Friday, August 10, 2012

Terrible Minds Challenge: "Louder Than Anything"

Chuck Wendig, the best hope for a US medal in penmonkery in a generation, issued another Flash Fiction Challenge this week, 1000 words with one of three sentences provided as your lead. This story is called "Louder Than Anything".

Everyone else remembers it as the day the saucers came, but I remember it as the day a man in a suit shot my father. It wasn't normal for a 37 year old man to live with his father, but he was the only person who would take me in. He lived by the side of a busy highway in a crappy apartment that used to be a lousy hotel room. There were three rooms, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a living room with a kitchenette, but neither of us needed much. He paid rent and bought sandwich fixings, lottery tickets, and whiskey with his pension check, and when I managed to sell a story somewhere for enough money that my ex didn't take it all , I treated us both to a diner meal.

I had been up late, so I was asleep when it started. He was an early riser, because 48 years of punching a clock didn't leave you overnight, but he was kind enough most days to step outside to let me get a few more Zs. I dimly remember hearing the door open and shut again, then just as quickly open again.

"Steven!," my father said. "Get up! You have to see this!"

We were men, so we didn't talk much. "Do you want the rest of these chips?" was a monologue. So it was surprising for him to say that much. I swam my way up into consciousness, and fumbled for my glasses.

"See what, Dad? What's going on?"

"Just get up so I know I'm not dreaming. Great Caesar's Ghost, I've never seen anything like this."

I found my glasses, jammed them on my face and stumbled to the door. To say I was struck dumb, or stunned, or taken aback by what I saw is to do great violence to the language. There was a golden metal disc, maybe as long across as a semi trailer, floating in the air, as if Sir Isaac Newton had never been born, maybe 30 feet above the dirt patch that served as a parking lot for the inaptly named Chateau Apartments. It was making hardly any noise- a gentle hum, lower in pitch and somehow smoother than the regular drone from the highway. There were also four smaller discs, the same yellow color, about the width of a small car, that were floating around the larger one in tight concentric circles. The only thought I could form at first was, "no wonder he didn't say what it was. I'm not sure I could describe it either."

The cars on the highway weren't stopping- either they couldn't see it between the tree cover, or it was such a bizarre sight they convinced themselves they hadn't seen it. I looked briefly around the parking lot. There didn't seem to be anyone else around, save for Mr. Patel, who emerged blinking from the office, which was really just the nicest and largest of the apartments. None of us said anything, staring up at the floating discs, wondering when Michael Bay had taken over directing our lives.

I heard screeching, followed by the rumble and grind of tires on dirt. Suddenly the lot was filling with police cars, lights flashing, and other official looking sedans. Men and women in black suits started pouring out of the cars, the police mostly staring up at the discs, the suits fanning out quickly, knocking on doors, moving with brisk efficiency.

A man and a woman walked up to my father and I. The man looked sweaty, skinny and blonde with some stubble, a messy haircut and looking uneasy. The woman seemed much cooler, shorter than him but boxy in that way women do when they won't buy the right size. Her dark hair was pinned back and her face and square shoulders were all purpose.

"Uh, er, FBI," the man stammered. "Do you have any telecommunications devices?"

I thought about lying, or demanding ID, or saying anything, really, but the woman swept in behind me, snagging my ancient laptop from my duffel bag, and coming back out to stand behind her partner.

"I have to take this," she said. "You'll get it back."

That seemed to rouse my father from his stupor. "Who are you," he snarled. "You can't do this." He was a pot smoker from way back, and he instinctively distrusted authority.

"We're the FBI, sir," the woman said calmly. "We can do this, and we will. National security. Your son will get his laptop back. I promise."

"Fuck you, promise," my father said, and took a step towards the two. He was as gentle as a butterfly, but years of working with his hands made him look menacing. "Show us some ID or hit the streets, fuzz."

The dorky one took a step back, drawing a weapon from a shoulder holster, his manner suddenly smooth as glass, his hands rock steady. "Take two steps back, sir," the kid said loudly. "Right now, sir." I didn't know guns, but it was black, and full of menace.

"You think a gun scares me, boy?," my father said loudly. He took another step towards the pair. "I was shooting people before your Daddy got his hands inside your Mama's shirt. Now show me some-"

His words were cut off by an explosion from the kid's gun. It was loud, louder than it seemed like anything had any right to be. I heard a wet smacking sound, and part of my father's chest seemed to dissolve and become a dark hole. I heard my father's shuffling footstep as he took a step backwards, still looking at the kid, then fell over onto one side and let out a moan. "Jesus Christ, Thompson," the woman said.


  1. You've got the beginning of a good book there...

  2. All those mistrusting authority pot smokers....

    Love it.

    Keep writing.

  3. I like it, although it reads more like an opening chapter than a story unto itself. Are you planning to write more of this?

    You have so awesome lines here. Some of my favourites:
    - "Do you want the rest of these chips?" was a monologue.
    - None of us said anything, staring up at the floating discs, wondering when Michael Bay had taken over directing our lives.


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