The Factory | A Short Story

Digital drawing of half of my female main character's face, from The Factory. Drawing by on Instagram

263M watched as 274F pushed her mop across the factory floor.  The cans of carrots were backing up, but his hands had broken into a slippery sweat.  His job was to check for quality; was each can sealed properly, was the simple label on straight?

The labels held no words, only images. The man could not read. Could not remember what words were.

Every day, 274F came through, pushing her mop, her long brown braid tucked under a hairnet. In and out of the steam she moved, always focused on her mop as it danced across the floor. 

Every day, his heart beat faster.  

Every day, he grew more distracted. 

Every day, he questioned this sensation, this desire to look at the woman with the number 274F stamped on her sleeve.

Every day, the burning in his chest made him want to hold his breath until his heart calmed among the sounds of the factory.

Worker 263M had no name other than the one stamped on his uniform.  He had no history that he remembered, and up until a week ago, he had no emotion or thought.  

These had been taken from him.  

He had no memory of the before, and so it had been no great loss.

“263M!  You’re falling behind!”

In that moment, she looked up at him.  Her eyes, a pale grey, linked with his. Her forehead wrinkled as she tilted her head.

She tilted her head.

An image flashed through his.

He was surrounded by golden grasses, tall to his waist.  A young girl stood in front of him.  His body was small and they looked eye to eye.  The sun was setting and trees lined the horizon.

A photograph of golden grass, a sunset, trees in the distance / Loscotoff 2022

She held something up to him, a round object with brown hard spikes that curved inward.

Pinecone he thought, finding the unfamiliar word.

Her eyes were pale grey and she tilted her head.  She smiled as he took the prickly cone into his hands.

263M felt something heavy come down on his right shoulder as the pain radiated into his hand.  He heard the heavy clunk of the can he had been holding as it hit the floor.

The factory came into focus, the whites of the walls, and 263M realized that everyone had slowed their progress. Everyone’s cans were backing up.

“Back to work!” yelled the man at the top of the stairs, overlooking them all.

274F looked back down to the floor, her mop moving side to side, as she disappeared beneath the stairs. 

263M’s arm burned. He reached down to pick up the can of carrots, now dented and unsuitable for domestic consumption. He tossed it in the bin under the conveyer belt and continued to check the cans.

As 263M lay down in his bed, the top bunk in a long room, the walls lined with other beds and other numbers, he thought back to 274F’s pale grey eyes.  

These sensations were unfamiliar, foreign.

Building inside him, they seemed unreasonable, and yet there was a part of him that sensed unknown pleasure.  

He rubbed the scar on the back of his head, a small raised ridge.  Each of the male numbers had one, easy to see under their shorn hair. He found himself wondered if 274F had one under her long dark hair.  

Other women worked through the factory; cleaning, doing laundry.  All carried the flat affect of the men.  All wore hair nets and, as he rubbed the scar on the back, he began to wonder if they all had the mark as well.

He lay there, his eyes closed, and saw his hands reach out to her hair, the woman with the pale grey eyes, his hands caressing the back of her neck, testing with the tips of his fingers for the ridge.

The girl in his mind turned to look at him, she was taller now.

She wore a simple linen shift and he could see the shape of her breasts and the curve of her hips. Her pale grey eyes held his gaze.

“Why must you always play with my braid, Gideon?  You know that the elders say we aren’t to touch.” But her voice was sing-song and teasing.

A forest of trees stood behind her, a yellow blossom was tucked behind her ear. 

“Let’s go in the forest,” she whispered, “where no one can see us.”

She brushed her hand against his and they each turned back, looking through the field, checking for any eyes upon them.  Seeing no one, she grabbed his hand and pulled him, laughing towards the trees. 

The thick forest surrounded them with dappled light. 

Photograph of dappled light on the trees in the forest/Loscotoff 2022

As they moved into the shadows she turned and pressed her body into his, pressing him into a tree.  She pressed her mouth onto his lips, warm and sweet.  

He felt an old ache, deep in the pit of his groin.  

“Let go to the treehouse,” she whispered, her lips tickling his ear.

He couldn’t catch his breath and allowed her to lead him, deeper into the forest.  She continued to look back at him with her pale grey eyes.

They came to the ladder, branches that they had pieced together and wound with twine when they were children.  

This was their hidden place, their childhood home where they snuck to tell stories and imagine their lives together.

It was where they found their first kiss, where their intimacy grew. 

He followed her up the ladder to the nest they had made with old blankets.

“What’s this?” she exclaimed as he climbed through the small opening within the wooden planks.

He smiled, knowing she had found his surprise. 

He pulled himself through the hole and sat next to her, tracing her ear with his finger.  She was focused on a small bark box, with a bow of twine.

“Can I open it?” she asked.

He nodded, watching the light reflect in her pale grey eyes.

“What is it?” she asked, staring at the dark lump sitting at the base of the box. 

“One of the traders had it.  He said we are supposed to eat it, something called chawk-uh-late.  He said it came from the other side of the world.”

“Why did he give it to you?” she asked.

“Because I was willing to trade.”

“You didn’t!”

He smiled,  “Let’s try it.”

“Gideon!  Those morels were hard to find and they were worth more than this little clump of… chawk… what did you call it?”

“Chawk-uh-late, …something like that.”


But he leaned in and kissed her, stopped her from reprimanding him.

As he pulled back, he said, “The morels will grow there again, and it’s our secret.  How often does the trader come through with something new?”

She knew he was right.

She took the piece chocolate from the box and took a tiny bite.

Her forehead wrinkled and she tilted her head in the way that made Gideon love her. 

“Bitter,” she said.  “But warm and melty.  Here, you try.”  

Instead of handing him the box, she bit a piece off and held it in her mouth.  She pulled Gideon on top of her, pulling his face down to hers, pressing her mouth on his, the warmth of the chocolate melting between them.

The alarm pulled 263M from his dreams.

The men around him sleepily climbed from their bunks in their white shorts, bare feet on cold concrete, and headed to the showers.

263M was slower today, his mind remembering the dream where 274F pulled him to her.  He felt himself blush among the emotionless faces, quickly washing in the cold shower.

Today, he felt the cold, felt it run over his skin and felt the discomfort.  He wanted to be warm, wanted to be wrapped in her arms again with this food called chocolate melting in their mouths.

“263M!” came a yell from the man at the doorway.

He tried to straighten his face, tried to look empty like the other. 

He couldn’t remember how he would have once responded.

“They want you in the infirmary, 263M!”

The men, washing in the cold showers slowed, seemed to shake their heads a bit as if unaware of where they were.  

263M wrapped himself in a towel and pulled on a clean uniform, labeled with his number hung at the far end of the hall.  Everyday a new jumpsuit, every night the white uniform was thrown in a large cart for washing. 

He passed a guard at the door, his face shielded by a dark visor.

“You are expected in the infirmary, 263M.”

263M said nothing but an expression must have shown on his face.  The guard looked at him curiously and began to speak, but then seemed to think better of it and said nothing.

263M walked alone down the hallway.

A woman pushed a cart with laundry down the hall.  She didn’t acknowledge his existence, only looked straight ahead, her face expressionless. 

Sentries stood at different points along the way.  As he passed them, they ran a hand held device behind his head.

“Infirmary,” each little machine said and the guards shuffled him off in the proper direction.

The walls were white, the halls were long, and the 263M did not know where he stood within the building. He began seeing red crosses marked in the hallway with arrows pointing in the direction he moved.

There were more women here, washing and cleaning.  He watched for the girl with the grey eyes, hoping he would see her again, see her away from the factory. He imagined bumping into her, touching her hand.

He came to a large door with a red cross on it. It opened for him and he found himself inside a large empty white room with hard chairs seated around the edge.

He stood for a moment, looking around, unsure on what to do.  Finally he sat.  He leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. He imagined the sensation of her hair.  Imagined his feet tangled with hers in the treehouse; just a dream but so real.  He could smell the chocolate on her skin and taste the bitterness.

“263M?” said a deep voice.

He jerked up into his chair, eyes opening.

A man with glasses and a clipboard stood in front of him.  His hair was light and slicked back as if it were wet.

“I’m Doctor Mislio.  You had an event yesterday?”

263M wasn’t sure how to respond. He had never had someone ask him a question before.  The men on the floor didn’t speak.  The guards directed them and no one spoke in return. 

“Come into my office?” said the doctor, and he turned and walked through a white nondescript door.

263M followed.

There were no guards here.

As he walked through the door, he let out an audible gasp.

The walls were not white, they were a deep shade of blue and there was a picture window that looked out past a large concrete field.  At the edge of the concrete were two layers of barbed wire fencing.  Beyond that stood dense trees, a forest.

Forest, the man thought. Another unfamiliar word.

On the other wall was a dark mirror and 263M was intrigued by the the man staring back at him.  He saw the reflection of the doctor behind his desk and understood that the other man was him.

He was tall, much taller than the doctor.  He looked strong.  His hair was darker than the girls and his eyes a deeper grey. He thought he saw movement behind the glass, and so he turned away.

“Do you like the color?” asked the doctor, sitting down.  “Of the walls? I heard your breathing get a bit heavier as you walked in.  You must get so used to the white–everything white.  I’ve told them they should add some color as enrichment, but they don’t think your people need it.”

