Flash Fiction Story 064: Traffic Jam

Yes, I woke up late, but I had timed it all out perfectly. Pull myself out of bed no later than 7:45 AM. Jog for no more than 15 minutes. Shower: 10 minutes. Getting dressed? 10 more. Depending on whether or not Petyr is running the drive thru at The Java Jalopy, coffee will take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. 

One might think coffee is an optional part of the agenda, but I have enough self-awareness to know I would be of more use to my employer and society pantsless and caffeinated than I would if the opposite were true.

Another ten minutes to get to my desk, and I should be sitting down well before 9:00 AM. 

But of course, I had forgotten about the monsters.

The god-damned monsters.

At first, I heard sirens. As the latte hadn’t fully made its way to my central nervous system, I first thought a train was crossing the road up ahead. That wouldn’t have eaten into my timetable that much. I mean, a train can’t stay at the crossing forever…

The obstruction on my way to work was no locomotive of the Union Pacific, but instead a radioactively enhanced praying mantis the newspaper came to call Kamakirimonsutā. It marched over the I-34 Exchange Bridge, knocking cars and vans from the highest overpass. They exploded in balls of flames. 

Despite the carnage all around me, I arched my neck to see if there was any way I could get around the logjam and to the next intersection. No such luck. Bumper to bumper, except for the parts that weren’t currently filled with either fire or mantis.

I was never going to get to work at this rate.

A police helicopter flew overhead landing for an instant near the overpass. The creature ignored them, and instead appeared to be contemplating whether they would take the interstate northbound to Raymond Burr Boulevard, or southbound toward Downtown. 

Several SWAT officers jumped off the Huey and advanced on the creature. The creature took one look at the advancing cops, plucked one from the crowd and bit the poor sucker’s head off. All of us commuters just sat there and watching the rest of the uniformed saps ran for dear life. Now that I think about it, the biting of the head was probably more of an attempt at romance. 

Oh, and it swatted the helicopter into its own fiery wreck pretty well, too. That seemed more hostile, but I’m not exactly an expert in kaiju psychology…

The bug went on the move. Eschewing the main thoroughfares for the east, I came to a sudden conclusion about my fate and the monster’s proclivities.

The praying mantis was headed straight for me. I could only hope I wasn’t—her?—type.

Every car around me suddenly went into reverse. Fender bender collapsed onto multiple other fender benders. It was an insurance adjustor’s nightmare, but then again, it wasn’t exactly like they were having the best time of things lately. 

Oh, and the horns, how they did honk.

The monster looked down, and much to my own chagrin, mine was the only car not moving. It reached out with its claws and hoisted me up the fifty feet or so to bring me to its eye level. If it weren’t for the panic, I probably would have passed out.

The monster’s segmented eyes considered me for a moment, and I quickly got the sense that one of us had made a love connection. And in that moment, all someone else would have known was terror, but no, not me. I thought of all the work we needed to do today.

Suddenly, mortar shells rang forth. The army had arrived, and I was saved. The monster recoiled and dropped me. Thankfully, I landed on the highest overpass possible. Not so thankfully, it was another half an hour to work from where it dropped me.

“Get out of here!” the soldier in the tank yelled to me.

I didn’t have to be told twice. I took my own opportunity to go back away from what had become a complete war zone. 

I got here as soon as I could, I swear. Luckily the monster set me down—well, dropped me, really—on the highway, and I made it here in record time. I’m sure I look like a mess. But I’m here now! Even with everything going on around me, it wasn’t like I was expecting the day off! Ha. Ha. Ha.

Ahem.

And, anyway, that’s when you came by.

***

“And that’s your explanation for why you didn’t come in until 9:30?” There was nothing even resembling a question in the supervisor’s voice. She had come out of nowhere to hector the employee about the tardiness infraction. The employee had to hand it to the kaiju currently overrunning the planet Earth: they at least had the decency to let you know they were coming.

“But…” the employee tried to protest. “Everything that happened to me.”

“Okay, well… We live in a world where kaiju attacks happen every week. If you want to get to work on time—and if you want to continue to work here, you definitely want to get to work on time—you need to get out of bed earlier.”

The last few minutes—actually, the last several months during which these attacks suddenly became a thing—threatened to boil over within the employee. Life had changed too much since these things had made their way to shore, and wanting a little bit of human compassion for their troubles didn’t feel out of line.

“Also, I see you managed to find time to grab coffee before coming in,” the supervisor said before retreating to her cubicle.

“But…” the employee tried to protest, but more words would only add more trouble to a Tuesday morning that had already started off bad.

Art by Eris O’Reilly

Art by Eris O’Reilly