FFF - Week 3 - Anger Management
September 17, 2015
This week's prompt from Flash Fiction Friday looks at opening lines.
From the site -
Stephen King said about the first sentence of a story: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” This week, let’s focus on opening lines. Below are five choices. Your task is to choose one to begin your story with. Make your story grab us, pull us in, and refuse to let us go. Here are your choices:
- ‘I always knew there was something not quite right about Harold.’
- ‘Why, on this night of all nights, must it begin again?’
- ‘When she opened the door, she couldn’t believe it was really there – waiting.’
- ‘When he awoke and looked around, nothing in the room seemed familiar.’
- ‘The light shone brightly through the crack in the roof, and they all became very frightened.’
Got one picked? Great. Then, get started!
Prompt: Wow us with a story beginning with one of the listed opening lines.
Word Count: 1,500 or less
I chose prompt #4. My story is 1033 words.
When he awoke and looked around, nothing in the room seemed familiar.
It was a tiny room, with little more than a narrow bed, a battered armchair, and sink and hotplate in the corner. A typical rooming house setup, and, judging by the worn rug, the noise from other rooms, and the smell, not a very fancy rooming house. Scott moaned, rubbed his eyes, and sat up. As he looked around it started to come back to him. Yes, this was his little hovel. His life consisted of this place, a job delivering flyers, and the occasional evening in the local pub. Which was where he must have been last night, although this didn't feel like a normal hangover. And why this damned blank? Some lowlife must have drugged him at the bar. He felt a sudden surge of anger, clenching his fists. Then, it was gone just as suddenly, replaced by a calmness.
He made himself a coffee on the little hotplate, managing to burn his finger in the process. He was briefly tempted to hurl the cup across the room, but decided to just sit and relax in his lumpy armchair.
He was pondering these strange mood swings, when there was a knock on the door, and a head peeked in. “Scott, you up? Are you okay?”
Scott stared for a moment, then smiled. Dan, that's who it was. His friend. “Sure, Come on in. Just trying to recover from last night. Did we party too much?”
Dan shook his head. “You don't remember, do you? Hmm.”
“At any rate, this feels more like drugs than alcohol,” said Scott.
Dan sighed. “It was drugs. From your implant. Feel the back of your neck.”
Scott reached up. Damn, there was a lump there, something foreign. “What the hell is this?”
“It's a Mood Manager,” said Dan.
Scott scowled. “Well whatever it is I don't like it and I want it out.” He grabbed at his neck, then paused and sat back. “Or not. Wow, this is weird. I keep getting angry, then it fades.”
“That's how it works,” said Dan. “That's why the courts use it. Rather than lock up the violent, they just use this to manage them.”
“And I was violent?”
Dan looked uncomfortable. “Very. But now you're fine.”
“And these blackouts?”
“Supposedly if the system has to give too many shots in a day, then it gives you a different dose that night, to reset things. With this annoying side effect.”
“Supposedly?” said Scott.
“Well, you just got this implant last week. I was there when the judge ordered that you be fitted with it. They block out some of your past too, unfortunately, but I guess it's better than being in a cell. At any rate, this is your first blackout but you're good now. Come on, I'll buy you breakfast. “
Over the next few days Scott got used to the little jolts his implant gave him. On the whole, he even felt calmer each day, with less outbursts of anger. And the few times he did blow up, like when that asshole had backed right into his car, the resultant shot from his device had been positively euphoric. However, there still was some rage, as if his outbursts were too fast for the system to respond right away. The best one had been when he and Dan were jumped by three thugs on their way back from a bar. He'd managed to flatten two of their assailants before he mellowed out and stood there beaming, awash in happy feelings. Luckily the third attacker had fled.
“Wow, you sure can move fast,” said Dan. “But I'm not sure your Mood Manager is working right. Are you okay now? Can you make it home?”
“Sure, I'm good. I just need to walk around a bit, to cool down. I'll be fine.”
When he awoke and looked around, nothing in the room seemed familiar. Just as he sat up, the phone rang.
“Scott, it's Dan. Did you get home okay?”
There was a pause. “Damn it Scott. Did you have another blackout? Stay there. I'll be right over.”
He put the phone down, then looked at his hand. There was blood on it. Did he cut himself? He looked at the other one. Blood too. Dried, and not his, as far as he could tell. He took a deep breath. It was coming back—the implant, his anger, walking home alone last night, stalked by someone. Then the rage, and the calm.
By the time his friend arrived he'd cleaned off the blood and stuffed his spattered t-shirt in the trash. “Thanks for stopping by,” he said, “but I'm really okay.” Dan was concerned that the implant needed to be checked but Scott managed to calmly convince his friend that all was okay, he'd never felt better.
And it was true. Maybe the device had actually modified his behavior, but whatever had happened, his days went quite smoothly now. No flares of anger, no confrontations. His boss was pleased with his improved attitude, had given him a small raise, and was talking about a promotion. Which would mean enough cash for a real apartment, and perhaps even some new clothes. Scott focused now on carefully finding opportunities for specific instances of rage and the subsequent after effects, like a fine wine to be savoured. He tried to keep this all from his friend, but Dan was getting suspicious.
They'd been out for dinner – Scott's treat – and had headed back to his place to share a bottle of wine.
“I still think you need to check up with the doctors on this,” said Dan. “There seem to be some glitches.”
Scott glared at him. “Don't worry, it's working fine.”
“I'm not convinced,” said Dan. “I don't think you're being that objective here. Maybe I need to tell them myself.”
Scott carefully put down his glass. This would not do. He could feel the rage building.
When he awoke and looked around, nothing in the room seemed familiar.
Except Dan's dead body.
Now this was a great story!
I liked the buildup far better than mine. It was smoother and more coherent. Be interesting if a device like that could ever be developed.
Posted by: Beach Bum | September 17, 2015 at 11:01 PM
Loved the ending! Kind of felt it coming but the anticipation was half the fun.
Really interesting concept, drugging people instead of incarcerating them - but what about the side-effects? Great piece.
Posted by: Rose Green | September 18, 2015 at 06:05 PM
Wow. What a concept. Using a 'mood manager' to keep the violent under control. Apparently, the human mind and will to survive are stronger than the powers-that-be anticipated because it does not appear that Scott was content with simply getting through the days. People need to feel--the positive as well as the negative, and Scott was able to fight through the drugs and embrace his emotions. Unfortunately, his emotions were inherently dangerous to himself and others, and I think he actually enjoyed them while they lasted. Side effects of the drug? Perhaps. Malfunction of the implant? Probably. Most likely a combination of the two, as well as a major 'flaw' within Scott himself. Nice try, society, but hopefully, lesson learned. Don't screw with Mother Nature...
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | September 23, 2015 at 09:45 AM