Fourth Fiction 12.3

A massive explosion detonated behind Sylvie. An unnatural wave of heat washed over her and the shock waves radiating outwards gave her a moment or two of free forward compulsion as her lungs and legs burnt with the exertion of running. Sylvie didn’t turn to see the destruction, she just kept running, her ears ringing. She didn’t need to see them, to know they were behind her.

The dog kept pace beside her, even though he had the ability to out run her twice over. He was in for the long haul with her.

One moment it was black and the next Sylvie was blinded by a brilliant, white light seering her eyes. Sylvie stopped, even though she knew she had to keep run, throwing an arm over her eyes to protect them. The night was rocked by a second explosion, Sylvie ducking instinctively. The air filled with thick dust and the smell of burning rubber and a black car materialised from the night, coming to a dramatic halt, sliding 180 degrees and stopping behind Sylvie, forming a barrier between Sylvie and the mob of red-eyes.

A door was thrown open and a loud whistle rose above the roar of the suped-up engine idling.

Sylvie was certain it was a trick of the light or the trauma of going from the dark to the overwhelming light, but the car appeared to be alive, a ripple of scarlet, gold and red shimmering and moving in the black paint. The steel body of the car looked as though there were muscles and sinew straining in anticipation below the skin of the paint. The headlights blazed not just to the front, but to the sides, the light wrapping around the car and beyond in an impossible fashion.

The dog’s bounded away and Sylvie turned to see it leaping into the dark abyss of the car’s interior without a backwards glance to her. The door stayed open.

Sylvie hesitated, remaining hunched over, trying to catch her breathe.

“Are you waiting for someone else?” The voice sounded muffled and distorted, playing tag with the tinnitus in her ears. “You look like a midwife–not a drug-fucked freak?”

Sylvie could see the firestorm beyond the car and wondered if it was the firelight on the ducco, playing tricks with her eyes. She walked the few steps to reach the car but instead of getting in, she and Sylvie reached out and laid a hand on the car, certain it would be warm and pulsating, alive under the touch.

Her disappointment was short lived as a hand grabbed hold of her and dragged her into the car, the door shutting behind her under its own steam.

“If it weren’t for all that ragweed covering you, I’d say you had a death wish midwife.”

Incorporates Paul Anderson’s challenge (rag weed) and my initial experience with the book Urban Primitive. This black mustang was the original idea from which the rest of the story sprung.

Fourth Fiction 12.1

The dog growled again. Where it had come from Sylvie didn’t know and why the red-eyed creatures seemed scared of it was an even greater mystery, given there was only one dog and many of them. They had retained a perimeter line but it was metres away from the car now and retreating.

The steam rising from the dog’s mottled grey coat gave it an other-worldly look and she could believe for a moment it had come from place far beyond the known world to protect her. In twenty-three years she had come to understand the Universe worked in strange ways and she believed she was meant to be here, as much as she didn’t want to be, and that her time was not yet up.

The inhuman tide stopped. They weren’t far enough away to give her a head start on foot back into the city, escaping temporarily unseen through one of the doors facing away from them, but enough to give her a chance to retrieve the oxygen bottle-the only weapon she possessed against them. The canister lay between the dog and the eyes, but she had no idea if the dog would be hostile to her if she tried to step out. She could believe in a protective canine spirit out here in the never-world of the Dead Zone but finding it was actually real, another thing entirely. If she got out she might find the dog just a vicious towards her or a figment of her imagination from the knock on the head.

No time like the present.

Nothing happened when she tried to unlock the door. Nothing after a desperate round of thumping, swearing, reaching through to the handle outside and counter leaving of the inner lock, she remained imprisoned inside the car. Whatever had seized the engine had also done its worst on the locking mechanism.

Sylvie wanted freedom, she understood that only too well now, but it came at a price and now was the time to decide if she was willing to pay the ultimate cost – her life. She’d promised herself a new life when she walked away, so she’d fight. The thought of dying out here and the hands of whatever abomination they were, motivated her rather than mired her in fear.

