Always the rebel, I chose a title from Chuck Wendig’s Flash fiction challenge that *at the time* nobody had chosen. I wanted to be different. I still am different, but for separate reasons completely un-related to my writing or the challenge because I’m just that
cool awesome magnificent stunning strange.
Yup. Let’s go with that one. Strange.
Anyhoo, I took a more serious route with this one than I’ve done for some of my other pieces (although I still managed to slip in a good ol’ fashioned poop joke). I’m anxious to see how it plays against what I’ve already written.
Jeremy Pocket & the See-through Wall
If Jeremy Pocket had any sort of strength, he would have thrown a chair right through that damn wall.
“What the hell, Christine?” he yelled at no one, raking a hand through his hair in frustration. “What are you thinking? Why would you go back to him?” He pounded a fist on the glossy surface of the viewing wall.
Sometimes being in the control room made Jeremy feel so powerless. Sure, as a World Influence & Effects Technician he had more power than when he was human. He could push a button and change the weather, alter traffic patterns or put a thought into somebody’s head, but he couldn’t actually control someone. He could just influence them. They could do what they wanted with his inspiration. Free will and all. It was such a pain in the ass.
“Easy there, Pocket,” said a voice behind him. Jeremy whirled around. Caroline leaned against his terminal, arms folded, and smiled at him indulgently. “You might break a nail or something and ruin those pretty hands of yours.”
Jeremy gave her a half-hearted smile. If he had to spend eternity working alongside someone, he was glad it was Caroline Pierce. She never asked about his hang up with Christine. In fact, Caroline pretty much ignored everything he did on the other side of the wall so long as he completed his share of assignments.
“These aren’t pretty hands, they’re rugged and manly,” responded Jeremy in mock-offense.
Caroline rolled her eyes and headed to the control terminal next to him. “There are many words I’d use to describe you, Pocket. Rugged and manly aren’t them.”
“Well, how would you describe me then?”
“Let’s see,” she said, ticking off items with her fingers, “You’re intelligent, generous, kind… and when you aren’t being a selfish twat you’re actually pretty damn charming.”
“Don’t forget devilishly handsome,” Jeremy added jokingly.
“Uh, yeah. That too,” said Caroline, her cheeks flushing slightly. She tucked a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ears and turned to straighten a stack of instructions from their shift manager at her own terminal. “Um. Okay. There’s a thunderstorm on the books for the Midwest… A few politicians need to think about retirement… Nothing really major on the agenda today.”
Jeremy nodded, but he was focused on Christine’s mental feed. Her thoughts were on Rory Michaelson. They were always on Rory now. Just like before. She was headed to his place.
“Damn it, Christine,” he muttered. No matter how many times Jeremy reminded her of Rory’s philandering ways or how he treated her like shit, she always found a way to dismiss it. Christine thought she was imagining things. It was stupid.
Jeremy tapped a button on his terminal and the wall flashed to an untidy apartment. Rory had a girl over. The blonde again. Maybe Christine would get there before the other girl leaves. Surely, if she actually saw Rory with someone else, she wouldn’t stay with him. Jeremy pulled up Christine’s route and adjusted every traffic light on her way to green.
“So I was thinking, if you didn’t have anything planned after work today maybe we could…” Caroline’s eyes flitted to Jeremy’s terminal and her face fell, “Oh. I didn’t realize you were still-”
“Whatever. It’s nothing,” said Jeremy. He flipped a switch on his terminal and Christine’s face transformed into Midwestern weather patterns. “How big a storm are we rolling?”
She regarded him steadily, then sighed. “Not very. Just enough for a few power outages in Kansas City.” She paused a moment, her eyebrows knitting together in a thoughtful expression, “Listen. You should really-”
“I’ll adjust a high pressure system over Kansas. You do your thing,” he said hastily.
Her frown deepened and Jeremy found himself frowning in response. Why couldn’t she just leave him alone like she always did? He turned his body away from her and focused on inputting alterations in his terminal.
Tried to focus, at least. The schedule for the day was boring and his thoughts strayed back to Christine. Once Caroline was thoroughly occupied with cumulonimbus formations he switched the image on the wall.
Christine was at Rory’s now. She was arguing with him, and he was trying to explain away the blonde in his bedroom. A smile tugged at Jeremy’s mouth but quickly disappeared when he saw that Christine’s thought feed surged with doubt. She wanted to believe him.
Jeremy raked a hand angrily through his hair. “Damn it! He’s going to get away with it again!”
He felt a soft touch on his shoulder and flinched. It was Caroline. She looked at him with a sort of pained expression.
“Why don’t you take off? I got this covered today,” she said slowly, like every word took effort.
“No. It’s okay. It’s stupid. I’m fine,” he muttered, touching a few keys on the terminal to take him back to Midwestern weather.
“I mean it,” said Caroline. She whirled him around to face her, “You’re not well.”
“I’m fine,” he repeated.
“You’re not. You’re going to drive yourself crazy obsessing over her like this.”
Jeremy glared at her. Of all the days to pick a fight with him. “Just forget it, okay? Let me do my job.”
“I will when you start doing your job!” She glared back at him, “You’ve been consumed with your ex-fiancé’s love life since day one up here!”
“Let. It. Go.”
“You let it go!” Caroline was yelling now, “You died, Jeremy! She moved on. That’s how it works. You need to move on too!”
Jeremy opened his mouth to yell at her. To tell her she was wrong. But she wasn’t. “I… I can’t” he said instead, his voice barely a whisper. He buried his face in his hands.
Caroline’s expression softened. It was sympathetic. Caring.
After a long moment she said, “You can’t control her life now any more than you could when you were alive.”
“She makes her own decisions, even if they’re bad.”
“I know,” he said.
A roguish smile spread across Caroline’s face. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t make life down there a little difficult for a certain special asshole.”
“You don’t mean…” he started, eyes widening in shock.
“Oh, that’s totally what I mean. In fact, I have it on good authority that a certain blonde has already decided to dose Rory’s morning coffee with laxatives,” she said with a sly smirk. “Yup. It’s too bad he’s also going to get stuck in heavy traffic on the way to work. He, um, definitely won’t get to work on time.”
Jeremy laughed. He couldn’t help it. Caroline beamed at him affectionately, “That’s just the beginning. If you’re interested, I have decades of pain and torment up my sleeve.” She smiled and it lit up her whole face. Even her eyes sparkled. Jeremy wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before. She was actually sort of beautiful. He smiled back at her, whole-heartedly this time.
“Oh, you’re an evil one Ms. Pierce,” he said, chuckling.
“You don’t know the half of it, Mr. Pocket,” she said.
“Tell me more about your dastardly plans of pain and torment.”
“I’ll do you one better,” she said, flipping a few controls on his terminal. The view through the wall transformed into Rory’s apartment. “Let’s watch.”