Prompt 28: The Inevitability Bias – 501 Prompts

501 Prompts is my attempt to distract myself creatively from whatever is going on outside.

Here’s how it works: I prepare my idea to the prompt and then sit down for 20 minutes straight to write it down. After a short editing session it goes online as it. It’s open to all genres, topics and experiments with storytelling.

I hope you and your loved ones are in a safe place right now. If you need someone to talk, feel free to contact me any time.

Enjoy this week’s prompt!

The Prompt

She was born in a store, grew up in an asylum and died in a library.

My Story

Jeff was busy preparing the small convenience store at the corner of a business district for the rush on the preprepared lunch that would come around noon when the doorbell rang. “Be there in a sec,” he called out. The radio in the backroom played a carefree, upbeat 80s song, and Jeff hummed along with the melody. Before he reached the counter, he had a gun pointed at his face.

“Fuck,” he called and jumped back an inch, raising his hands. Corporate had prepared the store employees for situations like that during countless training sessions, but Jeff never had imagined he would find himself in it. “Look, take whatever you want and leave, okay?”

“We all have to leave eventually,” she answered. In any other circumstance, the woman looked utterly unremarkable like someone you pass by on the street and immediately forget their existence. She shifted uncomfortably from one leg to the other. Her haunted gaze kept flicking back and forth between Jeff and the door, but she didn’t move.

Jeff cursed silently. Hannah had called in sick on short notice, and he was managing the shift alone. He knew no passerby would notice anything suspicious through the big storefront windows where cardboard displays advertised the newest bargains.

“What do you want?” he asked, dropping the friendly enthusiasm they were expected to show towards any customer.

“I just want to live.”
“Funny. I was just thinking the same.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Are you?”
“Yes. I know how it feels like when life plays a terrible trick on you.”

The statement lingered in between them as the music stopped, and the reporter on the radio started his announcement. “Authorities are looking for Olivia Knox. She spent her entire life inside Harmony Valley Mental Hospital, but she managed to escape last night. Doctors say she is confused and possibly dangerous. If you happen to see anything suspicious, contact your local police station. Let’s get back to the biggest hits of the 80s—”

“Is that you?” Jeff asked.
Olivia cocked her head but didn’t respond.
“Olivia,” he repeated her name, “Look. You’ve clearly gone through some hardship. Wanna talk about it?”

“You only ask because you don’t want me to shoot you, aren’t you?” She snorted and ran the fingers of her free hand through her short hair. “Well, okay.” Her mind was racing to the right place in her memory while the gun remained firmly pointed at him. “What if I told you that life is predestined from the moment you’re born?”

“I’d ask you to elaborate.”

A slight, appreciative nod before she continued. “I was born during a hostage situation. In a hardware store of all things. Fortunately for my mother and me, a doctor was present. The captors even agreed to let us go. The police took us in. Child services were quick to separate us, deeming my mother unfit for parenting. I’ve never seen her again.”

Olivia was bitter and hurt. If it wasn’t for the gun in his face, maybe Jeff would have felt sympathy for her. “Where did they take you?”

“A professional insisted on the irreparable damage a child born into a situation like this must suffer. He advocated to put me straight into an asylum. That was the only place I knew until last night.”

“I’m sorry.”
“Everybody is,” she responded.

Jeff cleared his throat. He was going out on a limb, but maybe he could reason with her. “Is that why you do this? The world wronged you, and you lash out at it in the same way?”

Olivia shrugged, and her finger tightened around the trigger. “It’s what they expect of me anyway.”

“Wait, wait!” Jeff almost jumped forward in shock but made sure to not make any sudden movements. “You don’t have to do this.”

“What do you mean?”
“I get that life hasn’t been fair to you. It put you on a bad path, but you can choose to stop. It’s up to you.”

She grimaced and ground her teeth as if she had to crack a tough nut. “You think I can be… whoever I want?”
“Yeah,” Jeff answered without hesitation.

Her body tension increased, and just as Jeff was sure to meet his end, she lowered the weapon. Her lips pressed tight, Olivia looked at him somehow even more confused and lost than before. But she turned around and left the store in a hurry.

“Holy shit!” Jeff jumped towards the door and locked it before he called the cops. He lit a cigarette and poured himself one coffee after another until they arrived. The officers recorded his statement and advised him to close the shop. Jeff smiled and explained that the lunch crowd would show up soon, and they depended on him.

At the end of Jeff’s shift, the news was that Olivia Knox had been cornered in the self-help section of the public library. She didn’t put up a fight but got shot regardless and died before the paramedics arrived.

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