The End Of A Long Journey

This is my latest entry into Chuck Wendigs’ Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. I had to come up with  a for the prompt The End Of A Long Journey and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

Holbrook came home to die.
His quest was finished and his enemies bested. Now, maybe, he could be at peace.
Agatha was struggling to support his weight as she practically dragged him up the lonely hill, back to his shack where this had all started. She was trying to hold one arm around his waist whilst using her other hand to try and stop his other arm from slipping from her shoulders. If it did, she knew she would drop him and she didn’t think she had the strength to pick him back up.
Eventually, after stopping several times to adjust Holbrook’s weight, Agatha made it to the shack, kicking the frail, wooden door open and letting Holbrook slip from her shoulders onto the floor, where using what little strength he had left, he managed to crawl to the bedstead in the corner of the room. His breathing was heavy, shallow and ragged. The wounds on his back had reopened and wine stains of blood were seeping through his dirty yellowing shirt.
After taking a moment to stand with her hands on her knees and catch her breath, Agatha gingerly stepped into the shack turning her head left and right to take in her surroundings, anything to delay having to take another look at Holbrook’s withering, slowly dying body.
The shack was dark apart from where the door lay broken open on its hinges from the force of Agatha’s kick. There, golden late afternoon light made a cut through the darkness. Particles of dust and old age gently floated in the beam. Where the light stopped and rested on Holbrook’s meager possessions, there was a thick layer of pale dust. It was only now she realised how long they had been gone.
There was something else, though. Not everything had been undisturbed and as they had been left. On some of the shelfs and the work table, boxes and cans had been over turned or knocked to the floor. In the dust that carpeted the floor there was a broken trail, like something had been dragged through it. In these tracks there were dark stains and Agatha’s nose twitched at the unmistakeable, iron filled smell of blood.
Her eyes followed the tracks in dust to a pile of dead rats. On the top of the pile, there lay one, large, live one. Its body twitched and convulsed. In its neck were three puncture wounds and from these wounds trailed three greased stain wires. Now, Agatha’s head to turned to follow these wires to what she knew sat waiting in the far corner of the shack.
The cyborg was nearly dead. Its humanoid form sat slumped in the corner. Its head hung from a broken neck and where it settled, a sharp, broken, chin had pierced the thin metal of its chest that was now rusting and crumbling away to expose the circuitry underneath. Its claw handed arms were splayed out at its sides and each time the half dead rat twitched, so did the cyborg.
Without even really thinking about it, Agatha flicked the button on her holster, drew her gun an levelled it at the cyborg. Her finger was just tightening around the trigger when she heard Holbrook’s whispering, almost gone voice from behind her.
‘D-don’t,’ he said, ‘there’s been enough of this, don’t you think? It- it’s nearly gone anyway. Not m-much ju-juice from a rat.’
Agatha knew he was right. There had been enough killing, enough destruction. She holstered her weapon and carefully stepped towards the cyborg. She reached around the back of its neck, her fingers searching for the particular node that would shut it down. As her finger came to rest on it, she paused. With her other hand she lifted the cyborg’s head and looked into the barely glowing holes it had as a substitue for eyes.
“I wonder if you’re the last of them.” She said to nobody in particular.
The cyborg didn’t respond. It’s eyes glowed slightly brighter for a second. Agatha wondered if it was trying to smile then pushed the thought away and pressed the node, the light went out and the cyborg stopped twitching.                                                         
Agatha sat there for a moment, hoping that this was indeed the last one. There had been so many along the way. They had been people once, downloaded into mechanical bodies to extend their life, only for that fucking virus to come along and turn them into killers. How many lives had actually been cut short because of the virus? Agatha felt herself physically shudder at the thought. It hadn’t even been that many for her. Even with how far they had gone, how many she herself had taken out. Compared to Holbrook, it was barely a handful. For him, it had been his entire life.
She looked now to where he lay on the rickety bed. He was on his side, propped up on his elbow. His whole body shook as he hacked up a cough and was rewarded with bloody spittle. Agatha’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at his thin, frail, frame fighting to get control of himself. ‘He was always fighting,’ she thought as we went to him and took his hand in hers. His skin felt like old paper, brittle and thin. He wouldn’t have to fight much longer. The Hero of the Hub would soon be able to rest.
She let her hand rest on his feverish forehead for moment before slowly brushing it backwards, letting his own sweat slick back the hair from his eyes, and gave him her most gentle smile.
“Its done?” he asked, voice barely audible.
Agatha nodded. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she did. “All done.” She said.
Holbrook nodded. His eyelids drooping. Not long now. “A-am I, am I a good man?”
Again Agatha nodded, she tried to reply but no words would come. They stuck in her throat and she thought for a moment that she might choke on them. She looked away from Holbrook, not wanting him to see the dismay on her face. His whole life, his whole damned life he’d fought them, wracking himself with guilt, convinced he was some kind of murderer because of what they were before the virus. THEY WEREN’T HUMAN! she wanted to scream at him, THEY WERE FREAKS TO START WITH!
Instead she took a deep swallow and wiped the tears from her face with the heel of her hand and looked back to him.
“Yes,” she whispered to him. “You are a good man. You’re probably the best of us.” And with that she leant down and kissed him on his cheek. It was cold. She leaned back with a gasp, his eyes were glazed over and staring into nothingness. He was gone.

