I promise my compatriot and mother that I would write for this week Wednesday Briefs, and not only have I done so, I apparently started a new series. I realize I haven’t finished the last Wednesday Briefs series I started, but by no means is that one abandoned. Anyway, this one has everything: science nerds, lesbians, troubled youths, strange diners, and fog aesthetic. Enjoy!
Disassembly Required, part 1/?. Prompts used: foggy road, “What time do you open?”. Content warning: homophobic slurs.
The drive back to town was a slow one. Fog hugged the road and clung to trees that cast monochrome silhouettes in the haze.
The machine sat in the back of the car, except it wasn’t a machine anymore, because machine suggested the possibility of functionality, and this particular bundle of metal and circuits was no longer operational by human standards.
Her assistant was slumped low in the passenger seat, staring out at the fog without a word. She hadn’t spoken since the hotel parking lot, since tears stung her eyes and cheeks as she shouted, “It’s all your fault, Beatriz!”
It’s all your fault. Every syllable struck like lightning to each cell in her body. Beatriz gripped the steering wheel a little harder. There were no more tears now, no more shouting and no more crying. Those would almost have been preferable to the silence.
“We can repair this.” Beatriz was talking about the machine. “We can fix this.” She was no longer talking about the machine.
Without looking, her assistant began to pick at the glue that adhered her name tag to her shirt, the one that said Ellen even though they’d told the conference numerous times it was Allen. Named after Allen DuMont, she’d told Beatriz the first time they met, her father a long-time television repairman.
“I’m afraid my name is not so interesting,” Beatriz had replied. “My parents simply wanted me to bring joy to the world.”
“And have you?”
“No, I can’t say that I have,” Beatriz said blankly before handing off another pair of diodes to her assistant.
Back in the car, Beatriz listened to the sound of Allen slowly destroy her only remaining link to the conference and their absolute failure as scientists and, Beatriz thought, as friends. As friends? Beatriz had only known Allen for four months before they proposed a dual presentation at the annual engineering conference, that year held in a town only a few hours from their lab. They were working on a single-board computer to rival Raspberry Pi and Arduino, except that it evolved into a series of single-board computers connected via a single private network, for classroom usage. Something like that.
The machine—no, the thing in the back of the car was not that.
Up ahead, the fog broke up enough that Beatriz could see the distant outline of a building. As they crawled closer, the outline turned into the grey-tinged image of a diner, the barely lit neon sign—Frank’s Dining—cutting through the gloom.
“‘m hungry,” Allen murmured.
Beatriz replied by flicking her turn signal on. At least they had enough left over in the trip budget for a decent meal before they had to be back at the lab. She’d have to remember to ask for a receipt.
As soon as they reached the parking lot, though, Beatriz turned cold. The diner looked to be closed, and there was no sign declaring their usual hours. She couldn’t see any movement inside, although there were several other vehicles in the lot besides her own. As she scanned the building for life, she could hear Allen shift restlessly in her seat.
“I wonder what time they open…” Beatriz thought aloud. It was early in the morning, but not too early for a typical diner not to be open for business. “I can look on my laptop for dining information—”
She heard the slam of the car door a second too late, and watched Allen walk toward the building, her long hair and longer skirt swinging behind her.
A memory flashed in front of her eyes: her father, crowding her personal space with his swinging arms and flushed face, spit flying from the corners of his mouth as he called her a fucking skirt chaser, a dumb dyke, as he threatened to rip up her textbooks.
Beatriz gave the steering wheel a thump, bringing her back to the present. With a sigh, she grabbed her shoulder bag and followed suit.
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