Her Lost Voice

Her Lost Voice

Illiana Sanchez’s hands hurt, her knuckles aching with dull and sharp pains as her fingers loomed over her computer keyboard. It surprised her, as she was only thirty-seven, and in her office profession, she didn’t do laborious work that would give her arthritis so young. Not like her great grandmother, who worked in the fields of a potato farm. Not like her mother, who worked at a salon tidying women’s hair, or her father who followed his mother’s path on the farm and then farm construction. She simply typed on a keyboard for a living.

She was startled by Dan, a gruff older man with a graying beard and longer fading blond hair standing by her door.

“Did you see the Turner Article?” he asked under his breath while taking a swig of his coffee from his earthen purple cup, a piece his potter wife made for him.

Illiana paused, narrowed her eyes, and sat back in her chair.

“Cordelia was assigned that piece. Are you telling me there is something wrong with it already?”

Dan glanced down and shrugged.

“You might want to before she gets started on another rant,” he said before moving to his office next to hers.

Illiana sighed. Cordelia was a problem from the moment she started interning. She disagreed in every way Illiana had been when she first started the business. Karma, perhaps, and usually, she liked the initiative and spunk. Illiana hoped to take the girl under her wing, but something was off with Cordelia. She showed so much promise, someone she sort of saw as herself, full of ambition and ready to tackle not only her job but bring about social justice needed to change the world.

Cordelia revealed herself as pompous about her accomplishments to hide a sort of insecurity. Illiana wondered if the book Lean In may have been right about the Queen Bee Syndrome, as she talked about in her women networking groups being anti-feminist because it implied that females didn’t support one another. She started to reconsider the opinion when Cordelia began front stabbing her during their Monday meetings.

She thought it unfortunate with the potential she saw in the girl, and there was plenty of room to grow in the small newspaper business. Hell, Illiana knew connections that could help Cordelia if she wanted to work in a more robust city than the small tourist town of Shadow Springs, Colorado.

The biggest news for the small town was the local election for Mayor between Mike Turner and Bella Davis. It was so unfortunate that the small-town politics had started to mimic the federal election in 2016, with an uprise of the quiet right. She suspected Dan may be part of that group, but he always declared himself a libertarian who didn’t like either party and just wanted to ensure the most freedom of rights. Illiana was mainstream, and it had been agreeable to her. The first in her family to not only get a college education but work herself in a good white-collar job doing what her mom thought was prestigious in the media. It gave her freedom to share not only her voice but those like her.

Her family had migrated from Mexico only two generations prior and had established themselves well in New Mexico before heading to the literal greener pastures of Colorado. Many of her cousins and extended family now reside in Colorado, and the opportunities seemed endless. She was the pinnacle of the story of her family’s success, and proud to be their voice.

If only they knew the truth that much of her work lies in the office gossip and constant eye strain. She felt her tired eyes as she stared at her computer screen, growing tired of a boring piece about a new restaurant by another newer intern Ursula. Her joints ached, and she felt her stomach soured.

She knew she should look at Cordelia’s piece about the election in case she had to confront her about making it more centered. She probably agreed with the confrontational viewpoint she suspected, but she didn’t want to upset the local right groups too much. Worse, she didn’t want the politics of the office to sour with Dan, her right-hand man.

Dan had always been her support. He loved his job in editorial and turned down the editing job multiple times. The added responsibility of small office management wasn’t his style. He believed in her from the moment she entered the office with her enthusiasm and her mission bringing better news to the outskirts of Shadow Springs. Despite their differences in politics, he was a laudable friend to confide in, and his wife made the best scones and homemade tea that she always brought with her homemade pottery. They were good people, and sort of an odd couple, but kind. Thinking of them reminded her of tea, and that it was prime time to take a break and energize for the afternoon.

Illiana grabbed her mug and opened her door and started for the kitchen when a girl bumped into her, and she dropped her mug on the carpet.

“I’m so sorry!” said the small, blond girl wearing glasses say as she knelt on the ground to retrieve her cup.