Climbing back into the front she grabbed her backpack and stuffed her small arsenal in there, keeping the bottle of alcohol and matches in her pocket, along with the torch.

Knowing she could conjure fire was a small comfort, even though she knew it was doubtful there would ever be time to strike a match. Only now she realised she’d forgotten to utter an incantation to the fire spirits, asking them to help her with the bomb. Maybe if she’d done so it would have gone off. She was beyond the realm of known experience and running on pure adrenalin and instinct.

Sylvie looked out. The eyes were moving. Slowly. Carefully. Closing in again.

The dog held its mark, pacing side to side, keeping the same line and never giving an inch as the monsters drew nearer. Sylvie decided to take her chances along side the dog and fight out in the open where she had space, rather than be trapped with them in the car in the final moments. She wished now she’d taken some sort of self defence class or invested years in martial arts like Doug had, rather than teasing him about being a meat head.

Reaching inside the hoodie, beyond the layers of clothing Sylvie found the amulet which never left her neck and holding it a moment she uttered a prayer first to the Goddess for protect and then to the fire spirits before leaning back and kicking the rest of the glass out of the window with the heel of her boot. A safe, though awkward exit awaited her. Making a final check of the window to ensure she wasn’t going to stab by a stray piece of glass, she threw the bag out first, then with a final look back inside the car, she went out, feet first, dangling precariously half in and half, bottom on the window ledge, when her foot hit the running board. And she was out, with no grace or style, but in one piece standing in hip-high rag weed.

The air was still and so cold it tore at her throat with every inhalation. She flicked the torch on to find where her bag lay and bent down, pulling back with a sneeze, covered in ragweed seeds. Despite being in the dead of winter the weeds weren’t just growing, but flourishing, many adorned with flowers and their noxious pollen. Sylvie sneezed again, rubbing at her nose with the side of her hand. There wasn’t time to stop and pick off all the seeds. Worst things awaited her than a severe allergic reaction

The dog was becoming more and more agitated, running from side to side, barking and snarling in the clear ground beyond the grass. She threw the backpack over her shoulder and made her way out of the ragweed, standing a few steps back from the dog. The eyes had picked up speed.

Sylvie knew she had to get the oxygen canister ignited and then run for her life back to the other side of the wall, back into the city. Disappear for good.

While the dog patrolled the space ahead of her, she bent down, pulling open her back pack looking for something combustible. If she could get enough of a fire going the oxygen rich air would ignite. The fire spirits would see to it this time if she offered them up something in return for their help. Her fingers brushed the battered cover of her mother’s book. She hesitated for a moment and with tears blurring her vision, she started ripping the brittle pages from the book, scrunching them up and making a tiny pyre.

The dog yelped and growled, moving backwards towards her. Red eye-shaped cut outs in the darkness began to transform into human-like shapes, gathering speed, closing the half circle perimeter around them.

Fifteen metres.

Sylvie emptied the bottle of alcohol onto and around the pile of paper and across in a line on either side as far as she dared to venture, making every last drop count. Then kneeling at the torn book, Sylvie struck a match and uttered an ancient incantation Maia had taught her.

Ten metres.

“Here dog.”

The dog turned for a moment to look at her, then back at the malevolent crowd, converging on them with sickening speed. Seeing the fire the dog retreated and stood beside her. She roughly rubbed its head and they watched the flames greedily devour the last link to her mother and the noxious weeds around it, the line of alcohol lighting up in a pathetic barrier. The heat was building though and the flames spreading. The tide of red eyes but not stopped it. They had had less than five metres but Sylvie didn’t dare staying to see what happened when they reached the fire. Pulling the backpack onto both shoulders she turned to the dog and said, “Run.”

