Two for Tuesday Challenge #6— April 30 – May 6

I love flash fiction challenges so I serve up some new ones here every Tuesday, and since every one likes choices I’m providing you with two weekly writing prompts.  You can participate in either one, or double your pleasure by trying your hand at both. Submit your link any time between Tuesdays.

The Standard Prompt will always consist of a two-word prompt to be used as inspiration. The Non-Standard Prompt will change from week to week. Sometimes it will be a visual prompt, sometimes a first sentence or phrase, sometimes a scenario, etc.  The limit for the Two for Tuesday Standard Prompts is 200 words and the Non-Standard Prompt has a minimum of 200 words. Use the little blue link thing below to submit your link or leave an entry in the comments section.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries.

Here is this week’s two-fer:

Standard prompt:
unintended consequences

You have lots of creative leeway. The limit is 200 words. The words can be used:

  • simply as a point of inspiration and do not have to be used directly
  • they can be included exactly as provided
  • or each word can be used independently of each other (for example if Death Row was the prompt, instead of crafting a story about an inmate on the way to the gallows, you might write something like: Despite feeling like death from an excess of cheap vodka consumed the night before, Evelyn moved on to planting her next row of spinach).

Non-Standard Prompt:
This week for the alternative prompt, write a story that is set 100 years or more in either the past or the future. As per usual with the Non-Standard prompt there is no word limit (allowing for longer, more in depth Flash Fiction if you like) but there is a minimum of 200 words.

Write on!

Here’s a warning for those who prefer not read someone else’s work before authoring their own contribution.

My personal effort follows.

This week I went for the Non-Standard prompt and took a gaze into the future.  It is much longer than what I usually write (taking advantage of the lack of a word limit which allows for a more in depth exploration) and science fiction is not generally my thing either but I wanted to push myself a bit this week. I hope you enjoy it.

The Rendering
The Rendering
(1,271 words) by Andy Black

He nervously rechecked the quadrants, Hess Arcbreit was in the right place, but as the ancient saying goes, he hoped it wasn’t the wrong time. The old Com District looked long abandoned. Not much business was conducted here any more except for a bit of old fashioned begging. As if confirming his thought he noticed a pair of evicts, wearing little more than tatters, gathered in the shadows of a doorway hoping for a handout to finance their next tippling of high test. They already seemed pretty wrecked, so they weren’t paying him too much attention, but he should have been drawing plenty of scrutiny. Hess stood out like freshly slaughtered beef at a PrePak Canteen. He was a normal kid, the type of person rarely found in an area like this. He lived in a highly refined sector; family of four—him, his sister Bene, and his Ma and Da—they even owned a cat, which was a bit extravagant.

He had been told to look for a bit of color; no more instruction than that. Just look for an inconspicuous but decidedly out of place splash of pigment. There wouldn’t be a sign out front, invisiblists weren’t ones to advertise.

Something dislodged an empty condenser housing, sending it rattling to the curb. The sharp, hollow clatter drew Hess’ attention. There it was, amid an ocean of dust, grime and olive green: a scarred and battered bit of bright red sheet metal intended to look like a patch affixed over a broken corner window pane in a door across the way. A dim light glowed weakly in the hallway beyond as if it didn’t have the will to overcome the gloom for much longer. Hess pressed his way into the building.

Most of the doors stood open and nothing but velvety darkness, punctured by broken or overturned chairs, lurked in the first few rooms.  The doors that were closed were locked and he continued making his way past the trash and the kind of detritus that is cast off by the passing years.

The bulb in the hall flickered and buzzed lightly. Hess could see a door standing ajar on the left-hand side more than halfway down the corridor. An arrow-thin sliver of harsh light reached out between door and jam, looking like it was waiting for the right moment to sneak off. He stood outside the nearly closed door taking time to gather his courage when it was abruptly pulled open by someone on the other side.

Both let out a short startled yelp. Hess’ was louder and delivered at a higher pitch. Neither had expected the other, at least not at that particular moment. The man from inside stood wearing a thick, translucent, rubbery apron the color of tobacco-stained teeth and a once-white medical mask that stretched across the lower half of his face.  The top of his head was shaved and waxed to high sheen and his skin was a deep pink.

“Well, well, well.  Looks like I have an unscheduled appointment.” The man’s eyes crinkled into what Hess assumed was a smile hidden beneath the mask but there was no warmth or sincerity in it. “You’re here. Might as well come in. Go through the second door on the right—it’s marked Exam Room 4—and I’ll be with you in just a minute.” The man brushed past Hess and headed to one of the locked doors down the hall and pressed a thumb to the biometric pad mounted on the jam.

