Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Cut It Out

It's time for yet another Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge.  This weeks challenge is called "Game of Aspects."  We were provided with 30 choices in three categories. We had to choose one from each category and write a story incorporating the aspects we chose.  We were encouraged to use a d10 for added fun.  (I used an online random number picker because my d10 wasn't nearby.)

Subgenre: Dystopian
Element to include:  Surgery
Theme/conflict/motif:  Love Triangle

At 989 words, this is my attempt.

Cut It Out

Photo by:  Ben Tesch

It’s funny to me that funerals are so rarely like we see them on TV--everyone wearing black veils and starched suits.  Everything is pressed, smooth, wrinkleless.  Black umbrellas pop up like mushrooms in an unkempt lawn to block the rain that so nicely puts the cherry on top of the shit sundae of a situation.  Life isn’t like that at all.

But it is raining today.

We all stand around the shining black box that holds our friend.  Blank faces paying their rote final respects to their coworker,  father, son.   No one cries.  Only two sets of eyes shine and threaten to spill those hateful things over.  My set meets the other--blue, surrounded by long lashes.  Red lines lace the whites supported by bags underneath.  Haley blinks and a single tear falls.

She quickly wipes it away with a gloved hand, her cheeks growing red.  I would feel embarrassed for her, but I can feel my own weakness raging against my resolve, and that seeing that tear didn’t help.  I take a deep breath and glance up toward the sky, blinking to hold back the evidence of my weakness.

I must have made a noise.  One of my coworkers glances over at me with an arched eyebrow.

“Is everything okay, Josh?”

“Uh...yeah...everything’s fine.”

I guess he realizes I’m sad.  His face shifts.  He looks uncertain, like he doesn’t know what to say.  I see his eyes rake from left to right, as if the right words will be floating in the air just over my shoulder.

“Oh, uh...I’m sure Danny is in a better place.  He’ in pain anymore.”

That calls up images of Danny, lying in bed, body rail thin.  By the end, the cancer had eaten him almost entirely, and the chemo had taken the rest.  All the same, he laughed so hard when I brought him that knitted cap with a neon mohawk attached.

A tear rolls down my cheek.  Damn.

“Oh...dear...”  My coworker coughs into his hand and scoots away from me.  He doesn’t want to be seen with the crying guy.

As they lower the casket, Danny’s daughter tosses in a handful of dirt.  Her face is as blank as the rest of them, and I notice the scar that peeks up just above the front of her dress.  So she got the surgery before he died.  Good for her.

After the service, Haley gives me a weak smile and places a hand on my shoulder.

“I miss him, too,” she says.

"Some coworkers saw you crying.  How embarrassing.”

“Fuck you.  I wasn’t the only one crying.”

I shrug. “True. That’s why I scheduled an appointment for this afternoon.”

She hesitates as the news hits her.  I hadn’t wanted her to know I’d made the appointment, but I don’t care anymore.  Between Danny’s death and everything that happened before, I don’t feel like walking on eggshells anymore.

“You’re going to let them turn you into one of those emotionless robots?  Did you see Danny’s daughter?  It’s like she didn’t care at all!”

“She didn’t.  That’s the point.  And soon, I won’t either.  It’ll be so nice not to care anymore.”

I feel her fumble for my hand, try to take it, so I jerk it away.  She won’t get the comfort of comforting me.

“Josh, I still care about you.”


“I didn’t expect it, either!  It just happened.  I’m so sorry you got hurt.”

“Hey, being left at the alter is no big.  I’m just glad everything worked out so well for you two.”

SMACK!  I feel my head pop back as she decks me straight in the nose.  She stomps away, and I watch her go.

A few hours later, I’m in the doctor’s office, staring at black marker dots on my chest.  He stares at me with cold blue eyes as he explains the procedure in a frank, flat voice.

“First, we’ll saw into your breast bone and break you open.  Next, we’ll sever the ventricles and cap them off--this should prevent the majority of any blood loss.  Next, we’ll install the synthetic organ with the blocking chip--” he stopped when he saw my face.  “Are...are you frightened?”

I blush as I admit it.  “Yes, I’m afraid I am.”

“’ll be okay.  I’m licensed and everything.  And if you die, it’s not like you’ll notice.”


Before I know it, I’m in the surgery room, looking out at a thousand glowing monitors.  Then, I’m waking up in my hospital bed.  The thick, white gauze pads on my chest say much, but the silence in my head tells me more.  No worries.  No feelings.  It’s blank.  Objective.  As sterile and white in there as the hospital room I’m staying in.

A knock at the door.

“Come in.”

Haley comes in with a bouquet of flowers with a balloon attached.  When was the last time I saw anyone bring flowers for someone in the hospital?  It’s an odd, antiquated practice from back when people needed to console each other.  Something about the brightly colored sex organs of plants made people feel better.  I feel like I might have understood it even a few hours ago, but that part of me is long gone.

Haley takes a look at me and blushes, whirling away.  I glance down and realize that I’ve kicked the covers down and my gown has fallen open, revealing my genitals.

“Oh.  Does this bother you?  I can cover up.”

She turns back and eyes me strangely.  “No.  Yes. doesn’t matter.”  She hesitates before holding the flowers out to me and adding, “I brought you these.”

“Yes. I see that.”

The flowers remain extended for a moment before her arm lowers them.  Tears brim up and begin pouring down her cheeks in big, fat drops.  How embarrassing for her.


  1. I haven't read it yet... but... Dystopian>Surgery>Love Triangle story called "Cut it out" Best Title of the Day...

    I'll be back.

  2. Fantastic.

    Completely predictable with an obvious story arc, and still... fantastic. That is what you do with 1000 words, you are probably not going to reinvent anything, so tell someone a story they already know in a way that makes them go "wow".

    Good construction, good viscerality... thats all I ever look for, I read that as smoothly as if I had written it (which is to say not so much "it was good by X or Y standard" but "I wouldn't be able to tell, cause I would have written it the same")

    1. Yeah, I understood that the concept wasn't exactly original. Instead, I decided to try to sell it with the characters. The very first thought that came to mind when I saw what the number generator chose was "What, like Repo Men/Repo the Genetic Opera?" So my goal was actually to stay away from that concept.

      I'm glad that you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I saw where it was going, but that isn't a bad thing, because I wanted to see how you would wrap it up. The transition from emotional to non-emotional was almost non-existent and threw me for a second even though I knew it was coming. Did you do that on purpose? Great story.

    1. Thank you. Yeah, I knew that it wasn't the most original of concepts going in, but I consider these writing assignments to be practice for me. I hadn't written anything like this, so it was a fun experiment with characterization through action and dialog. That said, I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

      I did actually do the sudden shift on purpose. I was going for contrast. I guess it worked?

      Thanks for stopping by.


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