Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Saving Time: Part 10 The Final Hour

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

The overwhelming stench of onions and maple syrup wafted through the air, assaulting my nose and waking me from a cold sleep. From the ringing in my ears, I wasn’t sure if I had been drugged or knocked unconscious. Either way, I was in Saving Time’s basement with that spineless Blue Tie and Jack Acetone.

My eyes were squinting tight in an effort to focus. Jack Acetone paced the dingy room. He was scrolling through a partially broken phone, my phone, with a furrowed brow.

Namer and Darlene’s ATM flanked either side of me. A ribbon of paper slowly printed out of the ATM’s receipt slot. Large block letters of blue ink: “Who did you call?”

“Don’t waste your time, sweetheart,” Acetone said. “She called Conscience Cleaners.” He let the phone drop to the floor and slowly crushed what was left of it underneath his shiny leather loafer. “Really?” he asked me with a chuckle. “What’s a bunch of janitors going to do? Mop me to death?” He broke out into an echoing and sinister laugh. The Darlene ATM rattled with amusement. “People are so unreliable. Unlike machines.” He had crossed the small room to place a hand on the ATM, patting it gently.

“Why are you turning these people into machines? They have families, kids!”

His smile darkened into a sneer. “Because, my dear, people, for the most part,” he said glancing at me bitterly, “don’t want to think. They want to do as they are told. I just help them get rid of that annoying ‘free thinking’ crap.”

The door opened slowly behind me letting in a beam of florescent light. “Hey, Dad? What’s the WiFi password? I tried typing ‘boobies’ upside down, like usual, but that didn’t work.”

“Not now,” Jack Acetone growled.

“Well, well, well. So we meet again,” Jack Jr. leaned casually on the door frame and shot me a wink.

“Go!”

“Fine,” Jack Jr. sighed. “Call me, babe!” and the door slammed.

Jack Acetone mumbled under his breath and shouted to no one in particular, “Melt down the last bin of gold parts and let’s get the hell out of here!”

“Gold?” I asked. “This is about money?”

“Of course it’s about money. Everything is always about money,” Jack snapped back at me through gritted teeth. “I already own this crummy town. Pretty soon I’ll be so rich, I’ll own this entire greasy state.”

“There’s a problem with the, uh, gold parts, Mr. Acetone, sir,” Blue Tie said quivering.

“What now?” Jack yelled.

“The, uh, parts were sorted,” Blue Ties eyes darted to me, “by design instead of by color.”

As Jack Acetone spun on Blue Tie, the door opened again. “Never mind, Dad. I figured it out,” Jack Jr said without looking up from his phone. “Oh and the janitor is here.”

A tall and heavily muscled man in a navy blue jumpsuit strode across the floor with casual steps.

“Who the hell are you?” Mr. Acetone growled.

The man sauntered passed Mr. Acetone and stood in front of me with an outstretched hand. In a thick Italian accent he asked, “Are you alright, signora?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but swept me up in his arm. He guided me toward the door pausing momentarily face to face with Mr. Acetone. “It would appear that you have made a mess of things,” he purred with his rich accent.

I retreated a few steps closer to the exit.

“Get outta my face, mop jockey,” Acetone’s face reddened with anger.

The man held out his hands in a gesture of innocence. “Don’t worry, Mr. Acetone. We’ll get this mess cleaned up.” He smiled at Mr. Acetone and winked in my direction.

A dozen men and women, all in matching navy blue jumpsuits, flooded into the room and seized Jack Acetone, his son, and Blue Tie. A few even took the opportunity to land a cheap shot or two to a solar plexus or kidney.

A middle-aged woman entered the now crowded basement room. She was clad in the same uniform, except hers had a strange insignia with an Italian flag on her chest and back. “The family is angry, Mr. Acetone. I doubt this slight will be forgiven.”

Mr. Acetone remained silent, despite the angry glare aimed at the woman.

“Thank you, miss,” she said to me. “I believe you have our number if you need anything.”

I nodded and backed slowly up the stairs. No one attempted to stop me, so I turned and fled Saving Time.

On the sidewalk outside, a man stood between the two entrances with a look of confusion. He held a package under his arm.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” he said. “My boss asked me to deliver this part for a, uh,” he looked at the label on the package, “Separator? Do you work here?”

“Hell no,” I said. “I quit.”

