Posts Tagged ‘Ben Hallert’

EP533: 2016 Flash Fiction Contest Winners


Bona Fide

by Ben Hallert

The block’s turning into a rough neighborhood, the kind of place murder victims go to hang out.  It’s nasty and dirty but it’s home.  What’s got me pissed isn’t a little trash, it’s these stupid glasses everyone’s wearing.  Government wastes money on them instead of doing their goddamn jobs, drives me nuts.  The worst part: that dumb smile.  You know the one.  Bunch of fakers, walking around smiling at all the filth like it’s high art.

“Hey man, forget your specs?”  Crap, a cornerboy snuck up on me because I wasn’t paying attention.  He holds out a set.  “Free pair.”

“I pay my taxes, boy, it’s not free.  Bug off.”  I keep walking, the pest follows.

“Ok, then you’ve already paid.”  He waves ’em again.

“I don’t want ’em.  My taxes should go to REAL cleanup and maintenance, not…  those.”  I stop, point.  “They’re insulting, I’m not interested in fantasy.”  I walk again, faster.  The boy keeps pace, switching to that infuriating ‘reasonable tone’ parents use when they’re trying to con kids out of being monsters.  I don’t NEED to be handled, I just want him gone.

“Look guy…. if you don’t take these, someone’ll try again later, then again after that.  Might as well get it over with.”  He brightens.  “Hey, you can just turn off the overlay if you want, you know.”

I slow.  “I can turn ’em off?  And you’ll all leave me alone?”

“Sure, you can turn off any enhancement.  Click your tongue twi-”

“Yeah, I’m not a caveman.”  I grab the set.  “Ok, you win.  Go bug someone else.”  I scowl at the glasses as he leaves to find his next mark, then put ’em on.  Everything around me changes.

I ignore the pretty lies and start configuring.  I know if I don’t, the slums’ll look like new construction, the garbage in the street’ll be gone, and everyone’ll have the bodies of freakin’ supermodels.  After a minute, I’ve got honest, dingy reality back.  I’ll take true filth over fake clean anyday, but… everyone still has that dumb smile. I want to scream “It’s not real!  It’s a lie, they’re faking you out and you’re buying it!”  I want to, but they say I sound like a crazy person when I drop hard truths so sometimes I don’t.

They don’t care.  They get their shiny buildings and pretty people and nobody has to DO anything for it.

Well, at least the cornerboys’ll stop hassling me.  I squint, it’s bright out.  Re-open the editor, make ’em sunglasses.  Not bad.  For funsies, I flip one of those idiot mouths upside down.  Oh, this is rich, the simp looks so messed up.  I flip a setting so everyone’s like that.  That’s better, now I don’t have to look at the grins anymore.

Fine.  They can have their illusions, I’ll stay in the real world.  I know the score, I’ve got my integrity.

I keep walking, the last honest man in a world of lies, and I smile.

(Continue Reading…)

EP426: Flash Fiction Special

Show Notes

See HalleRt’s current project here: http://timetravelreference.com/

Feeling adventurous enough to read all of the contest submissions? Have at it!


Four Tickets

by Leslianne Wilder

It’s the only fair way.

Mabel traces the edges of her respirator mask, makes sure there is no crack for the airborne toxins to wriggle in and burn holes in her lungs. She smooths the overalls over her belly- no swell yet. She’s hungry, but it’s worth it. She has four lottery tickets this week.

Mabel sits by the playground and chats with friends. Their children’s respirator masks are painted with elephants, snakes, and monkey tails, and the children run after each other for as long as they can without gasping. They laugh, and it sounds magical; deadly, terrifying and freeing all at once, like setting money on fire. No matter how bad things get, children fill Mabel with a sense of hope and gravity.

“Little Saul can read a whole book by himself,” Rachel says, muffled behind her mask. “He’s got a couple years yet, but we think he’ll be able to test into the domes after puberty. Think of it. A good job, something executive. He’s a sweet boy, he’ll send us back money. He’d never forget us.”

Rachel coughs, and on the gray rungs of the playground ladder, Saul wheezes to himself. Mabel doesn’t say it; no one says it. Rachel’s a sweet woman, and hope’s all she’s got.

(Continue Reading…)