We have a new feature added to the blogging schedule this year called “First Time.” This will be a chance to showcase characters, either from a story already on our blog, from a new piece, or from a another WIP, doing something specific for the first time. This month’s theme is First Meeting. I chose something a little different for this month. While there is a first meeting involved, the two characters don’t know each other, even after they “meet.” You’ll see what I mean. This snippet is the opening from a young adult paranormal/thriller type story I’ve been working on.
Standing on the top deck of the ferry, I closed my eyes and let the wind whip my hair around my face. We were almost to the island and as much as I was looking forward to being back there, I didn’t want the ride to end. Finally, I opened my eyes to look around when a shoulder bumped lightly against mine. Just dad, coming to enjoy the view with me. He loved the island as much as I did, it felt like home to both of us.
In silence we watched the island grow closer. The majestic Grand Hotel stood like a sentry, watching all the ferries on their way to and from the island. The green tops of the trees in the state park glittered in the sunshine and the blue skies overhead were cloudless and bright. Eventually, the boat made its way to the dock where the practiced hands of the crew parked it gently, so the passengers could disembark.
We met the third member of our party, my best friend Will, on the bottom deck where he had chosen to wait out the ride. He wouldn’t listen when I said the fresh air would help his queasy stomach, so when we met up with him, he looked pale and sweaty.
The three of us gathered our computers and duffel bags, the rest of our stuff was already at our destination and joined the throngs of people streaming onto dry land. Seemingly without thinking, Dad and Will took positions on either side of me to create a little insulation. The gesture was automatic for both of them, even though it wasn’t really necessary anymore.
As I was stepping off the walkway onto the dock, I was jostled by the crowd and the world fell away.
I was in a dimly lit large room of some sort, high ceilings and few furnishings. The only sound was a constant drip, but it was muffled and sounded far away. My vision improved as I walked farther into the room and I could make out a table, with a shape on top of it. I got within a few feet and realized the shape was a person or had been. Parts were missing, a leg below the knee, some of the fingers. What remained was sliced and torn and covered in blood. I could see blood dripping onto a tarp under the table, the source of the sound.
In a burst of sunlight, I came back to myself and realized I was clinging to Will’s arm, my dad trying to lead us away from the crowd. On shaky legs I let them guide me to a bench and sat down to catch my breath.
“Sweetie, are you ok?”
It took me a second to find my voice so that I could answer my dad. “Just need to sit a minute. That came out of nowhere.”
“What happened?” Will asked, looking concerned.
“Not sure. Must have bumped into someone’s arm or something. I couldn’t block it, it cut through my shields.”
“What did you see?”
Looking around I noticed a few people staring at us curiously. “Not here. Can I tell you when we get to Gran and Grandpa’s?”
Before I could stop them, they each grabbed one of my bags and added to their own loads. They were both so protective of me, especially after a vision. It was sweet but infuriating at the same time. As much as they wanted to help, they weren’t psychic. They couldn’t know what it was like to see into someone else’s mind.
I feel like every time I blog, I start out by saying, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged…
This time is no different, so I won’t do that except to say, I think I’m finally starting to pull out of a major depressive episode I’ve been in for almost for a year, so I feel like I’m coming back to myself a bit. This is my first attempt at writing anything since I blogged last January. I hope it’s the first of many this year.
Walking into the room, I was assaulted by memories. Everything was different, but also, it was exactly how I remembered it.
“Kate, what are we doing here?”
I could hear Marie behind me, I knew she was asking me something, but I couldn’t pull myself out of my thoughts long enough to answer her. The shelves that used to be lined with books now stood empty, most of the contents strewn on the floor. Or gone, from what I could tell. That probably happened in the blast, I assumed. The hours I used to spend in here, reading titles off the spines, planning which book I would read next. All gone now.
“Hello! Kate! What is this place?”
Marie was getting more impatient by the minute and she was going to start yelling if I didn’t answer her soon.
Finally, I turned to my companion and met her anxious gaze. “This was my house.”
