Let the Games Begin
Reader Margaret Gallop said:
A nervy description of feelings with a menacing ending.
3am. She couldn’t remember what had woken her.
She sat up. Just a bad dream? She strained her ears. No, there was a siren in the distance. She was about to growl at the injustice of life and go back to sleep, when she heard a creak.
She froze. Her arm was still suspended holding the corner of her blanket. She had no cats; she lived alone in a three-room apartment.
She dropped the blanket and pulled herself into a foetal position.
Two more creaks, each one closer than before.
She wanted to scream, but stuffed her fist into her mouth. She’d done a self-defence class once, but how would she know where to punch the guy in the dark?
Light. The synapses in her brain finally started firing. She put her hand to the switch.
There was a squeak as the door handle was pushed down.
She hit the light. Nothing happened. Hit it again and again, but nothing. She swore. When had the light bulb died on her? She didn’t know.
He bent down on the wooden planks, his old bones creaking as he leaned towards the shoes.
The material was a faded grey, washed far too many times. He remembered wanting to throw them out. He almost had, he remembered smiling. But then she’d begged him. Pleaded with her wide emerald green eyes that he couldn’t resist. She had the same eyes as her mother.
Slowly, he sat down, the shoes still in his hand. He stared out into the garden.
The old swing set, slightly moving in the cold morning air. How many times he’d pushed her. Higher and higher. She’d always been adventurous. Always in search of new things to know and to do. He’d always thought a thirst for knowledge was better than climbing the sides of mountains. So he’d let her be the journalist she’d always dreamed of being.
Of course she couldn’t just be the kind to write about the local life. She had to get out there. War journalism was far more up her alley.
“Come back inside, darling. Maybe it’s not even her.” His wife put a light hand on his shoulder.
He looked at her and held the shoes up. “She left these behind.”
©2018, FFftPP Week #41
Photo from August MorgueFIle 2018 1415390688o66bl
She could only see the soft glow of the lantern ahead of her. It was disquieting. She’d always loved the darkness, but tonight it felt unsettling. Fear of the dark was one of the most widespread fears, she remembered reading once.
As she hurriedly moved along the street, her hoodie pulled tightly around her body, she felt the shadows shift. She shivered and kept her gaze straight ahead. She didn’t have that much further to go. Just a few more corners.
Then she left the cover of the streetlight. The paths darkened again. There was no lantern around here, but she’d always thought that was the cool part of her journey. No one could see her, as though she were a part of this darkness. Not tonight. Tonight the darkness was even darker and she was no longer a part of it.
She thought back to their argument. She couldn’t even remember how it had started. Who had started it. But it didn’t matter anymore.
All that mattered was that she had to get away from him.
She thought she was almost safely at home when she heard the footsteps behind her. She broke into a run.
Image from free photo stock Pixabay.com
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the back of an elephant before,” she whispered amused, nudging him with her arm.
He didn’t reply.
She turned her torch back toward him. “Everything okay?”
He wasn’t looking at her. His eyes were fixed on something behind her, his brows creased.
A knot of unease formed in her stomach. She didn’t want to turn around. “What’s there?”
He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. Her stomach flipped. She couldn’t turn around. It was like she was frozen in place. “What is it?” she whispered again, fear shaking her voice.
“Your father,” he finally replied.
Behind her she heard the crack of a floorboard.
She spun around.
Sunday Photo Fiction, May 13, 2018
She was walking down the street, whistling to herself. Night had fallen quickly, but she was almost home. She threw her head back and stared at the sky. Stars were sprinkled across it randomly, but it was as though a thousand eyes were watching her, smiling down at her. She smiled back.
She turned off the street and entered the woods. She didn’t usually like the forest much, but it was only a short walk and faster than taking the long way around. Today, however, she felt strong and confident.
Suddenly, she felt something curl around her wrist, then she was yanked backwards. Her mouth opened in shock. This was not how the night was supposed to end.
It was so dark; she only saw the silhouette of a tall man. Then she felt the shove right before she tumbled backwards onto the ground. The twigs snapped beneath her and her hands hurt as she caught herself. She tried to push herself up.
All of a sudden something hurtled through the air and she felt the force of the blow right before she blacked out.
The sounds were the first to return. She thought she heard soft scuttling and was reminded of the time her little sister kept a pet mouse and hid it in her room. The same panic as back then shot through her now. She hated small animals, as her sister had perfectly well known.
