Over at Chuck Wendig’s blog Terribleminds, he’s running a flash fiction challenge. Writers pick one item each from three columns and write a 1000 word story about it. I used a random number generator and came up with these: dystopian, graveyard, man vs himself
And this is what I came up with:
It was easier, and cheaper, to do it in the graveyard. Charlie checked his gun one more time. Three bullets would do the job and then some, but he always wanted to have a full six. Three, the number of kids he had. Charlie shook off the thought and made his way to the open grave.
He didn’t always know who he was killing, or why, but this time he did. Bryant Staley had been in the news for several months, trying to organize a union in his office. The media had been all over it, painting him as greedy, lazy, ungrateful for his job. The corporate office had warned him on three separate occasions. There was no fourth warning.
Things always came in threes, Charlie mused.
He stood near the freshly dug pit in the ground and waited for the car to arrive. It was a beautiful late spring day, a few clouds skating across the blue sky. After this, he’d go home and puke his guts out, but maybe by late afternoon he’d have the energy to play with his boys and visit Gina in the hospital.
After a while, a black SUV pulled up behind his Toyota. Two men got out, dragging a third between them. Staley was blindfolded and gagged, his hands cuffed behind him. He was fighting, but the two men were built like tanks and it did no good. They brought him up the hill and forced him to his knees at the foot of the grave.
“Take off the gag,” Charlie said. But not the blindfold. He couldn’t stand to look in their eyes. “A man should be able to say a few last words.”
The first goon grumbled, but did as he was told.
“Please,” Staley said. “Please don’t kill me.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Staley, but you were warned. You understood the consequences if you continued your efforts to unionize.” At least Valiant Worldwide didn’t use the tactics some other corporations did. They didn’t go after people’s families. That was what Charlie told himself so he could sleep at night.
“I just wanted a better life for my family. I can barely survive on what I get paid. I just want what’s fair. The way they treat us … I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t.” He started to cry.
Charlie gave the two goons a nervous glance before saying, “I agree, Mr. Staley. It’s not fair, but it’s the law. We have to obey.” Maybe, if he didn’t have a family, he might try to do something about it. There were rumors out in California of an uprising. But then again, there’d been rumors like that for years.
“Please. I have a family. Kids.” Staley wasn’t much older than him, a touch of gray showing in the bright sunlight.
“So do I, Mr. Staley. Two boys and a little girl. My girl is sick. Leukemia. Valiant is paying for her treatment as long as I do this for them. It’s nothing personal. If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else.” That was another thing he told himself so he could sleep.
“Does she know what you do?”
Charlie swallowed hard, his stomach going cold. “No.” What would she say if she knew what daddy did to make her better? Would she find out when she was older? Would she hate him for it?
The second goon shifted his feet. “Hurry up.”
Charlie wondered why the goons didn’t take care of this. Or were they just as uncomfortable as he was?
“Any last words, Mr. Staley?”
“Tell my wife and kids I love them. Tell them I just wanted the best for them. I wanted to give them a better world.” Staley was crying again, tears dripping from beneath the blindfold.
For one insane moment, Charlie considered letting him go. Shooting the two goons, jumping into the car with Staley. They could grab their families, maybe make it to Canada. But there were ways for Valiant to find them. They had offices in Canada, and even if the laws there were relaxed, that didn’t mean they couldn’t drag them back to the US for punishment.
And what about Gina? She was too sick to travel, and even if they could make it across the border, the minute they took her to a hospital for treatment, Valiant would know where they were.
“We all want a better world, but this is the one we live in now. I’m very sorry, Mr. Staley.” Charlie lifted his gun. His arm shook a little, but he forced it to steady. The first bullet punched through Bryant’s head and his body slumped. Charlie stepped forward and put two more into his chest. Blood soaked into the green grass. Somewhere in the distance, a sparrow chirped.
“Make sure you give him a decent burial,” he told the goons. Charlie’s part was over. Valiant would put up a headstone, taking the money out of Bryant’s stock options. The rest of the money would go to his family.
That was something, at least. Bryant’s family wouldn’t be kicked out of their home or starve, at least for a year or so. Hopefully at least one of his kids was old enough to get a job and help support them. Even a ten year old could get work that at least put food on the table.
Charlie’s job not only paid for Gina’s treatment, it made sure his boys could stay in school, and it made sure his wife only had to work fifty hours a week. They could even hide a little money away for the future. Maybe Canada wasn’t out of the question. Once Gina got better (and Charlie always thought in those terms: When and never if) maybe they could make it there. Change their names, live out in the country.
Behind him, one of the goons took the first shovelful of dirt.
This is the last time, Charlie told himself. He said that every time.