Flash Fiction: “Good Dog”

This is for the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge 9-2-11“100 Words [or less] on the Subject of Revenge.” Somehow, I’ve managed to make it exactly 100 words. So I am special.

Good Dog

            Of course they couldn’t keep the goddamned puppies. Was he made of fucking money?

He beat her with a coat hanger for being stupid, did the same to the kid for good measure. When the dog tried to protect them, he shot it.

He threw the bagful of puppies into the river on his way back to the bar.

It was late when he got home and stumbled into the kid’s room, unbuckling his belt.

A growl from the corner stopped him in his tracks. There, a pair of eyes burned with purple fire.

The dog was waiting for him.

Flash Fiction: “Hidden Fees”

Another Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge entry…this time the theme was “The Sub-Genre Tango, Part II”Choose any two sub-genres from Southern Gothic, Cyberpunk, Sword & Sorcery, Femslash, Black Comedy, or Picaresque. Mix well and serve chilled.

And thus I present my 720-word Picaresque Cyberpunk adventure.

Hidden Fees

            The cube joint’s tiny lobby smelled like sour sweat and ozone. Still, it was better than the reek of the alley outside.

The proprietor looked up from his bank of vidscreens, squinting at him through grime-covered plexi. Cam watched his piggish face closely for any sign of recognition, tightening his grip on the magshocker in his pocket in case the purge bots came swarming from their hidden alcoves in the walls.

He knew he was still on the global ban list. It’d only been a month since he’d been caught using custom hardware in one of the fancy topside cube houses. But to his relief, the door buzzed open. Pigface was either too brain-burnt to recognize him or he didn’t care, which was exactly what Cam had been counting on.

The tang of ozone was stronger inside the big darkened room. The dull roar of countless exhaust fans filled the air, and the metal floor hummed with the power of the xenoservers beneath.

He walked down the nearest row of cubes, each with an amber light on the door, until he found one with a green vacancy light. A flash from his spoofed cred disk opened it, and he hurried in and shut the door behind him.

Unrolling his homebrew sensor cap, he placed it on his shaven head and connected it to the modbox on his belt. After the box’s sync indicator lit up, he pulled down the cube’s neural interface helm snugly over the cap and strapped it on.

He took a deep, focusing breath and spoke the init command: “Enter game.”

The cube walls flared to life, each displaying a giant “3…2…1…” countdown, then an intense white light blinded him. There was the usual momentary dizziness, and when he could see again he was inside the ‘Scape.

An engineered wave of euphoria washed over him. It was easy to see how people became hopelessly addicted to the UltraScape. Hell, some people stayed plugged in all the time–in their own personal cube at home, complete with automatic nourishment and waste removal modules. Costs about as much as a Moon condo.

As if this blatant, manufactured addiction to an artificial fantasy universe wasn’t bad enough, now the megacorps were starting to insert subconscious thoughts designed to influence users when they were “outside the cube”–subliminal programming to tell you what to buy, who to vote for, which wars to support, how to think. Of course they denied it, denouncing any accusations as pure conspiracy theory. But Cam knew the truth, and he was going to prove it.

The question was: When he did, would anyone really give a shit? Or would it just be accepted as the cost of Heaven on Earth?

He warped to an admin layer and located the datacloud he’d been scouring for the last month. A quick download filled his modbox with enough raw data to keep him busy decoding for a week. Hopefully this chunk would have something useful in it. Or at least something entertaining, like that preferences file he found last week for the Mayor’s pleasure layer.

As soon as the download completed, he deleted the logs and disconnected. Best not to dally since his modbox could only partially mask his location. If they really wanted to, they could still narrow down the access breach to within a few blocks.

In the lobby on the way out, he stopped cold. The blue strobes of the security bots outside flashed in the narrow windows near the ceiling. How the hell could they have found him so quickly?

He pulled the magshocker from his pocket and turned towards Piggy’s plexibooth, but found it empty.

Suddenly the metal wall behind him screeched open. He whirled around, ready to face a purge bot, and saw Pigface standing there instead.

“This way!” he wheezed, beckoning Cam with a spastic wave of his hand.

Cam hesitated. “Why would you–“

“No time! Let’s just say we’ve been watching you, and we want you to join us.”

“And who is ‘us’, exactly?”

Pigface’s eyes bulged, and he looked as if he may explode. “Look, I’ll explain later. Right now we have to go!”

Cam weighed his options. Face the army of bots outside, or trust Pigface.

He stepped into the corridor and the door slammed shut behind him.

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