Flash Fiction Challenge: “Harold’s Sneeze”

Last week, Chuck Wendig asked his readers to post an opening line. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/04/10/flash-fiction-challenge-time-again-to-write-an-opening-sentence/

This week’s challenge was to take an opening line from last week’s challenge and write a story with it. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/04/17/flash-fiction-challenge-pick-an-opening-sentence-and-go/

I chose “Little did Harold know that the sneeze he was about to experience would bring about the end of humanity and the world as he knew it.” by poorerdick. Enjoy!

Harold’s Sneeze

Little did Harold know that the sneeze he was about to experience would bring about the end of humanity and the world as he knew it.

He stared up at Dick. The human reached for a tin can and put it in the can opener. The anticipation was killing Harold–these two humans of his took forever to get him his breakfast.

The smell of coffee wafted into Harold’s nose. Why was coffee made already? What made those humans think coffee was more important than his breakfast? “MEOW,” he said, staring at Dick.

Finally, after many long seconds, the human put the dish onto the floor for him. The dirty floor. The dustiness of a kitchen floor that hadn’t been swept in at least a week. Harold was not happy. He felt he should have been able to eat on the table like his humans.

But Harold was hungry, so he ate his food. He tasted delicious fish. He momentarily forgot about his disdain for the humans, as he quietly and blissfully ate his tasty breakfast.

A small amount of dust entered Harold’s nose. The human must have kicked it up from the floor when he put down the food dish. The tiny particle tickled Harold’s nostril until he couldn’t take it anymore. With a mouthful of food, he turned his head away from the food bowl. AH-CHOO!

He ended up spitting out some of his food along with the fish oil it came with, and a bit of cat snot. No matter–a human will clean that up. He licked his nose and muzzle, turned back to his food and continued eating.

As the humans walked by him to get to the kitchen table for their own breakfasts, Dick’s foot stepped into Harold’s mess at the perfect angle. His foot-hold to Earth vanished as he slipped. Harold saw this out of the corner of his eye, and ran for his lives. He looked back just in time to see Dick slam down on the floor, head and back first, followed by the rest of his body. His coffee spilled all over his face before the cup itself landed squarely on his forehead.

Harold looked back in shock at the scene–his breakfast was now under the human.

The other human, Tracey, also reacted in shock. “Dick!” she screamed, as she dropped everything and bounded to Dick’s side. Dick didn’t answer. Just laid there on Harold’s food. “Oh my God,” she said, pulling out a little box with buttons on it and pressing the buttons

She started talking in a frantic voice, tears streaming down her eyes. Harold didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying. Whatever it was, it didn’t involve his breakfast. “Meow,” he said, to remind her he existed. Tracey didn’t even look at him. He walked over to Dick, and sniffed at his face, wondering why he wasn’t getting up and uncovering the delicious fish. He gave Dick a few head bumps, but there was no response. This was serious… he might have to give up the rest of his breakfast.

Tracey dropped her phone and knelt beside Dick. With tears in her eyes, she stroked his head, as she murmured reassuring words like “you’ll be alright,” “please don’t leave me,” and “my poor poor Dick”.

Poor Dick? Poorer Harold, his breakfast was ruined.

There was a knock on the door. Harold had never seen Tracey run to the door so fast. Harold ran with her. She opened the door, a pair of black suited humans with shades and a curled wire running behind their ears stood before her.

“Good morning,” one of them said, “We’re here to see Dick.”

“He’s hurt,” Tracey said. “Out cold on the kitchen floor. The ambulance isn’t here yet”. Tracey was choking back tears.

The men walked to the kitchen, and looked at the human on the floor. They looked at each other before hauling him up.

“Careful!” Tracey said.

“Relax, he’s only knocked out. We need to take him.”

“What’s this about?”

“Your husband is the country’s best negotiator, yes?”

“Yes, but–”

“But we need him. Now.”

“Take me with you, maybe I can help. I know what he can do, he’s taught me a lot.”

Tracey sounded like she was getting desperate. So too was Harold–looking where the human had been, his food bowl had been overturned. His food was splattered all over the dirty floor. He wanted a human to open him a new can. “Meeooow.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, this is a high-profile–”

“Look,” said Tracey, “I just might be country’s second best negotiator after the training Dick’s given me. I know how he thinks, I know what words he uses. I know all the tricks he knows. Take me with you; I can help.”

