A Little Sneeze…

Another writing prompt from Writing Excuses. I won’t tell you what it is up front, because that will spoil the little piece of fiction.  Enjoy!

Del knew he should call in sick today. He knew it, but at a base level just couldn’t bring himself to dial the number. Instead he readied himself, going through the motions of his morning routine. After all, hot shower could really do wonders for the tickle in his throat. The tickle in his throat that he tried to pretend wasn’t there. “It’s nothing. I need the hours.” He rationalized the best he could, but even as he prepared his morning coffee he eyed the half and half with suspicion. Would the dairy help coat his throat? Or would it be better to drink the coffee scalding hot? In the end he slammed back the mug of scorching hot coffee, wincing only slightly as it burned its way down his esophagus.

The commute was uneventful, leaving Del fully focused on the growing ache in his throat. “Allergies, it must be allergies.” He told himself as he sorted through his messenger bag, hoping to find a stray mint or hard candy. He searched the corners and even the small zippered compartments that he’d never bothered to open before, just in case. Every square centimeter examined twice, he resigned himself to staring at the bus ceiling and sunk deeper into the hard plastic seat.

As he rode the elevator up to the sixth floor he swallowed hard, repeatedly, testing the boundaries of the tenderness. Distracted, he instinctively cleared his throat, and in so doing caught the attention of the red-head from HR. She ran her eyes over him, then sidled away from him the few inches the elevator would allow, but said nothing and turned back to face the door. Del sighed and turned his attention to the floor tiles, trying to distract himself from his throat. The door dinged open and they all shuffled out.  Del found his way to his cubicle and settled in, powering up the tired black workstation. “Just eight hours, eight hours and I can go home and get some rest.” He told himself as he loosened the top button on his plaid shirt. A single bead of sweat emerged from his side burn, riding the ridge of his jaw down until it came to his chin and dripped onto his hand. “Just eight hours.”

The spreadsheets gave him little comfort, not that he really expected any. Increasingly, he cleared his throat and his mind began to wonder. “Maybe the commissary has some mints?” Del thought. He checked the clock, hoping that it was nearly break time. “Thirty minutes? I’ve only been here thirty minutes?” He mumbled as he ran his hand through his black hair, now damp with sweat. He stood to stretch, but as he did the tickle moved to his nose and his eyes began to water. “No, no, no!” he thought, rubbing the back of his hand against his nose. The words spilled out of his mouth, “No, no, no – ACHOOOO!” Del’s hands stayed clasped over his nose and mouth, his eyes now wide with horror. He stepped backwards, until he bumped the cloth faced temporary wall of his cubicle. That awful he gray  he’d always hated. Del slid down the wall, until he simply dropped the last few inches to the floor. He sat there, staring at the floor, his hands still clasped there on his face.

It took building security two and a half minutes to arrive.  Del saw the heavy black leather boots, but didn’t bother to look up, not until one of them prodded him with the black wooden baton. There were two of them, in their floor length black robes and high white collars. The baton was still only inches from Del’s face, the long black piece of walnut, with inlaid silver cross. Del almost couldn’t look at it. In fact he couldn’t, his eyes darting away even as he forced them to try to focus.

“Sir, you’re going to need to come with us.” One of the two in black said. Del couldn’t tell which. The masks hid their faces and they stood so close, trying to squeeze into Del’s tiny cubicle, he had no idea which was speaking. The second one, the one not holding the baton, reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out a silver chain. The chain was delicate, each link no larger than a strand of hair, but still it struck fear into Del. His heart raced at the sight of it, and he inched backwards. It was only six inches, then he bumped into the corner. He could go no further from these two men. “Sir, this will go easier if you come along voluntarily. We merely need to take the proper precautions…” The guard’s voice trailed off in response to the growl. It took a moment for Del to realize it was coming from his throat. He panicked as the two men shifted their postures. Any amount of friendliness in their stances were gone now. Del popped up into a crouch, faster than he’d thought possible, but by then the guard with the baton was ready. The heavy walnut came crashing down and Del could swear he heard his own skull crack. Then there was the fire, a bright burst of flame where the silver cross connected with his flesh. Then there was nothing. Then there was black.

Del awoke, three weeks later in a bed. His mother was asleep in an awful green chair near the bed, and there was the steady whir of machinery all around him.

“What happened?” Del said, with a voice that cracked in his dried out throat. His mother blinked and slowly came to.

“Oh Del, you’re awake!” She smiled and pulled herself up out of the chair, unfolding slowly as stiffness gripped at her muscles and back.

“What happened?” Del repeated. “Where am I?”

“Everything’s ok dear, it was just a minor possession, we’re at the hospital and everything is going to be ok.” She slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. Her eyes began to well with tears. “Everything’s going to be ok.”

—Writing Prompt: Write a piece in which people only sneeze because they are possessed.

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