Friday, September 3, 2010

Janell Brownlee


The room was cool and quiet, lit only slightly by the neons outside the open window. A light breeze rustled the curtains every now and then, and the sounds of the city outside played like white noise in the background. She moved through the room with a purpose. There was no time to spare and no time to hesitate. She made no noise and was quick and efficient in her actions. She did not think. If she thought, the memories of her life, of her actions, might cause her to fumble. She did not have time to fumble. Time was of the essence. She counted the documents she had collected, leafed through the photographs. Was it enough? Was it convincing? Was it everything she needed?

She dressed quickly in a non-descript black outfit. Her whole existence rested upon her ability to blend in to the background. To never be noticed. As she fumbled with the buttons on her jacket, her thoughts began to slip. Was she a good person? Was she moral? What had she made of her life? Quickly, she pushed her emotions aside, never noticing the button that fell from her jacket to the floor. She gathered her belongings and stepped out into the busy evening street. The people that passed by seemed ordinary, but she could never be sure. She could never let her guard down. Did they know? Did they see her? Could they tell? She never made eye contact.
She hailed a cab, stepped inside, and gave the driver the address. The stillness in the cab was unnerving compared to the bustle outside the window, and the stagnant air forced her to crack the window for relief. She breathed the cool fresh air deeply as the cab slowly crept forward through the busy streets. She checked the documents and photographs once again to make sure they were accounted for. Occasionally, she would glance over her shoulder out the review window of the cab. The cab ride seemed to be taking longer than it should have been….

When the agents entered the room there was a pervading, quiet stillness except for the noise of the street drifting up through the window that was left open. The room appeared untouched, never occupied. They searched the drawers, cabinets, and dressers not knowing quite what, or who, they were looking for. They were chasing a ghost. A nameless, faceless person, always one step ahead. As the last agent left he scanned the darkness. As he stepped forward he heard the distinct crack of something under his foot. He bent down and picked up the two halves of a broken copper button that lay under his feet…

As the cab continued toward its destination she sat in the back with a cold sweat beginning to collect on her neck and forehead. Somewhere off in the distance she heard the sound of a siren and wondered if it was finally all over.

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About Me

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I write short stories and essays. I have published over one hundred stories, essays, and flash fictions or nonfictions in magazines or anthologies, as well as a novel, Jack's Universe, and a collection of stories, Private Acts. I grew up in a military family, so I'm not from anywhere in particular except probably Akron, where I've lived for forty years. Before I came here, I never lived anywhere longer than three years.