My latest series for the flash fiction weekly Wednesday Briefs, Disassembly Required, is back with part two! You can read the first part here at the link. Previously, our anxious protagonist Beatriz and her assistant Allen had come across a diner in the fog while on their way to take home the machine without a name. I’m sure nothing weird will happen in this odd looking diner, right?
Disassembly Required, part 2/?. Prompt used: fish.
The interior of Frank’s Dining was faintly lit by the morning sun. Streams of orange light dappled across red tabletops and white linoleum, as though the fog had cleared the moment they’d stepped inside.
Beatriz stood in the doorway, unwilling to move. The door had been open when they arrived. Allen had already walked through and was sitting at the main counter, a plastic menu in her hand. The stool almost disappeared beneath the length of her skirt. She appeared listless, or perhaps restless. Maybe even like she hadn’t taken her medication that morning.
Still, Beatriz did not move. They were the only ones in Frank’s Dining. The only lights were the emergency lights. The jukebox sat in the corner, unplugged. The only sign of life was the clean countertops, and the faint odor of old cooking oil that came from the back.
“Your pills,” Beatriz started.
Still reading the menu, Allen patted one of her pockets. It rattled as though something plastic was inside. “I have ’em.”
“Oh…. That’s good.”
Allen tossed the menu onto the counter, where it landed with a suction-like smack. “I’m hungry. I’m gonna see where everybody is.”
Beatriz watched as Allen disappeared through the swinging doors that led into the back. “Allen?” No response. She stared at the double doors as they slowly swung closed. There’s a group of men with clubs waiting in the corner, she thought, hiding behind a stove, and now they’ve got Allen. Or it’s a room with a chair and a ticking bomb, and only a minute left on the timer and no wire cutters in sight, and Allen’s going to blow up at any second—
“They’ve got tuna fish!”
On the other hand, it could just be fish. Beatriz stepped into the diner proper, ignoring the dull sticky sound her flats made against the linoleum. She guessed the floor hadn’t been cleaned since the night before, although it felt freshly waxed. Something about the way the neon signs that did not glow was unsettling. Likewise the stationary Lazy Susans, and the rows of tables, all with identical condiment settings pushed in chairs, with not a single body sitting at them.
She pressed her palm against the glass of the display case at the register. Plastic-wrapped slices of pound cake sat under the dull hazard lights. It was cold in here. For the first time, she noticed her breath was visible. She breathed on the glass to see if she could make an impression.
A sharp whirring sound cut through the air. Beatriz stumbled back from the display case. The noise was coming from the back. She rushed the double doors, arms in front of her, to block any possible bomb debris or men with clubs.
She found herself in a standard industrial kitchen, only all of the cabinet doors were either open or ajar. Beatriz was standing at one of the prep stations. On the counter was an electric can opener, making short work of a jumbo-sized can of tuna fish. A strip of emergency lights overhead was her only light source.
“You’re alive.” Beatriz exhaled loudly. “That is, I mean…did you say tuna fish?”
“Yes, tuna fish,” Allen confirmed. She stared at Beatriz, and only then did the other woman realize how she must look, and she lowered her arms. “I’m gonna make a sandwich.”
Beatriz pushed her glasses up her nose and picked up one of the cans of tuna near Allen. “Please check the expiration dates before using.”
Allen turned her head. “Of course I did that already. Thanks, Mom.” She removed the opened can of tuna from the can opener.
Beatriz winced, but went on. “I find it strange that the door was open and no one’s even inside the building. Are you sure you want to eat anything from this pantry?”
“I’m hungry,” Allen said for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning but was in reality only the third time. She reached for an oversized jar of capers from a back counter. Her fingers brushed against the label before stopping sharply. “Did you hear something?”
A second later, Beatriz registered a loud popping sound before the overhead lights went out with an equally loud crack, plunging the two women into darkness.
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