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First pages

1

The universe was under her bed.

Her bed had a soft lavender skirt that matched the satin duvet. Her bed had sage green contrasting sheets and a selection of quirky but tasteful throw pillows. Her bed had a pillow-top mattress that somehow involved NASA. Her bed had a lurking emptiness underneath.

Morgan kept her home very neat. The floors were swept, the shelves dusted, and the counters wiped down daily. She made the bed every morning and carefully placed the pillows to look as though they had casually fallen into a pleasing arrangement. Her books sat in neat, alphabetized rows. Even her jewelry was tidy in her little jewelry box. Any more disorganization than the gaping impossibility of a universe under her bed was just too much.

She slept above the universe every night. It pulled her teeth and tugged her hair. The oppressive silence of it seeped into her house and muffled her life. She could feel the emptiness of it in her bones.

Morgan told no one about it at first. It was her own ridiculous phobia, she was sure of that. There was no possible way any of it was happening. She went on with her life with the knowledge lodged in her brain like an ice pick.

The phone rang one Friday night.

“Hello?” Morgan said with her polite phone voice, the one carefully calculated to sound both friendly to legitimate callers and uninviting to telemarketers.

“Morgan! It's Lara! It's been so-o-o-o long and I'm coming through tomorrow. I thought we could catch up!” Morgan's cousin Lara always ended sentences with exclamations! Cousin Lara also only called when she wanted a free place to spend the night.

“Hi, Lara! I'd love to grab lunch. Why are you going to be in town?” Morgan carefully avoided offering to let Lara come to her house. Once in she always found a way to stay.

“I'm flying out to California with some friends tomorrow! Spring Break!” she answered. “Oh! By the way! I'm leaving super early tomorrow. Could I just, you know, crash at your place? So we have time to catch up, you know? So I don't have to waste time looking for a hotel?” she added as though the thought just occurred to her. “And could I leave my car at your place? Airport parking is super expensive!”

“Uh, there's no where to leave your car here, sorry. Just street parking, you know?” Morgan tried to avoid the rest of the question.

“Aw, poo,” Lara pretended to pout. Morgan rolled her eyes and suppressed a sigh. “Well, that's ok, I guess. How about I just crash there?”

“Ok. Sure. When are you going to be here?” Morgan gave in. Lara wouldn't stop until she got an answer.

“Oh, sometime between 2 and 6. See ya!” Lara made kissy noises into the phone and hung up. Morgan sighed and went to find blankets and pillows for her couch.

...

Morgan was not surprised when Lara didn't show up until 6:30 the next evening. The family resemblance between the two cousins started and ended at the smooth caramel skin, dark eyes, and the thick, dark hair inherited from their fathers' Puerto Rican mother. Lara, tall and thin, stood over a half foot taller than her much smaller cousin. Lara wore her long hair straight and loose, hanging around her waist. Morgan's curls, a gift from her mother's genes, were tied up out of her face with a bandana.

“Ohmigod, Morgan!” she squealed as she grabbed Morgan into a crushing hug. Lara tossed her flower-print tote bag on the couch and went to the kitchen to rummage through the fridge.

“Hey, Lara. Did you want something specific?” Morgan followed her and stood in the doorway as Lara picked through her sparse leftovers.

“God, Morgan! Your fridge is so clean! Oh, can I eat your General Tsao's?” Lara asked as she opened the container and cabinets looking for a plate.

Morgan handed her a plate and fork. “Yeah, that’s fine,” she sighed. Lara put the dish uncovered in the microwave, and Morgan winced as the chicken popped and sizzled in the previously spotless appliance. Lara sat at the table to dig in while her cousin made coffee.

They sat for a while discussing their very distant and disjointed family. Lara's father and Morgan’s father, brothers and business partners, were in Spain somewhere making what were sure to be monumentally important deals. Lara’s mother was back home in Philadelphia.

“Have you talked to Aunt Vee anytime lately?” Lara asked about Morgan's mother.

