Mitch Dyer

words and stuff

Smile

We exchange awkward half-smiles in the hallway every day. What is that? Nobody actually says anything, so it’s not even a greeting. We uncomfortably acknowledge each other’s existence and then walk in opposite directions. It’s the start and stopping point of our social interaction.

This wouldn’t be such a bad situation if I weren’t in love with her. Not, you know, In Love. I don’t want to raise her children. I’m talking about the same sort of affection that makes pre-teen girls draw gigantic, throbbing hearts around “Mrs. What’sHisName” inside their math notebooks.

It’s not a sex thing, either. Said attraction is not about me wanting to shutter the blinds, tear her shirt off, and make a mess of my office. Or her office. An office.

Alright, maybe it’s a little bit of a sex thing.

Step one, obviously, would require me to say actual words, out loud, in her general vicinity. It’s not like I’m a coward. I’m not shy. I’m an adult. I talk to human beings for a living. But I can’t start a conversation without deliberate purpose. Hooking up hardly qualifies as a solid stepping stone. Hanging out after hours doesn’t work either. Hi, we’ve worked together for a year and you don’t know who I am. Let’s suddenly mingle!

This time, as I fire up my best fake grin, she stops dead in front of me. Her face glows as she straightens her posture and lifts her chin. Her eyebrows rise, her eyes widen, and the slightly smirking edges of her ripe, pink lips spread into a legitimate smile.  She’s got a look in her eye that says, “Hi, we’ve worked together for a year and you don’t know who I am. Let’s suddenly mingle!”

She finds a purpose.

She says, “Hey, Malcolm.”

I don’t know what to do. I’m frozen in place for what feels like the most awkward hour of anyone’s life. She’s waiting for me to follow suit.

I follow tradition.

My bent face and I keep walking. The door couldn’t have closed behind me any faster.

Damn it.

What was her name again?

Flash Fiction: The Numbers Game

Sympathy wasn’t usually Ivy’s thing, but she was there for me when Bishop died. We spent most of that day just sitting on the couch. I played sad songs on the guitar ’til my fingers started to blister, she watched some wedding show on TV. She was a warm, welcoming shoulder to cry on.

“I know you didn’t like him,” I said.

“I hated that fucking dog.”

“Yeah, you did.”

She hugged me a little harder and we dozed off.

I was happy to still have one friend left.

__________

Limitation was clutch in this week’s flash fiction challenge at Terrible Minds. Three of the 100 words were already in place. Forcing specific words into a story is still strange to me. It’s a weird place to write from, feels hokey, but it’s a clever wrench in the gears.

Flash Fiction: The Torch

Samantha didn’t say anything before she lit the last flare. Only 57 hours in the frozen desert, barely a full day on Picon, and her patience reached its limit. A sparkling red ribbon trailed behind as she tore off into the endless night. Everyone in the huddle was uneasy, but only Arne made a move.

At nearly seven-and-a-half feet tall, he was a giant compared to the rest. His stringy legs seemed unable to support his top half, but they carried him well. He reached Samantha in a few hard strides and tore her to the ground. The sizzling cylinder bounced across the coarse surface of a long-forgotten planet before vanishing over a lip. Its gushing snarl faded and flickered into the silence below.

Arne peeled Samantha’s small, thick body from the ground. He smelled her unclean stink, heard her heavy panting, and tasted the sandy scum layered above the frosted earth. Neither, however, could see anything but the black. Direction didn’t exist. Arne called out to the huddle.

“Where is everyone?”

“I’m sorry,” Samantha said, “I should have, I mean, I didn’t realize–I thought I saw rescue.”

“Shut the fuck up, we need to find the group or we are going to die.”

He turned slowly, waiting for a response that didn’t come. Much as it would please him to hurl her into the depths, Arne kept the woman close. Frozen air twisted their bones.

Samantha tried to push forward. Arne’s grip tightened.

“Don’t fucking move,” he said, “or you’ll send us over that edge, too.”

Samantha started to slump, her head now resting at the top of Arne’s stomach. She begged.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left…

They shouted together, taking small, aimless steps, knowing the group wouldn’t answer.

Right. Left. Right. Left…

When Adam, perhaps by some kind of miracle, had returned with the missing Gloria, both Samantha and Arne responded to his cries with quiet. That couple’s inability to find the the comfort and warmth of the blanketed huddle meant two fewer useful resources, but more freezing food for everyone else.

Right. Left…

Arne’s gut told him the group was already gone, having quietly scuttled off the moment he gave in to instinct. Realistically, he was more likely to encounter other hopeless marauders, probably dead from the social splintering already infecting those who abandoned him. Maybe he’d trip over Adam.

Right.

No more walking.

“We won’t make it,” Arne said.

“I know,” Samantha said, stopping. “Why did you come for me?”

“I don’t know. We didn’t need to lose another body.”

The sun was too small to reach the farthest planet from it, yet Picon was the only other inhabitable rock in the system. It became a dumping ground. Its moon, the lone source of limited light, wasn’t due to show for another few days. So there they stood, tired, alone, waiting and lost.

Arne grew too weak to hold his companion, but his arms wouldn’t let her go. Maybe his hands had frozen together across her stomach. When the strangers slumped to their knees, they collapsed toward each other.

Somebody sighed.

“At least we didn’t walk off the edge of the world,” Samantha said.

Arne didn’t know if the woman was still breathing beneath his uncontrollable shaking. He fought to fend off the encroaching end for what felt like days. The moon is late, Arne thought. He closed his eyes and gave into the emptiness just as the dark erupted in flames.

Samantha, still wrapped beneath him, coddled a flare still half-tucked in her open coat. The bursting beacon burned hot, but the overwhelming numbness nullified the heat.  Neither of the stranded could smell the stinging scent, nor consume the chalky taste flowing from the flaming maw. And as the raging sound of a the signal crept away, the blinding white of the world died with it.

__________

Round 2 of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction for me. This time based on the Terrible Minds challenge, The Torch. I have issues with what I wrote here, particularly in terms of syntax and structure, but I am diving deep into this fiction stuff with a weird attitude. I’m just doing it, instead of dwelling on what I’m doing wrong. Hindsight is a great editor. As is Ryan Taljonick, who helped me improve this short story — my first one over 100 words, even! That’s progress.

Flash Fiction: Revenge

Sobs and breaking glass drown out the hateful profanity spewing from the upstairs window. I’m too hypnotized by the fire on the walkway to listen. If it took her this long to find me out, well, it isn’t my fault anymore. The flames wave gently as if to say goodbye. I loved those clothes. Bitch.  She’s too absorbed in her own shrill shrieking to hear my key click. The hooks of our now empty coat rack become my hands. Scorched leather swarms my nostrils as the burning bundle flops onto the sofa. It’s amazing how fast fire spreads.

__________

I’ve only recently discovered Chuck Wendig, whose Terrible Minds blog is a terrific resource for writers. I missed the Flash Fiction last Friday, a 100-word short-story challenge centering on revenge, but I am opting to do it anyway. This is the first fiction I have ever published. Ever. Sorry. I’m hoping to keep up with this weekly. In a year, I’ll look back at this post and laugh hysterically at how that turned out.