Flash Fiction: Wanderlust
What’s this? Flash fiction on a Monday? This doesn’t seem right, not right at all.
But perhaps it represents an act of contrition. Perhaps the author has been lax, of late, has failed to write or post any fiction to this blog for some time. Shall we say four weeks? I believe we shall.
And perhaps the form that this act of contrition will take is the posting of a piece of flash fiction every day of this coming week, up to and including the now-traditional Friday, thereby restoring the karmic, fictitious balance for 2009.
Perhaps the level of quality demanded of the form this act takes may drop as a result of such pressures, but certainly the spirit of experimentation, the desire to push the authorial self, is as it should be in the established tradition of Friday flash fiction.
We shall see.
We shall see if the author can meet his own deadlines, yes?
The newcomer leans back in his seat and puts his feet up on the crumpled body of its previous occupant. He examines his long fingernails, picking at the dirt beneath them as he peers down an equine nose. The clothing hanging off his dapper frame is plain and weather-worn. His demeanour is old-aristocratic, the epitome of arrogance.
Bob Sebold, by contrast, could not seem more tense. He sits poker-straight in his high-backed leather seat, behind a heavy and wide mahogany desk, inside the office that bears his name on its glass door. The shutters are closed and no one can see his own nails digging into the arms of his chair, or the whiteness of his skin that is ghostlier than the unnatural pallor of his visitor.
‘I’ve walked everywhere on Earth,’ Bob’s uninvited guest tells him. He turns his attention away from his hands, crossing them behind his head after brushing silver-grey hair away from his face. ‘Yes, I imagine that there is nowhere left that I have not been.’
Bob is silent in his terror, and the aristocratic man’s thin lips spread in a tight smile of satisfaction. ‘Oh please, relax. I’ve no intention of harming you. Why not have a brandy? Port? You must have something.’
He stands and walks around behind Bob, who can only watch him until he is out of sight, blinking as sweat salts his eyes. Bob can hear glass clinking and the gentle pop as a decanter is uncorked.
The pale aristocrat reappears and delicately places a glass of amber liquid on the desk before his host. He has a second glass in his hand and retakes his seat. Bob doesn’t take his attention away from the man’s face, even as he leans back and places his Italian leather shoes back upon that grisly impromptu footrest.
‘Have a drink, Bob. Now, I was telling you of my travels. There’s nowhere to begin, in truth, so long have I travelled. I’ve walked and clambered to the peaks of every mountain worthy of the name. I’ve walked the trails blazed by Alexander the Great and every general and warlord who ever lived, and walked beside many of them. I’ve explored caves never witnessed by the eyes of men.’
He leans forward for emphasis as he adds: ‘In many I lay broken and silent in the dark, waiting as my spine re-knit itself after a fall. I was alone, climbing without ropes or artificial light.’
With a grin, the aristocrat leans back. ‘I’ve walked beneath the seas, fending off the Earth’s other great predators as I travelled toward those deepest crevasses. There lies one of my greatest regrets, for even I cannot resist the unstoppable force of pressure. But I’ve seen with my own eyes sights that marine biologists could only dream of.’
He smacks his lips. ‘I’ve fed upon every people and beast that ever walked, crawled, flew or swam.’
‘I’ve walked the streets as cities grew; seen villages become metropolises. I’ve dallied with poets and doxies and artists, connived with politicians and conmen, fought with soldiers and murderers and idealogues.’
‘I’ve seen everything that this world has to offer. And this, Bob, is where you come in.’
He reaches out to Bob’s desk and picks up a thin sliver of cardboard. Turning it, he holds it up so that Bob can read his own businesscard: Bob Sebold. Chief Executive Officer, Solarsail Space Tourism.
The aristocrat smiles again. ‘Of course, I’ll need some rather special supplies to be brought on board. And the radiation shielding! It will have to be step above the norm, as you can imagine. Not to mention the accident that you’ll need to arrange to drop me on another planet. Shall we say Mars? The Red Planet has always rather appealed to me.’
One of Bob’s fingernails cracks and leaves a splinter dug into the arm of his chair. Blood trickles down his chin from where his teeth are biting into his lip. The aristocrat watches the blood flow, and runs a tongue over his lips.
‘This is going to be the beginning of a wonderful business arrangement, Bob.’