Slowly, to consciousness, come and find your face crushed on pavement viscous. Dirt falling from eyelashes, blinking it away, gradually bringing your mind around.
On a long-stretch of road, nose full of tar, all movement meagre, your energy’s long fallen from bones. Use your dwindling strength to bring back what happened. Raise hand to forehead and press down on the crumbling wound there.
At first there’s no warmth. Only the hot black pain of frostbite. Then like a shock, the blankness ends again and I feel my skin start to thaw, my blood slowly pulsing through veins that had almost forgotten how to push it.
We’d gotten a vehicle to Mars for Christ’s sake, and this is what they choose to celebrate? Curiosity, out there all on his—its—own, humming to the frequency of “Happy Birthday”? Mics up to max, an ear-numbing static filling our large control room, some of the more senior staff sing loudly over the noise while eating crumbly cupcakes over their consoles. Normally I might put a stop to it, but they’d been working so hard.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I mean, I never got hooked.
Could’ve happened of course, that’s always a danger when you’re a Trader. Got a whole supply at my fingertips, could tap in anytime I want–be like those kingpins over there, rattling their yellow teeth my way, hopped up on the stuff, eyes crazy. But that’s not my style. A Trader’s gotta be fair, has to be clean. If he ain’t he’ll just be pushing for his own benefit. That’s not what it’s about, you know? It’s about helping people.
I’ve been doing this a long time, know all the tricks. That’s why I can call this side of town my own; everyone comes to me. They know I’ll be good to them, that I won’t cheat. I’m running a good thing, here. Got drop points all over the place, a few Runners and a couple of Recruiters. Good ones too. But they all know I’ve only got one rule: don’t get hooked and I’ll keep paying. Get hooked, and I’ll make sure you pay double-double.
There’s a lady already on about her damn therapeutic hairless cats when I get in. Trying to catch my breath, I make it almost to the back row, but of course all 10 or 12 of them are drawn to the smell of what snuck in with me—the lovely, sultry, slightly burned aroma of a running vacuum cleaner needing a good empty.
Recently, SNAP gallery had this great flash fiction contest–writers were meant to create a 750 word story based on Gabriela Jolowicz‘s incredible work, PIVO (pictured)! Though I didn’t win, I am proud of the story I submitted, and have included it for your perusal below. (My humble thanks to the artist for the inspiration).
No one notices when you slip away, even in the bright orange light of a late autumn afternoon. Instead they sit on their daisy porches unaware of the chill in the air, complaining idly about the Penchant house’s awful lawn.
“It’s rats,” says one of them, sipping a sour lemonade.
“It’s this drought!” coughs another, wiping a grim, wrinkled hand over their parched mouth.
I myself couldn’t say exactly. I’d watched that house a long time; had grown up just across the street, the never-ending parade of “For Sale” signs forever planted in its front yard. One sits there now, dangling and dusty as it has been for the last six years, nothing but the neighbourhood cats willing to wind their way quickly across the lawn, whiskers high.