Author: David Henson

Susan Wiggins lost an arm at work today. That’s called “making a donation” since the Mandolins took over. We’ve averaged about a donation a month over the past year. I myself donated a finger a couple weeks ago. It’s no wonder. The machinery we use — to make components for their ships, we think — is razor sharp and barely visible. Randall Spindler made the ultimate donation a while back. What a mess.

Anyway, needing a drink more than ever after what happened to poor Wiggins, I stop by the pub on my way home. John Jenkins obviously has already had one too many. He staggers up, claps me on the back and says loudly “Welcome to the Fox & Hound, Steven my friend.” I see Bob Johnson immediately place a call. I’m sure he’s turning Jenkins in for failing to refer to the tavern by its new, assigned name. Poor Jenkins. I wonder if I’ll ever see him again after tonight. Johnson’s nothing but a rotten snitch. Better known as a change advocate these days.

After leaving the pub, I go to Clown Foods to pick up a six-pack and bag of chips for supper. The Mandolins use “clown” a lot — Clown Foods, Clown Pharmacy, Clown Shoe Repair. I guess they think putting “clown” in a name makes it a happier place. I’m sure they also know many humans find clowns a little creepy. Just another way to mess with our heads. The Mandolins are good at that.

I’m sure they don’t even really call themselves Mandolins. They probably think going by the name of a lyrical instrument sugarcoats the fact they’ve taken over our world. It doesn’t.

Back home I have a couple beers and half the chips. Checking my watch, I see it’s still a couple hours before imposition of Home Sweet Home time. I’d love to go see my sister, but Madge’s place is just over the line in the Fabulous Fun zone, and I’m not allowed to leave the Forever Smiles sector. At least we can talk by phone so I give her a call.

“Hi, Madge. How’s everything there? Roger? The girls?”

“Hi, Steven. We’re OK. For now. How are you holding up?”

“You know. Getting by. I—“

Soft music interrupts our call, and a melodic voice announces “You have depleted your allocation of freedom minutes for this month.” The music grows louder. I try to talk over it. The voice repeats the announcement more sternly, and the music becomes louder yet, shrill and off-key.

“I’ll talk to you next month, Madge,” I shout. The music is almost ear-piercing. “Hug the girls for me,” I scream and disconnect, silencing the phone.

It’s still early. I pace from room to room, trying to keep the emptiness of the house from swallowing me, trying not to think about the day the Mandolins declared my wife and son to be surplus delights and took them away on a magic carpet ride. Maybe I’ll go back to the Fox & Clown.

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