The sixth response in the One Lovely Blog Award Series is to Leila's Friday Flash, "You Think YOUR Job Is Bad..." on her blog: Stretching My Brain.
This was also intended as a submission for the #storycraft exercise this week. However, I exceeded the word count by a lot. This weeks challenge was to address backstory, so the flash below has a lot of backstory, let me know if I deftfully weaved it into the piece or if it's confusing.
Daniel Winston Jr. ran up the atrium stairs of Vanderbilt's Jacobs Hall two steps at a time. He didn't have to, Magic Eight-Ball had answered It is decidedly so to Daniel's question of whether Daniel would catch Professor Stoltz before he mailed the journal paper. Sweat ran down his back underneath the suit coat, inconvenient in Nashville's loathsome summer humidity. He wanted to finish this. He would prove himself before the foundation's eyes.
The freshly waxed floors squeaked as he slowed his stride reading the nameplates off the doors. Professor Stoltz. The man had thinning hair combed over his balding pate in thick lines and sat at his desk, the lights out, his shades tilted to show mere slits of the trees outside. At Daniel's footsteps, the man jumped, dropping a coffee cup whose black thick liquid sloshed onto the pine desktop.
"Who are you?" asked Professor Stoltz.
"Professor Stoltz?" asked Daniel.
"I don't think you are." Professor Stoltz placed his bifocals on his desk next to his keyboard. "Vanderbilt students do not exhibit your obscene rudeness. Besides, I'm not teaching any classes this summer. Therefore, I must speculate that you are --"
Daniel reached into his shoulder holster to draw a revolver, which he pointed it at the Professor's skull.
"Not who I expected." The professor's hand twitched on the desktop.
"I need your final proofs for the Magic Eight-Ball paper." Daniel thanked the starcrossed that the Journal for Extraterrestrial Telepathical Studies didn't accept electronic submissions.
"I already mailed them."
"What?" Daniel looked around the office, his hand holding the gun waving in the air as he searched for one. There, on the filing cabinet. He shook the Magic Eight-Ball. "Is he telling the truth?"
As I see it, yes
"Why did you tell me I'd be able to stop it?" Daniel heard a pleading quality to his voice, but he ignored it. The professor looked away. Daniel pointed the gun back at him.
_Better not tell you now_
"By Jupiter's sixth finger!" Livid red spots flushed over Daniel's neck. He threw the Magic Eight-Ball at the blinds behind Professor Stoltz.
"No." The professor reached an arm out to try and catch the ball.
Daniel ran for the stairs, he didn't have much time. At the airport, he boarded a flight for Washington. Deplaning, he ran through the airport shouldering his way in front of the man standing at the head of the taxi queue. He threw $200 at the cabbie.
"Get me to the JETS agency, yesterday," said Daniel.
"I can't do that, sir."
Daniel drew his gun.
"No need for that, sir. I'll... I'll do my best," said the cabbie.
As the cabbie pulled up to the agency's square brick building, a woman in brown shorts threw the last box into the back of a UPS truck. Daniel ran for the squat doors, yanking the door open to creak on its hinges. He slid across the slippery wooden floor to collide with the receptionist's desk.
"I must stop the journal's press run," said Daniel.
"I'm just the receptionist," said a man with a jar-head haircut.
"Who do I need to talk to?"
"Well," the man leaned forward standing up, a good six inches taller than Daniel. "The last shipment just left."
Daniel rested his head on the black granite counters surrounding the receptionist's pit. "No, I failed."
Daniel Winston Sr. leaned back in his leather chair, his feet on his marble desk. In his hand, he held a Magic Eight-Ball. "You lied to us."
Signs point to yes
Ask again later
Daniel stood up, his chair crashing against the window behind him. He lifted the eightball over his head and slammed it down towards the ground. The die pressed against the face, _Very doubtful_. The ball cracked two halves shattering outward as the blue liquid splashed against the teak floor and a twenty-sided die skittered under his desk. A pale eight-legged creature, looking vaguely octopus-like, twitched on the floor. Daniel dropped to his knees beside the creature.
"Why?" asked Daniel Sr.
The wheezing creature hyperventilated on the floor, its words raspy with clicks. "Our kind stagnated. You used us."
"For your own good," said Daniel.
"No longer." The creature became still.