“Uh, Christmas I guess. She called on Christmas. I think she's in Miami doing God knows what,” Morgan shrugged and stirred her coffee.

“Wasn't your birthday last month? Didn't she call you then?” Lara barreled on in her typical clueless way.

“Yeah, it was and no, she didn't. Anyways,” Morgan said, trying to change the subject before Lara began asking why, “What time is your flight?”

Lara made a playfully disgusted face, “5 am. Isn't that just ridiculous? Maybe I'll sleep on the plane, though. Flying is just the worst,” she trailed off and began to look around at Morgan's kitchen. “Is something different in here? Like, new paint or something? No offense but it feels really strange.”

“Strange how?” Morgan ask, suddenly interested.

“Like, bigger, maybe? Like there's a lot more empty space. That doesn't make sense, though. It's your same old kitchen, yeah?” Lara shivered and went to get her sweater.

“The kitchen's the same. But the universe is under my bed. That's probably what you're feeling,” Morgan said flatly.

Lara stared blankly at her for a moment before breaking out into laughter. “Ohmigod, Morgan! That's so funny! Where do you come up with that kind of thing?”

Morgan tried to smile but failed. “I'm not joking, Lara. Go look, seriously.”

Lara laughed uncomfortably this time. “Are there monsters under there, too?” she said trying to turn Morgan's strange statement into a joke.

“Probably. There's lots of things in the universe,” Morgan answered. “Go look. You'll see it.”

Lara looked disturbed. “Morgan, I don't get it. Like, you really think the universe is under your bed? Like, the one we're living in right now?”

“I don't know for sure that it's our universe, I guess. That's kind of above my pay grade. It really is under there, though. Really. Go look and you'll see that I'm right,” Morgan offered and pointed at her closed bedroom door.

Lara shook her head. She leaned forward and touched Morgan's hand gently, “Morgan, don't you know how crazy that sounds?”

“I know. But go look. I'm not crazy. You'll see it,” Morgan insisted quietly. Lara shook her head again.

“If you're teasing me it's not funny,” Lara said with her brows knitted together.

“Sorry, Lara. You don't have to look if you don't want to. I'm not crazy, though,” Morgan asserted as she started to clear the table.

“I don't need to look. There's nothing under your bed, Morgan. Probably not even dust bunnies with the way you clean,” Lara tried to make a joke, Morgan smiled amiably and changed the subject.

That was her answer, then. Her impossibility simply was not happening. The bed she picked out at Pottery Barn and pieced together with a lot of swearing and one severely smashed finger just did not hide a horrific yawning emptiness.

...

Lara went to bed right away and left before Morgan woke up. The universe stayed right where it was.

Her home felt emptier and thinner as time passed. She found that she could vaguely see the dark shapes of her furniture through her walls like they had become soaped store windows. Her plates started to crack and snap apart in the dish washer. The floors bowed unnervingly if she stepped too heavily.

She bought a scale and started to weigh herself. She looked no thinner but was lighter each week. She could only feel her growing weakness when she tried to interact with object outside her home. The stapler on her desk at work was oddly heavy. The banker box of files in her office was simply unmanageable.

Morgan considered leaving but she owned the house. A mortgage and rent on an apartment was not possible on her entry level office drone salary. She tried to list the house for sale but no realtor would take it on. Each gave her a different reason but it all came down to the same thing that made Morgan want to leave. The feeling of a house that is slowly disappearing with you inside is too horrible to imagine.

Morgan decided to Google it. She was a proper Millennial, after all. Everything worth knowing could be found on the Internet. Google was pretty sure Morgan was having a psychotic breakdown. National Geographic offered to explain light years to her. Web MD insisted that she must have cancer.

She eventually found some active message boards on new age and conspiracy websites. They looked like they hadn't been updated since the mid nineties and featured users named things like HollowEarth, IndigoChild, and GrassyKnoll.

