I have enjoyed reading Chuck Wendig’s blog, “Terribleminds” for some time. This is my first stab as a participant in one of his Flash Fiction Challenges. In this week’s challenge, Chuck has directed:
You’re going to write a flash fiction story, maximum 1000-words.
You will write half of it from the perspective of a protagonist.
You will write half of it from the perspective of the antagonist.
This is my submission, “Running Late.”
Titus pulled off the headphones and rubbed his eyes. He had been listening to the latest aural-tint fascinator and managed to fall asleep before the closing confab. He’d have to redial the station later and request a post-broadcast canister if he wanted to enjoy the full hallucination, mindful that the complete effect would be neutralized within 48 hours. But it would have to wait. He had only had another hour to check in with the district manager and sign for his monthly assignment. No assignment, no shares. No shares, no booze. ”Fuck it” he said to himself. He pulled on his boots and walked to the front door. A few punches from the tip of his fat middle finger on the keypad and the door opened with a familiar sucking sound and the soft breeze of escaping air. He stepped over the threshold and into the corridor, walking briskly to the exit portal. He glanced at the door ahead: Unit 13. “Don’t even think about it,” he whispered under his breath. Every time he walked out of his compartment, that fat hag Mrs. Quiston opens her door and runs her fat mouth about some bullshit or other. ”You make too much noise.” ”I heard you cuss the other day.” ”You smell like booze!” Dirty, fat, cunt. Oh, how he’d like to teach her a lesson one of these days.
But not today. He had spent too much time in his Unit, and he needed this assignment. Besides, Amber was coming by later for a conjugal visit. ”Third time this week” he chuckled to himself.
The door to Unit 13 creaked as it opened ever so slightly. Titus shot a death stare at the bulbous, bloodshot eye that gazed from between the metal panels covered in greasy, flaking paint, and the door slammed shut. “That’s right. Get back in your hole, scum goddess!” he shouted.
He could hear Mrs. Quiston screaming from behind her door.
Titus stopped and looked back at the door to Unit 13. ”One of these days” he said, and he quickly ran to the exit port and inserted his key.
“The District Office” he said into the metal box next to the exit portal.
“27 shares” came the reply.
“What? It was 22 last week” he said.
“27 shares” the voice repeated. ”We have a higher than usual backlog of conveyor requests at the moment. We can expedite one to your location for an extra ten shares.”
“Fucker.” Titus punched the number 27 into the keypad by the portal, pulled out his key and waited. It was always like this on Day Thirty. Everyone was trying to get their assignments for the next month, and apparently he wasn’t the only one who procrastinated. Figures. Everyone needs a conveyor headed for the District Office, but he wasn’t going to get bent over and fucked for an extra ten shares. He only had 135 left and if he missed his appointment, it would barely be enough to get through the next month. He could always spend a few weeks in embryostasis. He’d done it before when things got tight, but something always happened while he was Off-Net. He didn’t like missing things.
He glanced through the dust-covered portal window, the conveyors just blurred orbs passing back and forth. A reflection on the glass caught his eye and he turned just as Mrs. Quiston’s plump fist caught his left cheek in a glancing blow.
“You son of a bitch!” she screamed, spittle flying through her yellow teeth and sprinkling Titus’s face. ”I knew it was you!” Mrs. Quiston had quite enough of her neighbor. Up at all hours of the night. Drinking, making noise, entertaining so many different women. But this time she had the goods on him.
“Look at this” she said, holding up a cylinder of aluminum. It was an antique canister, from the days before the system had changed. ”I hope you think it was worth it.” She pushed him into the corner of the exit portal lobby, as he shot her a violent stare.
“You don’t scare me. I know all about you, you,…”
“Pick up for District” the shrill voice of the conveyor pilot said from the exit portal communicator.
Her fat hand pressed the communicator button. “Go away!” she screamed into the box.
Titus reached for the box, but she shifted her stance and forced him back to the corner.
“Okay” said the conveyor pilot. ”But you are forfeiting fifty percent of the fare. Refund is fourteen shares. Goodbye.”
She slid her hand off the box. Gripping the silver canister with one hand, she twisted the end of the antique with her thumb and forefinger. The crackling sound of a voice recording emanated from the perforated end of the cylinder.
“Mrs. Quiston!” It was Titus’s voice. “I’ve had my eye on you for some time Mrs. Quiston. May I come in? I’m sorry Mrs. Quiston, but I was wondering if you might have some scotch. I am all out next door and Friday night without scotch, just doesn’t seem like Friday night. Do you know what I mean?”
“You remember that night, don’t you?” she said, her breath reeking of stale cigarettes. ”I remember. 4 months ago. You son of a bitch. You had just moved in, and you were acting all neighborly, and…and romantic. Even if I am twenty years older than you. Those things you said. Why did I believe you?”
He looked at her with clinched teeth, his eyes darting back and forth between her and the portal communicator.
“What’s the matter? Missed your assignment again? That’s just like you. Always having a good time, the rest of the world be damned.” She stepped back from him, and glanced down the corridor towards her Unit.
“But you need those shares, don’t you?” She said as she cleared her throat.
“You know why, you son of a bitch? Because I missed something too.” she said.