Final Destination

DIAL THE NUMBER. STATE YOUR DESTINATION. CLOSE YOUR EYES.

That’s all the note said. Written on a scrap piece of paper tucked under an old, black cell phone.

John had used the phone once since he found it. “Home,” he had told the operator. He was surprised to open his eyes and find himself on the porch of his childhood house.

He planned to go a little farther this time.

“Operator. Please state your destination.”

“Wherever my wife is.”

There was a click. John took one last look at the headstone in front of him and closed his eyes.

Shell


A cold, quiet domicile. Perfect.

Then, sirens. Sounds. Painful, unwanted noise.

They scream, panic. Usually at my hands. Today, something else.

A growl, slowly building. I sense it.

They hide on the second floor. Watch from windows. I lurk, unseen, silent.

Sirens drowned out. Now, only a roar.

They see it. A rising carpet of blue and black. They hug, pray, whisper. I simply watch. For a moment, the warmth of normality.

But the blue rises.

And rises.

And swallows.

Soon, the domicile is gone. So are they. Their screams washed down.

I drift away. Searching for somewhere new to rest.


Hunter


Short red dress, long auburn hair, tight creamy thighs; she stood out from the rest. He pulled over.

“Chessels, please.” Her voice was soft, careful. She slid inside.

Mirror adjusted, he watched her, red dress riding all the way up.

“I do believe you plan on raping me.”

His body stiffened. “I’m-”

“Except, you will not. You see, if you were like me, you would already know what was soon to occur. And, importantly, who I was.”

A half-formed realisation was blasted from his consciousness. Pink and red painted glass.

A short roll and a sudden stop later, she was gone.


Passenger

The winter chill bit hard. John tightened his scarf and rushed Megan out of the front door. The garage spotlight, long-since on the blink, fought valiantly against the dark.

John slammed the door behind Megan as she slid onto the back seat. He climbed into the car himself and turned the ignition.

Nothing.

He took a short breath, then tried again.

Not even a splutter.

“It’s fine, dear. It’s fine.” He almost believed it himself.

She shifted behind him.

“Daddy,” Megan whispered softly. She hadn’t called him that since the day Andrea died.

“Megs?”

“There’s a man sat next to me.”

The Wild, Limited

“You’re only as good as the creature you hunt.”

My father, three days before he was slain. I was nine.

Forty years on and things have changed. The War left nothing to hunt.

So I created my own wild. The pitting of man against the deadliest creatures to have ever walked this earth. Any beast, past or ancient past.

Science, eh.

Now, man is hunting again. Winning. One man in particular. Marshall Marcus. He’s rich and he’s deadly. And he’s killed everything I have to offer.

Well, almost.

After all, it’s been a while since I’ve been out in the wild.

Lights Out

Lights on. Lights off. Lights on. Lights off. Lights on…

Thirteen ons, twelve offs. It was a pattern. And there was a reason to the pattern.

There was also a reason why I had to do it to all the lights in my room. I said it was to keep Them away. The pattern, see. My parents said I’d be seeing a doctor.

They also said I was to start sleeping with the lights out. That my mood swings and depression would improve if I did.

So they removed the bulbs.

Zero ons, zero offs. No pattern.

Alone in bed.

Dead.

Fun and Games

“Ouch! Gerald, not so hard.”

“I’m sorry, Glenda, but this is most peculiar.”

“We have done this before, dear.”

“Yes but it’s been a jolly old while.”

“For you perhaps. Deirdre and I tangled just last week. Didn’t we, Deirdre?”

“Why yes, we did. Bob only watched then though.”

“Whereas this time I’m fully involved!”

“That you are, Bob, that you are… but please watch where your hands go.”

“Sorry old chap.”

Megan creased up on the sofa. When she could stifle her giggles no longer, they came bursting out in unison. She’d never seen a game of Twister quite like it.