Illiana didn’t recognize this small, frail girl. She had a flower clip part the side of her short blond bob, pale skin, but striking blue electric eyes that kind of surprised her. She appeared tired and worn, wearing a very old-fashioned garb of a blue overall dress with a white blouse, and with her stocky black glasses. Her style was out of time from the 1980s, and while old trends were returning, she was clearly ill fashioned compared to Cordelia and Ursula who wore the latest fashion trends.

“Are you new here?” Illiana asked. Ursula was the latest intern, and she told Jon, the owner of the small newspaper, that they couldn’t afford the minimum for another employee. There wasn’t even enough work to go around for the small staff as it was. Despite his, he always had an eye for new college graduates looking for experience, and she worried about his intent being more personal than professional.

“I’m Sybil. I emailed last week about interning here.”

“Awe, I remember,” Illiana recalled, tucking some of her voluminous curls behind her ear. Illiana was proud of her natural looks and impeccable style, and her confidence gave immediate rapport with women. “You were supposed to start last week, but had a family emergency right?”

Her stomach tightened again, and sharp pains started down her legs and welled at her knees. The pain erupted the worse in her wrists, where she cried out and shook them to ease the sudden shocks of pain. What is up with this pain? She wondered, where did it come from?

Sybil noticed her sudden lurch and asked, “Are you alright?” while grabbing a hold of her shoulder. She smelled strongly of lilacs that tickled her nose.

“I’m fine. Maybe a bug. Just started today. As I was saying, how are you with the family emergency?”

“My grandmother is doing much better now, thank you. We think she is going to pull through. We greatly appreciate how you let me start later to be with her.”

Illiana smiled. It was more fortunate that she didn’t start so soon as well, but only because her growing staff was getting harder to handle. This girl was at least appreciative and a good team player. She breathed in some hope.

“Well, I’m sure you will do well here.”

“This may help,” Sybil said giving her a bottle of what looked like to be handmade lotion. “A family recipe, for cold hands during the wintertime to keep them nimble.”

Illiana initially scrunched her nose, but then opened the bottle that smelled less faint than the aroma of Sybil, and spread it on her hands. She felt instant relief.

“Wow, that is some marvelous lotion! You guys should think about selling it.” Illiana said.

“Perhaps,” Sybil said smiling as she left to her cubicle.

Illiana made her tea from the homemade remedy Dan supplied for the office and went back to her computer. She read the Turner article, and Dan was right. Cordelia accused Turner of accepting brides in lieu of campaign donations. There just wasn’t the evidence there to support the claims. The most they could report was the ongoing investigation by the city council. She felt a headache coming back, and the chronic pain in her joints return.

What is going on with me, she thought in a haze. I need to get some rest. This can wait until Monday. She decided to leave early, and Dan took notice but didn’t stop her. He worked with her long enough to know that some battles weren’t worth the fight on a Friday afternoon.

Over the weekend, the pain had gone away. Illiana found it slightly odd but figured it to be stress.

The Monday Morning madness started from the moment Illiana entered the office. She hadn’t gotten her caffeine fix for the morning meeting, and drama is already erupting in the office.

“You have no right to publish that piece!” she heard Dan yell in the break room.

“The people have a right to know,” Cordelia’s voice sounded more shrill than usual, almost afraid. She wondered if Dan threatened her job, and she almost never heard him yell.

“What is going on?” Illiana demanded as she entered the break room. She saw Cordelia and Ursula standing together in defensive poses while Dan stood center, commanding the room. Sybil sat in the back of the room writing in a notebook, observing.

“She published the unedited Turner piece on the website,” Dan said in his usual calm voice. “Ursula showed her how.”

Illiana tapped her foot looking at the floor fuming with anger. “You two, office now.”

The conversation did not go well. Dan, probably ensuring he didn’t cross boundaries but needing to know if he was in the right, brought her a cup of tea as the two young women tried to plead their case.

“This cannot be tolerated. You two are interns, not permanent staff. I know that Jon may have promised a permanent position, but it is earned through my trust. Right now, you don’t have it,” Illiana stated as the two defeated women agreed and left without a word.

