And then nobody called- a story by Melissa Scheulin

The sound of the wet pavement under her tires made the small smile on Jennifer's face ever so noticeable on what everyone else would consider a grey and frigid night. Jenifer never thought of the rain that way, it was more like an ocean made accessible to everyone and the root of how their lives ran on her dismal little planet. She was back in town for the day, been traveling on uncomfortable coach busses and been eating at rank smelling restaurants for the past week or so, and it was nice to be on familiar streets again. Even if she did loath the place, Jennifer was calmer then she thought was capable of for a long time. Nobody was pestering her about decisions, and the radio was only slightly staticy from the wind. It was a good place to be- or so she thought.

Cool air was filled in her lungs, and for the first time in a series of months, her hands were warm to the touch. Jennifer didn't recognize this as odd at all, but her thoughts were other places as she pulled into the parking garage. As her little car spiraled up the lot, searching for somewhere to hide while the masses surveyed for their Christmas presents, Jennifer's thoughts were still on the rain. Six or seven parking spaces past her view, she supposed, but tonight she really wanted to be embraced by that nature's touch.

Orange lights flickered above the upper level of the lot, and she stared blankly through her moon roof at the small puddles of water forming all across the glass. Her smile had grown prettier as the rain kept falling. How she wanted so much to be able to lay in the wet warmth that was promised by each drop, each sound of the waves breaking against the shore, each rattling splash of a puddle disturb by some car racing through the night.

Why so eager about the destination she wondered. Why is it that no one seems to go in order and just live happily, there has to be one goal or another to give them any purpose?

She felt her eyelids drooping, and she knew she had to start shopping now or else the stores would all close, but the thoughts were distant and fuzzy, and knew there was an infinite amount of time ahead of her.

It was as if there was a wind through her hair, but it was different from this winter wind and rain they'd been experiencing. This one was almost salty, but soft and cool to the skin, it was calming and effectively full of life, something everyone experiences with closed eyes and a deep breath as they squint into the sun. Dirt rolled between her toes, moist and soothing as it filled the space not ventured by socks or pesky shoes. It was not here, that was for sure, but Jennifer could almost swear her body was laying down, yet standing at the same time. The confusion was dismissed and she tried to loll back into the dream world, but it was too late. A street lamp flickered violently and stirred her up and out of her car, keys wetly locking the rickety old doors.

Her head felt somewhat heavier now, and one or two of the store owners asked her if everything was alright. They supposed she had just been crying or had some odd Christmas blowout as usual this time of year, but something far back in her deep amber eyes produced a cold feeling of age and sorrow not normally shown in public. A fake smile would flicker across Jennifer re-thanked the sales people for their help, and then she'd quickly bounce to the next store as though her feet did not want to keep on the ground for too long for fear of the wetness.

The wind began to blow harder, though the rain had stopped by now. Jennifer held onto her loose locks as she scrambled back into the lower level of the parking garage, heavily loading bags resting on her elbows. She leaned in the shadows against the pillar with the advertisement for a picture and present from Santa if you came Now Now Now to the Christmas pageant at the center of their beloved mall.

Everything felt so heavy against Jennifer at that moment, a single tear running down her cheek. Angrily laughing, she pushed the speck aside and began to walk up towards her car again. Another lone tear mocking fell down the other cheek.

It was Christmas now, and the air was filled with laughter and the burning smell of pine and ginger. Children were dressed in reds and greens, with white lace and bows around their necks, and everything seemed to run around with a simple and youthful energy that gets lots the more we see with each passing year.

But the air was much staler here. Somehow the pine and ginger were less intense and something about the sound was dimmed and mournful. You could here the clicking of regulated heels and clipboards across the linoleum halls, and the slight stench of something both sickening and sterile in the back of your throat. The halls became less full of noise the further you traveled down them, passing over some carpet, some linoleum, and sometimes even smelling fresh paint on the walls although there was none.

Entering a quite room, there seemed to be no sound but the hush of breathing and the cold light of a table lamp to be taken as life. But looking closer, there was faint whirr of machines, and an ever so slight beep every two minutes or so. It was dark outside, but the thin curtains hardly blocked out enough light from the rooftops around to be counted as an item of privacy.

Ever slightly as noticeable, was a short woman laying in a bed. It was unceremonious save for the holly at the foot, and it was elevated for ease and comfort. A forced sigh seemed to emerge from the sleeping wretch, coiled white arms unmoving though they seemed eager to change their position. It turned her head as an older woman with badly curled hair entered the room. A barely audible mumble came from its lips, pleading or something of the sort with this pinched looking woman.

"No, no calls today Jane dear," the woman spoke automatically, not looking at the laying woman directly as she fixed a set of trays across a desk from her. The person turned its head silently to the window as the woman went about fixing things around and softly humming a seasonal little ditty.

"Marcy?" the creature spoke clearly, shocking her attendant into stillness, wondering if she was hearing things. In its mummified state, it took the silence as an affirmative of attentiveness. "Is it raining outside?"

The machine beeped once more and then there was silence.