Our Flash Fiction Challenge this week was to generate a title using a random military-operation name generator. Some of them were pretty damned funny. This is what I ended up with: Operation “Narcoleptic Frenzy”. Hence, that is the title to my story, although the story need not have to do with operations of any sort. 1000 words, as usual. Enjoy.
As if I don’t have enough to worry about today. I have a meeting with possible investors, a lunch meeting with a client, and a blind date for dinner.
When my doorman lets the front door of the building close on me as I’m leaving, I am annoyed, but in a rush. I have no time to rebuke the old guy. He probably has arthritis in his fingers or something, let it slip.
I’m preparing my big speech in my head as I rush down to the car awaiting me at the road. Hop in, and Bud is sleeping against the steering wheel.
“Come on, Bud, I gotta be at work in twenty,” I urge. No response. I spend five minutes shaking the driver, calling his name. Each second that passes is a second closer to surety that the guy’s dead.
But then he wakes up. Seems disoriented. But he sees me and knows where he has to go. He steps on it at my request.
We hit the first intersection. I watch a white minivan run a red light and collide with a red Civic. Traffic congests and cars begin trying to sneak around the wreckage. But not Bud.
He’s fallen asleep again.
“Bud!” I shout. I pull the same moves as before, and this time when Bud wakes up, he says nothing, continues driving. “Late night last night?” I ask. Maybe I can force a confession out of the thirty-something driver.
He shakes his head. “He eats the washing.”
Bud’s words make no sense, but I decide to drop it. I have to get this speech down pat and I don’t need anyone else’s problems on my shoulders.
I get to work. Three people are passed out on benches out front. A woman standing outside the front doors with a lit cigarette in her dropped hand is snoring against the glass wall. Now uneasy, I glance at the guy walking into the building beside me. He seems equally unnerved.
“Something going around?” I utter.
The guy shakes his head. “Dunno. Hope I don’t get it. I’ve got—”
He drops to the floor in the alcove, blocking the doorway.
Now I’m concerned. Some people are following me inside, still awake, moving, and I worry about this guy’s safety in the middle of the doorway, so, against better judgement, I haul him into the lobby and leave him. Maybe once I get to my office, things will straighten out.
Except that the receptionist is snoozing in her chair, head tilted back. As I’m passing, she snaps her head up, looks at me, and screams, “The chickens got outta the coop again, Pa!” as if she’s truly shouting across acres of property.
Heart racing, I lunge for my office. Some employees at their desks are sleeping, some are lying on the floor, and some are hesitantly staring at the others, unsure of what to do. I step over my personal assistant, lying by the water cooler with a file in her left hand.
I slam the door and lock it. I can still see out onto the floor, and as I watch, more of my employees are dropping like flies.
I’m just waiting for my turn.
I run to my window, thirty-five floors above the street. Even from up here, I can hear accident after accident. To my left, three cars meshed together are in flames.
The only person I can think to call is my brother. I pick up the phone and press 9 to dial out. No tone. I try a few different things and nothing works.
Try my cell phone. The reception is terrible, and all I can hear from the other line is “Get… tell… said—me at train—your office. Don’t—breathe.”
He hangs up.
I understand don’t breathe. It must be something in the air. I hold my breath, rip open my office door, and dart to Jenny’s desk. She’s always got those doctors’ face masks in her drawer. I find them in the second, loop one around my ears, and inhale.
The train station is only a few blocks from my office. So I run.
I make it to the station in five minutes, hopping over collapsed bodies and avoiding those still standing, running, panicking, and before I can even hurry inside, my brother, Mike, leaps out from the shadows and grabs my shoulders.
He’s wearing a gas mask and he has one for me. “Put this on!”
I rip off my medical mask after taking a deep breath, and pull the giant gas mask over my face. “What the hell is going on?” I shout at Mike.
He shakes his head and pulls me inside the station. Before I know it, we’re in the empty men’s washroom.
“It was all a mistake!” Mike exclaims, huffing. “We were doing trials at the lab. One of the interns was meant to release one canister of this gas called Narcoleptic Frenzy into one specific area of the city. But apparently the guy that was writing the memo’s cat stepped on the keyboard, added two zeros, and he didn’t notice. So they’ve opened one hundred canisters. And, naturally, the wind has carried the gas.”
“What is it?” I demand. “Is it going to kill everyone?”
Mike shakes his head. “Meant to incapacitate, but not kill. In a narcoleptic state. New formula. But with the concentration in the air being what it is, the entire city could be knocked out for weeks if we don’t have a good storm.”
“Weeks?” I shout.
Mike nodded. “We have to get out of the city until they can clean up the mess. Whatever you do, keep that mask on. Some are more susceptible than others, but in the end, it gets us all.”
On our way out of the city, driving a stolen Lexus, another vehicle crashes into us from behind. My head hits the dashboard and the gas mask slips off my face.
I only have enough time to say, “Oh, shi—”
© Lindsay Mawson 2012