Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 4 | Midnight Protest

The protest starts at noon. Anyone committed to real change, who truly wants equal treatment of all people, no matter their race, will be there.

“You know the mayor’s implemented a curfew,” Jordan says. “Everyone’s gotta be back home by sundown.”

“Protest’s at noon. Plenty of time,” I say, looking out the window. I check the time on my phone. Nine fifteen. But the sun has yet to make an appearance.

“You know these things get violent.”

“They only get violent because incompetent leadership completely miss the entire point. They respond to the protests against police brutality with more police brutality.”

“All the more for you to stay at home.”

“Did Reggie Thomas have that option?”

Reggie Thomas, the latest Twitter hashtag. Gunned down in front of his home at the corner of Maple and Floral Steet. He looked suspicious, was their excuse. Recent string of burglaries in the neighborhood, and he was running out of the house wearing a mask.

Everyone is wearing a mask. It’s COVID. But that was probable cause enough to shoot him seven times. If he was truly a burglar, wouldn’t he have been running away from the cops instead of toward them? But they didn’t bother to question their assumptions, didn’t ask why he was running, because the policy for Black men is always to shoot first. Neutralize the presumed threat.

If they had asked, they would’ve known he was a frontline worker. For the last two weeks he’d been home caring for his grandmother, recently diagnosed, because he didn’t want to take the chance of hospital triage skipping over her because there weren’t enough ICU beds and she had too low a chance of survival, even if put on a ventilator.

If they had simply asked, they would have known that her lips had just turned blue, that her heavy breathing had just gone silent. He saw the squad car in the window and ran out to get help, hoping that maybe they could get a ride to the hospital without having to call the ambulance and avoid the insanely high bill for a drive just two miles up the road.

Instead, he was met with three bullets to the chest. One to the shoulder. Two to the face. One to the groin. They cocked their guns and fired without even saying a word.

Two lives were lost that day, when they should have been saved.

“Okay, Mary Sue, social justice warrior.”

“Don’t mock me.”

“I’m not mocking. I’m being practical. People don’t like being shown their own biases.”

“Well, they should. It’s the only way things will get better.” I close the curtain and return to making my picket sign.

***

Ten to twelve, and we’re on our way to Maple and Floral, where the protest is set to begin. It will start with a memorial by the signpost in his grandmother’s yard. Then we’ll make our march to City Hall, where the entire police department is sure to be waiting in tactical gear, along with the National Guard.

I look out the window toward the sky, which has gotten even darker since earlier this morning. It looks like one giant all-encompassing cloud. No break of sunlight. No peak of blue.

“Is it supposed to rain?” I ask.

Jordan drums his fingers on the steering will. “I don’t think so.”

“Why is it so dark?”

“Maybe it’s a sign.”

“You won’t talk me out of this.”

He gives me a side-eye and smirks. “I know. But the second niggas start burning down buildings, we’re out. Your safety is more important to me.”

Ever the protector. I can’t help but adore him, even if our political ideologies don’t always align.

Crowds are starting to gather when we arrive. Jordan parks in an empty lot behind a church a few blocks down, and we walk the rest of the way. I hold my sign above my head. Blank brown faces encircle the words:

Why does my skin make me look dangerous?

Jordan points. “I actually like this one. It’s not so cliche.” Ahead of us, hovering over the wave of bodies, are signs that say, “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Defund the police,” “White silence = White consent.”

“See?” He chuckles.

“The message is more important.”

“Sure.”

***

At the top of the hour, the voice of the protest’s organizer comes on the megaphone to open the day’s events with a prayer for Reggie Thomas and his family, for the state of our city and the country as a whole, for wisdom in leadership, for peace that surpasses all understanding. She’s shaky at first. We all feel the same uneasiness. The sky is Black now. Black like midnight. The automatic streetlights have turned on, but even they are dim. I can barely see Jordan as I reach for his hand. He squeezes mine reassuringly as we begin our march toward City Hall, deeper into the darkness.

“No justice!” the organizer calls.

“No peace!” we all respond.

“No justice!”

“No peace!”

We continue our chant for several miles, our feet guided by the light of our cellphones. There is no traffic. All along the route, cars are pulled over to the side of the road, though their passengers don’t seem to be interested in justice for Reggie Thomas. They remain inside. Some stand on the curb. All have worry in their eyes, but I doubt we are the cause.

