“Like everything else in the world, Dred, it’s not permanent.”
Mildred reclined her car seat even further back, not just because sitting upright was uncomfortable in her brother’s tiny car but because he smelled like nacho chips and a sweaty Men’s locker room.
“Doc says you’ll be able to see again by the time I drive you home okay, Dred? Just keep your eyes covered in that mask and take a nap. I won’t even play the radio, kiddo. We’ll be back in time for dinner.”
“Did you grab my backpack, Ferrell? All of my art supplies are in that bag. I need them. My designs are due next week!”
“Yes, I grabbed the bag, its in the back seat. Check you out, the family fashion designer. Dad would have been proud of you Dred for going to Art School even if you didn’t get into Parson’s. What do they know anyway?”
Mildred’s eye mask itched but she dare not scratch or remove it. She was a little glad that she couldn’t see her brother’s driving. Ferrell drove like he was in a Gran Turismo game and it always scared her that they would end up in a ditch during one of his car rock shows. But he was being nice so she decided to be nice too.
“It’s okay if you play the radio, Ferrell, its your car. I know music makes you feel better.”
Mildred couldn’t see that her brother had smiled at that. He fastened both of their seat belts and turned to his favorite rock station.
The announcer on the radio startled Mildred.
” Authorities say they have no idea what caused the blinding light today over Darling, Ohio. Reports are still coming in of temporary blindness by over a hundred people who were on the streets and in the park, many of whom have been hospitalized for lost sight. There have been a total of three car collisions due to the tremendous light flashes, none fatal and all have sustained minor injuries. Several dog walkers reported having seizures and there are at least 10 pets missing due to their walkers passing out from the lights. Sources have reported that the flashing began at 11 AM this morning Eastern Standard time and just ended ten minutes ago around 2 PM. Air Traffic Control has confirmed the skies are clear and the weather reporting stations have no indications of any impending storms in the area. They can not confirm if the burning lights were lightening strikes and will update us if there are any additional imminent flashes detected. Residents of Darling are required to wear protective eye gear out doors for the rest of the day. More news on the story is forthcoming.”
Ferrell turned off the radio.
“What were you doing in the park anyway? Didn’t you have classes today?” Ferrell asked merging onto the freeway.
“I did but one of our assignments was to come up with a design for evening wear inspired by nature. So I figured I’d go sit in the park and just take in my surroundings. I dunno, then it felt like the sun had fallen from the sky right onto my eyelids. I passed out. When I woke up I was in Darling Community Hospital. Crazy, right?”
“Yeah, the world is a mess kiddo, who knows what is fucking up the sky now. At least you’ll be able to see tomorrow for the Ohio Student Fashion Parade you guys are doing, so that’s good. Mom told me you had some shirts or something in it. She’s making everyone from her beauty shop come to it.”
“Ferrell, its not a fashion parade, its Midwest Fashion Week. And yes, only two student designers were allowed to participate this year so I am excited. Thousands of designers tried out to show garments at the Young Fashion Killers show and I am one of the chosen two! And I don’t have shirts in the show, I have two dresses.”
“Really? Mom said they look like log shirts.”
“Shut up, Ferrell, she did not. Anyway, you’re right, Dad would have been happy to see at least one of us following our dreams.”
“Don’t start that, Dred, how could I keep playing football hoping to score an NFL deal, with Crystal having twins? Joining the military made sense for right now, y’know? And hey, I may not even get deployed anywhere, plus you know as well as anyone I run circles around those other dudes, don’t worry about me.”
” I’m not worried, Fe, I’m sure you are deadly bro, you smell like an animal!” Mildred said, pretending to cough. Ferrell rolled down her window for her.
“Just take a nap, Dred. We will be at Mom’s house soon.”
Ferrell ignored every speed limit until he pulled into his Mother’s driveway.
Alysonya lit a joint she had pulled out of her shirt pocket and took a long drag. She passed it to her roommate Shelli, who made a “no thank you” face at it and put it out in the ashtray. Alysonya coughed and flopped down on the bed in her dorm room and kicked her feet into the air.
” What the hell is wrong with you? Shouldn’t you be considering going to bed? Don’t you have to show at MWFW tomorrow?” Asked Shelli, pretending to be concerned. Alysonya got up and grabbed her roommate by the waist and forced her to dance.
