Having entered a succession of short story competitions over the past decade and, this year, having submitted entries for festivals as far apart as Yeovil and Edinburgh, a runners-up prize was won in the Worcs LitFest flash fiction competition. The number of words allowed was three hundred or less and “Online Escape” came in at 298 words:
The evening classes had led her to this point. A computing class had taught her to use the Internet, and the Internet had brought her to social media, and social media had not been what she had thought. It had given her an opportunity for which she had waited a long time.
They had planned a new life in Canada, a new life together. He would go ahead and get work and find somewhere to live and she would then join him. She put her savings into the plan; the money would assist him in finding a good place as their home. He had gone, he had written letters, but the letters became less frequent, and then they stopped. A neighbour’s son had told her the truth about him having met and married a Canadian. “He has a fine home.”
One evening, online, his name had appeared, a friend of a friend. Messages had been exchanged, she had been wary. He was divorced, now, a family grown and gone. Her chance had come, she thought.
Plans progressed. He would fly to London and then they would tour Europe. She advised him of the cost of fares and hotels and he transferred the funds. She looked forward to the moment, a moment for which she had waited fifty years. She would love to see his face.
He landed in Heathrow after a long overnight flight. Switching on his phone, a message arrived. He smiled to see her name. The text was brief, “the money you sent to me is the exact amount you took from me.”
At another terminal, she boarded a Transatlantic flight, her husband beside her. “Everything alright?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, “there was just some outstanding business to be settled. The debt is paid now.”