She posted the same message to all the boards:

The universe is under my bed.

I am not crazy.

Please, someone tell me what to do.

The new age boards exploded with advice. A number of “gurus” offered to come cleanse her home of its negative energy for a “small fee”. Morgan declined these offers.

“Isn't your peace of mind worth any price?” goaded one.

Many of the users wanted Morgan to cleanse the universe of its toxins. They offered a variety of ways to achieve this with everything from crystals to music. They insisted that this was her chance, that it was a gift, and that wasting it would not be accepted gracefully by whatever higher power had given it to her.

One user advised that she simply tell the universe that it was not welcome under her bed. She was then to calmly ask it to restore her home and leave. Morgan reminded the user that this was the universe and not some mischievous ghost that kept hiding her keys and waking her up at night.

The conspiracy sites were no better. Most claimed that it must be some government test. She was being experimented on before this new weapon would be released on the American public for some reason.

Morgan quickly gave up on the Internet.

One morning, Morgan found a burning candle on her porch. The next day, more followed along with cards, flowers, candies, little bags of coins, and a loaf of Wonderbread. Morgan stepped out with a trash bag in the early morning to clean up the mess for the fifth time. A man and two women were kneeling in the yard. The man stood when Morgan opened the door.

“Will you take our offerings to it?” he asked with a strange, far away smile. He approached the porch. Morgan stepped back in the house and shook her head.

“N-no. Sorry,” Morgan stuttered before she shut the door and locked it. She peeked out the window, the man, still smiling, knelt back down and stared at the house in adoration. Morgan called the police.

The officer who came glanced at the people on the lawn before knocking on the door. “So what's the problem here?” she asked looking around at the scattered candles and flowers on the porch.

Morgan gestured at the yard and porch, “There are people in my yard! They're leaving garbage on my porch!” she shouted.

“Calm down, ma'am. You're overreacting,” the officer held out both hands and spoke soothingly, “There's nothing wrong here.”

Morgan was shocked. She opened her mouth but no words came out. She tried again, “You're kidding. You're fucking with me. There's people in my yard!”

“There's nothing wrong here, ma'am. Please calm down. They have the right to assemble.”

Morgan shook her head. “In my yard? I don't believe this.”

The officer shrugged and turned away. She left a little bag of chocolate coins on the porch before she left.

Morgan sat in her orderly living room listening to the murmur of the growing crowd outside. She had always hated the noise of the city. The chanting and calls of the congregation outside were much worse. The universe pulled on her from the other end of the house. She went to sit on the floor and look at it. Almost no sound reached her bedroom. The silence was disconcerting but better than zealots layered over traffic.

Leaving the house was a terrifying experience but she had to keep her job. The people in the yard learned that she would not speak to them. They would stare silently when she opened the door and part slightly to let her through. Her car had been decorated with flowers and window paints.

She found her door busted in one day on her return from work. She looked out at the crowd in her yard. She considered asking them about it but was afraid to talk to them. Calling the police proved useless, the dispatcher seemed uninterested as soon as she heard the address. Morgan took a deep breath, gripped her can of pepper spray, and stepped in her house.

The overwhelming silence unnerved her. Nothing was disturbed in her living room. The television and her game system sat out in the open, her laptop was still on the coffee table. The rest of the house was the same, as perfect and neat as she had left it.

In the bedroom, Morgan found a note pinned to one of her many throw pillows with a pearl brooch from her jewelery box.

I just had to see it.

I won't come back.

Sorry about the door.

She nailed her windows shut that night and had a security door installed the next day. The man who came to install it did so very slowly while constantly glancing in the direction of her bedroom. Once the door was hung, he slowly explained all the features of the door.

“The hinges are reinforced, see?” he said, pointing to the hinges as he moved the door back and forth, “and the door itself is steal reinforced,” he knocked on the door to demonstrate its metallic sound.

“Um, yeah. It's a security door. I read all the features when I bought it. Thanks now, good bye,” Morgan said and tried to hand the man his tool bag.