263M stood in the middle of the room, unsure on whether he was to respond.

“Sit.  It’s all right.” The doctor pointed at a soft grey chair against the wall.

263M sunk into the cushion and immediately felt himself relaxing.  He had not know what it was to feel comfort.

“You’re here because you had an event yesterday in the factory.  Do you remember?”  

The doctor waited, staring at him, saying nothing else.

263M waited, and finally, after minutes seemed to have passed, he nodded.

“Ah!  There you are!  There is something happening in there.  I thought there might be, I noticed you looking in the mirror. You wouldn’t do that if the chip was still functioning properly.  Wouldn’t look out the window either.”

263M continued to say nothing, realizing that the little nod of his head was all the man needed to confirm he was now different than the others.

“Tell me, what was it that triggered you to start feeling again? Do you even know?” 

263M stayed silent but thought of the woman’s grey eyes.

“No matter, your chip needs an extension.  I think you’re fine for today, but we will schedule you for tomorrow, first thing.  You will return to the line.”

263M continued to sit in the chair, staring at the doctor behind the desk.

The doctor didn’t look up when he said, “You can go now, Gideon.”

Gideon. The girl with the grey eyes called me Gideon in my dream.  Is my name really Gideon then?

The doctor pressed a button under his desk and a guard came to the door.

“Escort him back to the factory line.  Keep a watch on him, he’s starting to remember.  We’ll fix it in the morning.”

The guard nodded and pulled 236M from his chair, grabbing him by the upper arm and moving him out of the office, out of the empty room, and down the hallway.

As the guard led him through the white halls. He saw more women here, pushing carts, cleaning floors. They seemed to glance at him, make eye contact, and then look away.  Their faces were not as empty, their faces showed life.

They gave a little scratch of their ears or cheeks. They pulled up an eyebrow or the side of a lip.  But always, they returned to flat affect as quickly as they had shown him emotion.

The guard took him to the factory floor.

“Find your spot, work your day.  Whatever you think you’re feeling will be gone in the morning.  You might as well enjoy it.”

The guard released his arm and pushed him in the direction of the other men.  He moved to his spot at the conveyer belt and the wave of cans began.  He checked them, he tossed them in the bin if there was an error, he pushed them on if they were in good shape.

He daydreamed of the woman. 

Daydreamed of his fingers in her hair, of her mouth on his. 

He daydreamed of her hand tracing his arm.

They sat on the forest floor, a book spread out between them.  She was older again, her hair loose now around her shoulders.

“I can’t believe you were able to trade this for the morels,” she said.

“I can’t believe no one has followed us and found our spot,” he said.

She traced her finger over the illustration in the book; a heavily muscled man with a thick beard holding a scepter.  Lighting bolts flew through an illustrated sunrise, an eagle sat on his shoulder.

“I wish I could read the words,” she said.

“The trader said it is called a book, from a land called Rome, and this was their king.  His name was Jupiter.  It was said that Jupiter struck down his enemies with lighting and eagles.”

“Eagles?” she asked doubtfully?

236M felt something tap against his foot.  He had managed to keep the cans moving, although he didn’t think he’d given them any glance. He was sure he had allowed bad ones through, but no longer cared.  

Looking down he saw a mop, pushing back and forth against his foot, slopping water over his thin shoes.  His eyes moved up the mop to the woman who held it.

Her pale grey eyes looked intently at his.  Her mouth smiled slightly and for just a second, she reached her right hand out and delicately touched his hand which held a can of carrots. 

“Remember me,” she whispered and then moved away with her mop.

Photograph of a painting by Anna Loscotoff/2022

He saw her under a canopy of trees with yellow blossoms.  Their hands were wrapped in twine and she wore a crown of flowers, her hair cascading to her waist.  He slipped a thin golden ring on her finger, a negotiation from the trading wagon.

“We are bound, Gideon.  You are my husband and I am your wife, forever.”

He looked into her pale grey eyes.

“We are bound, Rebecca, forever.  You are my wife and I am your husband.”

They kissed under the yellow trees.

“263M!  Pay attention!”  yelled a voice from the stairs.

Gideon forgot the cans and begin to turn, looking for the woman.  She was near the wall now, near the stairs.

“Rebecca!” he yelled. She looked up at him, her eyes widening.

He felt hands close on his upper arms, pushing him down.

They were back in the forest, hiding in the depths of the shadows.  

“You have to run, Gideon.  I’m not as fast as you are.”

“I’m not going to leave you.”

“You have to,” she said, tears running down her cheeks. “Come back for me, if you can.  But you have to get away.”

Hoods came down over their heads.  Hands tightened around his shoulders.  In his memory, he heard her screams.

The tide of memory came down over him. 

His childhood friend, his Rebecca, playing with toys in the dirt as their fathers farmed and their mothers processed the yellow grain. Running through the fields.  Running through the forest.  Building a ladder that could be pulled up and hidden in their little playhouse in the trees.  Finding where the morels grew, sneaking there together, having enough for the village, having enough to trade for exotic treasures.  The morels brought attention to their little home. They were no longer hidden from the world.

The hands pinched into his flesh, pushing him down. He was back in the white walls of the factory. The men moved like robots as they checked the cans of vegetables moving down the conveyer belt.

Rebecca, standing under the stairs, was looking around frantically, like a bird searching for escape.

Gideon heard a thunk, the hands loosened on his arms, and the man holding him sunk to the floor.

Behind him stood number 102M; older, grizzled, grey.  He held a can up in the air, its lower rim dripping red blood.

“Run,” the old man said, his expression flat.

Gideon turned to Rebecca, her hand reaching out to him.

Whistles blew.  Guards ran in, down the stairs, from corners.

The men at the conveyor belts slowed until they were frozen and flat. 

And then a can flew through the air.  

And then another.

And another.

The air was full of heavy projectiles.  Cans of carrots and potatoes knocked the guards to their knees.

Gideon reached Rebecca and she dropped her mop, leading him to a side door hidden just beyond the staircase where she stood, the inner workings of the factory.

Women inside were cutting the vegetables, steam filled the room as they were blanched in huge metal cauldrons. The women did not look up from their cutting.  A guard lay dead on the floor, a paring knife jutting from his neck.

An older woman, number 212F, stood holding the door open on the opposite side of the room.

This led to a long white hallway and as they ran, more doors opened.  More women ushered them silently through, saying nothing, leading their way through a maze of hallways, upstairs, downstairs, through open rooms and tiny closets.

Finally, they found themselves in a dark hallway with a single light at the far end.  This light was different.  It was golden and reflected through a barred pane of glass.

They reached the door together, a key stuck out from the doorknob.

They turned the knob and saw the expanse of concrete stretched out before them.  A gate stood at the end of the concrete pad, unlatched and slightly open.

A guard stood at the gate.

Rebecca slipped the key from the door into her hip pocket and said, “Are you ready?  We have to run.”

“What about the guard?” he said.

She reached up and felt the scar on the back of Gideon’s head.  “The guard is like us, he was implanted this morning.”

They ran, hand-in-hand across the expanse of concrete.

The guard stood silent, his eyes glazed over, no expression on his frozen face.

Gideon and Rebecca slipped through the gate and into the forest. They ran through the duff, under the dark canopy, and finally, hearing no one behind them, stopped to rest in the hollow opening of an old tree.

They slid to the ground, catching their breath, slowly calming their hearts.

Finally, Gideon turned to the woman with the grey eyes. He reached his hand up to caress her face. She rested her cheek into his hand and gazed at him, her head tilted in the way he had come to love.

Rebecca leaned forward, pressing him against the inner bark of the tree, pressing her mouth to his.  

“I knew you could remember” she whispered against his mouth.

“What about the others?” he asked.

“Our rebellion has only begun,” she said and pulled him down into the warm earth.

Digital drawing of the main female character, drawing by
Art by,

Our Prompt This Week

Week 25 –

Bridgette’s work on this prompt | Chocolate Kisses

A. D. Reece’s work on this prompt | Three Little Words


When I was a little girl, somewhere around third grade, I used to spend the night at my best friend’s house.  It was a two-door house—one in the front, one in the kitchen—two bedrooms and a single bath with a combined living room and dining room.  Just past my best-friend’s bedroom was another room.  A dark room with little light and old wood paneling on the walls. 

I imagine the room was something else at one point, perhaps an add-on or something unfinished, maybe an old storage shed.  

They set it up to be a guest bedroom with a bed and a TV.  That’s where we would sleep.

My best friend had something my family didn’t, and I looked forward to every moment we were allowed to watch; HBO.  MTV.  These were the days of unending music videos. 

We would lay in that bed with music videos running all night.

It felt secretive.  It felt like lying to my parents.  Was I allowed to watch MTV back then?  I don’t think so; that and Three’s Company were off limits.

It also felt creative and exciting and mind bending.

One night, and it is possible it was a dream, a video came on long past my best friend had gone to sleep.  Even now, some 40 years later, I remember the impact it had on me.

The entire video was in shades of white and involved humans without emotion.  It was very long to my child’s mind—like a short film—much longer than the other videos of the time. I believe it was all instrumental.

