Flash Fiction – Ten little chapters.

Chuck’s challenge this week was pretty simple, at least on the surface. Write the customary 1000 word story, but this time add scope, by adding chapters. 10 of them to be precise.  A rather impossible thing, I thought friday afternoon when I read the assignment here.  But then a title appeared to me out of the blue… or out of nowhere as it were, and the story almost wrote itself.

Dividing the story into 10 parts was both easy and hard. There were fewer details to worry about and a greater sense of completion, because I could finish off small sections at a time, which is a great motivator. Writing was faster and more straight foreward + Editing has never been this easy.

But lets face it, an average of 100 words is not much to set a scene, drive the story forward, write engaging dialogue and show character growth. Keeping to the word limit took some serious self-discipline and records shows I am sorely lacking in that department.

But here it is. My 10-chapter, 1002 word story.

The Out-of-Nowhere Man

By Trine Toft Schmidt

Prologue

The man appears out of nowhere, next to a dumpster. Without ceremony he reaches inside and pulls out a crying bundle. A little girl, skin the color of malted chocolate, barely a day old. He wraps his scarf around her, tugs her against his shoulder under his black woollen coat. She stops crying, looks at him with big brown eyes, immediately calm. She doesn’t start crying again until he puts her carefully down on the hospital steps, swathed in his coat.

“Don’t you worry, little thing. I’ll keep you safe.” He strokes her tiny cheek and then disappears again.

4

Henrietta clumsily kicks out and, by sheer luck, her little foot connects soundly with the red ball. It flies out into the street, bouncing off a parked car.

“Uh oh.” She sings to herself. “Gotta catch the ball or Daddy will be mad.” She runs between two cars and stretches out her hands toward the ball.

“Hey there little thing.” A man in a black coat squats down in front of her, barring her way.

“My ball.” She points to the ball and he nods.

“And what a nice ball. Stay here and I’ll get it for you sweetie.”

16

“Come on Henrietta, live a little.” Maggie and Leo wave at her from the car. Henrietta is torn. They’ve been drinking and Leo’s definitely been smoking his mom’s pot stash. But it is friday night and mum’s at work. And besides, they are just driving down to The Burger Joint. It’s not even a mile. She grins and runs down the steps to the car.

 

The siren blasts behind them just as they turn right onto Howard.

“Shit.” Leo wails.

“I told you to slow down, you idiot.” Henrietta screams from the back seat, bathed in blue flashing light. “Pull over.” She punches Leo’s shoulder and Maggie moans.

 

An officer steps up to the car. Bends down and looks inside. Even though she’s never had dealings with cops before, he looks familiar. Henrietta leans forward between the front seats and looks at him.

“Hey! You’re the Out-of-Nowhere Man.”

22

An old movie is playing. Black and white. Ancient. A man is singing about some girl coming from out of nowhere. Henrietta giggles at the tv-screen and takes another sip of the rum and coke.

“The Out-of-Nowhere Man. He’s singing about the Out-of-Nowhere Man.” She says over her shoulder.

Mike, her on-and-off boyfriend, shakes his head and light up the crack pipe in his hand.

“You’re one crazy bitch.” is all he says.

The phone rings and Henrietta stumble out of the sofa and picks it up.

“Hello?”

“Henrietta.” The voice is like a thick woollen blanket wrapped around her in the cold.

“Out-of-Nowhere Man.” Henrietta looks around. Opens the door to the hallway. It is empty. “Where are you?”

“I am not here. Some things only you can yourself from, little thing.”

28

There’s knock on the door.

“Come in.” Henrietta stops pacing and turns toward it. It opens and all her butterflies settle and the nausea dissipates.

“You.” She smiles at him, then looks around, alarmed. He senses her sudden apprehension and holds out his hands.

“Don’t worry, little thing. Today is a happy day. I just came to congratulate you.” He smiles and she picks up the skirt of her white satin dress in her hands and run to him. He steps back, out into the corridor, avoiding her hug.

“No. Don’t leave. Please stay.”

He shakes his head and gives her a last smile before he disappears again.

30

“Mrs Gonzales. These just came for you.” The nurse carries a bouquet of cornflowers and poppies in her hand, already in a vase. She hands Henrietta the card and puts the vase on the nightstand. Then bends down and gurgle funny sounds at the small boy lying in the crib.

“Oh he’s such a doll.”

Henrietta reads the card.

If you should go back to your nowhere
Leaving me with the memory
I’ll always wait for your return out of nowhere
Hoping you’ll bring your love to me

She smiles. Even in her happiest moment he looks over her.

30-45

All is well.

46

Henrietta looks down on the streets below her. People mill about like ants, all alive and with lives to live. She leans forward, hopes the wind will take her.

“This is not the solution, little thing.” A familiar voice says behind her. She turns and there he is. Looking not a day older than on her wedding day. She holds out the picture in her hand.