“I am going to bed in just a moment, I needed something to help me sleep because I am so estatic right now, girl, I could spin into a million stars right now and scorch the entire earth!”
“That aint even funny, Shelli replied, my grandmother fell off her exercise bike today because of those damn light flashes earlier today. I refuse to let her die until she gives me a higher percentage in her will, get off me!”
Alysonya spun around the room with her hands in the air until she collapsed again on her bed.
“Shelli, do you want me to let you try on the corset I am showing tomorrow?” Shelli’s eyes widened.
“Are you going to let me wear it in the show?!”
“Do you think that you will look that good in it, bitch?” Alysonya teased.
“If it’s the leather one I saw you working on with the red rhinestones and red lace, I will kill that show in that!”
“Shelli, that OK Corral western slut look is so 14 seconds ago! No, sweetie, I just had some material delivered from Japan this afternoon. Kobe perforated leather from Japan, slut, no one will have this shit. I was sewing it all day long which is why I am still so pumped up. It is the most beautiful thing that I have ever made. Bitch, this is my magnum opus!”
“How the hell did you even afford that?” Shelli said.
“I didn’t afford it, I have a secret benefactor you jealous tramp, now do you want to try it on and swoon, or what?”
Shelli nodded yes and clapped her hands. As Shelli began to undress, Alysonya went into their shared closet and pulled a long box out. She removed the handsewn corset and draped around herself, smiling in the mirror.
“Oh my god, its the most beautiful thing I have ever seen Aly! The judges will die tomorrow! Every girl in the country will want one of these! Put it on me and make it tight! I have got to Instagram myself in this!”
Alysonya couldn’t contain her excitement and shrieked.
“I know! girl, the other little designer bitch, Mildred AKA Putrid, who made it into the show will kill herself after she sees my work!”
She put the corset around Shelli’s waist who was wearing nothing else but a bra, panties and a smile. As she tightened the front busk and started to lace up the back, she could see that Shelli was fidgeting.
“Be still, take a deep breath.” She pulled the corset as tight as possible around Shelli’s body. Shelli started to sweat profusely.
“Are you okay, girl? Alysonya asked, admiring her creation and ignoring her friend. She went to the ashtray and re lit the joint with her back to Shelli.
“It’s hot Aly, its too hot!” Shelli said, fanning herself and wiping sweat out of her eyes.
“I know, don’t you just want to die?” Alysonya took a long drag from the joint burning the tips of her fingers.
Shelli’s face turned blue. She collapsed onto the night stand and hit her head on the edge of the bed.
By the time Alysonya turned around, her roommate Shelli, was dead.
Two of the ER nurses at Darling Community Hospital sat down in the break room around 3 AM to have a quick coffee.
Erin took a deep breath and blew on her drink to cool it off. Her coworker, Lucille flipped through the channels on the break room TV.
“This has been the craziest shift in a long time Lu. Thank God we only have 2 more hours.”
” I know, I’ve never seen so many people stumbling around the hospital blind. Honey, I was scared it was some kind of contagion or something.”
Lucille laughed and opened a tupperware bowl holding a tunafish sandwich she had brought in from home. She wasn’t hungry but she was going to eat it anyway to pass the time.
“Did they ever say what it was, why all of the flashing earlier?” Erin asked.
” I haven’t heard anything yet, its why I was trying to see if there were any reports on it that went to national news. Nothing is on but stupid infomericals and commercials for class action law suits at this hour.”
“Oh and that one girl, from the art school, that was sickening. How could she have passed out trying on clothes?” Lu looked at her sandwich and decided she’d rather not eat it now.
“Poor child. And did Andrew tell you about her stomach? Her entire torso was burned to a crisp. Front to back that girl had no skin left under that corset. I like looking skinny, but I will be damned if I wear something that eats my skin off to lose weight!”
Erin pulled a gift bag out from under the table.
“Oh and by the way this for you, I didn’t forget!” she said to Lucille.
“Erin, you didn’t have to buy me anything! That was so sweet!”
“Well I know tonight is your last shift before you and your husband move to New Mexico and I just wanted you to know that we will miss you!”
