prompt: rally, title: crippled inside in (just like) starting over flash fiction

  • May 17, 2023, 8:55 p.m.
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“Awake again. You rally quick.” The shambles of a man didn’t even look up at the voice, reflexes grasping for the bottomless pack, no regard for anything else. It was gone, though, and worse he was now also strapped tight to a gurney. “Amazing devices in that bag,” the stranger continued, “must’ve been to some insane alternate Earths.” She fiddled with that Dustbuster-looking thing, flicking its light on-and-off. “My uncles recognized some of them from comic books or pre-war film. You dove so far into possibility you went places I’d consider fictional. That’s crazy.” “Fat goddamned good it does here,” he mumbled, straining against his bindings. “It talks!” the voice exclaimed with both derision and wonderment. “That’s progress.”

He finally glanced up at his most recent captor. A woman, early to mid twenties. Asian? Mixed-ethnicity. Chestnut hair, not quite shoulder-length. Glasses. Practical clothes. “You’re human?” he asked, “wait, you’re actually people?” She was taken aback by the question. “What was I supposed to be?” The man broke into laughter, an exhausted relieved hoarse laughter. “The god-things I’m running from,” he ceased with his furtive escape attempts, “you’re just humans who stumbled over me. Thank Christ.” He looked closer at her. In some better life, he may have found her a good bit lovely. Not that such things mattered anymore.

“Never had someone resist like you,” she said, “not like you fought it or blocked it, your surface feels blare like a foghorn, but when I dug deeper, you just… stopped. Brick walls. Nothing.” He gazed down at his hands. “I’ll explain best I can if you’ll goddamn untie me.” She looked toward the mirrors, her uncles shrugged at her from behind them. She shrugged back and undid the hand restraints.

“The things that made me like this,” he said, rubbing his sore wrists, as she freed the rest of him, “didn’t want us psychically polluting timelines they sent us to, accidentally teaching a telepathic caveman the wheel eons too soon or whatever. Couldn’t turn it off if I wanted.” He stretched his long limbs, knees cracking loudly. “That’s also why I survived the annihilation of whatever you accidentally snagged me with. The kind of immune system that doesn’t transmit extinction-level plagues between universes is pretty damage-resistant as well.” He gazed into one of the mirrors, concentrated again, saw brief purple fires then nothing. “Just don’t understand why none of my other… abilities work.” “You mean, like the toys from your infinity purse?”

“No,” he blanched at calling it a purse, “those work or they don’t, it’s a crapshoot, depending on the particular laws of energy conservation in a given universe. I mean, myself, my skills, I…” he turned toward her and softened, “look, clearly you’re not cosmic horrors looking to kill me, let’s start over.” He put his hand, still sooty from the explosion, toward her in a gesture of goodwill. “I’m Rober…” he paused, “friends call me Bobby.”

She extended her much-cleaner hand out toward his and shook. “Dakota. Dakota Lennon.”

Last updated May 27, 2023

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