The subjects were workers of some sort and they moved in 80’s stilted robotic fashion.  

The man, the focus of the video, soon began to feel.  He fell in love with a woman still trapped in her numb automation. He tried to wake her up, tried to make her love him back. 

She reported him to the authorities, not understanding emotion or love.  The authorities took him to surgery, opened his brain, and disconnected the center that allowed for love.  

He went back to his routine robotic life.

Suddenly, she woke up and realized she loved him too. 

A tragedy.

He was simply a robot once again and she was heartbroken.

That was my inspiration for this story.

I never saw that video again in my life but I’ve always wondered what it might be.  If you have any idea what this was, please leave a message below or email me; 

Thank you to my daughter, on Instagram, for providing me Rebecca’s face and specifically her eye.

If you liked this story, please share it. Sharing it really does make a difference to my life.

Every Friday, I send out a newsletter with any recent writing.  You can sign up for it here.

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Jupiter, Roman God

Top 12 Most Expensive Mushrooms in the World

Isobell Dohn Art – Instagram

Hansel and Gretel running through the woods. Encaustic with silk, paper, pen, colored pencils. Original mixed media by Anna Loscotoff.
A painting I did of Hansel and Gretel which reminded me of Gideon and Rebecca running through the forest. \ Loscotoff 2022

Next Week’s Prompt

Week 26 – A dystopian glimpse of the future

Include: wheelchair, Labrador, throne, jungle, prescription, railroad, trunk, gulley, wasp, photosynthesize

My 52-Weeks So Far

What is the 52-Week Short Story Challenge

Week 1 – Avalon

Week 2 – The Rifle

Week 3 – The Cardboard Prince

Week 4 – Rapture in Reverse

Week 5 – Drink the Kool-Aid

Week 6 – The Hitchhiker

Week 7 – The Flame

Week 8 – The Community

Week 9 – The Cult of Cait

Week 10 – The Tango

Week 11 – The Imperfect Self

Week 12 – A Murder of Crows

Week 13 – The Cufflinks

Week 14 – Andromeda’s Lament

Week 15 – White Coats

Week 16 – My Forever Love

Week 17 – The Dilemma of Purpose

Week 18 – Honey – A Story of Love and Time

Week 19 – The Light

Week 20 – Superman

Week 21 – Hierarchy

Week 22 – Secrets

Week 23 – Paradise

Week 24 – l’Empire de la Mort

l’Empire de la Mort | A Short Story

Photograph of skulls in the catacombs of Paris/ Loscotoff 2016

Author note – This is a continuation of Week Four’s Rapture in Reverse. I recommend reading it first. You can read it HERE.

l’Empire de la Mort

Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort!

Stop! This is the empire of death!

The Catacombs of Paris
l'empire de la mort / Loscotoff 2016

I will die soon.  The sign over the door predicts my fate. 

I sit amongst the bones of six million Parisian.  I have become frail and tired.  I miss the sun.  I miss being warm.

I remember the day that the world changed.  May 30, 2041.  As the world woke, from time zone to time zone, people were missing.  Those who saw it said it was like watching a picture fade until the person was gone. Wives, husbands, children, whole communities.

I was hiding in Paris.  Hiding from my old life. Starting a new one.

I’d dreamed of freedom as a little girl, watching the buffalo as they wandered across the plains of Montana.  My parents made me always wear a dress and keep my hair braided and clean.

I wanted the braids to come loose.  I wanted to wear pants and dance under the moonlight.

But there was no escape from my tiny Montana town.  No escape from our church that had wrapped me in its communal arms; the motherboard of our community, the backbone in which everyone and everything connected.  No escape from my rigid parents, the role of dutiful daughter, one of three girls; me, the youngest. 

Until I became the dutiful wife.

I was only 17 when the new youth pastor arrived.  He was beautiful and mysterious to my small world. He was 22 and I imagined him giving me the freedom I had always craved.

He kissed me under a sycamore tree and carved our names into the bark—Jeremiah and Jenny—sealing our commitment to each other.

I remember our wedding. 

It was my 18th birthday and I wore my mother’s yellowing wedding dress; high collared and buttoned at the wrist.  My hair hung in long brown braids. The Montana Tulip was in bloom and I wore a flower crown picked from my mother’s front yard.

My parents sat in the first row looking proud at their place of honor—their new stature within the church.

Drawing by 2022
art by / 2022

The very first night, he hit me. 

I didn’t know how to leave or what life could look like beyond the plains with the buffalo.

I stayed for another year, hiding the bruises under long sleeves and long dresses.  He began to talk about children, and I knew I couldn’t bring them into this world, not with him as their father.  

One night, after dinner with my parents, I excused myself to their bathroom.  I snuck into their bedroom and lifted a secret loose board in the floor.  

I took $300, hoping it wasn’t enough to be missed right away, and folded it into my restictive bra. I saw an envelope tucked beneath the old tin box.  Inside were our birth certificates–one, two, and three–my sisters and I.

I took them all.

I went home with my husband and allowed him to beat me one last time.  

As he lay snoring, I slipped out the back door and ran to the end of our country road where my sister was waiting for me.  She drove me to the bus station in the next town over.  

She kissed me goodbye, told me to go with God, and slipped another $103 into my hand.

It’s all I had, she said.

I tried to give it back to her.

You need it more than I do, she said.  Don’t tell me where you’re going. I won’t be able to lie to them.

I gave her the envelope with her birth certificate and that of our sisters’.

Now you can go somewhere if you want to, I said.  Give it to sis for me?

A bus left for Idaho at 6 am, and I was on it.  

I made my way to New York, always looking over my shoulder. I thought I could get lost there. I took a job as a waitress and saved every penny I could, sleeping in a crowded women’s shelter at night with screaming babies and exhausted women.

But I was free, as free as I could be.

I applied for a passport. 

I had seen the Eiffel Tower in an encyclopedia at school once. I’d only been allowed to go to school through the 6th grade. 

Why do girls go to school? my father used to say.  You need to learn from your mother, how to churn butter and care for the land.

But still, I dreamed of looking out over that dreamlike city of Paris.

Never did I imagine that I would die in its underbelly.

My passport came and I carried it like treasure, tucked into a cloth belt that sat hidden at my waist along with the money I made.  

I didn’t feel safe, but I was afraid to fly; didn’t know how to buy an airplane ticket or what an airport even looked like.

Until the day came that I walked into my waitress job and another waitress said, A man came looking for you today, Jenny.  He left this for you.  Said he’d be back.

A red tulip.

I slipped out the back, didn’t even collect my last paycheck.  I had seen the signs for JFK on the subway.  I asked other women for help and they seemed to understand the terror in my eyes.  They called me honey and darling and directed me each step of the way.

The airport was huge with people moving everywhere.  I didn’t understand how to buy a ticket or how to ask questions and finally slumped into a corner and began to cry.

An older woman in a uniform came up to me, a cap on her head and a pin with wings on her chest.

Are you okay? she asked.

What could I say that could explain my ignorance.

I’ve never been to an airport before, I said.  But I need to get out of the city.

Do you have a ticket? she asked.

I shook my head.  I have money though.  And a passport.

The woman smiled.  

Do you know where you want to go?

I’d like to see the Eiffel Tower.  I saw it in a book once.  

She pulled her phone out of her pocket and I thought perhaps she’d forgotten me.  

A photo looking up at the Eiffel Tower/ Loscotoff 2016

Finally, she said, There is a flight leaving for Paris in about 5 hours, I can show you how to buy a ticket.  I’m Lisbet, you can call me Liz.  Do you have a name?

She must have seen the panic on my face, but seemed to understand my thoughts.  

Once you’re through those gates, she whispered conspiratorially, only someone who has bought a ticket will be able to go through.  Whoever you’re trying to get away from, do they know you’re here?

I shrugged.  They had found me in the city.

Come on, she said. 

She took me to a counter with a woman who had on a uniform with the same logo.

Hi Celia, she said to the woman behind the counter, this is a friend of mine.  I’d like to buy her a ticket for the 13:20 to Paris.  And I want to make sure she can wait in the VIP lounge until the flight leaves.  Can we make sure this happens?  

She pulled out her credit card.

I tried to protest, but she turned to me and said, You don’t look like you have much.  Let me help you.

Thank you, I whispered.  

For the first time in my life, I felt loved, loved by someone who didn’t even know me. Someone who wanted nothing from me.

The woman behind the counter asked for my passport and the idea of taking it from my hidden belt terrified me. I realized I was still wearing my apron. I used it to hide my legs as I reached up under my simple dress and pulled the passport from the belt.

Both women averted their eyes while also making a barrier so that others wouldn’t notice my caution.

Do you have any bags? The woman behind the desk asked.

I shook my head no.

Soon, I had my passport back.

You’re going to need that to get through security, said Liz, and again to get on your flight.  I recommend we get you some other clothes so that it’s easier for you.  

I nodded my head.

I saw your name was Jennifer, on your ticket?

I go by Jenny, I said.

She took me through security, flashing a card that seemed to stop all questions.  She bought me pants with elastic at the waistband and a soft sweatshirt. She tucked my long hair up into a baseball cap and put sunglasses over my eyes. 

