This is a brand new piece I wrote over the night – a bit of Flash Fiction for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. Never heard of him? You’re in for quite a treat. Click that link on his name right back there, and familiarize yourself with one of the greatest writers of the day. Chuck’s TerribleMinds blog is updated – sometimes twice – daily, filled with wonderful stories and interesting articles about the day-to-day life of a full-time writer. His work is incredible, both fiction and non-fiction… and it would do you well to check it out. Plus, he says “fuck” a lot. So, you know. There’s that.
You can find all of his work on his website (click the link, dammit!)
Anyway, on with the story. I may have gone a little over the 1,000 word limit. (Oops.) Here’s to you, Mr. Wendig. Cheers. Thanks for the inspiration! Can we be friends, please?
Random-Generated Prompt (courtesy of Archetype Writing):
The story starts when your protagonist is forced into a car at gunpoint.
Another character is an alchemist who is developing a deadly new poison.
Alchemy & Acrimony
“Get in the fucking car, before I put a bullet through your kneecap.” Convincing argument, Donnie thought as the gunman leveled a suppressed 9mm pistol directly at his leg. Judging from the man’s posture and tidy appearance he was of military background – certainly capable of making a clean shot from less than five feet away – and Donnie wasn’t willing to wager against the man’s cavalier demeanor. He thought it wise to follow the order. Clutching his laptop case firmly against his chest, he slowly stepped over to the curb and into the back seat of the dark grey Cadillac CTS, trembling and eyeing the man with the gun as he crouched down to enter the vehicle.
The inside of the car was impeccable; black leather seats, cherry-stained and polished wooden panels along the doors, illuminated cup holders and a marvelous new-car scent – overall the backseat was very spacious for a small sedan – although at the moment Donnie felt as though he’d just stepped inside a crushed tin box that was about to be set inside a blazing furnace.
“I didn’t know they’d released this model yet,” he said nervously, now face to face with a black-haired man not older than 40, dressed in a very expensive-looking pinstriped suit and holding a folder between his hands, which were crossed neatly in his lap.
“Indeed, I believe they haven’t”, the man replied, his thick british accent throwing Donnie off, “it’s scheduled to be released sometime next year. My – employer acquired the model via a close friend who happens to own the company.” Donnie noted the very formal inflection with which the man emphasized the word ‘employer’ – some feelings of ill-will, perhaps?
“Well, I expect you’re wondering why you’re here, talking to a stranger in a car that hasn’t yet been released to the public… and under duress, no doubt.”
“I just assumed it has something to do with my research–” Donnie wasn’t going to play dumb; he knew exactly why he was here. He also knew that if he didn’t cooperate, the well-dressed man would not hesitate to knock on the window, signaling to the man with the gun outside that Donnie was in need of an attitude adjustment.
“Right you are,” the man said with a crooked grin, “let’s talk about your new– research…”
Donnie tried desperately to keep his hands from shaking. The heavy sweat on his forehead had begun running down his nose, and presently a drop was dangling violently on the tip, ready to fall at any moment and create a small wet spot on his pants – much like his nerve. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath.
“What do you want to know?”
• • •
“We’re just waiting to get the results back from the lab,” Dr. Vogel motioned for his vacuous new research assistant Amorette to bring a readout from the printer as he switched the phone to his other hand. “Yes sir. We should have something within the hour. No, that won’t be necessary. Yes, I – I believe you’ll be pleased with the… results. Sir.” He sat the phone down on the receiver and rubbed his temples. “We should destroy it now–” he uttered under his breath, as Amorette walked gracefully out of the room. “Before it destroys all of us.”
The phone rang again, and the Doctor felt his heart sink in his chest. Had he spoken too loudly? There was no way of knowing whether or not they were listening to the microphone feeds 24 hours a day, but it certainly appeared that way; his long-time colleague – Dr. Lanhorn – had been dragged out of the laboratory two weeks before for making a similar remark… the phone rang a third time, and Dr. Vogel shook his head to regain his composure.
