Terrorist Cells: A Love Story (Flash Fiction)

Chuck Wendig is a man of many talents and a one prolific, profane, and prodigious penmonkey.Last week’s Seven Act Flash Fiction Friday Challenge proved to be the framework on which I hung an idea that I’ve had for some time. While more cute than chaotic, all should fear this horrific attack on America…

Wrong Numbers

by Keith Karabin

The air bag slapped my whole face simultaneously. Talc caked my sinuses and shimming blots filled my vision. Hacking, I fumbled for the door handle. I gasped fresh, stinging air.

It looked like a red Sport Utility Vehicle tried to swallow my four-cylinder errand mobile. The hood of the SUV twisted over the trunk of my car and the bumper was crammed under it. The trunk had crumpled around the flattened tires. Fluids seeped from the SUV as curses poured from the woman driving. She stabbed at her cell phone with long fuchsia finger nails.

I gasped and checked the back seat, but my violin was still strapped tight. I had less than an hour before the audition. Forget the car, I needed a ride. I swallowed my pride and called Mom.

“I was just rear-ended, and I’m not gonna make it to the audition.”

“Wow. Who’s this?” She didn’t sound like my mom.

“Sorry, wrong number.”

“S’ok. Sorry about your accident. Good luck with the audition thing.”

I squinted at my cell phone, made certain that I tapped my mom’s number and hit “call.”

“Me, again,” she said.

“That’s not right. This is my mom’s number.”

“Sorry, this is my cell.”

“Great. Sorry, again.”

I retyped the number which I had memorized in Kindergarten.

“Do you have head trauma?” She answered, brightly.

“Maybe. Crap. Bye.”

My phone rang as I stared at it.

“Hello.”

“Marco?” asked a Hispanic sounding woman.

“No.”

“But I call his phone.”

“Seems to be going around.”

“What?” she asked.

I hung up, sat on the curb and fretted. I tried 911.

“Chipotle Krishna, where curry meets cayenne. How can I help you?”

“So, you’re not the cops?” I asked.

“Why does everyone keep asking that?”

I hung up the useless device.

The lady waved her fuchsia nails at me and stuck much of her teased red hair out the window of her SUV. “Oh my God, right?!” She yelled.

“It’s just an accident. I’m okay. Are you?”

“No, the phones! Oh my God, right?” Her nails scrabbled at me, like a sea anemone in rough water, seeking to pull me close. I walked over.

“I was trying to call my sister, but I kept getting some law firm. What do I need a lawyer for? But it was my sister’s number. I kept trying and trying—then wham! Right into your car. Now maybe I need a lawyer. I don’t need a lawyer, do I?”

“Accidents happen.” I said, mostly just trying to stop her from talking so fast, or at all. My hopes of auditioning to the conservatory sunk further.

“What do you think it is? With the phones?”

I shrugged. “I’m gonna try a tow truck.”

“Bet it won’t work,” she said. “I’ll see if the radio knows what’s going on.”

I sat back on the curb, searched for a local tow company on the internet and tapped the number listed on the search engine.

“Yeah?” a man answered.

“Is this Jimmy’s Tow?”

“Look, if one more person tries this prank call crap on me, I’m gonna come through this phone, grab your ear and—”

I hung up, defeated.

I dialed the only number I knew. She answered cheerfully. I sighed.

“How’s it going out there?” she asked.

“I don’t even know. The lady who hit me is more concerned about the phones than about hitting me, I’m more concerned about my audition, and the only people I can reach want to punch me or sell me Mexican-Indian food.”

“Like the Aztecs?”

“I don’t think so. Like curry enchiladas.”

“Eew. What’s the deal about this audition?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“What else do I have to do? I can’t watch TV. The news is streaming useless panic, ‘Phones are weird, we don’t have a clue why.’”

“Nobody knows?”

“Eh. Some blame hacker groups like 4Chan or Anonymous.”

“I don’t know what those are.”

“Neither do they.”

Ms. Fuchsia Nails bellowed from the window of her SUV. “Oh. My. God. They say it was hackers! Terrorists or hackers! Or terrorist hackers!”

“She’s profoundly loud. So, the audition?” the girl asked.

I relented. “I’m not a trained musician, but I think I’m an okay violinist. I found this conservatory willing to give me an audition but then took two months to work up the guts. My appointment’s in about a half hour.”

“And…” she prodded.

“Listen, buddy,” Ms. Fuchsia Nails yelled at her phone, “I don’t care who you are. I’m at 16th and Spruce and terrorist hackers are attacking America. If you’re a decent man you’ll come and get me! That’s what you get for answering the phone in a crisis!”

She had wrecked my car, but maybe she was right. Maybe I should ask this girl for a ride. She did sound cute. Who knows?

A digital squeal poked my ear drum and the phone disconnected. I hit my mom’s number, committed to asking her.

“Hello,” my mom answered.

“Mom? Oh. Crap!”

“‘Hello’ to you, too. What’s wrong?”

“Too much to tell! The thing with the phones, the car accident, the girl—”

“Car accident? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Mom. I’ll never make the audition, I’ve been talking to a cool girl who I’ll never meet now, and my car’s wrecked. Let me call you back.”

“What girl?” she asked as I hung up.

Ms. Fuchsia Nails took my hang up as the cue to shout “They fixed ‘em! God bless the government, right?!”

I cradled my face in my hands.

I was roused by the honk of a horn after a few moments.

“Need a lift?” asked a voice I knew. I stared at her and her car. “I told you she was profoundly loud.” The girl said, gesturing at Ms. Fuchsia Nails. “I heard her say the intersection before the phones cut out. Don’t you have an appointment?”

I grabbed the case and jumped in the car with a grateful grin. “So, what’s your number?” I asked.

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