Incorporates the challenges from Paul Anderson (rag weed) and Diane (invocation of fire spirits)

#79 Turning One Eighty

I specially snapped a pic for today – the finale of Fourth Fiction, but it is not the photo I will be posting. When the world as you know it for the past five months turns upside down, and you feel there is no justice in the world, and you go to the freezer to throw out the empty packet of Tim Tams from earlier on in the day – the Universe throws you a curve ball.

This was what I had planned on posting and more tomorrow, maybe, about how Fourth Fiction ended when I am in a better frame of mind about it all.  Right now I  have a novella to finish.

With A Little Help From My Friends Reprise

Ask and you shall receive. In twenty-four hours I got the twelve challenges required (12 based on the number of contestants originally invited to be part of Fourth Fiction, and from memory, the same number of outside participants as well)

Here is the low down on what you can expect in the next installment:

  1. Constantine (4):  the heart of a city
  2. JD (34): paranoia and raw nerves in close quarters
  3. Anna and Em (44): walking the boundaries of a room, breath cleansing, garlic
  4. Paul Servini (64): a devastatingly handsome man
  5. Diane (74):  invocation of fire spirits
  6. Jen (94): a journey through a maze
  7. Tina (104): facing a difficult truth
  8. Fiona (124): a tattoo
  9. Dale (144): a blank page
  10. Ben (184): letting intuition flow
  11. Rob Salvatore & Mum (244): a lie
  12. Paul (254) : Ragweed – gives desperate confidence in desperate situations

Now to wind it all together.

Amazingly many of these elements exist already. We know Marcus is devastatingly handsome. We know in the birth room a number of women have come together under strained circumstances. We know when left alone, birth is an instinctive and intuitive process. We know Sylvie has been left in a rather desperate situation. What of it all. I promise you’ll know all in a few days time… now to work out how to get 48 hours into 24. My maths always did suck.

With a Little Help From My Friends

It is the 2nd December and I’ve finally decided the challenge I will set myself to finish my Fourth Fiction novella.  Whether or not it happens by December 4, remains to be seen (I’m rather attached to sleep).

My challenge involves you – my readers. I am asking twelve friends/readers to nominate a page number ending in “4” (the magic number) between the ranges of 1 and 258 (ie number 74). The number refer to page numbers in a book called “The Urban Primitive” where the first tiny flicker of a story idea came from (and you’ll get to see it in its full glory in the final episode).

The sooner you nominate a page number the sooner I can get cracking writing.

PS: JD and Chris – I intend to try and incorporate what you have already suggested too.

SUGGESTIONS SO FAR:

Fiona – 124

Mum -244

Ben – 184

Jen B – 94

Fourth Fiction Round 11

Round 11 Challenge: Put your main character in danger in a new and hostile environment. There should be a struggle for survival through which new aspects of his or her personality are revealed.

Sylvie didn’t look back, concentrating instead on the road disappearing into a black hole ahead. Looming out of the nothing, without warning was a ten-foot high patchwork of concrete, lunging out at her. The brakes locked and the SUV hit a pothole as she tried to swerve and avoid a head on collision. The wheels lost traction, caught and the rear fishtailed into a backwards slide. The rear bumper hit the wall first then slammed side on into the wall.

Sylvie felt a warm trickle blood where her head hit the window.

She’d found the border of the Dead Zone.

As she sat dazed, the darkness seemed to seep in through the car, obliterating any sense of something beyond.

A single questioned emerged as Sylvie contemplated lying down to sleep.

Turn the headlights on, or stay in the dark?

How did life or death reduce to such a seemingly simple decision?

She understood instinctively there was no time to debate the merits of either decision or to sleep. Wiping the blood away with the back of her hand, she flicked the parking lights on and blinked.

The hulking corpses of cars, rusting on tireless hubs and random piles of debris rose up through the tiny halo of light.

Could she drive, at speed and safely traverse the unpredictable road ahead?

Her head hurt and sleep was so seductive, but she’d come this far. She looked at the wall pressed up against her door. It went on, unbroken forever. It looked as though those in the Dead Zone wanted to keep people out, rather than the City wishing to keep them in.

