Flash Fiction Extra: Coffee with Sugar

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Three Word Wednesday and will be cross-posted later this week at Weekend Writer's Retreat. It is not part of the novel and it contains no spoilers. Be sure to drop by Three Word Wednesday or Weekend Writer's Retreat for more fun!

The stark concrete building didn't look promising, but that was why David had chosen it.

He heaved a chunk of concrete through a window, then used a piece of pipe to break out the jagged edges of glass still clinging to the frame. He scrambled inside and found himself in a musty office full of cluttered metal desks and vinyl chairs on rollers. Suppressing a smile of satisfaction, he began working the room, checking desk drawers for aspirin, batteries, and snacks that hadn't been nibbled by rodents. From a small table, he swiped a lidded glass jar full of candy. He found a plastic bag and dumped his goods inside. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

He went into the hall and tried the door of the next room. Locked. What had the grownups been thinking? Did they not care that the young survivors would need access to every resource? Had they really been so deeply in denial, or was it just habit that made them lock everything up tight?

He tried a few more doors and was relieved when one opened into an employee break room. The refrigerator was off limits, no doubt full of mold after so many months without electricity, but the packets of sugar and coffee were a gold mine. David dumped them into his bag, hardly daring to believe his luck. With these, he could buy his way into a new tribe - one less violent than the Kevorks, who had taken to killing each other over the slightest drug and alcohol-fueled provocation, when they bothered with an excuse at all.

With the bag slung over his shoulder, he went back into the hallway, so deep in his own thoughts he didn't notice the boy until it was too late. David took the full force of the body blow and felt the bag torn from his grasp. He recovered and gave chase, but the boy had a good head start. There was no way David could catch up, but the boy didn't know the building any better than he did and suddenly they were both at a dead end, facing a defunct elevator.

David grabbed the boy and shoved him against the wall. "You worthless little shit. Thought jumping someone else for their goods was easier than finding your own?"

The boy gasped and squirmed, but didn't answer.

In David's pocket was a switchblade, and he flicked it open with one hand and pressed it against the boy's throat. "Who're you with? Did you follow me?"

"I'm alone. I live here." The boy's voice was barely a squeak.

"Liar. Don't play the victim with me. You think I'm not wise to your tricks?"

The boy protested again, but David had no patience for excuses. He plunged his blade into the boy's neck, the first time just to enjoy the look of surprise on his face, then again and again until he found the artery to kill him quickly.

With that messy business finished, he wiped the knife clean on his pants, picked up his bag and looked around. Were there others here? It was unlikely, but after this he couldn't be sure, and no way was he going to hang around any longer as bait and temptation to kids less enterprising than himself. He had what he needed. With coffee and sugar, he was rich.

If you enjoyed this story, check the sidebar, where you'll find the serialized novel, more flash fiction (including prequels), and other fun Steal Tomorrow stuff.


Ramesh Sood said...

Well, the violent end.. somehow..couldn't really grasp the idea.. if it's a part of something , then perhaps.. yet found language very smooth and interesting...written well..

Thom Gabrukiewicz said...

wow, this was stark and brutal, a bit different form your other offerings, I think. But it makes a point, it shows the desperation of the times you've created with this world.

K said...

As someone intimately familiar with this story, it totally fits, violence and all. You know Ann, after reading the entire story, there is really very little that David could do that would surprise me.
The writing here is smooth and easy to read and conveys the desperation and bleakness of the situation to a T.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Wow. I didn't think David would actually do it, given his disdain just a moment before for the violence the other Kevorks have fallen into.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

@Susan: David isn't concerned with violence in general, so much as the way his fellow Kevorks are starting to turn on each other. He only looks out for himself, and he's in danger from the members of his own tribe.

Dee Martin said...

it underscores David's cruelty and selfishness. It fits well.

Thomma Lyn said...

Wow -- gritty and harsh, just like David. Great job - this tale underscores the desperation felt by the young people in such difficult times.

Jay R. Thurston said...

After reading a many installments from this world, I have to say it is good to see how various personalities highlighted in your story are going about things quite differently in the face of crisis. Dave seems more on the "reckless abandon" side of the spectrum. Always great to read from Steal Tomorrow (and Maelstrom of course)!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

@Jay: That was one of my goals with the ST project: to explore the very different ways people would react to catastrophe. Having only young people survive opened up additional possibilities, since adults would've had more preconceptions of how things ought to be.

Alice Audrey said...

Yeah. He bad.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

I was taken by surprise, but still - I liked how David enjoyed the surprised look on the other boy's face. Creepy and riveting.

Matt Merritt said...

Brutal. Cold. Even more so because I was surprised by his brutality. It's a smooth read. Thanks.

dolorah said...

I was surprised by the brutality of the ending. Survival makes for interesting choices.

This is my first time here; and its so different from the Maelstrom novel. I love how versatile your writing is.

But the character building I've come to enjoy about your writings is still present. Well done.


PS: how cool. my word verif is: coment. :)