Hard Work at the Soft Play by Kristina Thornton

It’s all bright lights. She blinks and squints, willing her eyes to adjust, but all she can see are the luminous strips above.

Susan has been snatched from reality and dumped here. A gate opens and there’s a little focus. Small creatures crawl and slither over glossy rainbow mounds in the distance. Susan startles at repeated high-pitch screams. The mix of horror tinged with delight makes her feel queasy or is that the smell of shit?

Cannonballs are aimed and fired. Susan scrambles to the floor. Once the missiles stop, she tries to identify the enemy, but there are too many of them. Swarming, climbing everywhere, up the walls and around the ceiling. How do they do that?

Susan claims refuge perched on a seat. The dazzling light, the spectacular colours and the endless shouting almost too much to bare. To her surprise her shoulders are no longer around her ears, they’ve loosened. It’s the first time she’s sat down today.

She sips brown liquid and chats to another drone. She surrenders to the headache-inducing hellscape, accepting her extradition. She looks around at the other indoctrinated Susans, relaxing into cult-hood. They’re kicking back, but there’s no white, fluffy dressing gowns, champagne flutes or swimming pool.

‘Excuse me?’

Susan turns around, ‘hello?’

‘Um, you didn’t pay when you walked in, I’m sure, by accident.’

‘Pay?’ Susan’s head is spinning.

‘How old are yours?’

‘3 and 5.’

‘Ok, so that’s £10.50, please.’

Susan reaches into her purse. They want her money? They’ve subjected her to scenes no human should ever see, dunked her dignity in dirt and tortured her senses…

She is getting to sit down though!

Susan hands over her cash with a smile.

Kristina Thornton has a flash fiction forthcoming in Janus Literary. National Flash Fiction Day’s The Write-In 2021 has published two of Kristina’s stories. She has been longlisted twice in the Retreat West Micro Fiction Competition in 2021. Kristina is a freelance BBC Broadcast Journalist who is writing her first novel. Twitter – KristinaT83

Image: unsplash.com