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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

by Andrew Ashe

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Tyler had woken up late this morning, again! His alarm clock had, once again, decided to start ringing at 8.30am instead of 7.30am as it had been instructed. Tyler now an hour to get ready and somehow get to work in time. He had a big meeting to attend this morning and couldn't really afford to be late.

He rushed around the bathroom, brushing his teeth and hair at the same time. Taking one last time in the mirror, he straightened his tie and then stormed out of the bathroom. His foot snagged on the laundry basket outside the door and he flew into the air, sailing towards the staircase that led downstairs. Just as the first steps had passed below him, his hand caught around the newel set into the top of the banister, causing the rest of his body to spin around, landing him atop the banister. He then slowly, but gathering speed, slid down to the bottom, landing in a heap at the foot of the stairs.

Staggering to his feet, Tyler brushed himself down with shaking hands. 'That was lucky!' he told himself breathlessly.

Lurching along the landing towards the kitchen, he thought about what he had planned today. First, there was the meeting. After that, he had to go and pick Daisy up from the airport. Finally, he was going to meet up with Dougal for a quick round of golf before tea. He wasn't especially good at the sport, but he did need the walk.

Filling the kettle from the kitchen tap, he plugged it into the wall. An almighty flash of bright blue light obscured his vision. Milliseconds later, a sizzling bang erupted from the plug socket and an immense shooting pain fired up his arm. This caused Tyler to fly backwards and crack his head on the cabinets behind.

Once his vision had returned - albeit with a ghostly after-image of the flash - he rubbed the back of his head and found the beginnings of a nasty bump, which even now was starting to throb. Tottering over to the rubbish bin, he dropped the still smoking kettle into it and surveyed the damage to the kitchen. The only evidence left that indicated a near-electrocution - apart from the melted kettle - was a small black scorch mark surrounding the socket, and a pool of water on the floor from the kettle.

The only marks he had on himself were a couple of singed fingers, the bump on his head and a slightly frizzed feeling to his hair. 'That was definitely lucky!' he exclaimed, flattening down his hair.

Tyler walked towards the front door, where he kept a small wooden cabinet. This is where he had placed everything he needed for today. There were the car keys; his asthma inhalers; and a small bottle of aspirin tablets.

After dumping them all in his pockets, Tyler tugged open the front door and walked the few paces to the car. He unlocked the door and pulled it open. Flopping into the seat, he started the engine. With a hasty look in all his mirrors, Tyler gunned the engine and started out to his meeting.

Once he finally made the motorway, he checked his watch, 9.10am. He had twenty minutes to reach work. Tyler rocked in his seat and tapped on the steering wheel, urging the car to go faster.

With a loud bang and a screech of tyres, the front end of the car slewed to the left. Tyler fought for control of the car, as the steering wheel slipped and juddered out of his grip. With a huge pull of the wheel, he sent the car careering into the central divide. Without slowing a beat, the car launched into the air and landed with a crash on the other side, hurtling along on the wrong side of the road.

Stricken with fear, Tyler tried to avoid the on-coming vehicles as best as he could with a flat tyre. Trucks and cars, with horns blaring, shot past within inches of the car, buffeting him side to side.

With one final tug of the wheel, Tyler managed to swerve into the hard shoulder. He hit the side barrier with a sickening crunch, which flipped the car over the barricade. After it hit the ground, the car barrel-rolled down a steep embankment. Over and over the car spun, making Tyler's head loll from side to side. After what seemed an eternity, the car finally came to a halt... upside down.

Feeling very dizzy and disorientated, Tyler thought it would be a good idea if he tried to get out of the wrecked car. He tried to move his right hand, but found he couldn't move it an inch. He started to panic, thrashing around in the seat trying to untangle himself. After a couple of minutes of fruitless struggle, he realised that he hadn't un-done the seat belt. With a sigh of relief, he unclipped the belt and tried again to shift to his right. Again, something was hampering his movement. Instead of panicking again, he had a feel around to see if he could find what was stopping him this time. Tyler found that somehow, his jacket had got caught between the seats and was stuck fast. He tried to shrug himself out of it, which wasn't exactly easy when you were upside down in a crunched car. Once he had finally managed to extricate his body out of the coat, he wiggled slowly over to the door and pushed it open. Tyler fell out of the car, on to the grass and let out a long breath. 'That was incredibly lucky!' he gasped.

A faint whiff of petrol caught in his nose. He whipped his head round and could see the steady drip-drip of the clear liquid pooling on the inside of the overturned car. Thinking it was probably best to put as much distance between himself and the car, he started to crawl away with as much speed as he could muster.

After a minute or so, when he was only a few yards further away, the petrol ignited with a whooshing noise, and then exploded, turning the wreck into a raging fireball.

'Now, that was extremely lucky...' said Tyler feeling his slightly singed eyebrows.

With a few minutes' rest, he was able to get shakily to his feet. He supposed he'd better try and get some help, if nobody had seen the accident.

He staggered up the grassy slope, meandering through the deep gouges in the turf which his car had made, until he made it to the top. There was no ambulance, no fire engines, not even the sound of a single siren, nothing! Scanning the central divide through the steady stream of morning traffic, he spotted an orange emergency phone.

Thinking how stupid it was for the phone to be in the middle of the motorway, so you had to cross three lanes of speeding traffic (six, if you counted the return trip!) to reach it, Tyler jumped over the barrier onto the hard shoulder; he winced as he landed, remembering his bumps and bruises from the car. After a moment of deliberation, he navigated the rush of vehicles and made it to the middle, slightly ruffled but otherwise unscathed. Reaching out a trembling hand, he plucked the orange receiver out of its cradle and held it up to his ear. Nothing. He replaced the handset and picked it up to his ear again. Still nothing. Tyler slammed the receiver down and spun around in disgust. Trust this one not to be working. Luck had run out, it seemed.

An immensely huge, blue and white something flashed past Tyler within an inch of his nose. His heart felt as though it had stopped, while he was rooted to the spot, as the monster roared past. Once it had gone, his heart returned to near enough normal pace and he looked in the direction the thing had gone. He nearly laughed out loud. It turned out to have been nothing more interesting than an articulated lorry. 'How much luck can one man have in a day?' murmured Tyler.

Looking carefully this time, he crossed the road safely without incident. Tyler supposed that someone would eventually see the smoke billowing into the air and call the emergency services. He decided to sit and wait.

He plonked himself down on the grass verge. Something sharp pierced the very top of his leg. Letting out a loud yelp, he jumped back on to his feet. Examining the grass where he had been, he saw a tiny, slightly squashed, bumble bee.

Realising he'd only been stung by a bee, he didn't really give it any more thought. Rubbing his itching leg, he couldn't remember the last time he'd been stung, if ever. His leg started to feel numb, what with all the rubbing, so he checked the grass and sat down. His leg now started to swell up. Tyler tried to roll his trouser leg up to see what was happening. His head felt really woozy. As he couldn't sit upright anymore, he slumped backwards and stared up at the grey sky. He felt that this wasn't right. He was losing strength in his limbs and his vision was getting blurrier every second.

After everything that had befallen him today - all the near misses - he'd been felled by a tiny bee, which had been sat on the very same piece of grass that he'd chosen to sit on also.

'Not so lucky after all...' mumbled Tyler as his eyes slid shut.

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