Part One (which you’ll want to hit first if you missed it): Mitsy Bats Her Lashes (Part One)

Audiophiles, listen here:

Mitsy blinked rapidly at the man. She’d been in hostile negotiations before, but over carpet allowances and alleged foundation cracks, not “what” she was. Be direct but unthreatening, her training told her. “My name is Mitsy McDonnell, and I’m a real estate agent,” she said. “I have come to—”

“Oh, right! The truth in a lie, that way you don’t forget. I bet you are an agent. What are you, some kind of bionic half-breed? Come to do what? Neutralize me?” The man shoved the shotgun at her and she flinched.

“No, no, let me explain! I didn’t mean to come here, my GPS malfunctioned. I sell real estate. Really….I have cards in my briefcase. Here,” she said as she slowly reached for one.

“I SAID DON’T MOVE!” Mitsy stopped moving. “I bet your GPS malfunctioned, implants never work like they say. I have sensors all up and down this road, and I know you aren’t some lady real estate agent come to look at my foy-YAY or something. Drop the bag.” Mitsy dropped the bag. “Now, you’re going to walk in front of me up to the house, and I’m going to shoot you if you try anything at all. ANYTHING. If my brain starts feeling messed with, I’m gonna shoot first and dissect later, got it?”

Mitsy thought his brain was plenty messed with, but she had to hope it seemed normal to him. She nodded and walked toward the house. He grabbed her briefcase and followed, snorting in disgust at her tiny, heel-impaired steps. Mitsy kept her hands up and her eyes on the uneven ground.

The porch on the front of the house should have had a nice Adirondack chair and a table for your drink, but it was bare, framing a door with several locking mechanisms evident. The man waved her aside with the shotgun and a terse instruction, and punched a code into the keypad under the doorknob. A key on a chain around his neck opened the deadbolt. A card came from one of his pockets and triggered the last lock when he swiped across it.

Mitsy did not want to go into this place, nothing good would happen in there, but she wasn’t getting a predatory feel from the man, actually the opposite. He seemed very afraid of her. He growled at her to get inside and she went, still at gunpoint. He closed the door and relocked the two-sided deadbolt with the key.

The interior was dark. Most of the 1,400 square feet had been opened up into one room with improvised support beams breaking up the space. The windows were painted black on the inside of the glass, blocking almost all the light, and shop lights hung to illuminate the room. Computer equipment lined one wall, with several monitors displaying camera feeds and others running continuous streams of numbers and symbols. A generator kicked on somewhere outside. Mitsy mentally wrote the flyer copy for the house. “Spacious studio house deep in the woods, state of the art security and privacy. Perfect for singles in the Witness Protection Program or terrorists just starting out.” She decided to try again with the man.

“I’m sorry I ended up on your property. I got lost and my phone is dead. My name is Mitsy, what’s yours?”

The man laughed. “Yeah, I’m not surprised you can’t use a phone. I’ll call you Mitsy, if that’s what you want. I’m sure you already know my name and my shoe size, but you can call me Link for now.” He waved her toward a chair in the middle of the large space with the shotgun. “Get over there and sit down, Mitsy.”

Link put on black gloves that looked like welder’s gear, watching her closely whenever the shotgun was out of his hands. He brought over a handful of rope, scratchy orange nylon about ¼” in diameter, and tied Mitsy clumsily to the chair. He wouldn’t get close enough to do it properly, craning his neck away to the last possible inch. He rushed through it and danced away. Some hardcore conspiracy nut, he didn’t even have a plan to detain someone.

“Link?” Mitsy questioned softly, “Why am I tied to a chair in your living room?”

The man actually guffawed. “What was I supposed to do? Let you walk in here and start collecting samples or giving me mind commands or whatever? What would you do if the black helicopters were flying over every day and suddenly something crawled over your gate and started up to your front door?” He snorted again and went to a lockbox hanging from a steel hasp in one of the supports. He punched a code into the keypad of the lockbox and stowed the chain with the keys on it inside. “There, now you can’t get out even if you wipe me or get me down somehow.”

Hoo boy. Mitsy needed a little more information on what exactly this man thought was going on, and why he kept calling her a thing instead of a person. She also recognized the lockbox, a Barton X-J255, notoriously easy to break into.

“Link, I assure you that I am a normal person.” The only one in the room, she mentally added. “You keep calling me a thing and won’t come anywhere near me, but I’m just a lady trying to make a living selling real estate. I am lost and I need to get back to my car.”

Link didn’t respond. He went over to a table behind one of the support columns, and Mitsy couldn’t see what he was up to for a minute. She tried the ropes again and could tell that they’d take a few minutes to loosen, tops. This guy must have been more worried about being abducted than abducting.

