I recently entered the NYCmidnight flash fiction competition, and challenged myself to write a 1,000 word story in 48 hours on given prompts. My heat were all given the same prompts, which were:
Location: Electronic vehicle charging station
Object: A tote bag
I’ve shared the story below, I was delighted to place second in my heat!
Electricity in the Air
Cruze gazed around the crowded car park until he caught sight of a familiar silver sheen. For an instant, he wasn’t sure if it was her. But as their eyes met, and her headlights dipped shyly, Cruze knew he would have found Bolt anywhere.
Checking quickly to see if Mike was still immersed in his magazine, Cruze lifted a windscreen wiper in greeting, feeling himself grinning from bumper to bumper like a lovestruck teen. Play it cool, Cruze he muttered to himself. He knew he was acting like he’d just come off the production line in 2017, but he couldn’t help it. He had never known anyone like Bolt before. Cruze knew logically that there must be thousands of automobiles that exact colour, but somehow, she was the shade of sterling silver while the rest were a dull grey. Her headlights were like sunshine captured behind plastic, and man, that body. Cruze felt his engine rev of its own accord as he pictured Chevrolet breaking the mold when Bolt came on the scene– we’ve hit our peak guys, we’re shutting up shop.
Bolt was fluttering her own windscreen wipers coyly in reply, and Cruze wished for the umpteenth time he could just roll on over and speak to her, or encourage his driver towards the empty spaces to her left and right. There was always plenty of time. Mike’s habit was to grab a coffee at this service station on his way back from work in the afternoon, needing a pick me up after a long shift, and Cruze was pretty sure that Bolt’s driver must work here, as she was pretty much always parked in the same spot. His eyes lifted to the sign above her parking space – Electronic Vehicles Only. The petrol flowing through his engine usually made him feel strong and powerful, but at these moments it was like Kryptonite.
So day after day, the two cars flirted across the tarmac, summoning up the courage to wink indicator lights in each other’s direction, or sometimes waving a wing mirror towards the waning sunlight as Mike drove Cruze away each afternoon, sending a glint through the air; the equivalent of a chastely blown kiss. Even if Cruze knew how to make Mike understand him, he couldn’t change the very make up of their engineering. Bolt was electric and Cruze was petrol-powered, and that meant that their love would always be at a distance.
Taking his mind off Bolt was never easy, but Cruze concentrated on the motorway that afternoon as they completed the last leg of Mike’s journey home from work. This was his favourite time of day, as the sun set, and Mike put his foot down hard on the accelerator. They zipped past other cars, leaving them a blur of colour in their wake. Mike was his best friend, and Cruze wished he could speak to him freely. He almost felt like Mike was doing the same thing that he was, using the speed to distract him from some impossible situation of his own.
As they came off the motorway, they slowed down, and turned easily down the side roads which led to Mike’s semi-detached house. Cruze felt mocked by the two-car garage, immediately reminded of lonely nights in the dark, with only thoughts of Bolt to keep him warm. As the door closed behind him, Cruze gave a heavy puff of his exhaust, ready to try to get some sleep.
Suddenly, he heard a car door slam, right outside the garage.
“Oh, hey, it’s you.” Came Mike’s voice, full of surprise.
“Hey Mike, sorry for literally just showing up – you probably think I’m crazy!” Cruze didn’t recognise the voice, and wished he could turn around in the tight space and press his ear up to the door to hear better.
“Sure! I mean, no, not at all. But what’s up?”
“It’s your bag.” Cruze heard the door of the car open again, and imagined this faceless woman lifting up a bag in the pause that followed. “You left it behind, and I never see you without it.” She paused again. “Not that I’m always watching you or anything, but you know. It’s a cool bag. I’ve never seen a tote which zips up like that, and you always have it, so I figured it’s kind of important, so I looked up your address on the loyalty app database..“ This time the pause was shorter. “Which is probably illegal or something. I’m a freak, forget I was here, take your bag, I’ll just go.”
The car door opened again, and Cruze heard Mike call out. “Laura, hold up a second. Seriously.” Cruze stared into his wing mirrors, as if sheer determination could help him see through the door of the garage. “Laura” Mike repeated. “Your coffee isn’t that great.”
“Oh.” Laura replied, unsure what to say. “Sorry. I don’t get to choose the roasters or anything.”
“No. I mean, your coffee isn’t that great, but I still come in to your coffee shop every single day on my way back from work. And then that coffee keeps me awake at night, and I lie there wondering why I didn’t manage to say more than five words to you. Then I make myself promise I’ll manage it the next day before I can let myself fall asleep.”
“Oh.” Laura’s voice was quieter now, but the car door stayed open.
“It’s getting dark. Do you want to put your car in my garage and come in for a drink?” asked Mike.
Laura must have nodded, because the next sound after her car door closed was Mike opening back up the garage door. Cruze’s engine almost leapt into life independently as the vehicle smoothly slipped into place next to him. Sterling silver, sunlight captured behind plastic, and man, that body.