Flash Fiction

Flash’s shiny Trans Am roared down the street, headed for a small, private airport outside of town. The sun baked the pavement on the hot afternoon, picking out garish colors that were almost too vivid. The steaming summer city pulsed with the heavy, dirty grays and browns of concrete sidewalks and brick buildings. Above them, a scorching sky of a blue shimmered so light it was nearly white. Parked cars sparkled in startling shades of green and blue, yellow and silver, Camaros and Pintos, here and there a Caddy or foreign car. Over it all, the sun cast a dull orange tint. The oppressive heat and flat color gave the afternoon the look of a bad old movie, washed out and weary. The kind you watch out of boredom but feel worse for doing it.

Flash turned into the airport’s gravel drive and glanced at his watch. Half past three. Right on time. As he rolled to the end of the drive and parked in front of the tiny airfield’s tinier administrative building, his palms began to sweat. This wasn’t his first mission, but he always got nervous when the starting gun sounded. He shook his head and adjusted his sunglasses. No sense worrying. He’d succeed here as he always did.

Flash tried to put himself in character as he walked to the building. He was a regional weapons buyer, distributing to the local coke dealers. Once he built a relationship with this national supplier, he could use their trust to nail them. No problem, Flash. Done it a dozen times. Don’t melt your polyester.

The building’s interior was dim and cooler. Flash removed his glasses and squinted, eyes adjusting to the low light. He heard a voice from his left.

“Hey, you’re here. I thought you was gonna be late. Come on out here, and meet the boss.”  The speaker opened a door and stunning white heat exploded into the room. Flash winced and put his shades back on. Shielding his eyes, he made his way into the light.

A shiny, new-looking private jet, white with energetic red and yellow piping along its sides, waited on the lone airstrip. A bulky, sweating man waited in his ugly suit. Flash made his way up to him.

“Hi boss,” he said, extending a now-dry hand.

An explosion threw him sideways twenty feet. Shocked, his ears ringing, Flash watched the bulky man crumple on the ground. He barely had time to register the rear of the small plane twisted and drowning in flame before another blast flipped him over in the dust. Flash didn’t bother trying to figure out what exploded. He picked himself up and ran for the building. What was happening? Had he stumbled into a hit on the boss? Had his identity been compromised? Whatever the case, he now had to concentrate on escape.

As Flash burst back through the door, seeking shelter in the hangar, thunder shook the walls. Flames slid up the walls. In one corner, plastic chairs sagged in the heat.  Blood and adrenalin surging to his tingling fingertips, he sprinted for the exit, shielding his face in the crook of one arm.

Shoving through the door, his knees went suddenly loose when he saw his car intact on the drive. Something froze Flash in place, staring at his getaway. Then, before the rest of him could relax, he jerked to a stop as the Trans Am burst into the air in flames. Flash turned away, shielding himself with his arms as fragments of his car sliced across his skin and a wave of brutal heat slapped against him.

Above the flames, a new sound. An odd crackling, like candy wrappers crumpled in a great fist. Flash turned back to the car, arms falling limp at his side. The fiercely burning car frame tore at him.

In the center of the fire an irregularly-shaped black spot spread, swallowing the burning Trans Am. Glowing flames formed the spot’s expanding edges.

Terrified, Flash sprinted away up the gravel drive. Before he could reach the street, more flame blossomed and another inky hole appeared in front of him. Flash skidded to a halt and turned back, but there was no escape. The airfield had nearly disappeared behind several burning voids. The crackling sound was sickeningly close behind him, and Flash dove off the drive, rolling over on his back and staring up at the blackness reaching out to consume him.  Heaving, he pushed himself to his feet and stumbled into the adjacent grassy field.

New black spots burned into existence.  Flash fell to his knees and covered his eyes, not wanting to watch the end.  His palms were damp against his face.

Then there was nothing at all.

~

The young projectionist blew out a frustrated breath. The acrid smell from the projector had warned him of the disaster, but he was already too late. With a curse, he pulled loose the film, threw it to the floor, and stamped on the still-smoldering edges where it burned through. “Bring up the house lights,” he called out to the manager. “We’re done for the night.”

As he picked up the surviving film and piled it on its open can on his desk, the projectionist heard the manager ushering out the few people who had been in the audience to watch the late showing of this turkey of a film. He should try to repair it, he supposed. While contemplating how long it would take to clean the projector and salvage the film, he thought of his car. It was an old Charger, beat up and badly used, but still better than that thing the guy in the movie drove. He was sure that by Fall—next spring, tops—he’d have it running like a watch. But not if he left it on the street all night in this crummy neighborhood.  He picked up the film can and read the title: Flash Tinder, Secret Agent.

“Worthless flick, anyway,” he muttered. He threw it in the trash and headed out to save his car.

John Matthew Stockhausen

A former professor of ancient history, John Matthew Stockhausen grew up in Wisconsin and attended Marquette University.He subsequently earned master’s degrees in classical philology and ancient history, from the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University, respectively, and a doctorate in ancient history from OSU.Experienced in academic writing, he has since decided to label his work accurately, as fiction.He now live in Columbus, Ohio, and spends most of his time on his first love and greatest joy, his wife and three teenage daughters.

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