“Oh, for the love! Please don’t tell me we came here so you could keep looking for Matthew? I thought you finally gave up on him!” The disgust was clear in her voice.
“I have given up on him, I’m not looking for him anymore. I promised you that. It’s just…” I paused for a second to gather my thoughts. “A couple of days ago when I realize where our route was taking us, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to at least stop by here and see what, if anything might be left. It’s been almost a year, I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
Marie snorted delicately. “Right, hurt you or hurt us? If you get depressed again after this, I’m not dragging you out of here.”
I rolled my eyes at her. She wouldn’t let me forget the shape I was in when she first found me, practically comatose and waiting to die. What did she expect? My world had turned upside down, hers too. I’m still not sure how she held it together back then, and how she was now.
Looking around the room once more, I noticed a couple of books standing neatly on the shelves, the only items not on the floor. Dumbfounded I walked closer. They were my journals, of all things. I couldn’t imagine how they ended up down here, since I had always kept them in my closet, and that was where I had left them when I fled. Reaching up, I started to grab the red one, the last one I had.
“Don’t touch that.” I stopped moving at the voice, and the soft click of someone turning off the safety on a gun. “Don’t you touch a damn thing.” he said again.
Meeting Marie’s eyes, I could see she was terrified. With my hands in the air, to show I was unarmed, I slowly pivoted in place pulling back my hood at the same time. My ears hadn’t been deceiving me, I knew that voice.
“Matthew?” It came out in barely a whisper.
“Kate?” The surprise and confusion was clear on his face, I was the last person he had expected to see here.
Without thinking I ran to him and launched myself into his arms. He buried his face against my neck and I could feel him shaking as I hugged him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, pulling back to look at me. “How long have you been here?”
“Me, what about you? Have you been here this whole time?”
“No,” he said. “I only came back through a couple of days ago, and thought I would check and see if there had been any sign of you. I didn’t really expect to find anything, or any one.”
Gesturing towards the shelf, I asked, “did you set my journals up there?”
He looked embarrassed, but nodded. “Yeah, I thought. Well, I thought they shouldn’t be hidden away anymore. Stupid, I know.”
The sound of someone clearing their throat reminded me that we had company.
“Matthew, this Marie. We’ve been traveling together, looking for, anything I suppose.”
He nodded at her in hello, but didn’t acknowledge her beyond that. “Have you seen anyone else?” Matthew asked.
“No. Marie found me about two weeks after the blast. Have you found anyone, Matthew? Anyone at all?”
“Not a soul.” The fear and confusion were evident in his voice.
Looking back and forth between my two companions I asked the question no one wanted to ask. “Are we really the last three people left on Earth?”
Alright, I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. This will probably be short, but I’m writing something for the first time in quite a while. Here goes…
“Damn car. I told Aaron we needed a new battery, but he was all, nooooo, it’s fine. Fine my ass. He’s never lived in the frozen tundra, he doesn’t know what it does to car batteries. And now, here I am, the middle of nowhere, no car, no heat.” I kept up the bitching as I made my way along the side of the road, my righteous anger helping to keep me warm. When I got back home, I was going to show him exactly what the snow and cold could do to a body.
After about fifteen minutes, and ten partially numb toes, I found a driveway leading off the road. Driveway was probably a generous term, more like tiny path that a hearty truck would maybe make it through. But, I could see a house at the end of it, and there was a light in the window, so I headed off that way.
Knocking on the front door didn’t produce an answer, so I hollered a few times to see if maybe someone was outside but close by. “Hello! Is anyone home!” Nothing. Pulling my phone out I checked again to see if there was a signal. Also nothing there. This area was a notorious dead zone. Of course.
Trying the front door I found it was unlocked. Time to go Goldilocks, I was done freezing out here. Walking into the front hall, I called out again, “hello! Is anyone home? My car died and I need to use a phone!”
“Sorry dear, were you knocking? I was in the basement.”