She drank her tea, the pain continued to burn in her hands and lurch in her stomach. Sybil startled Illiana suddenly by sitting down quietly on the bench where Cordelia sat moments earlier.

“Your tea is poisoned,” she whispered.

Caught off guard, Illiana put down the cup.

“I noticed a high concentration of what looks to be lobelia petals, the blue flower petals in your teabag. I was going to make myself until I saw the petals.”

“How are you so sure?” Illiana asked. Her heart started to race, thinking about how she ingested that same tea for years. She didn’t notice the bluer hue. She saw it now. “How can you be sure?”

“I’ve worked with herbs for a long time. I know their smells, textures, and what they turn into dried or dehydrated. I confirmed it after I dissected the tea bag after making some. You see, my stomach has been off too. I thought it was stress, but I’m sure now. It’s the tea.”

The knot in Illiana’s stomach tightened. “What does lobelia do?”

“It used to be a natural remedy, but in concentration, it causes nausea and dizziness, and can be sort of addictive-like nicotine. It can be very bad ingested over a long period.”

Sybil’s words trailed off as Illiana starred off into space haunted by the implication of someone she trusted.

Sybil gave her a powdered tonic to offset the poison, and she consumed it like a shot.

She fired Dan that afternoon.

“Fine, who would want to work with you witches anyway,” he yelled with a fit of righteous anger. Illiana watched him leave in his car from her window.

“You think you know people,” Illiana said under her breath. While she stopped drinking the tea, but the effects lingered and seem to grow worse.

Over the week, her chronic pain continued. Sybil gave her the tonic daily, assuring her that the pain would eventually stop, but it only put her into a deeper haze. Cordelia and Ursula picked up the slack writing articles, and Jon didn’t notice Dan’s departure. If anything, he seemed pleased with the uptake of production. In the pit of her stomach, Illiana knew something was wrong.

By Friday, she barely crawled to the office. She felt compelled to go, even though her instincts told her to call in. She slept most of the day in her office, barely having the energy to move. As the day turned to dusk, hours after the workday, she heard a faint chanting. The lights were as off and computers dimmed as if the power was sucked out of the building like her own energy drained from the poison.

Her door opened, and the three interns entered carrying candles. They all wore white dresses and flower garlands with the blue lobelia flowers. Sybil, at the lead, held a cup of tonic she then placed to her at Illiana’s lips.

“What is that you gave her?” asked Cordelia.

“An old family recipe, strychnine tonic,” Sybil said as she forced Illiana to drink the tonic by plugging her nose. Ursula continued to chant.

“After she dies, we have evidence to frame Dan and Jon. You will have your revenge for Jon’s illicit activities, and we have one less voiceless mouthpiece,” Sybil said in a direct tone so unlike her, but little did Illiana know, it was quite her nature.

After Illiana consumed the last drop, Sybil wiped her mouth with a white napkin, quieting her voice forever. Her Lost Voice

Illiana Sanchez’s hands hurt, her knuckles aching with dull and sharp pains as her fingers loomed over her computer keyboard. It surprised her, as she was only thirty-seven, and in her office profession, she didn’t do laborious work that would give her arthritis so young. Not like her great grandmother, who worked in the fields of a potato farm. Not like her mother, who worked at a salon tidying women’s hair, or her father who followed his mother’s path on the farm and then farm construction. She simply typed on a keyboard for a living.

She was startled by Dan, a gruff older man with a graying beard and longer fading blond hair standing by her door.

“Did you see the Turner Article?” he asked under his breath while taking a swig of his coffee from his earthen purple cup, a piece his potter wife made for him.

Illiana paused, narrowed her eyes, and sat back in her chair.

“Cordelia was assigned that piece. Are you telling me there is something wrong with it already?”

Dan glanced down and shrugged.

“You might want to before she gets started on another rant,” he said before moving to his office next to hers.

Illiana sighed. Cordelia was a problem from the moment she started interning. She disagreed in every way Illiana had been when she first started the business. Karma, perhaps, and usually, she liked the initiative and spunk. Illiana hoped to take the girl under her wing, but something was off with Cordelia. She showed so much promise, someone she sort of saw as herself, full of ambition and ready to tackle not only her job but bring about social justice needed to change the world.

