AW Flash Fiction — Cause & Effect — 9/12/10

Wish I’d had more time but life again ate into my 90 minutes…I might done a bit more with this but I like the idea of it.

***********

Philomena, or Phil as her friends called her, jumped the puddles that stood between her and the library’s front door. Her calendar and address book over her head, she threw open the door to the lobby and shook off the rain before entering the chilly air-conditioned main area. A glance to the far left side confirmed her hopes. Only a small handful of heads stared at monitors.

She took the one closest to the window so she’d have a little natural light. Despite the angry thunderclouds, the sun had rationed a few meager rays.

Her watch told her she had two hours before she needed to get back home. After logging in, she typed in the web address she’d memorized and began scanning the data presented, when a pop-up appeared.

The box contained text that said: “Hi beautiful.” The cursor flashed in the response box. The sender’s handle was “FVPL 3”, the FVPL standing for Fort Vancouver Public Library. The sticker on her computer’s monitor said “FVPL 1” and the monitor at the space next to hers bore a label of “FVPL 7”.

As inconspicuously as possible, she turned to glance over her shoulder. Immediately behind her a man of about thirty stared intently at his monitor, his fingers chattering away at the keys. On his right sat a teenaged boy of about fourteen. He released a frustrated exclamation at his computer’s readout. Behind them were two empty terminals. In the last row, two giggly teenage girls interacted with each other as much as they did with their computers.

She glanced across the aisle at the other eight cubicles and inventoried their occupants in sequence–old man, old woman, empty, young boy, empty, and hold the phone… Phil gasped at the handsome man who sat in the terminal the farthest distance from her own station.

Spinning around, she typed “Hi to you too,” then hit send.

Her own text stared back at her for a few seconds as she waited…and waited. After a minute had passed, she dismissed the chat as a random mistyping of the addressee, and shut it down.

The box immediately popped back up, the prior two messages still in the chat’s history. “Sorry, got distracted there a second. So what brings a beautiful woman like you to the library on this foul weather day?”

Phil smiled and typed, “Research. My internet is on the fritz.”

She’d barely hit send before FVPL 3’s response flashed, “That sounds boring.”

Her fingers deftly typed, “I don’t mind.”

“What kind of research?” came the equally rapid response.

“Personal stuff. Sorry.” She smiled, calm that her sender had not asked or shared anything too personal thus far.

“Are you married, Phil?”

Phil’s breath caught in her throat. Just who was FVPL 3 anyway? Standing, she scanned the larger area of the library for a familiar face but found none. When she looked back at her screen, she had a new message, “Did I freak you out, Phil?”

“How do you know my name?” Phil typed with even greater speed as the adrenaline pumped through her system. Nobody knew she had planned a visit to the library. She’d made sure of it.

“I know a lot about you, Phil.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m FVPL 3 of course. LOL”

“Very funny. But who is the person behind FVPL 3?”

“Cause and effect, my dear…”

“What the hell does that mean? Who are you anyway?”

“I’m the effect of your cause.”

“Huh? What cause would that be FVPL 3?”

“Think about it a bit. I’m sure something will come to you.”

“Sorry, have no idea. So if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“Does your husband know what you’re doing?”

Phil’s eyes widened. It wasn’t possible. Nobody knew. How could they? “No. This doesn’t concern him.”

“Oh, I think he’d be very interested in knowing what his lovely wife is up to on a library’s computer on a rainy day, who she’s chatting with. Not that I’d care to enlighten him. Ignorance can be quite blissful as can a few other things I have in mind.”

“I had no intentions of coming here to chat with you.” She knew she should shut down the chat box but her fingers refused to obey her.

“I know. But yet here you are. You couldn’t stay away could you?”

“WHO ARE YOU!?”

“I think you know.”

Phil sighed and clicked the chat box shut but it popped back up. “Ah, ah, that’s not very nice. I wasn’t done chatting with you yet, Phil.”

She clicked it shut again but it popped back up. Again and again she repeated her mouse clicks but each time the box returned. The last time it did, the message read, “I won’t tell. Don’t worry.”

“I’m not worried. I have nothing to worry about other than how you knew my name.”

“Wasn’t hard to find out. You didn’t seem like a Mena so I did a little checking. I know all about you now, my love.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Why not?”

“Creeper.”

“Creeper yourself. It’s almost two.”

“Gotta go.” Phil shut down her computer and logged off. She grabbed her books and purse and hastened toward the library’s exit. As she waited in the lobby, the man in the far back corner of the library’s computers drew up to her elbow. She didn’t acknowledge him, but slipped on her sunglasses and said, “Room 17 at the Heathman. Just booked it. Meet you there. Hurry.”

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