Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Names

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This is the fourth entry in November's Mystery Theme. Have you figured it out yet?

Word Count: 597

Exodus, you are cleared for launch,” chirped a voice on the radio. The countdown began. In sixty seconds, the thirty-ninth ship called Exodus would depart the Earth never to return. There would only be one more.

Lamar stared out the window. In a few minutes they’d read the names. Then they’d know who was chosen, and who was doomed to die on the burnt-out husk that used to be Earth.

“It’s not one of us. You know that, right?” said a man nursing a beer to Lamar’s left.

“Excuse me?” asked Lamar.

The man introduced himself as Terry. “I see the way you’re looking at that television, waiting for them to read the names. But I assure you, neither of us was chosen.” He took another swig of his beer.

“How do you know that?”

“They learned with the first few ships that anyone chosen would become a target for violence. If you die, your space goes to someone else,” said Terry.

“So?” said Lamar.

“From what I hear, they tell the winners in advance so they can sequester them, to keep them safe.”

“Why would the government care who it keeps safe?” asked Lamar.

“Replacing people means paperwork,” said Terry. “And nobody but nobody wants to do extra paperwork.”

Lamar shushed him. “It’s about to start.”

A screen came up with a solemn newscaster. “Greetings,” she said. “These are the passengers on the fortieth and final Exodus vessel: Toblowski, Gerald Marlon of Greenwich, New York; Meyers…

“Get ready to be real disappointed,” said Terry.

“Shut up, man,” said Lamar. The rest of the bar was silent, and Terry was attracting unfriendly gazes from onlookers.

“What’s it matter?” asked Terry.

“It matters,” said Lamar. “The names are the survivors. That means something.”

“They ain’t survivors,” said Terry. “They’re just the lucky sons of bitches who get a place on a ship.”

“I told you to shut up, man.” A few bar patrons nodded and offered a “yeah” of support.

O’Henry, Lydia Michelle of Lawrence, Kansas…

“Where’s that ship going?” asked Terry.

Lamar blinked.

“Tell me where,” Terry insisted.

“Outer space.”

“To do what?”

“To start a colony,” said Lamar.

“No,” said Terry. “They’re on their way to die. They may find some rock to land on and try to start a new civilization, but odds are every single one of them is going to die.”

“Just shut up, man,” said Lamar.

Nagavani, Jared Vinay of Chicago, Illinois…

“They should have put that money into fixing the Earth, rather than trying to escape it,” said Terry.

Lamar stood up. “Don’t make me say it again.”

“Beat me to a pulp, friend,” said Terry. “It ain’t gonna change that fact that we’re all going to die.”

Lamar grabbed Terry by the collar.

“They don’t want us,” said Terry.

“It’s a lottery,” said Lamar. “It doesn’t matter who they want.”

“Of course it does,” said Terry. “And they don’t want us. They want families of strong, strapping, young, white dudes with their stupid blond wives. They don’t want poor working-class folk like us.”

“I’ve had about all I can stand of you,” said Lamar. “You may have given up, but the rest of us haven’t.”

“Yeah!” said a handful of bar patrons, themselves standing up. The bartender turned up the volume on the television.

Phillips, Terrance Micah of Queens, New York…

“Wait, what was that?” asked Terry. He looked at the television, at the names scrolling by. “Son of a bitch,” he said. “I gotta go. I gotta go right now.”

Lamar released his collar. Terry ran.

Edited by Carolyn "Has His Grammar Been Off This Whole Time?" Abram.

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