Cordelia revealed herself as pompous about her accomplishments to hide a sort of insecurity. Illiana wondered if the book Lean In may have been right about the Queen Bee Syndrome, as she talked about in her women networking groups being anti-feminist because it implied that females didn’t support one another. She started to reconsider the opinion when Cordelia began front stabbing her during their Monday meetings.

She thought it unfortunate with the potential she saw in the girl, and there was plenty of room to grow in the small newspaper business. Hell, Illiana knew connections that could help Cordelia if she wanted to work in a more robust city than the small tourist town of Shadow Springs, Colorado.

The biggest news for the small town was the local election for Mayor between Mike Turner and Bella Davis. It was so unfortunate that the small-town politics had started to mimic the federal election in 2016, with an uprise of the quiet right. She suspected Dan may be part of that group, but he always declared himself a libertarian who didn’t like either party and just wanted to ensure the most freedom of rights. Illiana was mainstream, and it had been agreeable to her. The first in her family to not only get a college education but work herself in a good white-collar job doing what her mom thought was prestigious in the media. It gave her freedom to share not only her voice but those like her.

Her family had migrated from Mexico only two generations prior and had established themselves well in New Mexico before heading to the literal greener pastures of Colorado. Many of her cousins and extended family now reside in Colorado, and the opportunities seemed endless. She was the pinnacle of the story of her family’s success, and proud to be their voice.

If only they knew the truth that much of her work lies in the office gossip and constant eye strain. She felt her tired eyes as she stared at her computer screen, growing tired of a boring piece about a new restaurant by another newer intern Ursula. Her joints ached, and she felt her stomach soured.

She knew she should look at Cordelia’s piece about the election in case she had to confront her about making it more centered. She probably agreed with the confrontational viewpoint she suspected, but she didn’t want to upset the local right groups too much. Worse, she didn’t want the politics of the office to sour with Dan, her right-hand man.

Dan had always been her support. He loved his job in editorial and turned down the editing job multiple times. The added responsibility of small office management wasn’t his style. He believed in her from the moment she entered the office with her enthusiasm and her mission bringing better news to the outskirts of Shadow Springs. Despite their differences in politics, he was a laudable friend to confide in, and his wife made the best scones and homemade tea that she always brought with her homemade pottery. They were good people, and sort of an odd couple, but kind. Thinking of them reminded her of tea, and that it was prime time to take a break and energize for the afternoon.

Illiana grabbed her mug and opened her door and started for the kitchen when a girl bumped into her, and she dropped her mug on the carpet.

“I’m so sorry!” said the small, blond girl wearing glasses say as she knelt on the ground to retrieve her cup.

Illiana didn’t recognize this small, frail girl. She had a flower clip part the side of her short blond bob, pale skin, but striking blue electric eyes that kind of surprised her. She appeared tired and worn, wearing a very old-fashioned garb of a blue overall dress with a white blouse, and with her stocky black glasses. Her style was out of time from the 1980s, and while old trends were returning, she was clearly ill fashioned compared to Cordelia and Ursula who wore the latest fashion trends.

“Are you new here?” Illiana asked. Ursula was the latest intern, and she told Jon, the owner of the small newspaper, that they couldn’t afford the minimum for another employee. There wasn’t even enough work to go around for the small staff as it was. Despite his, he always had an eye for new college graduates looking for experience, and she worried about his intent being more personal than professional.

“I’m Sybil. I emailed last week about interning here.”

“Awe, I remember,” Illiana recalled, tucking some of her voluminous curls behind her ear. Illiana was proud of her natural looks and impeccable style, and her confidence gave immediate rapport with women. “You were supposed to start last week, but had a family emergency right?”

Her stomach tightened again, and sharp pains started down her legs and welled at her knees. The pain erupted the worse in her wrists, where she cried out and shook them to ease the sudden shocks of pain. What is up with this pain? She wondered, where did it come from?

