This is my entry for the first round of the 2016 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge.
My prompts were, fantasy, a garbage dump, a pack of cigarettes.
Feel free to comment and share.
One Brother’s Future.
Synopsis: Brothers Matt and Nate scratch out a life on their small island of garbage. Through tragedy, their mother’s wish for her son to find a better life is given another chance.
Nate jumped at the rumble of a fresh load approaching.
Content, knowing they had time before the truck reached their end of the dump, his brother Matt mumbled, “Chill, Nate.” Matt licked his paws and washed his black snout. “When the truck crosses the creek, he’s in our territory. Until then, it belongs to Rocky and his raccoon brethren.”
Nate circled the den, his thin tail slapping Matt as he poked his pointy head out through the hole they had gnawed into the discarded end-table.
“But Matt, Matt, what if he stops close? He does that sometimes. And it’s daytime. Daytime, Matt. We can run over and snatch something sweet. Just a treat, Matt. Something sweet.”
“Nathaniel.” Nate stopped fidgeting at the sound of his full name. “If it comes, it comes. If not, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Listening, Matt followed the truck’s progress. First the crunch of gravel as it entered through the rusted metal gate that marked the edge of their world.
He’d never been beyond that point. He’d only come close once.
Near the gate were the recyclables: plastic, glass, and large metal boxes that had once housed hundreds of their rodent relatives, deserted now that Dog lived there.
Dog’s shouts lived in Matt’s nightmares. “Rat-Rat!” Matt shivered in his matting, willing the memory of the day he saw Dog’s face up close from his mind.
The truck engine droned in waves as it wound passed the cement mountains where the birds lived. “Truck coming. Truck. Truck. Truck coming.” The birds talked a lot, but never really said anything.
Behind their end-table home lay a swamp. Throaty bullfrogs serenaded the dump with low-slow blues, and gators called like sirens, enticing the residents with the deceptive promise of an easy meal on fish and shrimp. Sometimes, the sly gators hid in the creek to catch an unsuspecting creature taking a drink. Fear kept Rocky and the other raccoons on the far side of the water.
Matt knew there were only three things the raccoons didn’t do: cross the creek, come out during the day—unless they were foaming at the mouth, and speak in the common tongue.
When the drawers of the end-table rattled. Matt opened his eyes and stretched in anticipation of the truck’s fat tires splashing through the water meaning there was only one possible destination left, Matt and Nate’s doorstep.
When he heard the engine roar and then stop without the splash, Matt settled into his bedding and mumbled, “It’s Rocky’s trash now.”
Over the incessant nattering of the birds, Matt heard Nate call out. “Candy box!”
Matt spun as Nate’s tail slipped through into the daylight. Rushing to the opening, he watched as Nate swam across the creek. Matt saw the human driver standing by the truck, a white and red box at his feet.
He reached the water just as Nate cleared the other side and grabbed the box. Instead of returning, Nate began to tear it apart.
“Nate, get back here!”
The moment he shouted, he realized his mistake.
The indecipherable chatter of the raccoons preparing to defend their land started as quietly as the romantic chirping of the crickets calling out in the night for a mate. By the time they were loud enough for the human to hear—and dash for the safety of his truck—Matt reached his brother.
Nate’s mouth was full of white paper and brown leaves. Filters hung from the ends of the cigarettes he had pulled from the pack.
“Matt, Matt, this candy isn’t very good. Matt, try some, Matt.”
“No Nate. We’ve got to—“
In a flash of brown and black fur, Nate vanished.
Matt panicked, his mind returning to another sudden swatch of brown fur at the main gate. Instead of the incoherent clicks and chirps of their attackers, he heard Dog’s shout of, “Rat-Rat,” just before their mother disappeared.
Between the raccoons forcing them into the swamp, and Dog terrorizing them when they went near the gate, they were the only three left of their kind.
She had brought him to the gate to tell him to leave. “Your brother Nathaniel’s a sweet boy,” she had said. “But he’ll never make it out there. One of us has to stay here with him.”
Nate’s screams broke his trance. “Matt, Matt, Rocky’s got me. Matt.”
Matt attacked the larger animal. His claws and teeth gnashing with a fervor that took Rocky by surprise. The sight of their leader releasing Nate made the other raccoons stop long enough for Matt to latch onto the scruff of Nate’s neck and drag him into the water.
The raccoons rushed to the edge and stopped, too wary to try to cross.
Matt dragged Nate back to their den, accompanied by the high-pitched buzzing of the flies as they called in the swarms. “Fresh blood. Fresh blood…”
Chunks of red, black, and white flesh hung from Nate’s belly.
“Nate, what were you thinking?”
Blood seeped from his mouth. “Matt, Matt, I’m sorry, Matt.” He clutched his prize, unwilling to release it. His eyes focused beyond the walls of their discarded home. “Matt, Matt, do you ever wonder if there’s anything on the other side of gate?”
“No Nate, not anymore. We’ve got each other, that’s all we need.”
“Matt, but isn’t mom out there?”
Matt’s chest tightened at the question.
“Yeah, Nate. She is.” He hadn’t the heart to tell his brother exactly what happened the day he’d seen Dog up close.
Nate’s breath began to come in short bursts. Matt knew the end was near. The end of both their lives in the dump.
Matt licked Nate, cleaning the blood from his brother’s whiskers. His vision blurred by tears, Matt smiled, “So, how’s that candy?”
“M…, Matt, it tastes better with a little spit on it.” His eyelids fluttered and closed. “Don’t eat the furry end part, makes your mouth dry.”
Nate’s voice, already small and weak, faded into silence. “Matt, Ma—-“