#FlashFiction #3 – not helpful
I will be posting, every 2nd friday, a series of short flash fiction that detail the year before the events that take place in my next novel, Harbinger. I will most likely sprinkle in a few short stories about specific characters, and, once I am ready to release the novel, I will combine these stories, do a proper edit, and make them available as a companion anthology. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into Olive’s life before Harbinger. As always feedback is welcomed and appreciated.
Please note: These are unedited, non-proofed first drafts.
October 28, 2011
Something terrible, terrifying, had happened today on her way to lunch…she’d tried to stop it, really she had, but her brain overrode her, declared her irrational and stopped up her warning cry. And now she was pretty sure someone was dead.
At first she’d frozen, just staring at the boy, man really, walking up the sidewalk on the other side of the street and heading opposite to her. She knew she shouldn’t just stop and stare at random people, that that wouldn’t help with the weirdo vibe she was sure she already put off, but she felt involuntarily rooted and the nagging feeling of impending doom rose up from it’s constant presence on her chest into her throat. She almost choked, even though there was physically nothing to choke on. It became hard to breathe, laborious. And her vision momentarily swam and then suddenly snapped into focus and seemed to almost zoom, like a camera, in on the guy striding towards her. His flip flops slapped almost in time with the bob of his curly, brown head. He was wearing black shorts and a droopy navy hoodie, and his ear bud wires disappeared into his pocket. She thought he might have just come back from the gym…the was one a block up and over on 4th Avenue, they lined their elliptical trainers along their front windows and often strung banners off the edge of the roof that declare their membership fees. It looked like —
Pain shot across her jaw and she realized she was clenching it, but even the realization didn’t allow her to relax.
Stop staring. Stop staring. Stop staring, she chanted inside her head — the initially firm command turned to almost pleading. She couldn’t keep doing this…this was just crazy behaviour.
But her head wouldn’t turn, nor would her feet move.
Some thing bad was going to happen. Some thing bad was going to happen. Something really, really bad was going to happen. Now. Now. Now.
She gave in, stopped fighting the feeling, and suddenly her head was free to swivel and look around. So she did.
There was nothing on the street other than cars parked on either side. No other pedestrians or moving vehicles of any kind. There was nothing in the guy’s path. Unless he was going to drop dead of an aneurism, with which she couldn’t help him anyway, there was nothing threatening in the vicinity of the guy. But the feeling didn’t ease at this observation.
Maybe he was a threat to her? Maybe that was what all this impeding doom shit was? Something was going to happen to her?
He was close enough, though still on the opposite side of the street, that she could see that he did indeed have a gym bag over one shoulder, and that the bits of hair touching his face were damp with sweat.
She didn’t feel like running or hiding. He wasn’t a threat to her. She glanced around again, softly swivelling her body to track him as he passed by. He was completely absorbed in his music. She wondered what he was thinking of, what job he had that he could workout at lunchtime on a Friday, and whether or not he had someone who loved him waiting for his return.
He suddenly turned to cross through the middle of the street and she involuntarily threw up her hands, palms outward. Her brain actually screamed an incoherent warning. She fought the gesture. She fought the painful, chest and neck piercing, panic. There was nothing here. Nothing was going to happen. She couldn’t pull down her arms, like they weren’t hers to command anymore, and she was glad the guy didn’t seem to use his peripheral vision otherwise she’d look like total idiot — arms outstretched in warning, jaw clenched to fight the screamed warning threatening to rip out of her throat.
There were cobblestones here, mixed in with the asphalt and she’d always wondered what road stood here 50 or a 100 years before and why the city had only enough concern to partially preserve it.
His toe caught on one of the raised edges of the uneven surface. He stumbled, and instinctively flung his other foot forward to catch himself. His flip flop flew off that foot and he landed half barefoot, but upright. He chuckled to himself. He had a nice laugh, deep and sincere. He laughed like he didn’t know anyone was watching. He laughed like he could handle anything anyone threw at him.
Her arms fell to her side, limp. That was it?
He leaned down to reach for his flip flop — it was tucked beside the tire of a parked car.
She turned away.
A car flashed by her going way too fast.
The tires didn’t even squeal. The driver probably never saw the man leaning down between the cars, but still she was driving way too fast for single lane traffic. Any child could be playing with any type of ball in any of these front lawns, whether or not they were apartment buildings or duplexes or —
She heard a sickening thump — which wasn’t an accurate description, but, even though it was all she could hear repeating over and over in her head, she couldn’t actually articulate the sound. Which was okay, seeing as the 911 operator seem to think she needed to move on from this part of her phone call, and the nice policeman didn’t seem to think that the exact noise reverberating in her head was terribly relevant when he was taking her statement.
“I thought something might happen and I didn’t say anything. I saw him lose his shoe and I turned away because he was laughing and I didn’t want to be staring,” she babbled to the policeman, who didn’t seem to be very much older than herself, but was much more steady and, obviously, more stable. She thought it might be the uniform, but it was probably just him.
“I don’t think you could have done much more than you did, Miss, you called 911 and us. Now you just have to let the paramedics and doctors do their jobs,” he answered, kindly enough.
She’d never been called ‘Miss” before, the title seemed almost otherworldly, and it was on the tip of her tongue to correct him, but that wasn’t what was actually important. What was important was that he didn’t know. Didn’t know that she’d known. She’d known ahead of time, hadn’t she?
The police officer offered to drive her home, but she still needed to get to lunch. She was late and it was starting to hurt, like it had hurt before. The officer seemed to concerned to let her go alone, but she insisted that the restaurant was around the corner. She even mentioned how good the black bean cod was, and then felt terrible for saying so with the blood still wetly splattered on the cobblestones only feet away. She felt the heat of her embarrassment rushing through her face, but he didn’t seem to notice and just thanked for her “recommendation”, because he was always looking for good lunch place.”
She practically ran to the restaurant, Connie’s Cookhouse — again, of course — and slammed herself into her usual table. She couldn’t get the sight of them loading the guy into the ambulance out of her head. This visual was scored with the thudding sound of his body smashing against the speeding vehicle and the parked car, practically in the same spilt second. Mixed in there somewhere was the drivers gut wrenching sobs as she sat, practically foetal, on the side of the road.
Two lives ruined today.
She didn’t order the cod. She didn’t deserve in. Though the chicken in mixed vegetable was almost as tasty, so it wasn’t much of a punishment.
But it was all just a coincidence.
She’d just been wandering around under her typical doom cloud, saw this guy and tried to make him part of her daily-sought solution — if only for a few seconds. The shoe, the car, and the killing where all coincidence.
She asked for her fortune cookie before she finished her lunch…actually she could barely eat and had them pack it up only a couple of minutes after they placed it in front of her. No point in wasting good food.
She thought she just needed something, something clarifying, so she eagerly ripped open the cookie they brought her and practically gobbled the fortune it held:
There will be a change of plans this weekend.
Huh, now that was illuminating. And so so comforting.
So totally not helpful.
Other Harbinger stories: