Another Flash Fiction Challenge from Terrible Minds.
The choices I ended up with in my character generation were:
- A misguided kidnapper is afraid of being recognized by an old acquaintance.
- A big doctor is fighting for the rights of the common people.
- A nervous lord is must force the world to taste their pain.
- A rash mage is fleeing a dark past.
- A ruthless wizard is searching for a holy relic.
I picked the first one, but I wouldn't say I followed the rules.
Martin sat up when the door to the tiny room opened again. The man he had been talking to led the way with a scowl, and behind him came a grey-haired woman. Her posture was gracefully straight, and her suit looked freshly pressed. The men Martin had seen wore rumpled clothing sprinkled with food stains. One of them was a button off on his shirt. Martin had tried to fix it, and gotten his hand slapped away. He didn’t understand why they were being so mean to him. He was innocent.
“Tell her your story, Marty,” Officer Ciczinsky said. He was the blond. The brown haired Officer Carlson, who had brought Martin coffee and a donut, was gone. Martin looked at the untouched donut again and shuddered. He could see the raspberry filling oozing out the side like blood. Martin didn’t eat red foods.
“Last night, I went to bed at nine o’clock. I closed my eyes and started to clear the worms.”
“The what?” the woman asked.
Martin visualized what Amy had taught him about the worms, nodding his head as he made sure he remembered it correctly.
“As we move about in our daily lives, we encounter soul worms. They latch onto our souls and drain them of energy. They are parasites. In order to cleanse our souls of the worms we cannot avoid, we must, before allowing ourselves to dream, first lie down and be quiet. Then we must visualize and feel our true body. Finally, we must use our spirit power to push away anything that is not our true body. Thus the worms’ hold is broken, and peaceful sleep may be attained.”
Martin rubbed his hands and looked at her. The men had been angry when he told them about the worms. He thought he had gotten it wrong, so he had tried again until they yelled at him to get on with it. Her eyes were wide, accentuating the wrinkles surrounding them, but there was no anger in her face.
“Alright. You started to clear the worms. Then what happened?” Her hair was tied back from her face. Martin wondered if she belonged. Maybe she was here to help him.
“Before I could finish cleansing, my phone rang. I know I should have finished, but my phone hardly ever rings, especially so late, so I answered it.” Martin mimed picking up his phone. “I said, ‘Hello?’ and it was Amy. Amy said, ‘It’s time. After tonight, you will belong.’”
He paused, but the woman didn’t give him any signals. He knew he should have finished the cleansing. She could probably see the worms clinging to his soul.
“I got dressed and went to my porch to wait for Amy, but it wasn’t Amy that showed up. There were other people there, and they knew Amy. They told me what to do.” Martin cracked his neck to the left twice.
“Do you know their names? Can you describe these people?”
“It was dark. They looked like people. Men. They gave the sign.”
“Sign? What sign did they give you, Mr. Gross?” Martin squirmed. She definitely wasn’t one of them. Gross was his old last name, the one on all the government papers. Amy had given him a new name, a secret belonging name.
“The one that told me they belong.”
“Can you show it to me?”
“No. I can’t make it. I’m not allowed.” Martin didn’t have the rank to give the sign, only to respond appropriately when it was given. When Amy first showed it to him, he had tried to imitate it. She grabbed his hands and squeezed them so tight. Never, never, must never make it until you’ve earned it. Got to follow the rules if you want to belong.
The woman’s eyes flickered. Pity? Recognition? Maybe she hadn’t used his secret name because the other man was there and he didn’t belong. Martin leaned his hunched shoulders forward and squinted at her outfit, trying to find a sign.
Ciczinsky slapped the card table, sloshing coffee onto it. “Back off, Marty.” The woman waved him back and he scowled.
“What happened next, Mr. Gross?” She asked.
Martin swallowed and pressed a hand to his chest.
“I did what they told me to do.”
“I put on the black clothes. And the ski mask. I went to an address. Um, 246 Maple Ave apartment 104. I used to live in a 104, but it wasn’t on Maple; it wasn’t the same. I knocked on the door, and Sally answered.” Martin’s body relaxed when he mentioned Sally. She had changed so much since high school. They sat next to each other in English class senior year, when she was in her goth phase, but now she had red hair and a clean-scrubbed face. She held herself so tall as she looked at him. How had she gotten so tall?
“She didn’t recognize me in the ski mask. She told me to go away, that she was done with belonging and she would call the police. Then one of the others came up behind her and put a hood over her head. She started to scream and her body shook and then she went limp. I got into the van with the others. Someone else carried her. I’m not very strong.” Martin paused and looked at his arms. Skinny, sickly white sticks. But Amy said even he could belong.
“What did the van look like?” Martin jumped.
“Black. Big. I didn’t see any plates.” Ciczinsky had already asked him about the plates.
“When the van stopped, we got out and went into a cabin. They told me to take off my mask and talk to Sally when she woke up. They carried her into a room with a bed and a chair, and they put her on the bed. I sat in the chair and I waited for her to wake up.”
“How long were you in the van?” The woman’s voice was still calm, even bored, but her fingers tapped the table three times. Martin looked around the room and counted under his breath.
“I’m not good at telling time. I didn’t have a watch. Maybe three hours?”
“You said 30 minutes before, you little-“
“Ciczinsky! Get out.” He sneered at Martin and slammed the door on his way out.
“Go on,” she said. She leaned back in her seat. Some tension had fled her body. She looked younger without the blond hulking behind her.
Martin had been so upset waiting for Sally to wake up. They had spent four years of high school in the same building. She would recognize him and that would be the end. He would fail to convince her to belong again, because Martin Gross failed at everything, and everyone knew it. He never dated, never kissed a girl or even held hands. How could he even talk to her?
He had to talk to her or he would fail again.
“She woke up. We talked. She wanted to go home.” She had cried. She had run to the windows and pounded on them, but the glass was thick and they were nailed shut. The door was locked. She screamed and started to hit Martin on his chest and arms. It hurt, but that wasn’t why he cried.
“You bastard!” she had yelled.
She never said his name.
“The door opened and the others came in and they made Sally go to sleep again. Then they gave me the keys to my car and told me to drive her home. I got pulled over, because one of my tail lights was out, and the officer saw Sally in the hood in the back and he arrested me and then Officers-“
“That’s enough,” the woman said.
“You are the only person Sally Cummins saw tonight. You may be small, but there was a wheelbarrow in your trunk. There’s a receipt for a stun gun in the trash at your home. And we know you went to high school with her. Tell me why I should believe you when there’s absolutely no evidence that you didn’t act alone, not even a record of a phone call into your house line tonight.
"Convince me, Mr. Gross, or you’re looking at a very long jail sentence.”
Martin’s chin trembled. He had failed.
He closed his eyes and felt his true body, visualized the boundaries of his skin. He pushed with his spirit power and felt lighter as he broke the soul worms off. He should have finished cleansing. He opened his eyes and sat straighter, looking directly at the woman lounging across the table from him. She didn’t belong. He didn’t have to tell her anything.
Martin did everything he was told to do. He belonged now.
“None of us act alone if we belong.”