Despite it being a Camp NaNoWriMo month—and thus having me busy writing the first draft of a new novel—I’ve been in a bit of a short story mood recently. New characters appearing and bouncing around inside my head until I grant them a short scene, old characters getting new stories…
And what are stories for if not for sharing? 😛 So today I’ve got a piece of what I’m calling ‘flash fiction’ but it might not actually fit with the technicalities of what flash fiction is meant to be. Details, details.
This is a little story that I actually wrote a few months ago, but I revamped it today to share it with you. 🙂
The train hums like a trapped bee as the new passengers tramp on board, leaving dusty shoe-prints in their wake.
I scrape my feet slowly along the aisle, glancing back toward the door. I could run back. Say I missed the train. Just for one more night. My feet scuff even slower and a shiver goes down my spine…No. I can’t.
Dragging my gaze from the door, I look down the rows of chairs. Full. All of them. I swallow and turn toward the next carriage, but then my gaze catches on a single empty place. It’s right near the exit, in one of the best positions—though not by a window.
Why is it empty?
I scurry across to the seat but flinch back as I reach it. The passenger in the next seat seems to suck all the breath from my lungs in an instant. His clothes are black, his hair is black, his sunglasses are even blacker. I gulp and start to slide backward, but his head tips up slightly to glance at me. I’m too late. If I leave now, I’ll look like I’m scared.
Which I’m definitely not.
I slide into the seat, my feet barely brushing the floor. Settling down as far away from the man as possible, I tuck my hands down beneath my knees. The bee-hum of the train lessens a little and we begin to slide forward, but the humming of my pulse in my ears doesn’t dim.
If only I hadn’t noticed this seat.
The man seems so much taller than me even though we’re sitting down, and I wriggle myself sideways a little until I’m almost falling off the seat into the aisle. I keep my face turned away from him, looking down at my feet.
He’s like one of the enforcers from the Net. Those people who are always angry and always fighting people. Like dad. My stomach shrivels up inside me, and I twist my fingers into a knot on my lap.
The man shifts slightly and I peek sideways at him. His glasses block any sign of his eyes, but a tingle runs down the back of my neck as if he’s watching me.
I look back at my feet again. Dad said not to talk to anyone. He said not to look at anyone either, in case they talked to me. I pull my braid over my shoulder and start chewing on the end, tipping my head a bit lower.
If he’s sober when I get there, Dad might ask if I’d talked to anyone; I have to make sure I’ve followed his orders. My breath sighs out before I can stop it. He won’t be awake, though. He barely ever is anymore.
I glance toward the door again. If I get out now, maybe I could find somewhere else to stay. Maybe find someone who would help me. I bite my lip.
I can’t. Dad will be cross, and I know I can’t risk that. My hand flickers up to brush the dulling shadow of a bruise on my cheek.
“What can I do?” I whisper. My shoes don’t reply.
I jerk my head up, almost falling off the seat. The man beside me has a crease in his forehead, leaning toward me slightly. He heard what I said. He thinks I’m talking to him—
I scramble for something to say, my breath choking up in my throat. I mouth empty words for a moment and then blurt, “What do you do, sir? For a job, I mean.”
The furrow in his brow remains for a beat and then it clears. He slides his glasses off and I’m suddenly trapped in his gaze.
Not angry. Not hating.
Deep, soft eyes; they peel away every layer of every fear right down deep inside of me. My heart throbs against my ribs.
A smile flits across his features and he offers his hand down to shake mine. “I help people.”
My hand is lost inside his and I can’t pull my gaze away. I don’t want to pull my gaze away. “Wh-what sort of people?” the words come out breathless, and a small, faint spark of light glimmers somewhere inside me.
“Special people.” He draws his hand back, adjusting the collar of his jacket.
I shrink back, muffling the spark. Special people. I’m not special. I’m just ordinary. I’m just me. I clasp my hands together on my lap, but something nudges me to look up again.
The man is still watching me, and I swallow against the dryness in my mouth. “Who…who’s special enough?”
His smile tugs at his lips again, lingering this time as that deep gaze rests on me. The skin around his eyes creases into tiny wrinkles and the spark stirs in my chest again.
“Everyone’s special enough,” he says.
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What did you think of that story? Have you ever tried flash fiction/short stories? Chat with me in the comments!