Flash Fiction: This is...


I gazed into the table’s woodgrain finish where patterns danced and jiggled as he talked. The smile in his voice provided a strange sense of security, and the way he annunciated each word, revealed his education. I shifted my weight and made an attempt to steal a glimpse of is face only to be met by meet John’s meaty hand. Walloped on the side of the head with heavy sausage fingers. A dull thunk that didn’t hurt, but got my attention. Like a car whose driver drifted off into sleep and woke at the sound of the tires vibrating against the corrugated safety lane, I snapped my eyes back to the table.

There was never a doubt about what brought us all together. No one liked it, but there wasn’t much we could do, so we all listened. I tried to keep my thoughts on the table, or if they drifted to my family, to knowing that they were taken care of and my son would never have to go through this. I could see John’s massive boot surrounded by black scuff marks on the laminate flooring. The barrel of his SIG516 pointed downward at a trajectory that would leave me with a broken femur if it discharged.

I listened to The Man’s singsong voice more than I listened to what he was saying. I had been in John’s position many times, smacking down the ones who thought they should look at a man who didn’t want to be looked at. I understood why. It’s not an easy job, and when someone looks directly at you, it makes it a lot harder to carry out, so I followed orders, feeling a little like a fish in a black bowl. The light to the left of me would flicker occasionally, catching people off guard. I’d hear the same dull thwack I received just moments earlier.

My thoughts once again drifted to my wife—to all the wasted time. The things we could have done, but never actually did, sometimes out of laziness sometimes out of exhaustion. And, sometimes just the human condition of assuming that there’s more time to do more things together.

The time doing nothing was good though. Just lazing the day away each reading our own books. We enjoyed that too. Someone sniffed and I snapped back into the present. It was just a sniff. No one was crying in this group. That was good. I always hated the cryers. They get everyone riled up. One cryer can turn a whole room into a massive mushy water park.

Then I heard the words I had heard so many times before, “Boys, we do this for the betterment of humanity. For our families. Our friends. And, most of all, for our future.”

John’s boot was gone, there was that distinct sound of the door closing and sealing, and then came the hiss of the gas as it forced its way through the pipes.


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