No one was surprised he had developed a new product. No one was surprised he had become a millionaire at twenty four. He had forty six thousand employees, turning over close to a billion dollars by the time he was thirty. It was the perfect script. Until he dropped off the grid and disappeared. Eventually, people stopped searching, whispering, caring. He became a meme that the fringe shared every time they were high on rebellion or low on self-worth. Something about fucking the world right back. But he could have just been a character in a somewhat-famous book that no one had really read. Until now. Until he showed up on TV, looking much the same, a few grey flecks in his hair and a harder voice – all he had to show for the last ten years.
He refused to comment on his vanishing. Someone had recognized him and shoved a microphone in front of his face. Peace to all, he said. But it didn’t stop the questions. On TV, in buses, in tea stalls, around the peepal tree in villages with no name, people asked and guessed and blamed and proselytized. Soon a theory grew horns and earrings, with bumps and coughs in every dialect, but largely agreeing that someone had abducted him to weaponize a global identity management programme. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, cyber warfare. People were translating tech into their own languages using the words for fantasy, magic, silence and impossible. But no one could explain why they had let him go now.
This one is a fake, a wise reporter broke on the evening news. An imposter who wants to steal the money. His ex-wife refused to be dragged in. She had married again and had no intention of ruffling her good life. So no one knew how the man was paying his bills or what he was doing when he wasn’t being photographed getting into or out of a car. Maybe they erased his memory before they let him go, someone else wrote. The thirsty news cabal was milking it dry and even in the upscale cafes, patrons were chomping hard enough to draw blood from their faux burgers.
A few days later the man drove his car off a bridge. A couple of shocked fisherman dragged his body out. It made even less sense. The plot thickens, they mouthed inanely, surely someone killed him? Disease must have been eating him from the inside. He must have had a death wish, a lady with bright red nails declared. They found nothing incriminating in his room, either. There was collective delight in dissecting his life, tweezers thrust into cells and shadows that might hold fodder for click-bait articles and prosaic tabloid inches. The fringe held candlelight vigils and wore black bands for a week. Religion had its moment. God had delivered justice. No one knew against what.
The woman who turned off the television wasn’t much to look at – the hunched posture and carpal tunnelled hands of someone who had spent a lifetime dancing fingers across a keyboard. When the beta version came back tested and bug free, he had nodded to her across a room of tired coders who hadn’t seen sunlight in many weeks. By the time he made his second million, he had wrapped his worn body around hers and let her take the lead. Before he left, he touched her belly, full as the moon, imprinted his sad face into her eyes and as if it was inevitable, closed the door softly behind him.
He had seen the girl outside the school. Big smile and quiet eyes. He knew she liked art. And poetry. And kept a journal in which she drew pictures of old buildings. He felt an ancient echo. The throbbing energy of creation. The screen responding to his touch. Her breath reacting to his. A new product. A new world. A new baby. A new life. The river was running fast and full with monsoon rain.
#flash #fiction 2
Here’s another flash piece from the archives. Wonder why they are both dark and centered around death… my mind has a mind of its own, I think. If you’ve written flash fiction recently, I’d love to read- drop the link in the comments!