I’ll be the first to admit it: I may be trying to fit too much story into the following piece of flash fiction. I like leading a reader along, playing my cards close to the chest until the end so that you don’t know what’s really happening for a good chunk of the story, but reading over this one, I am concerned that even when you finish it you may not be entirely sure what’s transpired.
I hope that’s not the case. I hope the story works for you and I hope, when you’ve read it to the end (all 500 words), you feel you have a handle on what’s happening. If not, let me know in the comments. If there are a handful of WTH responses, I’ll be happy to explain it.
Truth be told, it should be a longer story, and it may well develop into that.
I’m using a prompt from the 500 Club this week:
Finish this opener: Only one left. The first two were wasted.
Only one left. The first two were wasted.
“How is this legal?” Jim asked. “Isn’t this duress?”
Rita smiled. “Who’s going to be around to report it, Jimmy?”
The logic was there, but it still bothered him. After all, it was a trick. They weren’t lying outright, but they weren’t shooting straight, either. And using absinthe, well, that was just devious.
But effective, he imagined Rita saying. Very effective.
They pulled to the curb near the third pub. If they could make it a clean sweep, three for three, there would be some happy campers back at the compound. Few teams can pull off three in a single night. Hell, plenty of teams don’t live through the night.
“Okay,” Rita said. “Same plan. I’ll go in first, you hang back and try to be invisible.”
“Invisible,” Jim said. That he could do. He followed her from the van.
He had misgivings about the technicality they were exploiting, but as he walked he tried once more to tell himself they were doing a good thing. A holy thing. A righteous thing. Not just killing.
Inside it was dark and smoky, like the first two pubs they’d visited that evening. It took Rita all of 30 seconds to identify a mark–a loner seated in the corner by himself. Probably a newborn. He sulked while the others in the bar danced and drank and schemed to satiate their base desires.
Rita made her way slowly to the table. Her job was to be an inverted seductress. The marks like to think they’re the ones in charge. She had to get him to see her as prey. She dressed provocatively and carried herself like a confident slut. It worked.
She spoke to the loner, buying him a drink and brushing her fingertips against the exposed flesh of her neck. He began to loosen up and she managed to get him away from the table and onto the dance floor. Jim made his move. It was quick–he walked past the table and dropped 5 CCs of absinthe into the loner’s glass.
Rita led him back to the table, encouraging him to drink so they could leave together. He was soon drunk off his ass. Blood and absinthe don’t mix well.
That’s when she laid the waiver on the table. Smiling, she said all the official words. How it would, of course, be illegal to stake him outright. The VRA protected him from that. But should he elect to embrace the true death, she could legally help grant that request. She used a soothing tone and placed the pen in his hand. He was probably hallucinating from the absinthe, but the fool signed it. Rita folded the document, her get-out-of-jail-free card, and bid the loner to leave with her.
Jim joined them outside.
Back at the van, they helped the loner, now totally wasted, into the back with the other two. “Hard part’s done,” Rita said with satisfaction. “Now we just gotta stake ’em and burn ’em. I hope they don’t scream too much like the ones last night.” She smiled.
Oh, how they could scream, clutching at the stake. No one goes quiet into that night. It gave Jim nightmares.
That, he thought, is the hard part.