Friday, April 01, 2011
Flash Fiction - Short Post-Apocalyptic Noir
As she watched the cab meter slowly tick upward in increments of forty cents, she reached into her coat pocket and lovingly thumbed over the paltry heap of change that remained.
The loose bills were few and had been saved only by her decision to exchange her dinner for a few minutes of warmth. Only a bit more and I’ll have to tell him to stop, she thought bitterly.
She shuddered at the thought of going back out into the bitter cold that had the city in its deadly grasp, but she had no choice. She would have to fight with the other women who had been driven to similar desperation for the few dollars that their “clients” could afford to spend on such temporary distractions from the dying world around them. She shuddered even harder.
“You wanna tell me where yer goin’, lady?”
“Just head toward the center of the city. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
The cabby looked into his mirror and saw her eyes focused on the meter as he spoke and smiled grimly. This was not the first time one of the girls had sought out his cab for relief from the ever-present winter. Suppressing a sneer he flipped down his visor pretending to search for an elusive piece of paper while intentionally showing her the wad of cash he stored there. He always kept a large amount on hand for the occasions when he would need bribe money. He watched his mirror for the moment her eyes would register the stash and betray the cold mask she wore for the look of pain that was always underneath.
His battle with the sneer was lost as her eyes were torn from the meter and to the visor with a look of helpless rage and despair. Before the war he’d never have be able to imagine that such an expression would become a common greeting for the eyes that passed one another on the streets. As for now, the only thing left was to take advantage of it where he could.
She dropped her head as she blinked back the tears. What he had tucked into his visor had to have been less than $100, but to her now it seemed a fortune. So many memories of her life before the war had been washed away like a dream she clung to as she awoke, but she could still remember a time when she’d carried purses worth more than that without a second thought. Suddenly, she felt more desperate than ever and a secret resolve in her flared into life. Had this strength always been there, hiding deep within instincts civilization had buried with laws and etiquette?
Feeling that he’d seen his opening the cabby shut his visor and clicked his tongue, feigning sympathy. “Now don’t you worry about it, little lady. I’ll bet we can work out something to keep you warm in here for a while, and maybe even get you a little something extra for yer trouble, if you know what I mean.”
Unable to hold a straight face, his sneer widened into a chubby grin. Until he smiled, the dirt might have been mistaken for an unshaven chin, but the grisly leer he wore forced the filth into the crevices and was now unmistakable. She said nothing in response but felt herself steeling her reserve, being careful not to question it lest it left her when she needed it most. Would she really be able to?
He started pulling over to the curb and patted the seat beside him, believing he had made her an offer she was in no position to refuse. “Why don’t you come sit up here by me an’ we can make a deal, huh?”
She heard her own voice agree but all she could think of was the tiny blade she wore in the ankle of her worn out boots for her own protection. Sudden panic gripped her as she thought about what she had planned to do. Justification came no less quickly.
I have to have that money, I’ll die without it!
As she gathered her strength she deftly slid her hand across her blade to reaffirm its presence, drawing strength from its cold steel as she left the back seat of the cab. She stole a quick glimpse of her reflection in the passenger window of the front seat before she opened it and smoothed down her matted and graying hair. It was a reflection she could no longer recognize. So this is what a murderer looks like, she thought grimly. Heaving one last sigh she climbed in.
Alexandra had been beautiful once.
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