“A mother isn’t supposed to outlive her child.”

The man shakes his head.

“I know, Henrietta.” He sits down next to her, smooths out the crumpled picture of her boy. “Tell me about him.”

Tears rise, finally breaks through the core of ice that was once her heart.

68

She hands the small shovel back to the pastor. Walks back to the chair. She looks up into the sun, tries to stop the tears that have spilled for days now. A movement catches her eyes. There, by the sycamore tree. He is leaning against it. Watching her. He sends her a small sad smile and for a brief moment the pain lifts from her heart. Even though it feels like she will die now, it is not her time yet.

74

“No more saving me, Out-of-Nowhere man.” Henrietta smiles at the man sitting next to her bed. A clock is ticking on the nightstand.

tik-tok

He smiles and shakes his head.

“No, little thing. Now it is time.

“Has been many times before.” Henrietta closes her eyes. She is ready. As ready as she will ever be for the ever-dark to take her. She draws a deep breath and lets herself sink into the darkness. A snatch of a song sends her off. Ella Fitzgerald. Singing about her Out-of-Nowhere Man.

 

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Chuck Challenge: Must Contain…

…according to a trusty random generator (aka my husband) a time machine and an escaped prisoner.  (Link to challenge here)

Which became the continuation of a previous flash fiction piece A Good Cup of Joe.

 

Not a Regular Joe

By Trine Toft Schmidt

Maddie stares at the twisting, swirling tendrils of coffee vapor in the air. The smell of coffee makes her drool, but her arms have lost the initiative to move and her brain has turned to pink bubblegum froth. Words forms in the sticky pink bubbles and rise sluggishly through the froth, popping with a hollow smack before she can work her mouth around the weird, fantastical words they hold.

Magic

Time Travel

She opens her mouth.

“Gah.”

She closes it again and puts the cup down on the sand, from whence it has come.

Joe has resumed his relaxed pose, arms resting on knees, his face turned toward the sea and doesn’t say anything else.

Time stretches and warps, the ocean whispers on the sand and rocks, the sun moves in tiny increments across the blue sky. Gulls hover and disappear.

Finally a word grabs hold of her tongue and claws its way out.

“Hawaii.” She says, insanity still a concept very much on her mind.

“Yup.”

“That’s like a million miles away from…” She frowns and can’t come up with the name of the place she’d started out her morning. “…home.”

“More like three thousand miles.” He says, sitting like a sculpture next to her, golden brown instead of alabaster white, but just as immovable. As if saving her, transporting her to this secluded beach, has been his single irrefutable goal in life. Save the neurotic whinge on the verge of getting killed and thou shall have fulfilled your destiny.

“I don’t believe you, you know? You said I wasn’t insane, but I really think this is Insanity Induced Reality. It’s all too perfect, you, the beach, the water, the sky.” She hesitates, realizes she sounds rather ungrateful. “I like the sentiment though, so thank you.”

“You are not insane.” He says matter-of-factly. Which doesn’t do anything to alleviate her fears at all.

Over his shoulder, she watch the beach stretch forever. Where the blue, green, white and black melt into the horizon, something, maybe a bird, moves in the haze of the midday sun.

Another thought occurs to Maddie, something she would have reacted to immediately if she hadn’t been so fucking shell-shocked.

“How do you know my name?”

He shifts in the sand.

“Sorry?”

“You said my name when I woke up. I’ve never told you my name.”

He shrugs, perfect shoulders moving a fraction toward his small and neat ears.

“Lucky guess, I suppose.” He sounds indifferent.

He’s willing to pull coffee out of the sand, like some magicians party trick, but won’t explain how he knows her name. It doesn’t make sense, but instead of calling him on that, she flings him another question, now that the bubbles seem to freely deposit them into her mouth.

“What about Wayne?”

Joe turns his head and looks at her.

“Who?”

“Wayne, the guy whose fingers you broke when you pulled them off my neck.” She touch the tender skin where Wayne’s fingers pressed into her windpipe. “The guy who was about to kill me?”

“Oh him.” Joe rolls his eyes and shrugs. “What about him?”

“Does he remember? Was he…” she pauses to find the right word. Looks at the tiny black dot moving at the far end of the beach. Maybe it’s a dog. “Was he aware like I was?”

“I don’t know. I doubt it though.”

“Why?”

Seconds go by. He’s looking at her with his green eyes, evaluating, a tiny frown causing a surprisingly deep wrinkle between his eye brows. Then the wrinkle smooths out.

“I can’t tell you. Like I said before, I really shouldn’t have done this.”

“But why?”

He shakes his head and closes his mouth. Looks away.

