In A Flash: The Chronicle

Thunder rumbled overhead as the Ges arrived at the athenaeum, cowls pulled over their heads. They proceeded in single file toward the entrance, submitting themselves to the inspection of the gatekeeper, passing one by one within these walls. Their faces were severe and expressionless, as though this was a duty to be endured. They gathered, once they had all passed within, and spoke in low tones with one of the Keepers as to what they required, before she set out to lead them through the broad, circling halls. To me.

I watched all this with some trepidation on one of the looking glasses the athenaeum possessed. Their grim faces unsettled me. I knew why they were here, of course. Had known they were coming from the moment of my creation. It was my reason for being. Few are blessed with a clear purpose to their existence. Now that the moment had arrived it felt more a curse.

The Ges were brought to me—I watching their progression through the hallways—and the Keeper bowed to me and to the them. “Here it is. You may question it for as long as you wish. For the rest of your lives, if that is what you desire. But it is not to leave this place. And I must be present throughout.”

The leader of the Ges, or the one I presumed was their leader, nodded and stepped forward. He had the grimmest face of all, marked by the scars of some disease he had survived in childhood. He looked me over, with what I took to be disdain, as though he found me wanting.

“I would ask you some questions,” the leader of the Ges said in a hesitant voice, unsure how to proceed.

“I will answer as best I can,” I said.

He nodded, but still did not speak. At last he smiled. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve grown up seeing statues of you at the center of all our cities. It’s odd to be conversing with you. I feel like I should pay you obeisance.”

“I am not her,” I reminded him. “I am her chronicle, nothing more.”

“You seem more than that.”

I shrugged. “Even so.” Continue reading

In A Flash: Security

“Goddamnit,” Ali said, biting her lip as she looked at the screen above the counter at her gate.

There was no departure time listed. Nor was there any indication of a delay. She looked out at the bridge that connected the terminal to the plane, but there was none attached. And there was no one at the counter. She wandered back to look a the departures screen down the corridor to confirm that she was at the correct gate.

There it was: Vancouver to Winnipeg, Gate A31. The screen said the departure was on-time, though no actual time was listed, which Ali thought odd.

She went back to the gate, hoping to find an agent, but there was still no one at the counter. There was a man standing there, staring ahead and Ali approached him. “Sorry,” she said, “are you on the flight to Winnipeg.”

He nodded. “Yeah. They say it’s here, but there’s no plane. And there’s no one here.”

“There hasn’t been anyone at the counter, then?”

He shook his head. “No. Computers aren’t even turned on.” He gestured to the monitors on the counter, which Ali saw were black.

“This is so weird.”

“So strange,” he said. “There’s a lot of people here though. Can’t all be wrong, right?”

“I guess,” Ali said. She wasn’t so sure. These were airlines after all. They would cancel a flight without telling anyone. Or move it to another terminal and sell all the seats to people on standby, not bothering to refund all those who were stuck here unawares.

She told herself to be patient, there was plenty of time until her flight, and went to find a seat in the waiting area. It was difficult, with dozens and dozens of frustrated looking people sitting and staring at the empty counter. Ali found it comforting in some strange way. They could all be miserable together.

As time went on the waiting area filled up. Nearly every seat was filled and the open area around the gate counter was nearly impassable, with hordes of people staring at phones or the tarmac where a plane had yet to appear. Anyone who looked vaguely official was immediately confronted by ten or more people demanding answers. None were forthcoming. Ali could hear at least five different conversations with various agents, trying to placate the irate people who were waiting for a flight that had not materialized.

At a certain point, it dawned on her that there were far more people gathered here than could possibly fit on the plane. She could see others reaching the same awareness. Something was very odd about all this. How could so many people end up at this airport gate, awaiting a flight that no one at the airline seemed to know anything about, except that it was supposed to be taking off? Continue reading

In A Flash: Mail Order

Daniel threw the mail on table by the door as he came in. “I’m home babe,” he called out as he took off his shoes.

“Hey good looking,” Alice said, coming over to kiss him. She picked up the mail. “Anything good?”

“Junk. How was your day?”

Alice did not answer. She was engrossed in a postcard-size, glossy mailout advertising a beauty seminar. Daniel had glanced at it while rifling through the mail downstairs, but hadn’t noticed anything that would warrant that kind of scrutiny. He went to the kitchen and got a beer from the fridge, cracking it open.

