Head of a Pin (Flash Fiction)

Colin Powell, George W. Bush, and Condoleezza Rice

Photo by Tina Hager, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Via flickr.com/commons

“So, how small is the lens? Could it fit on the head of a pin?”

Roger looked excited, in a conspiratorial kind of way. He loved it when new tech was small enough to fit on the head of a pin.

“Smaller,” I told him. “The entire camera could fit comfortably on a fly.”

Roger let out a sound that – though he was far from being a 12-year-old girl – sounded something like, “Squee!” He clapped his hands together and turned the laptop to get a better look.

I let him enjoy the image of the sorority bathroom. It was harmless, mostly. And it wasn’t like anyone was going to catch us. Even if someone discovered the camera, no one could trace it back to us.

The entire camera had been built – atom by atom – as part of an exercise in nano-manufacturing. I had designed the lenses myself. It had taken a team of graduate students to do the rest. The best and brightest in Georgetown’s engineering program had spent several thousand hours creating the world’s smallest wireless video camera.

Roger wasn’t an engineer. He was one of the ubiquitous MBAs from the business school. He didn’t know a thing about math, but he knew economic potential when he saw it.

“How do I control it?” he asked.

“You don’t,” I said, taking the laptop out of his reach. “You can look, but don’t touch. It’s too valuable.”

“How did you get it into the Alpha Xi bathroom?”

“Many Bothans died to bring us this information,” I said, quoting Return of the Jedi. As expected, the quip fell on deaf ears.

“Can you zoom in? Is there audio?” Roger started peppering me with questions, but I wasn’t about to give him all our secrets.

“Look, there are a dozen engineers who would kill me just for showing this to you. If you weren’t my roommate…”

My voiced trailed off as three girls in towels came into view on the screen. The showers started and for the next several minutes I forgot Roger was in the room.

#

Gone. It was gone.

The camera was gone.

Ando and Fitch accused Roger of stealing it. They knew he was my roommate and that he had seen the camera in action. They also knew Roger had an incurable drive to scheme his way to fortune and fame.

After a few minutes, I had calmed them down enough to explain how Roger didn’t know where the camera had been hidden.

“He’s not an idiot,” said Ando. “He could have triangulated the signal within a few feet.”

I looked at Ando, my mouth hanging open wide. “Are you serious? Roger couldn’t triangulate the location of his mother’s condo without a GPS.”

“Besides,” said Fitch. “He wouldn’t take the camera without stealing the laptop, too.”

I sighed and checked the laptop again. As before, the signal was non-existent.

“Either the camera was destroyed or it was moved. There is no signal coming from the sorority house or anywhere else on campus.”

“Maybe it’s out of juice,” suggested Ando.

“Not a chance,” said Fitch. “Once the battery drains, the camera should recharge from sunlight. The light from the bathroom window should have kept it charged.”

“Should have, should have,” I said to Fitch. “So many variables.”

Ando sat on my unmade bed and stared at his shoes. The wind blew in through the open window. The unseasonably warm spring air ruffled the pages of an open book on my desk.

“Oh, god,” said Ando. Fitch and I looked at him as he repeated, “Oh, god.”

Ando jumped up from the bed. He grabbed the laptop off of my desk, jerked open the door and ran into the hall yelling, “I know what happened! ”

Out on the grassy quad, Ando was bouncing back and forth like a silver pinball between two bumpers. He held the laptop out in his hands and swiveled.

“The signal’s here,” he said. “But it’s hard to pinpoint.”

“The signal isn’t very strong,” I said. “Only a few hundred yards. Move closer to the sorority house.”

“It’s not in the sorority house. It’s moving,” said Ando. “It couldn’t have flown far.”

“Flown?” asked Fitch. “How did the camera fly?”

“On a spring breeze when the girls opened up the bathroom window.” Ando pointed to the screen, where a faint image was showing us a picture of a street.

“I am a leaf on the wind, watch me soar!” I said, quoting Serenity.

The image changed — spinning, whirling. Then the signal was gone. We chased after it. Every few seconds, the breeze would die down and we would catch a signal. Sometimes the camera pointed at the sky, other times at the ground. We finally got lucky and saw a pizza place we knew.

“This way!” Ando screamed, tearing off down the street.

We didn’t have time to debate the merits of chasing an invisible camera through the city. We ran, trying to lock on to the camera’s signal. But every time we started to get one, it faded again. After several miles, we caught up to the camera. The signal was coming in strong, though we couldn’t see much.

It looked like the interior of a building: Cream-colored walls, ornate crown molding. The door opposite the camera was open to the outside. Apparently, the camera had flown through it.

Figures appeared on the screen. Though we couldn’t hear the audio feed, they seemed to be in deep discussion about the piles of paperwork they carried.

“Holy shit!” I said. “I know where they are.”

Ando and Fitch looked at me, puzzled expressions on their faces.

“How could you possibly know that?” asked Ando.

“Seriously? You don’t recognize these people?”

I pointed to the man on the left and said, “Colin Powell.” Pointing to the woman, I said. “Condoleezza Rice.” The man in the middle needed no introduction.

We turned off the laptop and ran.

Kevin Wohler is a copywriter and novelist living in Lawrence, Kansas. During the day, he works at a digital marketing agency in the Kansas City area. When time remains, he likes to tell stories of the weird and bizarre. And sometimes, he writes them down for others to read.

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