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Voices

Michele Markarian's short stories are published in several anthologies, including Families: The Frontline of Pluralism, View From the Bed, View from the Bedside, Dare to Repair and In Her Place: Stories of Women Who Get Around. Michele's fiction has also appeared in Mom's Literary Magazine, Yesteryear Fiction, The Prompt, The Furious Gazelle, Modern Times Magazine, and The Journal of Microliterature. Her plays are produced throughout the United States and Great Britain and appear in anthologies with Dramatic Publishing, Heuer Publishing, the Book of Estrogenius, Gold Dust Speaks, Comedy Plays UK, Smith & Kraus, and Oxford University Press USA. A collection of her plays, The Unborn Children of America and Other Family Procedures, was published by Fomite Press last year. Occasionally she can be seen reading from her high school diaries as part of "Mortified Boston." Michele is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
eloveridge.2012@gmail.com stood outside SunGrinds morning beverage shop, surreptitiously holding a leaflet that had been distributed through the offline community. (The elders had access to something from the Reagan era called a copy machine, which allowed them to mass produce handwritten messages on pieces of paper.) As she studied their latest missive, eloveridge.2012@gmail.com wished that she could do handwriting--it looked so official and elegant on the page.
The leaflet warned that the ingredients in the beverages the stores were selling were poison; the thick whipped cream and mocha sauces that made each beverage so sweet were actually coating consumers' vocal chords with a thin film. Even if anyone were allowed to talk--which had gone out of fashion during the Trump administration--they couldn't. The leaflet had also spoken of an earlier time, when one could order a singular beverage called "Coffee", which, in addition to being tasty, produced a feeling of energy. eloveridge.2012@gmail.com was dying to try the simple coffee, which was drunk either black or with something called Half and Half.
eloveridge.2012@gmail.com entered SunGrinds and got into the long line. There were four beverages on the menu to choose from: Mocha Coffeado with Whipped Cream and Hazelnut Syrup, Chocolate Mocha Choca with Whipped Cream and Butterscotch, Vanilla Cremarama with Whipped Cream and Gelato Shot, and Triple Toffee Coffee with Triple Whipped Cream.
Finally, she reached the front.
The SunGrinds attendant looked at eloveridge.2012@gmail.com and greeted her with an iPhone in her flattened palm. This was eloveridge.2012@gmail.com's cue to activate her beverage choice on her own iPhone. eloveridge.2012@gmail.com had been quietly practicing this moment in a corner of her room for months. Her lips trembled. She thought she recognized a few people from the offline community, which gave her courage.
"Coffee." Her voice sounded hoarse, alien, certainly not as good as she would have liked. An electric current ran through SunGrind's morning commuters, who jittered and stared, with open-mouthed shock. eloveridge.2012@gmail.com was infused with a strange surge of energy.
"Coffee with the Half and Half!" yelled eloveridge.2012@gmail.com, as the Sungrinds attendant covered her ears with her hands. Her iPhone dropped to the floor and shattered. The crowd twitched and jumped as if electrocuted. eloveridge.2012@gmail.com was jubilant. She had saved the best for last. A din was rising through the commuters, jaws wobbling awkwardly like fish gasping on a shore.
"MY NAME IS ELENA! ELENA!" Her voice soared above all of the others, the unleashed voices of the crowd, who were croaking, strangling, struggling to exist.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 19th, 2017


I wrote Voices as a kind of protest against the internet and the way it seems to be controlling our daily lives. Even in my work environment, which is fairly small, people would rather e-mail and IM one another than actually speak. In the hallways of my office building, people from other companies don't make eye contact. Sometimes, just to throw down a wildcard, I say "Hi," which usually produces a look of confused panic in the recipient (I might be exaggerating slightly). It seems that the more we're connected online, the less connected we are to each other and ourselves. This story was written long before Donald Trump got elected; I used him as a symbol for all that is authoritarian, controlling, and oppressive. Little did I know.

- Michele Markarian

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