Wednesday, 30 January 2019

12shortstories.com . . . the first one for 2019. Yay!


Prompt: No one can know.
Word count: 1500 words



Her vision jerked into a blackness as dense as the thudding hangover that had occupied her head. As quickly as it blackened, morphing amoeboid bodies filled the screen with animated swellings, climaxing in puffed explosions of powdered chalk, releasing clouds of blinding colours. 

As one burst, another swelled and recapitulated gloriously in a spectacle that detached her eyes from her brain. While her brain fought to bring her eyes back online, they ignored the biting dryness, and refused to blink.

Her fingers betrayed them both, twitched, and de-activated the screensaver, terminating the dream. The window on top of her bright, graffiti, Apple desktop jolted her back to “send” or “cancel” encased in squares of vile green pixels.

She traced the black outline of the option boxes with her mouse. First the “send” box, then the “cancel”. She went back and hovered over each consecutively, then repeatedly dragged the obedient little black arrow backwards and forwards from one corner of the screen to the next.

Letting go of the mouse and turning her palm up to face her, she watched as the networked patterns of folds crinkled up and disappeared as she clenched her fists, confused. The unexplained cuts on her knuckles spread and winked a pink spike of pain as she re-opened her palm. 

Hannah clicked send. It was addressed to Lara. Hannah had listed her friends and colleagues, crossed off the ones she already owed money to, weighed up her options, and had come across Lara. Easily manipulated, and with wealthy parents, she was - Hannah admitted with shame – her best chance.

The e-mail detailed a large amount of Euros she had supposedly inherited, apparently from her family in Greece. It was ridiculously easy to download the bank’s logo and create an email signature of a banker in Athens.

Theodero Kyriakou was a name as greek as they come, coupled with the bank logo image and set up with authentic addresses and international phone numbers in the signature at the bottom of the mail, no one would ever know that it was fraudulent. Especially not Lara.

It had to be absolutely convincing or Lara would never agree to the loan Hannah had confronted her for. Sweet, lovely – and hopefully charitable - Lara. She had listened with such empathy while Hannah had spun her the sad story. 


If Lara thought that she had money in Greece, she wouldn’t hesitate to help her with a loan in the meantime. 

The pawn shop would hold her furniture and appliances for two weeks without interest. She could hopefully have the money to fetch most of it by tomorrow, and silence annoyingly nagging Steve. He had sent two messages yesterday, asking why he couldn’t see her payment this month. 

Plus, it was also only the first week of the month and she needed to eat for three weeks before pay day.

“Shit. It’s gonna’ be a rough month of 2-Minute-Noodles and apples again. You idiot Hannah.” She cursed under her breath. 

Her shaking hands fumbled the zip of the laptop bag as she packed up. Remembering there was one Red Bull left in the fridge, she yanked open the door and grabbed the can from its lonely spot on the top shelf before kicking closed the door. 

It was a very long time since she had put anything of nutritional value in there. It would probably fetch more than the microwave at the pawn shop, she noted. She shook her head and walked purposefully to the door. At the same time, vowing that she had to get some sleep tonight.

Not remembering what the time was when she had got in, she assumed by her shaking hands and dry eyes that it couldn’t have been more than an hour or two. Again.

She turned from locking the door to her tiny, and mostly empty bachelor flat to the parking lot where her car should have been. She then changed course and hiked up the steep driveway to the gates of the complex to where it hopefully was. Like last week.

She brought her hand up to inspect the cuts on her knuckles again. Hannah suddenly recalled the rose bush she had challenged on the way down to the ground out of the driver’s seat. It hadn’t mattered how gently she had grappled those branches, they were not letting her up free of painful evidence of the struggle.

“Jesus Hannah, the money!” she scolded herself as another memory blinked its way back into her mind. She’d dumped the bundles onto the passenger seat in the unsuccessful attempt to get out of the car with some grace, and had forgotten to take it with her after the altercation with the rose bush.

She steadied her laptop backpack on her shoulder with one hand and broke into a run, not remembering how much she had won last night, only that there were too many bundles to hold with both hands. 

Her car was stopped, not parked, in the middle of the complex entrance. The front bumper was missing, and the driver’s side door stood wide open.

Puzzled, she glanced at the messy splats on the side of the car before climbing into the driver’s seat. She didn’t remember it raining, but then remembering was not on the cards this morning. She stashed the bundles of cash under the seat.

Hannah forced up the tab on the Red Bull, while reminded again of the nagging cuts on her knuckles and the faint metallic smell in the car. 

The first sip of liquid energy soaked her insides with life, but the re-charge was interrupted by her mother. Forcing her presence into Hannah’s car with her own personal ring tone of a witch’s cackle that Hannah had personally assigned.

Hannah was consistently dumbfounded at that uncanny ability her mother had of always calling when the shit was flying. She ignored the call, and instead hit her PA’s number on speed dial.

“Margie? Hi. Samsung just called. They need an urgent invitation designed for some function planned next week. I’ll need to brief the studio this morning still so I’m meeting Sue now on my way in.”

“Okay. You alright? You sound all nasal. You sick?” asked Margie.

“Nah. All good. Had a rough night with series binging. I’ll catch up later. Cheers.” Hannah ended the call and was interrupted briefly by her conscience.

Her sweaty palms battled the grip on the steering wheel as she twisted the Jeep back into the road. It had been four years last week. Four years since five of Hannah’s friends had tricked her into arriving at her mom’s place expecting a calm afternoon braai and walking smack bang into an intervention.

“Hi mom! How’s it going? You early today.” Said Hannah into the phone, hoping the energy in her voice was sounding “on-the-way-to-workish” and not “I-have-no-money-for-breakfastish”.

“Hannah! Where have you been? You didn’t call me back last night. I called three times?” scolded her mom.

“All good mom. I left my phone in the car and got stuck into a series. It was a late night.” Said Hannah.

“How many times have I told you to keep your phone with you? I was worried sick that you’d been in an accident or something.”

“I’m good mom. Just really busy at work. This new Samsung account is huge. I’ll come visit on the weekend, maybe after Saturday morning’s AA meeting. OK?” lied Hannah.

“Right. Saturday. And keep your phone with you.” Her mom never ended the call. Hannah was pretty sure she was trying to figure out where Hannah was by listening to the background noise for as long as she could. Once, she’d let the call run on for five whole minutes while they had both listened in silence, connected in dis-connection.

A traffic snarl at the intersection let Hannah wonder unsuccessfully which way she had come home last night, or this morning, so she moved onto how Lara’s money would pay off what she owed her colleagues and buy some groceries.

Then, she promised herself again, it was over. For a very long time. Entirely – the gambling, the drinking, everything. Just five years and she’d be sorted and back to being debt free. Again. Hannah recalled her last, agonizingly long AA meeting.

“Useless bunch caught up in a stupid cult of honesty. Listening to that lot and their sad, broken lives is enough to drive anyone straight back to where you weren’t supposed to be.” She muttered to herself.

She glanced around to catch the scene holding everyone up. A pair of bare feet protruding from a cover, lay precariously half on the pavement. A pool of dried, brown blood escaped from under the edges.  

No ambulances, just a cordoned off area detailing some heavy skid marks, a couple of policeman guarding the scene, and a mangled bumper lying a few meters away still attached to its number plate.

“Well that’s an easy one to solve.” Smirked Hannah, as she inattentively read the numbers.

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