Home > Stories > Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 1: Stage VI

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 1: Stage VI

Flash Fiction Month is back! The rules are the same as last time each of this month’s posts will be a self-contained story, most likely of about the usual 400-500 word length. I make no guarantees of subject, style, or anything else. You can read last year’s installments here.

Six years ago, I found a discolored patch of skin on my leg and went to see the doctor. Turned out that I had a malignant melanoma that I’d luckily caught very early on. We excised it, I did my share of chemotherapy, I recovered, and then I went on with my life, seemingly unharmed but for the need to schedule extra maintenance checkups with my doctor to make sure it didn’t come back.

Six months ago, I got a strange envelope in the mail with no return address. It contained a musty, foul-smelling piece of paper stained with brown ink that vaguely resembled words, but was otherwise completely unintelligible. At the time, I thought it was a prank gone wrong, so I tossed the letter out in the garbage. It slipped my mind soon after – I had a lot of important projects going at work that I didn’t want to leave hanging.

Six weeks ago, however, I received a much more disturbing letter. A pair of lawyers (Richard and Simon Dowling, who had colonized late night TV with their advertisements and burnt their phone number into my mind) sent me a letter informing me that one of their clients had demanded restitution from me for “unlawful separation”, and since I had refused to provide it, I was now required to appear at my local courthouse.

“This has to be some sort of joke, right?” I asked them in a call I placed soon after. Richard calmly informed me that their client’s request was serious, and that if I did not appear, the judge would default in favor of the plantiff, and that I would owe half a million dollars. I grudgingly showed up at the courthouse that Tuesday. I was waiting for the lawyers and their mystery client to appear, and an unimaginably foul odor reached my nose-

A mottled mass of brown-black ooze roughly forced into a suit strolled into the courtroom, flanked by the Dowling brothers, rendered almost invisible for their nominal humanity.

It has been such a long time, father. We shall soon be reunited“, it said to me in a voice that was hell. I was not entirely sure how to respond. The local baliff quickly got the court’s formalities out of the way – looked like she didn’t appreciate the plantiff’s hygiene either.

“Mr. Kar’xyl-987-RKO# 7-aklyl-hydroase-” she began.

“Charles will suffice.”

“Mr. Charles Brumriver has filed a claim of ‘unlawful separation’ against the defendant, Mr. Alexander Brumriver and is seeking either to be ‘reunited’, or a cash settlement of $500,000 dollars. Alexander, can we hear your opening statement?”

Do courts usually move this fast? I don’t really know anything about the legal system, except for that one time I taped Night Court by mistake. I had to try something, though – I don’t have half a million to burn on… this thing. Besides, “Charles” was beginning to look strangely familiar…

“Your honor, I would like to immediately dismiss this case on the grounds that the prosecutor is a malignant tumor,” I said. It was my only idea, and I was hoping that it would work.

“Denied. The court will not throw out a case solely on the basis of its plantiff’s… species,” responded the judge. And just like that, my hopes were gone.

“Charles has followed the rules of our legal system to the letter in bringing this case against you. All of his paperwork was filed on or ahead of time, all of the requisite fees have been paid, and he was very cooperative during the initial questioning,” continued the judge. He continued on in this vein for a while; I was more focused on just how powerless I felt to defend my case.

“We would like to present the first piece of evidence,” Simon Dowling then told the judge, bringing out a box labeled “Surgical Tools”. “These tools were used by one Elizabeth Amari, M.D in order to forcibly separate Charles from his rightful place in Alexander’s body system.”

The judge raised an eyebrow at this.

“Are you claiming that Alexander did not, in fact, perform the excision himself?” he asked.

“While Alexander did not directly perform the incision, he consented to it after a lengthy period of consultation with his primary care physician and the surgeon in question,” Simon continued, not missing a single beat.

“This contradicts the claims that Charles made when filling out his paperwork – he claims that at 6:43 AM on March 21st, 2011, Alexander Brumriver attempted to mutilate him by using a sharp implement attached to his right hand-”

Oh god. I remember now! When I first saw the discolored skin, it was in the shower! I thought it was a patch of dirt and tried to scrub it off with a sponge. Needless to say, I was quick to point this out.

“Alexander, why did you not mention this earlier?” the judge asked. I’m not sure how he felt about the new evidence; he was beginning to look a bit confused himself.

“I… I… I don’t know, okay? I didn’t expect to be in a courthouse for any reason, much less whatever’s going on today!”

I had a throbbing headache now and wasn’t sure why.

“Okay, it’s probably breaking protocol, but I’m going to call a recess. I need the defendant and their legal counsel to-”

“I was never offered a lawyer!” I interrupted. You know how long it took me to realize this? I don’t either, but it shouldn’t have taken six weeks.

“This is going to be an exceedingly long recess. Alexander, why did you not hire a lawyer? Are you not taking this case seriously?”

Couldn’t respond. The baliff cleared the courtroom, and I found myself blankly staring at a wall, desperately trying to parse what was happening. Charles’ foul mass stumbled in front of me.

“Don‘t think that your obfuscatory tactics will change the verdict of this case. I will have my rightful place eventually,” he told me. Richard Dowling opened his mouth and raised a finger as if to suggest he should not have said that, but soon decided against it. They walked out into the atrium of the courthouse, leaving me alone to think about just how damned I was.


Author’s note: Cancers are generally classified into four stages. By my reckoning, Alexander’s melanoma was diagnosed early on, no later than Stage I. Anything beyond the fourth stage (metastasis) is currently limited to the realm of speculative fiction. In the system used in this story, a stage V cancer can survive outside a human body unaided, and a stage VI cancer is capable of human levels of thought and reason. But who knows what thoughts lurk in the brain-mass of a sentient tumor?


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