 

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Saving Time: Part 9

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

Saving Time: Part 9

After an hour of several increasingly frustrating attempts, I finally managed to get the ATM to display something other than Facebook. A string of numbers filled the screen in a blue and yellow recreation of the Matrix.

The machine sighed a puff of tobacco scented smoke in resignation as I sighed in relief.

This is ridiculous. There’s no way that it is actually Darlene. This is some kind of weird prank.

Somewhere within the ATM, a small motor began to hum. Half a dozen empty candy wrappers slid out of the receipt return and littered the floor at my feet.

The endless numbers cascading passed the screen stopped. A text box appeared, “Access Denied. Contact Your Supervisor For Assistance.”

“Dammit, Darlene,” I breathed. “Fine.”

Back to Boss Lady’s sad excuse for an office.

As I drew near, I could hear voices. No, a voice. I slowed my pace so I could listen better. A man was yelling.

Oh crap. It’s Mr. Acetone.

“I don’t care how  smart you think she is,” he said, his voice carrying through the shadows. “Make. It. Happen,” he said each word slowly with an implied threat. Which he followed up with a direct threat, “Or it’s your ass.”

I took a step back, thinking I could return to the front and pretend I was never there. Then the door to Boss Lady’s office opened. The large ominous form of Jack Acetone filled the door. His eyes were on me.

“I always have to do things myself,” he mumbled, just barely loud enough for me to hear. “What are you waiting for?” He asked louder, with his focus on the shadows beyond me. “Grab her! Take her downstairs.”

Downstairs? Wait, who’s grabbing me? I turned around to see Namer and another haphazardly assembled machine shambling towards me. I barely had time to process what my eyes were telling me when the machine tripped over a dangling cord and crashed into Namer, knocking them both to the concrete floor. The impact echoed through the hallway. Parts and broken pieces of machinery clattered behind me as I turned to run.

I knew Mr. Acetone was close behind me and I might not reach the exit. But I might have time for a phone call.

I pulled out my cell phone and frantically scrolled through the call log. Desperately, I hoped I would recognize the number when I saw it. You should have saved the number. Stupid.

There! I pressed the call button.

My feet suddenly lifted from the floor mid step. My eyes blurred from the sudden stop of momentum. I realized that someone strong had grabbed the back collar of my shirt. It took another minute to realize the phone wasn’t in my hand anymore.

“That’s quite enough, young lady,” Jack Acetone said. “I should’ve known you’d be trouble. It’s always the cute ones. But I think we can fix that.”

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Saving Time: Part 8

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

Saving Time: Part 8

 

“Oh good, you came back!” Blue Tie sighed dramatically as I walked into the building. “Come with me, Bobby.”

“I’m not even clocked in yet,” I said over the rim of my coffee cup, but he continued to nudge me through the building.

Blue Tie led me to Boss Lady’s office and gestured for me to enter. He slammed the door behind me and trotted away.

The office was more like a broom closet: small, cramped, and dusty. Boss Lady stood behind her small desk and gestured to a dirty upturned bucket, “Please, sit.” Her voice was calm and she seemed bored. Her frantic movements and unkempt appearance gave off the impression of a caged animal eager to escape. “How do you like it here so far, Barbara?”

“Its a little…,” I searched my vocabulary for a word other than weird or odd, so I settled for, “Different?”

“How so?”

“Well, em, a guy tried to rob the bank and Mr. Acetone just paid him. From his own pocket.” I looked up at Boss Lady, expecting her to be shocked, however she remained silent and thumped a dead fly off her desk. I continued, “Then there was that whole thing with Sharron and her kid–”

Boss Lady waved her hands in a violent blur, “She is none of your concern. Her service is no longer required here.”

“She’s fired?” I couldn’t believe a company would be so heartless regarding their employees, especially a mother.

“She refused relocation. But never mind that. We would like for you to assist in the installation of a new ATM machine in the bank lobby.”

“The M stands for machine,” I said.

“What?”

“Never mind,” I sighed. “Computers and I don’t really get along. Plus, I have so much paperwork to sort and Darlene just sits there–”

“Darlene is doing her job,” Boss Lady interrupted me again.

The door to her office flew open and I looked up to see Mr. Acetone’s features soften as he smiled down at me. “The tech is here. Let’s get started.”

