Shorts for the Weekend — Red Phoenix, featuring Kerfe

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Altered Pixabay image

Welcome to my sanctuary.  You’re in a safe place.  When I started this series of short stories, I had asked readers to send images I would use to spontaneously inspire the tales. Of course, I got off track, when inspiration flew under my nose.  I read Kerfe‘s beautiful poem and asked her if I could use it, along with a couple of her photos from that same post.  I loved her poem because the symbol of the phoenix has always resonated with me.

Note:  This story is my own fiction. It is not meant to be a statement of any of Kerfe’s personal beliefs.  When I asked her permission to use the poem, I had no idea what the story would become.

Pixabay
Pixabay

Actually, this odd tale has been clawing to get out for weeks.  However, 99.9% of my stories have happy endings — and this did not.  Yet, in the twisting paths of my mind, Kerfe’s happy, positive poem made me think of the yarn again.  I try to add whimsy to your day, so I had to warn you.  Although it is, Twilight Zone-ish. 

There is nothing wrong with your electronic device. We are controlling transmission.  We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The… the Teagan Zone. (Yes, I know I’m mixing my retro SyFy.)

Red Phoenix

Six Happiness, photo credit Kerfe
Six Happiness, photo credit Kerfe

Echoing footsteps on the tile floors of the Order Doctors Building, played counter point to a nervous heartbeat.  Unreasoning worry clawed to reach the surface of her mind.  Hester Eba had never gone to one of the appointments alone.

Where is he?

The carved block letters spelling Six Happiness Counselling had mirrored fronts.  She paused, tilting her head to check the heavy pancake makeup on her neck.  It covered a splotchy red birthmark.  Everyone said the mark looked like a phoenix rising.  She had never been self-conscious about it.  However, after the world suddenly changed, Hester found it… prudent to cover the scarlet birthmark.

Stepping inside, she waited for her appointment.  She and her husband started couples therapy after her miscarriage.  Both of them were expected to attend the sessions.  However, she was alone.  He had not shown up for the appointment.

He will come.

If something unavoidable had detained him, then he would come home that evening.  He wouldn’t leave her, even if it was true that he blamed her.

Would he?

She remembered their wedding day, five years before the world went into reverse.  How could everything change so suddenly, so utterly?

Ree Pilots, Pixabay
Ree Pilots, Pixabay

Her life was overflowing red,

painting absence into corners.

How much joy can one hold? she said–

it’s crossed over every border.

I can taste the good luck, the wealth–

like chili peppers—hot, untamed.

Mix it with longevity, health–

the Phoenix rises scarlet, flamed.

~Kerfe

They would overcome the divide the miscarriage had caused between them.  She was certain.

We will.

Endicott Hotel window by Kerfe
Endicott Hotel photo credit Kerfe

She glanced out the window, though she couldn’t see the street below.  Hester made up scenarios in her mind for reasons why he might be late.  As her ideas became more farfetched, she took out her phone for a distraction.  Opening the Auntie Flo app she updated her personal information.  The app would predict the day and hour of her next menstruation, and give her reminders about when she would be most likely to conceive, among other useful things.

She had not updated it since the miscarriage and there was a lot to catchup.  After she entered line after line of data about her menstrual cycle, she entered all the information about losing the baby.  She noticed a woman who sat in the row of waiting room seats behind her.  The woman was trying to look over her shoulder.  Hester shifted her position and held her phone lower.

“Synch information with Baby-Bio app?” Auntie Flo prompted her.

“Baby-Bio app not used,” Hester whispered into her phone and the woman leaned back as far as her seat would allow, trying to listen.

Hester followed the prompts that allowed Auntie Flo to take her temperature and heartrate.  Then she did a cold pressor test, all through the app.

“Good news,” Auntie Flo chirped, and Hester hurriedly turned down the volume.  “Conception is viable,” and the mechanical voice stated the optimal date and time.

Hester thought of the phoenix in the poem.  Finally, she felt it really was possible for the two of them to rekindle their relationship.  Like the mythical bird, they could rise from the ashes of what used to be.

Imgbin
Imgbin

The receptionist announced the next patient.  Since her name wasn’t called, Hester paid no attention.  Her elation was such that she didn’t notice anything around her — just the hopeful news on the app.

The nosey woman stood and walked away, and Hester expected the name called had belonged to her.  However, she didn’t see that a couple who sat right beside the desk stood and followed the receptionist.  The nosey woman walked out the office door.

A quarter hour later, Hester was still waiting.  She started making phone calls to locate her husband.  She wanted to let him know that the appointment was delayed — he wouldn’t be very late if he left right away.  All her calls went straight to voice mail.