Still holding the unconscious human in their arms, they looked at each other and nodded. “Come.”

Tracey started following them. “Mreoowr,” said Harold, still wanting his breakfast. He felt a couple of hands lift him high up off the floor. Tracey carried him with her out the door.

They passed the ambulance on their way to their destination. One of the men pressed a few keys on his computer. Seconds later, the ambulance turned off their siren and lights, and turned around to return to base.

The van they were in was large enough for the two men to work on Dick, while a driver kept the vehicle moving. The two men administered a series of drugs to Dick, but he didn’t stir. One of them got on his phone, and said they needed a backup immediately. He looked worried.

Harold was uncomfortable, and started squirming. Tracey held him tighter. “MEOOOOW.”

“Shhh,” said Tracey, “We’ll be there soon.”

Not soon enough–Harold wanted his breakfast.

The van stopped in front of an unmarked building. The two men carried Dick, who still hadn’t woken up. Someone from the building brought out a gurney to put him on. Harold was still in Tracey’s arms. He wondered if he was going to get a wheeled ride. He wasn’t. Everyone went inside, including a very uncomfortable Harold.

They entered a room that looked like a command centre, complete with computer screens all over the walls showing very colorful things. Harold didn’t understand any of it, but nothing looked like a can opener.

Several other humans were in the room, and their eyes were on one human who was standing in the centre of the room, talking. He was staring at a screen, on which the image of a masked human looked back. The human on the screen was yelling. The human in the room responded in a more calm voice.

“No,” Tracey said. “That’s wrong. He’s not doing it right.”

“He’s the best we have until we can wake up your husband,” said one of the men who tried to help Dick.

“This isn’t what Dick would say. He’s not good. He’s going to screw it up. What’s this about anyway?”

“A group of terrorists planted a series of bombs throughout the world that will release a terrible plague. That man is our only hope at saving the world. Dick would be able to diffuse the situation, or at least delay it until our guys could crack the code to the remote detonators. But this guy could help. He’s the next best we could find.”

“So this guy is going to save the world? No, let me in there, I can do it. This guy sucks.”

But the man held her back. “We can’t disturb them. It’s volatile in there, any wrong move, and it’s game over. We all die. You die, I die, all humans die. Our guys are about to crack the code, but we need more time.

They listened for another minute. Harold gave out another protesting wail. He could feel his stomach grumbling, his mouth salivating. He was craving more fish. His breakfast was nowhere to be seen, and he was still uncomfortable in Tracey’s arms.

Tracey didn’t answer. Her eyes were fixed on the human doing the negotiating. “No,” she said. “Oh my God, no. That was definitely a wrong move. I can’t believe he said that. I’m going in.”

Before the man could stop her, she tossed Harold at him and ran to the centre of the room. Harold found himself in the arms of someone who knew how to hold a cat even less than Tracey. He kicked and hissed until the man dropped him. He landed on the floor gracefully on all fours, and ran for the door. It was closed. He looked back. Tracey was now with the negotiating human.

“NO!” reverberated around the room. The image on the screen was yelling again. “No more talk! I release the plague! Good-bye world!” The image showed the human holding up a device, then he pressed a button on it. The screen went blank.

The room went silent. Harold saw all humans in the room stand like statues.

One human talked on his phone. “Did you get it?” He slowly lowered the phone from his ear. He looked around, and announced, “No.” The room remained silent.

Tracey walked to the door. She picked up Harold and gently held him. Tears were streaming down her eyes. She looked at the men who had brought her from home.

“There’s nothing you could have done,” one of the men said, “He already messed it up.” A tear began streaming down from under his shades.

Tracey walked to another room and found Dick on a table. He was still unconscious. She stroked his head, and kissed him. Then she sat down on a chair, letting Harold sit more comfortably on her lap. He looked around. He wondered if any of the doors in the cabinets would reveal a can of breakfast.

But Harold felt the atmosphere in the room, and the building. Somehow he knew that in a few weeks, all humans would be dead. The world as he knew it would be gone. He would never get breakfast the way he always did. If only he hadn’t sneezed.

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