***

The sun was starting to set when Agatha patted the last of the soil down with the back of the shovel. She placed it upright and leant against it whilst she caught her breath after the physical exertion of burying Holbrook.
Whilst she waited for her breath to slow and the trickle of sweat to find its cool way down her spine, she looked out to the west. On the horizon she could see the lights of the city starting to come on; little yellow pinpricks that seem to flicker into existence in a programmed sequence. In front of that, she could see the fields that Holbrook had been tilling before they had left. Their long journey had meant that the fields had become overgrown and neglected. It also looked as though something had been digging in there. Moles most likely.
Agatha stood back and stretched, pushing the base of her back with her hands. She then took the shovel and headed back to the tool shed. As she leant it against the wall and closed the shed door, she looked back to the city on the horizon, back to the neglected fields and thought to herself, ‘I can carry this on. I can resow the fields and make a go of this place.’
Even though the act of burying her best friend had been a sorrowful one, the work of the digging had been good for her. She felt tired but alive, and ready to keep living. She owed it to all those who had been lost as a result of the virus. She owed it to Holbrook.
The sun had now all but disappeared behind the horizon, a thin orange line was all that was left to prove it had ever been there and now the city lights cast a vivid glow into the ink blue sky. Agatha couldn’t help but smile.
‘In that city, the human race is starting again and if they can,’ she thought  as she placed a hand on her stomach, feeling a wave of joy at the movement of the new life inside her. ‘So can I’.

Thanks for reading,
Tim.

Permanence.

This is my latest entry into Chuck Wendigs’ Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. I had to choose a one word title from the list he published and write a story for it. I chose Permanence and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

 

She watched from behind the glass. Everyday they came to look at her, to sing, chant, leave gifts, plead and pray to her. Everyday; hundreds of faces, hands and mouths.

They started, these faces, hands and mouths, coming to her as children. Over time, though she could not say how long, children became teenagers, then adults and then old and infirm. And then they didn’t come at all.

The room that she looked at from behind the glass became empty. It changed, only in small ways, dust growing on things, paint peeling, glass cracking and stones falling. But it was always changing. The light changed regularly. Sometimes the empty room was filled with golden sunlight that would shine through the floating flecks of dust and she would imagine that the room was filled flocks of fairies flying around her, performing tricks in the air just for her. At other times, the room was dark for long stretches of time, the only light was a pale blue that came from a crack in the ceiling that illuminated a thin line across the floor. Then it was gone. But then the light would come back and so would the dust fairies, but this time of light was growing shorter.

Soon the dark took over completely. She hadn’t been expecting it. There had been a cacophony of noise, and everything shook and broke as if the whole world was falling in on itself. Then there was only darkness. Not even the small knife cut of blue light shone through from the ceiling. There was nothing. And she sat there in the nothing. Staring out from behind the glass into nothing.

Sometimes she slept. At least she thought it was sleep. When she closed her eyes she saw things that she hadn’t seen in a long time. Things from before the glass when she had walked through streets and towns and rooms like the one she now sat in. She remembered the mothers, the lessons they would teach her about the glass and how one day when a thousand years had passed, she would sit behind the glass and the people would come to her, and oh how they would love her. They would come to her and look and sing, and chant, and leave gifts, and plead and pray to her. And she would live forever.

Sometimes when she slept, she saw the time when she was ready to go behind the glass. She would see the knives and the needles. She would feel the flames as they pushed into her veins and she entered another kind of darkness. A darkness so terrible that it was all she could do not to die. Then she opened her eyes again and she was behind the glass and the people were there as the mothers said they would be.

She slept and saw these things again and again but every time she opened her eyes there was still just darkness. She thought that would never see anything else. But then there was something. Something moved in the darkness accompanied by a scraping noise. It went on and on until then there was light. Just a small pinprick at first but then there was more and more until the darkness crumbled away revealing a hole in the wall of the room that had been her prison.

