flash fictionIssue 3

Windows Explorer Cannot Process This Request

blank business card on laptop

Philip Charter

Are you sure you want to reopen this application?

[Yes]  X                                [No]

C:\Users\Steve\Business\Tax Returns\2017-18

£19,446.40 in expenses even though you never spent more than twelve pounds at the barbers. You drove everywhere in fourth gear to save fuel. I loved your efficiency; you laughed at my buy-now-pay-later attitude. What hurts most is that your final email was to the Inland Revenue, not me.

C:\Users\Steve\Documents\xmaslist17

You wrote gift ideas for me to find, as if each item had an invisible question mark after. On the 25th, we held hands on the heath and the questions got trapped in between. A few months later, you went to ground like Father Christmas returning to his Lapland lair.

D:\Photos\Holidays\St.Tropez\Edited

You always were good at cropping things out of your life. Cutting and pasting one credit card for another. On our one-year anniversary you put your hands around my throat while we made love. I let you squeeze harder than I wanted. After, I took your photo as you stood on the balcony, surveying your kingdom. That one’s not in the folder. It’s just smiles, sunsets and pictures of far-off yachts.

E:\Removable Device\Marriage Certificate.pdf

[This archive is corrupted]

Did you plan your escape before or after the vows? In overdraft and in debt. Can’t divorce a missing person; now I’m married to your faulty numbers.

C:\System32\vectors\delta\properties

My greatest detective work led me to your carefully hidden porn. Clicking into every folder took hours. There’s nothing incriminating here, just stills of women trapped in compromising positions.

*Locked Folder* C:\Users\Steve\OperationSunset

Do you get a kick out of imagining the repeated ‘access denied’ message? Caribbean destinations, tentatively chosen child names, thriller titles, clues from the half-finished Times crossword — nothing works. The computer expert I hired couldn’t unlock the real you either.

I’ve gone through all the stages, wept, cut your poisonous plastic cards into tiny pieces. All that’s left of you to explore is this PC and I won’t stop until I crack the code. When I do, I’ll wrap my hands arounds your throat, and I’ll ask ‘why?’

Are you sure you want to create the file ‘Steven’s Funeral’?

Philip Charter is a British writer who teaches writing skills to non-native English speakers. His work has been featured in Fictive Dream, Ellipsis Zine and Flashback Fiction among other publications. In 2018, he released his debut short fiction collection, Foreign Voices, and in 2021, his story The Fisherwoman won the Loft Books Short Story Prize. He likes orange cats, but hates oranges. Website: philipcharter.com Twitter: @dogbomb3