Prompt: A 30-something man, a disappointment to his father, has just graduated nursing school. He goes to meet his father at his golf club to give him the good news.
Simon rolled up his sleeve and checked the injection site: purple and swollen. It was splotchy too. He didn’t suffer those side effects last time. He stopped just outside the golf course’s black iron gates and took a deep breath. It hurt, but it didn’t matter. This was the last round of his treatment.
What really mattered was the next half-hour, and yet, he couldn’t stop reliving the last few years of his education. Nursing programs were no picnic, especially for men like Simon, who withered under even mild glares.
The plan had seemed so perfect when he’d concocted it years ago, sitting on his bed in a one room apartment. No pets. No partner. Somehow he even lost his rice cooker. The one thing he did have was that old wooden box, from that shop that was itself little more than an old wooden box. One prick and he had the idea. Nursing school. People wouldn’t express their seemingly natural distaste for him if he was helping save their lives.
Whatever the pressures, as long as he made his doses routine and made the best of them, everything would turn out fine. So far, the plan had worked. His grades were excellent. For once, there was a group of people that liked him. They were all his teachers, but still.
He passed through the gates. He was wearing things he never wore to fit in with his father’s crowd: a sweater vest, lemon and lime colored, with a silly cap. He’d bought them online from the same retailer his father used. There would be no distractions regarding his wardrobe today. He would just share the good news, hopefully over drinks or snacks rather than nine holes.
They didn’t want to let him in at first, but all he had to do ws drop his father’s name: Bill. They told him he could find his father out on the putting green. Simon cursed under his breath. They didn’t have food anywhere on the green. He couldn’t impress his father with his very adult choice of whiskey sans rocks.
The sun was beating down as he approached. His father was alone, no doubt waiting for him. Bill had tons of friends, friends with deep pockets, friends who ran magazines who occasionally graced their covers, and friends always trying to laugh louder than everyone else in the room.
Yet, he was alone whenever Simon showed up for one of their scheduled bonding sessions. Simon saw through it; he pushed those people away so they wouldn’t see his greatest disappointment. Things would change after today. His treatment would end, the good news would sink in, and finally they could act like family again.
His father waved. A pouchy smile, as if he was trying to get a waiter’s attention. He went back to putting before Simon’s hand was in the air. At least he sunk it. Simon increased his pace, practically jogging, to ge to him before he fished the ball out of the hole. Otherwise it would just be sitting on the green somewhere, pulling his father’s focus away.
Simon started explaining. He told him he’d graduated, that he was a fully qualified nurse now. He talked and talked, not even giving his father a chance to scowl. In the back of his mind he relived every injection the wooden box had to give.
The shop he’d found it in those years ago didn’t claim to be a magic shop. It took him picking up a web-covered item, just a little clay jug, way in the back for the shopkeeper to take notice. There was a colorful powder inside that made Simon sneeze, and when he did a green flame issued forth. It caught the curtains and nearly took the store with it, but the shopkeeper whispered a few words and the fire was out; there wasn’t even smoke left over.
Simon was forceful after that. His life needed something, and he, at that moment, realized it wasn’t an antique. It was something the shopkeep kept under cover or in the back room, something enchanted. He obliged only when Simon threatened to reveal the event to the customers on the other side of the shop. He grabbed Simon by the hand and took him through a curtain.
In the end he chose the box: a splintery thing with a rusted latch. Inside were eight purple crystals about the size and length of a syringe. The were wickedly sharp, like the tongue of the devil. They sat in a bed of straw so fine and soft that Simon could not guess the source. The only instructions were transferred orally from the shopkeep. Apparently, writing them down could earn you a curse.
They were shards of spite, distilled from a magical mind that no longer existed: a bloated giant thing floating in an effervescent liquid in a back room somewhere. The shopkeep said it might have been the mind of a demigod.
The instructions were succinct. Each crystal held a dose of spite. The tip could be used as an injector for the emotion. He used the first one that night, sitting upon his bed. It stung across his entire body in a flash, like showering in the venomous flow of a giant wasp stinger. He passed out.
The next day he found some redness at the injection site, but it acted as advertised. People always denied him things before, either because they didn’t like his face, or his feathery voice, or the way he walked. They couldn’t do that anymore. They felt the aura of spite. They understood that everything he did was simply to spite them. That, they had to respect.
The aura cleared the way for his grades. It gave him opportunities. He hated that it was true. People respected bitterness and bile. They thought they saw anger when they looked at him now, and that they moved aside for. It was a mask. He could never be that dark and heated inside, like an old furnace with its door rusted shut. The crystals would have to do the work, keep him looking respectfully irate.
They wore off over time, so he had to be careful about his usage. Even going off conservative estimates, he would run out near the end of his nursing program. He needed the last one to insure his father’s respect, which he had never earned by non-magical means.
He knew they were poisoning him. Each injection looked more like a wound, lasted a little longer. The poisonous emotion left him with bruises, spontaneous dark bleeding, and the occasional headache like barbed wire around his gray matter. He couldn’t hold onto it. The spite was rotting through the bottom of its bowl.
“Dad,” he declared. “I did it. I’m a nurse now.”
“We’ll call you a doctor,” Bill said plainly. He saw the spite. He’d never seen it this strong or fresh before. He couldn’t frown at his son, but his words still held over him like dark clouds. “We’ll call you a doctor and that’s that. A man your age, just a man really, being a nurse…” He pulled his ball from the hole and started to walk away.
Simon came up behind him. He’d poisoned himself so long, just to get that approval. That was his problem. He was a nurse. He was supposed to help others. He’d bought one more item back at that shop, just a last resort.
He stabbed Bill in the back with a light blue crystal of compassion. The old man fell over and wheezed, his hand sinking into a sand trap. It shouldn’t have hurt, but he’d been empty of compassion too long. He felt all his son’s pain for a while, in bursts and sputters, until the inoculation cured him of his personality.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by kevintgb during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!