Prompt: Crime, A Beast, A Golf Club, “It’s your fault.”, The story takes place two-hundred years from now, Francisco Sowles, 40 Years Old, Extremely Tall, Pale, Bald, Shy Eyes, Slim Build, Boring Personality, Grew Up Amish, 900 Words
It was a dark and stormy night… ok, not really. It was night, but about as boring a night as it could get, which suited Francisco just fine. It was his birthday today, and he was silently counting down the minutes until midnight, rejoicing under his perpetual mask of indifference that no one was the wiser. Forty, exactly how many birthdays he’d endured and how many minutes until midnight, clocking out, and concluding his predictable daily schedule.
In his twenty-three years away from home, he had come to know the hedonistic world of technology. Though he might never admit it, his parents were right that a simpler life led to a purer, happier existence. It was too late for him to return now, though, so instead, he kept his head down and employed technology per the minimal amount dictated by the current Social Commander. He posted daily to his online food diary, reported his basic activities in real-time, commented on top stories, and a myriad of other user quotas.
Five, four, three, two- Francisco mashed the logout button right as the power went out. Did it take? A droplet of sweat trickled past his graying eyebrow. It was against the law to leave without logging out. Stasis settled tensely over the station.
Power outages in social stations were unheard-of since the government restructured under Social Media rule nearly two hundred years ago. They drilled monthly for this sort of emergency, with a weekly rotation of response lead. Francisco seemed to draw the short straw more than his fair share. He had served his rotation last week, but with Jenkins on first offense probation, Francisco was obligated to fill-in.
Grudgingly, he slunk down the hall to the generator safe room and cracked his forehead on the door frame in the Cimmerian darkness. He swayed a moment to the soundless tune of the stars dancing in his vision. As they cleared, the dim luminescence of Francisco’s presence settled slowly into place. He detected a muffled sound beyond his stuttered breathing and drumfire heart. What is that?
A soft shuffle slid over from his right, then a brief swish followed by an explosion of pain in the back of his head. A moment of clarity defied the concussive shock. “Jenkins?” He croaked out, for only Jenkins would have known to aim a blow at Francisco’s height.
Jenkins dropped the weaponized nine iron with a muttered curse.
“What are you doing?!” Francisco demanded as he stumbled against the shelving in front of him.
“Walk away, Sowles.”
Francisco detected a hint of desperation from his deviant counterpart, but pain and a perversely hopeful curiosity kept him rooted to the spot. Whispers of treason had circulated over the past few days; however, they were indistinct and labeled “low level.” It did seem odd that Jenkins was pulled from his desk without any followup story postings, though. Most people put on probation were advertised throughout their social groups as failing to meet one or more quotas for the cycle. It was yet another reason Francisco labored through his postings; meeting quotas was the only way to obtain even a semblance of anonymity. Minimums kept you out of the daily stories and allowed you to blend into the noise of millions of societal postings.
Francisco could sense a tremor in the air and suspected Jenkins was twitching in crazed agitation. “This is your fault. Your fault. My fault. His fault. Everyone’s fault.” Jenkins was on a jittery rant, repeating his obscure chorus line, increasing in volume, fervor, and impatience with each echo of “fault.”
“What fault, Jenkins? What specific fault?” Francisco tentatively asked, working to lure Jenkins back to sane conversation.
“The beast!” Jenkins exclaimed. “The beast has us! Its jaws are crushing, crushing, crushing…” His voice faded as lucidity slid back into place. “I can’t take it anymore, Sowles. This isn’t,” he paused, tasting the foreign acidity of his words, “normal.”
“But what is normal, Jenkins?”
“Anything but this!” Jenkins answered. “You know I’m right, Sowles. You have to know I’m right!”
“Yes,” Francisco confirmed self-consciously; he could only hope no one was listening in. “What do you intend to do?”
“I’m going to dismantle this abomination one station at a time, starting with this cursed hub!”
The discordant sound of a nine iron scraping the floor announced Jenkins’ intention, followed by a metallic clang and the clatter of plastic debris littering the linoleum. It was the most terrifyingly beautiful thing Francisco had ever heard.
“Intentional Destruction of Social Media Property,” flashed through all social media Story feeds, layered menacingly over Francisco Sowles profile image, followed by “TREASON,” and then “Live Stream Hanging to Air at Noon.”
An image of Jenkins captioned: “Local Hero Catches Criminal in the Act” dominated the Story feed next.
Prompt pulled from www.TheStoryShack.com. Note, as in previous mini-stories, not every element of the prompt has been incorporated; however, a valiant effort has been made towards 100% compliance. Also, I am in search of outside input for future stories, so please drop me a line in the comments section!
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t inform the reader that the images of “Francisco” and “Jenkins” are truly those of my brothers. I’d say that I couldn’t help myself but to “cast” them in these roles, but truly I clearly have helped myself! Haha!