Flash fiction first published by A Long Story Short
Officer Davis pounded his fist on the door of 2B. “Charles Miller, open up. Police.” Officer Scully cocked his head. No sound could be heard over the blare of the television inside.
Davis pulled his gun. “Sir, we’re coming in.” With one well-placed kick, the door burst open.
A thirtyish man sat in a recliner open-mouthed, chest beneath his unbuttoned shirt sticky with drool, work boots scattered next to the coffee table, his bleary eyes locked on the Constant News Network.
Scully waved his hand in front of Miller’s face. No blink, not even a twitch. “Ah, geez. Another one.”
“Third time this month.” Davis holstered his weapon. No threat here – to him or his partner, at least. “I’ll call it in. Leave the rest for forensics.” The half-eaten TV dinner, the man’s fixed look of dread and shock, the stale stench of the apartment already confirmed Davis’ suspicions: Miller was a loner, isolated from the world except for the relentless drone of the Constant News Network. The station reported events, even weather, with the intensity of an Uzi – ticker rolling nonstop blurbs of headlines, promising to update regurgitated events, an all-you-can-stand buffet of kidnappings, bombings, murders, wildfires and floods. The only breaks from the onslaught were promotions for sponsors’ gadgets.
Davis pulled his walkie talkie from its holder and requested an ambulance. “Remember when thought control was just a theme for a bad B-movie?”
Scully blew air through tight lips. “No newspapers, no magazines, no books – this guy was asking for it.”
“Probably lost his thought process somewhere between the terrorist threat playback and the talking head banter.”
“Someone should invent an opinion regenerator for poor bastards like this.”
“Maybe someone already has,” Davis said. “Problem is, whose opinion will it be?”
“Whoever pays to have it built!” Scully slapped his partner’s shoulder. “Hey, how about we stop at Ebby’s for a burger after this?”
The news ticker flashed a blurb about the city’s innovative plan for a waste-to-energy plant.
Davis nudged his partner. “So what do you think of the mayor’s garbage idea?”
Scully stepped aside as the ER team wheeled in a gurney. “The mayor has plenty of ideas that seem like garbage, but this one actually has potential. I’d like to see a few kinks worked out first.”
“Just a sec.” Davis picked up the remote. “Can’t think with this noise.” He pressed the power button. The face of the sternly concerned anchor blipped to black.
They followed the ER workers out of the apartment, and Davis shut the door. “Okay, lemme hear your idea.”