I followed Mr. Acetone to the lobby where a man was struggling to straighten a bulky machine with a large screen and dozens of buttons. The machine seemed to have once been white but now was a faint yellow with black grime embedded in all its crevices.

“I got her running,” he said to Mr. Acetone, and there was something oddly familiar about the man.

I immediately imagined what the man would look like with a ski mask obscuring his face and it hit me: He was the robber from last week! I squinted my eyes at the man, judging him, hoping he would notice I recognized him. I stepped up to the machine, “So where did you steal this from?”

The robber/tech man made a mock gasp and caressed the hideous machine. “I will have you know this is a genuine Enelrad brand ATM.”

Mr. Acetone made a loud throat clearing grunt and the robber/tech stepped back not saying another word. “Thank you for all your hard work,” and shooed him away. “Now, Bobby, I need you to figure out how to work this thing before a customer comes in.”

“Does Darlene need to learn this too?”

“Don’t you worry about her,” Mr. Acetone looked me in the eyes with an icy stare and kicked the machine. The screen blipped on and turned a soft blue. In the middle of he screen was a white, lower case “f” symbol.

I looked back at Darlene’s desk. It was surprisingly clean. The clutter of food containers and candy wrappers were all gone. Even her chair was missing. I could still smell the faintest hint of cigarette smoke. I turned back to the ATM and saw a thin puff of white smoke rising from out of the credit card slot.

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Keeper of the Guardians

Keeper of the Guardians - A Flash Fiction by Askien - Read for FREE!

Keeper of the Guardians

Written by Guest Writer:

Askien

 

Long ago, deep within a lush forest teeming with life, there was a darkness. A murder. A man had slain a wolf and captured her cubs for his own selfish and greedy means. But where there is death, there is life. The wolf and her cubs were a sacrifice to save one. Hidden beneath the twisting bramble of a nearby bush lay a silent pup frozen with fear. Curled tightly against the damp chill of the forest floor, the abandoned cub waited for his chance at survival.

The following evening in the last light of sundown, another lone wolf made his way through the forest like a looming shadow. He embraced his solitude and refused to depend on any pack. He out-weighed and out-witted any wolf who had the ill fortune of crossing his path, until now.

A weak whimper sounded from below the wolf’s enormous paws. The cub shivered against the chill night air. Catching the foul scent of man, the wolf knew this pup would be left to die. The wolf cradled the trembling cub in his maw and returned to the safety of his warm den.

As the seasons passed, the cub grew into a strong and fierce wolf. The two became an inseparable pair, a pack of their own. Together they roamed the wilds without fear of man or beast. But with life, comes death.

Legends say the two wolves perished together, leaving behind their physical forms to fade into the forest. Their spirits entered the realm of the supernatural as great beasts with obsidian fur and eyes of burning stars. Their afterlife of guardianship offers guidance and protection to those who are abandoned.

In the span of two centuries, the guardians had not felt abandonment quite like this. A deepening loneliness drove their spirits across the universe to find one so empty and heartbroken; they vowed to never leave her side. This young girl who once felt so alone is now the keeper of the guardians.

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Saving Time: Part 7 TGIF

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

It’s finally Friday!

That had been everyone’s mood today. No one did much of anything except the occasional shuffling of random objects from one spot to the next to appear busy. They were riding out the clock, keeping an eye on the time while doing as little as they could without getting reprimanded.

I, on the other hand, sorted my papers at a fold-up table in a dark and dusty corner behind Darlene’s desk. Blue Tie had found the table shoved in a long forgotten supply closet. I had to sweep off the cob webs before he would touch the damned thing. A wobbly table was better than sitting in the floor.

The door bell chimed and I didn’t bother turning around, thinking Darlene would do her job, for once.

“Excuse me, I need change for this,” called a woman’s voice. I looked back to see a frazzled mother of three: an infant strapped in a harness to her front, a toddler perched on her hip, and another child clinging to her leg. She smelled strongly of baby powder and dirty diapers, and a red sucker was glued to her pants with sugary spit.

She waved a crisp one hundred dollar bill in front of her. Darlene never acknowledged the woman and vise versa. I crossed over to her and took the bill.

“Darlene, I need change for this–”

Darlene hit a button on her keyboard and a money drawer popped out from under the counter, ramming into my knee caps. I pulled out five twenty-dollar bills and held them out to the woman.

