Fear as a service
Part of Flash Fiction February 2023, prompt was “Person makes appointment with old enemies”.
“Confront your fears” read the large banner across the desk. Beneath it was a smaller faded one with “for a fee” printed on it.
Behind the desk sat a diminutive man with tiny spectacles perched on his nose and a large dusty volume opened on the desk that he scratched at with a worn quill pen.
I approached him nervously, twiddling with my tie and trying to hide my sweating brow.
“Yes?” He creaked at me without even looking up.
“Erm, so, how does this work?” I asked, already feeling stupid.
“It’s quite simple, you pay me money, and I do a job for you.” He said, yet to raise his balding head from the page, “Even an imbecile could understand it.” He added, unnecessarily harshly, I thought, but I am no expert.
“But, I mean… What will you do to my intended victim?” I asked, laughing nervously.
The man put his quill down and jumped his temples with frustration, finally looking up and looking down at me. I could tell he really wished I wasn’t there, bothering him. I was starting to think the same.
“My dear boy. You simply tell me what it is that you want. Pay me. And I arrange for it to happen. It’s really very, very simple.”
“Anything? Really?” I asked, ready for more derision.
He looked at me, unsure of what to do with me. I thought everyone would ask the same questions, but apparently, it was just me. Or he was jaded and miserable. Maybe both.
“Name?” He asked bluntly.
“Jared B…” I begun.
“Not your name. The name of the victim.”
I didn’t stop to ask how he knew my name and continued unabated. “Oh. Erm, Tailor Jones.” He scratched the name in his book with several tight flurries of his quill.
“And the nature of their infraction against you?” He asked, his head bowed and buried back in his tome, the quill waiting with baited heft.
“They buried me at school. Made me fearful of toilets for a decade.” I said.
With the quill poised to write, he raised his head just enough to roll his eyes at me and slowly wrote on the page, sighing slow disapproval.
“What?” I challenged noncommittally, “That was an awful few years. I always had to hold until I got home.” I said sheepishly.
“And how would you like them confronted?” He asked.
“Any way I want?” I asked.
“Any… Way… You… Want…” He said with the air of someone who wanted me out of his life five minutes ago.
“Oh, I don’t know… Maybe. Drowning?” I said, thinking out loud.
He scratched the words in his book.
“Or maybe that’s too much.” I said, “On second thoughts.”
“Mr Black. It’s too late. When I write it in this book, then the act is committed. Drowning it shall be.”
I nodded, the realisation of what I had unleashed flooding my brain.
He returned his attention to his work. “You can pay on your way out.” He said.