Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shocktober Day 4 - A Flash of Horror - "Click"

(It's Thursday! That means you get a little bit of original flash fiction following the prompt of the week's theme, in this case "Props" - so here we go!)


For some reason beyond Ken's understanding, the pen meant everything in the world to his brother. It was a simple thing, brown with little silver highlights where the different pieces joined and screwed into one another. Ken clicked it several times, turning it over and rotating it before extending the tip and retracting it. Ever since he picked it up at a tiny farmer's market just outside Munich - a place he'd visited almost every weekend to pick up his week's supply of vegetables and fresh meat - he regretted the purchase. He couldn't understand it, but at every step of the way he felt this compulsion to tell Michael about it.

Passing the old farmer's stall, he just had a feeling that it would be a great gift for his brother. As he was paying for it, he inherently knew that Michael would appreciate how good a deal he got it for. When he got home to try it out and write the letter to his brother that he intended to send with the little gift to his brother, Ken knew Michael would love the smooth, easy push of the tip of the pen on a nice piece of high-quality stationary. Michael was peculair that way. He loved old things and old ways. He refused to send Ken his letters via email that would be both cheap and much, much quicker than international shipping from the states to Germany. To Michael, the old way was better because it was harder, less convenient. It added value to the endeavor and potentially made the thing worth doing in the first place.

He clicked the pen as he sat cramped in his seat and looked out the window. His brother's luddistic preference slowly invaded Ken's habits. It started with with the letters afterall. His original intent was to make fun of Michael by finding the fanciest, most expensive stationary paper for his first letter to his brother. Instead of making his brother feel like an ass (as he hoped would happen), Michael wrote back on a very similar quality of paper and upped the ante. He used this old ink that looked like it must have been some kind of sludge before it dried into a hard raised surface. The writing was barely readable with the terrible ink and Michael's try at some archaic form of cursive he hadn't used since third grade. It made Ken even more excited about their rejection of modern technology and convenience than he ever thought he would be.

Ken wanted to send Michael a photo of his home and little garden he worked tirelessly to cultivate in his backyard. He tried using the camera on his phone, but accidentally dropped it, cracking the tiny digital lens on it. Seeing this as a sign, he went out to a local pawn shop and tried finding the oldest functioning camera he could find. He knew he'd end up using the expensive parchment again with the accompanying letter to the pictures, so he figured he'd go all out and get a camera that only took black and white or even brown, sepia-toned photographs. He found one in the pawn shop, but of course, given its antique status, it was the most expensive camera there. He knew he would have balked at the price and the idea of buying the camera just to send some photographs in the mail to his idiot brother back in Indiana. He knew he would have done so in the past, but now it felt worth it. It felt like the best, safest thing to do.

Soon he bought an old-fashioned bycicle to replace his old rusty Volkswagon. The VW had broke down more times than he could count in recent months and became more of a nuisance than a convenience. He bought a silver antique pocket watch to replace his digital watch. He didn't care that he had to wind the thing every morning, something just felt more... dependable about it since his old digital wristwatch kept eating through expensive tiny batteries on almost a weekly basis. He sold his TV and CD player in order to save up money for a massive, old-timey radio installation he eyed every time he rode past the pawn shop on his bike. Pawning the modern entertainment devices still didn't cover the cost of the radio cabinet, but it helped. The TV has been on the fritz and the CD player would only play CD's right out of the package - the slightest scractch or speck of dust would cause the thing to heat up and turn itself off. Everything he had bought in the last decade seemed to be breaking, dying, or just go bad.

Then he found the brown pen. He recognized the years of service this pen must have contained within it. For centuries, the best way to communicate one's thoughts and new ideas was to write them down in ink and spread them to friends, families, and admirers. The pen became a symbol for him of his brother's love and the only way for him to reciprocate it and learn what his niece and nephew were up to in their history or science classes. He snagged it for a great deal at the Farmer's Market, and immediately ran home, neglecting the rest of the items on his shopping list, to write his brother about the pen. He finished the letter, but it wasn't enough. It was time he made his way back to the states. Back to Indiana to see his brother's family and visit his mother in the home.

He sat in his seat on the airplane clicking his pen. He looked out the window and prepared himself for 13 hours in the pressurized campaign. The passenger next to him had turned on her air conditioning and the small vent was aimed right on her face as she put her ipod's earplugs in. Across the aisle, the large man in the window seat repeatedly pressed the small red help button which lit up. He was impatient for the stewardess to help him with something and Ken reflected that the man should settle down and learn some patience. The plane's speakers cracked on and the Captain's voice came smoothly directly to each passenger who could adjust the volume of the loudspeaker for their localized area.

"So much technology," thought Ken, "and still all these people need so many creature comforts. We're flying a quarter of the way across the globe in less than a day, and no one is amazed." He pulled his silver pocketwatch out to check the time. Finally the plane took off and left the ground. "Amazing," Ken thought to himself, "Just 80 years ago and no one would have dreamed this would be possible." His face turned red. He should have gone by sea. Man was not meant to fly. It was so modern. It was too modern. The wing outside his window let out a deafening BANG, and erupted in firey smoke. He could see a dark liquid fly out of the engine. He clicked the old brown pen again. "I should have gone by sea," he said aloud to no one as the cabin filled with helpless screams from passengers and staff alike.

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