Flash Fiction Challenge #15: The Fourth of July

Flash Fiction, writing

I was unable to get to last week’s flash fiction challenge because I was in Vegas, so I was excited to get to this week’s. Must be set on the 4th of July, Independence Day (okay, even though I’m Canadian, I thought I’d bite), and 1000 words. Hope you enjoy.

The Fourth Day
The bodies filter through the street towards the beach like water in a riverbed. They move with purpose; they can’t wait to see the fireworks display, where not only do the balls of light glitter in the air, but also reflect off the surface of the ocean.
The children are jumping up and down rather than walking, waving cheap flags in their hands. Their faces are painted, or they wear red, white, and blue. Parents offer placating nods in response to their joy and excitement.
It is the perfect setting.
A police officer meanders by, glances curiously at my face. I know he’ll stop. And he does.
“Where did you get a mask like that?” the officer asks. He crosses his arms to assert his authority, but looks genuinely interested in my response.
“Made it myself,” I reply. “I hate the face paints.”
“You chose just blue and white.”
I touch my fingers to the latex mask moulded to my skin. “The stars—I didn’t have a big enough face for the stripes.”
The officer laughs and backs away. “So, why are you just leaning against the arcade wall?”
“Waiting for my wife and daughter; they had to go back to the car for something,” I lie. In fact, I have no family, which is just as well, given what is going to happen tonight.
“Okay, take it easy. Enjoy the show.”
I nod and wave.
Fool. By morning, he won’t even remember he was here. Or who he is.
*****
Because the street is closed, no cars are parked along it, unless they belong to the business owners. That means no quick getaway. Regardless, a perimeter is being set up now, unbeknownst to everyone in this small town. Here, it is mostly tourists, too, thousands of them; most of them don’t know the ins and outs of this town. Even if they ran, they would quickly become lost.
“Mommy, when do the crackers start?” a little boy asks, hanging off a young woman’s shirt.
Firecrackers, hunny. Soon.”
*****
Maybe I am sadistic. Well, okay, I know I am. But it is not something internal—the cause is familiar to some. It’s called too much money. I get paid enough to live the rest of my life without work, very comfortably. But in return, I must do some bad things.
I think it’s worth it.
I glance at my watch. Nearly ten o’clock.
The cue is the first firework, which will be green and red. Not the colours of the American flag, but of Christmas. It might confuse some, but the fact that a burst of fire has exploded in the sky will be more than enough to awe spectators to their place.
The second firework will not be one at all, but something that appears and sounds like a dud. But rather, something will have shot out of a small cylindrical container, and it will disperse over the crowd in the blackness of night.
The next set of fireworks will be half of the main show. And then another dud. The agent must be dispersed in five minute increments. Too much at once causes shock to the system and then cardiac arrest.
The bacteria, RT9N, move fast. Within twenty seconds of being inhaled or touching skin, it will be zooming through the bloodstream and into the brain. The brain is where it does its damage. Rather than killing brain cells, they excrete an enzyme that merely inhibits use of that part of the brain, therefore rectifiable. The enzyme acts as a barrier.
Because we want to contain the bacteria to a localized area, wind was to be minimal. And it is. Here, up the street, I am safe. What the officer did not notice was that I am wearing a long sleeved shirt and pants. I am also wearing non-porous latex gloves. The mask is also non-porous. He also did not notice the filters in my nostrils. In minutes, I will add goggles to my eyes, and apply a latex putty over of my mouth, which will seal the opening in seconds.
I said I am safe, but one can never be too safe.
*****
They don’t know what is happening. They feel nothing, just as one feels nothing when contracting a cold or flu. Simply, their brain slowly stops functioning in the normal ways.
It has been ten minutes since the release of the bacteria. A man walks by, one pupil dilated while the other is contracted. He gazes around in confusion, spots me, and then turns back.
“I can’t remember where I parked my car.”
“It’s okay,” I reply. “I’ll help you.”
I begin to walk up the street until I spot the setup.
As we get closer, I pull a buck knife from my pocket and push the release button. A blade flies from the handle.
“Take this and kill that boy. Then, I want you to kill yourself.”
The man takes the knife from me, hurries forwards, and begins to stab the wax boy standing in the street. Even though the boy topples over and one of his wax arms breaks off, the man continues to stab it. Finally, when he believes the boy to be dead, he turns the knife on himself, thrusting it first into his throat, and then into his heart.
People around me do not react to this horrific sight. They merely watch.
“I need a glass of water!” I shout.
Within minutes, thirty-six arms are thrusting glasses and bottles of water into my face.
I smile.
I realize that not everyone will have been affected—those that may have been inside, for example—but the bacteria can be transferred by both skin contact and air. Those that are free of it will not be for long.
Within twelve hours, we’ll begin the screening process.
The ones that do not measure up will be given the antibiotic.
The rest will die for their new cause: worldwide government downfall.
Happy Independence Day.
© Lindsay Mawson, 2011

16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge #15: The Fourth of July

  1. @Angela: My goal is to give each and every person on earth a fear… be it fireworks duds or men in latex masks… 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

    @Angie: I sure hope that bacteria is not a real one. I made it up, but if it sounds convincing, great. You should ask your hubby if there could be anything similar. Scary to think about…

  2. @oldestgenxer: That is one of the greatest compliments I've received in a while 🙂 It's actually my favourite part about writing, getting into the head of the antagonist! I had to do it in Stolen Prey and The Lothgoliar, because the books switch points of view, so I've gotten some practice. 😉

  3. It's always disturbing when such a happy scene is juxtaposed with 'sinister doings', and you've got that down perfectly. The very casual way it all unfolds is creepy.

    The scariest bit is that this could happen to us at any time, we'd just be regular people enjoying ourselves and bam! Pawns in a terrorist's twisted game.

    I'm reading this after watching the film about United 93 last night, so it really hit home.

  4. @Epicurean Inkblot: Thank you very much for the compliment. I have brothers that are very much into conspiracy theories, and though I don't really write about it, I wonder now and then what is true or not… and what could happen to us without even realizing it. Part of my most recent novel, Dissecting Dallas, will touch on this.

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