“Off-Grid” By Cherie Ann Turpin #4 (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30days


By Cherie Ann Turpin

#4 (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30days


It started with an x-ray in the dentist’s office. The dentist, thinking it to be a metal fragment from her near-fatal encounter with a roadside bomb during her time as an embedded journalist during the Afghanistan war in 2007, referred her to a general practitioner, who removed it after administering a local anesthetic. A lingering ache remained on the side of her face just above her lower jaw after its extraction. It moved, startling the good doctor, but he calmly sealed it into a test tube. Too large to be a nanobot, it reacted like a fly to light and air.

The bot was of unknown origin, and was still functioning upon removal from the delicate layers of facial tissue. Placing the bot into a small tube, her physician sent it for further testing, where it “disappeared,” for some inexplicable reason. Two weeks after shipping the package the building that leased space to his practice mysteriously caught fire, and he, like the bot, disappeared. The dentist also disappeared after yet another fire that destroyed his practice and several other practices in the building.

She began to receive strange phone calls with clicking sounds in the middle of the night, sometimes a dozen, sometimes more. She disconnected her cell phone service and began using disposable phones. Her writing gigs started to dry up, as her reliable sources for writing jobs began to avoid her. She avoided speaking to her family and friends about her fears of what was happening to her, fearing harm or worse for her loved ones. She hoped her doctor and dentist were still alive, but knew it to be unlikely, which meant she was probably next. Her jaw still ached, slightly, like the fading memory of a fall or sudden spill. She quietly packed a few clothes, her passport, and some papers to take with her, promising to herself that she would explain things later, once she had some answers. For now, she needed to find out what happened to her, who was tracking her, and why she had been bugged with a tiny robot like a lab animal. She reached behind the loosened panel in the floor of her closet and pulled free the packet she thought she would never need to use, a “rainy day” gift from an old lover/friend who thought her to be too naive to be in the business of journalism: an assortment of items that would allow her to cross international borders quietly and anonymously, including a two passports with different names and countries of origin, various IDs, and a small amount of cash.

She knew her first clue would not be found by looking for “where,” but instead would discovered by looking for “when,” as in, looking into the past, a past she thought she could escape.

It meant digging up the first time she saw the bright lights and heard the sounds of the hovering ship.

Time to go off-grid. Deep off-grid.

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