The Man Who Stopped The World

Hi all. Apologies for the long gap between posts. I was working on a project for a website I write for and it took up much more time than I had anticipated. It’s football related, so may not appeal to some, but the following link is to the fruits of my labours. It’s a video, about Manchester United, and it’s 3:07 long. If you’ve got time (after reading this flash, obvs!) please give it a viewing: http://youtu.be/URryk1BWI9k. Thanks!

In terms of flash, I’m back with a full 1,000 worder for you. Enjoy!

The Man Who Stopped The World

The throbbing in his ankles subsided as Martin took a load off. The rocks were hardly soft but more than welcome. He slipped off his borrowed hiking boots, then his sweaty socks, and rubbed his feet as forcefully as his wearied limps would allow. He let out the kind of ecstasy-filled groan you could only make when you knew nobody was listening.

He sucked in a helping of fresh summer air. The smell of wet grass and salt filled his nostrils. While it was mid-afternoon and the sun shone brightly, the open sea laid out before him offered up a chilly breeze for his approval. He approved, and sucked in some more.

The roaring sea smashed and crashed into the stubborn white rocks below. Martin dare not take a second look at the drop under his feet. After all, if he fell, who would there be to help him? Better not to think about it. He instead diverted his gaze straight forward, and out at the possibilities ahead.

He pulled a map from the satchel at his side. Over the shoulder variety, more University student than reluctantly-ardent explorer. He opened the map fully and laid it across his lap, slipping a red pen from the heavily creased edge. It was a map of the UK, crudely edited in red. Many circles around many cities. All filled in with an X.

He glanced to his right and down at the port below. He could make out the outlines of numerous people in and around the many lines of queuing traffic. Except they weren’t queueing, not any more. They were stacked bumper-to-bumper, forcibly so. Some more forcibly than others. Martin trailed the line of cars all the way from the car parks to the dock itself. He wiped his rapidly-perspiring palms on his tired shirt. Even now, he felt a lump begin to form in his throat.

A ship. A derelict ship, on its side, half in the sea, half crashed in the dock. Bodies sprinkled all around it like rogue drops of sugar around a decorated cake. To the left of the derelict ship lay another, gaping hole in its hull, partly submerged, waves crashing all around it. Softly bobbing in the ocean like a plastic toy in a bath tub.

Martin should have known this would be waiting for him. By now, he should have known better.

Ever since day one, when everything stopped, some things carried on just that little bit longer. And a little bit longer was all it took for hundreds and thousands of people to die. Cars travelled further, unmanned, planes fell from the sky, unguided, and ships, it seemed, came to a halt wherever they could. You see, on that first day, in that first, think-about-it-every-second-of-every-day-since moment, all living things stopped dead. If they were unlucky enough to be inside something that wasn’t living, something that didn’t stop, they would most probably be properly dead. The no-coming-back kind of dead. Deceased. Despite knowing all of this, Martin had hoped, he desperately hoped it wouldn’t be the same here. He was wrong.

He slashed a large red X through the circle around Dover. He screwed the map into a tight ball and launched it into the wind. He watched as the ball spiralled down into the gaping mouth of the ocean below. Like everything else, it was soon gone. Once upon a time, there were some things Martin had been desperate to see gone. But there were others, as he was now finding, he was lost without.

On that first day, or last day depending on how you looked at it, Martin was well and truly lost. After his wife’s accident, life may as well had just stopped then. Only it didn’t, of course. Everything kept moving. Clerks kept doing their jobs. Bosses noticed your absence. Family noticed changes in your behaviour. Friends told you to stop being selfish and switch the machine off. Medical bills piled up. Other bills piled on top of them. Your medication ran out. Screaming, shouting, fighting. Crying. Until you reached a point where you just wished, nay pleaded, desperately, hopelessly begged, that for just a single second everything would stop so you could, for the first time in years, breathe.

Since that moment, Martin had been breathing clearly for 412 days.

