Flash Fiction: ‘Leave the Gate Open’

It’s been quite a while since I did one of these, but I’m keen to start cracking out the flash at least once a week. Here’s my stab at last week’s Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge. Slightly over the word count, but what you gonna do?

Here’s the stipulations:

It starts with a bang.

That’s all the inspiration you need.

I want you to write a short story with that in mind — the tale must begin with a bang. You can, erm, interpret that how you choose, but it definitely means we begin in the middle of the action.

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Snakes and Ladders

“You’ll need a ladder.” I looked up to see the owner of the voice. A little girl, observing me curiously. “You’re going to need a ladder,” she repeated.

“I’m not sure what use a ladder will be to me right now. I’m trying to have a picnic. Alone,” I said, indicating towards a half eaten pork pie and some sorry looking sandwiches. “I can’t eat a ladder.”

“You’ll die without a ladder. They’re coming,” she said, pointing behind me and crouching down to take an eclair. I looked around, taking in the beautiful, open field. Nothing appeared to be coming. Though my desserts were certainly going somewhere. I turned back to ask her to stop pilfering my pudding, but she had gone.

As I returned to my pork pie, I heard a buzzing wind. A sound as if hundreds of bees were trapped inside gale, frantically trying to escape. It was getting louder. Dozens of birds disappeared overhead, scattered amongst the sky.

Suddenly I was surrounded. Countless eyes looked into mine. Each pair attached to grotesque, serpentine creatures that looked part teeth, part bigger teeth. Their pale pink bodies pulsated, blocking every route of escape. Except up.

‘Empty Seat’

flash fiction_noface

“You’re sitting on my bag, sir”. People are rush hour really had no common sense. He was sitting on my bag, could he not tell? I’d done this journey for nearly seven years, up and down the train line. Every day someone arrived to spoil my journey – if only the trains ran to such a schedule. I persisted,“excuse me, my bag – you’re on it. Are you an idiot of simply ignorant?” He Finally a reaction, he turned.

As he did, I saw his face. There wasn’t one. No eyes, no mouth, no lips, no skin. Just a black void staring back. After a brief, insolent pause he turned away again leaving me to stare momentarily startled at the back of his head.

I couldn’t see his ears, but he quite clearly heard me. Why didn’t he move? What utter rudeness. No apology, nothing. I gripped the edge of my bag and pulled at it, yanking it from under him and returned to my paper and made a mental note to book first class from now on. At least there’d be some manners present.

Tiny, Terrible Tales: Midnight Snack

It was the sort of innocuous sound that’d easily be silenced during the day by a passing car. but in the sharp silence of night it might as well have been a shotgun to the head of anyone in the household. as the tin lid creaked away from the barrel, she kept one eye steadily on the pitch black space that she knew to be the door. Should anyone come in and catch her at it again, she’d surely be trapped in another night of shame and self awareness.

In these tense situations, an inch becomes a mile and that small centimetre of movement it takes to shake loose the lid from it’s base felt like it more a marathon than small step. such was the impact of tension on time. but, millimeter by painful millimeter they were separated. free at least. the deep, dark chocolate digestive biscuits were within jenny’s grasp and all it would take was a moment to decide three or four. it had been a stressful period of time, so four it was. you only live once.

With the midnight snack ousted from its tin prison, jenny replaced the lid with an deft and grace she wished she possessed a moment ago while removing it. never mind, the prize was in hand.

Now, the stairs. to get up them without a sound was like expecting to win that competition you didn’t actually enter. but it had to be done. what was the sense in having something to enjoy if she lacked the proper place to enjoy it. once again, jenny engaged in an inch by inch battle against night’s muted temperament.

One determined foot trod carefully on the first stair. then the second. easy. walking wasn’t a problem. At least, it wasn’t in usual situations. the seventh was where things became crystal maze. it had the creak. or maybe it was the ninth. there was only one way to find out and the best way was not to. so avoiding them both was the final decision.

It wasn’t a wise one. wrong stair. The eighth had the piercing creak. surely that’d have them up. any moment someone would be out to inspect the hall, feeling out who or what had made such a sound. the outrage. don’t they know what time it is? But no. all’s quiet – except for her own movements. perhaps she got away with it. lesson learned and moving on. clearly slowly slowly catchy monkey wasn’t going to win this battle. all the more chance of someone appearing and catching her in the act. no. time to quicken the pace, like pulling off a plaster.

Three at a time, jenny took flight up the stairs, making it to safety in her own dorm with the lightest foot she could eek out. success. leaning against the door, the sounds begin on the other side. someone did hear. too late for them, they missed her. she won the battle against the silence.

