Flash Fiction Challenge 2016

Since my last post (over a year and a half ago!) I've been a tiny bit busy. It's been an amazing year and a half. I've had a baby, married my best friend, and started a brand new family. In September I sat for the first half of my CMA certification and only missed it by a handful of points. Eventually, I will give that a try again once the baby lets me sleep consistently.

In November I tried something very new.  I signed up for National Novel Writing month (NaNiWriMo). That was a crazy experience but I'm very glad that I did it. And I have about three-quarters of a book finished!  I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to write on a daily basis even though that time schedule was extremely stressful. (50,000 words in 30 days! - thank God for my dear husband's patience)

Now that our wedding is over I thought maybe I should try to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard...whatever) again and I signed up for flash fiction challenge 2016. I decided at nearly the last minute and I almost chickened out because it scared the crap out of me to realize that people would actually be reading my work. Only a few people that I know and love have seen any portion of my novel. You know, the safe people that love me and are more likely to smile and tell me how much they love it. 

This flash fiction competition requires that you write a 1,000 word short story in 48 hours. Right when it begins you are given a genre, location and an item that all have to be used in your story.  Then it is judged and ranked within your group. In September we'll do it once more with a different prompt. The two scores will be totaled and the top 5 go on to the next round. That is terrifying. But since I'll never get anywhere with my writing bug if I don't go out of my comfort zone, I jumped in.  

My group's prompt was as follows:

Genre: Horror

Location: a barge

Item: ice pack

And...here it is... 

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It May Concern You

 

July 23, 2016

 

To Whom It May Concern-

That sounds a little formal for the situation but, what the hell.  This isn’t some Dear Diary or Last Will and Testament.  And I’m sure this will concern you.  So there you have it.

The blackouts have started.  It’s only a matter of days after that - two or three at the most.  I’ve done everything I can think of to keep you safe.  God only knows if it will be enough.  God help you all if it’s not.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, you know?  I should have been walking back into my crappy apartment tonight.  Down the water stained hallway and past the family of roaches that moved in three months ago.  I should have been getting up tomorrow morning from that damn mattress that kills my back and smells like piss.  I was going to march right into the bank, probably still reeking of the grime of this barge, and I was going to hand that check to the teller.  The pretty one that always looks at me like I’m not even human (well, isn’t that ironic now – HA!).  God, I was going to show her.  I was going to watch those beautiful blue eyes go all big and round when I asked her to cash it out for me.  $250K for one trip.  My final bon voyage.  I would buy myself a little hut somewhere in the south pacific and shack up with some pretty little local.  But hell, that’s the least of your worries right now and I don’t think I have much time left to finish this.

To limit your surprises, you’ll want to stay out of the two cargo containers I marked with an X.  In fact, burn them.  Scratch that.  I don’t know how this will react to fire.  The guy that was going to give me that big fat check would know.  He and my deckhand, Jimmy, are in one of the marked containers.  Or what’s left of them.  I’m in the other.  I hope you find this letter first.

I blacked out again.  It’s so damn hot in here.  My last ice pack is sitting on the back of my neck but it’s not really helping.  The blue gel was mostly liquid when I brought it in here with me.

I could tell he didn’t get out much when he slumped down into the chair next to me in that shithole of a bar two months ago.  Some scientist.  He was shaking out of fear, but he didn’t back down.  I respected that.  He refused to tell me his name so I can’t help you there.  Said he needed someone to move his cargo quietly.  He had all those specifications about keeping it cold.  Cold.  In the middle of July in South America!  I made him all sorts of promises for that money.  I didn’t intend to keep most of them.  The more promises I kept, the less money I kept.  I’m sorry for that now.  God am I sorry.

It’s starting.  God help me, the change is starting.  It hurts so much.  Feels like I’ve been walking across burning coals.  I need to finish before I can’t handle it anymore.  Before the screaming starts.

Jimmy and the scientist stopped screaming two days ago.  I watched as they changed – as they screamed.  The noise was relentless.  The screams rang in my head as their eyes bulged and backs twisted.  The screams changed to shrieks as they began frantically scraping their claws against the walls.  I watched as their oxygen supply slowly dwindled.  Two days.  I saw what will happen to me.  What is happening now.

Was this my fault?  I rigged up the cooling system as cheaply as I could.  More money for me!  When it broke he wouldn’t stop yelling at me.  Screaming about heat and oxygen and the rate of growth.  I sent Jimmy in to help him move all those little glass vials into our coolers.  I promised him we would dock that night and fix the cooling system.

Have you ever seen real fear?  When I was just a little shit, six years old, my Ma and I sat together on our couch in the living room watching Happy Days reruns.  I loved watching that show before bed.  The Fonz was my hero.  Cuddled up next to her, I can smell her gardenia perfume.  My Ma was a quiet, classy lady.  I can still see her laughing in the glow of the TV.  She smiles down at me, I smile back up at her and then our front door slams open.  Ma’s beautiful eyes go wide with the fear and her mouth drops open as she sucks in a breath.  Her last breath.  My Pa must not see me there in the corner of the couch and he pulls out his gun and shoots her.  Screaming.  So much screaming!  Now he turns it on himself.  I look away but I can still see the blood and little bits of brain as it slides down the wall behind him.

It won’t be long now.  I’m losing my grip on reality.  It feels like I’m breathing underwater.   

The look on my Ma’s beautiful face, that’s the same look that was on that scientists face when Jimmy dropped that vial.  He looked up at me with those eyes and I knew we were dead.  He screamed at me to close the door but I wasn’t getting stuck in there!  He tried to trip me but I kicked him in the face and slammed the door shut and locked it.  Then I watched them change.  Then I watched them die.

You will know if I’m still alive.  The screams can be heard through the walls.  I can only hope that the lack of oxygen kills me first.  Or It.  I’ve done all I can to keep you safe.  Don’t try to save me.  Save yourself.

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Since the next part doesn't start until September I will probably try some of the prompts from the other groups. There are a number of other genres that frighten me a little (understatement). I'll post them up here as I do. Feel free to throw down some constructive criticism if you'd like or just watch as I continue to make myself horribly uncomfortable for the sake of self growth. 

  Thanks for reading ~ Jenny