The Necklace Louise Sorensen July 31, 201
Here’s another story for Chuck Wendig’s FridayFlashFiction at terribleminds.com. The challenge was ‘Fleamarket’.
The Necklace Louise Sorensen July31, 2011
Mike pulled another petri dish out of the incubator, set it under the microscope and peered into the eyepiece. The monitor in front of him enlarged and recorded the images he was seeing.
“Stacey bought a really cool necklace yesterday,” he said to his lab mate Pete.
“Oh?” Pete replied, peering into his own microscope.
“Yeah. At a flea market, of all places. It’s Steampunk.”
“Steampunk?” Pete said, turning a dial.
“Yeah. You know. Steampunk. Victorian. Gothy. The pendant has a strip of blue on it that lights up. No batteries. Googled it… nothing. I told her she should take it to a jeweller or something… find out how they do that.”
“How they do what?” asked Pete.
“The necklace. The pendant glows. No obvious energy source. She said she saw it and just had to have it,” Mike said.
“Is it radioactive?” Pete looked at his partner. Mike frowned. Pete turned back to his microscope.
Stacey wandered the aisles of the flea market. She was almost ready to leave when she saw a couple standing at a jewellery case.
“Sorry Babe, it’s too much,” the man said. His tee shirt had ‘Born to Raise Hell’ on the front. His jeans were new.
“But it’s only thirty dollars, Artie,” said the woman. She was younger than him, tightly packed into black pants and a short red halter top.
Stacey pushed closer to the counter and looked in. She saw a silver chain with a small pendant; a dull glass stone surrounded by a glowing blue strip. Her heart leaped.
“Excuse me,” she said to the clerk. “I’d like to see that.”
The couple watched as she held the necklace in her palm, turned it over. There were no batteries or anything to explain the blue glow. She put her new purchase on and smiled as she marched past them.
“Here’s an interesting growth pattern,” Mike said, leaning in to have a closer look. “I’ve never seen them grow so tall in the dish.”
“What are they, termite cells?” Pete smiled.
Stacey stared up at the high rises as she walked to the jeweller. Stopping in front of a store window she admired the glowing blue pendant at her throat. A cloud settled overhead, blocking the small amount of light that made it down between the towers. She buttoned her jacket a little higher, then hurried on, her heels clicking on the sidewalk. Traffic increased as she got closer to the city center. Horns blared. Cars and trucks rushed by spewing diesel and exhaust.
“Yuck. This one’s overgrown,” Mike said. “It’s amazing how they never establish a balance; they just multiply until all the nutrients are used up, then they die.”
A man broke from the crowd and bumped Stacey on the left. She stumbled and regained her balance. She looked up and recognized him from the flea market. “Hello…“ she said. His face held no expression as his eyes went to the pendant.
“Establish a balance? What are they, rocket scientists? They’re microbes. They follow a growth curve until they use up all the nutrients in their environment and then they die of starvation and poisoning from their own waste. Put it in the autoclave bag,” said Pete.
Someone crowded Stacey on the right. She glanced over to see the woman in the black pants and red halter wearing an amused expression on her face. Stacey looked from one side to the other. “What…?” Her eyes searched all around for help. People streamed by without raising their heads from their handhelds. Time stretched.
“Yeah, I’m almost there. Was it milk, bread and eggs? No eggs? Okay…”
“No I do not want to talk about it. If you paid any atten..”
“Yes, that’s right… a two for one sale… top quality…”
A white plastic bag floated by on the hot air currents generated by the speeding vehicles.
“You ever think these specimens suffer when they‘re autoclaved?” Mike said.
“Steamed to death under pressure?” laughed Pete. “Why would that hurt?”
The man grabbed the pendant and yanked. Stacey stumbled forward into him. He braced his other hand on her chest and yanked harder. The silver chain broke. Stacey opened her mouth to scream; the flood of pedestrians jostled them as it flowed by. The man and woman pushed her against the stream to the edge of the sidewalk. As it passed, a delivery van belched black smoke in her face.
“These little buggers are so screwed,” Mike said, dropping the overgrown petrie dish into the autoclave bag.
The couple heaved Stacey into the path of an oncoming truck.
Mike chucked the spent specimen bag into the autoclave, closed the door…
Stacey stared into the headlights and the fast approaching grill.
…and pressed ‘Start’.