Ahoy-hoy! I’m back again, with a story I wrote a few weeks ago from another Reddit prompt. Please do me a huge favor and share this story if you like it!
Prompt: The main protagonist is fully aware of being the main protagonist and knows that, no matter what he does, he won’t die during the story.
I tear the steering wheel hard into the oncoming lane of traffic. My body lurches nearly out of the seat. Ah, right. Seatbelt. I straighten the vehicle’s trajectory and fasten my seatbelt. I turn to the front passenger seat. My passenger turns to me shakily, wearing an expression that is some unsettling blend of nauseated and enraged.
“What’s that look for?” I intentionally keep my eyes off of the road for far too long. Horns blare, cars swerve out of the way. Just as expected.
“LOOK AT THE ROAD, YOU MANIAC!!” She grabs the wheel and pulls it hard to the right. The van thumps and bumps as it meets the curb and traverses the grass that now divides the two sections of road. The oncoming lane was actually an off-ramp, leading down from a highway that passes over the lane we’d been in before. So there’s a height differential. We fall a short distance to the correct side of the road, hitting it hard and with a spray of sparks. The front right hubcap is a casualty. I watch it roll away from us in the rearview mirror. I recenter my attention on the interfering companion in the neighboring seat.
“Damn it, Fred! This lane has cops! You know how cops get about my driving!”
“Well maybe if you would DRIVE LIKE A PERSON, they’d stop chasing us!”
“Well maybe if you hadn’t stolen all of that money, they wouldn’t be chasing!”
“YOU STOLE THE MONEY, YOU DICK!”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot… Well hey, you tagged along!” Fred stops trying to retort and throws her hands up in exhaustion, sighing an indeterminate swear word. The cops have blocked the road ahead. The ones behind have stopped following so closely, but the other cars, the blacked-out imports, those have kept pace. So much for the enemy of my enemy being my friend.
I squeeze the gas pedal closer to the floor.
“Jaaaack…” Fred tenses up in the seat, pressing against it and raising up slightly.
“Sshh…” I ignore her and try to hide my slight grin as I accelerate a bit more.
“…JAAAAAACK…” She’s pushing up in the seat like there’s a spider on the floor now.
“JACK! WHAT ARE YOU–” Fred’s admonishing is cut off by the bursting of the tires. Oh right. Spike strips. I guess not all of this works like the movies. The metal of the wheels grinds against the asphalt as we continue to careen towards the line of cops cars. The cops have mostly abandoned them.
I aim straight ahead and push the accelerator against the floor.
Even if I had a cool one-liner, Fred’s screaming and the assorted bad car sounds would drown it out. We smash through the line of cop cars in a spectacular display, probably. From my vantage point, it’s mostly terrifying and shaky. But bystanders, man. They probably got a hell of a show.
The van is losing speed pretty quickly, but the disaster behind us has slowed our pursuers even more. I pull off the road into a department store parking lot, finally sliding to a halt between two big rig trailers parked near the loading dock.
I hold my hands up as if to say “Ta da!” and Fred hits me with her messenger bag.
“Ow, hey! Quit that!” I grab the bag. She weakly lets go and turns away from me. Reasonable. I didn’t explain any of this to her before the heist. Which I tricked her into helping me with.
“Fred, listen…” I reach a hand towards her cautiously, but stop.
“I don’t want to listen to YOU.” She turns towards me just slightly at the last word, spitting it viciously through a lone curl that had fallen from her headband during the chase. She follows this up by blowing the renegade strand of hair from her face and pushing the glasses up her nose.
“Okay. Well, I’m gonna talk anyway. And it won’t make much sense at first. But if you decide to start listening, maybe it’ll start to make some sense.” She relaxes slightly, her curiosity betraying her righteously soured mood.
I take a deep breath and begin to say words that are not my own.
“I’m the main character in a story. The only reason we are here right now is because we are being written as such. I cannot be killed in this story, as it is based on a writing prompt that specifies that I know that I am the unkillable main character. The prompt doesn’t specify how safe you are, but the writer likes you better and therefore has no plans to kill you off. If you don’t believe me, which you shouldn’t, because this sounds like pure madness, I can prove it. There was a thing that happened at your sixth birthday party that you haven’t ever told a single soul, where you–”
“How… How could you know that? About my birthday?” Fred has turned towards me fully, looking more frightened and confused than she had during the police chase.
“I don’t know it, Fred. The writer doesn’t even know it. He just needed me to say the beginning of a dark secret from your past that only you could know, something to lend plausibility to your inevitable belief in my ridiculous assertion. Fred… Do you even know the secret I started to say just now?” She furrowed her brow.
“…No. No, I don’t. But… How is this… I mean…”
“I don’t know. But there it is. We’re fictional. And I can’t be killed. That’s why we did the bank thing. Because I thought it would be fun. But this scene here, it’s getting really metatextual and it’s honestly kind of freaking me out. I feel like we’re being watched. I feel like a puppet. Fred, I don’t even know my last name. We don’t have families or friends, because we haven’t had them written for us. If we’d been written into a screenplay or a novel, maybe we’d have fuller lives. But this… We’re a short story, and kind of a hacky one at that. Maybe we can’t die, but how can we live? We’re not even going to get a full three pages here. We got the big action sequence, and maybe that’ll get expanded in revisions, but then what? He’s not going to use us again. He hasn’t even described what we look like, except that you wear glasses and have a strand of curly hair long enough to hang in front of your face. We’re stories, but who are we? Where do we go when the story is over? We live this loop, again and again, never escaping the car chase or the navel-gazing commentary on the fictionality of our own lives.”
“But there’s one way we can die, Jack.”
“Yeah? And what’s that?”
“Say the words.”