Short Fiction – The Ticking (By Melissa R. Mendelson)
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
White walls dressed in color splayed across the room. Large, glass windows drifted beneath soft, silky white curtains. The furniture was all decked out in black leather, all except for the chestnut wood desk in the corner. A ceiling fan whirled around and around, chasing the heat out, and the black floor glistened below like a hungry abyss awaiting another soul.
“Ms. Flores?” She broke her stare from the floor to look up at the man sitting behind the chestnut wood desk. “The number.” He glanced at his watch. “Have you chosen one?”
“Right. The number.” She gnawed on her lip. “I’m not sure.” She looked down at her hands in her lap. “It’s a tough answer.”
“But you must answer it.” The man sat back in his black leather seat, checking his watch. “How’s the family?”
“Your family. Your father still with you?”
“And you had one brother.” Tears filled her eyes. “I’m sorry. Did he just go?”
“Yeah.” She wiped her tears aside. “Lucky number 21.”
“21. Shame. Such a young age.” He glanced at his watch.
“Am I keeping you from something?”
“No. Not really.” He played with the pen on his desk. “We are in a crunch here, and I don’t want my partner picking up where I left off. I hate loose ends.”
“I see, and your boss?” He grew pale. “Is he in the office today?”
“No. He’s around, collecting.” The pen rolled off his desk. He stared at it for a moment. “Today’s my birthday.”
“Happy birthday, James.” She smiled. He didn’t. “So, I am keeping you from something.”
“Terry, you know how this works. This agreement cannot be broken. If one person breaks it, the world goes back to how it once was. Do you want to be responsible for that?” She shook her head, sinking back in her seat. “I need a number. It’s a reasonable question.”
“It’s just… I don’t know. I’m not even married. Yet.”
“Do you want to be?” She nodded. “You want kids?” She nodded again. “Then, make it happen before…” He looked at his watch. “Time’s up. I need a number.”
“Is that your final answer?” She nodded. “Then, I need the signature on this document here.”
“Will it hurt?”
“For a moment,” and he pricked her finger with his pen knife. “85 is a good number. You have time.” He watched her sign the document with her finger. “Here,” and he handed her a gauze pad and band-aid. “Working today?”
“No. Why do you keep checking your watch?”
“I was born around now.”
“Oh. Oh. I’m sorry, James.”
“You didn’t know. Service?”
“What kind of service do you want?”
“My mother had a video, so I like that. I’ll do the same.” She turned away and moved back to her seat.
“And I think we’re done here, Ms. Flores.” He stacked the documents together and then noticed that his pen was now by her feet. In response, she knelt down to pick it up. “Maybe, after this, we could…”
His chair was empty. The documents waited on top of his desk. His phone rang. Upon the third ring, another man entered the room and took his seat. He gathered the documents, flipping through each page, and then without a word, he nodded to Ms. Flores and left the room.
“Good-bye, James,” and she placed the pen back on his desk. “See you in fifty years.” She gathered her things by her chair and closed the door behind her.
Melissa R. Mendelson graduated college with both an AA in Liberal Arts and BA in Mass Communication: Critical Analysis. She was a Long Island news reporter from 2002 to 2004 and later went to work for the State of New York. She has written a variety of writing that continuously is published by the Antarctica Journal News, and she recently finished writing her first Horror/Sci-Fi novel, Lizardian, which can temporarily be found as an E-book on Amazon Kindle.