I tried to pay, but she wouldn’t let me, claiming she had needed to use the points on her card.  I didn’t know what she meant but felt a growing excitement.

There, I’m going to take you to the VIP lounge, but even if whoever you’re running from sees you, I don’t think they’ll recognize you.

She turned me to face a mirror on the wall and I didn’t even recognize myself.

She took me to a room with soft chairs and TVs on the wall, coffee and tea next to cookies and sandwiches.   Then she went and spoke to someone in another uniform.  

Returning, she said, When it’s time for your flight, I’ve arranged for someone to come and get you.  They will get you on board.  Someone will meet you on the other end and help you get settled for the night.

Then she held her hand out to me as if I were her equal.  

I hope you find a good life in Paris, she said.

I remember that sensation of the plane lifting off as if it were yesterday.  Holding my breath, my body feeling heavy, and then seeing the world grow smaller beneath us; the ocean stretching out in all directions.

I slept.  The first solid sleep I’d had since marrying Jeremiah. 

When I arrived in Paris, a woman met me at the gate, holding a sign that simply said, Jenny.

They took me to a small hotel, hidden amongst the other buildings of Paris, and told me that my room had been paid for a month.  There was a shared bathroom on my floor and the room was the size of a closet, but the sheets and walls were clean.

The front desk gave me a card, the name of a restaurant, and told me they may have a waitress job for me.

I started small, serving drinks and seating diners.  But I worked my way up and could survive on my small salary, eating baguettes and cheese and fruit.  

I lived a simple life, a good life, a safe life. A few years passed. I turned 21, then 22.

That was the year the rapture came.  May 30, 2041.

Half of the people of Paris disappeared.  Just faded overnight.  Half of the people I knew were gone.

And I was left.  

This Christian girl from the midwest who still prayed but wasn’t sure that God actually listened.  I lived in a space of doubt; why would a God who loved me let a godly man hit me?  Why would my parents keep me meek?

Why would God make the buffalo to run wild and free but keep me locked up?  A servant to those who wanted to control me.

The scientists were gone.  The atheists.  All the world religions that did not believe in Christ had simply disappeared. 

I didn’t know what I was or what I believed, I was somewhere in the middle space of confusion.  

Those of us who were undecided were also left behind. 

Food was in surplus. Homes were in surplus. 

Travel stopped. The skies cleared.  

We all lived in a state of survival.  

I didn’t waitress, who would I waitress for? I learned to bake bread at what had been a local bakery.  We gave it freely, while other places made soup and stews.  Farmers gave of their crops.  Gas was plentiful, traffic was sparse.

Still, they lit the Eiffel Tower, my beacon of hope.  

Photograph of the Eiffel Tower at Night/ Loscotoff 2016

In exchange for bread and my help with cleaning and errands, I was allowed to move into a room that, if I stood, just right on a small balcony, I could see the Eiffel Tower.  I had my own bathroom.  It smelled of mildew, but it was mine.

I knew that I was safe.  

But I was wrong. 

We lived like this, for almost two years. 

Travel began again, although limited.  You couldn’t simply walk into an airport and buy a ticket. Trains once again connected Europe.

How simple our lives had been.  How convenient. 

The churches took over the government.  And why shouldn’t they?  There was no one left to argue the division of church and state.  

Laws reverted to those the church thought relevant. 

Abortion was outlawed.  The LGBTQ community was quieted and made to go underground. Different sects in different regions enforced their own laws, and the laws reflected a different time of history. 

Birth control was stolen and hidden, passed along secretly between women. 

Female doctors secretly implanted IUDs that would last for years and men began to undergo vasectomies.

There were too many uncertainties. 

The devout believed they must convert all of us, all of us who sat in the middle.  They believed that Jesus would come, but only when we hade all have been saved.

Almost two years passed, then, in March of this year, it seemed that the whole earth began to shake.  Buildings fell, and the oceans rushed onto the shore of every continent. 

More died. The face of the planet shifted.

Paris survived.

My small apartment stood, although with cracks in the walls.

The Eiffel Tower continued to light.

I continued to bake bread. 

I continued to live.

We were told that the earthquakes brought an island to the surface in the middle of the Atlantic.  We were told the governements believed it to be the lost island of Atlantis, sunk into the ocean before the first coming of Christ. 

Rumor said there were people there and research vessels headed to rescue them.

Ships ready to spread the word of God.

And we waited.  Waited to hear about this new world of myth.  Waited in hopes of understanding.

The trees turned golden and then lost their leaves.

One night, only a few weeks ago, near the beginning of December, I found myself walking along the Seine. The moon was overhead and I watched her reflect her light in the flow of the river. 

It was quiet here, near the Musee d’Orsay.

In the distance, I began to hear what sounded like the squawk of ravens, a calling and trilling and alerting. 

Raven did not fly at night.  I stopped and listened.

Suddenly, a flock of birds flew overhead, shadows reflected by the now limited lights of the city.  They followed the Seine, traveling its twisting form as if it were a guide, from the west and heading east, a larger flock than I had ever seen, blotting out the sky.  

Ravens, flying at night, trying to escape.  Or perhaps a warning. 

I ran to the next set of stairs, heading up to the street level. I watched as the ravens flew, calling their alert, and watched as the flock appeared to turn south, to follow the Seine out of the city.

Then the screams began.  Coming from the same direction the birds had. 

It was getting louder as it came my direction.

I felt frozen, the world dreamlike.  

What was coming for me?  Where could I hide?

I looked back towards the Orsay and thought I saw movement.

People; stumbling, falling.

I turned, looking in the direction of the birds, now out of the sight.

A mechanical roar began to rise, the sound of a motorcycle came from behind me, passing me and skidding to a stop. 

Montez! Allez! Allez!

He was waving his hand at me, telling me to get on his bike.  

I did not think a second more.  I ran and climbed on the back.  

I found myself holding on to this body in front of me as the wind tangled my hair.

The motorcycle moved down foreign streets, turning and shifting with confidence.

We turned a corner and there was a woman helping a child as she climbed down through a manhole, the cover pushed aside.  Another man stood to the side, frantically looking up and down the street.

He waved to us and began to yell, Vite!

My driver came to a halt, next to the hole. 

Allons-y, he said. Let’s go

Vite! Vite! the man with the street cover again yelled.

Leaving the bike, I swung my legs into the hole.  C-shaped bars clung to the walls, descending into darkness. 

I began to climb, the ladder seemed never ending.  The motorcycle driver came next, holding a flashlight, and then the man at the top followed, pulling the cover and sealing us in this underground world.

I began to see light below me; two children—girls that looked like twins—, a woman, and a teenage boy, all stood at the base of the ladder, silent and holding on to each other.  

Photograph of the Catacombs of Paris, bones and a light leading to a door / Loscotoff 2016

Louise and Emma, Elaine, and Henri. They would become my life. And Alexandre, the man on the bike, who would never give up.

The ground and walls were covered in thick dust. There was a metal gate and the walls had numbers and letters carved into them; coordinates to identify where you were. 

When the last man arrived, he began to lead us along the cold and dark hallways.  There were compasses carved into the walls, showing north and south.  There were occasional street names, showing the roads that ran above our heads. 

We came to what looked like the end of the tunnel, with only a catlike hole at shoulder level.  

I thought we had come to the end when the man stuck his head and shoulders through the hole and seemed to slip through.  He reached back and helped the children, the teen, the woman, and finally, me.

I found myself in a cavernous space, with stairs and arches and graffiti on the walls.

Photograph of an arch in the catacombs of Paris/ Loscotoff 2016

There were more people here, perhaps 20, all speaking in whispers.

As a group, we began to move.

The man from the motorcycle came to stand next to me.

Where are we? I whispered.

You are American? he whispered back.

Yes, I’m sorry. I can speak French, I’ve been here for years, I just, when I get scared, I have trouble finding the words… Je suis désolé, je divague.

It’s okay, you don’t have to apologize, and you are not rambling.  I can speak English, he said in a strong French accent.

Where are we?  I repeated 

The catacombs, he said.

Why?  What was all the screaming?

The monsters, he said.  The monsters have come.

What monsters? I asked.

The monsters of Atlantis, and then we continued to move deeper in the world of the bones.

Photograph of a skull in the Catacombs of Paris/ Loscotoff 2016

The weeks have passed. Time down here makes no sense and the tunnels seem endless.  We can not wander on our own, it’s too easy to become disoriented and lost. We stay mostly within the two manicured tourist miles, despite being surrounded by the dead.  This area is safer. Other tunnels, over 200 miles worth, are more confusing, many have collapsed and still others have floors covered with the bones of the French. To be lost in the catacombs is another form of death and insanity.

The entrances are locked with metal bars, but there are so many unknown entrances and exits to these mazes.  

Discovery parties look for secret exits, bringing back food and water when they can, looking for safety.  But the supplies have dwindled and our population is getting smaller; many of our discovery parties come back with fewer people, if they come back at all.

I hear a rumbling in the guts of the catacombs. 

Moans, grunts, echoing through the hallways. 

There are rumors that one of us was eaten; rumors that the creatures can take our memories, and when they do, they will know the secrets of the catacomb. 

