Paul Bishop stuffed his G-Form protected iPad in his pack and scrambled into the next room.
Arnie Flynn was already hollering, “Rule #1, never be late for a jump. Rule #2, don’t forget rule #1.”
“I got it.”
It was Bishop’s first day on the job. His first jump, and he hadn’t a clue what to expect. “What’s the plan after we land.”
“Where we’re going there are no plans. Just keep your eyes open, follow my every move, and you’ll be fine. They don’t know were coming, so the first few seconds are always critical.”
“What do you mean crit…?”
Before bishop could finish, Arnie pressed his left palm over his right wrist and the two of them disappeared instantly. In a fraction of a second, they traded the warmth of a Midtown Manhattan hotel with the frigid air outside the airport in Donetsk, Ukraine.
“Shit! Shit! Get down.”
Arnie grabbed Bishop’s jacket and dropped. With one quick motion they were both on the deck. Bishop felt a burst of wind rush past his ear, followed by instant pain. Pressing his left hand to the side of his head, a warm ooze caused him to jerk it back. His palm was covered in blood. Just a few millimeters more and Bishop would have had more than blood in his hand. Luckily, the searing pain was just enough to cause a reaction, but not enough to pull his head off the deck.
Bishop yelled, “Damn Arnie. You trying to get me killed? What now?”
The firefight raged as mortar rounds concussed all around. It wasn’t just hard to hear, the white hot particles burning in the air made it hard to breath. On his stomach, face in the dirt, Bishop lay behind Arnies left hip. He grabbed Arnie’s jacket with his right hand and shook, “Arnie, this is not good man, we gotta move.” No response.
Shimmying up on the frozen ground, Bishop moved just high enough to roll Arnie on his side. That’s when time stood still. Having never seen someone with half their face missing, Bishop gasped for air. His mind exploded with a thousand thoughts at once. How did I get here? Is this how I die? What do I do now? I didn’t even want this damn job! God help me.
With his next breath, he snatched his thoughts from the abyss and told his body what to do. He’s dead! Don’t think act! Snapping back to reality. Bishop hugged the ground, straining to keep his head lower than the bullets above his head. Oh God. What now? Keep calm.
He instantly started to filter his thoughts. There were only two kinds, “useless and distracting” and “action”. Move now!
Reaching over Arnie’s back to his right wrist, Bishop pulled the transponder off his arm and slid the sleek, carbon fiber pack off his shoulders and down his back. Two times the size of an average dive watch, the transponder was Bishop’s lifeline. It was the only way to activate Arnie’s pack for an instant ride home. The only problem now was finding a way to stay alive for the next forty-five minutes. The data center had preset the jump intervals on Arnie’s transponder. It was one way for OmniVox to keep track of the jumps while curbing any “alternative” travel plans reporters may want to take on an assignment. Most intervals were at least twenty four hours long. But Arnie was one of the first two jump reporters. So his was set for forty-five minute intervals, the equivalent of an all-access pass.
Looking away from Arnie and slightly behind his left shoulder, Bishop spotted a strand of trees. It was just enough cover to wait until the next interval. But with forty yards of wide open space from here to there, he had a better chance of swimming the Pacific to safety. The alternative was to stay where he was. But with no weapon, in the middle of a firefight, either way he would be nothing more than target practice. What he wouldn’t do for a bright colored, kevlar vest that said PRESS. The kind journalists wear in a combat zone. Then again, that would probably make things worse. This was rebel territory. And Russian separatists would do whatever it took to bring their lands back to Mother Russia. The mainstream press had already been told to stay out. This way, higher up the food chain, the western media could be fed rosy details of a successful pause in the fighting.
This place is supposed to be under a cease fire. Bishop went through the jump file in his head. They would have never sent us into the middle of a firefight . . . would they?
Bishop’s mind started to sink as his questioned his judgement. I knew I shouldn’t have taken this job.
But the offer was too good. After graduating from Columbia’s school of journalism with $226,491 in student loans, the thought of being debt free with the stroke of a pen was too hard to pass up. Snapping his mind to the present, he quickly filed his thoughts under “useless and distracting.” Grabbing the shoulder strap on Arnie’s pack Bishop sprung to his feet, lunging forward for the trees. Move!
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn…
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:10
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and Jinn Zhong) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast. Listen to the episode here: