Flash Fiction (511 words)

Blood Shadow

Entered in NPR three-minute fiction contest. Rules included the word count had to be 600 words or less and about a president.

I’m a pitbull on the pantleg of popportunity.

George holds off to the perimeter, sharpening his diction.

“It’s a remarkable piece of equipment,” Karl says brightly. His eyes glance off Colin then lock darkly with Dick’s. Karl, Dick, and the Russian Technician form the core circle around the apparatus.

“Matter of fact, it is,” says Dick. He pets the apparatus that animates under his palm.

George drones in the shadow, raises his eyebrows in a steeple. As he imagines the seductive countenance he radiates, he chuckles.

Colin remains stone with a glimmer of interest.

Shame on muh . . . you . . . fool me twice . . . shuh . . .

Colin cocks his head toward George as if surprised to see the president here.

“They call it the Grolden Gommet,” shoots George.

“Indeed, golden,” says Karl. This is the bed where the prisoner lies during interrogation.” He pets it.

“What’s that?” Colin points his eyes up sharply to a horizontal overhang, an abstract sculpture of the human form composed of thousands of needles.

“The Shadow,” says Dick as he kneads a spot of brown crust off his hunting vest. A speck from last week no doubt. He sighs. Why’d his friend get in the way of his gunshot?

“Look, Colin. No water, no electricity, no contusions.” Dick sounds impatient. He abhors the idea of having the Grommet held up. Since waterboarding was declared torture, he’s had an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. He can hardly bear it. They must harvest confessions from the scum.

The Tech tries to speak but Karl shushes him.

“Have a look from this position at the Shadow,” Karl nods to the Tech who opens his mouth but can’t find his words. “Show Colin how foooolll proof it is.”

The Tech obeys. “Nobody get hurt. They get real scared, they might get dead from billion puncture wound. They talk. They see Shadow come down, they ‘magine their blood squirt, they talk.”

Who knows what evil lurks in the shadow . . .heh, heh . . . . chrisht, crossed, crucshifix, chrishcrosh

“Are you for real?” Colin nods in a slow arc.

Karl says, “Yes. The Golden Grommet is harmless.” He shows Colin the brass spike the length of a pencil that keeps the Shadow from falling onto its victim. “It can go no further than two inches above the suspect.”

Colin imagines a man in the shadows kneeling.

“It’s so safe, I’ll get on the Bed, you try to make me talk.”

“That’s not necessary, Karl.”

Karl scoots his butt up on the Bed, then lies down and looks up at billions of needles, distant stars, points of light in his dark life. “I ain’t talking, you can can’t make me. Lower the boom.”

The Technician obeys. Karl merges with the stars as the Tech recalls what Americans call it: Russian Roulette. About every thousandth time, the spike bounces out and the Shadow obeys gravity.

The sound of a man bled of his Shadow is a harrowing experience.