This is a short story from the world of my INC Trilogy. (But it stands alone as a Flash Fiction.) A future where people are separated into citizens with rights and VOID's who have nothing. My delightfully potty mouthed protagonist, Onion from Sour Fruit* is taking the wheel with this one and is out and about making friends.
*Sour Fruit is the first in my INC trilogy, a speculative thriller that follows one girl's race for survival in a sinking city.
“I’ve heard that they’ve created an ointment that can make you young forever. Do you think that’s true?”
That’s what she asked me.
Not why I wasn't cleaning. Not why I was in her bedroom. Not why my hands were down my knickers. Not a peep about that.
Her hair had been dyed one too many times so she was left with an angry white static. It flitted and bobbed as she rattled on about how darling it would be to not worry over trivialities such as getting old. I didn’t break it to her that the magic ointment; ReGen, was only surface deep. You’d looked eighteen but your insides would still putrefy.
She laughed like a camera was pointed at her, mouth wide, head back, eyes barely closed. She purred how, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful, so wonderful’.
She was off her tits on Morpo and I wondered if I'd got away with it when her eyes snapped open.
“That deviant Melvin paid you to come in here, didn’t he? My God…” her arms flying wild, “…Are you even a real cleaner?” Her long finger jabbed at me. “Take your hand out of your pants this instant.”
I snapped my hand behind my back and thought about running but she closed the only door out of the room with a flick of her satin slipper. It locked. A shiver ran down my back. I stepped back right into the dressing table, a stockpile of lotions and perfume bottles rattled together.
“Whatever you’ve stolen, give it to me girl.” She held out her hand. I glanced towards the window, wondering if I’d made a mistake. I calculate the distance, sweat dripped into my eyes.
She grinned, flashing mud red gums. “Sent a girl much bigger the first time, feet like barges. Jumped straight out of that very window, found her twitching in my garden. Neck,” she snapped her fingers. “The one after that pretended to be with a charity, asking for donations.”
She sighed. "So provincial." Her obese diamond ring caught the last of the sun and scattered dots of light all over her orgy of memorabilia. Every wall was covered in film posters, the odd award and headshots. Fuck me the headshots; they were everywhere, her face from every angle. Every possible way to pout.
Trying to control my voice I said, “Melvin didn’t make me do nothing.”
I continued. “You think I’d do anything for that prick? He’s always trying to hump anything that moves, a seventeen-year-old hanging out with a bunch of kids, perv if you ask me."
She flinched but indicated for me to go on.
"He’d been bragging with his fat mouth, how he’d nicked something off this famous lady, how he was gunna cash in from it. Off his shit on glitter he told everyone, everyone, that this place was a gold mine. Bev was pouring herself all over him wetting her knicks over the idea.” Out of breath, I had to stop I’d been talking way to fast.
Crossing her arms. “What whispers has he been spreading about me?”
I shifted, kicking at the rug. “Just that he did odd jobs for you, why?”
The air prickled with my question. She unfolded her arms, then folded them again, avoiding my question she barked at me to continue. I told her how I’d followed Bev all the way here in her fake charity gear. Saw the rozzers rock up ten minutes later to drag her off. Looking her in the eye I lied, “Bev was a good friend. She got done. You know she ain’t ever getting her-”
But she interrupted me, sneering that coming here wasn’t very smart.
“Maybe,” I said while dipping my hand back into my pants, her eyes warned me not to try anything. I pulled out a large embossed golden medal, hanging from a red ribbon, it swung wild. As soon as she saw it, she squealed for me to give it to her now. "Right now."
I held it out. She snatched at it, pulling it hard to her chest, her eyes filling up as she caressed it.
I stepped back. “He used Bev cos she was a charlie. If he wanted to rob you again he should have had the balls to do it himself.”
“How did you get this?” She spoke to the medal, not me.
“He’s been living in a shed near me. He thinks no one knows,” I rolled my eyes. “I waited till he was out, he hadn’t even hidden it that well. Tucked in one of his trainers. Muppet. As soon as I saw it, I knew this is what he was on about.”
“You’ve gone to a lot of trouble…”
“Not for nothing I hope?”
Her head flicked up, eyes narrowed and I hoped I hadn't overplayed my hand. I should have just stuck with the plan. Stupid. Sweat was dripping down my back, but then she pulled out that purr again. “Why not?” She fluttered her eyelashes. “How much do you think is fair?”
Took everything I had not to bolt straight through that overgrown garden of hers. I could feel her eyes on me from the living room window; I couldn’t help shivering when I thought about how her hands had lingered on mine while she handed over the credit. Odd jobs my arse.
I walked the long way back, doubling back on myself until I could see the school. Ducking under the gap in the fence I headed for the sports shed. When Melvin saw me his face was flooded with relief.
The words tumbled out of him. “I can’t believe you made it out. Did you get it?”
I indicated we should go inside. The place was ripe. Fishing my hand down my pants I unlocked the pouch I had secured to my thigh that morning just for the job. It shuffled down my pant leg and onto the floor with a solid thud. Breathing through my mouth to avoid the stench. “I saw it but I could hear her coming up the stairs, so I just grabbed everything.” I opened the pouch up. Out tumbled a handful of rings, a necklace and a napkin with a blurred address bleeding into the white.
He gasped. His fingers trembled as he picked up the napkin working hard not to touch the gaudy rings. He held the grubby thing to his lips and tears started sailing down his cheeks and landing in fat drops onto the floor. His eyes; flat wet disks turned to me. “I knew something was up, she started to watch the boys walk back from Saturday football. She would send me off to make her cocktails. Week after week she’d stare at those laughing boys. I knew she'd want someone else to do her...." he paused his tone became bitter. "...odd jobs she loved that award, more than anything. One day she left the door unlocked by mistake so I took it and ran. Jenny took care of me out here; it was her idea to go back.” His fuzzy chin started to wobble but he gulped it down to finish. “She was so strong Jenny, you remember how she was.”
I nodded, keeping my eyes on the stash. “She was a fucking beast.”
He shifted on the spot. “Do you remember when she…”
I started gathering up the rings interrupting him, “Look Melvin, I don’t want to walk down memory lane; you got what you wanted right?”
A loud gulp and he nodded, about to open his mouth to say something but I glared at him, he sniffed loud and shut up. After a while, I finally had to say, “I don’t live off sad looks you know?”
"Of course of course." He scrambled, pulling out the weed, his wrists stained with weeks of not washing. He couldn’t make eye contact, shivering. He was the human version of a bag of dead puppies. I sighed, my fingers hovered over the gear, before I said, “We agreed on two bags yeah?”
I saw Melvin’s limp frame a couple times after I gave him the napkin, bought him a Maccy D's, some soap and stuff. Felt bad for the kid. But then his time ran out and he got bleached, so I guess the address he’d been so desperate for didn’t pan out.
We used to be in the school’s film club together; I suppose that’s how that old hag lured him in. The drab shine of a has-been actor. No one noticed, or if they did they didn’t care he was missing; a year he was trapped in that house with her. Doing 'odd jobs'.
Jenny dead, Bev bleached along with Melvin and I got caught with the rings I’d nicked and was transferred to Sunnys and trust me it was not sunny; it was a shit storm. I've had worst Summers though, the weed was sick.
The End as they say.