In a very short time, her emotions had fluctuated from stress about the counselling, to annoyance that her husband was late, to sudden joy, and then to frustration over her inability to contact him.

As she stared down at her phone, she became aware of two pairs of highly polished tall-shaft boots.  Her eyes went up to sharply creased gray-green trousers and the uniforms of the Order Police.  Brows knitted in a perplexed expression, Hester shook her head.

One of the men held out a small tablet device.  She gasped when he showed her the screen.  It held all the data from her Auntie Flo app, all of her information.

Image collage by Teagan
Image collage by Teagan

“There’s no law against using an app.  Or not using one for that matter.  At least there wasn’t this morning,” she remarked before she could stop herself.

Being in any way confrontational or contradictory to the Order Police was a very bad idea.  She was relieved when the policemen said nothing.

Silently, the other officer dropped a bundle of red clothing at her feet.  Cold ice and hot nausea assaulted her stomach simultaneously.

No!

It was the main reason why she covered her red birthmark.  Only one class of people were allowed to wear red, and they were all women.  All she could do was shake her head repeatedly.

“Hester Eba, you’re under arrest for murder.  You failed to avail yourself of technological implants which might have prevented your miscarriage five years ago,” he started.

“The tech was brand new when I became pregnant.  It was not reliable.  My doctor advised against having it implanted because it was invasive.  Besides, I couldn’t have afforded it then anyway,” she babbled, unable to stop herself despite the cold look in the eyes of the policemen.  “Those laws weren’t in effect then.  Your party only came to power two years ago!” Hester went on, but was ignored.

However,” he cut her off with a sneer.  “Data shows that you are fertile.  Murder charges will be delayed as long as you remain ‘fruitful.’  But you will be inducted into the program immediately.  Change into your new uniform.”

Hester looked down at the crimson clothing.  Red.  For a second time, her life was overflowing red, but that time without the happiness.  How could there be a phoenix in those scarlet folds?

Is there any hope?

Engin Akyurt, Pixabay
Engin Akyurt, Pixabay

*** The end ***

I don’t watch the series, and I have not read Margaret Atwood’s book, but I’m giving a nod to The Handmaid’s Tale with the red clothing.  Also, to The Scarlet Letter (Hester Prynne) by Nathaniel Hawthorne — Hester Eba is a different sort of scarlet woman.

Yes, I know the technology I put in the story already exists, at least to a degree.  Here are some links if you’re curious about how all this came together in my mind.

Period tracking apps Link:  https://www.npr.org/2022/05/10/1097482967/roe-v-wade-supreme-court-abortion-period-apps

Wearable app for pregnant women link: https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2018/Q3/wearable-technology-could-help-pregnant-women-detect-health-complications,-improve-outcomes.html

Health official tracked menstrual periods link:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/missouri-health-director-tracked-menstrual-periods-planned-parenthood-patients-n1073701

Reminder

This is a sanctuary, safe for everyone (including me). We don’t engage in political or religious comments here.  Keep your comments friendly.

Thanks again to Kerfe for letting me share her gorgeous poem and photos of the Endicott Building.  I hope you’ll visit her blog.

Hugs on the wing.

♣ ♣ ♣

The Armadillo Files

Armadillo Files anime style cover by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

If you’re missing your regular dose of whimsy, then check out, The Armadillo Files.  The book version is available.

Universal Purchase Links

Kindle:  relinks.me/B0B8XX4ZSL

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0B8XDF1GF

♣ ♣ ♣

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or used with permission, or from free sources.


58 thoughts on “Shorts for the Weekend — Red Phoenix, featuring Kerfe

  1. Thank you, again, for a great story/poem. You always come up with a great story, a really interesting read. Thank you for taking the long time to write all the details that make up an original story. I see by the numerous comments that I am not the only one to enjoy the read. Keep up the good work–where do you get all the ideas??

    Like

    1. Thanks very much, Jacquie. Yes it’s scary, and dangerous in that the data can be bought and sold without permission of the people who provide it. To me that’s the most frightening part. I appreciate you spending part of your day here. Wishing you huge success with “Letting Go.”

      Hugs on the wing.

