I haven't done one of these Flash Fiction stories in a while - mainly because I tend to edit too much now. It's harder for me to commit and just write - even if it's for a first draft to get started with. I used to fire these off in a couple of hours, but my thinking now is Flash means short and fast to read, not always fast to write it well. Especially when trying to fit it into a three act play format. This one took a while.
The prompt was from my ROW80 group (a Round of Words in 80 Days), a few weeks ago. We had to incorporate this photo, and the words "a burnt metal box". We were limited to 700 words.
Mine is just under 500. (Photo credit: Zajcsik at Pixabay)
Too Many Bodies
Margarita's first clue was the circling vultures. She'd fled north across this same border two years ago, tired of trying to be a social activist under a repressive regime. The leaders talked democracy, but you were either with them or against them. Dissenters were punished swiftly, and firmly. She had been spending more time in jail than out on the streets, helping people. So she had fled, with the help of her dual citizenship status.
She had been trained as a paralegal, but her certification meant nothing up here. Ironically, the only job she could find now was as a privatized Border Guard, patrolling the wilderness in an SUV, helping catch people like her. Some came across on foot, some jammed in the back of a truck, but all came in search of democracy and a better way of life. And it was her job to intercept them. Government deregulation had made it easier for her to help those she caught, to bend the rules, which she did, with the unofficial approval of her Detachment Commander. However, she felt that she was still just treating a symptom.
Her next clue, as she drove closer, was the smell, sweet and cloying. What had started off as a 53 foot dry van was now little more than a burnt metal box on charred tires. It looked like the smuggler had become lost in the underbrush during last night’s storm, and had just given up, dropped his load, and headed back south. Sometime after, lightning had struck, igniting the nearby bushes.
She parked upwind, then approached carefully through the ashes and mud. The rain had finally doused the fire, but it would have been fast and hot. She touched one of the metal walls - still warm. She really didn’t want to see what was inside, but she didn't have much choice. She finally managed to hammer loose a latch on one twisted door, then jumped back as the weight inside forced it open. Bodies tumbled out, some charred, some just singed.
“Thank God,” she said. “Just hogs – Berkshire I think.”
But next time might be, would be different.
Margarita gazed south across the border. She needed to actually do something, as this would only get worse as the border tightened and people got more desperate. Her local councillor had offered several times to hire her to run a local support centre. It would be more than just that, though, as he was eager to help her start lobbying for new legislation. He too was an immigrant, with more political aspirations than town council. and saw this as a hot issue in the next election. It would be a drop in pay for her, but she’d look him up on her return to the city.
As for this load, she’d document what she could, bag some evidence, leave the rest for the vultures, then head back to her detachment office, here in Canada.