Excerpt: Atomic Medium
Or, Rachel Takes a Shower
by G G Collins (Copyright 2016)
After a short drive to Chloe’s much more upscale neighborhood, Rachel parked in front of the garage and walked to the back door. At first she knocked tentatively, but panic flooded her body and she began pounding.
“Chloe! Chloe, are you home?”
“Is that you Rachel?” Chloe asked from inside.
“Of course it’s me. Who else would be screaming out here holding a cat?”
“Come in.” Chloe opened the door. “I’d ask if you are alright, but I can see you’re half-crazed. Sit down, let the pretty girl out and I’ll get her some food and water.” Chloe opened the fridge, took out a new bottle of Evian and poured it into Chile Pod’s bowl—which she had bought just for her—followed by some expensive gourmet cat food.
“I told you not to give her that,” Rachel protested knowing it was futile. “I can’t afford to feed it to her regularly.”
“That’s okay,” Chloe said petting Chile’s head as she lapped up the pricey treat. “She deserves to be spoiled when she visits Auntie Chloe.
“Now, the baby is taken care of, what happened to you?”
Rachel related the incident she experienced minutes ago. From Chile’s first alarm, to Kiyiya’s warning howl, to the frightening man who appeared and threatened her; it all spilled it out.
Chloe was thoughtful for a moment.
“Rachel, there’s one thing I didn’t understand. What was on the pin or cuff link he was wearing? You said it reminded you of something. What was it?”
She went back to the confrontation and searched her mind for what she wanted. When she found it, she wanted to forget it.
“Chloe, it was a swastika!”
“What’s going on?” she asked. “Wait a minute. Remember you said when the two men went through the fluid curtain the room looked older; the big black phone, the vintage clothing?”
“Yes, but what are you getting at?”
“Don’t you see Rachel, it sounds like you’re saying he’s from that era you saw through the stargate.”
“I didn’t say that at all.”
“Yes, I’m afraid that’s exactly what you are saying. If this man belongs in the 1940s, then that room must belong there too.”
“But that could make him a, uh, Nazi?” Rachel didn’t want to deal with that. It was too grim to even consider. She ran her hands through her brown hair pushing the natural waves out of her face.
“It would make him a Nazi,” Chloe echoed. “I’m going to make us hot toddies.”
“I don’t think that will solve anything,” Rachel said hoping she could put off accepting this hypothesis.
“No, it won’t, but maybe it will be less frightening through a nice fuzzy haze.”
“But why would a Nazi from the 1940s materialize here and now?”
“That’s what we need to figure out.” Chloe warmed some water, this time a bottled water called Saint-Géron which her parents shipped her from Paris. They told her the mineral mix was better for women. Rachel didn’t know about that, but it was about $35 a bottle. When hot, she poured it into mugs, added some A. H. Hirsch and squeezed in some fresh lemon juice. Rachel blanched. The amount she paid for the bourbon would make a down payment on the new garage.
“Here you go, get comfy and let’s see what we know.” Chloe set a cup in front of Rachel.
Rachel pushed back into the banco that made a “U” around the kitchen table. The structure was stucco with the traditional rounded walls and a high back. Chloe had added long plush flame-stitched cushions in southwest colors on the seat and back. It was comfy and felt tucked away. A flat screen hung overhead and beautiful native pottery added a decorative, earthy touch to the shelves on the wall.
The friends sipped in companionable silence for a few minutes.
“He told you to stay out of their way,” Chloe said thoughtfully. “Who do you suppose they are and how could you possibly get in their way? In the way of what?”
“I don’t know. I’m writing a story on The Manhattan Project, but that’s as close as I get to WWII and Nazis,” Rachel said. “That was 70 years ago for god’s sake. I’ve no idea if that’s the connection or if there is a connection.
“There is something else,” Rachel said. “It could be significant.”
“And that is?”
“The Manhattan Project Santa Fe office was located in that building now occupied by Rainbow Man.”
“Oh my god,” Chloe sputtered. “How could I have forgotten that!”
“As soon as the word Nazi came up I remembered,” Rachel said. “I’ve been trying to consider other possibilities, but not coming up with any.”
“That’s because there aren’t any,” Chloe said definitively.
“But I still don’t know what it means. Okay, let’s say the big, scary guy is a Nazi and he kind of disappeared inside Rainbow Man, the former Manhattan Project office. So what? What does it have to do with the time of day or the price of gasoline?”
“And why is he threatening you and defacing your office?”
“We don’t know with certainty who graffitied the office. So we really don’t have anything?” Rachel said.
“Oh, we have something, we just don’t know what,” Chloe said stifling a yawn.
“Yeah, time for bed,” Rachel caught the yawn. She finished her toddy and rinsed out the cup.
“Night,” Chloe said. “And don’t worry; the alarm is set, the doors are locked.”
Rachel walked down the hall to the guest bedrooms. She and Chile Pod had a dedicated room of their own. When she entered, there was Chile curled up and fast asleep encircled by pillows. She knew there would be more Evian and luxury cat food in the bathroom, along with an automated litter box. There were toys scattered about and she could see that Chile had already picked out a soft, leopard print ball of fabric. It was lying on the bed next to her. Rachel sighed. Auntie Chloe could make almost any bad day better.
