Welcome to the Spot Writers’ weekly flash fiction post. This month’s prompt is “into the void.” Today’s post comes from Val Muller, author of the YA reboot The Scarred Letter, a tale about bullying and standing for the truth when the rest of the world wants to live a lie.
Into the Void by Val Muller
He glanced up in the dancing candlelight. HISTORY AND MECHANICS OF ROMAN AQUEDUCTS glared down at him. The way the light flickered against the red hardcover was almost an indictment. He had blood on his hands.
Or, in them, rather.
He shook off the guilt and paused while another generator started down the street. Then he stuffed another cheese puff in his mouth and started a new round of Gem Craze on his phone. Of all the things left to him, it had to be Gem Craze. Of course it couldn’t be a game that required the Internet.
The Internet was dead.
Along with every other modern comfort.
He shifted his feet, knocking the stack of now-empty portable cell phone chargers. He was on his last one. And now his low-battery indicator came on, dimming his screen.
Probably four games left. Three if he made it past level 12.
Outside, an explosion sounded in the distance. He told himself it was probably a generator starting, but he knew it was more likely a gunshot. Water was scarce these days. The experts were right: three days was all it took for society to collapse. There were still those with generators, of course. People would still run their well pumps for weeks. Months, even. Hell, there were probably preppers out there who could last years.
But the majority of society? They were done for. Water couldn’t operate without electricity, and the blast had taken out all the major devices. Power plants were dead. Transformers were dead. Only the small electronics survived. Useless ones.
Unless you were a history-geek-computer-nerd named Rellington. In this new world, Rell would no longer be the misfit he was in life. He would be sought after, bribed, wined-and-dined (on bottled water and canned goods), and praised until he chose loyalties and shared his genius. With his knowledge of Roman engineering, he could orchestrate the building of non-powered water transportation systems. With his knowledge of science and basic electricity, he could construct simple devices—transformers, generators—that could carry society through the estimated ten years it would take to restore all power plants to working order. A decade he would be sought after. A decade.
At least that’s what the estimates said before all the television stations went dark.
But here he was, playing Gem Craze for going on forty-eight hours now. And why?
He thought back to prom. How many girls had he asked, and all of them politely declined. Their faces all blushed when he asked them. And there he’d worked himself the courage to ask in front of everyone, hoping his bravery would be rewarded.
At least they weren’t rude.
And then there was the instance of every single time he tried to keep a conversation going. Most people talked about stuff like clothes or politics. Who spoke of computer programming systems or the reliability of Pliny in communicating details about ancient society?
His online dating profile always caught him a few first dates each month, but they never moved beyond that. Because, really, no one wanted a nerd.
But how would he handle it? All those people looking at him to help them, all those people who would now see his embarrassing knowledge as lifesaving. How would he handle the attention?
He stuffed another cheese puff into his mouth. Maybe he could just hide in his living room until everything settled. It would be easier to waste away into dust than…socialize.
His screen beeped. Five percent battery. Phone was critical. This was the last hand of Gem Craze until the generators were fixed.
That is, until he went out and helped fix them.
He lowered his feet from the coffee table and stood from the couch, brushing cheese puff crumbs from his Doctor Who shirt. He smiled. I’ll be like The Doctor now, he thought. The savior of humanity.
At the front door, he heard voices. Lots of voices. People were out there talking, talking over each other, trying to figure this thing out. He cleared his throat and practiced what he would say, but only a squeak came out. His phone beeped in his hand one final time, powering itself down. Rell returned to the living room and grabbed his copy of HISTORY AND MECHANICS OF ROMAN AQUEDUCTS. Then he blew out the candle and hurried out the front door before he lost his resolve and forced himself into the void that was his duty to fill.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
RC Bonitz: http://www.rcbonitz.com
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Tom Robson: https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com
Have you read The Spot Writers’ new book? Check out the just-released Remy’s Choice, a novella based on a story we wrote a while back. It’s available at Amazon for only $1.99 e-book and $5.99 print. Remy, just out of a relationship gone wrong, meets handsome Jeremy, the boy next door. Jeremy exudes an air of mystery, and he seems to be everything she’s looking for. While Remy allows herself to indulge in the idea of love at first site, she realizes she’s the girl next door according to her boss, Dr. Samuel Kendrick.