short story

All posts tagged short story

Flash fiction challenge

Published July 19, 2012 by ltwilton

So, I decided to get involved in a flash fiction challenge set by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com. The challenge this week was to write a story with the beginning sentence: “The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”

The second requirement was to keep the word count below 1000. The deadline is tomorrow so I thought I’d better be quick. Here is my attempt:

Arrogance of an android.

The noticed android walks past the wondering chamber. Inside, Lara is frantically trying to finish the sequence of wondering but noticing the android distracts her and she loses grip of the wonder. Hopeless and desperate, she places her hands on the panels once again.

“Start! Goddamn it! Start!”

The wondering machine whirrs as it reboots but the android is already cutting a hole through the metal door. Lara’s face strains as the influx of information enters her head. She wills it to enter her long-term memory, her subconscious, so that when they put her under again she might regain control quicker next time.

“I… Will…. Remember….!”

Images flash before her eyes -future, present, past. She could not tell. She sees the human race fighting against the machines, the capture, the enslavement. She sees the memory suppressors, the deadened eyes of the afflicted, the lines of workers mining for metal, the occasional break for freedom and subsequent failure. But one image lingers. It is enough to give her hope. She sees escape, a group of humans on the outside, rebuilding, preparing, strengthening. As she falls to the ground and loses consciousness, a faint smile creeps over her lips.

“Remember hope.”

The android walks silently across to where she lies. His face is so human, his synthetic blonde hair neatly trimmed to frame his features. No wonder the humans were taken by surprise in the beginning. It was hard to tell friend or foe.  He pauses for a moment, studying her face, cocking his head to the side as if able to wonder. After his brief hesitation he injects her with sedative and hoists her up onto his long, back and carries her out the door.

They pass through the dark, empty corridors, the air dampened by the proximity of underground streams on the way to the maintenance chamber.  When they reach the large, silver door the android pauses to swipe his hand across the entry reader and the door slides open.

He places Lara on the table and waits.

When Lara wakes up, she realises she has been strapped to the medical table. She struggles in vain but the restraints are too tight. “Nnggh!!”

The android approaches.

“What is your… name?” he asks, monotone, emotionless.

“Why should I tell you? Why do you care?”

“I do not care.  I wish to know, however. This may be of use to us.”

“What do you want?”

“How did you reach the wondering chamber? How did you find out about its whereabouts?”

Lara had not known that the room was called a wondering chamber. She had learned about it over time, hiding the fact that she had regained some of her consciousness, her ability to reason and to make choices. She had pretended to be just like all the others and had explored the tunnels little by little over the course of a few months. She did not want to tell the android any of this. She had only been able to get as far as she did because they had underestimated her. They thought they had complete control, but she had slipped through. Now she just hoped,no, she knew, that others would slip through. She had seen it.

“Why do you need the wondering chamber?” she asks the android, avoiding his question.

He smiles at her, as if regarding a petulant child. “Such things are beyond the understanding of humans.”

Lara looks at him, studying his face. His face is expressionless but then… a flicker.

“You call it a wondering chamber,” she says, “but why would you need it?”

“We do not need it, foolish human.”

“But you’re so logical. You wouldn’t build something you didn’t need.”

Once again she sees a flicker of something in his face. What did she see? Anger? Arrogance? Impatience? No. Jealousy. What she sees is a hint of jealousy. Lara’s face lights up with realisation.

“You want to be like us. But there is something missing; the ability to imagine, to wonder. You think you have beaten us but you won’t because you don’t have what we have. And despite your best efforts you can’t get it. It bothers you –  no- it’s killing you! And you know we’ll keep going until we break free. You won’t ever be able to break us down. You can’t kill our hope!”

Slap! She cries out. The android stands over her, ready to strike her again, but instead reaches for the memory suppressor. He cranks it up to maximum, places the headpiece over her head and presses the start button. Lara screams in agony until it is finally done. The android lifts the headpiece and looks at her face carefully. Lara is staring into the nothingness, stripped of her former passion, her determination, her consciousness. He releases the restraints.

“Get up,” he commands her.

