This week’s flash fiction. Feedback, as ever, is welcome.
By Neil Beynon
It feels like I’ve been on the run forever. In reality it’s only been a few days and already I’m tired of it. The city is almost disserted, many of the shops are boarded up and construction works lie abandoned as if someone started operating on the city, trying to save it, and then gave up. The wind carries dust on it and whips round the corners of buildings that don’t look like they’ve been cleaned since they were built in the nineteen hundreds. This city bites. I raise my collar and start out across the square towards the hotel.
I can still taste the sugar from that too sweet soda. One more than I should have had and so thick with syrup that I could practically chew it, my heart is racing a little from the E numbers, my mouth covered in a light moss of acidity. Perhaps that is why I feel like the few people I encounter are staring at me, that they know what I am and why I am running. But how could they?
It is a relief to reach the hotel and I tread the thirty-year old carpets to my tobacco stained room at a pace, eager to lock myself in its musky but safe embrace for a few hours. The door is ajar when I get there like the silent hello of an unexpected punch to the belly. I stop.
“I know you’re there,” he says, from within the room.
My eyes dart for either end of the corridor, calculating whether I have enough time to run or not. I know the answer even as he, helpfully, provides it.
“No where to go,” he says. “You might as well come in.”
There is a new smell in the room. It is like sweat mingled with straw and something else that I can’t quite place, it doesn’t matter: I recognise it anyway. Buck is sat in the chair by the window, his long legs stretched awkwardly in front of him, backlit by the sodium streetlight outside the window and smoking on of those thick cigars I loathed. The room, a small box like affair, showed no signs of being turned over, that is I left it looking turned over and so it still appeared. Bed linen strewn in memory of lost sleep, my few possessions scattered where I left them and a half eaten pizza, breakfast, left on the nightstand.
“I don’t have them,” I volunteer.
I can hear him smile in spite of the shadow that masks his not-quite-right features. I can imagine the gleam of his pearly white buckteeth flashing at me as he breaks into a low chuckle.
“Did you really think I would be bothered about the product disappearing?”
I am as silent as the city that appears to have expired while we’ve been talking.
“I am never short of product my friend. No, I have come here because of principles.”
“How did you find me?”
“I have my ways.”
Ma always told me not to be afraid of him. She said he was a good thing, that his arrival was something to be celebrated and that I should be grateful he came at all given how little we had. But then she described him. Later and all too recent in my mind I discovered just how much she celebrated his visits, the memory burned into my retina like the cigarette burn on the back of the hand I’d seen her running over his bare back.
“You’re not allowed to use your ways,” I offer. “I know the rules: only for the duty.”
“ Ah yes, but you interfered in the duty,” he replies. “Like I said: it’s the principle of the thing.”
“So what you going to do? Kill me?”
Buck chuckled again. He removed his fedora with care and placed it on the coffee table next to him, his ears springing up with what seemed like palpable excitement at being freed. As he stood I was reminded just how tall he was and how much power he had in those legs. If he was going to kill me I was dead already. Knowing wouldn’t help.
They never show him like that on the cards. On the cards he’s just regular sized and regular shaped but then they don’t seem to have much idea about him at all. I mean: six-foot bunnies don’t grow on trees do they? My plan had been to draw him out into the open, to force the public to see him for what he was, to expose him. Instead it was me that felt naked.
I’m a bastard, figuratively and actually. Everywhere I shouldn’t have been I was, everywhere I should’ve been I wasn’t and constantly in trouble with the man, not to mention Ma. Yet, I never went round climbing into people’s houses leaving eggs everywhere. Don’t you ever wonder why a six-foot bunny would do that? Do you really think it was out of the goodness of its heart? Ma was the last straw. She’d had visitors before but a bunny? No way.
He lifted his arm, the gun should’ve gleamed I suppose but it didn’t. Instead the weapon was another shadow, only one with sharp lines instead of the usual charcoal smudge.
“You going to kill me Buck?”
“No Nicholas. I have something far worse planned. You’re coming with me.”
“Where are we going?”
And we did. And it was.