Lucille packed away her sandwich and wiped her hands.
“What is it?” she asked.
Erin sipped her coffee.
“Open it. Everybody on the grave yard shift pitched in to get you something for when you start at the new hospital so that you will remember us!”
Lucille fought back tears. She opened the gift and pulled out the tissue paper. It was a new pink scrub shirt and matching pants.
“My favorite color! Where did you guys find these?!”
“We ordered them online and they came today! I’m so glad they got here in time with all that flashing hullabaloo earlier, we thought we’d have to ship them out to you!”
Erin gave her friend a hug.
“It’s very sweet, tell everybody thanks. I am going to put them on right now. I can’t wait to be nursing on a Pediatric Ward in New Mexico, I am over emergency rooms, sister! I will be right back!”
Lucille took her outfit and put it back into the bag, and carried it into the ladies room.
“Watch my sandwich” she said as she walked around the corner.
Erin sniffed it and decided that it would be best for everyone if she just threw it and the container into the trash. She picked up the remote to check if anything was on TV about the lights earlier in the day.
Before she could sit back down and finish her coffee she heard the loudest shrillest scream coming from the closest ladies room. It didn’t phase her, she heard screams all day. More than likely someone had seen a spider so she shrugged and continued flipping channels.
The newscaster was reporting on Darling.
Many skeptics have few reliable theories about the flashes of light reported by citizens of the small Midwestern town, plagued by blindness today in Ohio. Local authorities have received calls that they believe the lights were a precursor to an upcoming terrorist attack while officials at NASA have received hundreds of crank calls from the area, claiming the lights were a distraction for an extraterrestrial attack. Because the lights weren’t noticed on any radar anywhere else in the country, officials believe the claims to be an elaborate hoax. Even some religious zealots have taken to their blogs trying to convince the world, that the apocalypse is nigh.
Curtis, the graveyard orderly ran into the break room, out of breath.
“It’s Lucille. Nobody knows what happened. She’s dead. We have to call her family. She’s dead!”
“What?” Erin screamed ” She can’t be, I just saw her, she went to try on the scrubs we bought her, you’re wrong!”
” They just wheeled her out of there, Erin. She had burns all over her body, I saw them. She didn’t make it. We have to call her husband, now!”
“I’m sorry Ma’am but today’s events have been cancelled. You’re going to need to pack up your trunk and gather your belongings and exit the building.”
Mildred’s mother, Starr was furious. Starr had donned her best fake fur and stretch mock feather gown to the event and even got a pedicure and manicure of which she never indulged. She looked like a background character from some old Marlene Dietrich film and she was going to let everyone know how disappointed she was.
“This is utterly ridiculous, Starr explained to the guard, do you know how long my daughter has toiled to be in this event? Do you know how much money these vendors and fashion stylists have spent to put on this shindig? I cannot believe that you are voluntarily cancelling the programme when the best designer in the house has just arrived.”
Mildred couldn’t believe her mother had used the word toiled. It must have been the clothes.
“I understand your frustration Ma’am but unfortunately these are the orders passed down from my superiors, Darling City Police Department and the Ohio Health And Safety Administration. It is important that all non essential facility personnel evacuate the building immediately.
Many of the models were walking out past Mildred crying. She wanted to cry too. It almost felt like they had all missed their shot.
” Is MWFW being rescheduled then?” Mildred asked the guard.
“There is no word of that as of right now ma’am, but no communication will go out from the committee to all of the participants until the safety threat returns to zero.”
Starr clutched her fake pearls.
“Safety threat? What safety threat, this is a fashion event, there is no safety threat!”
A Parisian supermodel, who had flown in to help judge the event, walked past as if she were strutting down the runway.
“At least I got this fabulous scarf for coming out here,” She laughed into her cellphone as she past Starr.” It costs more than my flight!”
The guard was waving additional straggling people out of the building and put Mildred’s trunk on a dolley for her.
“Ma’am, 7 of the first models into the building today have been escorted to the hospital and we aren’t sure any of them will make it. No one knows if there was a gas leak or what caused them to turn blue and pass out but the event is cancelled for today. Like I told your daughter if it gets rescheduled, you will be one of the first people advised. Now if you will please, ” he said putting on a surgical mask, ” Remove your trunk and the rest of your belongings, thank you.”
