Author’s Note: Carol J. Forrester has a new speculative fiction prompt for this month. According to her website: “This month I want you to think about the wonderful speculative fiction of authors such as Neil Gaiman, especially works such as Neverwhere. Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series is another that you could look to for this month’s prompt. Both of these writers take the modern, real word, and overlay the fantastical. Fantasy and reality woven together to create engaging stories that suck the reader in and have us wondering what really lurks in the shadows. “
“The guidelines for those of you who are new are as follows:
Speculative Fiction: a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. [Oxford Dictionary]
Use the image (see the link above) to write a story, poem, perhaps even a script.
There are no rules about form or style. If you would like to create a piece of art in response that is also welcome. This prompt is about being artistic and creative in whatever way suits you best.
Please keep entries PG as this is open to all. (i.e no erotica)
The prompt is open from the first of the month to the end of the month.
Use pingbacks to link up to the prompt or leave a link in the comments section. Whichever you prefer.”
So, I decided to give it a try and this what I came up with:
Sometimes we all have to do what we don’t want to do.
Eat spinach and Brussel sprout casserole with meat gravy.
Pay the IRS.
Pay for the right to go from this side of the highway to that side of the highway.
Deal with my dead wife’s nagging in-laws. They keep blaming me for her death. Like I even wanted Matilda to die. Yeah, sure. That’s what I wanted. Yeah, no. Not what I wanted at all.
But they don’t see it that way.
They will never see it that way.
They can only see it one way — My fault. It’s all my fault. I killed her. I set her up. I left her to die. I hired that…whatever to kill her.
Yeah, I’m just that kind of low-life. I’m so happy they think so little of me.
I hope you can hear the sarcasm. I’m not sure if it’s coming through clear enough.
Tonight was another bad night.
When I did fall asleep, it was all bad dreaming. Dreams so bad I woke up with my fingernails pressing crescents into my palms.
I’ve had these dreams before. I’m getting off easy tonight. I used to wake up with bloody palms and stiff finger muscles.
Anyhow, I’m awake and I can’t sleep. I don’t want to sleep. I need to get out. I need to escape. Maybe if I get some clean air in my lungs, I’ll finally sleep through the night. Yeah, I could take sleeping medicine, but that stuff scares me into a fierce case of itching hives. I’ve heard the horror stories. I’ve read the warnings on the boxes. I’m not touching that stuff. If I do, it’s because I have officially reached the point of dire desperation.
I’m not there yet.
So, I get dressed.
After all this time, I still expect to hear the sound of her breathing. I expect to hear the whisper of her silk nightgown as she turns over on her side.
But my wish doesn’t come true. Matilda doesn’t appear. I get dressed in the dark and all alone.
I don’t know where I’m gonna go. I guess it doesn’t really matter all that much. All that matters is the motion of running.
The air filling and leaving my lungs.
The feeling that I am alive.
Despite my loss and grief, I’m still alive. That is a very important thing to remember. I need to remember it every day. Maybe the day will come when I won’t need to think of it. I will be fully alive and whole. I will embrace my aliveness.
And I will be fine.
I tie up my sneakers and head out the doors.
Out of my bedroom door.
Down down down downity down to the first floor.
To the front door.
Out the door.
Door is closed.
Door is locked.
I do have my keys.
It’s time to go.
Need to walk.
Need to get away.
Need to find a place to breathe.
Need to finally breathe. I wonder if that’s too much to ask for. I wonder if it will ever be truly possible.
I tap my pocket and hear the reassuring jingle of my house keys. I zip my pocket shut. My keys aren’t escaping on me tonight.
It isn’t a fast, frantic run.
It’s just a controlled jog. I can count my steps. I could set a metronome to their steady beat. One and two and three and four and back to one and two and three and four. The beat goes on. The rhythm goes on. It’s good and steady. It’s reassuring and real.
My breathing is real.
My heartbeat is real.
The burn in my leg muscles…That is real too.
The realness of it all feels good. I feel good and reassured.
Then, I take a wrong turn.
I’m supposed to turn right onto Henner’s Park and onto Pinch Pn. West. That’s what I was supposed to do, but I wasn’t paying attention.
Now, I’m not on Henner’s Park. And I’m nowhere near Pinch Pn. West. I’m honestly not sure where I am.
It’s too dark and the buildings are a dull gray. There are no street signs anywhere to be seen.
I’m not supposed to be over here. This is where all of the drug pushers and needle pushers and desperate lost souls tend to gather. I keep expecting someone to accost me to buy drugs or some other services. Services I’m not interested in paying for.
I stop running.
It’s a dangerous thing to do – stop running in a place such as this. But I need to figure out which way I came…which way I can leave. The fastest way to leave.
I don’t know. Every direction is all the same. Cold, heartless gray with shattered eyed buildings staring dully at me.
For a moment, I try to imagine this side of town as something vibrant and healthy and alive. I fail in my best attempts. This side of town is dead. Maybe it never was truly alive to start with. Maybe it was created to be dead.
I decide to stop thinking such morbid thoughts. I need to think of how to get out of here.
I need to get out of here. I need to go home.
I want to go home.
I automatically and unthinkingly pull out my cell phone and I dial her number. It’s an automatic reflex. I don’t even think of it as a mistake until the fifth unanswered ring. Only then do I remember.
I end the call.
I put my phone away.
I’ll just have to get out of this situation on my own.
I tap my other pocket. My keys jangle and it’s like a wind chime – a sweet good sound. It makes me feel good and safe.
I make a decision. Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s wrong. But it’s a decision.
I head on straight ahead.
The wind whistles through the cracked windows. The whistles sound like moans, like cries, like howls.
Like something that is terrifyingly hungry.
I stop and reconsider.
She is there.
For a breath of a moment, Matilda is there. She stands there. Her face is unnaturally white. Her clothes the color of death’s breath. She stands in the middle of the road and she LOOKS at me. She looks at ME.
I don’t think about it.
I don’t have to think about it.
I have to run to her.
I need to run to her.
I run to her.
She darts into an abandoned parking structure.
I don’t question it.
I can’t question it.
What is there to question?
I run after her through the darkened street.
Into a deadened building.
They are the only sound I hear.
It is the sound of life. My life.
I am alive.
But Matilda is not.
She does not breathe.
Her feet lie stiff and still. She no longer runs.
Yet, I glance around the empty structure. I hope to see her. I need to see her. Oh, if she’s there. If she is here!
There is a sound somewhere above me.
The scuffled heavy sound of footsteps on the floor above me.
It isn’t her.
I know it isn’t her.
I don’t know what it is, but I know it isn’t her. I have to get out of here.
I need to escape.
Whatever it is, I can’t let it see me.
I can’t let it catch me.
I need to escape before it knows that I am here.
I glance around the parking structure.
The second floor down ramp is straight ahead of me.
Something is at the top of the ramp. It’s standing there. I don’t know what it is, but I see a glimpse of something standing there.
At first, it stands there. Only a shadow, silent and still. But it isn’t silent for long.
It runs down the ramp.
I can’t breathe, but I run.
I can hear it roar and cry and groan and I run.
I see the toll boothed entrance up ahead. The way is open. I can escape. I can hear the creature behind me but I can escape.
Close close close.
Running and running and running need to escape.
I’m even with the toll booth’s entrance.
And the bar comes down in front of me.
I run into it.
It knocks the wind out of me.
Land on my back.
I lay there, breathless and stunned.
Matilda appears above me and she is lovely.
Oh, she is lovely.
She smiles and her smile is wrong.
But I am breathless.
I am stunned.
I can’t escape and it doesn’t matter.
It’s too late for me to escape.