“What good does this do me?” she spat. The woman looked at the twenties like they had been fished from a toilet bowl. “I need money for the quarter machines. Are you stupid? You’re job is not that hard.” Two of the three children began to cry while the third suddenly started running in circles.

After counting out her one hundred dollars worth of quarters, she slammed her hand onto the counter. “How dare you try to steal my babies’ money! I saw you put that money in your pocket!”

Before I could defend myself, a coworker –the petite girl with the foul mouth– marched in to join the drama-fueled screaming match. Darlene pulled her phone out from between a sweaty fat roll and began filming the entire show.

I just want to go home. I walked away to return to my monotonous work.

The door chimed again, barely audible over the commotion, and Mr. Acetone walked in. His face immediately stretched into a ferocious smile and his eyes grew wide. The man looked as if he had just won the lottery. He scanned both women up and down several times as he approached the counter beside them.

“Excuse me ladies, how are we today?” He didn’t seem to notice he was being ignored by everyone present. He walked around to the mother, almost colliding with her child still twirling in circles. “That is a lovely perfume you’re wearing, ma’am.”

“Thanks,” she said without looking at him. “I’m a little busy at the moment,” then continued with her shouting, that had dissolved into nonsensical blather.

I glanced at the time on Darlene’s computer. Our shift ended in five minutes. I wasn’t planning on staying to see if this drama-fest ever resolved, so I pretended to sort papers when the door chimed again.

“Give me all the money!” a muffled voice bellowed.

A man in a ski mask had a gun held in his outstretched hand, pointing it snakingly at the mob of dysfunctional adults. The twirling child peeled his sucker off his mother’s pants and gave it to the robber.

The door chimed, again. A male police officer, who appeared to be thirteen months pregnant, walked in. He held a large doughnut box in one hand and a pizza box in the other. He didn’t seem to be in a rush. “What’s all this about?” he asked the group, powdered sugar cascading from his neatly trimmed mustache.

Never taking his attention from the women, Mr. Acetone took a hundred dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the robber. “So, about those drinks, ladies? I’m buying.”

Offering a smirk to the police officer, the robber pocketed the money and shoved his gun down his pants.

“Sorry to interrupt.” The police officer belched. “I’m here for the weekly pick-up. Everything ready to go?”

“It’s probably in the back,” Mr. Acetone said. “Look for the fella with the tie.”

The officer offered the group, robber included, his left over pizza and doughnuts before departing.

I declined as politely as I could and looked at the time. On the dot. “Mr. Acetone, can I go?” But I didn’t wait for an answer.

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Saving Time: Part 6 Human Resources

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

I walked with determination to the Human Resources building. Something about what the kid said yesterday morning had left me feeling uneasy. Surely no robots were going to harm Sharron, but the kid seemed very scared regardless.

Finding the location of the HR department was excruciatingly difficult, which did not help relieve my “funny feeling”. When I had asked Darlene for directions, she replied, “It is not available at this time,” in a monotone voice, void of any emotion.

Luckily, my access to mass amounts of paperwork paid off. A fax from the HR department was tucked into one of my stacks. It simply read “5318008” with a header of an address at the top of the page. Located four blocks down the road in an old boutique once named Toot-A-Lou, the store had only been operational for a week before being bought out by Saving Time.

The sign on the door, like the other building, had a hand-written sign reading “Human Resources and Complaint Management” taped over Toot-A-Lou. The notice of pending eviction was still taped to the door, signed with two flourished letters: JA.

I pushed the door open and was immediately greeted by gunshots. I jumped back, wide-eyed, looking for a robbery only to see a violent video game being played on a large screen mounted to the far wall. Behind the front desk, the back of a leather chair was facing toward the door. I could see a pair of sneakers propped on the desk.

The chair’s occupant called out, “Hold on, I need two more kills.”

“This is kinda important,” I said. “Do you think you could pause it?”

“For Christ’s sake!” he yelled out. “You can’t pause an online game. I said two kills.” He laughed then raised his hands, one of them holding a controller, in a victorious fashion.  He threw the controller down and spun the chair around. “Now, what is it–,” he started to snarl but stopped. His entire demeanor flipped, “Well, hello, beautiful,” he said with a toothy grin. “What can I do for you today? Or tonight?” and gave me a wink with sparkling blue eyes.