Alexandre comes running into the room.

“Il faut courir!”  We have to run!

And now I hear the screams, echoing from distances in the catacombs.

Louise and Emma cuddle closer into my body.  They have adopted me as their mother.

I look at them both, “Soit brave, il faut courir.”  Be brave, we have to run.

Echoing up through the tunnels, wails of agonly, we don’t know how far or how long we have.

I take their hands and run behind Alexandre, up the spiraling stairs to the exit the public used to know. 

He unlocks the gate and I feel the fresh air, want to breathe it in, but there is no time. 

I feel sunlight on my skin, am blinded by the suddenness of the light. For weeks, I have been a creature of the dark.

Everything is a blur as my eyes struggle to focus.

“Vite! Vite!”

I make out the outline of a car as my eyes begin to adjust.

Elaine, clutching the wheel, her eyes are locked forward in an intense focus.  Henri standing with the back door open, he leaps in, his arms spread to take the children.

Alexandre lifts Emma and I lift Louise and we run in the warm daylight, Henri pulling hem into the back. I follow them and slam the door shut while Alexandre climbs into the passenger seat.

Elaine begins to drive.  

There are automated bodies dragging themselves down the street, their skin greenish and peeling.

One looks up and makes eye contact.

There is thought behind those eyes. A smile on his lips.

I will die soon, but not today.

Photograph of skulls in the Catacombs of Paris/ Loscotoff 2016

This Week’s Prompt

Week 24 – The early days of the zombie apocalypse.

Include the words; motherboard, buffalo, Eiffel Tower, raven, motorcycle, envelope, tulip, moon, reflect, sycamore

Read my writing partner Bridgette’s story here.

Read A. D. Reece’s story here


Week four of our 52-week challenge gave us the prompt, “a missionary in a remote village.” My story that week could have easily fit this week’s story of “the early days of the zombie apocalypse.” I came into this week with the goal of continuing the original story.

Finding a place to start was my challenge.

I began by continuing with the story of the missionary, his thoughts clear but his body disintegrating. He was plagued by hunger but knew that if he ate everyone on board, there would be only him and a failed mission to bring “the truth” to those left in the world.

I was going to have him turn the captain into this new way of being and bring the captain “food” so that the captain would take the memories. I would have them turn any vital members of the crew into the thinking version of the zombies, save the rest as food, and then turn around and head back to Atlantis. There, they would rescue the Atlantians, stopping in the Canary Islands to eat the population before heading to dock in Barcelona.

But I couldn’t find a rhythm. Neither the journal entry form of the first story nor a first-person narrative worked for me.

My daughter suggested an approach of several different viewpoints; newscasters around the world, journal entries from different people, and newspaper articles.

I then began to imagine journal entries from an opposing force, someone different that the missionary of the first story.

I kept imagining a story that took place in the catacombs of France; a place I am so grateful to have visited in my life. Tunnels that date back to the 13th century. Bones of humanity are stacked like art, bones that date back more than 1,200 years. It is a reverent place despite the macabre.

Then my daughter and I discussed a more sentimental story. She talked about a mother and a daughter waiting for death as the zombie apocalypse happened around them; reliving their life together. She is of the opinion that my sentimental stories are better than the twisty ones.

This took me back to a single subject, a young woman, reliving her life. It started as journal entries, but I wanted to give you, the reader, a chance to read of their escape and that didn’t work with the journal. I also wanted to work with the sentimental ideas that my daughter talked about.

I removed all reference to her writing (why would she have a journal down there with her anyway?) and chose to let us live in her memories until the time of escape came.

This brings us here, dear reader.

We visited the catacombs in 2016. All pictures are from our trip.

We walked something like 22 miles that weekend, walking along the Seine across the city. It was one of the best weekends of our lives.

One of the neatest links I found this week was about the illegal trips into the hidden entrances of the catacombs. There are miles of tunnels that are forbidden, with unexpected entrances. I’ve included a link to a really neat article with lots of pictures in the links below.

I hope you enjoyed this continuation of the story. If you did, I hope you’ll share it with someone you’d want to explore the catacombs with.

Special thanks to my daughter for letting me use her art for Jenny. Please follow her on Instagram at

Every Friday, I send out a newsletter with any recent writing.  You can sign up for it here.

I’m in the process of creating a new art website, you can sign up for notifications at

Photo of the Catacombs/Loscotoff 2016


Beneath Paris’ City Streets, There is an Empire of Death Waiting for Tourists | The Smithsonian

The following link is about the very illegal ways of touring the hidden entrances of the catacombs. I highly recommend it as it has some amazing photos: Penetrating the Paris Catacombs: Level One | Messy Nessy (the secret entrances)

It’s Illegal, But Here’s What It’s Like to Go Inside the Catacombs in Paris

Isobell.Dohn.Art on Instagram

Next Week’s Prompt

Week 25 – The main character thwarts traditional gender roles.

Include: woman, bestseller, buttress, goldfish, barnyard, walkway, crop, winter, driveway, steer

My 52 Weeks So Far

What is the 52-Week Short Story Challenge

Week 1 – Avalon

Week 2 – The Rifle

Week 3 – The Cardboard Prince

Week 4 – Rapture in Reverse

Week 5 – Drink the Kool-Aid

Week 6 – The Hitchhiker

Week 7 – The Flame

Week 8 – The Community

Week 9 – The Cult of Cait

Week 10 – The Tango

Week 11 – The Imperfect Self

Week 12 – A Murder of Crows

Week 13 – The Cufflinks

Week 14 – Andromeda’s Lament

Week 15 – White Coats

Week 16 – My Forever Love

Week 17 – The Dilemma of Purpose

Week 18 – Honey – A Story of Love and Time

Week 19 – The Light

Week 20 – Superman

Week 21 – Hierarchy

Week 22 – Secrets

Week 23 – Paradise

Paradise | A Chapter

Sunset in Paradise , Bahia/ Loscotoff 2011

We set out early, the ocean calm and the sun just rising over the horizon.  The colors of the sky and water mimic each other’s pastel blues, the puffy white clouds reflect in the clear flat ocean. 

Every year we meet in paradise; always somewhere with crystalline waters and a turquoise sky. Beautiful locations with thick green leaves and various shades of sand, where the sun beats life into a yellow glow.

I marvel at the clarity of the colors; away from the dry desert heat, the grey city skies, the congested desiccated lives that we all live.

Four of us, best friends from college, come from different parts of the globe—different lives, different commitments.  Sarah, Jess, and Mae.

Sarah married her college sweetheart and moved to France. Jess jumps from partner to partner, always falling in and out of love; in love with being in love, traveling around the world for a new face.  Mae married her job, and moved to New York; she is attached to her phone, her computer, her online meetings.

And me. 

Alone and bored. 

In the same town I grew up in. I didn’t know what to do after college, so I went back to the place I always dreamed of leaving.

I work.  But that is all it is; a daily cubical with a screen staring back at me.

I date.  But that’s all it is; occasional dinner, occasional sex. The faces aren’t new, most of them are the same faces from high school.

My life has faded into routine, and not a routine I like.

Even this trip, with Sarah, Jess, and Mae giggling over champagne and strawberries. 

Sarah talks about her husband and her kids, about wanting to have more babies, about how they have tried and tried, but the last baby is starting kindergarten and maybe she can’t have any more children. 

Jess flirts and talks about her insatiable sexual appetite, imagining what the bartender and waiter would be like in bed; one, the other, both together. 

Mae checks her phone with every vibration, telling us about upcoming meetings and mergers and unreliable employees.

It has all become predictable. 

The same trip every year under slightly different skies. The hoards of tourists litter the beaches like an invasion of cockroaches. 

We are cockroaches like the rest.

The thing that keeps me coming back is the sea; the familiar weight pressing in on me as I listen to my own breath, in and out, a meditative silence. To dive is to find my center of balance if only once a year. 

If only with these three women.

The sun lingers over the horizon as our skipper drops anchor in the shelter of a secluded bay. He raises the red flag with the white diagonal stripe, letting other boats know there are divers in the water.

I’m partnered with Mae, clinical and organized.  We go through our partner BWRAF checklist.  

We check that our quick releases and toggles are clear with no binding or tangles, looking at the low-pressure inflators to be sure we know how these specific ones work and that the air is flowing. 

We check our weight belts, checking the releases should one of us get in trouble.  

Mae tugs on my tank to be sure it’s secure and then turns for me to do the same.  

We check that our valves are fully open with a tiny turn back, check our tank pressure and each take some full breaths, to be sure that our oxygen tastes and smells normal, and that we are getting our necessary air. 

We each breathe from the other’s alternative air source, our life supply should something happen to our own.  

We check our dive watches, our masks, and give each other and the skipper our final okay.

All four of us ready, we move to the platform which sits slightly underwater on the back of the boat.  I go first, placing my right palm over my regulator and fingers over my mask so they don’t get dislodged as I hit the water.  I hold my weight belt with my right hand so that it doesn’t unhook and sink. 

I take a giant stride, my left leg stepping far from the platform as I feel the water swirl up around me; my breathing and the bubbles of the water the only sound. The ocean water fills the spaces between me and my suit, cool against my skin.

