Saturday, July 7, 2012

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge #2

This week's challenge is to take a classic fairy tale, fable or nursery rhyme and bring it out of the past.  It can be set in this century or beyond, which left me with a lot of setting potential to chomp on.  It took me a bit to settle on a story but I decided that the Pied Piper needed a modern retelling.

Chuck's blog is here -

The Price Gets Higher

"I call it Sweet Melody," Piper said as he dangled the plastic baggie over the counter.  "You can smoke it, inject it or snort it.  You won't find a smoother high."  The boy reached out and Piper let the baggie drop into his hand, crystals bouncing around inside.  The kid ran a finger over the sticker on the back side, a small gold flute on a blue background.

"How much?" he asked, straightening up and setting his face in a somber stare.  Piper smiled, noticing again how talk of money always made kids try to act older.  This one couldn't be but 13 but he was trying to project a businessman's aspect.

"The first bag is free.  Call it a sample.  Don't worry, though.  It's the cheapest drug out there." Piper replied, rising from his chair and walking around the counter with his usual bouncing step.  The boy looked uneasy, glancing through the shop window and back to the baggie.  Piper laid a hand on his shoulder, urging him towards the door.  "Go on.  Tell your friends."  As the boy pushed the door open and stepped out onto the street, Piper heard music from a passing car.

Take on me...take me on...

His eyes narrowed at it, a sneer on the corner of his lip.  That song was like an obsession to people these days.  You couldn't even go an hour without hearing that shrill refrain.  Piper crossed to the door of the shop and swung the sign to read 'Closed'.  Across the street he could see the brick facade of the Hamelin Arms projects.  He watched the children milling about the sidewalk, acid washed jeans and leather jackets and boom boxes.  As he made his way back to the stock room he paused to snatch a baseball bat from one of the shelves.  The tag, which read 'Piper's Pawn - $2.50', peeled away from the chipped surface.

The door swung inwards and the dim glow of an overhead light illuminated the figure in the center of the room.  The man was heavy set under workman's overalls, but the chain that bound him to the metal chair was the most prominent feature.  Piper let the door swing shut behind him, stepping over and kneeling next to the man.

"You know, Marcus, I find that this decade doesn't sit well with me.  The music, for one.  So lacking in any true effort,"  Piper said.  Marcus looked up, one eye swollen shut from a previous beating.  "Despite that, I do admire how easily this generation's children are taken in by a quick fix for their unfortunate situations."

"Fuck you."  Marcus spat, blood on his lips, though the words came out slurred.  Piper frowned, his lips narrowing to a line, and he stepped back a bit as he tested the weight of the bat in his hands.

"You did, my friend.  You and all the other parents in the Hamelin Arms."  Piper paused long enough to slip the tri-colored denim jacket from off his shoulders and toss it onto the desk.  Blood stains were always tricky to get out of denim.  "We had a very simple arrangement.  One that you and your people initiated."  Leaning back, Piper brought the bat in a sideways swing.  Marcus' knee snapped violently at the impact, followed by a howl of pain.

"Stop...please...we didn't..."  Marcus begged, his muscles tightening against the chain.

"You didn't what?!"  Piper shouted, dropping low to bring his eyes in line with his captive's.  "Expect me to survive?"  He jabbed at Marcus' chest with the bat.  "You made me an offer.  Twenty-five grand to get rid of the dealers that were hooking your kids.  What did you call them?  Rats...vermin...scum?"

"You don't understand."  Marcus interjected, but a quick right hook split his upper lip and choked him with the words.

"I fucking understand!  I killed a dozen men for you.  A dozen deserving men, but that blood doesn't just wash away.  I did my part and you screwed me."  Leaping back, Piper swung the bat high and sent Marcus' head to the side with a hollow 'thump'.  A moment later the anger was gone and Piper was smoothing out the wrinkles in his grey Polo.  "That's alright, though.  I have a new price and you have no choice but to pay it."

" can't..." Marcus said, his good eye wet with tears.

"I already have.  Sweet Melody is on the streets now.  Your kids will come to me one by one begging for more.  They will come with their minds clouded and their bodies screaming for a fix.  And when they do?  When they do, I will take them.  Do you have any idea what kind of money I can charge for a relatively healthy child?  Factories, drug dens, whorehouses...they will all pay."  Piper drew in a slow breath, resting the bat on his shoulder.  "But don't you worry, Marcus.  You're one of the lucky ones.  You won't be around to see it."

The bat did its work, accompanied by screaming, and the heavy brick and mortar of the building swallowed the noise.  It was the kind of music that Piper could really appreciate.

1 comment:

  1. Really chilling tale - love the twist in this! Great story, really well written.