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Another short story: "Popped"

Hello. It’s Friday, and now that the big speech is out of the way, I thought I’d attempt another round of the short fiction. You can see my previous efforts elsewhere on the blog. No prompt this time, so I was left to my own devices and, um, the result is probably a good example of why I shouldn’t be left to my own devices. Click the ‘more’ for more.


By Nick Bryan

Lew was beginning to suspect he’d been stood up. She was half an hour late, and he’d made remarkable progress on his pint. In fact, he was fast approaching the tipping point, after which it’d bode better for Lew if she didn’t turn up.

His mobile had provided a welcome distraction, but he had to avoid rinsing the battery with stupid games. After all, she might yet contact him on it. So this left him no choice but to stare around the bar. Well, pub. Well, shithole.

It was wood-panelled, infused with the stench of wee and, most of all, it was dark. Not merely dingy, but pitch black. One didn’t so much walk across the room as feel one’s way from lamp to neon strip light. He was seated near the door, as he worried his date would never be able to find him when she arrived.

‘Waiting for someone, are we?’

‘Ummm.’  He looked around, with both a start and a finish. It was… a man, with an expensive suit and slicked-back hair. And somehow, not only had he approached Lew’s table without being noticed, he had also taken a seat and placed his drink. Tap water, oddly.

‘Because you look like you’re waiting, I think. You don’t appear to be experiencing enjoyment, so.’ Long pause. ‘Are they not coming, do you reckon?’

Maybe it was self-consciousness, but Lew could have sworn other tables were throwing nervous glances in his direction. ‘Well, something like that. I was meant to be… sorry, do you work here?’

‘Oh, no.’ The stranger straightened his jacket. ‘I’m just a regular. Want to hear a story?’

Lew was no fool; he’d watched television. When an odd man in a bar offered to tell you a story, it often ended badly. He was right next to the exit, too. But this guy was between him and it. And the staring was starting to burrow his forehead now. This person didn’t blink.

Finally, he nodded, because what harm could it do?

The suited man smiled, and it was the first non-threatening expression he’d produced. Leaning forward, though, it didn’t last.

‘So,’ he began, ‘it was probably a dark and stormy night. I was at a funfair, watching the balloons. I like balloons; do you?’

Lew nodded, beginning to wonder if he’d ever see his family again.

‘Good. So, I was staring at the balloons, really really staring at them. There were clowns and candy floss and probably some other things, it wasn’t raining because there were kids running around.’

So, it was a dark and stormy night without rain? Was he nuts or really terrible at improvising?

‘Anyway, I looked at this cluster of balloons, like I said, gazed for a while. And there was a bang, then some more, like a machine gun going off. The kids jumped and the clowns seemed concerned because it wasn’t in their script. Clowns, I find, are pretty stupid.’

Lew had never met any clowns, so didn’t feel offended. He took another sip of his pint, it was fast running out. Maybe he could offer to go to the bar, then leg it?

‘So, it occurred to me that perhaps I burst those balloons? That perhaps, like, it was some kind of a super-power. You must have seen Heroes, you know these things can happen.’

He was quickly revising his opinion of this person down towards psychopathy. How did he afford that suit?

‘So I bought some balloons and burst them in my house. It was easy, I just glared until they went bang. It took a few hours of practise, but eventually I was able to do it easily. Not just balloons, I moved on to footballs.’

The balloon-bursting man was still leaning quite far into Lew’s personal space.

‘Eventually, I thought of an application for it. It’s a hard field to get into, but yeah. Turns out, there are some who pay good money for a guy who can explode someone’s head with a hard stare.’

Expensive suits and shiny hair. Mafia chic. Lew felt his eyes widening and couldn’t seem to shrink them back to a polite size.

‘I did some CEO once, from the building across the way.’ The stranger grinned. ‘His head burst like some kind of over-ripe tomato. His PA shat herself, it was all over her blouse. The blood and the shit. Nowadays I don’t even need direct sight of the target.’

The eyes were boring into him. Lew felt a tingle in his head and hoped it wasn’t about to go pop. Not that he believed this nonsense.

‘So, with that in mind, here’s the deal.’ Finally, the man in the black suit leaned back. ‘I’ve been watching you, you don’t belong here. You’re looking down on us.’

Come to think of it, everyone in this bar seemed rather smartly dressed.

‘Give me all the money in your wallet, the nice phone too, then piss off.’ He smirked. ‘Otherwise I explode your balls.’

It seemed he had to make a decision. But all Lew could do is stare and think, oddly, about whether the girl who’d stood him up had been in on this whole thing.

‘Seriously, now.’ His tormenter was clearly having the time of his life. ‘Another minute, then I pop them like blobs of whipped cream covered in ketchup.’

That could be the most disgusting thing Lew had ever heard. And it was perhaps that which inspired him to turn out his pockets. Because, you know, better safe than sorry. Good job he’d not planned on taking that girl to a restaurant, otherwise he might’ve had more than twenty-five quid on him.

So he let the money drop to the table and put his mobile down beside it, before getting up without saying another word.

The stranger gave him a quick nod. ‘Thanks, my friend. Appreciate it.’

And Lew made it to the door, before there was a wet popping sensation around his crotch. Something slimy slipped downwards, before it was caught in the waterproof sack that was helpfully provided. A tear sprang to his eye.

‘Ah,’ the man in the suit shrugged, ‘sorry, I got curious. Be glad I only did one of them.’

Sorry about that. This story is somehow copyright Nick Bryan in 2010, don’t steal it or anything. God knows why you’d want to. If you would like to use it somehow, let me know and I’m sure we can sort it out.


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