Thirty

Reading time ~3 minutes

Prompt for this post on r/writingprompts

“For a first effort, this feels kind of last ditch.”

“Okay, well if you have a better idea, or even any idea at all, now’s the time to share.” She stared at him expectantly as the timer ticked down silently.

“Alright, alright, fine you’re right,” he said, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Go on then.”

She plunged back into the cavity in the floor paneling and got back to work. “Thank you.”

He started pacing back and forth on the narrow walkway. He didn’t like being this useless, but he couldn’t think of anything helpful to do. So he paced. All the while, he ran through the same mental checklist over and over. Everyone is definitely off the ship: check. The lifeboat is powered up and ready to launch: check. Joanna’s going to rig the bomb to detonate on impact, check. The target coordinates are set and locked: check. I have no idea what to do with my hands: check. He continued to pace, wringing his hands nervously in a way that made him look like a caricature of a nervous man. “Are you sure I can’t help?”

“Remember that time you accidentally set mom and dad’s kitchen on fire trying to cook scrambled eggs?” She asked with her entire upper body still down in the hole.

“Yeah.”

“I have never been more sure of anything in my life.”

Some chunk of metal with a long series of colorful wires sticking out of one end came flying out of the hole and landed on the deck with a thud. He bent over to pick it up.

“DO NOT touch that. It will kill you.”

“Seriously?”

“No, I just need it later and don’t want you to lose it on me.”

He sighed. His sister never trusted him with anything. He looked at the timer on the wall. Only two minutes left. Their margin of error was going to be extremely tight. He tried to figure out how long it would take them to make it to the other end of the metal walkway, get into and seal the lifeboat, and launch. It couldn’t take more than a few seconds, right?

He wiped sweat from his forehead. How did she do this all the time? This is the first life-or-death situation I’ve been in and I’m lucky I haven’t shit myself and passed out in the corner, but she does it just about every day. He admired his sister deeply, but he was certainly not envious of her lifestyle. He was perfectly happy to keep his heroics confined to spreadsheets and finance documents. Those almost never explode in your face.

He hadn’t even wanted to come on this trip in the first place. His idea of a vacation did not involve anything that could be described as “extreme.” He’d rather sit in the sun on a beach somewhere and finish the book series he started last year, maybe taking a break for lunch. If he was feeling “extreme” maybe he’d have a second breakfast instead.

“Okay, let’s go!” She was already out of the hole and charging towards him and the lifeboat.

He turned and started running too, but immediately caught his foot on the railing support and instead started falling face first towards the deck plating. Luckily, his sister’s body was there in the way to stop him from crashing into the hard metal. Unluckily, he knocked her backwards and she lost her grip on the metal piece, which started bouncing down the walkway back towards the hole from whence it came.

As they both hit the floor, he watched as it clanged its way to the edge of the hole, then very gently fell in. The bomb exploded immediately. Everything turned into a bright white nothingness.

“Oooh, tough luck right at the end there,” a genial man’s voice boomed all around them. “Let’s see how you scored!”

“Goddammit,” Joanna said as she pushed him off of her. “Are you kidding me?”

“Sorry, I just-“

A huge scoreboard was visible floating in the void. “Totaling 650 points, which puts you squarely in fourth place! Congratulations, please exit to your left,” the voice said as a rectangle slid open.

“Oh my god, fourth? This is so embarrassing.” Joanna stomped off out the exit.

“I didn’t…” He trailed off as she was already out the door. He sighed. This vacation sucked.

Thirty-Two

A man is convinced to do something he's not interested in.
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Thirty-One

Published on January 31, 2017

Twenty-Nine

Published on January 29, 2017