Ill-timed

The Australian Writers Centre started the year as all years start, with a countdown. The other criteria for its January furious fiction were that it must include a character who shares a secret and the word ‘serendipity’. I hope you enjoy my take on these criteria.

 

Ill-timed

Serendipity. To most it represents a fortuitous circumstance. To me it was home. No, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some celestial being who lives on a different plane of existence, even though ‘Serendipity’ is heaven compared to this habitation. I’m just a person, a human. Just like you.

Mostly.

I stifled a sigh, wishing I was home. But in my line of work, you go where you’re sent.

The plink of a tear hitting the table recalled me to my duty. The tweenage girl opposite me was the epitome of cuteness: blond curls, big blue eyes and cherub-like features. It made me suspicious.

As if aware of my doubts, she cried harder and smeared tears across her pinked cheeks. Ugh. If this is what peacekeepers normally had to deal with…

Her gaze flicked to my wrist, lingering briefly on the antiquated timepiece strapped there; something she was doing with increasing frequency. I resisted the urge to glance at its crazed-glass face. I hated it. My boss insisted I wear it – part of the costume, so to speak. But I longed to throw it away. I didn’t need any piece of artifice to tell me time was running out.

“I have a secret,” she whispered loudly. “Wanna hear it?”

Adrenalin flooded my system. After two days of trying to get this girl to talk she’d finally caved.

Eyes wide I leaned forward trying to look interested, but not too interested. “Why would I want your secret?” I whispered back.

Her breath caught and she glared at me. “What? You’ve kept me here for days all but begging me to talk.” A sharp report echoed through the room as she slapped her hands on the table. “And now—”

With a temper like that she was obviously older than she pretended to be. It gave me a lever. I leaned back, crossing my arms. “Maybe I’ve decided a child knows nothing worthwhile.”

She tensed, hands forming fists, before her gaze dropped again to my timepiece. She liked what she saw and visibly relaxed.

“Looks can be changed,” she said, shrugging. “I’d explain further, but…” With the arch of an eyebrow she invited me to look at my timepiece. “You’ve run out of time. You can tell your boss I’ve won.”

I didn’t need to look. Muffled voices in the corridor announced the change of shift.

She rose and began walking to the door before staggering as a violent shudder ran through the metal floor and walls. Panicked yells leached into the room along with a curl of acrid smoke. The habitation was being raided.

“Wait.” I grasped the table as the whole world shook. She glanced over her shoulder, impatience writ across her face.

I couldn’t help it. I grinned. The news I’d been waiting for scrolled across my vision.

“Let me tell you a secret,” I said, glancing at the timepiece. The door ripped open. Two of my crew members burst in and grabbed the girl’s arms. “It’s fast.”