Screaming, I jumped and turned to find Mother Goose behind me. Or at least the real life version of her. White hair up in a bun, flowered apron, orthopedic shoes and all.
“Didn’t mean to scare you,” she said. “Of course, you are the one in my house uninvited.”
”Yes, um…please forgive.” I was stammering, trying to get my breathing back under control. “No one answered and the door was open.” I faltered, unnerved by the way she was staring at me, without blinking. “So, yeah, my car died and I can’t get a cell signal. I was getting really cold outside. Could, uh, do you have a phone I could borrow?”
“Of course,” she said. “It’s in the kitchen.” I started to follow after her. “Boots off, please. We don’t want to track in snow.”
I hesitated a second before reaching down and unlacing my boots. I was a little unsettled by the old lady, but chalked it up to her probably being uneasy about a stranger showing up out of nowhere.
In the kitchen, I found a phone straight from the 1980’s on the wall but when I picked up the receiver there was no dial tone. I turned around to tell her the phone was dead and saw I was alone. The bad feelings spiked and I headed straight back to the front door, only to find my boots were gone.
”Now, dear.” The voice came from behind me. “First lesson, never walk into someone’s home uninvited.”
Turning slowly, I came to face to face with a large, bloody, butcher knife.
This is kind of short, but I’m just getting back into the swing of things…
“Is that guy over there, watching me?”
“The one by the pool table, with the group. Haven’t seen him play once, just keeps watching me when he thinks I’m not paying attention.”
I sneak a glance over that way again to see if I can catch the guy’s eye and I do, just as he glances away from me. Not bad, tall, dark hair, motorcycle jacket. My type on the outside.
“What do you think, Libby? Going to go introduce yourself?”
“No, I think he might come my way.”
I decided to put myself a little more in the mystery man’s realm and walked through the group of pool tables on the way to the bar to get another drink, Jackson following the whole time. I did my best to look like I wanted to be noticed, without trying to be noticed.
At the bar, waiting for my drink I felt a body move up next to me. A little too close really, unless that’s what you were going for.
“Hey,” he said. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Already have one,” I replied, as the bartender handed me a beer. “But you can join me outside for a smoke if you want.”
“Ok, sure. I’m Ethan.”
“Libby.” Taking a drink from by beer I turned and lead the way to the back entrance of the bar, the one that let out into an alley between this building and the one next door.
“Lib,” Jackson said, trailing behind us. “What are you doing?”
I ignored him and pulled Ethan along with me. Once outside I set my beer down and pushed Ethan up against the wall, attacking his mouth with mine. He seemed stunned at first, but caught on quick.
“Libby, really,” Jackson was seriously annoyed now. “I thought you said it was going to be just us, for awhile at least. It’s only been a few months.”
I spared Jackson a quick glance, marveling again how the lights in the alley made a halo around his form. And he was right, I had promised him it would be just us for awhile. But, I was weak. And Ethan was cute. And who knew where things would go with him. Just because I made Jackson into a ghost who would stay with me, didn’t mean I would have to do the same for Ethan.
This month’s song flash fiction is inspired by The Wind Blows by The All-American Rejects. If you’re interested, below are links to the lyrics and a video for the song.
The cracks in the ceiling were starting to make pictures in my mind. The far corner was an airplane, the group by the bathroom door was a mountain range, but the set over my head, that was a bleeding heart. Poetic, right? Try pathetic.
It’s been four months since she left and this is how I spend most of my days, lying in bed, staring at the cracks on the ceiling and the walls. Trying to figure out how I ended up here. We had been happy, I thought, until the day she walked out on me and left me with nothing but this sad room.
Across the room, a soft beeping pulled me out of my thoughts. I hadn’t even noticed it was so late in the day, but time to get up and get started with my evening. I let the alarm continue for longer then necessary, enjoying the rhythmic sound that matched the tapping of my fingers. Finally, I pulled myself out of bed and shut off the alarm. Time to get ready for work.