He gulped down another breath. The sea air slowed his heart and chilled his lungs. After another day’s walking, it was a welcome relief. But the relief wasn’t to last too long; Martin had another big decision to make.

The UK was lost, this much was now clear. Not a single sign of animated life in over a year. It was safe to assume it was the same everywhere else, of course. Martin had figured this after the first week went by and no help came. But it’s a funny little thing, hope. Just the smallest drop can be enough to drive a man through things he never thought himself capable of. When common sense says give up, hope drives you forward. And to drive forward now carried the question: by land – or under land to be precise – or by sea?

Martin hated the water. Always had. While the weather was kind and the sea calm, his lack of even the most basic of sailing skills should have made the decision easy. If anything happened at sea, he truly would be lost. His fear was what he would find below. This was something he had been preparing himself for. Had one of the trains crashed, which was more than likely, the entire Eurotunnel would be nothing more than a 23 mile tomb. A lump returned to his throat. Palms grew sweaty. His heart began its anxiety-beat. Even now, he could do with a second to breathe.

Martin squeezed his eyes shut and wished the world to life. Millionth times the charm, right? Silence. He’d try again later, hope would see to that. He slipped on his socks and boots, took one final deep breath and bounced to his feet.

If he rushed he could make Folkestone by nightfall.

Am I Dead Yet?

I’m in a wheat field. A bloody wheat field? What the hell. How on earth did I get here? Not sure. It’s kinda nice though. The sun’s pretty strong, but not too strong, and there’s a gentle wind tickling my skin. This I actually rather pleasant. Still, isn’t it a bit strange I don’t remember how I ended up here? I think I know the answer, but, to be honest, I don’t feel like answering it right now.

There seems to be the softest hint of a woodland to the East and the outline of a house, or it may be a barn, to the South. Otherwise, I’m entirely surrounded by crops, with dusty soil under foot. I reach inside my chino pockets and find a pair of sunglasses. That was handy. I slip them on and the beautifully blue sky turns a shade of brown. Less attractive, sure, but gentler on the eyes. Hey, I’m wearing chinos.

The sun slowly warms by neck as I wander South; goosebumps creep across my skin. Damn, I haven’t felt anything near this good in years. Sun. Neck. I check and I’m wearing a vest. Now, while I don’t remember how I got here, I have a strong feeling I’m not usually much of a vest wearer. My pale arms are evidence of that. I suppose it’s possible I was drugged, dressed in a vest, and left in the middle of a wheat field for some nefarious purpose, but as I meander toward the house, or perhaps it’s a barn, not only do I find it highly unlikely, I’m not even sure I care.

As I near the house, or barn, I still can’t rightly tell, the smell of smoke fills my nostrils. It reminds me of the fires my father would in an old oil drum outside our house when I was a kid. I can recall my childhood, it seems. We owned a little property out in the country with a generous area of land surrounding it. My old man would raise this rusty old drum up onto a couple of pieces of rotted wood and burn anything and everything he could find. When the wind turned, it would blow the smoke back toward the house, enraging my mother and stinking up the clothes on the washing line. There are no washing lines here, however, or mothers or fathers, not any more. I follow my nose.

The area surrounding the barn, not a house apparently, becomes heavy with smoke as I draw closer. Now, perhaps it’s because I’m a little discombobulated, or perhaps it’s because I’m drugged, or perhaps it’s because I feeling pretty confident in my new vest, but rather than turning around and out of the thick smoke, I head in to it, towards the barn. I want to see what’s inside. I reach inside the back pocket of my chinos and find a handkerchief. That really is handy.

I cover my mouth and stride forward. Big, confident strides. After a few more powerful steps, I feel my chest begin to tighten. After another, I cough. I take one more, cough. Again, cough. I begin to feel light-headed. I cough again. And again. I need to get out of here. I turn around but see nothing but smoke. I look up to the sky, to the sun, but it’s not there. Nothing but an ugly grey, shrouded in brown. I pull off the sunglasses and drop them to the floor. My hand’s shaking. I feel a tightness rise in my chest again and I splutter another cough. Where’s the barn gone? Or was it a house? Damn my head hurts. Everything around me begins to turn from greyish brown to black, and I feel myself losing balance. If I’m not careful, I’ll–

THUD

What was that?