I forced my own eyes not to roll upward with repulsion, “I need to speak with HR about something that happened yesterday.”

He completely ignored every word I had just spoke. “You know what ‘HR’ stands for? Hot and ready.”

Don’t throw up. “I need to report–”

“An all you can eat buffet?” He waved his hands over his upper body, “Open 24/7.”

Good god, I need a  human resources to report the human resources!

He motioned to one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Have a seat, babe. Tell me all about this ‘report’.”

I remained near the front door, wondering why this kid seemed so familiar. “You’re human resources?”

“Uh, yeah. Dad said something about managing all the complaints or whatever,” he said, air quoting all the work-related words.

“Dad?” I asked. The smile, the eyes, the cringe-worthy pickup lines all added up to one thing.

“Jack Jr.” He looked around his cluttered desk and placed a wooden name plate on the edge of his desk with pride. Engraved on the metal plate: Jack Acetone Jr., HRR.

“Are you even old enough to work?” He certainly didn’t look like it.

His smile faded, but only just, “I’m sixteen, baby. I’m old enough.”  Then the family smile returned.

“I think I’m gonna go thank you bye!” I scrambled for the doorknob.

“Wait,” he called out and jumped over his desk after me.

I was already heading to my car to get my cell phone. I got in and locked the car doors behind me. I fished around in my glove compartment for that business card the weird girl had given me and keyed in the number.

The line rang three times before a foreign voice answered, “Ciao. Cos’è?”

“It’s Bobby, I work at Saving Time,” I replied, not understanding what he had said. “This girl gave me your number for HR–”

“Ah, English,” he said, the Italian accent still thick. “This Conscience Cleaners. We make mess disappear! Who the problem?”

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Saving Time: Part 5 Babysitter

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

“Mr. Acetone!” Blue Tie gasped in surprise as he came through the makeshift doorway at a jog. He was holding a lanky child out like it was an explosive, feet dangling. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I told you he was coming,” Darlene said, agitated.

“So soon,” Blue Tie stammered, as if it were the end of his previous sentence. He pushed the child at me and dusted his hands, like the child was filthy even though it was not. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

I sat the child down in front of me. He was heavier than he looked. The child starred at me in silence. “What?” I asked the kid, then Blue Tie, “What?”

“Who brought their baby to work?” Mr. Acetone yelled and waited for a response, even though the other workers were out of earshot.

“I’m six!” the child yelled back, loud and proud. “Where’s my mommy?”

“That’s Sharron’s son,” Blue Tie said, as if that should answer any and all questions.

“Does this kind of thing happen often?” Mr. Acetone asked Blue Tie and ignoring the child.

“Only on Tuesdays and Fridays. And sometimes Wednesdays, or Thursdays. But never Monday.” Blue tied managed to shake his head vertically and horizontally within seconds of each other. He looked like a bobble head traveling down a back road on the dash of a suspensionless vehicle.

“Let’s have a word with Sharron, shall we?” Mr. Acetone strode towards the clock factory with Blue Tie scurrying in his wake.

The little boy squinted at me. “Are you one of them?” he asked and pointed a tiny finger at Darlene.

Darlene’s chair squealed in protest as she turned to look at us. “He has toys in the break room,” she said. Her eyes lingered on the child. He grabbed my leg and hid behind me, using me as a shield against her gaze.

I picked him up and adjusted him onto my hip. He was too big to be held like this. “We’ll go find you some toys,” I said. I took him through the back of the bank through a maze of hallways.

“Over there,” he pointed towards a door to my right.

“Do you wanna walk?” I asked. He just shook his head. Of course you don’t.

I could hear talking, including a string of swearing, coming from various rooms as we moved through the hallways. The kid maintained a tight grip around my neck, pulling out some of my hairs.

“They’re scary,” he whispered loudly into my ear. I could feel his spit spraying the side of my face.

“Yeah, I know, they scare the crap out of me, too. It’s like an asylum ran by the patients.”

“That’s a bad word,” he whispered again, but not directly into my ear. “What’s a eyeslam?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sorry. An a-sy-lum. It’s a hospital for…” I searched for the right word.

“Robots?” he whispered again.

