Here’s a story that was a runner up in a flash fiction competition. I’ve changed it slightly and would welcome comments on how to improve it. Or any flash fiction you’ve written – please share or send me a link – I’d love to read it.
She’s pasting bleach onto Mrs Zumacher’s roots when the door whacks back on its hinges and three Guards sweep in. Black and leather, sunglasses glinting, rifles raised.
She whips around, the brush dangling from her hands.
‘I’m next?’ Fear hollows out her voice. ‘I’m … it’s me?’
A Guard nods. Widens his stance.
She squeezes the old woman’s shoulders, looks her in the eye.
Mrs Z presses her lips together.
‘Give him a good cut.’ She says, spittle spattering the mirror.
‘Let’s go!’ A guard twirls his finger and they stride out.
She grabs her coat and follows, trotting along with their two-step, smiling, as if that might appease Them. As if that might make it easier. But she remembers the day They took her mother. And she knows They don’t care about pleasantries.
They speed through the Palace gates and parade into a plush room where the Personal Secretary’s perched, hard and burly, his eyes like black pebbles:
‘This is an honour bestowed upon very few.’
An honour? She knows she is one of the very few left.
He gestures towards a screen.
‘His hair must always look exact-ley like this. Measurements must be precise.’ His eyes pinion her. ‘Remember.’ He slaps a ruler into her clammy palm.
Then she’s quick marched to the salon where His Most Excellent Highness is sprawled on a chair.
The Secretary announces:
‘Sir. Keeley. The new one. Your Excellence, Sir.’ Bowing and scraping out.
She clasps her quivering hands and curtseys, head dipping.
‘Begin.’ He commands, sitting straight, swivelling to the mirror.
She swirls the cape over his shoulders, fumbles with the Velcro.
‘Same as usual?’ She forces a friendly smile.
‘Get on with it.’
Her hands slip on the scissors.
‘Any trips planned, Sir?’
‘Meeting the UN next week. Human rights.’ He clips out the words.
‘They still going on about that … ?’
His moustache quivers.
She cuts. Hair falls. Her heart clatters along with the speed of the scissors: snip, snip, snip. Quick, sharp.
‘How’s … your job … Excellency?’
He complains of the difficulties of dictating.
‘It sounds awful.’ She commiserates, umming and ahhing in sympathy. Oppressing the populace is so hard, she agrees.
‘Torturing is a torture.’ He deadpans.
‘That’s a good one, Your Excellency.’
She stands back. ‘Done.’
He looks, tipping His head, side to side. His mouth thins. He looks displeased.
She circles him, calculating, finger tapping her chin, courage springing from desperation.
‘Hmmmm … If you shaved here,’ she touches her fingertips to his jaw, ‘you’d soften your eyes, see? Look more sympathetic. Lovely. Yes?’
Her heart pulses through her skin, and old razor sweet in her hand.
He shrugs: ‘Why not?’
Sweat beads across her upper lip, her breath huffs hard and heavy as she lathers suds through his stubble, circling the brush. Then she wields the razor. Swipes. The blade slides across his neck, slicing in deliciously. Deep. And His mouth opens in a horrified maw, His blood gushing in spurts as He slides to the floor with a most satisfying, wet slap.