Into this hole of light came two shadows, looming over the glass and they held up small lights of their own. She saw their faces, unlike any she had ever seen before and she rejoiced. The faces spoke, both quickly and at the same time to each other and not to her but about her. Then more faces appeared and more speech was made about her but not to her. The darkness crumbled away to reveal more faces. Not only faces but huge machines. And these new faces, and machines spoke not to her but about her.

Then the room moved. It dropped slightly below her then started moving past her and she realised that it wasn’t the room moving but the glass. It was she who was moving. Then something fell over the glass and it was dark again. She could still hear all the faces and the machines, but she saw only darkness. And she wept.

Then, the new darkness was lifted and she found herself in another room, full of light and all around her were hundreds of people. They were clapping and smiling, raising glasses in her direction. Some of them pointed boxes at her. Boxes with round glass in the middle that flashed blinding light at her so that she was soon seeing coloured circles. They filed past her one by one, peering closely, pressing there faces right up to the glass. Some even tapped it. Some of them even spoke to her but most spoke about her. She didn’t mind. This was better than what the mothers had promised her.

Then after they had filed past her, and drained their glasses which had been refilled several times, they left. The light was dimmed and a silence fall over her. She hoped the people would come again. All that time, alone in the darkness had been unbearable and she couldn’t suffer it again.

She was just drifting off to sleep again, just starting to dream of knives and needles and the mothers again, when something in the room moved. She opened her eyes and there was a new face in front of her. It was old, even older than the faces of those which had been children had grown to be. It was smiling and then it spoke to her and her only.

“My love,” it said. “The time has come. The Mothers said you would live forever and so you shall.”

Then old, frail hands opened the glass. She didn’t even know that it could open. The hands reached inside and she left the room. She never looked from behind the glass again.

Thanks for reading,

Tim

 

The Darkling Wakes

In the centre of the chamber there stood something that Derren assumed must be kind of a canister. It’s narrow rhomboid shape stood three feet off the ground at its tallest point. It was covered in engravings that resembled no shapes or writing that Derren had ever seen before. At the top, running around the edge, was a crack emitting a pale blue light. It’s positioning in the centre of the chamber matched up exactly to the location of the orange circle on the map.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Derren muttered to himself.

Ka, already on his knees and running his hands over the canister, must have heard him for he turned to face Ka flashing him that enthusiastic puppy grin.

“Come on, Cap, stop with the downer. This is what we came for. I bet this thing is worth a fortune,” with that he turned his attention back to the canister.

Derren watched whilst Ka continued to grope the canister, shuffling around to the back of it and to the front again. When he had made a couple of circuits of the canister, he turned his attention to its top, poking his fingers into the crack from where the blue glow came.

“I think this might be some sort of lid,” Ka reported back to Derren, “Get over here and help me try and get it off?”

Once more, Derren let out a deep sigh, and knelt next to Ka. He pushed his fingers into the crack surprised to find he could feel a sort of static electricity – not unlike pins and needles – even through the thickness of his spacesuit gloves. Derren looked to Ka to see his reaction to this sensation, but if he also felt it, Derren couldn’t tell. Derren didn’t like it.

“So, how do you want to do this?” he said to Ka.

“I guess we just get our fingers underneath and push,” replied Ka, eyes fixated on the blue glow. It seemed to Derren as though Ka was becoming hypnotised by it. Once again, he felt a shudder travel down his spine.

Seeing Ka start to push, Derren also started to push on the lid. At first there was no movement whatsoever but after a few minutes of hard shoving, filled with the sounds of both Derren and Ka groaning with exertion, the lid made a cracking noise and shifted.

“Did, you feel that? It moved,” Shouted out Ka, now shaking with either excitement. “Come on, one last effort and I reckon we’ll have it.”

Derren could feel the strain of the last lot of pushing all through his body. Every muscle was singing out in pain, protesting at even the slightest movement. The gravity, masked by the dampeners in their boots, must have been really high in here. Regardless, Derren didn’t want to let Ka down. He pushed his thumbs back into the crack, once again feeling the static through his gloves and clamped his fingers down on top of the lid. He looked to Ka who nodded and with a yell of effort they both pushed as hard as they could. Derren jammed a knee into the base of the canister to gain some extra stability. The two continued to push, still yelling as though the noise would give them extra leverage.

From what must have been the depths of the canister came a loud shrieking noise, the kind of noise Derren had never heard before. It sounded as though as thousand dogs were all screaming out in agony at the same time.

As the shrieking started, the lid gave way under Derren and Ka’s combined weight. It flew backwards, smacking into and shattering against the wall behind the canister. Almost immediately afterwards, blue light shot into air flaring out and washing the room in it’s pallid glow. The shrieking continued getting louder and more piercing; at the same time as the lid had flown off and the light exploded from within, Derren was thrown across the room, his back hitting the wall behind him hard. His vision went black and silence engulfed him.

