The Fine

Prompt: Use a location, adjective, noun, and number generator and write a scene that takes place in the suburbs while incorporating late penalties and five characters.


Eddie grabs my arm and pulls me down to the ground. I hit my elbow off the side table on the way down and glare at him.

“What?” I hiss. “What’s wrong?”

He raises himself just slightly to peek out the front window. “There’s a white van in front of Mrs. Cane’s house.”

I raise an eyebrow at him. “A white van? Is that all?”

“You don’t understand, Anna. It’s been three weeks.”

I can almost feel the colour drain from my face. “She hasn’t gone back?”

Eddie shakes his head. He drums his fingers nervously against the carpet.

“Eddie,” I whisper. “What if they find us?”

He opens his mouth to respond but is cut off by a scream from outside. We both scramble to look out the window. Across the street, Mrs. Cane is being dragged out her front door by two tall figures in full body armour and masks. They barely react as she continues to scream, kicking her legs and thrashing in their grip. On the way down the porch steps, her leg knocks one of her ceramic pots and it shatters as it lands in her tulip garden. The figure on the left opens the back doors of the van and the two of them unceremoniously toss Mrs. Cane in. They slam the doors shut, and one of them turns their head, observing the street. As their gaze passes over our house, Eddie and I drop to the ground.

“They can’t come for us,” Eddie says, but I can tell he’s starting to panic. “We’ve changed addresses six times in the last year… there’s no way they know we’re here.”

I glance out the window again. The van is gone.

“Eddie, they-”

Knock, knock, knock.

Eddie buries his face in his hands. “We’re dead,” he mumbles.

“No,” I insist. “No, we’ll hide, and then-”

The door crashes open. Shards of wood and glass explode in our front room, and the two figures march in. They turn in unison and look down at us, cowering on the floor.

“Edward O’Neal and Anna Martin,” they say in cold, robotic voices. “You owe a late fee for 388 days. Prepare to pay the fine.”

They surge forward, faster than should be possible. One grabs Eddie, and the other grabs me. Their arms feel cool and firm, and I briefly wonder if the rumours are true. Maybe they are bots. Then my fear takes over and I begin to struggle, thrashing and screaming, desperately trying to get my arms free.

The two figures carry us out, and open the van. Without hesitation, they throw us in, and slam the doors shut. Darkness floods my vision, and I frantically reach out, trying to find Eddie. My fingers brush up against something cool and slimy, shaped suspiciously like a ribcage.

I scream and fall backwards. Eddie’s familiar hands catch me, and I bury my face in his shoulder. We hold each other tightly as the van rumbles to life.

I know I should say something to him.

What would I say? We both knew this would happen. There was no escaping it.

The Librarians always find you.

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