The Grey Flag

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Paranoia - A short story

The old lady was staring at her. She knew it.

Four months ago, Julia had married the love of her life. Her husband, Mike had just been named head curator at the art museum where he was working in. She was three months pregnant with a boy they would call Joey and after Joey is born she would quit that stressful writing job of hers to be a full-time housewife. Nothing could go wrong in her perfect life.

The day it arrived, Julia and Mike were busy unpacking their luggage from their trip to Venice when the doorbell rang. Julia ran out to get the door and when she opened it and looked down, there it was.

The package was encased by a bubble wrap, with an additional layer of plastic over it. At first glance it was about two feet tall and one foot wide. Julia carried it into the living room and unwrapped it. The rectangular wooden frame in the package was old, but kept in good condition. Flakes of the golden paint that coated it were coming off but it was still a beautiful frame, with very fine carvings of flowers at its corners. But Julia didn’t notice that, her eyes were fixed on the painting in the frame.

It was a portrait of an old lady who looked almost in her eighties. She had a sharp chin and high cheekbones and her pale skin was weathered and covered in wrinkles. The old lady’s graying hair was tied up in a bun and over it she wore a white bonnet. She had a hooked nose, almost too big for her face, with a sharp tip like the beak of a hawk. Below that nose she had very thin and dry lips. The edges of her mouth slanted slightly upward, giving her a smile that looked more like a smirk to Julia.

Restaurant 1 "Feeding"

On Wellington Street

An incident occurred at the local twenty four hour restaurant, near the old theater. Though it is assumed that the man's actions were performed under significant psychological duress, it is unknown what the punishment for his actions should be. This is mostly due to the uncommon nature of his crime, and the fact the majority of his actions were focused on himself and not others. The owner of the restaurant claims he will reopen his business soon, and is simply waiting for the cleaners to finish taking care of the mess.

Three days ago, the man in question walked into the restaurant and was seated soon thereafter. He ordered a small salad and a coffee, then waited patiently for his food to arrive. The waitress noticed that he continued to flex his hands, and would tremble as people approached. After a short time, his food was brought out to him and little attention was paid after that point. It wasn't until one of the female patrons began screaming that his actions were noticed. The owner ran over to the booth, only to be nearly knocked over by the escaping woman.

It seemed that the man had removed several patches of flesh from his body. The tissue on the top of his left hand had already been pulled away, and the his top right shoulder was shaking badly near a section where a large chunk had been taken. It was later determined that several tendons had been damaged or severed, and the trembling in the shoulder has increased since then. All the pieces of flesh that were missing could not be accounted for, and as the man chewed it became increasingly apparent that he had ingested them.

The owner immediately had one of the waitresses call 911, while he grabbed a first aid kit and began to stuff the wounds with gauze. Surprisingly, the man did not fight the owner as he did this, nor did he continue to harm himself. Within minutes an ambulance had arrived, and it was not long before he was taken to the hospital and treated for his wounds. His stomach was pumped, and it was discovered that the man had swallowed many of the pieces whole. He had lost a good amount of blood, but since he lacked any identification, it could not be determined what his blood-type was. Thankfully, one of the servicing doctors recognized the man as a local shop owner. After that point, further actions could be taken on his behalf

It is known that days before the incident at the restaurant, the man had been violently assaulted at his store. Nothing was stolen, but the man had taken several blows to the head. Although he was released the same day with mild contusions, MRI's of his skull after his actions at the restaurant showed moderate swelling in his brain. This required several small treatments, including medicine and an oxygen tube, both of which were used to help reduce the swelling and the buildup of carbon dioxide.

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