We love to bring unique flash fiction to our readers. We get excited when writers jump across genres and burst out of their creative boxes. We’re happy to bring you new science fiction from Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers contributor and technical writer Carmen Rinehart. We hope it will inspire you to try reading and/or writing speculative fiction. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to enter some in our flash fiction contest!
No Time for Goodbyes
by Carmen Rinehart
The RGR Mining representative at my door was tucked into in a newly issued, corporate dress suit and was clearly not empathetic to my startled state. In fact, he looked quite bothered with delivery of the job offer that shook in my hand. He rocked from heel to toe on the worn threshold of the dormitory living quarters assigned to Rob and I almost five years ago. Thumping his clenched fists on the frosty steel doorframe in rhythm with the pace set by his feet, he neither accepted my invitation to come in nor allowed me to slam the door in his face. He must do this a lot.
“Thump, crack, thump.”
“Training will begin immediately.” I mumbled to myself as I read the message again trying to commit the salient points to memory. If I heard it, I remembered it. Just reading something usually did little good. My dad always said I read aloud because I liked the sound of my own voice. He always teased like that. He too suffered from swirls of cryptic symbols dancing on a screen. It is hard to remember something when you have to work so hard to read it.
“Thump, crack, thump.”
“…Relin..quish communication link” I stuttered. Suddenly the rocking and thumping stopped and he thrust out his right hand. I looked at his stained palm and wondered what he did when he wasn’t working. What would cause that kind of stain? The color was strange in that it resembles every color I could think of. It was almost iridescent. His hands were big and they didn’t seem to match the build that his suit had framed. They were rough, strong hands. What other duties did this man perform? Was this a simple stain from his kid’s Chem I project he helped with last night? I realized I had been distracted by the letter and hadn’t really seen the man before me. The suit was an obvious costume. The fit was wrong. This man had secrets, but everyone does. Even me.
The usual afternoon bluster started to wail through the brush between the housing units. Some toys began to roll along the painted greenways picking up speed. It was always dry and brisk. Wind storms plagued this part of the planet and the people on Abe suffered constant dry skin and chapped lips.
He began to bob his right knee up and down and when I looked up into his eyes I caught a glimpse of him. I thought I could hear faint screams from within, Damn this shift. Hurry up lady! I cocked my head feigning innocent curiosity or flirtation. No response. So, I leveled a hard stare straight into his eyes. Again nothing.
Unnerved by my attempts to get him to offer up more information, he responded in a well-rehearsed, composed tenor, “Ms. Malynson. We have limited time. Please accept by relinquishing your comm link. You agreed to this requirement in your application.” But his impatient, grating voice still screamed in my head. Body language doesn’t lie. This man was turned up to full volume.
This was one of my talents or perhaps my curse. I struggled to decrypt letters, forming words to read text, but I could read people. I tested high and was recruited early out of my local academy. Who knew their training would be so successful. Knowing people was my job in the Interplanetary Service Corps and it became the reason Rob left last year. He couldn’t take the accusations anymore, but I suspect it was because he finally admitted to himself that he couldn’t hide from his guilt anymore. I was very good at my job in the corps. I’m even better at not feeling guilty about it.
“Thump, thump,” I heard that familiar sound of his impatient knocking.
Of course they would want me immediately with no questions asked. That was the routine and this is what I signed-up for. I unhooked my comm link from of my belt clip and handed it to the suit. He gave me a funny look as he fiddled with the archaic clip I had attached to the comm. Most people had their comms magnetized to some part of their body for a semi-permanent fix. I never liked the idea of magnets being fixed inside me. I had no trackers either. It was one of my stipulations when I joined the corps so many years ago and again, I refused to sign an implant waiver on in the RGR Mining application. I was clean and wanted to stay that way.
He disengaged the clip and removed the brains of the communicator slipping it into his pocket. He reached past me tossing the sleek hollow shell with all of its blinking lights onto the entry table just inside my door. It was sad to see it there. There it would stay vibrating. Months or maybe years of unanswered calls and pointless notifications until it would eventually exhaust itself and die. That would be me if I stayed here any longer.
Carmen Rinehart is a freelance non-fiction writer and avid reader who lives in Houston, Texas. She’s a mother of two from southern Louisiana who has lived in Asia and South America. Her career as a freelance non-fiction writer is successful, and she explores her creative side through short stories, poems and flash fiction.
Read more of Carmen’s work in Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers. Signed copies are available from our web bookstore, and the book and ebook are also available from Amazon.com: http://spiderroadpress.com/book-store/