Mildred took a deep breath and grabbed Starr’s arm.
“You look beautiful mom, let’s go. Come on, let’s just go.”
“I won’t stand for this Dred, we’re calling your uncle about this, this was your chance!”
As they exited the building, they saw the Parisian model, trying desperately to remove her fabulous designer silk scarf.
“Oh my god, I feel like its burning me,” the Parisian model yelled clutching her throat and dropping her phone to ground. A friend ran to help her unravel the scarf and threw it over her shoulder. The wind picked up the scarf and carried into a near by tree branch dangling over Starr’s car.
“Are you okay honey?” Starr asked walking quickly toward the coughing model and her friend, leaving Mildred to push the dolley.
The young woman doubled over, with her hand around her own throat, blood pouring out between her fingers.
“She got cut!” The other model yelled toward the security guard. “Help us, please.”
The Parisian model fell to her knees coughing and spitting up blood.
“We can take you to the emergency room, sweetie, the hospital is on our way home.” Starr offered, “Our car is just over there, Dred, hurry up, we need to take this girl for help, she’s been injured!”
Before they could reach the vehicle, the tree branch holding the fancy scarf fell onto Starr’s windshield, throwing glass all over the parking lot. The tree branch was steaming hot and lava red and immediately caught fire. The hood of the car began to smoke.
“Call Ferrell!” Starr screamed right before she fainted.
Alysonya waved the bartender over for another shot of whiskey when Mildred walked in. Market Street Bar in Darling was where all of the college students hung out after classes, and tonight it was nearly standing room only.
“Hey aren’t you my competition, sugar?” Alysonya said, waving Mildred over.
” I don’t know what you mean.” she responded.
“Don’t be coy kitty cat. You’re a designer, right?”
” Oh sorry, yes, I was supposed to show at MWFW but as you can see, here we are instead.” Alysonya leaned on Mildred’s arm.
” I can tell you now, I would have killed you anyway. Nothing your little pea brain could fashion would have held a candle to my clothes. But I am sure you are aware of that. You probably caused all this to prevent your shame. Melvin, give this girl a shot of whiskey, she is gonna need it.”
Mildred moved back. “Mel, a beer will be fine.” Mel shrugged and grabbed a beer from the cooler.
” I’m glad you’re so confident, I apologize, I didn’t catch your name.”
” Oh, well let me introduce myself properly I am Alysonya.”
“If its not being too forward, Alysonya, why are you getting so trashed right now?”
” If you must know, apprentice, my roommate died today. Completely died. Gave up on the earth, she did. Gone. Extremely Gone.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that, I won’t bother you any further, my apologies.”
“No stay. I like looking at your shabby sweater that looks like it comes from a dairy farmer’s truck bed. Come, sit down with me for a while. Alysonya can use the company.”
The music in the bar was loud. People were everywhere talking about what happened with the lights.Some who had been previously blinded were explaining it as a religious experience while they drank martinis. Others were waving their eye masks in the air like prized souvenirs. Mildred coolly sipped her beer and tried to listen. She couldn’t believe the Fashion Week was cancelled, or that the Parisian model she drove to the hospital died before she was even admitted. Starr was in a state of shock and after Ferrell drove her home, she locked herself in her bedroom for the night. Ferrell’s girlfriend Crystal was completely pissed that he had left her alone to go save his mother, so Mildred gave him one of her dresses to take home to Crystal as a thank you.
Mildred could hear the murmurs…
“That’s Alysonya, the designer, over there, her roommate died wearing one of her pieces.”
“Had she been blinded earlier?”
” I dunno I just woke up in the hospital. I couldn’t see for hours.”
“Who knows? Some people say they were lovers.”
” I heard a nurse died early this morning at the hospital after trying on an outfit her coworker gave her. Were they lovers too?”
” It was a freaky thing, just white light, hot white light, my eyes hurt like hell for a second.”
” Probably. But what about that model from Paris? Apparently she died at the hospital just a few hours ago and she wasn’t wearing a lover’s gift. They say her throat opened up for no reason!”
“Wait, she was wearing a gift, she had received a scarf or something from a creative editor from a major New York Fashion Magazine!”