Sybil noticed her sudden lurch and asked, “Are you alright?” while grabbing a hold of her shoulder. She smelled strongly of lilacs that tickled her nose.

“I’m fine. Maybe a bug. Just started today. As I was saying, how are you with the family emergency?”

“My grandmother is doing much better now, thank you. We think she is going to pull through. We greatly appreciate how you let me start later to be with her.”

Illiana smiled. It was more fortunate that she didn’t start so soon as well, but only because her growing staff was getting harder to handle. This girl was at least appreciative and a good team player. She breathed in some hope.

“Well, I’m sure you will do well here.”

“This may help,” Sybil said giving her a bottle of what looked like to be handmade lotion. “A family recipe, for cold hands during the wintertime to keep them nimble.”

Illiana initially scrunched her nose, but then opened the bottle that smelled less faint than the aroma of Sybil, and spread it on her hands. She felt instant relief.

“Wow, that is some marvelous lotion! You guys should think about selling it.” Illiana said.

“Perhaps,” Sybil said smiling as she left to her cubicle.

Illiana made her tea from the homemade remedy Dan supplied for the office and went back to her computer. She read the Turner article, and Dan was right. Cordelia accused Turner of accepting brides in lieu of campaign donations. There just wasn’t the evidence there to support the claims. The most they could report was the ongoing investigation by the city council. She felt a headache coming back, and the chronic pain in her joints return.

What is going on with me, she thought in a haze. I need to get some rest. This can wait until Monday. She decided to leave early, and Dan took notice but didn’t stop her. He worked with her long enough to know that some battles weren’t worth the fight on a Friday afternoon.

Over the weekend, the pain had gone away. Illiana found it slightly odd but figured it to be stress.

The Monday Morning madness started from the moment Illiana entered the office. She hadn’t gotten her caffeine fix for the morning meeting, and drama is already erupting in the office.

“You have no right to publish that piece!” she heard Dan yell in the break room.

“The people have a right to know,” Cordelia’s voice sounded more shrill than usual, almost afraid. She wondered if Dan threatened her job, and she almost never heard him yell.

“What is going on?” Illiana demanded as she entered the break room. She saw Cordelia and Ursula standing together in defensive poses while Dan stood center, commanding the room. Sybil sat in the back of the room writing in a notebook, observing.

“She published the unedited Turner piece on the website,” Dan said in his usual calm voice. “Ursula showed her how.”

Illiana tapped her foot looking at the floor fuming with anger. “You two, office now.”

The conversation did not go well. Dan, probably ensuring he didn’t cross boundaries but needing to know if he was in the right, brought her a cup of tea as the two young women tried to plead their case.

“This cannot be tolerated. You two are interns, not permanent staff. I know that Jon may have promised a permanent position, but it is earned through my trust. Right now, you don’t have it,” Illiana stated as the two defeated women agreed and left without a word.

She drank her tea, the pain continued to burn in her hands and lurch in her stomach. Sybil startled Illiana suddenly by sitting down quietly on the bench where Cordelia sat moments earlier.

“Your tea is poisoned,” she whispered.

Caught off guard, Illiana put down the cup.

“I noticed a high concentration of what looks to be lobelia petals, the blue flower petals in your teabag. I was going to make myself until I saw the petals.”

“How are you so sure?” Illiana asked. Her heart started to race, thinking about how she ingested that same tea for years. She didn’t notice the bluer hue. She saw it now. “How can you be sure?”

“I’ve worked with herbs for a long time. I know their smells, textures, and what they turn into dried or dehydrated. I confirmed it after I dissected the tea bag after making some. You see, my stomach has been off too. I thought it was stress, but I’m sure now. It’s the tea.”

The knot in Illiana’s stomach tightened. “What does lobelia do?”

“It used to be a natural remedy, but in concentration, it causes nausea and dizziness, and can be sort of addictive-like nicotine. It can be very bad ingested over a long period.”

Sybil’s words trailed off as Illiana starred off into space haunted by the implication of someone she trusted.

Sybil gave her a powdered tonic to offset the poison, and she consumed it like a shot.

She fired Dan that afternoon.

