What’s it About?
Natalie Bishop, a psychology student in New York City, is looking for love using a safe Christian Dating app. She is smart and easy to get along with, but her phobia about someone spiking her drinks could ruin a much needed night out on the town. A/N: Someone wanted to know why Natalie has an obsession with watching her drinks. I updated the story to show what started it all. Thanks for the feedback readers!
**Science Fiction Fantasy about aliens taking over the world, one person at a time. Misuse of emergency services and racism were mixed in due to current events. An intense abduction scene at the end may be frightening for some, but it all works out… maybe.**
( 24 Minute Read)
The bar was dark, loud, and crowded. Michael made his way to a reserved table. He read the name on a place card written with a sharpie. ‘Miller, table 2.’ He inhaled deeply as he looked at the people near him. Body odors revealed human emotions rather than insincere small talk. A sweet-smelling mist filled the air as patrons vaped instead of smoking traditional cigarettes. The bubble gum scent interfered with his reading people accurately. He decided his other senses would have to compensate.
In his pocket, Michael’s cell phone chimed with a text message. The band playing on a worn stage masked the alert with their raucous sound. A vibrating second notification, caused Michael to pull out the phone.
“5 minutes away. Did you get us a table?” he read.
Michael typed: “Sure did. In the reserved section under my last name, Miller. Sparkling water with a slice of lime, right?”
“Yes, but wait till I get there.”
Michael watched the barrister prepare several mixed drinks with a flair for the crowd, like the young Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail. The scent of the women conveyed excitement, the men, anticipation for sex. As Michael’s sensitive nose sorted out the smells he stared at the barman until their eyes met. Both men acknowledged a nonverbal agreement.
Michael typed “I put in a food and drink order for us. The place is packed.” He hit send. There was no response.
Natalie Bishop got off the D train at 51st street. She walked across 8th Avenue to 6th and looked for a bar called Space Shot. The city reopening after the pandemic, gave her a wide view that was never possible before Covid-19. She opened her phone to look at the picture of her date. She picked him using the Christian Dating App she was fond of. Filters set on high discarded profiles with foul language, antisemitism, racism, and penis pics. Michael, a black man with dark hair, brown eyes, had bronze skin that seemed to glimmer on his profile page. He looked very cute and she wanted to meet him but he broke one of her dating rules. Ordering drinks before she arrived. Texting to say ‘it was crowded so he ordered anyway’ was no excuse. Learning from the bad experiences of other women, she didn’t accept drinks waiting for her from men she didn’t know. Anybody could put something in your drink so her rule was not to accept waiting beverages from dates.
As Natalie walked, she considered swiping left on Michael’s profile. Left would take Michael out of her dating pool. Good dates were hard to find. The study of psychology at City College kept her busy as an undergrad, making long term relationships difficult. She swiped right on Michael’s profile and saved his name in her favorites.
‘I hope Michael is looking for more than a hookup,’ she thought as she approached the bar. She heard the place was famous for its finger foods and drinks. Her stomach reminded her she was famished, so she went in.
After a quick scan of the reserved tables, Natalie spotted her date. While Michael sat quietly eating tortilla chips, she checked him. He wore dark-washed indigo jeans, a plaid short-sleeved collared shirt with a black leather belt and shoes. A 5 o’clock shadow gave him a sexy masculine look. The lack of designer logos on his attire suggested he didn’t want to display his net worth, or was frugal, looking to get lucky without spending much on a date.
“When I graduate I should get a job as a criminal profiler for the F.B.I,” she smirked. Natalie waved as she approached to get his attention. When he looked at her, the brown eyes he had in the app photo were replaced with gray ones that had black triangle-shaped irises. It looked weird on a black man. “Great. I’m dating a college preppie who wears weird contacts trying to hide his high,” she thought. Her face scowled as her eyes focused on two drinks sitting on the table. Controlled anger took a step back when he smiled at her, showing pearly whites Hollywood would kill for.
“Natalie?” he said her name as a question, sniffing the air as he eyed her.
She thought ‘white lines been up that nose,’ but said nothing. She’d gone this far. May as well follow through, even though her instincts screamed to run for the hills.
“Michael?” She fired back the same way.
“Yes,” he said with that Hollywood smile and stood up. “Wow, you look great!” he admired while pulling out a chair for her to sit down. “You know you got that Abigail Cowen look going on,” he added with the pearly whites.
