Flash Fiction: The Next Big Thing

This week Chuck Wendig in his benevolent and bounteous wisdom has instructed those of us worshiping at this feet to write “1,000 words or so” on some new kind of “punk” literature. His latest novel, “Under The Empyrean Sky“, invents “cornpunk” (he talks about how that happened here in a guest article on John Scalzi’s “Whatever” blog) and now he wants us to create our own version of punk using something new.

OK, I can do that. It remains to be seen if I can do it well, but here’s “The Next Big Thing”.

The Next Big Thing

She came out of the parking lot onto the sand, almost unnoticed at first from the far end of the lot where her truck was parked where there weren’t any other cars. It was a gray, drizzly, chilly morning where only the most diehard surfers were out in the shallow swells. The ever-present seagulls wheeled overhead though the mist and incipient fog, occasionally landing to fight over a piece of trash.

Slowly and methodically she plodded across the beach toward the high water mark. Each step she took was not so much careful as it was ponderous. Whatever detritus there might be on the sand wasn’t a threat or hazard to her but simply something to be crushed under the massive footpads. Instead of footprints, she left behind her a line of small craters.

By the time she got to the edge of the water, most of the surfers had come in to greet her, curious as to what in the world might be invading their beach. None of them were willing to get too close at first, given the size and weight of the machine standing there.

The figure was over eight feet tall, more or less humanoid, with a giant backpack-like structure in the rear and a smaller matching bulge of some sort jutting out of the front. On both shoulders were lights and video cameras.

At the top of the torso was a large bubble helmet, hinged somewhere in the back and now tilted up and out of the way. A woman’s head was sticking up, intent on a display screen that was mounted on top of the chest plate.

The skin of the monster was smooth and light grey but painted with a garish set of pink & black tiger stripes. A few bundles of wires and tubes could be seen joining sections together and bridging the suit’s joints. As the woman stood with her feet firmly planted she would occasionally squat or twist to reach a joint or connection, fiddling with the assembly, checking her display until she was satisfied.

“What ‘cha doing, dude?” one of the surfers finally hollered.

The woman stopped what she was doing and looked at the surfers, as if their presence was registering with her for the first time. The woman stopped her work and stood to look at the dozen or so surfers.

“I’m not a ‘dude’, dude,” she said with a bit of contempt. “I’m Molly.”

“Sorry, Molly! I can only see the top of your head, no offense, OK?” the surfer called. “I’m Doug, by the way. What is that thing? Is it like that thing in that movie for fighting monsters?”

“Doug, do you only surf or do you dive also?” Molly asked.

“I dive. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Think of this as a set of SCUBA tanks on steroids with a badass attitude.”

“Awesome, Molly! I really like the paint job. Where did you get it? Is this like a secret military weapon or something? Those colors don’t look very stealthy!”

“It’s not military and it’s not a weapon. I made it myself,” Molly said, resuming her examination of the unit’s connections.

“Whoa, you made that? How did you do that? What’s it made of? It looks like it weighs a ton!”

“I printed most of it with a 3-D printer. It’s like a carbon fiber material, not that heavy but very strong.”

“It’s gotta be heavy, look at the big tracks you left behind! It’s like a robot suit, right?” Some of Doug’s friends were starting to move around behind the suit. One of them now had the camera off of his surfboard to take video of Molly and her marvelous machine.

“The foot pads are heavy to help keep me upright, and the machinery in the body of the suit is heavy, mainly life support, power supply, and oxygen tanks. That’s why there’s some hydraulics, to assist with movement. Now, I’m ready to go. Are you done asking questions?”

“Sorry, Molly, you just don’t get to see something like that every day. Where are you going to go?”

“Catalina,” said Molly in a bored, matter of fact tone.

“You’re going to swim to Catalina in that thing? No way! It’ll sink like a rock!”

“I hope so, that’s the plan.”

“You’re nuts!” yelled Dave. “Is it like a super duper diving suit or a mini submarine? Is there an engine or a jet pack in there? How long can you stay underwater with just a couple of tanks of air?”

“Forever. The suit takes oxygen from the water to keep the tanks topped off. Now I really have to get going.”

“Double and triple no way! And this isn’t a military thing? What happens when your batteries die and then you can’t get air? You’re gonna die, lady!”

“Don’t worry, Dave. I put in a RTG, just like the Mars rovers use. It won’t run out of power anytime soon.”

“Yeah, right, whatever! And I suppose you printed that on your computer too! You’re just jerking me around, right? There’s a camera in there and probably in that truck over there and another one someplace else and I’m going to be on TV, right?” asked Dave. He seemed pleased with himself for figuring it out.

“Right. I’ll see you on TV, Dave.” Molly reached up for the suit’s helmet.

“Wait! You’re kidding! What do you call this thing?” Dave yelled.

“It’s just like it says on the truck, Dave.” Molly pointed back to the parking lot. “SCUBApunk.com. It’s going to be the next big thing. Spread the word!”

And with that, Molly swung the unit’s helmet closed and dogged the neck seal closed. Ignoring the surfer’s shouts, she quietly checked a few last readings on the unit’s display. Satisfied at last, with a wave of her arms to make sure that the small crowd knew to get out of the way, Molly walked forward into the surf, slowly submerging as she strolled casually off toward Catalina.

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