It's been a while since I posted any new flash fiction or participated in the Ray Bradbury Challenge. So I'm going to try to reboot these efforts. And as I write these words, I hear Yoda echoing in my head…
It's not like I don't have enough things on my plate. Between writing my next novel (a project I'm doing with my best friend, editor and author pal, AJ Nuest), taking and evaluating some online writing classes to keep my craft sharp, brainstorming for another project and doing all my marketing, I certainly have enough to keep me busy.
Now I'm adding the pressure of writing one short story/flash fiction piece a week. I'm going to do my best to revive the Ray Bradbury Challenge: to write one short story every week for one year. This will help me hone my craft and hopefully entertain you in the process.
This week's prompt is from the fabulous Shauna Philp and I went into her archives to pull up the first week of Wednesday Writing Prompts she posted. Here's #5…
“I knew I should feel afraid, but all I could feel was relief.”
Word Count: 1,021
The Needs of the Many…
The rain pelted the cracked glass, distorting the gray landscape. The green
water droplets becoming one on their descent to the peeling paint.
I knew I should feel afraid, but all I could feel was relief.
“Say something.” Grief choked his command.
I glanced over my shoulder, the tattered hole in my dress tickling my jaw, and I couldn't fight the smile. But I turned away before he could see it. “What do you want me to say?”
“For once, you could try telling me what you’re feeling.”
“Bullshit.” The weathered floorboards creaked as he paced.
I kept staring out the window.
“Then why the fuck did you smile?”
I guess he did see it. Oh well. I suppose he was right. If there was a time to be transparent, it was now. I still couldn't face him.
“I want this.”
“How can you say that?” His voice cracked. “Is that what this is about? You want to get away from me?”
I gathered my courage, clasped my hands behind my back and turned.
Tears streamed down his scarred face. His brown eyes glistened under the flickering phosphorescent rods. No matter how many times I'd told him, today wasn't going to change his mind any more than it had before.
“I’m doing this for you. For—”
“Don’t put this on me!” He seized my shoulders. “Damnit! I wish you would open your eyes! The end is through that door. Not a beginning. Not a secret utopia the fanatics sing songs about. They're lying to you.”
“I know that's what you think. And I respect that. But I have to do this.” I pried his grip loose. “You haven’t seen what I have. And you refuse to believe what you’ve seen. You're my blood and I'll miss you, brother. But I'm tired of fighting about this.”
He drew me into his arms and sobbed on my shoulder. His hot tears soaked into my dress. I patted his back, comforting him the way I had when we were kids.
“It's okay. I really wish—”
“Please, Ellie!” He arms tightened and almost stole my breath. “Please don't go!”
The knock at the door jolted him and he shielded me. “It's not too late,” he whispered over his shoulder.
I stepped around him and he grabbed my elbow. “I’m not changing my mind.”
“Ellie?” said the voice behind the door. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, Dr. Brown. Come in.”
The door whined on its hinges, revealing the well-dressed genius from the Lightbringer Organization. He smiled. “Time to go, Ellie.”
I nodded and faced my brother. “This is my choice, Ben. Now…please, let me go.” I kissed his wet cheek. The salt of his tears a sharp reminder of the pain I was leaving behind and it bolstered my decision.
Benjamin fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands. I could only hope he would one day understand.
I joined Dr. Brown in the hall, but gave my brother one last look and the fear I should have felt before slammed into my chest. I was never going to see my baby brother again. “Why don’t you come with us?”
“Go! You're determined to believe their lies!” His face twisted with grief and rage. “You'll see what they really mean by freedom and peace!”
Dr. Brown placed a firm hand upon my shoulder. “It's his choice, Ellie. He’ll be all right.”
“I hope you burn in hell for what you do to her!”
Dr. Brown ignored my brother's curse and reached for the knob.
The termite-pocked wood blocked my brother's turmoil. With slow, determined steps, I closed the distance between the life I left behind and a better tomorrow. My escort unfurled his aluminum umbrella and handed me one, then opened the door and dashed to the driveway.
The handle dangled from my fingers and I let the rain burn my cheeks. I didn't run for the hovercraft. I wanted the acid to leave a final mark, a fresh reminder of the world we were about to change. It would be the proof I needed to show Ben.
“Ellie!” Dr. Brown shouted over the hum of the engine and the pelting of the poisonous precipitation.
I stepped up into the vehicle and the sliding door brought silence.
“You’re doing the right thing.” He removed his jacket, now riddled with burned holes from the caustic weather. He patted my face with the medicated cloth and applied the salve.
“I’m going to miss him.” A tear ripped down my cheek, stinging against the open skin.
“Rest in the knowledge you’re saving him. You’re saving everyone. The boy he is today will be gone.” He smirked a sympathetic grin. “But the boy he’ll be after tomorrow will be happy. He won’t be living in squalor anymore. His air will be clean. The rain refreshing and drinkable. He and everyone else in the world will no longer starve. And it will be all because of you.”
I glanced at the two watches on my wrist, which were my own personal testimony to what this man could do. One blinking exactly one minute behind the other. “Are you sure I’m the one who makes the difference?”
Dr. Brown chuckled. “Ellie, if you ask me that question one more time, I’m going to scream like a little girl.”
I laughed. “I just—”
“As I said every time you’ve asked it, yes.” He tapped in the coordinates for the laboratory. “It’s you. We ran our scenarios forty-two times and every time, you were the common element that needed to make that one different choice.”
“And I just need to step off the curb.” Fear pressed upon me once more. For him. For the world. I swallowed my doubt. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Dr. Brown placed his hand over mine. “Or the one.”
“Let’s go before I change my mind.”
Dr. Brown tapped the comm link. “Clara, initiate the warm-up sequence for the time machine.” He winked at me. “The savior of the world is on her way.”