How did she get in? She flicked the lights off.

Stay or go?

She curled her fingers of her left hand around the wheel and reached for the ignition with the right. If it turned over she’d go. The Universe would be telling her it wasn’t yet her time.

The engine roared to life and she pushed down on the accelerator.

Keep it simple Sylvie.

Driving as fast as she dared, her vision swimming in and out of focus, she steered around some obstacles, hitting others, all the time willing the wall to open. The SUV tipped forwards and for a moment there was nothing. The front crashed downwards, the seatbelt cutting into her chest and stomach as the front chassis absorbed the momentum and bounced up the other side of the gaping hole in the road. Sylvie crashed into the head rest and the SUV came to a stop. Only then Sylvie turned saw the way in.

She turned the lights on and put as much clear ground between her and the heavy gates blocking her entrance. She wiped the blood from her eyes, revved the engine, and caught in the periphery another set of headlights. Stamping on the accelerator and releasing the clutch, the SUV leapt forward.

First. Second.

Sylvie held on tight.

Third. Fourth.

The gates held the SUV’s inertia for a moment and then exploded inwards, cart-wheeling away in a shower of concrete and metal shards. The car slowed and in the glare of the headlights the Dead Zone stretched out before her like a war zone the world had walked away from.

Sylvie put the SUV into low gear and bounced in over the uneven ground. In harsh light of high beam Sylvie could see nature had reclaimed the area where concrete had previously thrived. Tall heads of wild grass shook in the wind and large bushes of domesticated plants gone wild, quivered. In the distance she could see dome shaped structures and she headed for there.

Then the lights went out and the engine stalled. Sylvie tried the engine but there was nothing. Not even the click of the start motor trying to fire. It was as though someone flicked the off switch.

Sylvie opened the door and got out unsteadily, pulling the hoodie to shield her head from the howling wind. The shiver which ran the full length of her body had little to do with the icy air. She turned 360 degrees taking in the desolation.

How was it possible for this to be right on the doorstep of the city?

She reached back inside and grabbed a torch from her kit. It was intended for use in close quarters and barely cut a metre long beam ahead. If the car was dead, she’d have to go in on foot.

There was the crunch of footfall off to her left. Sylvie spun to shine the torch, but it succeeded only in blinding her to what lay beyond the tiny arc. She switched the torch off and waited for her eyes to adjust, wishing for the clouds to release the moon.

“Hello?”

The footsteps came closer.

“Hello? I’m Sylvie.” She turned this time to her right. “You called for a midwife.” Her voice echoed. “Maia sent me.”

She took a faltering step backwards towards the SUV. Dry sticks snapped underfoot. Gravel crunched. The paced quickened.

The hair on the back of her neck prickled, as her back hit the car door. Her fingers found the handle, as the first figures bleed out of the darkness. Wrenching the door open Sylvie tried to scramble in, her foot missing, smashing her shins into the running boards. She pulled herself in, slamming the door and engaging the driver side lock, hearing the other three doors bolt in unison. Her heart caught in her throat and panic threatened to pick her up on a huge wave of adrenalin and dump her. She tried to stay focused and not hyperventilate, but she was fighting to breathe, her rib cage vice-like and tightening inch by inch with every passing second.

Keep your head Sylvie. You’ve come this far.

There was no reason to believe whoever was out there meant her any harm. She sat in the driver’s seat waiting for something to happen, a tap at the window to announce the escort’s arrival. Seconds passed as hours, and dread crept over her body with spider like legs, spinning her into the deadly embrace of its silken terror.

Remembering the wheel brace she reached across into the passenger footwell to retrieve it. As she rose up a pair of ember red eyes glared through the window.

Sylvie screamed, scrambling back pushing herself against the driver’s window, holding the wheel brace to her chest. Heat radiated through the cold glass and she turned slowly. Another pair of fiery eyes. The SUV shook as something jumped onto both the bonnet and roof.

