flash fiction: tran

Tue Jun-3rd-2014 // Filed under: Flash Fiction

It’s been crazy busy at work, so it’s been a little longer between stories than I originally planned, but now I’ve got the flu, and thus I have time to get into this again. There may be a slight fever dream quality about this one, but I’m not sure if that’s the result of illness as much as it is just the natural result of the opening line, submitted by Risto Paalanen, who knows what I like and where to find bad things that are very, very good: “After the last heaves subsided, he wiped his chin and looked at the gently pulsating mess of tissue with a profound feeling of fatherly love.”

Lovely. I hope I did it justice.


Tran

After the last heaves subsided, he wiped his chin and looked at the gently pulsating mess of tissue with a profound feeling of fatherly love. The fleshy glob twitched on the concrete, making wet sounds in the puddle of clear slime, steaming gently in the cold air of the parking garage. Tran was on all fours, pulse hammering in his ears, gazing down at it. He was weak; his arms shook from supporting his weight, but he didn’t want to stop looking at what he’d made. So he stared at it until his head swam and drool dripped from his mouth, and then he finally sucked in a breath, sweet oxygen flooding his aching lungs.

His arms couldn’t take it anymore, so he toppled to his side, laid his cheek against the rough floor, felt it suck the heat from his naked skin. It felt good. He felt like he was burning up. There was an afterspasm, and a little more of the slime gushed into his mouth. It didn’t taste like anything. He spat it out.

As if in response, the glob jerked again, and he laughed, his throat raw. The glob uncoiled itself, reached out with half a dozen tendrils, probing the steaming air around it. They elongated, grew thinner; he could see a network of vein-like channels inside the tissue. The glob was changing color. It had been red before, the color of fresh blood, but now it was growing lighter, pinkish. The tendrils felt around, looking for something. Tran didn’t know what, but he smiled encouragingly.

Tran wanted to scoop it up into his arms. He reached for it, but a pang of fear hit him. It’s so delicate, he thought. He looked at his big, clumsy hands. Sausage fingers, the girls at the office said. The glob sensed his presence, and the tendrils turned towards his hand, stretched out, an inch away from his fingertips. Tran imagined squeezing it to death by accident. His breath caught. He yanked his hand back.

“Sorry, buddy,” he whispered. “It’s okay. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

The tendrils slowly retreated, resumed their blind probing. Tran could feel its disappointment.

“You’re gonna grow up big and strong. You’ll see.” It was hard to speak with his cheek against the concrete.

He heard footsteps echoing somewhere in the parking garage, coming closer. He didn’t move.

There was a voice. “Hey, mister? You okay?”

Go away, Tran thought.

“Hey, man, you know you’re naked?” the voice said. “What’s up?”

That’s right, Tran thought, I took off my clothes. Suddenly, he was very cold.

He felt a hand on his arm. Somebody rolled him on his back. He looked up, saw white teeth and white eyes floating in an ocean of darkness. He blinked, and they turned into a dark face. It was a man in overalls. The parking garage attendant, Tran remembered.

“Catch your death lying here with your dick out,” the man said. “You drunk or crazy?”

Tran didn’t answer. The man stared at him, nodded to himself.

“Yeah, okay, I see you gonna need help. Sit tight, I’m calling 911, okay?”

“No,” Tran said, his voice raspy. He cleared his throat, but that turned into a coughing spasm. He managed to sit up, and more slime came out, splashing his stomach and thighs.

The man took a step back to avoid the torrent. He looked alarmed. “Ohhh, shit, that’s… that’s fucked up, man. You’re real sick. Hey, you’re not contagious, are you?”

Tran shook his head. He drew a ragged breath and wiped his face with his forearm. He turned to look at the glob. It had turned almost a pure white, with just a few faint red streaks here and there. The tendrils had retreated almost completely. It was just a lump again. It was hardly moving at all.

Fear for its wellbeing churned in Tran’s innards. He whimpered. It didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem right at all.

The man had taken his phone out, but he followed Tran’s gaze, finally noticed the glob. “What’s that?” he said. He leaned a little closer, then recoiled. “Oh, what the fuck, it’s moving.

The man hesitated, then raised a boot to crush the glob, and Tran’s fear turned into blind rage. He launched himself off the concrete in bright red fury, collided with the man. The man went down. He was skinny; Tran was beefy, even if most of it wasn’t muscle.

Tran ended up on top. He straddled the man, his thighs slick with the slime, and caught his hair in both hands. Tran felt fingers at his face, at his throat; he ignored them, yanked the head savagely up, then smashed it down into the concrete. There was a smack, and the man howled; Tran did it again, and again, and again, and on the fifth time, there was a sound like a carton of eggs dropping, and the man went limp. Tran looked into his eyes, saw nothing; the man gurgled and foamed at the mouth, and Tran’s fury retreated.

He rolled off the man, crawled towards the thing he’d carried inside his body. It was gray, now, and completely still. He reached a shaking hand towards it. The tendrils didn’t rise up to greet him. When his fingertips brushed it, it was cold and dead.

Tran howled, then, and curled up into a ball, the cold seeping into his bones.

Later, the woman finally found him. She looked down at him, her eyes hard, the promise he’d seen in them when they’d first met long gone.

“Why?” Tran said, his teeth chattering. “Why? I loved it. I would’ve done anything.”

She sighed. She spoke as if to a child. “It died of exposure, you idiot. You let it freeze.”

A hole opened up inside him. His vision blurred with tears. “But I couldn’t,” he said, and showed her his big, clumsy hands.

She clicked her tongue in disgust, and aimed the gun at his head.

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