Flash Fiction Challenge: Behold Your Theme

Posted: May 7, 2014 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Challenge
Tags: ,

This week’s challenge was to write a piece using the theme of “We’re all human, even when we’re not”.

Having had some actual time to write this week (seriously, work and life and everything has been balls-to-the-wall hectic these past few months), I came up with “Retribution”:

Angie’s hands shook slightly as she raised the lighter up and ignited the tip of her cigarette.

In the distance, she heard crickets or some other kind of insect continuing a constant, background chorus in the field before her, while even further in the distance the muted sound of speeding cars just barely reached her ears. The worn-looking, brown-haired, middle age woman took a deep inhalation, the cigarette’s burning tip flaring into even greater brilliance, held the breath, then let it out a moment later in a long stream of smoke.

She leaned a shoulder against the bare, concrete block doorway in which she stood, staring off into the darkness of the countryside, before she looked down at her her free hand, regarding it dispassionately. The fingernails were rough and cut up, the palm was calloused, her knuckles cut, and blood that wasn’t hers flecked her skin.

And still she could feel it trembling.

Angie took another drag of the cigarette, then another, hoping it would help calm her nerves. She was almost there when she heard the muffled cries from behind her, back within the hollowed out, concrete warren that had once been a motel before this little town had died a few years back. Angie felt her heart start beating harder again as she thought about the man making those noises, what he’d done, and she felt the need for another cigarette but ignored it as she rubbed out the butt of the one she held against a concrete block next to her.

She took the hunting knife out of her back pocket and turned back into the building.

The room was, like every other in the shitty ruins of what had once been a vibrant motor lodge some time back in the 1980s, bare and damp and dirty. What distinguished it was the high-intensity work-light in one corner hooked up to a car battery and a disheveled man zip-tied to an old, metal office chair in the center of the room. His face was bruised and abraded, his blonde hair mussed, and his clothing was a shambles with a few rips and tears here and there. His eyes widened as Angie stepped into the circle of illumination provided by the work-light, the light glinting off the blade of the hunting knife that she held casually at her side. He tried to say something but a gag – composed of an old sweat-sock and duct-tape to keep it in place – made the communication incomprehensible. Silently, her jaw locked into place as she gave him a hard stare, Angie crossed the distance and ripped the gag off, eliciting a minor cry of pain from the man.

“Please, lady…” he said after a moment. “Please…you’ve got the wrong person. I swear, I won’t tell anyone about this if you let me–”

“Shut up.” The two words were uttered hard and cold, matching the glint in Angie’s eyes as she looked down at the man.

“But–”

She grabbed the man’s hair in one hand and brought the knife down, making a shallow cut across his cheek. “I said ‘shut up’, you monster!” She brought the knife away and her hand was shaking. Angie took a step back, letting go of the man’s hair, as he winced in pain.

“P-please, lady, I know you think–” He blubbered, tears beginning to well up in his eyes and run down his cheeks, mixing with the blood from the cut.

“I know!” Angie roared back. “I know you were the one! I know you took my David from me!”

The man reacted to her words like she’d slapped him across the face. “I…I…I didn’t…”

Angie snarled and stepped forward, grabbing a handful of his hair again. “I’ve seen you watching the playgrounds,” she said, pressing the edge of the knife along the underside of his jaw. “After the cops let you go? It took you awhile, you slimy bastard, but you finally went back to your habits…”

The man squeezed his eyes shut and tried to lean away from the knife. “No! I–”

“Admit it, you sick son of a bitch! Admit it!” She pressed the knife harder into him, drawing another thin line of blood.

“I didn’t!”

“Admit you raped and killed my son!”

The man cried out in anguish, his face wrenched into a rictus, as he struggled to get away from the knife to his throat. He sputtered incoherently for a moment, before screaming out: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Angie pulled away, hearing the blood pounding in her ears, feeling her heart hammering in her chest. The man was blubbering like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but all Angie could do was keep herself on her feet, her knees weak and her head spinning.

“I have a problem,” the man choked out. “I’m so sorry…I can’t help it! I…I…I hate myself, I want to stop, but…God, what’s wrong with me?!” He blinked several times, staring at her with red-rimmed eyes, tears and snot starting to pour down his face, heavy sobs wracking his body. “Kill me. Please, God, kill me.”

Angie took a step forward, raising the knife up over her head.

And then she saw David’s face. In her mind’s eye, she saw her beautiful little boy: a gap-toothed seven year old giving her a Mother’s Day card, a sleepy four year old curled up at her side on the couch, a peaceful newborn held in her arms. He was gone because of the monster sitting before her. He was gone.

Angie stepped back and dropped the knife, the sound of it clattering on the concrete a strange counterpoint to the man’s crying. “Oh God,” Angie whispered, backing away. “Oh God…”

She turned and stumbled from the room, making her way through darkened halls to the doorway to the field beyond the ruined motel. She felt the contents of her stomach erupt up her throat and out of her mouth, splattering into the dirt. Her hand gripped the bare concrete blocks for support, feeling their roughness scrape across her fingertips. She collapsed back onto her rear in the doorway, hearing the sobs and wails of the man inside, as she tried to get her head straight. Angie dug at her pockets and pulled out her pack of cigarettes, fumbling one of them out. She lifted it to her lips, her hands shaking badly as she tried to light it.

She felt the smoke fill her lungs while mentally she scrabbled for stability, orientation. Behind her a monster begged for redemption and absolution. Before her, the darkness of the night stretched out, filled with the songs of insects and the hum of vehicles.

Angie decided that she’d sit there for a while, the cigarette glowing brighter with every in drawn breath, until she figured out what she wanted.

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