The moon came out from behind the clouds and illuminated the faces pressed against the window. They were humanlike in structure but there was no humanity in them. The eyes burnt from sunken eye sockets in emaciated faces. Thin lips drew back to reveal vicious pointed teeth.

When the shock cleared she saw they were sniffing the air like a dogs.

She looked at the blood smeared on the back of her hand.

She moved quickly to shut all the vents, but it was too late. The faces contorted, a flicker of recognition passing in their eyes. Sylvie knew these were no band of albinos caught beyond society’s boundaries. They pressed against the glass, salivating. Hands, white knuckled, pummelling the windows. The car rocked.

Sylvie knew there was dignity in dying head held high before a firing squad but none in being torn limb from limb. These were monsters and she could battle something with a face. The Government was a faceless entity which sapped the energy and power from you. She could do this. If she lived, she walked away and reclaimed the life they’d all stolen from her – the Government and the Underground.

Let them think I died here.

Shining the torch out the window, the eyes recoiled. Turning it off, they returned slowly but more agitated. She knew what she had to do.

Shoving her wallet under the seat, Sylvie then climbed into the back with the torch. From the suitcase she took the oxygen tank, gauze bandaging, alcohol, scissors and matches. Using her legs to brace against the rocking, she gored a hole in the top of the alcohol and threaded a gauze fuse.

There would only be one shot.

Using the torch to drive them away first, she smashed the window with the oxygen tank. The rocking stopped. With a quick twist oxygen started seeping out. She threw it as far as she could. Her hands fumbled with the matches. They would be back before she got one sparked. Finally a flame flared and the gauze caught. Sylvie waited until it was blazing before hurling it out and throwing herself on the floor.

She braced for the explosion. One-two-three. Moaning filled the air. Four – five – six – seven. A dog howled. Eight – nine – ten. A dog growled. Eleven – twelve – thirteen … twenty.

A sickening realisation descended, she had been right. There had only been one chance. She sat up. The gauze had gone out.

 

Fourth Fiction: Round Ten

red-moon
Round 10 Challenge: Kill off one of your characters.

Word limit: 1200 words

Jamieson pulled the car off the road three blocks back from the SUV. The place gave him the creeps. If he’d ever questioned the morality of his job it was answered tonight. Anyone who chose to birth in a place like this deserved to be in prison and their baby taken from them. He relished the idea of putting hand cuffs on the both the women and pulling them all out in the blaze of kreig lights set up by the news crews. For now though, everything was quiet and still.

“Colbert and Kravin checking in. We’ve got a visual on the SUV.”

Booth pointed on the screen to the blip of the back up car just off the main road and directly to the side of the SUV.

“We got a fix on you.”

“What now Jamieson?”

“We wait. We do this as per normal protocol.”

Booth reached into the back seat to retrieve the thermos his wife packed as he’d changed back into his work clothes.

“White with two?”

Jamieson nodded taking the stainless steel mug from Booth and blowing gently into it, before taking a sip. Booth’s wife made the best coffee. It was one of the things which got him through the long hours of a birth stake out.

“She’s on the move … getting out the car …going around the back.”

Jamieson expected this – she’d grab her gear and then disappear into a nearby building. He’d send Colbert and Kravin in to check out the lay of the building while he enjoyed the coffee. The temperature in the car had already dropped ten degrees.

Booth took out his binoculars, flicking them into night vision mode.

“She’s taking her time.”

Rather than standing the suitcase on the road, she’d put it in the back seat. Jamieson swapped the coffee for the binoculars.

“Do you think this is the final stop?” asked Colbert. Jamieson adjusted the focus, watching her get back into the front seat.

“It would normally be, but this is no ordinary assignment.”

“Maybe she’s too scared to leave her kit out,” said Booth. “Maybe she’s lost?”

“Why get out and get her kit. This has got to be the place.”

Booth shrugged.

“How’d she look when she got out Colbert?”

“Vigilant but hell, you seen this place. I wouldn’t be getting out the car unless I had to.”

