The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. Stories must be less than eight hundred words. As of the time of this blog posting, there are forty-three images online. There may be more and I failed to uncover them by searching for the wrong terms, but eh. I think forty-three’s a plenty big pool to draw from. I’ve assigned each a number, with the newest being 43 and the oldest being 1. Through the end of the month, I’m going to generate a random number within that range (updated as they add more art, of course) and write a piece of flash fiction inspired by that piece of art (generating a new number should I pick an already used image.) Exciting, no?
This piece is entitled “End of the Line,” inspired by the illustration “The Night Train” by Ryan Mauskopf. I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should Ryan stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out Ryan’s deviantART page at: http://rye-bread.deviantart.com/.
Alsoalso, November will bring with it something completely different. Devilish laugh…
Anyway, let’s begin!
You see this shit, Fuego says. You see this shit right here in front of us?
I just nod. Of course I do. It’s impossible to miss. A homeless man masturbating inside his dirty overcoat, mouth smiling and open and leaking spittle, eyes locked not on me but on the poster of some singer behind me.
Bunch of goddamn savages in this town. No fucking respect for nothing.
Brimley clears his throat. We should move, he says, his voice high and soft as ever. I nod at that too, and then we move.
I open the door to the next car. It’s more crowded, which I don’t like, and some of the people turn and look at me as I enter, which I really don’t like. I don’t like when people notice me. I don’t like people looking at me, watching me, seeing how I nod my head when I’m not listening to music, or mutter something under my breath when there’s no one for me to talk to.
Just put on your headphones and you’ll be fine, Brimley says.
Just keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine, Fuego says.
Just have to make it to the end of the line so I can get off the ride, I think. I look around. No one’s looking at me anymore. Good. I didn’t say that out loud.
I put the headphones around my neck over my ears and walk with my head down, eyes locked on the floor of the subway car. Brimley and Fuego walk behind, Fuego on my left and Brimley on my right, and the three of us sit down on the last open bench. Neither of them is saying anything to me or to each other, and for that, I am grateful.
I’m sitting there in silence, minding my own business for a good, long, blissfully quiet while when this man decides he’s going to try and talk to me. My body language doesn’t stop him.
Get up and walk away, Brimley says. If he tries to stop you, scream.
Oh, let me do him, Fuego says. There’s a note of whininess in his voice, like a dog begging for a treat, for a toy to play with. Oh, this’ll be so much fun. Come on, do it, do it, do it.
The man makes up my mind for me. He sits down next to me, puts his arm across the back of the seat. It’s not touching me, but it is too close, too close by far. Something comes out of his mouth that sounds like, “So, my name’s John, what’s yours?” and I really don’t like this most of all.
I look the man in his eyes. “I have a knife in my pocket. If you don’t walk away now, I’m going to cut your face off and feed it to you.” Fuego is cackling with delight. Brimley shakes his head and looks away.
The man’s face switches from one expression to the next almost faster than I can track them. Confusion, anger, fear all play across his face. My hand slides into my pocket, and he sees this, and he frowns. He has settled on bravado. He stands up. “Fuck you, bitch,” he says, and he turns to leave the car.
Beuatiful, Fuego says. Beautiful. That’s my girl.
That was uncalled for. You’d better hope that man doesn’t come back with his friends. Or worse, with the police.
If he comes back, she’ll fucking cut him. And if the cops come, she’ll say he threatened her first.
“Guys, shut up,” I say. The person sitting closest to me, an elderly woman squeaks at the sound of my voice. I turn to look at her, and her eyes go wide. She clutches her purse tight against her chest, gets up, and leaves the car. Two others see her go and decide that that isn’t a bad idea. They go back into the car I’d been in earlier. I wonder if the homeless man is still masturbating. What will they do then? Stay in that car or come back to this one? The pervert or the psychopath? The maniac that’s egging you on to stand up for yourself and suffer the consequences, or the one that’s telling you to keep your head down and weather whatever storm may come?
At least they’re both quiet right now. Sometimes they actually listen to me. That’s always nice.
I lean back in my seat and sigh. This ride can’t get where it’s going fast enough.