“It must be an eclipse or something,” Jordan says in my ear.

“Wouldn’t it be on the news?”

“We could’ve missed it. All they’re covering are the protests these days.”

But wouldn’t an eclipse at least show a hint of sun? Wouldn’t the Blackest night at least give us a glimpse of the stars?

The megaphone grows more faint the further we march. It becomes harder to hear the lead call, even though we’re near the front of the line. We mimic what those around us say.

“No racist!”

“Police!”

“No racist!”

“Police!”

“Babe?” Jordan says.

Coming into view are the tall columns of City Hall. In front of it, its wall of defense. Black uniforms. Black guns and batons. Black shields. Black helmets. So much Black, we can’t distinguish their faces. For all we know, their bodies could be Black like ours.

“I don’t like this. I don’t feel good about this.” Jordan turns around, appearing to scan for an easy exit, but it’s hard to see anything now. And as we slow to a stop, the flashlights on our phones go out, as if they’ve drained all the battery. The dim streetlights flicker, then die. It’s Black all around now, as if a blanket has descended upon our faces. If only I could just reach out and grab it, yank it down. Eerie silence engulfs us, save for a few clicks and pops ahead.

“This is going to be a slaughter.”

“Shhh!”

The ring of the megaphone reverberates against the concrete buildings on either side of us, but then all is quiet again. We stand and wait for the next call and response. For commands from the law enforcement presence before us. For intimidation tactics in the forms of tear gas, flashbangs, rubber bullets.

We stand. And we wait.


We are entering the witching hour and hour four of our Twilight Zone blogging marathon. This story was brought to you by the episode “I Am the Night, Color Me Black,” with easter eggs to “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 3 | Granddaddy’s Wives

“You remind me of someone.”

“Who?”

“Someone from another lifetime.”

“Was she pretty?”

“Oh, Laurette.” He squeezes my arms and pulls me to his lips. “I would get lost in the jade of her eyes. A luscious green paradise.”

“And mine?”

“The most beautiful I’ve ever seen.”

We spend the night together, and the next morning, still pressed against my body, he asks, “Is it weird to want to marry you after just one date?”

To any other person, it should be, but I’m not getting any younger—the ticking clock echos in my empty uterus—and pickings are slim, so I tell him, “I don’t want to wait.”

I know my mom will accuse me of settling if I tell her too soon, so I wait to the very last minute to call her, when we’re at the Justice of the Peace, and forth in line to be wed.

She rushes down to meet us but stops dead in her tracks upon seeing him.

“Mom, this is my fiancé—”

“Granddaddy?”

He clears his throat, adjusts his blazer across his broad shoulders. “Uh, it’s uh, Elijah.”

She points a shaky finger at the mole on his chin. “You look so much…”

But before she can finish that statement, our number is called, and we stand underneath the state seal on the wall behind us, and the officiant, who calls us his easy couple because we have no vows and no rings, simply asks us, “Do you want to be married?” We both say yes, and we share a kiss, and the officiant signs the document, along with Mom.

On the ride home, Mom tells us of her grandfather, who allegedly had the gift of eternal youth, until he mysteriously disappeared one afternoon when she was seven.

“Ma’am, I assure you!” His voice fills the car. “I may have salt and pepper hair, but I am not that old.”

“And not too old for me!” I add.

Not too old to fill my womb, and that’s just what he does.

But on the eve of Laura’s twelfth birthday, he vanishes into the night after an argument erupted when I compared my wrinkled hand to his unblemished skin, absent of any markings of our years spent together.

I browse through old photo albums Mom sent over years ago to pass the time as I wait for his return. And just like her the day of my wedding, I freeze in horror at the sight of the black and white photo. At the salt and pepper hair, the broad shoulders, the mole on the left side of his chin. And it’s then that I realize I am my great-grandmother, and my mother, my daughter.


You’re traveling in time, into hour three of our Twilight Zone blogging marathon. This story was brought to you by “Long Live Walter Jameson,” with easter eggs from “In His Image.”

Until we meet again, at the witching hour…

Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 2 | Turbulence

It’s just a two-hour flight, and yes, looking down at my watch, we’ve only been in the air thirty minutes, but I swear it’s been longer. Much longer.