“I’d get over it. You’ll be getting out sooner than you think.”

But Jamieson knew what Colbert was talking about. On top of the place giving him the heebie geebies, he couldn’t shake the feeling he was being watched. He probably was. This was the worst possible part of the city to be pulled up in. City officials ignored what went on here. This close to the Dead Zone they left the residents to their own business except for the token hourly police patrol acting more like a body collection service than upholding law and order.

Booth handed the coffee back and took the binoculars.

“Does the wife know she’s making the coffee for me?”

Booth shook his head.

“I’ve never had the heart to tell her I don’t drink coffee white with two sugars. You know what they call it – white with two.”

Jamieson shook his head.

“Queens Coffee.”

“Nothing wrong with a bit of royalty.”

It was Booth who shook his head this time

“Wrong sort of royalty. We’re talking the queers who dress up in women’s clothing and sing, sort of royalty.”

“Huh?” Jamieson looked into the coffee and shrugged. “Still just white with two sugars in my book.”

“We’ve lost visual.”

A large cloud moved across the moon and without the assistance of street lighting the street plunged into an inky abyss.

“Enough with the funny guy routine.”

“I’m serious the car’s gone, I looked away for a moment and it was gone.”

“Shit Colbert! How’s that possible?”

“Look,” Booth pointed to the screen. There was only one other dot on the map.

Jamieson kicked over the engine. He didn’t want to pull both cars out and expose them.

“Pull out Colbert. Maintain a visual.”

He shoved the coffee back into Booth’s hands.

“Colbert? Kravin?” There was no response.

Ahead they heard the squeal of tyres finding traction on the tarmac. Jamieson waited to see a Government issued sedan slide into the street ahead.

When the street remained empty, it took a moment for Jamieson to realise what was going on. Every second of hesitation put the SUV further ahead without an electronic fix. He slammed his foot onto the accelerator. Mulholland would strip him of everything if he returned empty handed.

“Agents down.” Booth radioed in. “Visual on original target. We’re in pursuit,”

– – –

Marcus kept low as he approached the silver sedan, the silencer stabbing into his abdomen and his shoulder brushing the warehouse wall. When he could see the condensation pooling inside the back window, he got down and scrambled crablike to the rear of the car. Although he’d fed earlier on in the night, it still seemed a waste to use bullets. Time was of the essence though.

A thin trail of exhaust fumes leaked from the SUV rolling down the gutter, as he reached the front. Pulling the hand-gun from the front of his jeans he sprung up, thumping the bonnet to ensure both men looked up. At such close range he couldn’t miss.

Moments later the SUV’s roared and the tyres squealed. He ran back to the Mustang knowing he had less than a minute to intercept the other car.

‘Hold on Mutt,” he said to the dog, which slid from the passenger seat into the foot well in readiness.

Revving the engine hard Marcus threw the Mustang into gear and accelerated hard. The Mustang shot down the side street and into the intersection, skidding into a 360 degree spin as Marcus jerked on the handbrake. The screech of brakes tore through the night, followed by the ripping metal. The Mustang came around and Marcus saw the sedan career across the footpath and into a building, hitting the wall in an explosion of bricks.

“Stay!”

The dog whined. Breathing hard, Marcus snatched the gun and got out. Without a second thought he put a bullet into the passenger crushed into the side of the car as he strode across the road. The driver was barely conscious when Marcus jerked open the door, blood pouring from a deep wound at the hairline. The man moaned.

“Sorry to gate crash the party,” Marcus said, shoving the gun into the small of his back and going through the drivers pockets for identification. A bagde confirmed his suspicions – they were government agents. He threw it away

Spreading his fingers around the man’s throat he spat, “She’s mine!”

Marcus knew there wasn’t time and he should put a bullet in him but the opportunity came so rarely. He tightened his grip, closing his eyes as electricity crackled up through his fingers, hand and over his wrist, followed by the surge of heat transfusing through his entire body as the energy drained from the thug’s body and into his.