You can't hung up on the past. (2019 Show Don't Tell Contest Third Place)
|“An opening! Thank God!”
Ruby steered the wheel and pressed on the gas. The car slid forward without a sound.
She gasped as air escaped her lungs under the belt grip. The shriek of brakes assaulted her ears. Too slow! She wasn’t going to make it. Damn hybrid motors; always taking their fucking time! She really had to point that out at the meeting.
“You bastard! I saw that space first! But yeah! Go ahead! Like two meters will make some fuckin’ difference in this mess!”
Why on hellish earth did she decide to take the car that day was a good idea? She could already picture the big boss drumming his fingers with that – you’re gonna regret it – razor-sharp look of his.
She touched her pearl necklace, tickling one grain after another. She was going to need a damn good excuse this time to keep her head on her shoulders and the wallet full to pay the bills.
“It’s not my fault, boss! People get stuck in traffic! Isn’t what our whole business model is based upon? Electric cars! So people won’t feel bad for polluting the environment when they’re stuck fuming in their cars!”
A jingle brought her phone to life. She bit her lips. Was it him? Sometimes she wondered if a 24h mind-probing program was included in the contract when she had signed it.
“Unknown number? Go fuck yourself! And those marketing dimwits say they know their customers like the back of their hands? They’re always calling at the wrongest fucking time!”
She slammed the phone on the dashboard and grimaced at the sound of cracked plastic.
“Oh come on! I’ve just had it fixed yesterday!”
Things were getting better by the minute, and every minute passed she was going to be a lot later. If only that damn motorcycle in front of her car would move.
“The phone again? I’m not buying any— What the?“
The guy on the motorcycle was looking right at her, holding a sign.
“Answer the phone? What kind of sick practical joke—” She looked at the screen. Same unknown number. A shiver ran through her spine. Was she on tv? Or perhaps in one of those stupid videos kids put up on youtube? She looked around. It looked like no phones were pointed at her.
“Hi there, Crimsey.”
She held back a cry as her nails dug pierced the skin of her cheek.
“It can’t be— You can’t be—“
“Ah, yes. The good old cycle of acceptance. I know it too well, Crimsey. You go through a rollercoaster of that stuff in prison. But here I am. Your old friend and comrade, Roscoe.”
No, that was impossible. Roscoe was dead. She still remembered the title in full night-black bold: death sentence. She looked through the windshield at the man on the motorcycle. The skull on his jacket grinned at her, like making fun of her shock at discovering Roscoe had dug himself out of the dirt and across the ocean.
“What—do you want?”
“Just a little, innocent chat. Last time we got cut off right when I had the cops on my tail. And that gave you time to get out of the country, safe and sound, while I ended up in jail. Because of you.”
“Because of what you did!”
“Oh? All high and mighty now? A good paycheck clears a conscience fast! That’s why you don’t need friends anymore, uh? But friends are handy, my dear. They got me out of death row and on a plane to Europe. By the way, putting that bomb in that factory was your idea. What a shame it blew off right during that school trip—”
Her heart thumped against her ribcage. Why that little son of a bitch—
“I know what I did! You don’t have to remind me! But that’s over! I’m done with that life and you should do the same!”
“Right, like you could coach me about what’s right and wrong. Is this what they taught you at business school? You know, that school you paid with our money! But maybe you thought you were still fighting for the cause! Do you truly believe electric cars are going to clean the environment? Do you have the slightest idea of how they dig all those precious minerals to keep churning out those batteries?”
“Shut up! I’m going to hang up now! Get the fuck out of my life!”
“Do it and tomorrow’s newspaper will have a big nice title about an ex-eco terrorist blowing herself right in the middle of a bottling, dying a glorious death to free the world from those stinky diesel engines.”
The scratch on her cheek burned and Ruby reached for a tissue to stop the sweat. “You’ re—bluffing!”
“That’s exactly what that chemical industry CEO told you before sending him sky-high with that bomb you set off with that Nokia. That was a long time ago, but the same trick works well with smartphones too. I know. I earn my living by repairing them. And I’ve still got your receipt.”
Roscoe waved a white sheet of paper like a conqueror celebrating a victory.
Killed by her same trick. No, not now. Not after all she had done to get her life back. She tried to open the door. “Fuck it’s stuck! Move your car, asshole! Let me through!”
“Too many cars, polluting the world— and blocking your escape.”
“What do you want, asshole?! What do you want from me?”
“From you, nothing. But from your boss and the clients you’re going to meet today— a lot of things.“
Ruby fell on the seat; her eyes stinging. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“Did I make you cry? I should make you beg for death for what you did to me! But I’m generous. I can put the past behind if you do me a little, big final favor. So open your ears wide open, stay awhile and listen.”