It was the first time I ever lied to my parents.
I told them I went to Starbucks, because I wanted to write more, and the steady hum of chatting college students gave me ideas for my stories. The little bits and pieces of conversations just floated out into the air, and I’d grab one, and put it in my story.
Something made up like that.
But that wasn’t the reason I went to Starbucks more frequently than ever.
It was because I saw him after class one day.
I only saw the back of his head, his Kindle Paperwhite, and his massive thumb that must have stretched halfway across the edge of the device. When I went inside a few days later to order a chai latte, I saw him again. Same white shirt, black pants and black shoes with pink shoe-laced. Same brown hair, same Paperwhite.
In a pink case.
Even as I surf Facebook on my laptop right now, sipping my newest chai latte, I want to scream and fall on my knees and beg to the gods, “Please, oh-please, let this man be into other men!”
But that would break decorum. And if there’s anything you don’t want to do in a Starbucks on a college campus, it is to break decorum.
Especially during midterms.
Wait, why am I surfing Facebook again?
I should be writing, dang it.
I close the tab and open a Notepad file. I know. Old school, but I like the bare bones feel. And it’ll force me to save every two minutes.
Now, what to write about?
Mr. Pink Kindle Paperwhite?
But what to call him? Is he even going to be a character? Is he an orphan? Is he some fancy rich boy?
Whatever he is, he’s going into the Doc Box I’ve got locked up on my comp.
I type away.
“His name is Vincent. Vincent Vignette. A double-agent of the imaginary government of Babylon, said to only exist in the minds of conspiracy theorists. Armed only with a decryption decoder disguised as a Kindle Paperwhite, he fights crime and saves the world from… from…”
I tapped my temples. C’mon, are the words when I need them?
The actual Mr. Paperwhite chuckles silently as he bites his knuckle. He highlights whatever passage it is that makes him laugh and taps along the screen, probably typing a note for later.
The words for my doc don’t come, but something else does: an e-mail from someone by the name of Carlisle Penn.
With the subject titled, “Close, But Not Quite.”
I squint. Carlisle Penn? Is that supposed to be some joke about Pennsylvania? And if so, why am I subscribed to him? I’m opening this thing and unsubscribing pronto.
“You’ve got the part right about me saving the world, but I’m afraid my name isn’t Vincent. Sorry to disappoint.”
My heart stops cold.
I look up from my laptop screen at Mr. Pink Paperwhite.
And he’s not at the couch anymore. He’s gone.
Gone. Like, no-butt-print-on-the-couch gone.
I hold my head against my head. There’s no way. There’s no way I could have imagined him. There’s no way I’m going crazy. There’s no way that just happened.
Another e-mail pings to my desktop. Fingers trembling, I open it.
“Don’t worry. You’re not going insane. I’m very real. I’m real. I’m also very, very dangerous. And in a two days, you and every person you know that’s every touched a book or written a word is going to regret the day they ever did if they don’t get out of town.
“So pack up your things. Or else, I’ll be packing you in a duffel bag, okay?
I closed my laptop lid. Stared at nothing.
Then I noticed a few other people were staring blankly at their laptops, like they’d been hit with similar emails.
What was going on?
What would go on in two days?
And what did he mean by “saving the world”? Did he just threaten me or give me an escape?
My lungs tightened, and my asthma started to flare.
This was bad. Whatever it was, this was very, very bad.
This week’s flash fiction piece was inspired by a small, 200-word piece I wrote a year ago as well as a shorter piece I published on this blog awhile ago. The first 180-or-so words were already written, but I wanted to expand it, tweak it a bit more, and give it the weird-twist I give all my stories. But at least I got my wheels spinning.