Derren couldn’t say how long he had been unconscious for. When he came round, his head was spinning, the bottom of his helmet was filled with vomit, the acidic taste and smell filled his nose and mouth. For a moment, he couldn’t move his limbs but when they did move, his entire body flooded with pain.

As his vision cleared and focussed again, Derren could see that there was no longer any light coming from the canister but there was still the shrieking sound. Now louder and higher. Derren could also see Ka kneeling in front of the canister.

How had he not been thrown backwards? There had been enough force to push a room full of people back.

Derren called to Ka, through the helmet comms but there was no response, only that damned shrieking that just would not stop and sounded ten times worse through the crackling static of the comms.

With every last bit of effort he had left, Derren pushed himself up onto his feet and staggered towards Ka, dropping to his knees beside his motionless body. Ka was still in the same position he had been in when they pushed the lid off, only now his head and arms were now hanging into the now dark canister. Derren took him by the shoulder and shook him, still calling his name through the helmet comms. Ka did not move. The only response through the comms was the shrieking.

By now Derren, was almost crying. His vision was blurring thanks to the tears welling up in his eyes. He grabbed Ka’s shoulder in both hands and pulled as hard as he could. Ka flopped backwards from the canister and lay face up on the floor. Derren leant over him and almost straight away jumped back, screaming.

Kal’s face was not his own. It contorted into a shape of agony that looked far beyond any pain that a human could endure. His mouth hung open at a strange right angle. His eyes were so wide open as it was though he had no eyelids, only his eyeballs were not there. Instead, there was only the same blue light that had come from the canister. It was also coming from his mouth. Around him, like a shadow hung a black aura that seemed to be pulsating and growing.

Derren shook his head; refusing to believe what he saw . He called Ka’s name again but again, the only response was the shrieking sound coming through his helmet comms. And that was when he realised. That shrieking sound, that terrible, mournful, anguish filled howl hadn’t been coming from the canister at all. It was coming from Ka; he was screaming.

Derren, still crying, sat there shaking his head refusing to believe what he could see. Questions crashed around his head, what had happened?

He closed his eyes tight, trying to figure out what to do next but when he opened them again, he found he was backing quickly out of the chamber, his stare fixed on Ka’s body. It moved almost lifelessly, as if it hung at the end of half broken puppet strings. It limped and shuffled towards Derren, blue eyes still flaring, broken mouth still screaming.

Derren leapt to his feet, turning and running down the corridor. His hands banging away at the keyboard on his forearm to make the map reappear on his visor only this time in reverse. Derren then realised he was now running down the corridors. His mind was still racing and he couldn’t make sense of what was happening. This must be, he somehow supposed, the flight part of the fight or flight response. Now he found himself sprinting across the chamber, the servos in the anti-gravity boots whining in protest.

It was only when he found himself in the command seat of the Fury, activating the launch commands did the full weight of what had just happened and what he had just done hit him. The canister had released something that infected Ka, and Derren, rather than act like the Captain he was supposed to be and help Ka, had ran. He hadn’t even thought of going back for him, he hadn’t thought at all. He had been too wracked in shock and fear. His shoulders slumped and his face dropped into his hands as he started sobbing uncontrollably.

By the time he stopped crying, Derren realised that he had put the ship into hyper-light upon take off and was now too far away to do anything. That wasn’t entirely true. He could easily drop the ship into normal space, turn around and head back to the derelict but the truth was he scared. Not just scared, lost completely in the absolute unyielding grip of blind terror. So, Derren did not turn back, he maintained his course and ran. He could still hear Ka’s blood curdling shriek.

 

This story is and extract from my current work in progress and also,  my entry to Chuck Wendig’s latest Flash Fiction, Short Story Challenge. Details of which you can find here

Hope that you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading,

Tim

 

I Simply Walked.

So, I’ve done another piece for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. This week, the challenge was to come up with a story that’s only 100 words long. Here’s my effort. Hope you like it!

“How did you get here?” The Old King asked, confusion in his voice.
“I simply walked” The kneeling stranger replied, reverence in his eyes.
“None have crossed the Dead Plains in a thousand years. I ask again, how did you get here?” The Old King asked, voice rising to anger.
“I simply walked.” Repeated the stranger, eyes full of mischief.
“For a century, I have sat in this throne, alone. Now tell me, how did you get here?” The Old King asked, voice now thunder and fury.                                                                                                                                             The stranger stands, blade in hand, glint in his eye. “I simply walked.”

Thanks for reading.