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.

Fourth Fiction: Round Seven

The Round 7 Challenge was different for each contestant. An element of the eliminated stories was assigned to each constestant. I chose to go with Coco’s challenge to incorporate Dostoyevsky – taken from Igor’s story.

Joseph Pullen pulled his ear pods out and put his head in his hands. What should have been a professional triumph wasn’t.  Putting a track on Doug Valhalloran seemed an ambitious but obvious avenue of surveillance two years ago, when he wanted to fast track his way up the bureaucratic ladder. He didn’t understand then.

He and his wife Miranda were awaiting the arrival of their first child.

Miranda was radiant, beautiful. Except for a couple of months of nausea at the start of the pregnancy she had never been healthier or more intune with her body. She was terrified of the surgery because she’d never been seriously ill nor needed hospitalisation before. Their misgivings were mounting and last week Miranda had heard from a distant friend women were dying from uterine infections and babies were drowning from amniotic fluid in their lungs. The friend had whispered the delivery unit was nothing short of a production line abattoir slicing women open and ripping babies out.

It felt wrong to hand over Midwife 002 – Sylvie Valhalloran.

Joseph knew the conversation between brother and sister would disappear with one point and sweep of his finger across the screen of his work station. If only he’d kept his mouth shut when the alarm went off.

He felt a hand clamp down painfully on his shoulder. “Hey Joey, your supervisor gave me the heads up.” It was Brian from the Johaansen Squad three floors above. “Who’ve you got? My team’s on stand by.”

Joseph pointed to the photo on the screen, not trusting his ability to speak unaffected.

“Midwife 002. Fucking hell Joey. Download it now.”

Joseph hesitated.

“C’mon dickwad. Hurry up. They’re like rats, pissing off once you’ve got a fix on them. I want her on death row before dawn.”

“Wait,” Joseph said, swallowing hard as the download finalised. “If you tail her, you’ll get the midwife, mother and infant.” It was her only chance.

Brian pushed past Joseph and snatched the chip from the info writer. The Director loved high profile arrests. But include a newborn. Brian smirked – he would get his promotion finally.

“Good boy Joey. Maybe I’ll get you promoted to JS.”

Joseph shrugged nonchalantly. Assignment there was the last thing he wanted.

“Godspeed Sylvie,” Joseph thought as Brian strode off hastily arranging to have the midwife followed.

– – –

The PDA beeped again. Ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away. It was time to go again. She closed the 1956 edition of Crime and Punishment which had belonged to her mother and put it in her kit. The red cover was battered and held together with yellowing strips of sticky tape. She travelled light – the book, her framed photo and ID were her only personal effects plus a handful of second hand clothes.

Packed, Sylvie opened the most recent message, tapping her finger on the PDA screen while the encryption programme unlocked the message.

Client: Primiparous. Vertex. No complications.

Location: Dead Zone

Special Instructions:

  • – Immediate departure
  • – Package will arrive with keys and GPS coordinates.
  • – Blue SUV parked two blocks south. Dint in the rear fender.
  • – Escort only inside Dead Zone.

I can only trust this to you Sylvie. May the Goddess walk with you beautiful daughter ~ Maia.

Ten years ago no midwife would have contemplated venturing into the Dead Zone. It was suicide. But every time she walked out the door Sylvie stared death in the face. It was just another day at the office, only this time she got to drive herself into Hell.

Catch up on my Fourth Fiction Novella

Dylan on Fourth Fiction

I can’t help myself but post this here.  Dylan was invited to be a guest on the Fourth Fiction elimination video for Round Six. Despite huge time differences, the fact I’ve never shot any footage before, or edited it together and a very very slow internet connection we managed to pull it off.  And they say never work with children … they must mean those temperamental Hollywood types!

Fourth Fiction: Round Six

This Rounds Challenge: Incorporate a White Russian and the words “over the line” into your next passage, which should be no more than 500 words.

Four Hours Earlier

Sylvie slammed the phone down this time. Every other year she’d allowed Doug to vent at her, rather than with her. It was as though what had happened hadn’t decimated her too.

She’d stood her ground and put up an uncharacteristic defence against her brother tonight. She understood Doug needed to blame someone but it wasn’t her fault. As the youngest of Johaanson’s children, she was a babe in arms when their mother fled. Like her siblings she’d only ever known and hated Johaanson as the media dubbed White Russia – the Belarusian obstetrician with a misogynistic maternity platform they’d all fought against.