“It's a great door!” he said. He didn't take his bag, he looked again at her bedroom. “Oh hey, can I have a glass of water?”

Morgan filled a glass she handed it to him and shoved his tool bag out the door. “Keep the glass. Bye now.” She pushed him out as well, bolted the door, and set the chain behind him. He stepped off her porch and joined the crowd in the yard.

She woke late one night to a distant pounding. The beat grew louder as she walked through the house to the living room. A malicious glow emanating from outside shone through the cracks of her curtains. Morgan peaked through and gasped.

A pyre had been erected in the yard. It was piled with small dolls dressed in oversized clothing. Most of the dolls had twine wrapped around them to hold the clothing on. People danced around the pyre while another person pounded a massive drum. Some carried torches. A firetruck loomed silently on the street. The firemen stood rapt or danced along with the crowd.

A man holding a flaming torch climbed her porch and faced the crowd. He raised his arms, silence fell.

“Friends! We offer the spirits of our beloved dead! Somewhere in the Universe, may they be blessed!”

“It holds us all,” replied the crowd.

“We offer the memories of their lives! We offer our grief and our celebration! We release it to the Universe!”

“It holds us all.”

The man thrust the torch into the pyre and the crowd followed suit. It burst into flame.

Morgan took a shaky breath and quietly went back to bed.

She couldn't leave anymore. The crowd had grown and would no longer let her out without surging forward to touch her and beg her for blessings. The police wouldn't come. She was fired after failing to show up for work.

The food in her pantry was running low. She was down to the ridiculous bulk box of instant soup packets she had bought one day on a whim. After consulting the Internet, Morgan decided she could probably live on two packets a day for a decent amount of time.

...

On the fifth day of two packets of soup a day, someone banged on her door. Morgan was afraid but curious. The crazies in the yard never knocked. They only came up on the porch to lay offerings or give sermons. She peeked out the peephole and saw a tall, handsome, smiling man about her age with an open zip up gray hoodie over his broad shoulders. He wore a rumpled striped button up with tie underneath. The tie hung loosely over the unbuttoned top buttons of his shirt. He wore his sandy brown hair in a deliberately tousled mess and had shocking blue eyes. She left the chain on but opened the door.

“Hi! Morgan Fayette?” he smiled winningly. It was the kind of smile you would happily buy anything from. The kind of smile that, even if you were sold a lemon, you would blame the car and not the salesman.

“Um. Yes. Maybe. Who are you?” Morgan felt dizzy. She took a breath to steady herself.

He grinned reassuringly. “I'm RJ Ballard. I represent BrightCom and I'm here to offer you an unbelievable opportunity.”

Morgan shook her head, “Unbelievable is a pretty high mark for me. BrightCom? Like the phone company?” She pushed on the door but it didn't budge. The man was leaning against it from the outside. “I'm not interested. You should go.”

“Don't you want to hear our offer?” He slid a folder with an embossed BrightCom logo on the front through the crack. Morgan took it and tossed it on the floor behind her.

“I'll look at it. You need to leave.” She pushed her entire body weight against the door. She glanced around the room for a weapon in case this guy managed to rip the chain out of the door frame. She regretted ever opening the door.

His smile never faltered. “Ok. That's great, Morgan. My card is in there. Give me a call,” he nodded amiably. “Now, I'm going to stop holding the door. You probably want to stop pushing or you'll hurt yourself.”

Morgan didn't stop pushing. RJ stepped back and the door slammed shut. Morgan banged her head against the door and bit her tongue. She watched him walk down the porch steps and slip easily through the crowd. She went to spit blood in the bathroom sink.

The folder stayed on the floor for two days before Morgan worked up the nerve to look through it. Inside were a handful of colorful pamphlets, a business card for RJ Ballard that listed his job title as Field Collection Consultant, and a typed letter on heavy linen paper. The letterhead was embossed and spoke softly of a kind of power Morgan would not have believed from the man in his hoodie and wrinkled shirt. The letter itself was discordant in its informality, like a rebellious teenager wearing jeans to a gala.