“Yes, what is it?” he said, eyeing the red EXIT sign above the door at the end of the room. If he ran now, he’d have about twenty seconds before they came rushing through the door with guns to drag him out back and shoot him between the eyes, like poor Dr. Lanhorn.
“There’s an intern here to see you, sir. He says it’s urgent.” replied a pleasant voice on the line – it was Murielle, the office secretary. “I’m sorry, sir. I told him you weren’t taking any visitors at the moment, but he says it’s about an important breakthrough, something for school. Shall I send him in?”
Dr. Vogel chewed his lip, a nervous habit his wife was constantly begging him to kick. He stared down at the paper in his hands, and then looked up at the camera in the corner of the room.
“Yes… Send him in.”
• • •
“Shit!” Donnie screamed as he kicked over a trash can, sending it rolling into the middle of the street. None of it made any sense… Why would they send him there to kill that old man? A man he’d never seen once in his life – an innocent doctor. Donnie’s head was spinning. He took the gun from the back of his pants and walked over to the trash can in the middle of the street, shoving the pistol into the bottom of the bin as he sat it back in its proper place. He swayed and doubled over, vomiting into a cardboard box in the top of the trash can.
He’d never killed anyone before; he was just a grad student, for chrissakes. Why did he do it? He could have told that man in the suit to go fuck himself – he could have told the doctor to run. But he didn’t. He froze, as soon as he stepped through the door and looked at the old man… he just stood there, staring at him, and then – then everything went black. The next thing he knew, the doctor was laying on the floor covered in blood, and Donnie was running for the door. But not before he grabbed the small black case containing a set of vials marked TX191 from the desk. He pulled the case from his pocket and looked it over. It looked very ordinary, like something from a high school chemistry classroom. For a moment, he considered throwing the case into the bottom of the waste bin with the gun. Just then, a dark grey car pulled up to the curb behind him and the man in the suit stepped out.
“Very good, old boy. Well done,” the man said casually as he closed the door behind him, stepping forward with his hand outstretched. “Give me the case, and we can all go home.”
“Why did you make me do this?” Donnie yelled – probably not his best idea, as the man with the gun from before stepped out from the other side of the car, 9mm aimed straight at his face. “What the hell is this?” He shook the case in front of him and thought again of throwing it, this time at the man’s head. Although, the image of being shot and left to bleed out in a dark alleyway persuaded him otherwise.
“That is the reason we’re both here,” the man said, “and it would do us both well for you not to crack one of those very fragile glass vials.” A very serious look spread across his face and he held up his hands as a cautionary gesture.
“And what if I throw this on the ground, what then?” Donnie asked, pointing the case at the ground threateningly. “Would we all die?”
“Yes – most agonizingly.”
Donnie took a step back. He couldn’t catch his breath. Suddenly, he felt like the world was closing in around him; his mouth became very dry, his eyes started to go black. “What is – what did…” Donnie fell to one knee, and the man in the suit walked slowly towards him. The man with the gun was walking around the car, gun still leveled at Donnie’s head.
“I must say, you did your job better than we’d hoped!” the man said as he pried the case from Donnie’s hand. “If it weren’t for you, we’d never have gotten the antidote before it was too late. Can’t thank you enough for that, really.”
“Wh-what are… you… talking about?” Donnie said, his throat closing up. He could barely breathe; his chest burned, tears streamed down his face. He could feel his heart pounding in every inch of his body.
“This prevents the effects of the deadly neurotoxin you picked up in that lab. The effects you’re feeling right now, I’d wager,” the man said as he opened the car door. “We couldn’t just send anyone in there after this, you see,” he held up the small black case, “we had to make sure and tie up all the loose ends at once. Nothing personal, just business. You understand.”
Donnie vomited again, this time it was all red – thick red blood that poured from his mouth, oozing slowly over the pavement. He looked at his shaking hands; his veins were slowly turning black. Suddenly, a ringing in his ears grew so loud he felt like his head would explode. He flung himself to the ground, hands clamped tightly over his ears. The world seemed to be melting away.
And then, Donnie was at peace.