“Oh come on!” The anger is a surprise flash flood of raw heat thundering through her veins. Before she knows it, she’s on her feet, kicking into the sand, pelting his side with flecks of white. The coffee cup tumbles unto its side and the perfect whiteness is stained a delicate brown. The pink bubbles burst all at once and questions spill out of her like sand through her fingers.

“You owe me some answers. Real answers. Like, how you’ve transported me to fucking Hawaii? Like how you knew to save me from Wayne? Like how can it be midday when it was morning, only an hour ago? Like how do I even know if this is Hawaii? How do I know you didn’t somehow drug me and this is a sick weird abduction scheme? I don’t have my phone or my bag. I don’t even know what time it is. I am on a deserted beach, alone with some weirdo stranger, who acts like he’s a bloody cross between Ghandi and David Copperfield. Like who the hell are you?”

He looks at her. Doesn’t move a single over-perfect muscle. She bends down, picks up the coffee cup, still warm from the spilled coffee, and flings it at him while she stomps her foot into the sand. The cup glances off his shoulder and falls with a dull thud back onto the sand. He doesn’t even flinch.

“Fine. Don’t answer my questions then. I’ll go find someone who can tell me where the hell I am. And then I am calling the cops!” She stomps off, toward the moving dot at the end of the beach, figuring that if there’s a dog, there must be an owner somewhere as well.

She doesn’t get more than ten feet before she realize two things.

One: the hazy figure her is human. Has arms and legs and a misshapen head on top of a barrel chest.

Two: that her suspicions are right, she really is totally off her rocker. The guy is, by no stretch of the imagination, human. Not only does it look like he is eight feet tall and wide as a mountain, he’s also got horns curving from his forehead down past his ears. His skin is ridged and black as night, like he’s stepped out of one of the volcanic rocks that litter the beach.

“What the fuck is that!” She turns toward Joe, who takes his sweet time looking up.

“What?” He’s looking in the right direction, following the line her arm and finger is making.

“That thing, that beast, running toward us. What is that? Is it another figment of my imagination or is it real?”

Joe gets up. Brushes sand from his ass. Look down the beach. To the monster free end.

“Yo, Ghandi. Other direction. You can’t miss him, big fucking hunk of black. Horns.”

He turns his head and looks toward the monster. Maddie looks over her shoulder. It is closing in fast.

Joe nods as if he confirms some truth to himself.

“I can’t see it, but maybe…” He lifts his hand and touches her cheek.

It is like the ground kicks the soles of her feet, a shock wave moves up her feet and spreads upward through her body. It feels like she’s that glass of water in the Jurassic Park movie. Her insides wobble and shudder.

“We’ve got to go.” Joe grabs her arm and hauls her toward the belt of vegetation behind them. “This is bad.”

“The monster…”

“…is hopefully having trouble moving at the moment.” He pushes through a wall of something dark green and broad-leafed and Maddie takes a last look at the beach behind her. Everything has stopped, just like it did when she stood under that flourescent light in the alley being killed by Wayne. The waves are flash frozen in place, caught mid-break, a gull hangs a few inches off the water like it is a puppet on a string. And the monster is mid-stride, it’s vulcanic rock chest has cracked apart and fiery orange lava glows underneath. As Maddie watches the lava starts to turn black, to form a new crust. As if in slow-motion the monster’s head starts turning toward them.

“He’s still moving.” Maddie shouts at Joe’s back and fights the urge to burst into tears.

“Yeah, he’s not a minion of time.” As if that is supposed to make any sense.

“But, we can’t outrun him, can’t you do some time hocus pocus travel again?”

The first sign of human inhabitation, a black asphalt road, appears ahead.

“No.” Joe points toward a car parked on the side of the road. A mustard colored old Honda Civic.

“We are going to drive away in that?” Laughter starts bubbling in her stomach, prickling in her throat. Tries to displace the terror threatening to lock her limbs, as if she’s a spent wind-up toy.

“Yes.” He opens the driver’s side and throws himself into the car, leans over and shoves the passenger side door open for her. A crash behind her send a flurry of birds into the air. She jumps into the car and slams the door. In the wing mirror the monster emerge on the road some thirty feet behind them.

Joe turns the ignition, slams the car into Drive and they lurch forward, gravel dings and clangs in the wheel wells. Behind them a tree burst into flames when the monster shoulders past it.

“What the hell is that thing?”

“I think it’s a balrog.” Joe sounds remarkably calm.

Slowly the creature falls behind.

“A what?” She leans back, sinks into the seat as the adrenaline drains away and leaves behind a bone deep weariness. Keep her eyes locked on the mirror. “What does it want?.”

“You.”

“Great. Another psycho who wants to kill me. You know there really should be a limit to how many near-death encounters a girl can legally have in a day.”

“Oh he doesn’t want to kill you. He just want to use you.”

“Use me. Now that sounds real assuring. Do I dare ask why?”

“Well… he’s trying to escape, and you are a Chaos Child after all.”