This is a flash fiction story I wrote a couple weeks ago. It follows the same main character from “Shutters on Main” (published at 365 Tomorrows). Ultimately, I felt the story wasn’t really up to par to shop around, so I decided to share it here and then talk a bit about my thought process.
Deb took a long drag on her cigarette while Darwin tried to scream through his gag.
“What’s that?” She leaned forward, “can’t hear you.”
Spittle ran over Darwin’s chin.
“I need to know who you sold out Toni’s boys to, this time without any more hollering for help.” Deb drew her pistol, pointing it lazily at him. “Understand?”
Darwin nodded, tears streaming down his cheek.
An orange blip appeared in the corner of Deb’s eye, followed by another and another. Heat signatures. Her cybernetics buzzed to life, picking up sound disturbances from footfalls. She heard the click of a pulse rifle priming.
How’d they find her? She flipped open her skull cracker, it scanned Darwin, the display showing “NO AUGMENTATIONS DETECTED.” Deb flicked a switch and set the skull cracker to bio mode. It scanned Darwin again, showing an elevated heart, spiking blood pressure, nothing unusual…
Deb squinted at the screen, the message beside Darwin’s digital skull blinking “ERROR—UNABLED TO DETECT GRAY MATTER.”
“You piece of shit,” Deb hammered the side of his head with the butt of her pistol. Blood sprayed onto her chest, and bits of skin tore away in a pulped mess. Instead of the cracking of skull, she hit a thudding layer of plasticene. The purple plastic seeped blue fluid. The fucker had insulated his brain.
Deb jammed her pistol in his mouth, pointing upward to obliterate whatever mods he was hiding, and pulled the trigger. The back of Darwin’s head exploded in a spray of meat and sparks.
The heat signatures crowded the front door. Deb dove behind the kitchen counter, a window leading to the fire escape behind her.
“Toni, you’re going to owe me double for this.”
The door’s lock clicked open, and an instant later the heat signatures became real. Men and women in heavy armor burst into the apartment. Emblazoned on their chests, E.A.P.D.
Darwin called in the state coppers on her. The state coppers. That was just low.
She fired a spray of bullets over the counter. The staters scrambling back into the hallway.
Deb darted for the fire escape. She shouldered the back door open. Something hissed against the metal railing. Down in the alley were more staters with their guns leveled on her. A spray of gunfire sent her retreating into the apartment.
She was pinned.
Deb connected to the net and sent a desperate help in a storm of encryption.
A message popped up in the corner of her eye, sender unknown: Who was it?
I need help, Deb sent back.
Tell me who it was.
No response. Deb got the distinct feeling she was left for dead.
The sound of rotary blades, and a chopper hovered overhead. Two men fired rifles at the state cops, pushing them back. Toni tossed a rope ladder from the chopper. Deb didn’t hesitate to grab it and start climbing up.
Maybe Toni didn’t owe her double after all.
As I’ve said before, cyberpunk is one of my favourite genres. So it’s not really surprising that I decided to try and dip back into it. I really like the character of Deb and the world she inhabits, so that’s why it seemed like a no brainer for me to write another story in that setting.
The initial inspiration came with the guy and his insulated brain. That was the strongest image in my mind, and the story burgeoned outward from it. My goal was to write 700 words and then cut it down to 500. This might have been a mistake. I think I ended up being more focused on the word count than the story. I was dead set on hitting my 500 word goal (ultimately I undershot it by a bit).
It reads like an excerpt from a larger story. Flash fiction is very difficult to nail, and this is one of the reasons why. I feel like the story doesn’t have enough of an arc. It drops us in the middle of a narrative, we get a brief bit of action, and then off we go without any real answers. It’s less a story and more a promise that there’s more story to be told.