The Strange Sickness of Stan Worchkowsky

by Cheryl Anne Gardner

He set the timer on the microwave to 6.66 and pressed the start button.

Stan Worchkowsky worked the night shift, and it was just as well. It was the only time he could turn it off, the only time he could mute the ads and block the banners that bombarded his head with static almost twenty-four hours a day. He couldn’t stop watching. Not with his eyes, but with his mind, rapt, in old bloody newsprint and fish guts and hate. He felt he lived an outer life of hidden inner thoughts and messages, of voices cluttered with codes and signs and predictions for the future. The night shift offered him a moment of peace and quiet. No one wanted to work in the darkness where strange and beautiful creatures lie naked and alone, knowing only death and the horrors that lie beyond it.

Stan Worchkowsky worked in reclamations.

No security cameras.

No contracts.

No negotiations. Just a floor drain and a steel slab. Number 38765 was a Hep C. He liked to look at them in particular, liked to touch their cold flesh and stare into their jaundiced eyes. Daisies. Eyes like daisies. He liked to pop them out and put them in the microwave. Liked to snip bits off here and there, the parts he favored. The black market gems. The flawed ones might get you a pint or two, a grotesque might make a mortgage payment, and the amber liquid, if it was fresh, had a street value worth its weight in gold. The stock market never had returns like that.

He could remember the stock market.

Nobody even played the stocks anymore, except the fucking junkie assholes who were always trying to break in and suck the meat dry. That’s why he worked the night shift. He didn’t have to feed like they did. He had held out when everyone else had started gnawing on each other, so he could be picky with the scraps.

Grade A.

He refused to reclaim anything less. Oh people would pay for less, would kill for less if they had to—if they had the thirst and the hunger. Sometimes he envied them.

At least they didn’t have the static.

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Cheryl Anne Gardner likes to chase marbles on a glass floor when she isn’t eating lint, playing with sharp objects, or making taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. She writes art-house novellas and abstract flash fiction, some published, some not.
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