“Fine, who would want to work with you witches anyway,” he yelled with a fit of righteous anger. Illiana watched him leave in his car from her window.

“You think you know people,” Illiana said under her breath. While she stopped drinking the tea, but the effects lingered and seem to grow worse.

Over the week, her chronic pain continued. Sybil gave her the tonic daily, assuring her that the pain would eventually stop, but it only put her into a deeper haze. Cordelia and Ursula picked up the slack writing articles, and Jon didn’t notice Dan’s departure. If anything, he seemed pleased with the uptake of production. In the pit of her stomach, Illiana knew something was wrong.

By Friday, she barely crawled to the office. She felt compelled to go, even though her instincts told her to call in. She slept most of the day in her office, barely having the energy to move. As the day turned to dusk, hours after the workday, she heard a faint chanting. The lights were as off and computers dimmed as if the power was sucked out of the building like her own energy drained from the poison.

Her door opened, and the three interns entered carrying candles. They all wore white dresses and flower garlands with the blue lobelia flowers. Sybil, at the lead, held a cup of tonic she then placed to her at Illiana’s lips.

“What is that you gave her?” asked Cordelia.

“An old family recipe, strychnine tonic,” Sybil said as she forced Illiana to drink the tonic by plugging her nose. Ursula continued to chant.

“After she dies, we have evidence to frame Dan and Jon. You will have your revenge for Jon’s illicit activities, and we have one less voiceless mouthpiece,” Sybil said in a direct tone so unlike her, but little did Illiana know, it was quite her nature.

After Illiana consumed the last drop, Sybil wiped her mouth with a white napkin, quieting her voice forever.

Bad Poetry

Bad Poetry

Bad poetry has a purpose.

To capture pain

write it down,

process and transform it.

Because memories bog the mind,

hurting relationships that could flourish.

killing art that could be created,

and inhibiting relief needed to heal.

Better to write bad poetry to expel pain,

then let it rot the heart.

Bad Poetry

Breaking

Walls, boundaries by another name. Hard to open, she felt could let him in, but he barricaded himself in. Hurt, she opened to another, who shamed her, and another just stood, not knowing what to say. So she moved on, taking brick by brick down, exposing all for any connection.

Bad Poetry

Clipping

Since her own wings were clipped,

she only saw the molting feathers,

and not the potential for them to fly. 

She took out her scissors

to keep them grounded,

keep them safe,

never to reach for the sky again.

Bad Poetry

Observation

She loved the ideal romanticism 

he displayed in his posture,

the way he talked, 

and how he listened. 

Always guarded, 

his actions were a never-ending performance. 

His hands occasionally shook 

during moments of vulnerability, 

and he retreated.

It is impossible to read the real him, 

the ever actor shielding his true self

His Last Performance

His Last Performance

The sound still resonated in his ears, echoing the rhythm of his quickened heart. “Sic Semper Tyrannus!” he bellowed desperately as he leaped off the balcony to the stage below.   

He gasped as sharp pains jerked from his knee, and started sweating profusely as heat and agony burned through his leg. He had acted on the plan, and for a moment he was satisfied before the numbness of his injury set in.

Time slowed as he focused on the audience before him, who only stared back at him in awe and amazement. He narrowed on the confused smile of a boy he had seen before, a regular to his plays.  They think I’m an act, he surmised.  His fame ruined his current declaration.  The audience continued to gaze at him dumbfoundedly until it was broken by the shrill screams of a woman.

In the commotion of the president going down, the audience broke their sight of him to the balcony where soldiers amassed.   Adrenaline bolstered his movement backstage, and muscle memory aided him to a back exit. His greatest performance, but he wouldn’t enjoy it.  

As he lumbered to the horses staged behind the theater, he reflected on all that had gone wrong in the months before.  The kidnapping plot that went awry, and General Lee conceding to defeat.  He took the reins, heart reverberating with each gallop, resounding the shot he continued to hear. An echo that subverted the Federal Government of the United States.

Written for NYC Flash Fiction Competition 2021

Action: Sweating
Word: Sight
Genre: Historical Fiction

Picture: Painting for Friend 2021