THUD

There it is again.

THUD THUD

Where am I? I smell smoke, but see nothing but black. I try to focus. Oh, my eyes are closed. I force them open and see a speedometer. The plastic casing surrounding it is covered in dust. I drag my head up and fall back into the driver’s seat. I’m in a car. I rub my forehead and feel the rounded indentation the car’s steering wheel has left. How long was I out? I rub my eyes but let myself keep them shut for a second. Think, James, think. There was a field, it was sunny, you had a vest on. A vest? None of that was real.

I flash open my eyes and sideways-glance out of the window to my right.

THUD THUD SCRATCH

There’s a man there. Only, he doesn’t quite look like a man. Most of his hair has fallen out, and his skin appears… melty. To say he looks malnourished would be to do him a kindness. And his eyes. Dead, soulless, fixed. Fixed on the food currently on display on the other side of the glass. On me. He’s got some friends with him. They’re groping the car too.

THUD SCRATCH THUD

I hadn’t realised it, but I had just been experiencing those precious few moments when you first wake up and the world hasn’t quite had the chance to beat you down yet. They’re precious because they don’t last. After, you wish they could have gone on and on, but you don’t realise just how precious they are until they’re over. And they’re over now.

I remember. I’ve been in this car for six days and nights. Or so I guess. I judge days and nights by how many times I sleep, but I have no idea how long I sleep for any more. I feel weak. My food ran out three days ago, water yesterday. I’m going to have to move soon, or I’ll die sat in this fucking car with those things groping the metal around me. The sick fucks. I’ll have to move soon, I will move soon. I’m so hungry. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the gropers won’t chase me and I’ll find some food and a safe place to rest in peace for a while. Maybe I’ll get that lucky, like winning the old lotto. I’ll have to move soon. Will I be that lucky? I think I know the answer, but, to be honest, I don’t feel like answering it right now.

Box of Shadows

“Which one?”

“Last on the right.”

The grey-haired man marched his weary suit down the tight corridor. Empty cells sat behind rusted bars on either side. Unusually bright moonlight crept through small windows and lit the man’s crudely-bearded face at five step intervals. As he approached the final set of cells, the loud clang of the old, metal lock sounded behind him.

Alone.

The wooden chair laid out for him was small but adequate. The man slid it back several inches and perched himself on its end. He lay the thick binder he was carrying in his lap.

“Hello.”

The cell in front of him was a box of shadows. Windowless, the moon’s glow had no jurisdiction, but light from the corridor crept through the bars here and there. He could make out a small figure sat on the bed to his right, back straight against peeling white brick.

“I’ve been sent here to… assess you.”

The black outline remained motionless.

“My name is Doctor Chang.”

The figure turned toward him. Doctor Chang surveyed the rest of the cramped cell – no toilet, pillow or duvet – and almost felt sorry for its occupant. But if the rumours were true, his pity was sorely misplaced.

“Can you tell me your name?”

Chang thought he saw the figure shiver in the damp. It was indeed cold, a fact Chang had not properly appreciated until he had entered this area of the compound. Still, he wouldn’t be long.

“This’ll go a lot easier if you work with me.”

“That’s not your name.” The voice was weak, almost a whisper, but slipped through the stale air like a leaf on the wind.

“I’m sorry?”

“Chang. That’s not your name.”

Don’t let her fool you, Chang told himself. You knew this might happen.

“You’re right, it’s not. I suppose you-”

“Your name is Candle, Marvin. Doctor. Of sorts. 44. Widowed. Left-handed. Likes sherbet.” The voice was still soft, but now much more focused, exact.

“And your name is Megan. A very troubled little girl.”