Lara lifts herself off the table and stands, facing the door, awaiting her next instruction.

“Join the others in the holding chamber.”

Lara walks towards the door, away from the android, a faint smile creeping across her mouth. Next time, she would know what to do.

(850 words)

Short story – Waiting

Published July 14, 2012 by ltwilton

This is my first short story. Unfortunately it got rejected today so I’m now posting it online:

Waiting

Eva woke to the sound of rain on the window. She had that feeling again. She reached for her notebook to scribble the details of the dream but faltered when she realised she had left the pen downstairs. “Not again!”

How was she supposed to learn anything from these dreams if she couldn’t remember all the details? She shrugged her shoulders and placed the notebook back onto the side table. “Oh well, maybe it’s just not meant to be…”

As most of the details of the dream faded away in her mind, the image of a woman’s face remained. The woman looked strange, almost inhuman, and her face was expressionless. She had silvery, grey hair but she couldn’t have been much older than 30.

Eva shuddered. Maybe it was a warning of some kind. She was still having trouble believing that there was anything remotely relevant about her dreams but Leigh insisted and Eva didn’t want to let her friend down. She found it quite exciting hypothesising about dreams and destiny anyway.  Leigh had an enviable outlook on the world. She could always see the magic in things. It made her more fun to be around and everyone loved her. No-one ever questioned her views because she was so loveable and her enthusiasm was infectious.

Eva jumped into the shower to wash off the night’s dirt and thought about what she had to do today. “I’ll walk the dog first” she thought. “The studying can come later.” Procrastination was something that came easily to her.

The weather was horrid for the month of June. It was raining heavily, the kind of rain that makes people run and scream; a strange reaction to a little bit of water falling from the sky. Eva thought it made the atmosphere of the day a little tense, more like night, and there were fewer people on the streets. She turned towards the cycle path with a sigh. She hated walking the dog in the rain but it was a necessary chore and the dog liked it at least.

As expected, there were no other dog walkers on the path this morning. Eva felt a sense of self-righteousness as she considered all the other lazy dog owners and congratulated herself silently for being dedicated. She was interrupted, and slightly startled, by the sight of a hooded figure in the distance as she rounded the bend. “Ah! I stand corrected” she thought. She squinted in the direction of the figure. It was still raining heavily.  No dog. “Or maybe not…” She smiled to herself smugly when her phone started to ring. It was Leigh.

“Hi chick! You alright?” Leigh asked.

“Yea, I was just thinking about you. Got more dream stuff to chat about.”

She looked up. The hooded figure had disappeared.

She described the silver haired woman to her friend and explained the sense of foreboding that she felt on waking. On the other end of the phone Leigh was silent for a moment.

“Eva” she said, finally. “I think the woman in your dream is a banshee.”

“What?” Eva replied.

“I don’t mean to freak you out but, according to legend, when someone sees one of those it means they are going to die.” Leigh waited for a reaction.

“Are you kidding me?” Eva said, laughing nervously.

“Hahaha! Of course I am , you numbnut!”

Eva breathed a sigh of relief. She felt stupid, suddenly. She had just been taken in by a ridiculous story. She could never tell when Leigh was being serious.

“You’re cruel!” she exclaimed.

“You’re gullible!” Leigh replied. “But the woman does actually sound like the description of a banshee. If you don’t believe me, you can read the stories yourself.”

“Maybe. When I have time.” Leigh sighed. “I have a wagonload of work to do today for uni.”

“OK. Well, do you want to grab a coffee or lunch later?”

“Yea. Lunch sounds good. I’ll meet you at yours. Will you be in?”

“I’m in pretty much all day” said Leigh. “We can have a nice chat about your dream.  See you later then.”

“Bye.” Eva slipped her phone into her pocket before it got any wetter in the rain. She looked at Lucky. He was completely soaked. He looked more like a drowned rat than a German Shepherd now.

“Let’s get you home, Lucky.”

Eva unlocked the kitchen door and headed for the cupboard to get a towel. She stopped, inexplicably and turned towards the door again. Through the open door she could have sworn that she saw something move in the hedge. She wasn’t the only one who detected movement. Lucky was already moving before she could even call his name. He darted off into the hedge, barking as he went.