 

Hi Morgan!

I represent BrightCom and you have something we are very interested in. Do you know about BrightCom? You probably do. You seem fairly informed.

Anyways, that specimen of yours belongs in our labs. We need to study it. So much could be learned. So many advancements for humanity. Think of it! All the secrets of the universe revealed and all thanks to you. Of course, we are willing to pay well for it.

Now, obviously, you will need to relocate. BrightCom is prepared to offer you a generous amount for your home and the specimen.

Additionally, we would like to offer you an exciting new career opportunity as a Field Collection Consultant! As our new Collector, we will keep you on retainer with the one stipulation being that you remain available at all times. Just so we're clear, all times means no other job obligations! BrightCom will also provide you with whatever housing you desire. Realistically, you'll probably work about three days a year and get paid for all the rest. Good deal, right? I'll show you the ropes when you accept. No worries! You'll pick it up no problem.

 

RJ Ballard had signed below that in bright blue ink. The letter went on to outline the amount Brightcom was willing to offer for the Universe and what was indeed a very generous amount for her home. The next page was a formal job offer. It outlined only two job duties - “Answer company inquiries in a timely manner” and “Respond to all collection opportunities” - and included a salary beyond anything Morgan would have ever imagined with benefits to match. She sat in shock. She could live anywhere. Somewhere far away from the city and all its noise. She could work on her own schedule. She could get away from the insanity outside her front door.

The pamphlets spoke in vague but glowing exclamations about the variety of tech and research companies under the BrightCom umbrella. Morgan saw her cell phone company as well as the company that made her television, a pharmaceutical and medical technologies company, and more that she did not recognize. The pamphlets insisted that BrightCom was improving the world and creating a better future.

She closed the folder over all the pamphlets and papers. It was an unbelievable opportunity just like the man in the hoodie had said. Sure, she would be doing a job that wasn't exactly something she understood but hadn't he said it would only be a few days a year? Even if it was more, the benefits would be worth it. The only thing she couldn't understand was the knot in the pit of her stomach.

Morgan did some research on BrightCom. Most of what she could find told her exactly what the pamphlets did. BrightCom was founded as the phone company Brighter Communications in the late 1800's. It had expanded into the current vast corporate conglomerate through strategic business acquisitions and crafty investments. Morgan checked a few message boards. They insisted that BrightCom was affiliated with any number of nefarious international organizations along with nearly every other major company.

The claims ranged from the expected claims of Illumnati ties to more bizarre insinuations of involvement with parascience and the occult. One site filled with spinning gifs and blurry photos wove a tale of unwitting human test subjects subjected to invasive surgeries that resulted in odd personality changes.

Research on RJ Ballard turned up much less information. She found a Dr. Ronald Jonathan Ballard who had an oncology practice in Nebraska and a football player named R Jeffery Ballard who played for a semi-professional team in Idaho. She gave up on finding anything on him.

Her research gave her no insight to her decision. The knot in her stomach did not let up over the next day. She lay on her bed and felt the universe yawning beneath her. Uncaring and unaware as always, it gave her no answers.

She examined her thinning face in the mirror. Her hair was dry and limp, her skin was sallow. The dark circles around her eyes seemed a bit lighter compared to the massive bruise on her forehead from the door. The crazed mob outside was louder now. They pulsed with energy and adoration. The sound of their rituals became background noise to Morgan's blur of identical days.

RJ knocked on the door five days after he dropped off the folder but Morgan did not open it. She stood silently on the other side trying to decide what to do.

“Morgan! It’s RJ Ballard. I’d love to follow up with you on that offer!” Morgan looked through the peephole at his energetic smile. He was dressed the same in a hoodie, wrinkled shirt, and loose tie. “Morgan?”