Maybe it’s my anxiety that has seemingly caused time to freeze. I haven’t seen Barry’s parents since our disaster of a wedding five years ago, when his mother nearly strangled me while putting on my “something borrowed” string of pearls and demanded I only give her grandsons, followed by the threat, “or else.” And at the reception, his father further emphasized that I had one purpose and one purpose only. Procreation. Only sons, as if I’m bearing the heir to a medieval empire and not a chain of cheap motels that’s one more bed bug outbreak from bankruptcy.

But did Barry believe me our wedding night, when we were alone in our honeymoon suite, when we should’ve been doing anything other than arguing about his overbearing parents? No. It was the beginning and end of our marriage.

And now we’re supposed to spend two weeks with them, Christmas and New Year’s, and fake it like we’re a happy couple. And I know I’ll be relentlessly asked, “Where are my grandsons?” Well, it’s kind of hard to get pregnant when your son doesn’t touch me. But of course I’ll be blamed for that too—if I hadn’t accepted that fancy professorship in Richmond, taken him away from his family, made him eternally resentful of me.

I wish we weren’t going. I wish this plane didn’t exist. I wish we never married, that we were still MFA candidates writing love poems to each other back and forth between classes.

But no, we’re here, on this godforsaken plane headed to the Christmas holiday from hell, and as the fifth episode of You starts on the screen on the back of the seat in front of me, I know for a fact it’s been longer than two hours.

“Will we be landing soon?” I ask Barry, who sits in the aisle seat.

He gives me this befuddled look. “Are you serious?”

“What?”

“We just took off.”

“No, no.” I turn and lift the shade to glance out the window, where I see nothing but clouds. No sky, no buildings below, only clouds. Clouds all around.

“We didn’t just take off. We’ve been on this flight at least five hours now.”

“Nell.” He touches my forehead with the back of his hand. “Are you feeling alright?” It’s the first time he’s ever shown any type of concern for me since before our wedding.

“I’m fine. I just don’t understand why—”

“Look, I know you’re not the biggest fan of my folks. But I told them to go easy on you, okay?”

“Go easy?”

“No baby stuff. No work stuff. No fighting. Let’s just do Christmas, okay?”

“Fake it till we make it?”

“Precisely.” He kisses my forehead.

I don’t know what’s more confusing. His sudden show of affection, or the fact that he thinks we just took off. Either way, I feel suffocated, and the last place I should be is in a barely three-foot wide airplane bathroom, but that’s where I go. I climb over his knees, side-shuffle down the narrow aisle, squeeze into the bathroom, and slam the folding door behind me.

I lean over the sink, turn on the faucet, and splash my face several times. I look at my reflection in the mirror, count the years lost in crow’s feet around my eyes. Suddenly the floor drops from under me, my knees buckle, and all around me the room shakes.

Could this flight get any worse?

I try to pull myself to my feet, but each time, the plane violently jerks and pushes me back down to the floor. Over the intercom, the bell chimes, indicating that everyone should put on their seatbelts.

How do you do that in a bathroom?

As much as I don’t want to, I grab onto the toilet, praying no one has recently shat in it, yank myself up, and sit down, holding onto the sides of the commode for dear life as the entire plane vibrates throughout my body. I breathe in through my noise audibly, barely getting enough air, but I refuse to open my mouth, afraid something could come out. Thankfully I didn’t eat while in the airport, but the way my stomach flips and twists in knots, anything could come out—from either end—and cover the walls of this lavatory.

Just as suddenly, the quaking stops. Cautiously, I release my hold of the toilet. I rise to my feet on spaghetti legs. The intercom chimes again, followed by our pilot’s muffled voice—his microphone obviously too close to his mouth.

“Uh…we had a brief wave of turbulence there…er…hopefully everyone’s alright. No one threw up their lunch, aha.” There’s static, a whistling echo, and then he comes back. “Uh, we’ll be beginning our descent into Hartsfield-Jackson shortly…er… current weather is fifty-two degrees, sunny, clear skies, zero chance of precipitation, beautiful day, huh?… We, er, hope you enjoyed your flight. We ask that you lift your tray tables, keep your seatbelts buckled until we touch down and come to a complete stop at the gate…we’ll be landing in about…er…twenty minutes. Welcome to Atlanta, and happy holidays!”

