Dan’s flash fiction challenge this week is to show an emotion – hate, specifically.
I recoiled a little when I read that. “Hate” is a very loaded word these days, and I struggle to understand it as its own emotion. What we call “hate” is really extreme anger, fear, or disgust.
But thinking about it that way opened the door of this challenge a little wider. Instead of just considering what my character hates, his disposition can be layered with those other three emotions. Excellent.
There was also a random character draw involved. This was mine: A lively 38 year-old man, who comes from a comfortable background, lives in a converted barn and tends to eat too much.
We also had to randomly draw a setting. I got a bus.
And for extra fun, I’m combining this challenge with Chuck Wendig’s, where we chose a picture from Flickr’s Interestingness category to use as inspiration for the story. The one I picked is under the title.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You get to read the story now.
The old lady steps onto the bus and scans the interior, and I glare. The seat next to me is empty, but my nonverbal message should make it: Don’t even think about it, lady.
She stares at me for a few seconds, likely trying to decide if the scruffy guy next to the empty seat smells weird. The door closes behind her, and she grabs the rail. She sends another glare in my direction as her body wobbles in her effort to stay upright. I turn my attention to the window and retrieve more Cheese Nips from my box. That’s right. Just stay over there.
It’s bad enough I have to come to the damned city. I had plans today; I need to work on the barn’s plumbing. But my sister insisted my desire to live in her barn instead of the house proved I’m “unstable” and “need help.” So she forced me to go to this “professional” or she’d kick me off her property entirely.
I munch some more crackers. I’m not hungry, but they give me something to do besides acknowledge the discomfort growing in my gut. The street becomes more crowded as we near the city’s center.
God, I hate crowds.
My stomach knots, and I shove more crackers into my mouth.
An eternity later, the bus reaches my stop and I step into a sea of people. My heart races, and I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. A woman makes eye contact with me, and I back away, bumping into another person.
The guy pushes back. “Watch it, Pal.”
“Don’t touch me.” I clutch my box to my chest and back up, bumping into someone else. They’re everywhere.
I try to ignore the eyes watching me and reach into my pocket, fumbling with the paper containing the address of the office I’m supposed to find. I can’t get it unfolded. As I separate the corners, I drop it, and it lands in a puddle.
“No!” I grab the paper and try to open it again, but it tears.
My chest tightens, and I can’t swallow. My heart pounds in my ears. The faces around me turn into black shadows, staring at me. Judging me. Wishing me harm.
I have to leave. Run back to the barn.
I bolt down the street, smashing into a man exiting a cab. We both fall to the ground. I drop my box and struggle to my feet. Someone puts a hand on my shoulder. “Sir, do you need help?”
“Don’t touch me!” My head spins, and my heart beats faster. I can’t keep my balance. I stumble into the street. Tires squeal, and a car slams me onto the pavement.
A beeping sound comes from my right. Then a running faucet. Then footsteps. I open my eyes.
My sister stands over me. She smiles. “Hey. Welcome back.”
“You had an accident this morning. The docs think you had a panic attack.”
“A what?” I scan the room. “How’d I get here?”
“Some people called an ambulance and stayed with you until it got there.”
“Yeah. You hit your head. They likely saved your life.” She pours water into a cup and hands it to me. “I’ll go tell the nurse you’re awake.”
She leaves, and I stare at lights shining on the liquid.
They likely saved your life.
Bullshit. If I hadn’t been in the city in the first place, there wouldn’t have been an “accident.”