AW Flash Fiction — Engine — 11/21/10

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I wrote this as a late entry for AW’s FFC whose theme word was “engine”.  My original purpose was to enter it in the NewScientist flash fiction contest–“Forgotten Futures”.  Only problem was I missed the contest’s deadline of 11/19.  Curses!  But the concept fit the theme word for the weekly flash challenge and I did write it idea to posting in less than 90 minutes.  So, here it is for my blog readers’ entertainment instead.  It’s a few words longer than the 350 allowed by the contest, but no matter now:


Digging to China

“All aboard! The seven o’clock shuttle to Beijing will be leaving in five minutes.”

“Why are we going to China again?” Father withdrew his pocket watch and frowned at the last stragglers searching for space in the overhead bins.

“Because it’s quicker to take the passageway to China, then hop a plane to Japan.”

Father grumbled and said, “I wished they’d dug the hole to Japan. Ridiculous that we have to go to China first.”

“Maybe, but definitely faster than flying from New York to Tokyo. Besides they already tried to dig to Japan and Sydney and Paris, but it didn’t matter. No matter where they meant to go, they always ended up in China.”

Father read his travel instructions and I knew what he’d grumble about next. “These suits are uncomfortable and why they gotta advertise on ’em?”

“Well, the core’s pretty hot, so between friction from the travel speed and the Earth’s internal temperature, it gets hotter than the climate control can accommodate for so many passengers. As for the advertising…oh, never mind.”

“I don’t like it. Never have, never will.” His hands trembled slightly as he turned the page of his instruction booklet.

The passage guide pantomimed the cutesy safety instructions narrated through the intercom. Most ignored her and continued to read the newspapers they’d soon have to seal up unless they wanted crispy brown pages by the end of the trip. If you traveled often enough, you’d already heard the jokes about baby bacon, cheap tans and relaxing in the spa-like atmosphere. I had, Father hadn’t and his wide eyes reflected his terror.

I reached across to pat his hand. “She’s kidding, Father.”

“Hmmph. Still can’t convince me this isn’t a Chinese conspiracy.”

The pod jolted forward and accelerated; the familiar thrum of its engines tickled our feet. We’d reach light speed before we breached the crust. Like a hand passing through a flame, we’d emerge unharmed in China.

Or that had been the plan before the thrum rose to a whine then coughed its way to a bunkety, bunkety. Crap.

Father turned his sweaty face to me and asked, “Are we there yet?”

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