I looked puzzled. That was not even close to the word I was looking for.  He pushed himself from my arms as we entered the break room. He ran over to a toy chest in the corner and rummaged around for a moment. Finally he emerged from the toy box with a half-transformed Transformer clutched tightly to his chest. He crossed the room and held it out to me.

He pointed to a strip of plastic painted blue on the toy’s chest, “Robots. In the ah-size-em.”

I could hear footsteps coming down the hallway towards us. He heard them too and clutched the broken toy close to him while burying his face in my armpit.

“I know it’s a lot to think about,” Mr. Acetone was saying, “but you know what they say about promotions.”

Mr. Acetone, Blue Tie, and Sharron entered the break room.

“There’s the little guy!” Blue Tie burst in with what he likely thought was a playful voice. The kid and I both jolted in our seat. “And our little organizer,” Blue Tie exclaimed upon noticing me. He turned to Mr. Acetone. “Bobby is the one I was telling you about.”

An inappropriate rap song sounded from Mr. Acetone’s back pocket before he had a chance to comment. “I have to take this,” he said, looking at the large screen. “I’ll be back later, Sharron, to talk about that promotion.”

The child ran to his mother. She looked nervously at me. “Thank you for watching him.” Her eyes drifted towards Blue Tie, who had thrown the transformer toy into the garbage, rather than the toy chest. She whispered in her son’s ear then asked, “Do you want to say ‘thank you’ to Bobby?”

The boy got down and ran over to me, pulling my neck to his face. I leaned down to give him a hug when he whispered into my ear. His tight-lipped words were difficult to understand, “Don’t let the robots take my mommy.”

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Saving Time: Part 4 Mismanaged

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

The next morning, I arrived in the parking lot seconds before the other employees. We simultaneously swarmed the entrance of Saving Time, like bees to their hive.

Blue Tie snagged my sleeve as I walked though the door. “Not so fast, Missy,” and led me back to the bank side where Darlene was lighting a new cigarette. “You have to finish your work from yesterday.”

“But I did–,” my eyes stared blankly at several new mountains of paperwork. Was she here all night making this mess for me to sort?

Darlene glanced at me with devious eyes before she waved Blue Tie to her computer screen. She pointed a greasy fingertip to the glass, “Can you believe her?”

Blue Tie’s shoulders sagged. “Would you please not start drama today, Darlene?” He nodded to the screen, “Not with Mr. Acetone coming in.” I noticed Darlene roll her eyes as Blue Tie began trotting away.

“Everyone, get this place cleaned up ASAP! Mr. Acetone is on his way!” Blue Tie called out, his voice fading into the back of the building.

“Who’s Mr. Acetone?” I asked Darlene, her attention focused solely  on what looked like someone’s personal Facebook profile. As if in response, a low rumbling, like thunder, came from the street and rattled the piles of empty food containers littering Darlene’s work space.

“Mr. Acetone is here!” she spoke in a sing-song voice, running her fingers through her stringy hair, leaving behind slick streaks.

I looked up from the endless tower of papers to see monstrous wheels creep passed the glass door. It was the largest pickup truck I had ever seen, outside of the monster truck rallies on television. It had an extended cab, extended bed, several sets of lights, and four exhaust pipes.

The driver parked directly in front of the buildings’ entrances, half on the curb, dangerously close to the doors. The door to the bank flew open and in strode —

“Mr. Acetone,” Darlene squeaked.

The man’s flawless blonde comb over grazed the door frame as he stepped in and he removed his aviator sunglasses. His physique was that of a man who had played several seasons of football 30 years ago, but now his age was catching up, whether he liked it or not. He flashed an overly white smile at Darlene and sauntered up to the desk and placed a thick elbow on the counter. “Morning, darlin’. How are we today?”

Darlene beamed. I could taste stomach acid rising up into my mouth.

“We’re great, Mr. Acetone,” Darlene spoke in a professional voice I wasn’t convinced belonged to her. “Here are the numbers from last week, your emails, lunch menus for today, your balanced checkbook,” she leaned over to reach under her desk. For a moment, I thought I heard her chair leg crack. She pulled out a tan garment bag and more papers, “And your dry cleaning, yesterday’s mail, that recipe you asked for, the information on the four wheeler in the paper, and…” She started looking around her desk, lifting up old candy bar wrappers, then pulled an envelope out from between her stomach rolls. “Here it is! The names of the new ladies,” she placed the envelope on the counter beside the pile of other junk.