I glimpse the underwater world, my refuge, and bob back up to the surface.

I put my fist on my head, the signal that I am okay.  I paddle my feet, moving away from the boat, and feel the familiar power of kicking that fins provide.

Mae steps in next and swims to where I am, away from the boat but close, so that we can come together as a group before we descend.  

While Mae is my partner, the four of us tend to stay close together, each finding animal life and pointing it out. 

I feel a certain peace with the weight of the water splashing over my shoulders. The excitement of the dive is building in me.

I want to descend; am ready to descend. 

Even with the others at my side, I feel alone when I’m beneath the surface. I long for that feeling of isolation.

Together, we face our partners and begin to release air from our vests. Keeping eye contact, very slowly we sink, the sea covers the tops of our heads.  We move steadily, adjusting the pressure in our ears and we become a part of the depths. 

Learning to scuba / Loscotoff 2022

This is not a deep dive, our first dive of this trip.  Most of the ocean floor here sits between 30 and 50 feet, moving deeper towards the open ocean. We have come to the bay to see an old wooden ship, sunk hundreds of years ago, and the plant and animal life that has formed around it. 

Sinking slowly, we find our equilibrium, our feet hovering a few feet from the bottom.  We are always careful to keep our fins from touching, to leave that white sandy world alone.

Our bodies are leaning forward now, our feet stretching out behind us.  Mae and I give each other the signal that we are okay and she points in the direction of the wreck.  I signal my yes and together we begin to move.

Brightly colored fish dance around us as we glide through the water.

You must always know where your partner is in this underwater world.  You are their safety and they are yours.  

I still pretend that I am alone down here; that this is my world.  The only place I feel at home.

Mae points and makes the hand sign of a sea turtle. 

I see it. 



We move toward the creature, gliding easily through beams of yellow light. 

We watch with reverence, keeping our distance, but following gently as it heads in the direction of the old wooden ship, now broken and decayed at the ocean bottom.

The turtle makes a sharp turn to the right and in the distance, in the direction it is headed, I see something glimmer.  It appears to be an arch, but within the light of the water, I’m not sure what it is I’m seeing.

Sea Turtle while scuba diving in Southern Brazil/ Loscotoff 2011

I get Mae’s attention and point in the direction the turtle is headed, now away from the wreck.

Mae shakes her head and points back to the broken wooden remains.  This is why we came, I can almost hear her words echoing in my head.

I point again towards the turtle and the arch, curious.  I put my hands together like I am pleading with her.  It is not a standard scuba signal, but she gets my meaning. 

She waves to Sarah and Jess, and points in the direction I want to go.  They give us the okay signal and turn to come with us.

The archway becomes clearer as we move closer; a complex curving stack of stones on the ocean floor. They reflect black, like obsidian. 

It appears to be shrouded in golden mist, which makes no sense to me, being underwater.  

Everywhere else down here, the water is clear.

As we move closer, I point to the arch, but Mae shakes her head and shrugs her shoulders.  She points back to the sunken boat.

I swim closer.  The water seems warmer here.

I point again at myself and then at the arch. I want to go closer.

She shakes her head and points back to the underwater boat.

Sarah and Jess are just behind Mae, but they seem disinterested. 

There was nothing in the guidebooks or websites about this unique structure. We can’t be the first to see it and I can’t understand their lack of curiosity.

I swim back to Mae and take her hand and with the other point back to the arch.

What I can see of her face appears annoyed. She shakes her head, shrugs her shoulders, and then waves her hand in the direction of the arch.  

She seems to be signaling that she doesn’t understand what I’m looking at, as if what I’m seeing isn’t even there.

I point at myself one last time, point at the arch, and then point to her and hold up my hand.  I am trying to tell her “Give me a minute to look, but you can wait there.”

She seems to understand, although I can make out a face of confusion behind the mask.  She signals an okay with her hand.

I feel like the turtle as I swim to the arch.  It is perhaps 8 feet tall and another 8 feet from base to base. I want to swim through it, feel the need to swim through it.  Then I will go back to my friends, go back to the undersea wreck.  

The closer I get, the mistiness seems to clear.  But when I look back at my friends, they are the ones who appear cloudy.

Just a quick swim through the arch.

The water is colder as I reach the beautiful structure of black rock.

I rarely use my hands when scuba diving. My head leads the way, my hands hold together at my chest, helping me correct my balance, and my feet propel me forward.

My head moves through the arch first. 

The light through the water changes.

No longer does the sun beam as rays through the water. It is as if the water itself glows yellow, like honey.

A photo of fish under the sea in yellow/ Loscotoff 2022

I turn back to my friends, feeling a sense of accomplishment, a satisfaction of doing what I wanted to do. I feel free.

My breath catches, and for a moment I almost let go of the respirator between my teeth.

Behind me, the landscape is different. 

The arch lies as a pile of rubble, scattered black rocks on a black sandy-bottomed bay.  Cliffs jut out among deep shadows that look like caves.

My breathing quickens as I look for my friends and begin to swim back in their direction.

No friends, no sunken boat that I can see. 

The bottom is stretching further down, becoming deeper.  The plant life is nestled next to the black rocky cliffs. 

It is yellow and gold and red, autumnal under the sea. 

A creature, squat and round with tiny legs and what appear to be wings soars in front of me.

Penguin? I think. That’s impossible, there are no penguins here…

Another swims past, darts past.

As I turn beneath the honey-colored water, trying to follow it visually, I see that there are more swimming among the cliffs.

They are shaped like small penguins, darting among the crags and caves. 

I look up to the surface, I am deeper than I was; deeper than I should be.

While the water is golden, there is no light shining in from the surface.  Beyond the water appears dark, a deep shade of purple.

An image of fish swimming, golden at the bottom, purple at the top /Loscotoff 2022

Oxygen, I think.  Oxygen runs out faster at deeper levels. 

I look at my pressure gauge.  No, that doesn’t make sense.

Time goes quickly when diving, but I haven’t been down here long enough to be this low. 

I must start ascending, and I need to do it slowly so nitrogen doesn’t cause bubbles in my blood.  If I drop my weight belt, I will rise to the surface too quickly.  If I start to fill my vest with air from my tank, I lose precious oxygen.

The risk of the bends is more real to me than running out of air. If I get too low, I can drop the weight belt and face the consequences.

I press the valve to start my gentle ascent. The vest increases slightly in pressure, not too much air, only enough to give me lift.  Slowly, I begin to move upward.

Something moves in the shadow of the caves.

A face.  

Something like a face.

I can’t be sure, it looked like a primate of some sort. 

But that makes no sense.  I am afraid that I am losing oxygen; perhaps I am hallucinating all of this.

Calm my breathing.  An excited person takes more oxygen.  Breath deeply and slowly.

Slowly ascend.

I see it again.  Another face.

Something is swimming towards me.

I feel myself starting to panic, I reach toward my weight belt.

What is that?

It swims towards me like the iguanas of the Galapagos island, its reptilian tail stretching out behind.  The face that looks at me is almost human, partly primate, primal with a broad forehead and wide-set eyes.  The skin of its face and hands and feet, almost human, appears to be covered in scales.  The rest is covered in soft golden hair that moves with the water.

I push back against the water, trying to move away, trying to make distance from this creature. I refuse to turn my back on it.

I begin to scream, unaware of the water around me, as my regulator falls from my mouth. Bubbles rise from my open lips, but when I gasp to take in air, my lungs are filled with sweet amber liquid.

The creature, a bit smaller than me, stops just a foot ahead of me.  It turns its head as if contemplating.

The edges of my vision are turning dark and my body fights for oxygen.

From behind me, I feel hands grab my shoulders.  I look down to see that they are scaled and reptilian.

I fight.

But I have nothing left.

The world fades as the animal before me moves the last bit of distance. 

I can not move back as the hands of the creature behind me hold me in place, there, deep beneath the golden ocean’s surface.

The creature before me moves its face closer, pressing its lips to mine.

I cease to remember.

A photograph in yellow of me scuba diving in Brazil/ Loscotoff 2011

To be continued…

This Week’s Prompt

Week 23 – Adult friends on vacation in the tropics

Include the words; scuba diver, champagne, invasion, archway, hoard, strawberry, penguin, autumnal, cease, mist

Check out these two other versions of the Week 23 prompt:

Bridgette Tales | Week 23 | Something in the Water

A. D. Reece | Week 23 | The Pink Palace


First note… this is not the end of this story. I don’t know what the end is yet, but I expect to use another prompt in these 52 weeks to figure it out.

I had an idea to take my limited experience with scuba certification (back in 2011) and play with the quiet of the underwater world. While I have only scuba dived once (and all of these photos are from that single trip), I loved the quiet and isolation of the experience.

Despite the fact that I was with my husband and his family, I felt essentially alone and recharged beneath the water. Something akin to parallel play, where you are having a deep and personal experience along with others having their own experience.

Seeing the word archway, I could imagine an underwater arch as a part of ruins, Atlantis perhaps. However, I wrote about the rising of Atlantis back in Week 4 with Rapture in Reverse.