The microphone clicks as he signs off. I exhale a sigh of relief. The first hurdle is over. If Barry was being honest, maybe this will be my only hurdle. I check my wristwatch, and the time has jumped forty-five minutes. Have I been in the bathroom this long? Did the turbulence last nearly an hour? I massage my temples with both hands. I give up trying to understand the timeline of this flight. I just want to be safe on the ground. I know his parents promised to meet us at the airport. I just may be happy to see them, rush into my mother-in-law’s arms with a bear hug. Wouldn’t that surprise everyone?

I take another deep breath, fold back the door, and exit the tiny prison.

When I turn the corner all of the air is sucked from my lungs. I feel weightless, my stomach doing backflips again, the shaking beginning to return, because when I look into the cabin that I left God only knows how long ago for my husband’s face, he, the head stewardess and the rest of the crew, and all 188 passengers on this full flight are nowhere to be found.


You have just entered hour two of my Twilight Zone-inspired blogging marathon. This story was inspired by the Twilight Zone episode “The Arrival,” with a sprinkle of “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”

Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 1 | Hell

I don’t remember how I got here. I don’t remember much of anything from last night. But despite how much I drank, the one thing I tried to forget still haunts my thoughts…

My best friend straddling my fiancé’s lap twelve hours before I was due to walk down the aisle. And to think, I was saving myself for him, by his request, until our wedding night.

I rise slowly. It doesn’t prevent the sudden onset of pounding in my brain. I look around the room. There’s nothing identifiable to tell me where I am. Just a bed, a closet, a chest of drawers with no mirror.

Oh god, please tell me I didn’t come home with some random from the bar. I deserve payback for the betrayal, yes, but not like this, not at the expensive of my own self-respect. Let Jess be the homewrecker whose man who will leave her just as he got her. As for me, I will remain pure.

I slip into my pumps only to discover the heel for one is broken and opt to go barefoot, bracing myself against the wall to tame the sudden-onset vertigo. Never again. Never again will I allow myself to fall this hard, to get so lost in a whirlwind romance that when it inevitably ends, I wake up in a place I don’t recognize with memories I can’t recall.

When I get to the end of the hall, I realize the pounding in my head is knocking on the front door. Crap. Just what I need is an angry girlfriend on the other side. Apart from the knocking, the house is still. I’m sure there’s no one here but me. It’s odd that my bar guy would leave me here alone. I could rob him blind—if there was anything to take.

The knocking continues, aggravating my migraine. Might as well tell her now. She’ll find out anyway when she sees me trying to sneak out. It’s best that she knows now. If not with me, it’ll be someone else. End it now, sweetie, before he really breaks your heart.

To my surprise, standing on the porch is a little man, barely taller than me, wearing pleated pants that look a size too large and holding a casserole dish of some sort of glop that looks like it could’ve been oatmeal in another life.

“Morning!” he says cheerily.

I shield my eyes from the brightness of the new day. “Uh, huh.”

“Welcome to Centerville!” He presents the dish to me, and I take it, not really knowing what else to do.

“I’m sure you must be hungry. I would’ve had your refrigerator ready sooner, but we don’t always know when someone new is, uh, moving in.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t—”

“It’s best you just accept it.” He shoves his hands into his pockets. “It’s easier that way.” Without saying anything further to explain what the hell that even means, he skips down the steps and trots across the yard to the house next door.

I slam the door, needing to be enclosed in darkness to give my headache relief. It’s only when I’m able to fully open my eyes again without squinting that I notice there’s not a single light on in this house. I can’t even find a light switch. Does anyone live here? They must. Why else the welcome wagon? Bar guy must have just moved in, and the neighbors think I’m his wife or something. That may help me when I try to make my exit. But where is he? And where on earth is Centerville? I’ve never heard of it, but the name sounds just as bland as this house.

I will say, the neighbor was right about one thing. My stomach growls in agony. I can barely stand I’m so hungry. I found Jess a Tom together just minutes before the rehearsal dinner was served. So of course I skipped it. Maybe I ate something at the bar. Home chips? Hot wings? Christ! Why can’t I remember?

I stumble into the kitchen and put the dish on the table. As disgusting as this goop looks, it’s all I’ve got. I’ll eat enough just to replenish my energy, then I’ll figure out how to get out of here and get home. I move to the cabinets, guessing which drawer might hold the silverware, but no matter which one I try, none will budge.

