Regrets (Flash Fiction)

The guard opened the door, and Catherine hesitated. Even though the rules were explained, the reasons for the lights being so dim, it did not ease her nervousness. “It’s okay,” said the guard. “He’s fully restrained. He can’t hurt you. And we’re here watching, both at the door and on the other side of the glass.”

Her fear began to peak, and then the roar of her boss’s voice flooded her head. Whatever it takes! I want that psycho’s interview on the front page come Monday! She steeled herself, took comfort in the guard’s reassuring nod, and entered.

The darkness of the room was misleading coming from the lit hallway. As her eyes adjusted, she found she could see rather well. Bob sat like a withered guru on a gray pillow next to the wall. Stainless steel ringed his wrists and ankles, and a thin chain bound the four limbs together. Bob smiled and greeted her. She replied and stood in the middle of the small cell, unsure of what to do. Bob only watched her and puffed on a long, thin pipe. The tobacco lingered in the air and mixed with the silence between them. She’d never tell a soul, but for a moment it was almost pleasant. Catherine sat on the end of his bunk and began recording on a small cassette player.

As she prepared, Bob spoke. He looked her in the eyes and said, “Before we begin, what would you like to know?”

Catherine’s brow tightened, and she gave a quick glance to her notes. The questions were good, important, but editorially driven. She looked at the man, a frayed body that had exceeded ninety years of age with ghostly skin and purple bags around the eyes, and asked the only thing she could think of.

“Do you regret it? Any of it?”

He thought about the question. It settled into his mind like an old man finding his favorite rocking chair, and he allowed it to sway back and forth on the front porch of his conscious. As the moments passed, memories zoomed by like passing cars on a busy road. Bob recognized each one of them. “Regrets,” he said, “are devious little things that only exist to wear you down. They eat at you, prod at you, keep you awake at night. They’re your tormentors, your devils. But they do have a weakness.” He looked deep into the interviewer’s eyes. “Do you know what that is?”

She shook her head.

“They have to be uttered to truly exist. Like a parasite, their strength is drawn from your energy, but then they have to move on again. The only way to kill regret is to take it to the grave.” He smiled then, satisfied by his answer. “The only way to kill those demons is to bury them alive in the body they’ve tortured.” He took a long suck on his pipe, coughed a little, and then began to laugh like a maniac.

Catherine clicked off her audio recorder and headed for the door.

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