Unknown to her there was a second battle taking place. the biscuits had engaged in their own guerilla activities, with jenny fully distracted by the sheer effort of moving about. they had planned the attack and launched their offensive under cover of dark, using her own anxiety and Perspiration against her to create a damp, chocolatey messy all over her hands, leg and skirt. this wouldn’t do. she couldn’t just eat these now. they’re ruined. she’d have to go back. or settle for what might as well be nothing, leaving all this to wasted time and a needless increase in blood pressure.

As jenny sat-leaned against the wall, she considered whether she could really make it through a second attempt. she’d already heard Carl check outside his door. he’s be awake now, more alert to her midnight rustlings. no, she’d have to do without.

Maybe if she waited for him to go back to bed. he could do that. she’d wait it out. give him 10 or so minutes to get back into his sleep – he loved it. he wouldn’t bother taking a second look. she knew what to do this time. faster. faster was the key.

Mid-thought her concentration and planning was broken for a moment as she heard a new sound. it wasn’t her, that was obvious. Carl? no, his door never opened.

Certainly, something happened. what it was, though, wasn’t clear. the wind. that was it. it’s always the wind. why are people always expecting the worst when it;s always the most obvious?

Another knock. a sound not unlike something tapping briefly against a door, almost brushing it. sure, the wind can do that. solid wind. solid wind that bumps into things briefly as it walks past them.

“OK, so maybe it’s not the wind we’re dealing with her” jenny whispered, determined not to be left out of this sound war.

Minutes went by. or at least that’s what they felt like. nothing. back to the wind then. whatever it was, it was distracting her for the more pressing matter of biscuits.

“I’ve got to clean my hands, at any rate….might as well pick up a couple more while I’m out of the room. be rude not to”. jenny had a point.

Then a creak. not any creak. that was the same creak she just made on famous stair number 8. this wasn’t a good sign. someone was coming up the stairs. but there definitely wasn’t anyone down there with her. the small kitchen, even in darkness,, maintains at least acceptable levels of visibility. she’d have noticed if anyone else was lingering.

Another slight creak. this was getting silly. maybe it was Carl investigating and she’d just missed his door opening in all the excitement of dirtying her skirt. opening the door a notch she took a look.

Through the three inch gap a small missile launched straight at jenny’s face, striking her above the left eye. before she had time to register it fully, another took her in the ribs.

This wasn’t usual. jenny was seriously considering curiosity at this point, though it was rapidly being overtaken by latent fear. crouching, holding her side, she investigated what had hit her. was her housemate launching some kind of attack at her in the dark as recompense for making the slightest noise in her mission for a little night time treat? As another unidentified object connected with her ear, she assumed not. no one was there to propel it.

Looking down at the biscuits on the floor, jenny began to run some quick numbers in her head. four digestives came up with her. now there were seven lying around her. she may not have been the best at maths during her mildly disappointing GCSEs, but jenny was sure this didn’t add up.

It didn’t. But as a new barrage of torment laid siege to her face and limbs, her numeracy skills plummeted to the bottom of Jenny’s list of concerns.

The biscuits were attacking her.

With relentless disregard for their own well-being, digestive after digestive propelled itself at jenny’s very being. Crumbs flying, tears of chocolate streaking her body, jenny tried to fight back. Overwhelmed by sheer numbers she collapsed, regretting opting for the family box, when a simple packet would have done.

Before she could come to terms with the reality of being assaulted by her favourite snack item, Jenny lost consciousness.

Morning arrived. And with it, the scent of tea crept up the stairs. Carl entered Jenny’s room, delivering the traditional Saturday morning cup of tea to celebrate the start of the weekend. As he stepped in, the celebration was brought to an abrupt end as he tripped over something unexpected spread across the floor.

Tea clattering to the floor, Carl turned to inspect the cause for this disruption. Before him lay Jenny. Her body rigid upon her back, her face contorted into a look of confusion and revulsion and the faint scent of chocolate emanating across the room.

The gravity of the situation hit him, and after a brief panic, made for the nearest phone and diligently called the police or ambulance – he didn’t know which.

As he hung up, he noticed, through Jenny’s torn and tattered clothes, there was a symbol scrawled across her belly and breasts in what looked like blood. Edging close to make out the mark, it appeared browner than he thought blood would be. But he was no doctor, who was he to say?

He let shock overcome his curiosity as he slumped to the floor and waited for someone who knew what they were doing to turn up, picking up a digestive from beside his feet as he did so.