“Sheesh, are these glued shut or what?”

Fine, I’ll eat with my hands. I sit down, get ready to scoop a good handful, when I notice the refrigerator to my left. What did that guy say about the refrigerator? He needed to get it ready. Why is that the neighbor’s responsibility? I get up and open it. It’s completely empty, apart from one lone loaf of bread that’s not in any container or wrap or anything. It’s just sitting on the bottom rack totally naked.

I bend down to poke it. “The hell?” It’s plastic. Not only that—the refrigerator is completely warm. There’s no steady hum. It’s not on!

I look behind it to see if it’s even plugged into the wall, but when I press my face into the tiny space between the wall and back of the refrigerator, it moves. The fucking thing moves! Like an inch or more! There’s no way I’m able to move an entire refrigerator with just one nudge. Hungover and hangry? There’s no way. No way.

Stepping backward, I nearly fall over the chair behind me. I catch myself by planting a hand into the slimy “not quite oatmeal.”

“Ugh.” I look around, but there’s nothing to wipe my hands. Nothing in this kitchen. Nothing in this goddamn house at all. I have to get out.

I sprint for the front door. I ready my eyes for the light and haul ass out of there. I will go to the neighbor’s. I’ll demand he explain plainly where the hell I am. I’ll tell him I work for the state, and I know for a fact there’s no place anywhere on the map called Centerville. I’ll make him give me information on the guy who brought me here—where can I find him, how can he take me home.

Across the street, I notice a woman standing in her yard and staring right at me. I start for next door, but her staring unsettles me. Something about her eyes hints that maybe she’ll give it to me straight, so I run to her instead.

“Excuse me?” I say breathlessly. “Can you tell me where I am?”

“Hell.”

So much for not being cryptic. I glance behind at the house. I feel it watching me menacingly. Something’s off. Something’s very off.

I turn back to the woman. “Listen, I know this may sound weird, you seeing me come out of that house and all, but I don’t actually live here.”

“You do now.”

Does anyone in this town not speak in riddles?

“No I don’t! I’m from Atlanta! Can you tell me how to get back to Atlanta!”

“You were brought here. Like all the rest of us.”

“What?”

Her eyes shift to something behind me. I turn around and see the next-door neighbor standing in his doorway. “Hey!” I don’t know where I find the energy to run back across the street. But I muster enough without collapsing and reach him to painfully block the door with my bare foot before he can close it.

“You’re going to tell me what the fuck is going on, and you’re going to tell me right goddamn now.”

The cheerful look he had when I first met him is replaced with that of a frightened child. He has no reason to be scared in my opinion, but he can’t even look at me directly. Instead, he talks to my neck.

“You can’t go back. You can never go back. It’s impossible.”

“What does that mean!” I screech.

“It means. It means—”

God, why won’t he just say it? Why won’t anyone say it? I think back to what that woman said when I asked her what this place was.

Hell.

Hell?

“Oh my god. Oh…my…go—” I walk backward, breathing heavily, until my back hits the porch column. “Am I…am I dead?”

“Oh, no, no, no, no! Nothing like that.” He rushes out, takes my hand and helps me to stand straight. “It’s just— To those at home, you might as well be.”

I frown at him and shake my head. Nothing said to me since I woke up in a stranger’s bed has made sense, and I’m too tired, too hungry, too lost in my own heartbreak…

Seeming to notice my frustration, he helps me to sit down on the top step of the porch and pats my back. “There, there. It’s not as bad here. Maybe you’ll find you’ll like it better than your life before. Some do. God, she takes care of us. But you have to accept it. If you don’t…” he motions to the woman across the street. “You’ll be miserable. Always trying to escape. Always failing. And then you will die.”

“My life before? God? She? Die?” It sure does sound like hell.

He points toward the horizon, and I follow his finger, past the trees, past the tops of the houses, up into a cloudless sky, a blueless sky…

A sunless sky.

There’s only the face of a monstrous child looking down on us. And then everything goes black.


This story was inspired by the Twilight Zone episode “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” only, the quiet town is a little more populated these days…

Five Characters in Search of an Exit” served as inspiration as well.

This was your first hour in the Twilight Zone. I know I said I would keep these stories at 100 words—that was a lie! Haha! Some stories just have more to say. 😉 Come back in an hour to see where we go next!