“Thanks,” she said, deciding not to correct him. She looked nothing like the award-winning white actress famous for her role in the series ‘Stranger Things,’ but she did feel pretty in the charcoal three-quarter sleeve elementerry boatneck dress she wore. The matching wedge shoes and black tights was a fun casual look that worked well on her. A black purse in hand completing her look held money, a mobile phone, and pepper spray, just in case.
She allowed him to seat her. Natalie placed her purse on the table as she grabbed a menu, ignoring her drink. Michael picked up his gin and tonic and took a sip.
“Um, I actually ordered some appetizers from the kitchen already,” he said, smelling her indifference. Natalie watched him double dip a corn chip in some kind of white sauce. When the food arrived, she would request a separate dip bowl. ‘No date-double-dipping,’ she thought. We just got over coronavirus.
“Well, I didn’t say anything about ordering food before I arrived,” she chastised, the tone playful but firm.
“Yeah, about that,” he said sounding embarrassed.”I really expected your drink to come later with the food but the bartender that was mixing by himself got some help.” He paused, then continued. “So that’s why it showed up before you arrived. I get it. I’ll have one of the barristers make you a fresh one,” he said sliding the chips and sauce over to her. The white concoction appeared to bubble like it was hot. She pushed it back to him.
“That’s okay. I’ll get it myself,” she said taking a chip but not dipping. “Besides, Id like see what lady drinks they have. Sparkling water is not what I want…” she paused in mid-sentence to eat the chip, then continued “now that I’m here…” You can stay and wait for the food. I got this,” she insisted, taking the drink from the table and making her way to the bar.
Natalie stood at the bar holding her unwanted beverage. A handsome black barrister had the attention of a pretty blond white woman at the far end of the counter. Music from the band prevented Natalie from hearing what was said but the bartender’s conversation was very animated. ‘Maybe he’s telling her a joke to keep her smiling. That would keep me interested,’ she thought as she flashed a smile in his direction. ‘First impressions make the difference between free and paid drinks,’ she surmised, wishing she checked her face in the ladies’ room before coming to the bar.
“Well hell..lo,” he draws out the greeting. Gray eyes with black triangle irises look her up and down. He sniffs the air, then rubbed his nose.
“Great. Another triangle eyed coke head. This one with a runny nose,” she thought.
“Can you recommend a sweet ladies drink?” she said, as she stuck a bar napkin in her drink glass, her version of throwing in the towel.
“Ahh. Something stronger than a Selzer and lime?” he said removing her glass from the counter. He put a small bowl of tortilla chips and a white looking sauce in front of her. The sauce bubbled like what Michael had but nobody double-dipped into it so she decided to give it a taste. It had a salty spicy flavor with an aftertaste she couldn’t put her finger on.
“How you know what I had?” she asked suspiciously as she ate a chip with some of the sauce. Its aftertaste becoming less noticeable.
“I’m the bartender. I remember what everyone drinks,” his smile comes out like Michaels. “May I suggest a Grey Goose Bump? It has Vodka, OJ, Grape soda with crushed ice, and a lime wedge. It has a purplish look and is sweet as me,” he says with a flirtatious smile and dimpled cheeks.
“Okay. I’ll try it,” she agrees, her body feeling tingly in his presence. She ate more of the bubbly sauce. It tasted better with each mouthful. Then she double-dipped when she saw the bartender wasn’t looking.
“I’ll bring your drink right over to table 2, Miller, right?”
‘He knows my table? Must have been scoping me since I got here,’ she thought. “How about I watch you prepare my drink and I bring it back to… table 2, Miller,” she proposed.
“You don’t trust me?” The smile came back.
“I trust you. But I’m still watching you make my drink,” she said with conviction.
“Well, in that case, watch this!” he said as he grabbed a long neck vodka bottle. He tossed it in the air, allowing gravity to bring it back to his hands. Pouring a hefty amount of vodka in a metal canister, he danced a jig while adding orange juice and crushed ice. He shook the mixture as his antics drew a small crowd. After pouring the mix in a glass rimmed with sugar, he added grape soda to the yellow mix, making it turn purple. A lime wedge finished the concoction as he handed Natalie her drink.
“And… here you are my dear,” he said as the crowd cheered. “Made fresh just for you.” He grinned. This one is on the house. Have a few sips. I’ll top off what’s left in your glass, he said with a smile.