Her eyes stung. While the hurt ran deep in her, it festered in Doug. All the boyish exuberance had turned inwards manifesting as a self harm not even Trina would’ve been able to inflict on herself.

She picked up the family photo from her bedside table. Mike had his arm around Mama. Her long grey streaked hair was pulled back, green eyes reflecting Mike’s love from an unlined face. Trina stood awkwardly, her hair falling over her eyes to protect her from the prying eye of the world. Doug was goofing off. Mike’s free hand was on Doug’s shoulder in a vain attempt to contain him. Sylvie’s face tilted up to bask in the glory of her parents love. She was eight. It was the only family she had ever known. There was still ten years to live without the shame of her paternity.

The truth surfaced when Johaanson died and they were named.

Trina ran away once she knew whose blood ran deep in her veins. When all leads turned to dead ends they were left with the eternal void of the unknown. Sylvie knew no one bothered identifying dead junkies. In her nightmares Trina’s drug-riddled body, swollen with death, swept down the river searching for a safe harbour.

Mike declared it was time to abandon the legal fight against the new laws forcing every woman to have their babes surgically removed from the womb. And the arguing began. Mama begged him to stop punishing himself over Trina. Putting himself in harms’ way wouldn’t bring her back. Mama needed Mike with her. But Mike crossed over the line.

The authorities talked up Mike’s capture and execution. They called him the ring leader of the Underground Birthing Movement, even though he was only ever a guide, ferrying and protecting midwives from one birth to another. They classified him Enemy #1 because Mama never divorced Johaanson making Mike both a criminal and moral reprobate. As his last act of love, he took the secret of Mama’s location to the grave with him, despite the torture. You can only die once.

Six months later Mama slipped away. The death certificate stated breast cancer but Sylvie knew she’d died of a broken heart.

Johaansen’s legacy drove instead of consuming her. She set the photo back where the dust hadn’t fallen as her PDA beeped.

Fourth Fiction: Round Four

Round Four challenge is to weave an element of Fyor’s story into your passage. It should be no more than 450 words. For previous entries see the Fourth Fiction just under the header.

They walked on in silence with Sylvie clenching and unclenching her hands as she processed the short history of the Dead Zone. Mutt whined and moved to her side. She stroked his long, floppy ear, the velveteen flesh soothing between her fingers.

“It bothers you?”

“Of course it does. How could it not? How come I didn’t know? No one ever said anything.”

“Did you ever question before now? Did you ever go seeking the truth?” His green eyes bore into hers. Sylvie saw for the first time while he was devastatingly beautiful he was also utterly terrifying, but she didn’t look away.

“You are assuming the truth was available for me to find.”

“You’re all the same.”

He strode ahead of her and she reached out to slow him down. Her fingers stung with an electrical shock as her long fingers curved around his muscular forearm.

“Shit!” She shook her hand and ran ahead to block his way, careful to keep her distance.

“How could I not be pissed off with some individual making life and death decisions from afar. Some fucking power tripper. How much of a threat could some hippies be?”

“You have the power of life and death over women and babies. Over this mother and baby.”

“I’m not some nameless entity issuing orders for others. I have to live with the consequences of my decisions. Any day I could be outsed, charged with being a birth attendant. Killed by firing squad for assisting women to birth outside of the system. I’m not afraid.”

Mutt growled and Sylvie shut up. The hairs on the back of her neck pricked.

“They track by fear.” He moved in closer and touched her cheek, holding her eyes with his own. The adrenalin in her veins slowed and a honey warmth sensation flowed through her. “They sense the hormonal release.”

“What would happen if they caught me?” Inside her there was a battle going on between the feel good vibe he was somehow infusing into her system and the natural fight and flight impulse.

“If you’re O negative they would kill you – probably devour you before your blood cooled.”

“I’m not O negative.”

“Then they would only bite you. Infect you.”

“And I would become one of them.” She tried to balance the cacophony of catecholamines in her system, employing the relaxation techniques she taught women to labour peacefully. Still her swum.

“Are you feeling calmer.”

“Don’t let go of me.” The shock jolted her fingers and wrist from their joints as she clasped his hand, holding tight as he tried to pull away. “You didn’t tell me your name.”

