I hope everyone is enjoying the Disassembly Required story so far (and if you need a refresher or haven’t started it yet, you can start with part one here), because I’ve finally written the fourth installment! This week, at least one question gets answered, Beatriz remains awkward, and I find new ways to remember that she’s holding a dang skillet one-handed the entire time.
Disassembly Required, part 4. Prompts used: mist, motorcycle, emerald, bar.
When she opened her eyes, Beatriz thought she was somewhere else. She no longer saw her own car, but the parking lot was now filled with other vehicles. The fog had lifted, revealing a cloudless blue sky. She could hear music and conversation in the distance.
Has the machine worked after all?
She turned and saw Frank’s Dining, well-lit and alive with activity. Figures moved behind the neon-framed glass. The jukebox must have been working, because strains of an old rock and roll song drifted out every time the front doors opened.
Beatriz made a complete circle of the packed lot. She was grateful that she still held on to the kitchen skillet she’d stolen.
“Allen? Are you here?”
Her hand tightened on the skillet handle. There were a lot of pick-up trucks and minivans and a few hybrid cars but no long-haired girl in a longer skirt, and no shadowed arm come to drag her away. There was, however, a family who glanced at her nervously as they exited their vehicle one row over and walked into Frank’s Dining. Beatriz gave them a curt nod and hoped they understood she was absolutely normal and not going to brain them with the heavy pan in her hand.
She was too visible, Beatriz realized. She had to move. Her thick-soled sneakers sped her across the parking lot to where the clearing around the restaurant began to merge with the surrounding forest. She stood under the shadow of an emerald green tree and dropped into a squat, resting the skillet in the grass as she thought aloud.
“This is the same place,” Beatriz said, “but everything else is different. The car’s gone, Allen’s gone, I’m here—” She broke off, lost in thought over her assistant. “I’m here, alone, with this, um, cooking vessel.”
In her back pocket, her phone vibrated. Without thinking, she pulled it out and saw that her messenger app was dinging with a series of notifications. She unlocked her phone to see who was messaging her so urgently.
Two people were talking at a rapid pace, and all Beatriz could do was watch them volley texts at each other. One of them was Allen. The other was Beatriz. She knew this conversation before she even finished reading what had already been said. She’d just had this conversation the day before. And yet she was also having it right then and there.
The Beatriz that squatted underneath the emerald tree watched as the Beatriz of yesterday argued with the Allen of yesterday.
Beatriz: There’s nothing wrong with the machine. Please set it up in the conference hall per my earlier instructions.
Allen: but this isn’t what we decided on in the lab???
Beatriz: I had to make some necessary changes, but I assure you, everything is running exactly as I showed in the schematics last week.
Allen: why didn’t you tell me about the changes before?
Beatriz: I did not think it necessary.
Allen: i’m your ASSISTANT? I should be helping!
Allen: do you want to fire me or what?
Beatriz: You are just tired and stressed from work, which explains your irrational responses. I can assure you I am not firing you.
Allen: I’m what?
Beatriz: Take some time after setting up to take a break and get some rest. Perhaps meet up with our colleagues at the conference bar. I will see you at our evening session.
Beatriz closed her eyes. She knew that whatever Allen had been typing on her phone, it had never been sent. She would never know what her assistant meant to tell her in that moment, but she could guess. Allen’s voice from that morning still rang clear in her mind: “It’s all your fault, Beatriz!”
Beatriz opened her eyes at the roar of an engine. She watched a bulky motorcycle maneuver its way into an empty parking spot. The license plate must have been custom ordered by a conference attendee. It read ATOMIC, and had a frame that referenced the Large Hadron Collider as their other ride. It looked a lot like the motorcycle of one attendee who had to leave early Saturday evening to deal with a family emergency. He should have been out of the area, not in the parking lot of Frank’s Dining.
Beatriz grabbed both her phone and her skillet and ducked behind the tree. She listened to the engine being cut off and waited for the now familiar ring of the bell over the diner’s door, signifying that the motorcyclist had gone inside. She then slumped against the tree trunk and looked at her phone again, and opened every app that had a time stamp.
They all said Saturday. Except today was Sunday. Or, it had been Sunday morning, and now it was Saturday afternoon. Later, it would rain, and the temperature would drop at least ten degrees. Later, Beatriz would go to bed thinking everything was okay. Later, Beatriz would not see Allen sneak out of bed and back into the conference center, to try and test run their machine. So many things yet to happen that, for this Beatriz, had already happened.
“Oh, you stupid machine,” she breathed out. “You worked after all.”
She looked up through the canopy of leaves at the clear blue sky and heard, faintly, the rumble of thunder set to sweep through town.
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