Concept art Caleb Brown, ©2014
Bass rhythm pounded through the walls of the old, dilapidated house. Flecks of paint abandoned their posts as precarious sentries; airborne particles whirled and glittered in the black lights. Michael reached out with his hand and cupped the air. He watched particles swirl for him, captive and captivating, while the party raged around him.
“Best of the best, am I right?” A man with a Confed accent drawled in his ear. What was his name? Michael tried to remember around the haze of product. Max? Dax? Hax? The man adjusted his hat, which slid forward, concealing his eyes.
Michael nodded his appreciation. Not that he appreciated the interruption. He’d been communing.
Angry stomps off beat with the music caused Michael to blink heavy lids and look up. His sister. What was she doing here?
He sat up straight, knocking three girls to the floor off the couch they’d been piled on. Carnelia stood, quivering in anger. Her dress had blood spatter on the front. Her eye was in the process of swelling shut. Her lip was puffy as well. Adrenaline splashed him in the face with sobriety.
“Hope he paid you first.” Hax chuckled, not especially sensitive to the change in the feeling of the room.
Michael spun, kicking Hax in the face. He wailed, grasping his nose with both hands. He swore, or at least through the pain of having his nose broken he swore. The words bubbled and gasped through ruined sinuses.
“Who did this to you?” Adroitly avoiding the three girls, who were crawling away to find new laps, Michael brought his hand towards Carnelia’s face.
Anger surged, roiling through a drug-laced confusion of the situation. “You tell me who did this to you.”
“Who do you think did it?” Ice crystals glazed her words.
Heart sinking, Michael sat down, ignoring Hax curled up in a ball on the floor. “No.”
“You said you’d always protect me, Michael. You said. You said that working for him would be our chance to make good. And it’s been your chance to make good, but what about me?” She glared at him through her unmangled eye. “You’re here getting fucked up, and I’m getting beaten up.”
“If you’d just listen…” Michael sighed. This conversation wasn’t a new one. It was a war of escalation. Parris would tell Carnelia what to do, she’d find some way to misinterpret his instructions, he’d punish her for it, and Carnelia would blame her brother, rather than herself.
“I’m not going to sit and listen for you to defend him. You promised me you’d quit drugs, you promised me this was just a job, and none of it is true, Michael.”
She may have had him on a point or two, there.
“They’re giving me the surgery.” Carnelia said, her voice barely audible over the chatter of people and the bass in the next room.
“What?” Michael shook his head. “The surgery?”
“It’s that or they’ll kill me, Michael.” Carnelia shrugged heavily. “At least if I die on the table, I won’t know.”
He shook his head. “I don’t understand what it’s for, even.” His thoughts flittered to the pale girl he’d just bribed a Kum & Go franchise to bury. “I can’t…”
“I know, Michael. But you should have tried harder.”
This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!