It’s time for September’s flash fiction, as incited by the amazing author, ’Nathan Burgoine. I really didn’t think I’d be able to participate, as I am recovering from neck and shoulder injuries, but I did a thing! Sorta. (Suspense is not my gift.)
Our genre is suspense, the object a money bag, and the location is a border crossing. Read ’Nathan’s original challenge post here.
Immediately after I screamed his name twice more, the blackout engulfed the entire area. Don’t you hate it when you think your words can somehow conjure up shit like this? I didn’t cause the blackout, right? No, that’s silly.
With all the Drumpftastic tweets over the last—How long has Orange Vader been in office? Four, five hundred years?—I’ve come to loathe this job at the US-Canada border crossing. At least I’m on the Canadian side, which is my way of saying I’m grateful to be Canadian. Because reasons. Like the celebration of diversity. And poutine. Maybe also not fearing getting my head blasted off by a toddler with an assault rifle. Lastly, hockey. A Canadian without ice skates is like an American without a hand gun—extremely rare.1
Why am I going off on this tangent? Right, because there’s a blackout, I’ve lost track of my partner’s whereabouts, and I really need to pee. Just before Bru took off on his break—leaving me alone at the only primary inspections booth at this pitifully unused crossing—we received an urgent message. A perp careening into a psychotic break stole some funds from an armoured truck before escaping on foot, just ten kilometres from here.
Where are all the cars tonight? At least headlights would brighten up the place, making it less creepy or prone to visits by unhinged crooks carting money bags. Get it together, Suzanne. You’ve got training, and you’ve a blackbelt. Stop acting like a ’fraidy-cat.
I really hate the dark.
Oh, wait! I feel around the counter for my flashlight. Voilà! I bang it against the counter to switch it on. Nothing. I try again. Franchement?! How the hell can I even do my job without a functioning flashlight? After swearing out loud in both official languages, my fingertips find some new batteries. I unscrew the compartment, remembering to touch where the positive nipple thing is—What? That’s what I call it—so I know how to insert the fresh batteries. There. All done.
I bang my flashlight once again and behold, there is a glow! De-lighted with myself, I look up.
Only to illuminate a pasty, chiseled face with glaring green eyes and a toothy grin.
Boisterous laughter fills my booth as the door opens. I dash out, pushing aside the man I vow to despise for the rest of my life.
“Where you going, Suze?” shouts Bru.
“Toilet. Then back straight away to rip off your nuts with my bare hands.”
“I love it when you talk dirty!”
Ahhh. There’s nothing like a pee that feels like it’s draining right from your kidneys, is there? I must admit, I take a certain amount of pride in my pelvic floor muscles. That spook from Bru should have covered me in my own urine.
I wash and dry my hands, then dart out the door, only to trip on an object right in my path. Down I go, blocking most of the impact with my palms, but not without a good crack at my knee. It hurts, but I’ll live. I manage to turn myself on my butt and catch a glimpse of the thing that knocked me down. A canvas bag, with writing on it: Currency. If found, please return to…
The lights go out a second time.
What the fuck?
I’m not alone. I can hear someone breathing heavily. As if they’ve been running … for about 10km.
Many people can adapt to the dark quickly. Me, not so much. I’ve night blindness. Something about a Vitamin A deficiency. This is specifically why I never take the night shift, but Lewis was sick and they were short-staffed. Besides, I had Brubacher for backup. “Brubackup,” he’d called it. Knob.
This can’t be Bru beside me, as he wouldn’t have left our booth unmanned. Or unguarded. Why I can’t remember to use gender-neutral terms is beyond me. I’m a feminist, for frig’s sake. Patriarchal or masculine terms are only going to—um, I’m going off on another tangent, aren’t I?
“Who’s there?” Is that the smartest question to ask? I mean, does anyone really want to know the answer?
No reply. There’s no reply at all. Great. Phil Colins is now inside my head. Focus, Suzanne, dammit!
I hear movement. I think he’s crouching, because his breath sounds closer to my ears. Another scream wants to burst out of my vocal chords, but I manage to keep it in. His breath is shockingly fresh, like he swallowed a tub of Canada Mints. He’s really close to me. I can feel the air from his lungs brushing my cheek.
“Watch, it buddy. I know karate!”
A laugh, but only through the nose. More breath snorts against my skin.
I inhale and will myself to hurl a punch in the direction of the perp, but it’s a useless swing. I lose my balance and fall over. Not onto him, which is odd, because I was close enough to have landed right on him. I prop myself up again. My knee’s throbbing.
The lights come on.
I’m alone in the hall.
No man. No money bag.
Again, what the fuck?
I limp out of the door of the main building and jump at the sound of impatient horns. There’s a lineup of three whole cars at the booth I share with Bru. Only, he’s not there. It’s empty.
With a wince, I step inside. My heart races as I breathe in spearmint. On the seat is a canvas bag, with writing on it. I try to find some saliva to swallow as I watch trembling fingers wrestle with the binding.
I leap in fright. Leaning over the mic, I bark, “One second, please!”
The bag is filled with little green candies. There’s a crisp twenty sitting on the top with a message for me:
Sorry to leave you in the dark. Found a new partner who’s worth a mint.
I call for actual backup.
Crossing My Path © 2018 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.1I can’t remember if I heard that joke somewhere in the mid-90s or I made it up. Sorry, if it’s someone else’s joke. I’d credit you!
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s on a quest to save half the person he loves. Cait has recently submitted the prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a military space opera about legendary warriors Xaxall Knightly and Vivoxx Tirowen. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.