Another batch of Macabre Macaroni

Lisa Burton

The Halloween Pack

Nadine’s jaw fell open in disbelief. Sara Spears wrote her up for receiving a personal email. Her mother invited her over for Sunday dinner. It wasn’t like she invited the email. She watched Sara strut away from the cubicle, obviously congratulating herself for a job well done.

Several deep breaths later, Nadine awoke her computer from sleep-mode. Sara’s constant pacing the floor to make sure nobody looked at Facebook convinced her not to use company time to look for a new job.

Nadine’s coworkers ducked their heads and pretended to work. There was no hiding what happens in a cube farm. They all heard.

When lunchtime rolled around, Nadine grabbed a light jacket and walked to a corner bistro. Some fresh air, and a huge cup of their coffee might improve her outlook.

She took a chair at one of those outside, wire-mesh tables and waited for her half turkey sandwich. An alert banner lit up the screen of her phone. “The Halloween Pack. Free today only.”

It turned out to be one of those photo manipulation apps. It came with a bunch of Halloween themed stickers, green filters for faces, and more. If she didn’t like it, she could always delete it later.

She entered her data and gave the app permission to access her photos. She flipped through her pictures and stopped at those from the summer picnic. Nothing seemed to be good enough for photo manipulation.

“Excuse me, ma’am, were you the half turkey sand?” The waitress asked.

“Oh yes. Thank you.” The fresh bead smelled wonderful. They baked every morning here.

“Let me top off your coffee.” The girl filled her cup without waiting for a response.

This place has great food, a great setting, and great service. The people seem happy too. I wouldn’t mind working at a place like this, as long as I could make ends meet.

She took a bite of her sandwich, and looked across the street at the autumn leaves. Waves of fresh bread and avocado helped improve her mood.

She looked back at her phone. Time for Sara Spears to get hers. She was always strutting around, sticking her chest out, and looking down her nose. What a narcissistic bitch. Nadine found a photo on Sara’s Facebook page. One of those professional shots with Sara standing against the city skyline while the camera looked up at her with crossed arms like she owned the damned place.

A double chin wouldn’t do. Nadine used the graphic twice, and by sizing the sticker a bit, gave Sara a quadruple chin. She added a couple of feet to her hips until Sara looked like a pear. By the time the lunch hour ended, Sara looked like a mildly transparent, gelatinous, blue blob against the skyline. Oddly, she still looked exactly like herself.

Nadine poured herself into her work that afternoon. She would check out the job market tonight, but nobody was going to call her a slacker. It was nearly three o’clock when she looked up again.

She took a restroom break, but Sara was nowhere to be seen. On the way back to her desk, an arm shot out from the cubicle next to hers. “Sorry about what happened,” Aaron Davies said.

“No problem. Guess it was just my turn on her list. Where is she, anyway?”

“Went home. Said she didn’t feel well this afternoon. To tell you the truth, she didn’t look well either. She looked almost bloated and like her skin was turning blue. Hope there isn’t something going around. I have to umpire for the kids this weekend.”

Nadine stared off into space, and absently said, “Me too.”

After work, Nadine took the elevator down to the parking level. Helicopters roared overhead, then down the street toward the city. The sound of sirens echoed in the distance. She walked past her car to look toward town.

The streets were gridlocked. It would be hours before she could get home tonight. She thought of the little bistro, and returned to the elevator. She could wait out the gridlock there, save some gasoline, and enjoy some of their wonderful coffee.

She pulled her coat tighter as she wove between the stopped cars and crossed the street. The mid day temperatures dropped rapidly this time of year. She’d be taking an indoor table this time.

“Back again?” The waitress asked.

“Yeah. Figure it’s nicer here than waiting in my car. Just coffee this time.”

“On the house. I’ll call it a refill of the one you bought earlier.”

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“Let’s see if there’s any news about what’s going on.” The waitress turned on a small television.

Images of helicopters filled the screen. Nadine hoisted the coffee to her nose and smelled the wonderful aroma. The news cut to a shot from one of the helicopters. A gigantic blue blob, nearly seventeen stories tall, rampaged through downtown. She sat her cup down and gripped the edge of the table with both hands.

The helicopter flew around the tower for a better angle. There was no mistaking Sara Spears’ face from the photo.

The monster had absorbed several cars, and one fire engine was clearly visible inside her. The flashing red lights filtered through the blue gelatin came out as purple. As the helicopter moved past, several wire tables appeared inside the monster, like the ones Nadine had lunch at. She spotted at least three people inside the blob too.

She grabbed for her phone. Maybe she could undo the manipulation and set things right. Sorry, your free trial has ended. You can buy the Halloween Pack…

Nadine deleted the app. The news kept running. Maybe it would take a second or two before things went back to normal. But they didn’t.

She opened the photograph. There was Sara, standing against the cityscape as a giant blue blob. The positioning of the photo made it look a bit like Sara was as tall as some buildings.

The news kept running as Sara moved on to the Shriner’s Hospital. Those poor people were about to be absorbed too.

Nadine held down the photo until the option bar appeared. She deleted the photograph.

The news image reacted almost immediately. Sara completely disappeared.

Those poor people inside the blob didn’t deserve this. Hell, even Sara didn’t deserve this. She was a horrible person, but this was beyond what she earned.

Nadine went to the App Store, maybe she could repeat the process, not modify the photo, and set things right. The Halloween Pack was nowhere to be found, like it never existed.

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35 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

35 responses to “Another batch of Macabre Macaroni

  1. Terrific story, Craig and an object lesson in falling for weird apps!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was so worried about the kids at the Shriner’s Hospital! Glad she got rid of the blob in time. Can you imagine the havoc she’d have wreaked if Nadine had waited in traffic instead of going to the cafe and seeing the television coverage?

    Technology, right? Terrifying.

    Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, that’s extra creepy and makes me want to scrub all images of myself from social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Spooky! A good warning to think twice about downloading a free app!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No good revenge goes unpunished. Super story, Craig. I now know why I don’t download apps. The good news is Sara is gone too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love love loved this story, Craig. Your description of the office scene, cube farm (great term), and Nadine’s humiliation pulled us in with the excellent descriptions. The plot keeps pulling at us when Nadine’s petty fun goes awry. Wonderfully paced too. Perfect story for October.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic Halloween story, Craig! Descriptive and gripping it carries a message and several lessons. 🙂 Well-done!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Really wow. That was unexpected and had a bit of everything. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Where Genres Collide and commented:
    Creepy!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Revenge stories are the best! Made me think of the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Oh the horror! What a perfect story for October 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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