Flash fiction is incredibly difficult to write. The ability to create characters who the reader can identify with in 500 words is a challenge. Then you have to squeeze in a beginning, middle and satisfying ending. What follows is my attempt at it.
By Dave Benneman
Zach burst through the swinging doors, shedding his wet coat as he went. The bass line from ‘My Girl’ bled through the gray concrete walls of the morgue, answering his first question. With the Temptations playing loud enough to wake the dead, Marvin would be assisting, and the twelve-hour shift would pass quickly and painlessly. The doors to the autopsy room hissed open at his approach. Music exploded through the cold air, bouncing off stainless steel surfaces. Marvin danced across the room, wheeling out their first victim of the evening. He stopped mid-spin.
“My man pots and pans.” Marvin pointed his remote at the Bose player, lowering the volume. “Dr. Zach, you better kick off them winter boots and put on your dancing slippers. We celebratin’ tonight, so it’s gotta be all Temptations, all the time.”
“And pray tell, Mr. Gaye, what are we celebrating tonight?”
“March 6, 1965, ‘My Girl’ hit number one on the charts, and I lost my virginality.” Marvin’s gold tooth gleamed in the harsh lighting.
“Your virginity. That’s too much information.” The Phone in his pocket vibrated. Zach checked the display. “It’s the Chief.”
“What does he want at this hour?”
“Yes, Chief? Yes, sir. I know the regs about parking in the handicapped zone. Yes, but it’s… Yes, sir. I know it’s her job, but… I’ll move it right away, sir. Thank you sir.” He returned the phone to his pocket and glared at the ceiling. “She called him at home, the backstabbing, brown-nosing, bitch.”
Marvin rolled his eyes. “You know Miss Amelia hates you. Why you give her free ammo?”
Zach shrugged. “I’ll be back.”
“Y’all ain’t fixin’ on doing sumpin’ stupid, now are you?”
“Yes. I’m going out in this God awful weather, without a coat, to move my car so the wicked witch can start looking for some other reason to bitch.”
“I’ll get our first Mr. Doe on the table. You stay away from the second floor, you hear? We got celebratin’ to do tonight.”
Returning from the employee parking lot shivering, Zach’s attention locked on the sterilized instruments scattered across the floor of the autopsy room.
“What the hell?”
“Marvin? Yoo hoo, Marvin? Where the hell…”
The stainless table stood empty. “Where’s the corpse?” He lifted the receiver and punched in Amelia’s extension. “It’s Zach, something strange is going on down here. Is Marvin up there?”
The doors hissed open behind him. Zach turned expecting to see Marvin’s grinning face. Instead, he back-pedaled away from a naked and decomposing, John Doe, until his back hit the wall. Zach’s scream died in his throat when John Doe twisted his head snapping vertebrae C-1 through C-3, severing his spinal cord. The elevator door opened revealing Amelia’s bulk. With one fat hand planted on each hip she strode toward him. Zach’s vision faded to black.