      Like

  2. Loved the story Teagan and the poem… The hand maidens tale I have read a disturbing tale to say the least… Your tale held a lot of internal emotion. your talent in story telling is Unique… Thank you for sharing Teagan…
    Enjoy your Autumn my friend ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We’re in scary times. I know many young women who had period apps, and they’ve deleted them. I had wondered while I was reading, if the Hester and scarlet were nods to The Scarlet Letter, so I’m pleased you confirmed that at the end.
    I haven’t watched the Handmaid series–the original book that I read in the 1980’s gave me nightmares!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Merril! With my “stuff” there aren’t many shows I can watch, regardless of how well they are done. I’ve seen review-clips of Handmaid, and it’s far too intense for me to handle. It’s a pity they don’t make those apps as software that can be exclusive to one’s device. I think even the fun, cute apps are dangerous. Thanks very much for spending part of your day here. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m very happy you liked it. Yes, I decided to leave that thread dangling, John. I liked it better that way. Maybe he got a warning somehow or other and made a run for it. Maybe he was the one doing the tip-off (although I’m going with the nosey woman making the final phone call that brought the Order Police). Or maybe he wasn’t there because he was locked up for being an accomplice to murder. Or maybe the police didn’t care either way about him — that since he was a man their law didn’t apply. Or maybe he and the marriage counselor were having an affair and they plotted it together! So many possibilities. 😀 Thanks for spending part of you weekend here. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Robbie, that’s high praise. I haven’t read (or watched) The Scarlett Letter in ages, but I loved it too. I was kind of blatant in evoking that and especially the Handmaid, but that was sort of part of my point somehow… I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling/thinking. Anyhow I appreciate you reading and commenting. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jan. Evoking the Handmaid let me make the story very short. I’ve only seen a few clips, but there’s so much out there about it, that I think the generalities of the story are known to most people. I’m glad you liked the phoenix. I wanted to leave at least a grain of hope. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d just read Kerfe’s Thursday Door post and they saw the same door here. What an intense story, Teagan. A tough topic and full of hard emotions. It’s rather scary since we seem to be heading into this dystopian treatment of women. Powerful writing, my friend. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Teagan–you’ve used my photos and poems well. This is disturbing, but also too close for comfort these days. We should be considering it, and working (and voting!) to keep it from becoming a reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Kerfe. I’m so glad you liked the story. I felt the sad, disturbing story served to accentuate the happiness of your poem. And you are right in this comment. I rarely use my writing to touch on social issues, and then it’s in an oblique way. My purpose is to entertain and uplift. But (the basic part of) this story has been determined to see the light of day for months. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs on the wing.

      Like

  6. Well done, Teagan. I recognized the door as the one that Kerfe shared on Thursday Doors. I couldn’t wait to see where you went with it. Oh my! This was such a complex bit of writing. You packed so much emotion into a short story; it’s excellent. I hope the phoenix can rise again for Hester.

    PS: In 1977, I installed a database-driven (new technology at the time) Personnel system at Burroughs. Much information was entered from the employee’s job application. For female employees, the system had a field to enter the date the applicant’s last menstrual cycle began. I cringe at the idea of how much data people share today, and the organizations that “own” that data.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huge thanks for this feedback, Dan.
      Now that you mention it… I do remember an early job application that asked me for that. I had forgotten. Yes, all that data being owned by organizations — and bought and sold too. That makes it even worse. One might be fine with providing info to a trusted company, but then it gets sold…
      Anyway, thanks very much for this mindful comment. Hugs on the wing.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Not at all. That “hot-button” never entered my mind. I was glad to know that the real-world aspect/potential came across. Thanks about the emotional aspect too.
          Something woke me up at 3AM… I hoped to use that to advantage and work on my Halloween story. Ha… Maybe 2 large cups of coffee just aren’t enough. Toasting you with the next cup I’m about to make. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I was once doing freelance work for a company that suddenly asked me to fill out some very intrusive forms and take a lie detector test. I refused, and they still let me work for them back in the 80s. But I imagine that refusal would mean no work these days. I too cringe at how much people freely share now, with no thought to the consequences…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Just Olga and commented:
    Teagan Geneviene​ shares one of her shorts for the weekend. It comes with a warning, though. It is a dystopian story and the ending… suits the genre. Intriguing and gripping. Oh, and a beautiful poem by Kerfe at its heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I did think about the Handmaid’s Tale, Teagan, as fertility is one of the issues central to the story (I read the novel many years back and have watched a couple of seasons of the series as well). Kerfe’s poem is so beautiful and colourful, I can see why you would find it inspiring, even if it sent you in a different direction to the feeling it conveys. Not all stories can be happy, and many aren’t, although, who knows what would happen next? A gripping story, beautifully complemented by the poem and the images. Thanks, Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Olga, that means a lot to me — thank you. I felt guilty about putting Kerfe’s poem with something of the opposite emotions… but maybe that also gives more power to the beauty of her poem. Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs on the wing.

      Like

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