He came back into full view in the most ridiculous costume Mitsy had ever seen, and she’d been to some real low-rent Halloween parties. His shiny helmet was replaced by an honest-to-god colander with a cage of wire built from the top of the colander down to his collar, making his face some sort of naked Chinese lantern. He’d put a new jacket and pants on over his tactical gear, all made from shiny metallic space blankets and ballooning and flowing around him unnaturally. The cause became clear when he walked toward her and the tiny fan inflating the space blankets became audible. He looked like Jiffy Pop in process.

“What is all that mess?” she asked, too stunned to be tactful.

“I made this gear to keep things like you from forcing me to do unnatural things. Now what are you and why did you infiltrate my compound?”

Wow. There was a lot to unpack there. Mitsy seized on the one thing she couldn’t seem to get an answer from him on. “Link, why do you keep saying ‘what’? I’m a person just like you.”

Link barked a laugh. “Yeah, right, you’re a pretty good facsimile, but you couldn’t mask your magnetic signature. You think I just use my eyes? Those sensors are for all kinds of things. You aren’t radioactive, or super-dense, or a thousand degrees. On visual, you’re too short and your hair is obviously fake, but otherwise the replication is pretty good.” Mitsy smarted a little at this but stayed quiet. “The only problem with your charade is your magnetic field. It’s literally the size of a field. Nothing human puts off a force like that, and it’s up high, in your brain, I guess, so it’s not something in your pocket. So what does that make you? Android? Mind-control bot?” He waited for an answer, expectant through his birdcage of crazy.

Mitsy knew what the problem was now, and she was in truth, a little relieved. Those eyelashes were giving him some sort of weird reading, and once she explained that, it would all get sorted out. She softened her voice into the warm, reassuring tone she used when a showing turned up a closet covered with porn clippings. “Link, I’m so glad you told me what you found! That is such a simple thing to explain.” She worked at her hands while she talked, getting one free but not pulling it out of the rope just yet. “You see, while I was on my way out here, I bought these magnetic eyelashes.” She batted her eyes at him to demonstrate. “And they are probably showing up as—”

“You expect me to believe such a thing exists at the store?” Link exploded. He started waving his arms, agitated, and Mitsy clenched her jaw together a little off-kilter, eyes wide, wondering what to do now. “You should have metal objects stuck to your head with these readings, things flying across the room. Somehow, that isn’t happening.”

“Here, let me show you,” she said in her best “invite them in” voice. She pulled her arm out of the bindings around the chair and Link screamed. He lunged across the room to grab his shotgun, but his athleticism was severely compromised by the wire cage and inflated foil suit. His overlarge head glanced off one of the supports with sort of a sproingy sound and he nearly went down. Mitsy wondered if the suit would pop if he fell.

“No, no, it’s okay,” she said, holding her free hand out in a calming motion that didn’t calm Link at all. “See, just look.” Mitsy reached up and grabbed one of the eyelashes. Link took a panicked look behind him and proceeded to grab the shotgun, waving the barrel erratically in her general direction.

Mitsy pulled. The eyelash did not peel off in her fingers, as she expected. It held firmly onto her eyelid as she used more and more force, pulling the skin of her eyelid away from her eyeball and taut. “Oh no,” she breathed, wriggling her other arm out of the loosened ropes.

“Don’t you do that!” Link screamed, coming towards her now. Mitsy was too preoccupied with the malfunctioning eyelashes to pay attention to him. She reached for the second eyelash and tugged on both eyes, pulling hard enough to hurt. She thought she might be pulling hard enough to pull real eyelashes out. Nothing.

A circle of hard metal pressed under her chin as she struggled to remove her vanity purchase. Her hands flew from her eyes like butterflies scorched by a match, quickly and completely at a loss for navigation. “YOU KEEP YOUR FACE ON,” Link yelled, pushing the shotgun under her chin hard enough to leave a bruise. Mitsy shrank back into the chair, trying to get away from the gun and unable to go anywhere. She briefly considered kicking him in the crotch, then decided that sudden movements would likely be a bad idea. Mostly, she was trying not to pee her pants. That stop for water was becoming one of her major life regrets in more ways than expected.

Copyright 2019© by Rebecka Ratcliffe, All Rights Reserved.

The Story: This is a continuation of the story proposed by Joshua M. Anderson about magnetic eyeliner. Next week we will have the final chapter, a conclusion that I think will be worth the wait. In the meantime, remember that trying to explain to a conspiracy nut that you aren’t part of the conspiracy makes you part of the conspiracy.

PS. I know the voicework may not sound 100% this chapter–I’ve had the plague. I’m in that two week recovery period where I’m really not going to sound any better, no matter what I do. Thanks for bearing with me.