Short Fiction by J M Jackson
The poorly lit room was infected with the harsh light of a television set. The flickering glow half-illuminated a disheveled man with long hair and a scruffy beard who was sitting on the floor cross-legged in his underpants.
His girlfriend slouched on an old sofa with her eyes closed. She wore a loose-fitting T-shirt, long socks, and not much else.
Snow lay on the ground outside but the apartment’s smoke-laden air was heavy with an oppressive heat from the oil heaters dotted around the room.
The man’s ear was pressed against a telephone receiver. His head was angled, pressing the receiver against his shoulder to ensure his auditory link to the outside world would not topple to the floor. The tightly wound cord sprouted from his shoulder and draped down in front of him to the telephone’s base. The circular rotary dial gaped at him, aghast.
He watched intently for any reports of the explosion. The telephone line was silent except for the breathing of his counterpart on the other end. They both watched the television in unison, both waiting.
The cigarette hanging from his mouth was on the brink of committing suicide when the man decided to break the silence, sending the poorly rolled gasper into an agitated flap.
‘When exactly did it happen? …………. Do we know how many were killed? ……. Did you see it yourself? …………… How is Sergei?’
The girl stirred from her drug-induced slumber at the sound of her boyfriend’s voice, stretched like a cat, and rubbed her eyes with both hands like a small child.
‘Did it happen yet?’
‘Anything on the news?’
He shook his head. She yawned.
‘Do we start planning the next one yet?’
He took the receiver away from his head and turned to her with a piercing glance.
‘We wait. If they do not report it on the news then there is no point. I have already told you this.’
He turned back to the television, placed the telephone receiver between his ear and shoulder, and took a deep drag of the diminishing roll-up.
As he expelled the smoke from his nostrils in two furious jets, the girl stood up and padded towards the kitchen, past the wall plastered with maps and scribbles, past the little table scattered with electrical components, past the rifle that stood sentry by the doorway.
‘I want the next one to take down the whole building …… yes, I know ………………………… so what are you suggesting? …….. all I know is that more need to die next time. I will not tolerate half measures…………..’
He took another drag on his cigarette as his girlfriend poked her head back in through the kitchen door. She stared at the maned young freedom fighter sitting on the floor with a peculiar mix of fear, awe and affection.
‘I’ll make us some dinner then shall I?’
He nodded. She failed to stifle another yawn.