When the hell did she do all this sh–

“It is a miracle this place ever functioned without you, sweetheart,” Mr. Acetone peeled his arms out of his black leather jacket and handed it to Darlene. “Hold on to that for me, love. I need to introduce myself to the new hires.” He started to open the envelope, “Where’s Boss Lady and that puny fella that always wears the same blue tie?”

Darlene never took her eyes from the man. “I haven’t seen them.”

Lie. I chuckled under my breath, returning to my so called work.

“I remember when you first started here,” Mr. Acetone cooed at Darlene, but was looking over the paper in his hand. “And how long have you been here, love?”

“Oh, um…” Darlene seemed confused by the question.

“Not you,” he snapped at Darlene, still lost in thought.

I looked up to find him starring directly at me, sitting in the floor amongst the heaps of paperwork. “Well, hello there,” his ice blue eyes seemed to burn behind his too bright smile. “And who are you?”

“Bobby,” I answered immediately. The thought of this guy knowing my real name made me uncomfortable. For the first time, I was glad to have a pseudonym.

“Nice to meet you, Bobby.” He winked and flexed what little muscle he still had under the accumulative flab. He extended a meaty hand and waited for me to shake it.

I slowly rose from the floor, mentally listing the things I would rather do.

With one jolting shake, he said, “Jack Acetone. This,” he indicated the entirety of the bank, his gaze lingered way too long on Darlene, “is mine.” He looked at the crumbling hole in the wall and the clock factory beyond. “I suppose that, too, now.” He returned his piercing eyes to me, “Hopefully soon, you’ll become a valuable employee like our dear Darlene.”

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Fantasy Writing Prompts

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Saving Time: Part 3 Overtime

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

 

I had spent my last miserable work hours tediously sorting piles of paperwork, after spending my first hours sorting out rusty clock parts. I was more than relieved to be home opening the bottle of wine that had been chilling in the refrigerator since my birthday. I poured a generous glass and flopped onto the couch. I reached for the tv remote when my phone rang.

The unfamiliar ten digit number flashed while the phone vibrated in a small circle. I contemplated throwing it across the room, and whether or not my phone would survive.

“Hello?”

“Hey, uh, Bobby?” It was Darlene. Her words were spaced with heaving breaths every few syllables, as if she had been running. I knew that was not the case. “They need you. To come in. Now. I couldn’t find you. On Facebook. So, I had to. Call you.”

I looked down at my glass of wine. “Am I getting paid?”

“Yeah.”

“Overtime?” One could be hopeful.

“No,” she said flatly and ended the call.

I placed my glass in the refrigerator and set out, once again, to this hellish place I now called work.

I arrived before everyone else, again, and decided to park at the end of the block. I waited as the cars descended upon the parking lot like flies on fresh dog shit. After taking her parking spot back, the petite girl exited her car, still streaming profanities, and entered the bank without sparing a glance for anyone.

Blue Tie opened the door and leaned out, motioning everyone inside the buildings. “Bobby! You came back!” he beamed with awe as I approached.

Yeah, I can’t believe it either. I grinned, gritting my teeth.

“Come with me,” Blue Tie instructed to those who had shown up, then jogged away towards the back of the clock shop.

Namer was slumped against the wall, seeming to be asleep.

Then it hit me. The putrid, sulfuric odor assaulted me like a physical force. “What is that smell?”

“The Separator is leaking again,” choked Blue Tie. “We need to find the leak.” He went to a corner and grabbed a cardboard box.

“I don’t know anything about machines,” I said, thinking back on all the appliances I had thrown out when they refused to work.

“Oh, it’s easy! Just take this,” Blue Tie held out the box, which was full of half-used rolls of various tapes, “and follow your nose!” He pinch my nose, like a grandfather does to his helpless infant grandchild.

I pulled the collar of my shirt up over my nose as I and several other people approached the gaseous device. I noticed that no two people had the same kind of tape.

As I rounded the corner to the backside of the machine, I could see far more tape than metal. Duct, masking, electrical, and even scotch were all in abundance.

“Could they not call a repair man?” I asked no one in particular.

“Oh, they did,” said a stocky man to my left, sniffing like a hound. “Pro’lly two years ‘go. He whacked at it a few times with a big ‘ole wrench, then stuck a patch on it. Told management he’d order us a part and come back when it came in.”