“So how was it babe?” he said, taking a long pull.

“How was what?” Alice said, in a distracted voice, still reading over the mailout.

“Your day.”

“Oh, it was fine,” Alice said, setting down the mail and looking up at him to smile. “How was yours?”

Daniel shrugged and took another drink of beer. “Same old. What are you thinking for supper?”

After dinner, when Daniel went to put the mail in the recycling, he noticed the mailout was missing.

“You thinking of attending that seminar?” he said, when he came back into the apartment.

“What seminar?”

“The one from the mail. The one you were looking at.”

“Oh no,” Alice said, laughing. “I thought I recognized the name of the company. I think maybe a friend of mine works there. I was going to look it up.”

Daniel grunted in response and went to turn on the television. Alice watched him for a moment, biting her lip. When Daniel glanced up from the television she smiled and he smiled in turn. Continue reading

In A Flash: D.B.

D.B. stepped up to the bar. “Bourbon and water,” he said, with a nod to the bartender.

“Sure. Got a particular flavor?” the bartender said.

D.B. shook his head and the bartender busied himself with a bottle of his cheapest. His sleeves were rolled up to this elbow and his arms were lined with tattoos. D.B. found himself staring at them.

“You like the ink?” the bartender asked as he passed the bourbon over.

D.B. shook his head. “Never much cared for it.”

“No?” the bartender said with a smile. “Guess not many folks your age have them.”

“You’d be surprised. I was in the navy. Lot of the boys had them then. I never did. And it was a good thing. Easy way for people to remember you.”

“Some of us want to be remembered,” the bartender said.

“Sure,” D.B. said. “Some do. Some don’t.”

By his tone he made it plain which he preferred. The bartender looked as though he were about to reply but another customer, a young woman with large glasses, entered and he went to her. D.B. took a sip of his bourbon and cast about the room with a studied eye, noting the exits and the few people present. An old habit, one he did not intend to lose.

There were no more than a half dozen people in the place at this hour—a grubby little bar with pretensions to being hip, that didn’t quite manage it. Most of them were young—D.B. had a half-century on all of them, he would guess—and absorbed in the heat of their lives. Only the bartender paid him any mind, with, what seemed to D.B., a genuine curiosity as to why an old man was having a bourbon in his establishment at two in the afternoon.

When D.B. was finished his first bourbon the bartender made his way over. “Care for another?”

“Sure. I got the time.” He could feel a twinge of his old accent coming back into his voice as he spoke. It was always there, hidden, but visible. Something he had to watch for.

“Great. Big plans for the rest of the day?”

“Can’t say as I do. I’m done with big plans.” Continue reading

In A Flash: Blind Minotaur Led By a Girl Through the Night

The girl had yet to speak. The bird that fluttered from shoulder to shoulder gave voice for both of them. It had announced, upon their entering the hovel where the Minotaur had spent the last days of his journey, that he was to come with them. The Minotaur had stood up and allowed his hand to be taken by the girl. There seemed no point in asking questions or demanding explanations. He was at the mercy of this girl and her bird, until they reached the end of their portion of his journey.

Such had been his fate for these last months, since he had begun this ordeal, broken and fleeing into the night. He had been forced to endure much and had to learn to trust in those he did not know and could not see. Would they betray him to those who were looking for him? He would not know until it was too late.

The fact it was a girl, hardly more than ten years old to judge by the size of her hand and his sense of her height—he was becoming quite adept at judging a person’s size by the feel of their movement—was somewhat reassuring. Though he knew it should not be. Girls, whatever their age, could be bought. Everyone had a price, as he knew too well.

In spite of all he had lost, in spite of the meanness of this existence—going from one safe house to another, never having a home, indebted to strangers he could never repay—he never thought of stopping or slipping into despair. There was no use for self-pity. This was what fate had chosen for him, and he would continue to wander for as long as fate allowed. He expected it would not be long.

“How much farther?” he asked, when he could stand the silence no longer.

The girl shrugged and the bird said, “It will take us the evening to get to the river.”

What river they were heading for, and what happened once they reached it, was left unstated. Most likely, the girl and the bird did not know. How many others had they conducted along this trail in the dead of the night?

After some time the bird spoke again. “You needn’t worry. We meet our bargains.”

The Minotaur did not reply. Words mattered little, as they all knew. It was actions that counted. Continue reading