On the bedside table Rachel found her favorite chocolate in a Nambe silver dish. There was a small fridge in the dressing room which she knew would hold bottled water, juices, fruit and power bars. Chloe did her best to keep her healthy despite Rachel’s penchant for green chile cheese burritos. And there was a variety of teas on the counter next to the microwave and a small table cupboard that held cups, glasses, plates, napkins and some stevia. Chloe was trying to get her off sugar too. Even she had to admit that staying with Auntie Chloe was like living on Easy Street.
Chloe had thought of everything. There was a computer and printer/copier/fax on the desk should Rachel need them. A TV and stereo in the sitting area completed the suite’s accessories.
The only thing that bothered her was where in the hell to put all those pillows! Rachel took the larger ones and filled the two chairs, and then arranged the medium-sized ones on the desk until the top was covered. She left a couple of small ones around Chile, as if she could fall off, and began flipping the smallest ones across the room. This activity shortly lost its amusement factor.
She trudged into the bathroom where she came face to face with a new shower. Rachel stopped in her tracks, and evaluated the addition.
It had been installed since her last stay over. She had to admit it was beautiful; glass with wood panels covering the floor. Rachel stripped, placed a cushy bath mat on the floor and stepped inside the enclosure. After failing to find the usual knobs and levers that one used to perform a rather simple task like a shower, she saw there was a control panel.
“Oh no,” she grumbled. “I see Chloe is competing with NASA again.”
Staring at the array of options, she could see tiny pictures. Apparently one had to punch one to get water flowing. However there were also 20 of them—she counted—jets in the front and back of the stall. To further confuse the issue, there was a handheld shower head. She thought this to be the most straightforward way to get clean.
The panel also touted a radio, steam, aromatherapy and something called chromatherapy lighting. “Geez,” Rachel looked at the waterless shower head in her hand. “I just want some fucking water to come out of this thing.” She shook the nozzle. Nothing. She was getting cold.
Consulting the controls again she saw an image that might be water spraying and pushed it. Nothing at first. After a few seconds, steam began filling the stall.
“No, no, no!” She touched it again and tried another. Instantly, she was engulfed in loud music. Electric guitars screeched; drums pounded so hard she could feel the shock waves against her chest. She turned it off. “Dammit! The guy who installed this must have been a sadist!
“Something must turn on the water.” She puzzled over the panel again and chose another icon. Nothing happened. She sniffed. Fragrance was being released from some secret source. She took another whiff. Yes, that was definitely sandalwood. “Ugh, that’s the most suffocating odor.”“One more time for the team.” She poked another symbol. Suddenly she was deluged with water from overhead. “Oh crap, I didn’t want to get my hair wet,” she moaned. Too late to worry about that now. The tropical rain feature was a real drencher.
Now that she had water it was time to soap up. Luckily, she found a low-tech bar of soap on the built-in shelf. Once the paper covering was off she noticed the strobing effect. Somewhere lights were flashing. All she needed to make this experience complete was disco music.
Rachel looked up and saw the water falling from above was constantly changing color. “Well how do I stop that?”
Please select a color. She was prompted by a voice coming from the entrails of the control panel. Her fingers pressed more buttons. The jets came on full force hitting her body front and back.
Please select a color.
“Holy shit, I don’t want any color.”
Rachel began banging on the panel. If it had been a person, they would have called 9-1-1 to press charges.
Please select a color.
By now, she had soaped most of her body if you didn’t include her back or feet, but if you counted the pulverizing her back had taken, it had probably blasted off even the smallest microorganisms. In her frustration, she had managed to bash her elbows while thrashing around. There would be bruises.
Please select a color.
Was there no “Off” button? Apparently not.
Rachel tried to ignore the infuriating voice and rinsed off. Certainly she had enough water gushing at her from all directions to accomplish that.
Please select a color.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” She finally found the right button to turn off the water and the annoying voice stopped. Oddly, no water had ever come from the shower head she originally wanted to use, the one lying on the floor where she dropped it in frustration.
“Well, that was relaxing.” She opened the door and there sat Chile Pod, eyes big as saucers, ears cocked forward looking at Rachel as though she had completely lost her mind. Could a cat look flabbergasted? Yes, this one definitely did.
“Okay, so I didn’t do such a hot job of working the damn thing. So what? I’m mostly clean.” Chile Pod decided her person must be okay and headed back to her warm spot on the bed.
Rachel pulled a towel off the warmer and dried with Egyptian cotton so thick the water beads didn’t penetrate to the other side.
With the stink of sandalwood following her into the dressing room, she thought a tea, having finished her evening ablutions, would be just the thing to relax her. Once ensconced cross-legged on the bed, she opened her notebook with Emma Perkins’ interview. The envelope with the photos fell onto the bedding. She picked them up and absently thumbed through them. And then her heart nearly lodged in her throat.
There was the man; Mister Tall, Blonde and Scary!