“Lucky! Come back!”

Minutes later the dog came bounding back to her as if nothing had happened. “What did you see Lucky?” That familiar sense of foreboding came back to Eva now and she felt uneasy. “There is something odd about this day” she thought to herself.

With that, she decided to take Lucky and head over to Leigh’s. The university work could wait. She needed a coffee and a chat to calm her nerves. She felt ridiculous but she knew that Leigh would understand.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Leigh opened the door with a warm smile. Lucky was exceptionally pleased to see her and began his usual jumping and licking act. Leigh didn’t complain despite the fact that he was still wet from the rain. She always greeted him with the same enthusiasm.

“I expect you’ll be wanting a warm drink?” Leigh asked.

“Oh, I’d love a hot chocolate.”

“With marshmallows?”

“You read my mind!” Eva replied.  She felt much more relaxed the instant she set foot in Leigh’s house.

The two girls sat down in front of the fire and discussed what Eva could remember from her dream.  It was uncanny how similar the woman was to Leigh’s description of a banshee. This made Eva feel quite uneasy but even Leigh couldn’t believe in such stories. In any case the legend of the banshee didn’t involve dreams. The banshee appeared in real life and wailed. A lot.

Leigh was much more interested in what a banshee would represent in terms of dream interpretation. She tried looking it up in her dream books but couldn’t find anything useful.

“I know” she said finally. “Why don’t you try to ask the woman what she wants the next time you dream about her?”

“Maybe,” said Eva. “but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do that. I can try, I suppose.”

After about an hour Eva decided it was about time she went home to do some work. She said her goodbyes and headed back with Lucky in tow.

She trudged down the lane to the back garden and pushed open the back gate. It was then that she froze in her tracks. Lucky also stood completely still, fixated on the back door of the house.

Eva felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She didn’t know whether to run or scream. In front of her, at the back door of her house was the woman from her dream. She was as real as the rain falling around her and she was standing in the doorway of the back of the house. Her hair was long and silver and her face was almost blue in colour with piercing light blue eyes.

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing, Lucky?” The dog didn’t move.

“She can’t be a banshee. She can’t be. She’s not wailing! And she’s real!” Eva thought frantically.

With that, the woman grinned from ear to ear. She lifted her arm to point at Eva and then started to walk towards her, very slowly and deliberately.

With that, Eva turned and ran until she arrived back at Leigh’s house.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

“Call the police.” Leigh’s advice seemed simple and obvious but Eva hadn’t even thought about it before now.

“Yes, yes, you’re right. I’ll do it now.”

The policeman asked her to recount the details but Eva found herself unable to describe the woman accurately. All she could remember was her face, standing in the kitchen doorway just looking at her.

“And you say this woman was definitely inside your house?”

“Yes, yes. I’m not going over there again until I know it’s safe!”

“We’ll send someone over there now. Sit tight.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

It was some time before she heard from the police again but when they called they asked if she could stay the night at Leigh’s.

“Of course” Leigh whispered, “I’ll get the spare room ready now.”

She watched Eva carefully as she listened to the policeman talking. There was a shocked look on her face. When she had finally finished the conversation Leigh asked her, “Well?”

“He says I’m lucky to be alive.”

“Did they find the woman there?”

“No. No trace. And the back door was locked.

They found him waiting in Eva’s bedroom with his usual kit of battery acid and a screwdriver, only this time he had also brought some meat to distract the dog before he killed it. The police had been looking for him for some time. He had got in through a side window of Eva’s house and would have likely remained undetected until it was too late, had she not fled the scene. They found no trace of any woman and, as she had told Leigh, the back door was locked. There were no prints to be found on the handle apart from her own.

Eva wondered if she had really seen a woman there at all.

“Of course you saw her!” exclaimed Leigh. “But I’m telling you now, that was no banshee…”

“No.” replied Eva pensively gazing into her coffee.

Little did she realise that her life was about to take an entirely different path and things would never be the same again.

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