I wanted to figure out if I could connect this story to that story, but it was an internal fight. Plus, next week’s prompt centers around Zombies and I really want next week to become the sequel to that original story.

So then I started seeing a different world through that arch, a different world for my protagonist to experience.

About 10 years ago, I was working on a middle grade novel where one of the main locations is an undersea villiage with a creature called the Simi. They are a mix of chimpanzee and Galapagos iguana, brilliantly smart, and vital to the movement of that story.

Perhaps, I thought, this arch can take my character to the bay that the Simi live in; a bay of honey gold water and purple skies. I haven’t visited that world in a really long time, and it’s a world I need to revisit in a book that I also need to revisit.

I don’t have an answer as to what will happen to this character in the underwater world. I’m not sure if she’ll stay, or perhaps return to the world she comes from. I’m not even sure she could return to her world if she wanted to, and honestly, why would she want to?

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of a story. If you did, I hope you’ll share it.

Every Friday, I send out a newsletter with any recent writing. You can sign up for it here.

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The silhouette of a fish/Loscotoff 2022


Diving Fundamentals: The Buddy Check

How Scuba Divers Enter the Water

Common Questions Asked by Non-Divers

The Bends – Chemistry Text

Next Week’s Prompt

Week 24. The early days of the zombie apocalypse

Include the words; motherboard, buffalo, Eiffel Tower, raven, motorcycle, envelope, tulip, moon, reflect, sycamore

A photograph of my husband and I, learning to scuba/ Loscotoff 2022
Getting our Scuba Certification in 2011/ Loscotoff 2022

My 52 Weeks So Far

What is the 52-Week Short Story Challenge

Week 1 – Avalon

Week 2 – The Rifle

Week 3 – The Cardboard Prince

Week 4 – Rapture in Reverse

Week 5 – Drink the Kool-Aid

Week 6 – The Hitchhiker

Week 7 – The Flame

Week 8 – The Community

Week 9 – The Cult of Cait

Week 10 – The Tango

Week 11 – The Imperfect Self

Week 12 – A Murder of Crows

Week 13 – The Cufflinks

Week 14 – Andromeda’s Lament

Week 15 – White Coats

Week 16 – My Forever Love

Week 17 – The Dilemma of Purpose

Week 18 – Honey – A Story of Love and Time

Week 19 – The Light

Week 20 – Superman

Week 21 – Hierarchy

Week 22 – Secrets

Secrets | A Short Story

A close up section of Seascape in Glass/ Loscotoff 2022/ used to show the harbor as the man wakes up, holding secrets
Satellite headlines read
Someone's secrets you've seen
Eyes and ears have been...

The violins soar over the sound of the speakers.  A guitar plucking, offset from the sound of the bow as it sweeps across the strings.  A man’s voice moves between gravel and smooth falsetto.

It is familiar, like a word on the tip of my tongue that I can’t quite grasp. Just as I can not grasp my name or who I am.

I found myself, this morning, sitting on a bench overlooking a harbor.  The boats rocked as the tide moved in.  My brown pointed shoes appeared freshly polished, my fingernails were clean.  My suit pants were tailored and fit me without a pinch about the waist. 

A business card sat in my lap; The Antiquarian, 48 Somerton St.

And so I stood from the bench, smoothing out the wrinkles of my coat.

Businesses sat along the harbor; saltwater taffy stands, fish and chips.

It was the boys who drew my attention. Boys playing soccer on a spit of sand, their feet and chests bare, their skin taking on the rosy glow of sun and heat.  

I felt about in my pockets.  No wallet.  Only a few American dollars, folded nicely and bound with a thin silver paper clip. I slipped out a single bill and waved it in the air at the boys.

One boy, small and bronze, ran over to me.

“Do you know this place?” I said, showing him the card.

“What’ll you give me?” said the boy with a grin.

I waved a dollar between us.

“What’s that?” said the boy.

“A dollar,” I said.

The boy ripped it from my hands and stared at it as if he had never seen such treasure. Turning it over, he looked up at me, his eyes glittering.

For a moment, I seemed to remember another pair of eyes glittering.  The wide grey-blue eyes of another boy, looking up at me.  The memory opened its mouth to speak.

“Where’d ja’get it?” he asked. 

I was pulled back to the boy here, the boy on the beach, the boy playing soccer.

“My pocket,” I said.

That was the truth, or as much as I knew of it.

The boy smiled and began to giggle. 

“You American?” he asked and I heard a hint of accent.

“Can you keep a secret?” I asked. 

The boy’s face became nervous and he stepped back from me.  

“I’m not supposed t’keep secrets,” he said.

“I didn’t mean… I was just going to say that I don’t actually know.”

The boy’s face was blank and worried.

“Don’t know if I’m an American, that is…”

The boy looked even more confused and he took another step back.

“Could you just tell me where to find ‘The Antiquarian’?”

The boy’s face relaxed as he looked back to the dollar.  

“Three streets up. That’s Somerton,” he said, pointing past the little shops. “But th’place you want is weird.  Crazy old lady works there.”

“How far up Somerton?” I asked him.

“You’ll know it,” he said.  “Only place with books out front.”

The boy ran back to his friends and showed them his newfound treasure.  They all gathered around him, laughing and playing, some turning to look cautiously at me. 

I walked towards Somerton, past the little harbor shops, flipping the card between my fingers. 

Those eyes.  The eyes I saw in memory.  They were large and full of tears.  Looking up at me. 

Was it fear I saw in those eyes?  Fear of me?  Fear of something I didn’t remember?

Somerton was, indeed, three streets up.  I turned onto a narrow road, lined with annuals and succulents.  Families sat on benches, licking ice cream cones.  Girls skated by in two-piece bathing suits, their long hair pulled up into ponytails which swung from the backs of their heads.

The buildings were painted in various shades of pinks and yellows and baby blues.  A shadow sat ahead, set back from the others, a darkness amongst the sunny pastels.

As it loomed darker on my right, I began to make out the shape of what appeared to be books, stacked on the ground, leaning on each other, set up as an arch over the door.  

The door was dark and heavy and to its left was what had once been a large picture window, now shadowed by walls of books lined up on the inside.  Stenciled on the window was the word, “Antiquarian”.  

I could see my reflection in the dark glass.  An older man, my hair greying at the temples, wrinkles around my eyes and mouth.  I was wearing a tie, striped in broad diagonal stripes of red, white, and blue. My eyes were a grey-blue, the eyes of the boy in my only memory.

 Hanging on the door was a little sticky note; “Open.”

I pulled on the door’s handle and, at first, it didn’t move.  Pulling again, more firmly, the door moved with a sudden jerk, coming unstuck with a loud grinding pop. I lost my balance and stumbled back but my grip on the handle kept me from falling over completely.

The room that opened in front of me was filled with golden dusty light.  Books lined the walls and the room echoed far deeper than the exterior would suggest. 


Satellite headlines read
Someone's secrets you've seen
Eyes and ear have been...

“Do you remember when we danced to this?” came a voice. “I loved Dave Matthews, loved listening to him together.”

And for a moment, I remembered a hand in mine, warm. I remembered the light off a white counter, the smell of cedar filling my senses, the warmth, the sensation of being in love.

A woman with deep auburn hair and snowy skin stands behind a dark wood counter.  

“I see you took my invitation to stop in,” she says quietly with a tiny smile.  

I find myself unsure on whether to step through the door or to close it gently and be on my way.

“Come!” she says, and when she truly smiles at me, my heart seems to stop in my chest.  She radiates a calm confidence and I want to be in her presence.  My heart wants to love this woman.

“Do I know you?” I ask, allowing the door to swing shut behind me. 

“You don’t remember?” she asks.

“I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“It feels like only yesterday,” she says, “ but some time has passed.  Your hair wasn’t grey back then.” 

“Your card, I woke up with it in my lap.”

The woman smiles at me again and I feel myself pulling closer to her.  I take a step in.

“You wrote me a letter, a few months ago.  You really don’t remember?”

I shake my head and she laughs, this time full and sensual. She stares deeply into my eyes and I feel transfixed, paralyzed. 

“You wrote asking about a book.  A book you gave me as a gift many years ago. I sent you my card, told you to stop in if it was really that important to you.”

From behind the counter, she pulls a deep green hardcover book.  It is accented in black lines and gold leaf.  

I feel the ground move beneath me when I see that cover.  I feel dizzy, see the pages in my hands.  See it open to the poems about life and love.  See myself writing single letters on the front page. 

“The Rubaiyat,” I said.  “By Omar Khayyam.”

Houghton Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“You do remember!” she whispers conspiratorially.

I step closer to her, pulled in by the book.  Pulled in my her magic.

She holds the book out to me and I find myself at the antique counter, my fingers touching the cover.  I see myself in a time long ago, giving it back to this woman, perspectives turning.  She was younger but no more beautiful than she is now. Her hair redder, her skin smoother.  The memory of her looked back at me over the cover of the book and I was held by her eyes.  

I take the book into my hands, the weight of it heavier than I expect.  I open the cover and the smell of cinnamon wafts out, taking me back to the white kitchen and the woman.

“I made your favorite cookies,” the memory says, lifting one up to my mouth.  

I can taste the warmth of the sugar, the bitterness of the cinnamon.  

