They say lightning never strikes twice, but they apparently don’t participate in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge.
Here’s the deal. Last week (just a few days ago, in fact…) I couldn’t help but write to a prompt Chuck posted. And now it’s happened again. This one said,
I want you to come up with your own monster. … You will create this creature and give it life inside a piece of flash fiction. … Take it for a walk where you want to walk it.
And that’s what I did. This one is a little bit campy, a little bit horror, a little bit smug in-your-faceness. Enjoy.
A hot wind swept sand across the highway and sounded like a thousand tiny insects scraping across the car. Kelsi leaned her head against the seat and let out a few halfhearted cries in the back of her throat. The time on the dashboard read 10:21. She was late for English. Again.
She leaned forward, twisted the dial, and prayed for anything but static. Her fingering did nothing but lodge more sand in the already hard-to-twist dial. She slapped her hand against it, willing the static to stop, and the car went quiet.
“Screw you,” she said, then turned to look at the traffic in front of her.
If you could even call it traffic. It was a line of cars that spanned over a mile from the ferry that stood still while drug dogs searched every vehicle on board. Someone had called in a bogus tip again, and it was going to make her miss English, for sure, and maybe lunch.
Not that she had much of an appetite at lunch lately. She gagged thinking about it. The lunchroom, in previous weeks, had been filled with every shape, size, and color of queer. The principal had let them bring in their banners, set up a microphone, and talk to the student body for half an hour every single lunch period.
Kelsi and her friends thought it was a nuisance at first, but with more people jumping on the Gay is Okay bandwagon, they were starting to feel like a disappearing species. It got worse when they tried to fight back.
“We shouldn’t have to listen to this pervy crap while we’re eating,” Gage yelled out the second day. He was pulled from lunch and given after-school detention for a week.
Kelsi and her girls tried to ignore it, then, but the gays just kept getting louder and louder. By the end of the first week, Kelsi didn’t recognize the cafeteria. She had no idea so many students actually went to her school, and of them, how many apparently never listened to their pastor.
Not that Kelsi was big on church. But she had gone every Sunday with her Mom until she was 14 and listened to the pastor talk about the deadly sins. She knew that being queer was somewhere in the top 10. She wasn’t stupid.
A cop walking alongside the line of cars caught her attention, and she leaned her head out the open window to watch her slow advance. She walked to each car, asked for the window to be rolled down, leaned forward, and spoke with the driver a minute. Then she moved to the next.
Kelsi groaned. She knew it. Someone was getting arrested, and they would be stuck here another hour or two until everything could be cleared out of the way and the ferry allowed to leave. Old Mrs. Blanchard would be sure to call her mom.
The air was so hot, it felt like she was being assaulted with a hair dryer on full hair-frying blast. She wished she could roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioner, but it wouldn’t do any good. Her mom had argued with her dad when he brought home the car for her the summer before, a full year after Kelsi had gotten her license, but she had let her daughter have the car when she realized it was a junker. No A/C. No plug for her phone. The only thing it had on it was a GPS that had shorted out a month after she got it. She had thanked Gage for his mechanic skills with a hot and heavy make-out session the next day.
Kelsi leaned her head out the window and watched the waves come in, then drift back out along the beach. The sand wasn’t exactly clean, and the water was iffy, but when she really needed to get away from everything, it was the only place that brought her any peace.
She felt a pain on her neck and slapped at it without thinking. When she pulled her hand away, a mosquito the size of a horsefly twitched on her palm.
She cleaned it off with a wet wipe from the center console. Then she raised her hand to her neck. There was already a lump.
“Just great,” she said, then adjusted the rear-view mirror (the only one inside the cab, another of her dad’s great ideas) so that she could see it.
It was big, all right, and smeared with her blood. At least, she hoped it was her blood, not someone else’s. She used another wipe to clean it up, then tested it with her fingertips. It was hard under her skin, and already starting to heat up.
“Perfect. I miss English, don’t get lunch, and now I have West Nile Zika.”
She reached across the seat for her purse, fished out her phone, and powered it on, hoping there was enough of a charge left to call her best friend, Caidyn. She dialed and put it on speaker.
As she stared down at the picture of her friend, she wondered why she had never noticed how beautiful she was. Once upon a time, Caidyn had been homely, but she was saved by her incredibly limber body and tumbling skills. Now, Kelsi realized, Caidyn might even be hotter than her.
“Caidyn, oh my god, I’m so glad you answered.” She could hear a voice speaking loudly over other voices in the background. “Are they already starting?”
“Yeah,” Caidyn answered. “Where are you? You missed English, and Blanchard is, like, seething.”
Kelsi watched the cop lean down to speak to a driver a few cars up from her and tried to fix her hair in the mirror. “Well, she is going to have to get over it, because I’m stuck on the other side of the ferry, and it’s not going anywhere.” She adjusted her bikini top so that her boobs were higher. “Can you get notes from Jannie for me?”
Kelsi snorted. “Yeah, the girl who sits behind me in, like, all my classes. With the braces?”
Kelsi could hear the disdain in her voice. “She’s the smartest person we know.”
“Yeah, I guess.” In the background, Caidyn’s boyfriend, Asher, said something dirty, and Caidyn slapped him on his letter jacket.
“Hopefully I can get there before the day is over, but the way it’s looking, I don’t know.”
“Okay, well, let me know. I gotta go. Asher and I are going to eat in the car. I can’t take any more of this dyke talking.”
She hung up the phone, and Kelsi shrugged. When Caidyn said she and Asher were going to his car, they only ever did one thing, and it ended up with Caidyn readjusting her uniform and Asher waggling his eyebrows at every girl in school for the rest of the day. Kelsi made a face at the idea, and wondered why she had ever considered letting Gage get past third base.
Her phone died as she slipped it into her purse. She reached in, grabbed her lipstick, and put on a fresh coat as the cop stood up from the car in front of her and started walking Kelsi’s way. By the time she got there, Kelsi was all shy smiles.
“I’m sorry for the delay, Miss,” the cop said. Kelsi could tell the moment the woman’s eyes dropped from her red lips to her cleavage.
The cop cleared her throat and looked toward the ferry. “A ferry occupant is being removed on suspicion of illegal activity.”
“Drugs?” Kelsi asked.
The cop nodded like a dumb dog before catching herself and reddening. “I can’t discuss that, except to say that no one is in any danger. We hope to have the ferry back moving in less than an hour.”
“Thank you for letting me know, officer,” Kelsi said. “Before you go, would you mind looking at something for me?”
The cop’s eyes went back to her bikini top. Kelsi ran a hand up her stomach, between her breasts, and to her neck. The woman licked her lips.
“Something bit me while I was waiting. Do you think I need to get to a doctor?”
The cop dragged her eyes from Kelsi’s chest to her neck, then squinted at the bug bite and ran a hand up her own arm. She pulled up her sleeve to reveal a similar mark. “If you do, then I do,” she said. Her eyes locked on Kelsi’s mouth. “If you want to pull off the side of the road, I can arrange for you to go to nearest medical facility.”
The cop’s lips parted slightly, and Kelsi could imagine snagging one between her teeth as she straddled the woman in the backseat of a patrol car. Her neck throbbed where the strange bug had bitten her, but it wasn’t the only part of her that was on fire.