She slid to the top of the stained mattress and into the dim glow of the corridor. Her soft brown hair and bright complexion was in stark contrast to her current surroundings. She almost looked pretty.

“To you perhaps.”

“But not to you?”

“No.”

Candle watched her closely. “You feel nothing for what you’ve done?”

He held the catalogue of her offences in his hand, but didn’t need to read them. He probably knew more about her crimes than she did. The old lady in Carrington Plaza, who had been found with her throat and wrists slit. The banker in the Chester St Station toilets, discovered with three rounds in the head, chest and heart. The young couple on Route 23, found by a Ranger having been strangled in their car. Not to mention the father who mysteriously drove his car carrying his wife and three children off of Bounters Bridge. None of these crimes were linked to the girl in front of him, of course, but Candle knew he currently stared at the culprit.

“No.” Despite his preparation, the certainty of the way she spoke threw Candle off a little.

“I’m… not sure you mean that.” Candle studied the gentle features of her face, the freckles dotted across her cheeks, the way brown strands fell across her forehead. “A girl your age should be in school. Wouldn’t you like that?”

Megan widened her baby-blue eyes and shrugged. “Why are you really here, Doctor Candle?”

Damn she’s smart. “First, I need to know. Why them?”

Megan swung her bare feet up onto the mattress and crossed her legs. A smirk stretched across her face. “You don’t know?”

He knew, at least he thought he knew, but he wanted to hear her say it. “You tell me.”

“You know. But I’ll play.” Her tongue poked out of the side of her mouth, between two sorely-chapped lips. “Carrington. Husband. Pills. Murder. Chester. Boy. Kidnap. Rape. 23. Parents. Murder. Robbery.”

“And Bounters Bridge?” Candle watched her attention turn to the stone floor. “Megan?”

“That was-”

The clang of the metal lock twisting made its way down the corridor. Candle shot up from his chair.

“I’ve heard enough.” Megan glanced up at him. “Ready to get out of here?”

For the first time she looked apprehensive, shoulders forced back, eyes tightened. She was studying him. For a moment, nothing but the sound of soft rain tip-tapping numerous sheets of reinforced window glass. Both remained still, waiting for the other to make the next, decisive move. But there wasn’t time.

Candle pulled a crumpled photograph from his top pocket and threw it into the cell, which Megan caught with one hand. “Help me,” he began quickly, “and I’ll help you.”

She bit her lip as she studied the photograph. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“Is this-”

“Yes.”

“But-”

“I know. I can explain. But not here.”

“You trust me, Doctor Candle?”

The question took him entirely by surprise. His honest answer surprised him further. There was something about her he couldn’t quite put his finger on, something unique, something, indeed, very special. “Yes, Megan, I think I do.” He considered. “Do you… trust me?”

She grinned. “I do.”

“Then let’s go.”

Candle pulled a small, single-shot pistol from the binder. Megan recognised the unique shape of the .221 Thompson immediately. He raised the Thompson and pointed it into the cell. “It’s the only way they’ll unlock this door.”

Megan bounced into the centre of the cell, summer dress half-spinning like a stuttering carousel. “I can play dead.”

Candle smiled. She was already one step ahead of him. “When you’re free, meet me in Jackson’s Diner-”

“Jackson’s Diner. Route 19. 4.2 kilometres. Eight minutes car, thirty-five minutes foot. Give or take.”

She returned Candle’s smile. At that moment, she could have been any other seven-year-old in the country. Young, hopeful, full of promise, full of beauty. She could be anything she wanted. But what she wanted, it seemed, was to punish bad guys.

Candle steadied his arm. Shouts of rising degrees bounded through the moonlight and approached fast. “Ready?”

Megan winked.

He squeezed his index finger down and watched as a round entered her shoulder. She flew back and landed in a bundle on the floor, shadows quickly concealing her. Candle dropped the pistol and placed both hands behind his head.

“See you in thirty-five,” he whispered.