“They should call him back,” the smell was beginning to make me light headed.

“They did, but the guy went outta business. We’ve been trying to hold out until he can get that part over to us.” The man reached up to slap a strip of tape onto a random patch of metal.

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Saving Time: Day 1 Part 2

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Saving Time - A Flash Fiction - READ FREE

Saving Time: Day 1, Part 2

 

“Oh, no,” said Blue Tie with mock sympathy, standing uncomfortably close, peering over my shoulder.

I had drifted into a trance sometime during the monotonous work, but his gut-wrenching comment woke me. We were nearly done sorting the junk parts, but now stood frozen. I was the only one to speak, “What’s wrong,” do not call him Blue Tie, “sir?”

“You’re supposed to sort them by color, not by design!” His frustration came across rather whiney for a grown man in a semi-suit. “Seriously, it isn’t that hard,” he groaned as he rolled his eyes with his entire upper body, his arms flailing wildly in frustration.

The older woman pointed in my direction, “It was her idea,” with unmistakable accusation and said nothing more.

I fought the urge to throat punch the woman I had only known for 3 hours, while Blue Tie refocused on me, clearly distraught and demanding a response. “But would it not be easier to find what you’re looking for this way?” I asked.

“That’s not the point, “Blue Tie responded sharply. “We have always sorted them by color. Boss is not going to like this. Wasn’t there four of you?”

I realized for the first time that one of the young men was missing. The rest of us shrugged, unknowing of the man’s whereabouts.

“Let’s just say he’s in the restroom,” Blue Tie glanced over his shoulder, then turned back attempting to whisper, “Boss doesn’t like quitters. Be right back!” then turned to run off once again.

“What do we do with the rest of this?” I yelled after him, gesturing to the remaining cogs and gears left unsorted.

“Keep going!” he yelled back, jutting up his thumbs before returning to his jog in the opposite direction.

I turned back to the barrels, debating on “going to the restroom” as well, when I heard a faint psst coming from behind the rusty bins. I leaned forward, peering over the far rim when a young woman popped her head up. I jumped backwards, grabbing hold of the barrel to keep my balance.

The girl silently slid her hand over the rim, a crumpled business card held between her fingers. Her wildly frazzled hair complimented her shifty eyes. “Don’t trust HR,” she hissed nearly inaudible amidst the metallic swishing of the group sifting through the barrels’ contents.

I took the card with a questioning glance, but remained silent, unsure what to say. Thanks?

Human Resources, ha!” She threw her head back with the single laugh. “That,” she pointed a grimy finger at the card, “is who you call if you need a real person to help you.”

I looked down at the card and saw a hand written number, ink running from what looked like a grease stain.

I heard the jogging return of Blue Tie, and when I looked up, the woman was gone. He used his animated arms to separate me from the rest of the group, “Boss said she wants a word with you later,” he said as he ushered me back to the front of the building. “But now they need your help on the bank side. You are coming back tomorrow?”

My first thought was to ask why I wouldn’t, but after what happened with the other young man this morning, I decided to keep my answer simple, “Yes.”

“Great! Come with me.” He led me through the shattered wall and into the bank building. Behind the counter, at the far left, sat a rotund woman miraculously perched atop her shockingly small office chair. Her eyes were locked on her computer screen while her right finger constantly rotated the mouse’s scroll wheel, keeping the screen in constant motion. Leaning towers of paperwork surrounded her work station, accompanied by several white Styrofoam take-out containers and soft drink bottles.

“This is Darlene,” said Blue Tie, and cleared his throat to draw her attention away from the glowing screen. “You’ll be helping her for the rest of the day,” and he turned on a heel to begin jogging to his next destination.

Darlene swiveled in her chair, the chair protested loudly, and she gave me a once over. She smelled like an ashtray cheeseburger. In fact, she had two lit cigarettes dangling from her mouth and at least 4 unlit cigarettes peaking out from under several of her many rolls.

What else is tucked in there? I immediately decided to never ponder that question again.

Darlene returned her face four inches away from her computer screen and wiggled her porky fingers towards the teetering paper stacks. “Sort this crap out.”

As I stepped closer to take one of the parchment skyscrapers, I glanced at her screen and saw several separate windows open, all of which with the Facebook logo at the top.

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