FLASH FICTION—PINE TREES

Writing

I wrote this piece of flash fiction to be a bit of a short, sharp punch to the gut. I hope it succeeds. It first appeared in a literary journal called Iceberg.

The girl surfaced into consciousness briefly to the smell of pine trees, eyes still squeezed tightly shut. Her body lurched violently and a wave of nausea washed over her. She sank back into darkness.

She choked back the urge to vomit the next time she came to and cautiously opened her eyes. Her vision swam, doubled, refused to clear. There are the pine trees, she thought. But why are they growing in the sky? Darkness again.

When the girl awoke for the third time the nausea had subsided and she could see, but that only made things worse. She was in the back of a van. The pine tree sky forest resolved itself to be dozens of pine tree shaped air fresheners hanging from the ceiling. They bounced and swayed together with the movement of the vehicle. The van had been stripped to bare metal, the walls and floor filthy, caked with rust and dirt. The pine trees could not completely mask a foul smell that filled the small space.

The girl was sprawled on the floor as if she had been thrown there. Her head throbbed, and a sharp pain burned between her shoulder blades. She tried to sit up and realized her hands were tied tightly behind her back. Her legs were bound, knees to ankles, with duck tape. The girl pushed with her feet until she was wedged against one wall, and managed to sit up. She looked toward the front of the van. She could see through a half-open metal door into the cab, where a middle-aged man was driving. His hair was cut short, and he wore old-fashioned black-rimmed glasses. The girl noticed that one corner of his glasses was wrapped with tape. The man was wearing dirty coveralls, and leather gloves even though it was stifling hot in the van.

The girl did not panic. She had been trained for this. She knew exactly what to do, what to say.

“My father will pay whatever you want, as long as you don’t hurt me,” she said in a strong, clear voice. Her father was very rich, and had long been fearful that someone would kidnap one of his children. He had drilled them all on how to act should the unthinkable happen. Be cooperative. Be respectful. Do not show fear.

The man glanced back at her in the rearview mirror. “What’s that, honey?” he asked.

“I don’t know how long we’ve been driving, but I’m sure my father knows I’ve been kidnapped by now. He’ll be waiting by the phone for your ransom demand.” The girl tried to sound brave, but she heard a little quaver in her voice and it annoyed her.

She could see the man smile in the rearview mirror, and she thought, it’s going to be alright. She forced a smile of her own and said, “Please, sir. I’d like to go home now.”

The man turned his head so he was looking at the girl directly. “Darlin’, you got it all wrong,” he said. “I don’t know who your daddy is, and I don’t care how much money he has. There’s not gonna be any ransom.” He turned back to face the road and said, more to himself than to her, “That’s not why I took you.”

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