I Never Signed by Laura McHale Holland
Here’s a new story that is not part of the connected flash fiction experiment. It’s just one of those ideas I had to pursue. I’m posting this from my iPad, so the formatting might be a little odd.
It’s them. Poking. Sneering. Surrounding me. Telling me to get to work. There’s a ream of flyers to fold, for starters.
I always imagined when I went toward the white light that Mom, Uncle Earl and Little Bandy, Grandpapa and Scoot –and my friends from later years, like Billy and Mae, who died way too young — all of them, I thought, would be waiting. I was going to see each one emerge from a white mist of sweetness and impart wisdom to me as I wended into whatever this place beyond life is. But my loved ones are not here. I’m at the end of the brilliant white tunnel, but the ones here greeting me are dregs I’d pushed way out of my mind.
I snuck away from them just before dawn more than forty years ago. One paper Safeway bag of belongings. That’s all I carried, heading anywhere but where I was. I thought I’d found the answer. Human happiness. Love empowering. I shriveled instead under the weight of menial tasks. Long days, long nights. Repetition. Repetition. Defection, forbidden. If they caught you leaving, they locked you in the boiler room.
Some creep grabs my arm. I think his name is Gus, but after all these years, I can’t be sure. “You signed a contract,” he says. “You’re ours for eternity.” I know that isn’t true. I never signed a contract. They started that signing folderol just before I split. They hadn’t worked their way down to me yet.
Gus yanks me toward a door. Opens it. Ah, the boiler room. Hot. He tries to push me in. I kick. Kick him in the groin. Push him in. “You won’t get me,” I declare. And spin away. Far away. Away.
Behind, gnashing teeth. Ahead, Mom’s hand.