‘No more,’ she thought, yanking her glass away from the barman. ‘Something is making my stomach queasy. I’ll have to sip this slowly while I wait for my food,’ she said to herself, but somehow he heard it or felt what she was thinking.
“You won’t have to wait,” the bartender explained. “Food is already on your table. You can eat while you drink your drink. Enjoy. I’ll hold the rest until your ready for a refill.” he encouraged.
‘I won’t be back. It’s too strong for me, she thought as she took another bite of chips and sauce to coat her empty stomach. The sensation of spinning made her misjudge where her feet should walk, almost falling. Natalie took a breath and slowly turned towards the bartender.
“Toss the rest of the drink, and thanks for the food,” she mumbled, staggering back to Michael.
The bartender watched her, then Michael. He sniffed the air, then wiped his nose.
Natalie made it to her table to find it covered with warm bread and several plates of appetizers. Mini crab cakes with a white chive dip. Italian Sausage Rolls in white sauce, barbeque rib tips, and honey garlic chicken wings with that same sauce.
“Don’t they have other sauce’s we could try?” Natalie asked, slurring her words.
“Yes, but this is my favorite. It’s really good,” he said.
Natalie wanted to order a different dip, but the light-headed feeling she was experiencing was getting worse, so she ate some of the garlic wings with the sauce, and bread, hoping to soothe her stomach and spinning head. Michael watched her eat through triangle irises.
The band onstage started playing “We Are Family” by the girl group Sister Sledge. Natalie began tapping her foot to the beat as she chewed a piece of crab cake with a big helping of white sauce. Hearing the song reminded her of the Bishop family reunion she attended three years ago. As siblings hugged and sang a verse or two, her date slipped ‘K’ in her drink when no one was around. What happened after that remains a mystery. She vowed to herself that would never happen again. The song recalled bad memories but she shut them down. As she listened to the music, she swayed offbeat in her seat, rhythm suddenly off as her heart began to race. The next bite of crab cake fell out of her hand, the tasty morsel too heavy to hold. Sweat pooled up on her forehead running into her eyes, stinging like a bee as sweat glands worked overtime to cool her rising body temperature.
Natalie tried to tell Michael she was going to the ladies’ room, but her mouth wouldn’t form the words as facial muscles seized up.
‘Get some fresh air,’ her mind suggested as she tried to stand. Michael looked at the bartender as he grabbed Natalie’s sleeve to keep her from falling out of the chair. He quickly stood up and put his arm around her as her body went limp.
“Need assistance?” the bartender asked, quickly making his way over to Michael’s table.
“I could use some help getting her to the room in the back,” Michael said, holding Natalie up like a rag doll. The men nodded to each other in agreement. She tried to speak.
“You drugged me,” Natalie tried to make her mouth to say, but the words came out as “Sue drum meh.”
“I didn’t,” Micheal responded. “But you should be careful of what you eat,” he shot back. Natalie’s head felt heavy as a bowling ball. She heard Michael talking but could not look up to meet his eyes. The men lifted her 120-pound frame off her feet like a paperweight. Patrons watching the band didn’t notice Natalie’s feet dangling in the air as she was taken away from the table towards the back of the bar. The breeze from the movement cooled her forehead, but her heart continued to race on a path to the unknown.
“It’s gonna be alright,” the bartender said lifting her head up with his free hand as they approached a door with a red neon-light above it. A chalkboard attached to the door had words written on it. Natalie squinted hard to read: Space Shot Employees Only.
Michael entered a lock code, then swang the door open. Inside was a dimly lit room with a disheveled single sized bed. Pin-up posters of 70ish models Farrah Fawcett, and Christie Brinkley were lazily duct-taped over a wrought iron headboard. Natalie’s sleepy eyes grew wide when she saw handcuffs attached to each side of the metal headboards teardrop design.
“No!” escaped from her mouth as adrenaline fueled strength took over as she struggled to get free of the men holding her off the floor. Michael tried to bring her in, but Natalie placed both feet on the door jam and pushed back hard, the move driving Michael and the bartender away from the entrance. The victory was short-lived once she lost her footing on the door. In unison, Michael grabbed her feet as the bartender grabbed Natalie’s arms and the two carried her in the room single file, still struggling. The bartender kicked the door closed behind them, then the two men tossed her on the bed with one swing. Natalie had the sensation of floating in the air at zero gravity before she landed on the bed face up. She groped the bed for her purse that contained the pepper spray but it was still on the reserved table. She screamed as she drew herself tightly into a ball with her feet ready to kick the first one that tried to assault her.