“I remember that day,” she says and my eyes open to the now.  “We loved each other once.”

She reaches out to me, her skin still supple and soft, and runs her finger along the back of my hand. The book lay open between us, the front cover open to an array of random letters scrawled across the page.

“Why don’t I remember?” I ask.

“I don’t know?” she says.

“What are these letters?”

I trace my fingers over the scratched nonsense.

“You wrote them there before you gave it to me, told me to hold onto it for you.  Someday you would come back for it.  I didn’t think it would be so many years,” she says with a sigh.

“What do I owe you?” I ask her, unsure that I have enough in the small bundle of bills. I set the book on the counter and pull the money out of my pocket, holding it out to her.

“Owe me?  You gave it to me, I’m only giving it back.” 

I continue holding the money out to her. Reluctantly she takes it, but as she does, she drops the money to the counter and grabs my hand.  It is like an electric shock, I try to pull back, but she holds me in a vice-like grip. She forces my hand open, palm up, as she begins to trace my palm with her left fingers.

A million visions of her flash in my memory; her holding my palm up as she traced the lines, the background and lighting changing, but always her. 

“Your hands have changed,” she says. “Once, you had a future.  Now you have nothing.  No future.  No past.  No fortune at all.”

She looks up, sadness in her eyes.

“What has happened to you, my love?”

As she says the words, I am again standing with her in the white kitchen; the smell of cinnamon and cedar and sugar, but something else.



I watch the ghost of the memory as she held my left hand in her right, tracing my palm with her left pointer finger.  I watch as the ghost of my right hand raises, heavy. 

In it was a gun. 

I want to scream no, but can only watch as I am flooded with memory. The things I have forgotten. 

I raised the gun in my right hand and she was focused on the left.  

I pulled the trigger.

Cinnamon, cedar, sugar, gunpowder, blood.

I watched as her blood splattered red across the white tile, pooling beneath her. 

Looking up, I saw a boy standing in the doorway.  His eyes wide, blue-grey.  Eyes full of tears, tears at what he had just seen.  

Eyes full of fear.  Fear at what I had done.

I jerk my hand from hers.

She smiles and says, “I see you’re starting to remember.”

My heart is pounding in my chest, pulsing, an irregular pattern.  This tie is too tight.  I can’t breathe. I need to get outside, out of this place. I grab the book from the counter, jerk open the heavy wooden door. 

Again there is the grating pop as it unsticks from the jamb.  Bright yellow light blindes me as I stumble from the darkness, onto the glaring pastel streets. 

Cinnamon.  Cedar.  Sugar.  Gunpowder. Blood.

I can’t take the memories from my mind. Now that they are here, they have become a part of me.

I see her laying on the floor in front of me.

I see him laying on the floor by the door. I can no longer see his eyes.

His eyes like mine. 

Now he is surrounded in blood.

My wife.  My son.

My life. 

I stumble back towards the harbor.

Families eating ice cream.  Girls in two-piece bathing suites skating past, their hair in high ponytails. Boys playing soccer.  

I remember the book in my hands.

I make my way back to the bench where I awoke and open to the front page. 


Was I trying to tell myself something?  What were the secrets of the letters?

I turn the pages, looking through the words of Omar  Khayyam.  I come to stanza 70, and underlined there, it reads;

 Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore—but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence a-pieces tore.

I turn to the final page.

The final line.

Tamám shud

“It is finished.”

Carefully I tear the tiny words from the page.  I roll the words tightly, preparing to place them in the hidden fob pocket of my pants.

There is something already hidden there.  Small, the size of a pea.  A pill.  A pill coated in rubber.

Suicide Pill/ Geni, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I remember another woman; faceless and wearing a black coat.  She stood under a street lamp.  It was dark night as I passed her, she slipped the pill into my hand and whispered, “You did what you were told to do.  Nothing more.”

“At the cost of my soul?” I asked, my eyes focused on her black heeled shoes.

“Take the pill when the time comes,” she said and walked away. 

I hold the pill up to the setting sun, and then standing, I place it in my mouth and roll the rubber coating around on my tongue. I tuck the rolled words into the pocket.

Walking down along the coast line, I spot the open window of a car.  I toss the book onto the back seat.

There are stairs ahead which go down to the sea.

The sky is darkening as I lay down next to the seawall, resting my head.  I take off my shoes and imagine the red headed woman and the blue-grey eyed boy playing in the sand.

I take a cigarette from my pack and smell the aroma of the tobacco.  I don’t need to light it.  I remember the way the smoke sits in my lungs, the way my muscles relax.  

And that is when I bite down on the bitter pill.

I close my eyes and I sleep.

Found hidden in the dead man’s trousers, torn from the last page of a rare New Zealand edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Omar Khayyám, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This Week’s Prompt

Week 22 – The main character has amnesia

Include the words: antiquarian, satellite, cinnamon, fortune, cookie, harbor, cedar, invitation, soccer, annual, speaker

Read Bridgette’s Week 22 story here

Read Reece’s version of the Week 22 prompt here

About the Real Somerton Man

In December of 1948, a man’s body was found leaning up against a sea wall, as if asleep, on Somerton Beach in South Australia. To this day, he remains unidentified.

Dressed in suit and tie, he carried no identification and all tags had been removed from his clothes. Orange thread was found stitched into a repair, thread found only in the United States. His calves were well developed, like those of a dancer, and his toes were pointed like he regularly wore tapered shoes. He carried a rail ticket, a bus ticket, Juicy Fruit gum, a comb, cigarettes, and matches. Found several months later was a slip of paper rolled up in a secret pocket. It said, “Tamam Shud” and had been torn from a rare copy of The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam. Translation of these words means, “ended,” or “finished”.

The book itself was found in an unlocked car, either on the back seat or on the floor. The finder came forward once police ran a nation-wide public appeal. The identity of the man who found the book is unknown.

The book had letters, thought to be code, written in the back. The final words, “Tamam Shud” had been torn from the page. There was also a phone number which led to a woman who lived only 400 meters from where the man’s body was found. She claimed not to know him.

Many believe this man may have been a spy. While no signs were found in his autopsy of poison, no other cause of death was found either.

His body was exhumed in May of 2021, in the hopes of discovering the Somerton Man’s identity.

Personal Notes

When I began thinking about a protagonist with amnesia, the unsolved case of the Somerton Man popped into my mind, but as a reversal.

What if he didn’t know who he was either? What if he found himself in an unknown place with a single clue; the bookstore called “The Antiquarian”. What if, throughout the story, he received glimpses of the life he had forgotten? What if those memories were better off lost?

I wondered, what if this man really was a spy? What if he had to commit crimes in the name of Country that, should he remember them, he would feel his life was not worth living. If he did commit suicide, could this be why? What secrets did this man know?

Perhaps he carried a cyanide pill that spies of the time may have carried. (They were coated in rubber so that someone could swallow them and they would pass through the digestive system without causing death. You had to bite down on the poison, break its outer wall, to introduce the toxin to your system.)

This story lives outside of our current time and space. I chose a song by Dave Matthews Band because when I read the word “satellight”, the song became an ear worm. I’ve been singing it for the last 5 days. Plus, the lyrics that I added supported the idea of secrets and spies. Go listen, the link is below.

One of my favorite podcasts, Morbid, did a wonderful two episode arc on Somerton Man. Episodes 319 and 320. I can’t figure out how to share their podcast here and so will link to their Twitter and Instagram in the links below. You can listen anywhere you get your podcasts.

I hope you enjoyed this story. If you did, please pass it on to someone else who may enjoy it. I send out an email every Friday with updated stories and blog posts. You can sign up for my newsletter here. I am also in the process of building an online print store, you can find it at

From the Somerton Man Case. Australian police. File originally uploaded on English Wikipedia in January 11, 2009 by Bletchley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Dave Matthews Band–Satellite

Somerton Man – CNN article with images

Tamam Shud Case–Wikipedia

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam–Wikipedia

Oh, Those Movie Spies and Their Cyanide Pills

Suicide Pill – Wikipedia

Morbid–A True Crime Podcast | Twitter

Morbid–A True Crime Podcast | Instagram

Burial site of the Unknown Man at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide. Bletchley at en.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Next Week’s Prompt

Week 23 – Adult friends on vacation in the tropics

Include: scuba diver, champagne, invasion, archway, hoard, strawberry, penguin, autumnal, cease, mist

My 52 Weeks So Far

What is the 52 Week Short Story Challenge

Week 1 – Avalon

Week 2 – The Rifle

Week 3 – The Cardboard Prince

Week 4 – Rapture in Reverse

Week 5 – Drink the Kool-Aid

Week 6 – The Hitchhiker

Week 7 – The Flame

Week 8 – The Community

Week 9 – The Cult of Cait

Week 10 – The Tango

Week 11 – The Imperfect Self

Week 12 – A Murder of Crows

Week 13 – The Cufflinks

Week 14 – Andromeda’s Lament

Week 15 – White Coats

Week 16 – My Forever Love

Week 17 – The Dilemma of Purpose

Week 18 – Honey – A Story of Love and Time

Week 19 – The Light

Week 20 – Superman

Week 21 – Hierarchy