Flash Fiction: Zero To Hero

After he took pity on our poor, pathetic, word-herding, NaNoWriMo-ing souls for the last two weeks, Chuck Wendig this week gave us this task in his Flash Fiction Challenge, based on last week’s micro-Challenge. (My response to last week’s micro-Challenge is here.) This week we’ve been instructed to write “1,000 words or so” using someone else’s first line from last week. I’m using the first line offered up by Kenneth Jobe (November 9th, 12:32 AM in the comments). As usual, I’m over the word count. This week, “or so” = 70 words. As long as I’m within 10% of the target, it’ll have to do. (First draft was almost 1,300 words, so, hooray for vicious editing!)

As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.

ZERO TO HERO

Fifteen minutes turned Pete Dodd from zero to hero. He had never been more miserable.

His Catholic school upbringing was the problem, of course. All of the holier-than-thou crap they had stuffed into his skull for twelve years had left him ill prepared for the real world. At least, the real world as represented by a Big Ten college.

The academics were a piece of cake. The Sisters of the Spanish Inquisition had made sure he knew how to study. They had built a firm foundation in math, language, history, and literature. A foundation in the sciences – not so much. As far as Pete could tell, they were still pissed off over the whole Galileo thing. Fortunately, as a journalism major, it didn’t matter if he knew the difference between cosmology and cosmetology.

The social aspect of college was where Pete had discovered just how badly the good nuns had failed him. They had thoroughly conditioned him to feel properly sinful and unworthy when confronted with unapproved urges and desires. He was a good boy, and pure.

So why had God chosen to put him into a co-ed dorm? And why had He in His infinite wisdom chosen to put Pete across the hall from Amber Paige’s room? Beautiful Amber Paige, with her long, golden hair, her full and ample bosom, her skimpy tank tops, her hourglass figure and shakka-boom shakka-boom way of walking, her tight, tight jeans…

For two months Pete had focused on his studies as if his life depended on it. All the while, the temptation that was Amber Paige was repeatedly flaunted in front of him. Pete searched high and low for some fault, some flaw in her makeup which would allow him to hate her, or at least ignore her.

To Pete’s dismay, Amber Paige was perfect. She was intelligent, charming, friendly, beautiful, and funny. She even offered to help him with his required freshman physics class when he was foundering. In her high school she had received a splendid science education, which she was now using to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering. She was going to be an astronaut, she said, and Pete didn’t doubt she would be.

About the time Pete’s stunted self-confidence and atrophied social skills began to realize that he should be charming, friendly, and funny in return when talking to Amber, she began hanging out with Billy Omaha, the backup, redshirt junior quarterback on the school football team. Pete soon realized that “hanging out” meant torrid college sex, usually at high volume.

It got tougher to focus on his academics, especially physics. He got his first “C” ever on a test and sat waiting for Satan to appear to take him to Hell. Instead he got Amber offering again to tutor him. The conflicting feelings triggered by the offer made Pete wish Satan had appeared.

Caught between doctrine and lust, adrift on a sea of hormones, Pete was not thinking straight.

So when the fire alarms went off in the dorm, Pete should have headed out the door and down the stairs to his assigned check-in location. That’s what Sister Elizabeth would have expected of him. Instead, Pete assumed it was just another stupid drill and ignored the ringing bells.

When he saw the fire trucks outside, he realized his error and headed for the door. He opened the door and immediately slammed it shut as a wave of thick black smoke rolled in.

Being on the fourth floor it was too high to jump, but the stairs were only a few feet away. Pete tied a T-shirt over his nose and mouth, crouched down, and went out into the hallway, hugging the floor.

There was more or less clear air for a foot or so off the ground, so Pete wormed his way toward the stairwell as if he had barbed wire and sniper fire going over his head. He had only gone a few feet when he ran into the bodies in the hall.

A very quick exam by touch told him there were two people there, one male and one female, neither wearing very much. He grabbed Amber’s arm and started dragging her along the floor toward the stairs.

As he got to the stairwell and pushed the door open, he found an enormous figure coming up the stairs. The firefighter was wearing breathing gear, along with brilliant lights clipped to his helmet and shoulder. He saw Pete dragging Amber’s limp form and charged up the stairs toward them.

Without hesitating, the firefighter grabbed Amber and slung her over his shoulder. He leaned down next to Pete’s face so he could be heard through the mask and yelled, “Can you follow me down on your own?”

Pete was feeling slightly lightheaded from the exertion of dragging Amber, but he gave the firefighter a thumbs-up gesture. The firefighter immediately turned and began going down the stairs as fast as possible, Amber over his shoulder.

Pete should have followed him as instructed. It would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, Pete went back into the hallway, found Billy’s leg, and dragged him back into the stairwell. There were no more firefighters in sight and Billy outweighed Pete by over fifty pounds, but somehow Pete got Billy onto his back and down the stairs to the second floor, where other firefighters finally met him and took them both out for medical attention.

Pete was the talk of campus. His picture was splashed across the local newspapers and television stations. He was honored at the beginning of the next home football game. Right there in front of 90,000 fans, Amber gave him a hug and a kiss which prompted a whole new dimension of impure thoughts in the following days.

However, Amber and Billy became even more attached after their near-death experience. Soon she was wearing a ring.

Amber and Billy wanted to be Pete’s best friends forever. Amber was totally oblivious to Pete’s desire to be more than friends, and Pete was completely incapable of expressing his desire.

Zero to hero, but the hero doesn’t always get the girl. Sometimes he just gets to remember how wonderful she felt for those few seconds when he grabbed her to drag her along the floor. Somehow the memory just made him even more miserable. Especially since he knew that the smart thing would have been to leave Billy behind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Science Fiction, Writing

Please join the discussion, your comments are encouraged!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.