The Advertisement Ministry
by Joe Jablonski
My wife was turning into a pod person. I didn't have absolute proof but all the clues were there.
The first I saw of it was on a Monday about a month after she started a new job at the advertisement ministry as a product tester. It was 11:30 at night. She was in the bathroom longer than usual. The door was locked. She wouldn’t answer to my knocks. I peeked through the keyhole. Recoiled. She was half cocooned, wrapped in a silk, with the ends of her limbs dripping something thick, blue, and snot-like in texture.
I was a bottle and a half of Old Crow deep, and slow to make the connection. My brain quivered in a haze of whiskey and confusion, ideas forming and fleeing in seconds. It’s ok, it’s, I then thought in a maniacs attempt to rationalize, maybe she started out as a pod person, and is now reverting back into a former pupa like state were she will regenerate into someone else. Maybe she’s been poisoned, maybe abducted and had her body charged into a more pod person-esque fashion. Maybe she chose to do this herself, after hearing favorable reviews of the pod person lifestyle. Those were all wrong. It was the ministry; a side effect of injections she told me she had been getting after her first day. It was supposed to revolutionize advertising. They were testing a chemical cocktail designed to alter a person DNA to crave any product they deemed necessary, all sold to the highest bidder. One quick injection and suddenly the hunger for anything from Coca-Cola to Grandma Lacy's brand cornbread would be an incurable decease; an addiction one couldn’t live without. That was the idea anyway.
The mind control chemical came from a parasite usually excusive to moths and butterflies. It would take over there mind, causing an early transformation. Once cocooned, it would eat them from the inside out before moving on to the next.
My wife stayed in the bathroom the rest of the night.
I awoke the next morning to a kiss the cheek. My wife stood above me fully dress, apparently every bit the woman I married.
Have you ever stared at a familiar face so long it became unrecognizable? It was her but wasn’t. Like something was wearing my wife as a suit infused with all the memories and emotions. She waved goodbye with a smile, and off to work she went. The night before was never mentioned. Hung over though I was, I knew. She was one of them now, reborn into something a little less Shirley.
A few weeks passed. She was now spending ever night in the bathroom. The air itself seemed to scream from inside. It was distant, almost soundless. Silk covered the walls and ceiling, dangling her flaky cocoon from the ceiling. Its walls pulsated inhumanly, and secreted a chucky brown liquid—half gestated Kochers chocolate chip cookies by the looks of it. The dozen empty boxes on the floor said it all. This was the product the tested on her. This was her addiction.
It wasn’t long before one morning the door stopped opening. A week went by, still nothing. I could no longer see through the lock. No amount of karate or ax chops would get it open.
I waited there always, having long quit my job. I was self exiled, cut off from the outside world with no one to talk to about any of this. How could I? I was what I never wanted to be: a madman, a tinfoil hat wearer.
The door finally opened around midnight. I don’t know how many days it had been. My wife emerged nothing but a shell, hollow except a layer of porcelain skin. Behind her, was left a pile of cocoon parts mixed with organs and cookie dough. The skin of my former wife stepped over me and my tears, and walked out the front door. Grabbing my now dulled ax, I followed. I had never felt such a combination of horror and sadness.
A two hour trek had us at a small building on the edge of town. It looked run down with paint flecking off the thick wooden walls. Two red barn doors at the front were the only way in or out. A chained lock held them together.
The lock dropped and the doors spread as my wife approached. I caught only a glimpse. Inside there were a dozen of them just like her, each with the same advertisement ministry nametags on their perfectly ironed shirts. At the back of the room: a furnace.
That’s when it hit me. This was where the rejects go, those infected whose bodies couldn’t handle the trials, lured to this small building in the middle of bum-fuck by what I could only guess where the pheromones of butterflies or something similar. They were evidence of the ministries failures. All would be burned so the ministry could continue unabated.
The door closed as I approached. The lock was back as if it had always been there. I ran to the door, ax flailing above my head. A single hit was all I managed. Then a voice. Then pain. Then darkness.
I awoke in a daze. Above, the moon was rotund, fading into a quivering fog. I sat up in what I recognized as my front yard, looked down to find a single needle mark in my left arm, trying to remember where it came from.
Have you ever stared at a familiar face so long it became unrecognizable? Have you ever done that in reflection of your life? I tried now but remembered nothing before this all started.
It didn’t matter. I felt great. With a skip in my step I walked to the front door of where I had always lived alone feeling a new sense of self and the overwhelming urge to buy a 12 pack of Charmin ultra.
Joe writes out of Charlotte, NC. He has worked published or forthcoming in around 40 markets including K-zine, Eschatology, Obsolescent. info, M-Brane SF, and Short-Story.ME! Genre Fiction, as well as having recently been nominated for the Pushcart prize. You can check out his blog at jablonskijoe.blogspot.com.
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