Morgan leaned up against the door and shouted through it, “Why should I let you in?”

“Because I’m here to help you,” he paused, Morgan looked through the peephole and saw him looking back over his shoulder at the crowd on her lawn. “It seems like things are getting out of hand. We’re professionals, we can deal with this.”

“Professional whats? What will BrightCom do with it?” she licked her dry lips, “Why do they want it?”

“I’d love to discuss that with you, Morgan. We can go somewhere else if you don’t want to let me in, I understand. Out to dinner? You’ve been inside for weeks, you must be starving!” he smiled kindly.

He had a point, Morgan thought. Even the soup packets were running low. She didn’t want to make this decision with her stomach, though. “No. Go away.”

“You’ll get whatever you want out of this. I’ll tell my bosses that you really twisted my arm, I swear,” RJ’s reasonable voice was comforting.

Morgan reminded herself that he was not really on her side. Still, though, whatever she wanted. Something besides cowering in her house while The Church of the Universe formed on her lawn. Something besides soup packets. Something besides the mind numbing sameness of weeks spent indoors with an impossible enigma.

“Go get me dinner. Something nice. You bring it here and I’ll let you in, we can talk. But it’s on my terms! You do what I say or you get nothing!” Morgan hoped she sounded confident. She hoped her voice didn’t sound as dry and cracked as it did to her ears.

She thought she heard RJ chuckle before he replied, “You got it. One surf and turf and all the fixings, coming up.”

RJ delivered on his promise. He brought her a perfect steak and a perfect lobster accompanied by perfect cheesy mashed potatoes and perfect green beans. He brought bone china to eat off of and silver cutlery to eat it with. He brought crystal wine glasses and a perfect bottle of red wine. He sat across from Morgan at her little kitchen table and picked at his own steak and lobster.

“Your place is really tidy,” he complimented.

Morgan looked up from the steak she was trying very hard but failing to pace herself through. “I like things neat. Well, and I’ve been inside for ages with nothing much better to do.” Morgan cut another bite of perfect medium steak. She savored it, so much better than soup.

RJ nodded. “I can’t keep a place clean like this. My last apartment should have been condemned,” he laughed.

Morgan laughed, too. His smile was infectious and the food had lightened her mood significantly. “It takes some dedication,” she agreed.

“Did you hit your head on the door the other day? That looks pretty bad,” he asked gesturing to the bruise on her head. Morgan touched it gently and winced.

“Ah. Yeah. It was kind of stupid of me.” She couldn’t remember why she had been so afraid of the charming man in her kitchen. He wore crisp, fitted jeans with his untucked button up and tie but wore grimy blue canvas sneakers. He reminded her of the kind of young men she knew from college, the ones who played Frisbee in the quad and who could take you to the best obscure little bars in town.

“So, have you looked over our offer?” he transitioned easily from small talk into business. He fished out a bite of lobster.

“I did but you still haven’t answered my question. What does BrightCom want with it?”

“BrightCom employees the best minds on the planet. Top scientists, innovative engineers, hell, we even have a few philosophers and poets. To stay on the edge of every new frontier, BrightCom collects unique specimens,” he paused to sip his wine. Neither were drinking much. “You have to know that you have something incredible, right?”

“That’s nice. It’s also all in the pamphlets. What will BrightCom do with it? What happens to the universe?” Morgan had finished her steak and moved on to the lobster. The meat was perfect, soft, and juicy.

RJ raised his eyebrows, “The universe? Is that what it is?”

“Don’t fuck with me, RJ. You know what it is.”

RJ laughed, “Ok, ok, I know what it is. You weren’t exactly secretive about it. I’ll show you more once you hire on but message boards are one of the best places to find specimens. I guess the obvious answer is to ask the Internet when a ball of crazy lands in your life,” he pushed his plate back and smiled, “BrightCom wants to study it. Besides all the tech and manufacturing, what BrightCom really excels at is specialized think tanks. I shouldn’t mention it since you aren’t an employee yet but there is some seriously insane shit in those labs. Last month I brought in a cup that is never empty. You can pour out as much water as you want and it’s still full. There’s a pair of rings that links people telepathically. There’s even some kind of tiny sun! It’s incredible.”

