Text in Flux

My exercise output has been nonexistent this month. And I have made no real headway on my robot story. Sigh. I did, however, produce and submit a flash piece that I’m rather proud of, so that’s something. And “Crush” was met with generally good response.

Exercise: Your character receives a text message from an unrecognized number. The text says, “I have the money, and I’ve hidden the body.” Write the story/scene of what happens.

I had a lot of fun coming up with this one. I could see this becoming the hook of a longer story. It almost works as a flash piece, but I think readers would be annoyed that I didn’t reveal what the delivered items were for. I hate the title, but couldn’t really come up with anything good. About 780 words.

Text in Flux

Grime and dust coated every inch of the old white pick-up parked near where Drake and Dennis stood. Across the back window, someone had scrawled in the caked-on grime, “GO WASH ME NOW.” Below that, someone had answered, “GO WASH YOURSELF!” Drake appeared unimpressed.

“So,” he said, “it’s funny because, it’s like saying ‘Go fuck yourself?’”

Dennis scowled. “Look, it just kinda made me smile, okay, back off.”

“I’m just sayin’,” Drake muttered. “Whoever left the original message will probably never see the response. It’s an empty gesture.”

The two men fidgeted. They’d been waiting for over half-an-hour, and the cargo in the trunk of their black Taurus was too unusual to sell to anyone else. Though little more than thugs, they possessed enough intelligence to get anxious when things didn’t go exactly to plan. I set aside my binoculars and small microphone receiver and checked my phone. Still nothing. A silent phone made me a little anxious, but it wouldn’t hurt to get things started anyway. My rented vehicle was noisy and difficult to drive, but I managed to roll down the street to where the thugs waited.

I stepped up, holding my briefcase close. Dennis and Drake tossed aside half-smoked cigarettes and step forward. They didn’t bother hiding their irritation.

“Look who’s decided to join us,” Drake drawled.

“I assume he was held up at his gynecologist appointment,” Dennis growled.

I ignored their babble and jerked my head at the trunk of their car. “I assume you have the item I requested? And the money?”

“Only if you have some real money for us,” Dennis said. He opened the trunk. In a small case was stacked several thousand tan-colored dollar bills, issued by the State Bank at Trenton, New Jersey in the 1820s. The bills had long been obsolete. In another, much heavier and bulkier box, rested a flat silver device, at the center of which a small vial of red liquid suspended. Both had been secreted from the Manhattan mansion of a very rich man.

I laid my own briefcase on a nearby overturned barrel and snapped open the lid. Green and crisp, many modern and legal American tender caught Dennis and Drake’s eyes. As they stepped up to get a closer look, I glanced at my phone. Still silent.

“I’ll expect you’ll want to count your, ah, clams,” I said, stepping back. As they pawed through their money, I double checked the silver device. Nearly imperceptible, a tiny line of symbols along the four-millimeter-thin edge confirmed its origins. I tapped the vial, and the red liquid gave a satisfactory twitch.

My phone rang, a contemporary and highly irritating pop song. Drake glared. “A little common courtesy too much to ask? We’re in the middle of business here.” He paused as I brought the phone out of my pocket, watching the device curiously. “Hey, what kind of phone is that?”

A text message scrolled across the tiny screen: I have the money, and I’ve hidden the body.

“Is that your mom?” Dennis sneered. “Checking up on you? Tell her I’ll be by later.”

“It’s from myself, actually,” I said.

Dennis nodded. “Oh, sure, I do that sometimes. So I don’t forget stuff.”

“I’m afraid you don’t understand,” I said. I pulled my pistol free from its shoulder holster and trained it on the men. “You see, it’s a very special phone. It can send messages through time. In this case, from an hour from now.”

Dennis and Drake reacted in precisely opposite directions. Dennis charge straight for me, arms outstretched, his face twisting in rage. Drake leapt toward their own car, using his partner as partial cover. I squeezed the trigger on my pistol, which was, not by coincidence, also from the future. With a high-pitched whine, the pistol’s beam completely vaporized Dennis. A light sprinkle of all that remained of him sprayed across my suit. The beam continued, but only clipped Drake, his left arm vanishing in an instant. He screamed and stumbled to the ground. Though only grazed, the entire left side of his body blackened. He writhed on the ground, moaning. I kneeled alongside, wrinkling my nose at the stench.

“Sorry about this, Drake,” I said. I brushed fine grains of Dennis from my jacket. Drake’s gasps for air slowed. “I know the phone is a bit of an unfair advantage…” I paused as Drake’s hand, which had been clawing at the dirt in a desperate attempt to pry himself toward the car, shuddered and stopped. I tucked the pistol away. Best to save the charges.

“As I was saying,” I continued, “it’s nice to know things will turn out all right in the end.”

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One thought on “Text in Flux”

  1. I enjoyed this one, though I agree that a little more about what the narrator wanted badly enough to kill would be good.

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