This photo is the challenge Red Writing Hood gives us this week. Word limit of 500.
It was a little too happy-go-lucky for my tastes apparently. Everything I tried to write came out like Zombies Invade Wonderland or Jack The Ripper, The Return, anything but happy umbrellas, suspended in a happy sky over a happy world.
I think I need to see a shrink. Who but I could look at that picture and see the Apocalypse? I know what the feeling stems from though. When I was a teen, my mother and I worked jigsaw puzzles often. One in particular was of a rainbow of umbrellas. That...insert every possible curse word of foul origin here...bloody puzzle was impossible. It took forever to complete as every single blasted piece was cursed to never go where it looked like it should.
It did inspire me to write, however, and I believe that is the true message to be conveyed here. I have a short story soon to be published (yea! shameless plug) and I thought (after the other failed attempts with zombies and Jack) why not give a prequel, a backstory, if you will indulge me, for one of the characters.
So this week I offer in response: Burned
Available balance: $0.00
Would you like to perform another transaction?
Mitch gripped the sides of the ATM as the rain washed blood from the side of his face. He was surprised he was still breathing, not at his empty account. The zero balance mocked him like a neon sign. He chuckled softly, wincing as his ribs reminded him they were cracked. Something within him instructed his legs to move and he turned to walk away. After ten years of The Game, he learned to trust his own gut.
“Excuse me, Sir? Your card?” a voice called after him. Mitch ignored her, slipping into the collective blind spot of a thousand umbrellas, moving to the throb of the city. His foggy mind began to clear, revealing the flashing images of a car crash. The impact had thrown him against the front seat. His handler was incapacitated, possibly even dead. He reached across the body for the door handle, tumbled out of the car and unexpectedly down the steep ravine housing the creek below. The forty dollars in his wallet purchased a cab ride to the city where the ATM informed him of his burn notice.
Where am I? Berkley’s on Third Street. What’s my situation? Broken…fubarred. His memory pulled the picture of the foreign operative from the files, the one his partner silenced three years ago, the one he saw pull the trigger on the senator the day before yesterday. Marston. This went sideways fast.
He headed west, traveling like a salmon against the waterfall of pedestrian traffic, avoiding eye contact. Disappearing from sight meant hiding in plain view. With the rain, the umbrellas as camouflage, he limped towards his safe house on Sidle Park.
His place was already tossed, but that wasn't the problem. His partner lay in a pool of black blood, her fingers stuffed into her abdomen like the Dutch boy at the dyke. “Mitch, you look like hell,” Vanessa’s voice cracked and strained.
He knelt at her side, fighting to contain his rage. “They got your liver, Van.”
Her laugh was short lived. “I forgot to duck when Marston pulled the trigger.” She sucked in a long breath, the color draining from her eyes. “You just missed him. Maybe ten minutes? I almost got tired of waiting.”
He kissed her forehead. “I’m here. I won't let you go alone.”
She smiled, “When…you going to learn? I can take…take care of…my…”
Vanessa went limp. He gently shut her eyelids. “I know. I needed you too.”
Mitch rose, crossing to the fireplace. Using a poker as a crowbar, he pried some bricks loose from their setting, revealing the hiding place for his bug-out box. Inside, there was a hundred thousand in cash, a handful of passports with aliases that weren’t on file with the Agency, a couple of burner phones, his Seals knife, and a loaded 9mm. All that was left now was Marston, and payback was going to be fun.