“Do we need to use the handcuffs?” the bartender asked Michael in a low voice.
“No. The lactobacillus in the sauce will take over the host shortly,” he said without expression as Natalie’s body started to shake uncontrollably. Her eyes rolled back, hiding pupils behind exposed sclera, appearing ghostly against her skin. Her head thrashed back and forth mimicking violent slaps to the face until she vomited food and sauce onto the bed. The bartender sniffed the air, then looked at the door as footsteps approached.
“What’s going on in there?” said a tall blond woman with her ear to the door.
“I was with my friends when I see you two holding a girl, a white girl, then slip round back here. Ain’t no other way pass me so you got to be in there with her,” she yelled. “Open up now or I call 911 emergency. You know what? I’m gonna tell them two African American men drugged a young white girl and took her unconscious into a room. That’s what I’m gonna say. You hearing me?” she said banging on the door.
“Just a few minutes more,” Michael said gesturing with his hands, not paying attention to the woman outside. They would deal with her once the change was complete. Both men watched the regurgitated meal reshape, turning into a gelatin flagellum, sliding on the bed back to the host. The unearthly organism moved like strings of spaghetti, worming its way into Natalie’s mouth, ears, and nose. When the last strands entered her body, Natalie opened her eyes, now gray with black triangle-shaped irises. The woman continued banging on the door.
“Bet you thought nobody cared about what your doing right?” I’m a woman and you got another woman held against her will. I’m not going for that.
Natalie took a sniff of the air then stared at the door as the woman ranted.
“I’m okay,” Natalie shouted out, getting off the bed and pushing pass Michael and the bartender. “Were coming out now. No need to call anybody,” she said opening the door. Natalie greeted the woman with a Hollywood smile.
“You alright girl? I saw them boys snatch you up and come back here. I felt something was wrong when you didn’t come back for your purse,” she said trying to get a look in the room. Michael and the bartender blocked her view as they came out and closed the door.
“Anyway, I looked out for you,” she said handing Natalie her black clutch purse. “What’s wrong with your eyes?” the woman said studying Natalie. She had the feeling something else was going on but didn’t know what it was.
“Oh, these are designer contacts. I got one stuck in my eye so my date helped me fix it in the room,” Natalie explained but the woman was no longer interested in their brief sisterhood.
“You need to choose better dates,” she said looking Michael up and down. “If your alright, then I’m going back to my table before my friends think something bad happened to me,” she said, giving Michael and the bartender the stink eye.
“Can I offer you a drink on the house, for checking on the welfare of a stranger?” the bartender asked. He wanted to say ‘for checking on a white girl’ but decided not to. “Most people don’t step up like you did. Id like to compensate you for that, he continued.”
“I don’t drink,” the woman said. “I come here for the food, she snarled back.
“Well, in that case, allow me to send a bunch of hot appetizers over to your table for you and your friends,” Natalie said. That would make me happy since you looked out for me, and watched my purse,” Natalie said, smiling and making eye contact with the woman, the way girls do when they agree on something.
“Well, I guess it would be alright,” the woman said.
“Be sure to taste the white dipping sauce. Its outa this world,” Natalie said with a smile as she sniffed the air.
Copyright © Darnell Cureton. All Rights Reserved
A/N: I was working on the “Life Change” story before Covid-19 took the world by storm, but current events gave me the idea to change all the characters ethnicity. The white woman at the story climax was willing to help another white woman simply because she was in the company of black men. The invasion and infection of human beings was the real danger, the bigger picture she failed to see. This was a writing lesson for me because my story is only 3400 words long. If it were a novel instead of short fiction I would have had to make a decision if it was worth going back and rewriting the whole book. It would be painstaking, but it could be worth it if it could be completed to play off current events. So – authors keep in mind what will make your work better, even if it means a painful rewrite…DO IT!!!!!
You may find helpful a Text To Speech program in your browser that you can use to check your spelling – and have fun listening to your story told by an AI. Its called NaturalReader. I did a cut and paste of my story. Here is what it sounded like:
note: If you notice the AI speaking different words than written, its because I corrected typo’s and changed some dialog in the print version, but did not update the sample AI audio version.
Happy Writing Everyone!