As feeling returned to her limbs, she realized the ground beneath her was hard and uneven. It reminded her of the few times she’d gone camping with her family. The smell of dirt filled the air. Normally, she would have inhaled this and thought summer was almost here, but all she felt now was dread. Where was she?
When her eyes finally opened, everything was black.
He turned on the lights and squinted in surprise. Cob webs covered the place from head to toe, but the light bulbs must have been replaced recently. He shivered. This was where they were meeting? He could only imagine: Dark writers had a strange fondness of odd places.
Carefully, he worked his way inside, making sure not to get the thin threads glued to his hair.
The chair creaked as he moved it…Or was that a different sound? He cocked his head.
Suddenly, the light flicked off and his head was jerked backwards. A terrified scream escaped his lips.
©2018, Friday Fictioneers 12 January 2018
She rounded the corner and held her nose, trying to escape the smell. They’d have to clear this place out, she thought, sighing. A grimy toilet was inside the tiny shed.
She rolled up her sleeves, then paused. Maybe she’d ask her husband to do it. She hated cleaning out things and with her allergies, it was even worse.
She was about to turn back, when something caught her eye. She stepped inside the shed, looking into the dark space behind the toilet. She sucked in a breath.
There, lying in the corner, was the corpse of her long-lost son.
© 2017 *edited version*
Friday Fictioneers, 1 December 2017
I watched the hand curl around the door, the long fingernails digging into the wood. In the shadowy moonlight, I could see the knuckles turning white. The door creaked. It was standing half ajar, but I was sitting in the dark, hidden away from the outside. All I could see was the door. The door and the hand curled around it. And of course the shadow. It was so huge, it almost occupied the entire doorframe, the hulky shape blocking out the moon.
I shivered. I didn’t know what to do. My teeth were clamped together so hard, my jaw hurt, but I knew they would chatter as soon as I opened my mouth. It was so cold here. The floor was so cold, hard and wet. The hand moved a fragment of an inch, barely noticeable, but I was so fixated on it, I noticed it. The door creaked once more, now slowly opening wider. I wanted to scoot further into the corner I was in, but there was nowhere to go.
That was when the screaming started. Thousands of voices around me, begging for forgiveness.
FFfAW, Week of September 5, 2017
Photo prompt provided by artycaptures.wordpress.com
He took one step at a time. Carefully placing one foot above the other, he hoisted himself up the steps. They were uneven and covered in grass, but he did not seem to notice. His thoughts were elsewhere; the steps a lifetime away.
He kept seeing the shocked face, inches from his. First the happiness, then the shock, then the twisted expression of hatred and pain. He hadn’t wanted to end it this way. He had wanted to take her with him. Lock her up and keep her close. But the order to remove her had come and he had to obey.
Without realising, he had reached the top of the steps. He stopped walking and shook his head, trying to remove the veil of images that covered his view.
He looked down at the village and took a deep breath. He would start his new life here, he thought. They would never find him.
He started down the steps when all of a sudden, he was wrenched backward and thrown to the ground.
The man above him sneered at him, his gun inches from his face. He felt a sense of déjà vu, then the fatal gunshot sounded.
FFfAW, Week of July 18, 2017
Photo prompt provided by J.S. Brand
He stared at the photograph. The colours were already starting to fade and the corners had been folded by accident when it had slipped behind the desk.
He remembered the spot exactly. It had been his favourite place as a child. Sitting on the rocks, listening to the wind rustle through the leaves of the trees and the water flowing somewhere in the distance down the slope. It had been a tranquil place, where he had always been at peace.
After a while he had stopped going to the place. He had started socializing more, had a girlfriend. He had almost forgotten all about the place, until their one-year anniversary as a couple.
She wanted to go somewhere romantic, so in the spur of the moment, he had packed a picnic basket and taken her to his special place.
Looking back, he couldn’t quite piece together what had happened. It had all been wrong.
Trying to reconnect his new self with his past had ended in a disaster. Somehow, in a rage of sudden aggression, he channelled his anger towards her. Then she stumbled backwards.
As though in slow motion, he could still see her tumble backwards over the stones, hitting her head hard and her body bouncing down the slope of the hill until it came to a rest.
Snapping out of his dream, he ripped the photograph into tiny pieces. He couldn’t let the memories rip apart his carefully constructed perfect life.
FFfAW, Week of June 6, 2017
Photo prompt provided by Pamela S. Canepa