“Telepathy?” Morgan said skeptically, “Infinite water cups?”

“Says the woman with the universe under her bed,” RJ pointed out and raised his glass to her sarcastically.

“Eh, granted. And I take it you aren’t one of the scientists?”

RJ chuckled, “Did my description of ‘seriously insane shit’ give me away? No, I’m a Field Collection Consultant just like you’ll be.” He sat up a bit straighter and grinned proudly, “It’s a prestigious position. Not just anyone can be a Collector.”

“So I’ll stalk people whose lives have imploded, too?” Morgan still felt skeptic.

“If you see it that way, yes, sometimes. Most of the time you’ll be living your life exactly the way you want. Once the universe is in BrightCom’s possession, you’ll be free to do what you want,” RJ pointed out.

“As long as I don’t take any other jobs, stay available 24 hours a day, and go wherever they tell me.” Morgan felt more conflicted than she had before, “As long as I relocate and as soon as I’m in BrightCom’s possession, too.”

“Eh, I guess,” RJ fiddled with his wine glass and did not make eye contact.

Morgan stared at him, startled by his change in demeanor.

He wasn’t smiling any more. He shrugged. “Look, I won’t lie to you. I sold my soul to the company store with this job. It is too good to be true but I’ve found the benefits outweigh the downsides by tons.” He smiled again but no longer looked like he was trying to sell Morgan a particularly unreliable car. This smile was sad and honest. “It was better for me. I get to travel as much as I want, I see incredible things, I get paid very well, and I sold my own specimen for a decent amount.”

Morgan was curious now, “What did you have?”

RJ laughed again, “I had a toaster. It talked.”

“It… it talked? What did it say? Did it tell the future or was it haunted or something?” Morgan was really interested in it. There were so many things she never imagined.

“It was a toaster. It talked about toast,” RJ answered her mater-of-factly. “Sometimes it talked about bagels, too. Once, I heated up a Toaster Strudel and it composed a villanelle about the wonders of frozen toaster pastries.”

Morgan was speechless and delighted.

RJ had also brought vanilla bean ice cream and warm brownies. They ate it on the couch and he told Morgan funny stories about some of the places he had been. She decided he was more charming now that he was out of salesman mode.

“I’m confused, though. You said I wouldn’t have to work that often. It sounds like you’re going full tilt 365?” Morgan asked him after a particularly energetic story.

“You don’t have to work like I do. That’s the point. You can decide exactly how you want to do this job. I like to travel and I like to find things so I do it often. Now that you know they’re out there, you’ll run across enough specimens for BrightCom to be happy.” RJ told her. He sprawled comfortably on her couch as though they had been close friends for years.

“Even if I’m not looking for them?” Morgan asked doubtfully.

“It always happens. Once you see something like this, you always see more. I don’t know why.” He finished off his ice cream and set the bowl on the coffee table next to Morgan's empty bowl. He stood and stretched. “Now, I'll prove that I can clean, too.”

Morgan looked at him quizzically as he gathered the dishes to wash. “You don't have to do that. I mean, I won't stop you but you don't have to.”

RJ rolled his sleeves up and grinned, “Ah, but I'm treating you, right? Why should you clean it up?” Morgan had to agree on that. She followed him to help dry. They worked in a comfortable silence for a while before Morgan spoke again.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Heather lives in Nashville, TN and spends most of her time chasing her toddler. She enjoys crafting, superhero movies, and hipster coffee shops.

Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
Christopher Moore, Stephen King, Hunter S Thompson, Arthur C Clark, and Irvine Welsh
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I love things that are just a little off, a little quirky, or a bit frightening. Nothing is really as simple as it looks and I love to explore that concept.

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