“It’s Marcus,” he said surrendering, curling his fingers around hers.

Fourth Fiction: Round Three

The round three challenge, inspired by the departure of Fido from the competition, is to incorporate the death of a dog into the narrative in less than 400 words.

This follows on from my first sentence and first paragraph.  These 397 words were far less sweated over than the previous rounds.I could see the story emerging in my head across the day. The challenge was getting it all into 400 words or less.

All comments welcomed and appreciated.

Sylvie let the words sink in, thick with betrayal. She struggled to her feet, squaring off with the crone who stood framed in the warped door way.

“How? Our network is secure. I wouldn’t be standing here if it could be breached.”

“The fact you stand there girl is testament to it being broken.”

The animosity stretched between them like frozen tundra.

“Why me?” The enormity of the situation fell about Sylvie with the first snow flakes of the evening.

“We wanted Maia, but she refused to come.”

“So her apprentice was the next best thing.” Her anger rippled out in shock waves. “You tricked me you bitch.”

“Get yourself cleaned up before you come back in. You reek of fear and there is enough of that in this house.”

Sylvie hurled the PDA at the crone as she vanished inside.

Why me? Why now? Why here?

“What the fuck is this place?” She wanted answers and she wanted them now. The adrenalin was kicking in again, but with the clarity of mind to question for the first time what was actually happening.

Who were the monsters – materialising out of the urban desolation, straight from stories told by parents to scare their children’s wanderlust and curiosity into submission. Freaks descending on her car like a human plague, heavy feet buckling the roof and the bonnet. Inhuman faces frenzied and desperate; pressed against the dirty glass, bare hands trying to smash their way.

“The dead zone. Come, I’ll get you some water.” Sylvie hesitated, as he unbolted a section of wall. “It is safe.”

“Because of your dog?”

Sylvie fell in step beside the dog, remembering the terrified looks on the creatures’ faces as they backed away from her car and the dog beside it, growling and baring their pointed teeth from a safe distance, moments before the black Mustang and the man materialised.

“Mutt here is good as a shock tactic. But only once.” He scratched the dog’s head. “Until today, they’ve only ever heard of dogs.”

“Never seen a dog?”

“No dog here for two generations.”

“Why?”

The snow fell heavier the further they walked, tiny white dancers in the onyx sky.

“The dogs died after the Government released the virus here and it mutated. Mans best friend attacked the infected and were killed. The rest were shot to stop them eating the corpses.”

Fourth Fiction: First Paragraph

This has got to be the most sweated over 270 words in my writing career. Well worth the cathartic experience of being lost in another world this afternoon, while I tried to get lost in it amidst the screams and excited laughter of dozens of children in at an indoor playground.

Sorry in advance for the formatting – as someone who can’t help but insert dialogue – I lumped it in (against all style guidelines) into the single paragraph.

You can reacquaint yourself with my opening sentence before reading on. Comments welcome!

Round 2 Challenge: Write the opening paragraph of your novella. It should be no more than 300 words, not including your opening sentence, and should be about interactions that take place over the web.

The crone at the head of the pregnant woman pressed a finger to her thin lips and hissed through the gap where her front teeth had been. Sylvie’s cheeks burned. Placing the pinnard back in her kit, she rubbed her hands together to warm them, wishing them to stop shaking before she touched the woman. She palpitated the distended stomach to identify the position of the two babies, sitting back on her heels when the womb beneath stirred. The labouring woman was helped onto all fours, groaning and swinging her hips as the contraction crested then crashed through her. A final moan choked into a sob as she surrendered into a mountain of cushions. “There is only meant to be one,” Sylvie heard as she snatched her kit and ran from the room. Her throat burnt as she sucked in huge gulps of the frigid air. The icy bricks bit into her back as she slumped against the fortified wall of the Birthing House. She took the PDA out of the canvas bag, relieved it was fully charged. The blank screen was a dim glow in the opaque night. “It doesn’t work here either,” he said stepping out of the shadows for the second time that night as panic threatened to overwhelm her. “Just like your GPS and car. They don’t call this the Dead Zone for nothing.” “No! She would never have sent me here. Not alone.” Sylvie jabbed at the buttons defiantly, willing the device to connect to the internet. “She didn’t,” said a voice from the doorway. “We sent the message.”