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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Early Draft of Talking Points for the Sixth Emergency Broadcast with Editorial Suggestions by the Office's Unpaid Interns Bob and Isabelle

Helena Bell is an occasional poet, writer, and international traveler which means that over half of what she says is completely made up, the other half is probably made up, and the third half is about the condition of the roads. She has a BA, an MFA, a JD, and a Tax LLM which fulfills her life long dream of having more letters follow her name than are actually in it. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Shimmer Magazine, and Brain Harvest. She also has appeared previously in Daily Science Fiction.
1. Hello, and thank you for tuning in to our 10-part series: Methods of Proving Neither You Nor your Loved Ones Are a Host of Demonly Creatures. If you have not done so already, please check to ensure that you are not attempting to write with a number 3 [Ed. -Bob] 2 pencil, as they have proven untrustworthy. For your convenience, a laminated printout of this update will be available for purchase at the following locations:
a. Warehouse Liquor
b. Professor Benedict's office on campus [Please include friendly reminder that visitors to the Benedict compound will be shot and their bodies burned for fuel. -Isabelle]
1. [Renumber and flush with left side of page. -Bob] [Strike previous suggestion; anyone who cares that much about formatting errors has too much time on their hands. -Isabelle] We would like to make the following crucial corrections to our previous broadcast:
2. Count your family members daily. If there is a marked increase, consult your block's militia.
3. Just because you buried your Aunt Martha last spring does not mean that her sudden presence is cause for alarm. Repeat after me: this is not the zombie apocalypse. This is not the zombie apocalypse. This is NOT the zombie apocalypse. [We think. We're pretty sure. -Bob]
4. If you have already killed Aunt Martha, or Uncle Miles or Great-Grandma Shirley, do not fret! You will have a chance to apologize to her or him this Sunday night at the next raising. Flowers and a jar of pickles [Candlesticks also make a pretty nice gift. A box of chocolates. A baseball bat. Gift certificates to Weight Watchers? Not so much. -Isabelle] are a good way of saying "I am sorry for thinking you were evil, and here is a snack for the road." [I said I was sorry. -Bob]
5. Some of your friends and family members may have recently developed certain skills and predilections that they did not possess before. If you were paying attention during the second emergency broadcast, then you should have already begun creating detailed dossiers of what you (and those around you) were like before the incident and after. [Bob: smelly.] [Isabelle: bitch.] [Bob: Due to stunted intelligence can only speak in monosyllables; incapable of forming adjectival form of basic nouns even if only requires addition of one letter.] [Isabelle: Bitchy.] A sudden ability to speak in strange languages does not necessarily mean that your brother is one of dark underlings sent forth to enslave humanity--although it could! Those of you for whom this applies should adhere to the following instructions. Everyone else may check on the cabbages and silver crucifixes at all your doors and windows.
1) Trap your brother, the suspected underling, in a basement room.
2) Introduce your brother, the suspected underling, to other members of your family.
3) If one of said members reveals a sharp instrument and dives for your brother's, the suspected underling's [Check the rule on use of possessive form in appositive phrases. -Isabelle] [No. One. Cares. -Bob] neck, then one of the following must be true:
a. Your brother is indeed a dark underling and must be burned (this would also indicate that your other relative is a Warrior of the Other Being Who Seems to Have Brought All this On and Yet Does Not Seem to Match Any Known Theology [I like to call him Bob -Isabelle] [Sometimes I do too. Want to grab dinner later?-Bob])
b. Vice-versa [I have to clean the traps -Isabelle] [Isn't that Tom's job? -Bob]
c. A third party has entered the fray rendering all previous instructions completely useless. [He died. -Isabelle] [How? -Bob]
7. Good luck! [He went to drop off the laminated copies at Professor Benedict's house and was shot and his body burned for fuel. -Isabelle]
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 5th, 2012


An early draft of this story had been languishing on my hard drive, forgotten, since I wrote it. Since I don't generally write humor (what I find funny most people find disturbing) I didn't quite now how to make this piece into a story just beyond a list of relatively useless things you may hear during an emergency broadcast. When I finally took it out for a revision and immediately started debating myself on the grammatical rule for possessive in appositive phrases, I stumbled upon the idea of two interns continuing a conversation throughout the piece thereby turning it into two stories which wind themselves apart and then back together (unnecessarily long sentences, like unnecessarily long titles, are my great love). Also, Professor Benedict is a real person. I wouldn't advise trying to infiltrate his compound during the apocalypse. I also hope he doesn't mind the tuckerization... (P.S. My real name is Mary Elizabeth Shingle and I live in Alaska?)

- Helena Bell

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