Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flash Fiction: Accursed Encyclopedia

I'm challenging myself to participate in more writing challenges this year and so I'm finally getting around to posting this even though I wrote it the other day. 
Formatting. So difficult. Very lazy. 
(Also, hating all the words. That was going on, too.) 
At this rate I'm just happy that I finished something.

This was from Chuck Wendig's terribleminds blog Flash Fiction Challenge: "Roll for Title"
I got 3 and 12, Accursed Encyclopedia...and here we go.

Accursed Encyclopedia

Marlisa passed by the first row of shelves in the theater’s old storeroom. With her hands on her hips, she gazed into the near darkness. Her usual outfit, baggy jeans and black tank top, played up the harshness of her buzz cut blonde hair.

“You know they have this thing called Google.” Penance used her cellphone as a beacon to lead to the light switch.

“Too much work. I was told that if I find this book it will tell me all I need to know. So I can do this term paper without really doing it, and focus on getting my drink on the rest of the night. I just have to open it, and—” Marlisa closed her eyes as the lights flickered on all at once. “Magic.”

“Good luck.” Penance turned for the stairs. Her dyed black and red hair and short black slip dress caught her momentum.

“Don’t go anywhere, cookie pants. I got the magic words.”

“If you think you can call me—”

Marlisa clapped her hands. “Enkuklios paideia.”

Something crashed in the distance and Marlisa ran for it. Penance pursued her. They hopped over sagging cardboard boxes and darted through the maze of shelves. Marlisa hoisted up a downed shelf to find several dozen books and a couple spilled boxes of miscellanea. One book sat open, shimmering like its pages were sprinkled with phosphorescent glitter. They stared at it. Marlisa knelt by the pile, reaching her hand just over the book’s pages. The shadows of her fingers grazed the surface. And it was gone.

Penance looked up. Glass shattered. The book had flown away, bashing through a blackout-painted window. She peered outside through the hole. “It’s on the sidewalk across the street. You know…I don’t think we should let anyone else get ahold of that book.”

By the time they exited the building and crossed the street, the book wasn’t where it had been, and the street was relatively empty except for the occasional passing car. Most of the storefronts were dark or abandoned.

“Fuck, man, now what?” Marlisa peered into an alleyway. “Where can a book go?”

“You saw it. I’d say it goes wherever it wants.” Penance lit a cigarette, and motioned towards the café tables further down the block where a couple people sat outside. “We could ask them.”

As they walked, they looked for any sign of the wayward book. The gutters were all rocks, trash and greasy splotches. But once they got within sight of the café Marlisa’s steps slowed.

Penance was more enthusiastic. “Hey, is that—

“I’m not talking to that asshole. Plus, he already thinks I spend my free time banging rocks together.”

“Well, maybe if you say you’re looking for a book he’ll change his mind.”

“I don’t need to impress pretentious Goths.”

The man in question had shoulder-length black hair and black eyeliner. He wore a charcoal suit with a grey tie. He read a newspaper, not paying attention to them as they approached. Penance saw it first, turned back to Marlisa and said, “You might have to.”

On his table under the demitasse of espresso sat the old leather-bound book. Worn letters in Greek visible on the spine. It no longer shimmered now that the pages were closed.

Marlisa wasn’t going to waste time with formalities as she approached the table. She pointed as she said, “That’s my book.”

He lowered the newspaper and looked at her. “The gutter is a funny place to leave an antique book.”

“Well, I’m an avant-garde artist. It’s part of a project. And you’re just—“

Penance stepped between them and put her hand on the table. “Hello, Alistair.”

His expression lightened, no longer prepared to scowl and escalate as far as possible. “How are you today, Penance?”

Penance smiled. “I’m good.”

“I doubt that.”

“Yeah, yeah… that’s sooo funny after the fiftieth time.” Marlisa butted in. “The book’s not yours.”
He tilted his head, resting his chin on his hand. “Perhaps I can be persuaded…”

“I don’t got time for this shit. Here you go.” Marlisa grabbed Penance by the shoulders and pulled her down to sit in the chair across from Alistair.

“I think trading people for goods is illegal.”

“I’m trading services for goods.”

“Hey, I don’t think so.” Penance glared at Marlisa.

Alistair smirked and looked back at his newspaper. “Some friends you have.”

“I was just talking about time, not services. And at least she has friends, freak.”

He crumpled the newspaper closed on his lap. “You’ve convinced me. Now, I really want to give you this book back.”

“It doesn’t belong to you anyway.”

“Maybe I like it, and I did find it. Besides, Penance would sit with me anyway, so you’ve pretty much given me nothing in exchange for what you want from me.”

Penance forced an exaggerated frown. “Do you really think I’m nothing?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

Marlisa threw her hands up in exasperation. “Gah…such a dick. You better give me that book and buy her dinner and flowers and a pony to make up for being so mean.”

He sighed, moved his espresso cup and held up the book with an indifferent flourish. Marlisa reached for it, and as the book changed hands, it was gone again. Alistair stared at where the book had been. Marlisa did too. They looked like they were bewildered by each other. Glass shattered in the distance.

Penance clapped her hands. “I am so nailing these magic tricks today.”

“Yeah. Right.” Marlisa looked down the street toward the nearest crash. “Waste of fucking time!”

Penance yelled after her, “I think all you needed to know was that you need to do your own homework. How’s that for magic?”

Marlisa held her hand up over her head, issuing a one-finger salute before following the book.

Penance slumped back in her chair and mumbled, “Some friends indeed.”

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