The cafe across the street from the restaurant was a perfect place to sit in the evening and observe, and there were enough theater kids that my mostly black wardrobe didn’t stand out too much. And it definitely needed to blend later.
I sat, drinking my coffee, reading a book, and waiting. Watching. And there she was, bringing drinks to a table on the front patio of the restaurant. She looked the same as always, my Amy, long dark hair that she wore in a braid down her back, minimal make-up, and the required bright-colored t-shirt for her waitressing job. She looked amazing.
The rest of Amy’s shift went slowly, brightened only by my glimpses of her each time she had to come outside. But that was okay, I could wait. This wasn’t the first time I had sat at this cafe, spent my evening here, watching. Finally, she left for the night. I let her go, I didn’t need to follow, I knew where she was going and I knew the way.
Outside her window, I waited for the lights to go out. Once they did, I climbed up the tree to her second floor bedroom window which was cracked. She always did like to sleep with the window open. As silently as possible, I climbed inside and set my bag of tools on the floor next to the bed.
“Hello, Amy,” I said, as I sat down next to her. Her eyes flew open and I put my hand over her mouth. “You took my heart when you left. Now I’m going to take yours.”
Walking into Nick’s apartment I let out a little scream. “What the hell is that?”
“What? My painting?” he asked. “It’s my term project.”
“That’s your self portrait for Turner’s class?
“Yeah, what’s wrong with it?”
Nick sounded hurt, or maybe offended that I didn’t seem to love his work.
“It’s, just, a little disturbing. Especially, considering that its supposed to be a SELF portrait. Also, its a little…well…clockwork-y.”
“That’s the point, Darla.”
“I know what it makes me think of! Oh my gosh, that’s why it’s so disturbing. You’ve been watching too much Doctor Who again!”
Nick let out an offended huff. “Okay, first of all, there is no such thing as too much Doctor Who.”
“True, my apologies,” I said.
“Second, don’t know what you’re talking about.” He looked a little too innocent though. Like he was trying to pretend he didn’t know every episode of the show by heart.
“It reminds me of those creepy-ass clockwork people from that stupid episode with fireplace.”
“How dare you insult The Girl in the Fireplace!”
“Ha! I knew it! That WAS your inspiration. Some self portrait.” I turned back to look at the picture again, the gears on the face, the gold paint, the various pipes and pieces of metal. “I don’t get what its supposed to say about you, though.”
Nick looked at the picture with me for a minute, pondering. “I guess its supposed to say, ‘I’m more than just a man, I’m not merely human.'” He seemed very pleased with himself at that deduction.
“Hmmmm, all I get is creepy-ass clockwork. But I’m sure Turner will love it. A+ my friend. A+.”
The cape only added to the heat, the heavy velvet trapped the humidity and made it even harder to breathe. But is was part of the mystery, no one was allowed to wear “normal” clothing or bring any sort of technology to the gatherings.
I made my way down the colonnade, hurrying so I wouldn’t miss the beginning and be locked out. I didn’t see anyone else but that didn’t necessarily mean I was the last to arrive. There were so many ways to approach the gathering place that it was almost as if the others appeared as if from nowhere.
As I got closer, I could hear voices, low and musical. Just talking at this point, so I wasn’t late. I slipped through the door and joined the first group I saw.
“Are we starting, soon?” I asked.
“Soon,” one of the others said. “We’re just waiting for the signal.”
Just a couple of minutes later, the signal came. The lights went out and silence fell immediately. There was shuffling as everyone got into position, at this point we all knew our places and didn’t need illumination to know where to go.
The silence endured as we waited for it to begin, our whole reason for being here.
Suddenly, the quiet was broken by a loud, single beat. Then another. On the third beat, the movements began. Synchronized and swirling, we moved, forgetting about the oppressive heat. It went on for minutes, the choreographed chaos.
The music stopped and we all froze.
“Alright, everyone,” came the voice from the balacony. “That was better. But this flash mob is happening in just a couple of weeks. We need to be on point. Again!”