Hess found room 4. For a medical facility it wasn’t very sterile. The floor and walls were in need of a good scrub but he was encouraged by the presence of a stainless steel sink which looked to have been recently used.  At least the ‘doctor’ (there was no expectation that he was licensed or degreed) had washed his hands. Then again, maybe he had only rinsed his coffee mug out.

The boy sat nervously on the edge of a large lounge that was adjustable and dominated the small room. There was a heavy armrest on the left side sprouting several pairs of straps.  There was no need for another armrest on the right side.  Implants are always inserted into the left arm.  A stool on wheels and a rolling tray stand were the only other pieces of furniture.  There were no medical diagrams, weight charts or drug advertisements being broadcast into the room. In fact there weren’t even any monitors. The office felt temporary.

The door swung open and the man in the apron walked briskly in stopping short and just stared at Hess for a full minute. Neither of them spoke, they simply regarded each other. Hess noticed just how short the man was. Even seated, Hess was still slightly taller than the man standing in front of him.

“No offense, but you’re a tad young for a rendering,” said the short man referring to a desire to be “rendered invisible” to the government. “What’s your age, tadpole, twelve?”

“Fourteen. I’ll be fifteen in three months.” Hess, taking a little umbrage at the man’s remark, straightened his back and raised his chin to give himself even more of a height advantage.  “And I got plenty of scrip so don’t you worry about my being able to pay.”

“What you runnin’ from, little newt?” asked the elder. “What reason you got to hide from pryin’ eyes?”

“That’s none of your nevermind. I got me my reasons, and like I already said, I got enough scrip. I’m not afraid. Of the operation, of you or anyone else.” Hess’ tenacity earned another smile from the doc.

“Not afraid of anyone except the Ruling Establishment.”  The doctor let that sink in. “It’s irreversible—the rendering, that is. Once it’s done, it’s done. You don’t exist in the eyes of the R.E. No university. No vocation, at least not a proper, legal one. No family—again not a proper one. No benefits. No rights.” He paused again. “Listen newt. I don’t want your Da’s scrip just because you’re flunking second term or your girlfriend broke things off. This is serious stuff and there’s no going back.  You sure about this?”

Hess nodded. “OK, boy. Lay back and let’s get this show on the road.” The doc strapped the boy’s arm to the rest, pulled an odd assortment of sharp looking instruments from a drawer in the rolling stand and clattered them out onto the tray on top.  The short man stood and went into the adjoining room and came back with a small amount of brown elixir in a small plastic cup. “Bottoms up.  This’ll take you away for about an hour.  Your arm’ll be sore when you wake. But I do honest work and good work. It won’t cause you any glitches in the future. Pay me now ’cause when you wake, I’ll be gone and you’ll be ‘invisible.’ You fathom?”

Hess slowly nodded again as the doctor considered him once more. “You can still get up and walk out. I won’t think any less of you. Last chance. You wanna reconsider?” This time the boy shook his head, fished out a wad of notes and held them out to the man that he hoped was going to make everything all better.

“I was told it was 12 K’s,” said Hess. “Is that right?”

“Yes.” The man behind the medical mask took and pocketed the scrip and motioned towards the little cup, that Hess now had in his free hand, indicating that it was time to get this underway. The boy sharply sniffed air in through his nose, lifted the cup to his mouth and knocked his head back, drinking down the stuff like a cowboy in an old movie saloon. Immediately the room swam as a warmth blossomed in his chest and he felt glad that he had nothing to worry about at least for the time he was under. After that, who knew…


7 comments on “Two for Tuesday Challenge #6— April 30 – May 6

  1. […] prompt today from Andy’s Words and Pictures Today it’s unintended Consequences I decided to take a cue from his previous entry and write […]

  2. Loved the prompt. I took a big hunk of inspiration from your pieces “Five Sentence Fiction — Shadows”. Hope you don’t feel like I borrowed too much! Anyway, check out my entry when you have a moment:

    • Eric– A great read. No I didn’t feel like you stole anything from my “Shadows” story. That was all yours. Thanks so much for taking the time to play along. See you next week?

      • Thanks! I really enjoyed your story, too. I felt like there were lots of hints about the back story but enough ambiguity to let the mind wander. Nice balance.

  3. […] I feel it important to note the end of the month with a motley crew of poetry. I’m utilizing Andy’s prompt for the […]

  4. Wow! This story was fabulous. I’m imagining what a boy that young (and privileged) is running from. It must be bad if disappearing is his answer, but then teenagers are emotional and dramatic. You’ve made me want to read on.

  5. […] almost too late again with my Two for Tuesday Challenge. The setting for this came easily enough, pity the words didn’t aswell. I hope it’s […]

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