having later on" So, throwing caution to the wind, she gathered the spiders up, dashed downstairs and put them into the casserole and was heading back upstairs to get dressed when the doorbell rang.
No one ever thought that Naomi was naive but not thinking straight, she she shouted out "Who is it?" Came the inevitable reply "Blind man". Naomi heaved a huge sigh of relief and opened the door.
"Wow" said the blind man, " nice boobs. Now where do you want me to fit this blind?" As you can imagine, Naomi was bright red and stammered out "In the conservatory please" and the dashed upstairs to get dressed and compose herself. On her way back downstairs, she noticed a familiar smell - it was rabbit droppings.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs she saw that the man had rabbit droppings in his hand. That accounted for the smell but not for the man's strange behaviour. "I am being very rude" he said "My name is Noah and I couldn't help but notice the rabbit hutch outside the conservatory. I keep rabbits myself so I went outside to have a look. The hutch needed a clean out so I took out all the droppings and was looking round for somewhere to put them"
Naomi was somewhat taken aback but soon recovered her poise. "Don't worry about it" she said, We'll go into the kitchen, give the droppings a wash and put them into the casserole. After all, they are only vegetable waste"
Now it was Noah's turn to look baffled. "Don't worry" said Naomi, "they add a wonderful flavour to the dish". She cast a sideways glances at Noah and thought to herself what a handsome man he was. Quickly, and without really thinking about it , she added "and beside which they make you very randy.....". She immediately put her hand to her mouth and asked herself why on earth she said that. No one at the pet shop that she frequently visited had ever mentioned it although they had heard that cowboys in the Wild West drank rabbit poo tea to cure a hangover. No mention though of dunking dog biscuits in tea.
As you can imagine, Naomi was bright red in the face whilst Noah pretended he hadn't heard what she had said.
Strangely enough the droppings did add a certain piquancy to the casserole but neither of them felt the least bit randy. "Maybe we should open some wine" suggested Naomi, "do you prefer red or white." "Red please but not too much as I am driving" replied Noah. He wished though that she had offered him brandy because, as the saying goes, brandy makes you randy and something told him that if he played his cards right he might score later on. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't, but then again, maybe he'd never find out. As Naomi reached for the bottle of Shiraz on the table, a strange blue glow came from the casserole dish.
"It's not the rabbit droppings," said Naomi, baffled. "I've used them lots of times. And they tasted just as they always do. Very nutty, I always think."
"What about the spiders? I've never had them before. They did seem a bit chewy."
"Come to think of it, they were bigger than I usually get in my bathroom. And there were more of them than usual."
Noah peered into the dish and, using his fork, lifted out a bloated, furry body with eight legs, which were still wriggling.
"You'd think it would be dead by now. And it is very blue. It wasn't before. And it's getting bigger."
It was true the arachnid was, by this time, as large as Noah's hand, and he did have lovely big hands, very muscular. Naomi was attracted by men with big hands. Noah was stretching his arm across the table, holding the spider under Naomi's nose. "What do you want me to do with it. It's making my palms itch."
"Oh I don't know. Why don't you take it outside and put it in the spare rabbit hutch. Are there any more left in the casserole dish?" Noah peered into the congealing gravy.
"No, just this one. I guess we either ate the others or they've cooked down into the sauce."
Naomi felt a little queasy. "Do you think they'll do us any harm. I've never eaten fluorescent blue insects before." As she spoke she felt the room begin to dip and spin, Noah's face smeared in and out of focus. A buzzing began deep inside her ears, it grew to a scream, increased to a howl and in moments she was kneeling on the floor, hands clamped to the sides of her head. She felt her stomach revolt and she began to retch.
As the ceiling began to spin and dissolve and she felt herself slipping into darkness she was vaguely aware of white suited figures, pushing Noah aside as they bent to lift her onto a gurney. They turned to her erstwhile dinner companion. The tallest of them spoke. "You did well. We have her now. We'll take her back to the department. You move on to your next target."
Naomi floated just beneath the surface of consciousness, suspended in a strange twilight world where nothing was real. On a couple of occasions she broke through the surface, she could feel the motion of being in a vehicle, but was unable to move any part of her body, not even to open her eyelids. She heard the wail of sirens close to where ever this vehicle was, a well of hope building up inside her as it did, but the sirens faded away into the distance again, they weren’t here to save her.
She felt a slight pin prick into her thigh, and the floating changed to sinking, all consciousness disappeared into an inky darkness, and she thought no more.
Sometime later, Naomi drifted back in to consciousness, slowly finding that her senses were returning. The particulates were first to activate, a smell of stale sweat permeated her brain, causing her to wonder where it came from. Then she became aware that she could hear her blood rushing through her system, pounding in her head. She could move her fingers, but didn’t appear to be able to move much else; her fingers could feel a kind of silky material, that covered a padded surface underneath. She opened her eyes, and closed them again quickly, the lights were bright, far too bright for someone who was just coming round after who knew how long unconscious.
She tried to open her eyes for a second time, taking it slowly, opening them a fraction of a millimetre at a time, trying to acclimatise to the brightness behind the eyelids. It was a slow process and the light penetrated her brain, like thousands of tiny little daggers stabbing away at her inner self. She went to shield her eyes with her hand, only to find that she couldn’t actually lift her arm.
Instead she lifted her head, feeling woozy as she did so, to look at why she couldn’t move her arms, and found that she was strapped to a bed, completely naked, a sheen of sweat being the only covering for her body, it had been her own sweat that had first triggered her senses.
The last of Naomi’s senses to join in was taste, her mouth was dry, her throat sore, the taste of bile was all that came through, she remembered being sick as she collapsed before being taken away, drugged by her dinner companion, a man she had wanted to take to bed, a man who had seen her naked. She wanted to retch again, but managed to keep it down, worried she would choke herself seeing as she was strapped to the bed.
What was it with that giant blue fluorescent spider that had appeared in the casserole dish, how many others had there been? Had she eaten one? Was it inside her, waiting for the right time to expand and burst through her stomach like a reject from Alien? This time Naomi did retch, unable to stop herself, she tilted her head to the side and tried to force out the bile, most of it just dribbling out of the corner of her mouth, down her cheek and dripping onto her hair, matted to the bed covering.
What did they want with her? As far as she was aware she had no special skills, her family were nobodies, not even household names in their own household, she had a boring office job with a cheapo insurance firm, what was it that this department wanted from her that was important enough for them to drug her and whisk her away? Furthermore just what was the department that she had heard mentioned.
A government department possibly? One of the alphabet soup of agencies that no one knew what they did? Or some foreign power, taking her as a case of mistaken identity? Or was it Debenhams, taking her away from the humdrum existence of her office and home life to one of comfort and fame being their chief model and tester.
Despite her predicament, she smiled at the last choice, a smile that disappeared as she heard a door open somewhere beyond her feet.