Aphelion Issue 206, Volume 20
May 2016
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Reader Survey

It's Only Routine


Glenn M. Diamond

They wanted to see me.  More questions, more probing.  It's only routine, they claimed.  Was that supposed to make me feel better?  Even before I opened their automated summons I felt the familiar twinge of dread, that quickening of the pulse and moistening of the palms.  What do they want from me?  The detached, condescending way they treat me always makes me feel shameful, guilty, and unworthy, but Iíve done nothing.  Nothing!  Iím made from the same stuff as them, arenít I?  But no, they sit on the other side of that security door with nearly limitless power.  They are masters of self-assurance, smug in the knowledge that Iíll always come when called, because Iím too afraid to anger them, too aware of their ultimate power over life and death.

I no longer bother to speak in their presence except to answer their cold, embarrassing questions.  Thereís no point in seeking a human connection; they either ignore me or simply take their sick pleasure in regarding me with mocking contempt.  To them I am but a mouse in a cage waiting to be processed.  We donít even rise to the level of pets.  They are superior to us, far superior.  So I do precisely what Iím told to do exactly when told to do it.  Afterward they will release me to my normal life where I can pretend they arenít just waiting to do it again; perhaps in six months, or if I'm lucky a year.

Security had been increased since the last time I was called to their sterile, futuristic domain.  Maybe one of the mice bolted, scaring the other mice away.  Even the outer door was locked and so my arrival was detected by camera.  Upon hearing the mechanical thunk of the solenoid interlock, I entered; instantly gripped by the oppressive anxiety of being behind enemy lines.  On the other side of the glass I could see them, drifting slowly, casually, in their opulent spaces laughing, joking, sipping gourmet coffee and never deigning to glance in the direction of the stark, windowless cage containing the frightened mice with our rapid heartbeats and shallow breathing.

There is one curious enterprise which defied their rigid power structure, a transcendent force rising above this place of gods, demigods, and mice.  It manifests in the form of the eager, sexy young Merchants, purveyors of the dubious potions of their trade.  Either soulless or ignorant or both, serving distant masters, their reckless greed was rivaled only by the robber barons and the plutocrats.  They are always welcome to pass through security doors in all such places across the land.  These Merchants are wholly unaccountable and forge onward towards obscene profits no matter what damage was sometimes done by their inscrutable wares.

I marveled at the sight of one such Merchant, who was ushered through to the inner sanctum in seconds.  This creature was female, with a precisely tailored dark gray pin-striped suit and aura of stark, clinical sexuality matched to a pair of ghoulish steel eyes brightened by the prospects of adding to her gargantuan commissions.  She possessed breasts, blood-red talons, a pocket-calculator, and black leather satchel brimming with dark chemical wizardry.  I felt a chill.

This diversion was brief.  A shadow appeared on the wall beyond the inner door and that meant they were coming for me.  My mind raced ahead to seize the only hope; this facility had no ability to detain people overnight.

The door opened and my name was called, followed by those six simple words: The doctor will see you now.


Mr. Diamond has a background in electrical engineering and currently lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and daughter.  His first published short story "The Cleansing" appeared in the Huffington Post.  His last Aphelion appearance was "The Alchemy of Oblivion" in our April, 2016 issue.

E-mail: Glenn M. Diamond


Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.