Just giving this prompt a go; have a look at Rachael Ritchey’s blog for the rules and so on. This week the word we use is Air and the genre Thriller/suspense
Here we go with mine.
The Accidental Anarchist
Bertrand grew up wondering about air. His earliest memory, or so he told himself was his father scoffing at someone who asserted there was ‘something heavy in the air?’
‘Heavy air? Don’t be daft.’
‘No, I said something heavy in the air. A bad feeling.’
‘Rot. If it was heavy it would fall to the ground. Better say ‘there’s was something heavier than air on the ground.’’
His father was like that.
He did have a point. As he grew the mix of gases – oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and others – fascinated him. As did the mysteries of flight and heavier than air craft. He wondered how his father reconciled his sneering with manned flight?
Today, though, the composition of air wasn’t the issue; it was the lack of it. He had difficulty breathing. In part that was because he was inside a costume – Goofy and the gap through which he was meant to suck air was tiny and seemed to be narrowing. Mostly it was because he had fourteen explosive devices strapped to his chest which he believed were to be detonated sometime on the next hour.
At school – it’s odd how your mind drifts at times of utmost stress – he remembered a boy – Graham something – who would regularly faint until he was diagnosed with some sort of asthma. They gave him a puffer and injections and generally he was alright but on still, cold, foggy days he could get into trouble. Bertrand recalled the fear in Graham’s eyes, the desperation to dig out of each breathe the required oxygen to keep him conscious. That must be how he looked at that exact moment, Bertrand thought.
And old Mr Griffin, who was gassed when his ancient boiler leaked carbon monoxide into his kitchen. Bertrand could still see the bluey tinge to his face, his lips when he helped his neighbour break in.
One of the explosives – they had been attached to his waist and chest with a sort of vest – was digging in. Bertrand so wanted to move but feared what the nutters who’d put him here might do if he broke ranks and shifted position. They told him very clearly to ‘stay very still’.
And even if they didn’t do anything could moving detonate the bomb? He had no idea how they worked or how they might be exploded – some sort of wireless device he assumed. His father had tried to explain radio waves to Bertrand – he must have been about 8 or 9 – but became quickly exasperated with what he saw as Bertrand’s slow witted thinking. ‘Christ boy, they travel through the air. It’s very simple.’
But Bertrand, even then, was a literal lad – if he couldn’t see them how could they work.
‘You can’t see what you’re breathing in, can you?’
He could have said he could on cold days but he already knew his father would point out that he was seeing water vapour and not the life-giving gases he told Bertrand were present.
Bertrand stiffened. Somewhere to his right, something was happening. He could hear voices. When he’d entered the hotel, merely seeking somewhere from the rain, he had been vaguely aware of people staring at him. How many he could not say but maybe they were still about.
Sweat had begun to make him itch, not that he could do anything about it but someone was shouting at him, though the small mouth opening. It took several goes before he realised whoever it was, and they were very angry, wanted him to stand.
This is it, he thought. How bloody awful was it to be blown to pieces and not know why. Not know what mad cause these fanatics were promoting. These days you assumed Islamic terrorist as a default. Twenty years ago it would have been Irish Republican. But that was the danger with assumptions; you could be so wrong.
Bertrand staggered to his feet. Someone poked him in the back – a stick, a fist, a gun, he had no idea and he shuffled forward. His visibility was so restricted he could see a spot some two or three feet in front of his feet though the mouth hole.
The noise appeared to be growing. Bertrand titled his head back and peered out of the opening. He stood by a glass window; outside the hotel police were lined up, all wearing thick body armour, all totting guns.
He knew he would die, either through the bomb or a police marksman. It felt foolish to pray but he thought the thought. He was stumbling through something he had learned at school, decades before when an explosion distracted him. Outside the previously still police were moving. Someone crumpled to the floor next to him, he assumed shot. He squeezed his eyes shut, briefly, before turnig slowly. The room behind had filled with smoke. Two bodies lay near the reception.
‘It’s alright sir. Their dead. Just step this way. You’re safe… sir!’
The relief Bertrand felt was overwhelming. One minute he was upright, the next he began to lose consciousness. He was vaguely aware of people screaming as he tumbled backwards.
And so it was Bertrand was completely unaware of the moment he hit the marble floor detonating the bomb belt and reaping havoc on himself and others.